August 2008 Forecast
By Shane Jenkins
August 2, 2008

This man is black not.

August sucks, right? I think we're all on the same page here. It's the hottest month of the year. There are no major holidays to offer a break. And the movies are usually would-be summer blockbusters that don't have what it takes to compete with the big boys. That's still pretty much the case this August, but there is a staggering amount of product about to be unleashed into theaters – over 20 wide releases by my count. That's 40 hours – an entire workweek – that you can spend in glorious air conditioning, watching epic entertainment like... Disaster Movie... Okay, I never said it was a perfect plan. Anyway, here's my prediction for August's seven biggest box office contenders. Sadly, Midnight Meat Train didn't make the cut, so you'll have to make up the jokes for that one yourself.

1) Tropic Thunder

Generally, satires of the movie industry fall flat at the box office; they usually seem too inside baseball to appeal to the general public. I think director/star Ben Stiller might have cracked the code here, though, albeit by basically ripping off the plot of '80s fave The Three Amigos. Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. play actors filming the most expensive war movie ever made. Steve Coogan, as the director of the movie-within-the-movie, becomes exasperated by the actors' diva trips, and leaves them in the jungle, where a real war is going on. The actors are unaware of this, and believe they are still filming the movie (making this also a little similar to the plot of Disney's upcoming Bolt). Downey is white-hot after Iron Man, and Stiller and Black are dependable when the material suits them, as this appears to. There has been an insane amount of marketing, particularly of the viral variety for Tropic Thunder, and the trailer has plenty of solid laughs. I expect this will narrowly edge out Mummy 3.

2) The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Well, that just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Picking up 12 years after the action of The Mummy Returns, this installment finds Brendan Fraser teaming up with his 18-year-old son to do battle with the titular mummy, who has been under a 2,000-year-old curse. The setting has shifted to China, which means that Michelle Yeoh is in this, as she is contractually obligated to appear in every Asian-set Hollywood movie. Also along for the (inevitable Universal Studios) ride is Jet Li as the Dragon Emperor. Rachel Weisz is conspicuously absent (with reports suggesting that she did not feel she was old enough to be playing the mother of an 18 year-old), replaced by Thank You for Smoking's Maria Bello. Director Rob Cohen is notoriously hit and miss (Steath, Dragonheart, Fast and the Furious), and the whole project feels, well, inessential. Still, it's the last big summer effects movie, and audiences might want to go on one more cinematic rollercoaster before heading to the mall to shop for back to school clothes.

3) Pineapple Express

Fact: Every twelve seconds, Judd Apatow produces another movie. In the time it took you to read this, Judd thought up six new movies about emotionally stunted man-children. His latest, appearing three whole weeks after Step Brothers, is Pineapple Express, which reteams Freaks and Geeks vets Seth Rogen and James Franco. Reportedly inspired by Brad Pitt's stoner character in True Romance, the duo play a couple of potheads who witness a murder, and are soon running for their lives. Gary Cole trades his TPS reports for a gun, portaying a mobster out to get our boys, and Rosie Perez returns from wherever she's been to play a crooked cop with the same idea. 420-friendly Harold and Kumar 2 was a modest hit earlier this year, and this should be able to improve upon that success, mostly on the strength of Rogen, who is becoming the voice of a particular segment of his generation.

4) Death Race

I don't recall a trailer that gives more of the movie away than Death Race's, with the possible exception of Spider-Man 3's. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie, but in case you haven't: Death Race takes place in a vaguely futuristic setting where evil evil Joan Allen runs a prison and produces a television show where prisoners fight to the death in tricked out cars. Jason Statham, everyone's favorite bald glowerer, is an unjustly imprisoned inmate who, like everyone he plays, is a whiz behind the wheel. He sets out to clear his name and get his revenge. Death Race is directed by the hacktacular Paul W.S. Anderson, who gave us the Resident Evil movies and Alien vs. Predator, so there's not any reason to think this will be good. But it looks just dumb and violent enough to get the action crowd out, so I'm thinking this will be a mid-size hit.

5) Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The trailer promises to show you "Star Wars as you've never seen it before!" That means it's a cartoon. But, it's a pretty spiffy looking cartoon. The film is computer-animated, but is stylized like an anime. The story takes place between episodes II and III, which means yes – there is some Jar Jar Binkage. The whole enterprise is practically a commercial for the upcoming animated TV series of the same name. Apparently, George Lucas was so impressed by the footage being created for the show, that he decided to make a movie out of it. Some of the original actors returned to add their voices, like Christopher Lee and Samuel Jackson, but most opted to sit this one out. This should be a decent late-summer choice for adolescent boys, and for those who think they still are.

6) Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

The girls are back and wearing jeans again or something! The four original ladies return, being contractually bound to make the sequel, and early reports suggested that some of them weren't exactly happy to be back in the world of magic pants. In the years since the first one, America Ferrara and Blake Lively have seen their stars rise, due to their TV work, while Amber Tamblyn and Alexis Bledel have been kinda scarce. But magic jeans are the great equalizer, as the girls all get about equal time in their individual sassy adventures. The same group that made Mamma Mia! a hit should come out for this one too.

7) Disaster Movie

Please don't go see this. Honestly, they're never going to stop making these if you keep buying tickets for them. I don't envy you when you have to explain these movies to your children one day. These are the cinematic equivalents of "Ow, My Balls!" and they must be stopped. Do you really want them to make Magic Movie (Harry Potter casts a spell that makes Hermione extremely flatulent!) or Monster Movie ("I vant to drink your milkshake! Vlad drinks it up!") or Magic Pants Movie (the magic pants aren't magical enough to stop Queen Latifah from splitting Carmen Electra's jeans!)? Really, this has to end now. The power is in your hands.