Something weird happened the other night. I'm not really a man of faith, so I was quite taken aback to find an angel and devil camped out in my living room, drinking my Black and Tans, and arguing up a storm about Barry Levinson's 1992 movie Toys.
September 2009 Forecast
By Shane Jenkins
September 4, 2009
Angel: I don't think you can even dispute the fact that Toys has some of the best set design ever seen on film.
Me: Um, can I help you guys with something?
Devil: But it's Robin Williams on "twee" mode with blond hair and a robot sister! With a dead dad so he can get all misty-eyed every two minutes!
Angel: But what about Joan Cusack? Everybody loves Joan Cu...
Me: *yawn* Boy, I'm bushed. What a day. Maybe you guys can continue this out on the porch, and I'll just...
Devil: LL Cool J cancels her out! If you add in a miscast Robin Wright Penn, clearly things are tipped in my favor.
Angel: You're conveniently forgetting about pre-Dumbledore Michael Gambon. And it's got such great music. Tori Amos. Thomas Dolby.
Devil: Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Me: That's it! I can't stand anymore Toys talk! Clearly, it's both awesome and terrible! Jeez! Why does everything have to be so black and white with you?
Angel: You're messing with our whole worldview.
Devil: Yeah you are. Plus, we gotta talk about something aside from the fallibility of man.
Angel: And we still got 15 minutes left on our break. I'm not punching back in early. Did you smell Seraphiel's breath today?
Devil: Yeah, that guy's got a problem. You should say something to him about it.
Angel: I should say something about it?
Me: Aaaahh! Just stop! I need to do a Box Office Forecast for September and I haven't even started thinking about it. Maybe you guys can help.
Devil: Yeah, I guess we could do that.
Angel: There's no James Cromwell, is there?
Devil: He's scared to death of James Cromwell. It's weird.
Me: Let's just get started.
1) Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Me: This is the latest from money-minter Tyler Perry. It's got Taraji P. Henson and Mary J. Blige, and Perry trots out his Madea character, which is usually enough to goose the opening weekend take by $10 million or so.
Angel: Never bet against Tyler Perry.
Devil: Seriously. Every time one of these movies opens huge, everyone always seems to be surprised it did so well. At this point, it's like being surprised that summer is hot. That's a bad trailer though, even by Tyler's standards.
Angel: I'm going to have to agree with that. And even I find his mix of religion and bodily humor a little uncomfortable. Crosses and farting are odd bedfellows.
Devil: Maybe Mary J. acts better than she sings.
Angel: That's not nice, Devil.
Devil: Look who you're talking to.
Me: 9 (not to be confused with 300 other movies coming out with "9" in the title) is an animated movie from producers Tim Burton and Wanted's Timur Bekmambetov. It's about a creature that has to defeat the evil machines that have wiped out humankind. It's got a great look and an intriguing premise.
Angel: And Elijah Wood. *swoon*
Devil: Yeah, he loves Elijah Wood. He actually owns The Faculty.
Angel: Sorry. 9 has been building up a lot of buzz from its mysterious previews and unique-looking art style. There's something kind of Matrix-y about it.
Devil: The thing that may hurt it is that it might be one of those movies without a clearly defined audience. Is it for kids? Looks too scary. For adults? It's animated. Are there enough sci-fi geeks and Night Watch fanboys to have this make money?
Angel: I've already bought nine tickets.
Devil: You know it's just Elijah's voice, right?
3) Jennifer's Body
Me: Jennifer's Body is Diablo Cody's feature follow-up script to Juno. It stars Megan Fox as the world's unlikeliest high-schooler, who is both a hot chick and some sort of monster. And who apparently does not feel pain when fire is applied to her tongue.
Devil: My people are pretty excited for this one. Recruitment's been down lately, and it'll be good for our image if people associate us with Megan Fox instead of, like, Led Zeppelin. People think we're stuck in the '70s.
Angel: Maybe you should get rid of all those avocado-color dishwashers you guys have everywhere.
Devil: Avocado is soothing!
Angel: Anyway, unlike 9, this does have a very specific audience – older teens looking for a funny/scary night out. This looks like it will deliver that.
Devil: There was a lot of Juno backlash that seems to have carried over to Cody's Showtime series The United States of Tara. It might be trendy at this point to hate Cody's very particular writing style.
Angel: The quips look funny, though. And I don't think we can discount the presence of Ms. Fox, who is coming off the biggest movie of the year. I'm curious to see if she can do anything more than run from fake robots all slutty-like while having her mascara remain perfect.
Devil: I think the red-band trailer is infinitely better than the green-band one in theaters.
Angel: You would. You know she doesn't actually get naked in this, right?
Devil: A boy can dream.
4) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Me: This is a film from Sony Pictures Animation about a scientist who makes food fall from the sky. It's based on a children's book that I have not read.
Angel: Sony Animation's three previous theatrical releases have been Monster House, Open Season, and Surf's Up. That's a pretty good track record, I'd say.
Devil: Yeah, but they squander a lot of goodwill by releasing inferior direct-to-DVD sequels to their hits. Oh, and for being behind next year's Smurf movie.
Angel: Still, there's been a glut of hard-R movies out lately, and the market is wide open for some fresh family fare. Plus, it's got a great voice cast, including Bill Hader from SNL, Anna Faris, Neil Patrick Harris, and Mr. T.
Devil: Well, having a great voice cast didn't do any favors for Shrek the Third quality-wise. And is it just me, or does the animation on this look a little 1996-ish?
Angel: Oh, shut up. It looks fine. And the pancakes crushing the school will get a huge laugh from the kids. This should be a decent-sized hit, and maybe not too painful for parents to sit though with their children.
5) All About Steve
Me: Sandra Bullock stalks Bradley Cooper across the country in red boots. The Hangover's Ken Jeong is also in this, because he is contractually obligated to be in every movie.
Angel: Tell him about Sandra Bullock.
Devil: I can't. It's confidential.
Angel: All of the sudden you're Mr. Ethics over there. Just tell him.
Me: Yes, just tell me!
Devil: Oh alright. Sandra made a deal with me right after Speed and Demolition Man, where she would give up all her charm and comedic skills in exchange for success in middling sub-Julia Roberts rom-coms. So now she's rich and the go-to girl for badly-written and misconceived projects like Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous and The Proposal. Did you see The Proposal?
Devil: That's because no one did. It made $150 million without a single person actually having seen it.
Me: That seems unlikely.
Devil: I got skillz. Please note the "z". As we speak, All About Steve is 0% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, and yet, it will make a decent chunk of money without Sandy being the slightest bit funny or charming. You're welcome, world!
Angel: Tell him about Crash.
Devil: Oh, well there were many deals with me made over Crash, which I think we can all agree was the worst Best Picture ever by a long shot. But yeah, the deal got her into that movie too. Paul Haggis has his own wing down there.
6) The Informant!
Me: Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon re-team after the Ocean's series on this film, which is based on the true story of a government whistleblower with severe bipolar disorder.
Angel: This looks to be the thinking adult's movie of choice this fall. It has a good pedigree, and Damon is still riding high on the popularity of the Bourne and Ocean's movies.
Devil: To play my advocate, being the thinking person's movie of choice didn't work out so well for Duplicity or Michael Clayton. This could join those movies in the ranks of very well-regarded box office poison.
Angel: Those movies didn't have an exclamation point after their titles, though.
Devil: So you're saying The Informant! might hope to match the box office magic of 1985's Gotcha!
Me: That's a little obscure, even for Box Office Prophets.
Devil: Fair enough.
Angel: This should be one of the commercial hits that Soderbergh does so he can keep making the tiny movies nobody watches that premiere on On Demand.
Devil: I can't wait for Bubble 2: Burstin' Out!
Me: Gerard Butler stars in a remake of Jason Statham's remake of Death Race. That last sentence may be factually inaccurate.
Devil: I would call it Smash TV: The Movie.
Me: Again with the obscure.
Angel: This looks dumb.
Devil: I thought you were the positive one.
Angel: Just...dumb. Why does Gerard Butler seem intent on destroying any goodwill he received after 300 by trying to make the worst movies possible?
Devil: What exactly are you saying about The Ugly Truth, Nim's Island, and P.S. I Love You?
Angel: This is the most unfortunate string of choices since Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Chill Factor period.
Me: But how do you think it will do at the box office?
Angel: I would like to think that its intended audience will find something more worthy of their time. Maybe The Hurt Locker is still playing somewhere...
Devil: Ha ha, oh Angel, you slay me with your whole "giving people the benefit of the doubt" shtick.
*Angel makes slicing motion.*
Angel: Ha ha!
Me: Oh, you guys!
Me: That movie with that song gets the reboot treatment. Remember, remember, remember...
Angel: Now this looks like wholesome fun!
Devil: I think people forget that the original movie from 1980 was a dark, somewhat depressing R-rated affair. It looks like they've lost that edge in trying to court today's Jonas Brothers-lovin' teens. The previews make it look not so far removed from a Disney Channel Original Movie.
Angel: Yeah, it looks like they were more inspired by the TV show than Alan Parker's movie. Still, this has the possibility of breaking out with today's kids, who don't find movies with singing and dancing to be inherently silly.
Devil: Oh man. Did you see that preview for the movie coming out that's like a cross between Twilight and You Got Served?
Me: Boogie Town?
Devil: Yeah, that's it. Today's kids are goofy.
Me: Bruce Willis has an avatar in a computer-y world. But someone's killing the avatars! And when your avatar dies, you die in the real world!
Devil: This would be a good time for you to trot out the word "Matrix-y" again.
Angel: Matrix-y. Plus it has Bruce Willis in silly wigs.
Devil: Oh, and guess who else is in this?
Angel: Ooh, is it Elijah?
Devil looks at me and smiles an evil grin.
Devil: Better. Farmer Hoggett himself, James Cromwell.
Angel: NOOOOOOOO!!! NOT JAMES CROMWELL!!!
Angel freaks out, destroys everything, and single-handedly ends the world in a fit of terror and rage, as Devil just sits there smiling at me. So, sorry about that. My bad. And sorry the world ended before we could get to Whiteout, the chilly serial-killer movie starring Kate Beckinsale, which was scheduled to come in at Number 10. Have a nice afterlife.