January 2010 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
January 8, 2010

It's the first month of the 2010s - even if the movies don't really look quite so different yet (the new decade takes time to settle, I think). January '10's got a lot more star vehicles than the norm for this time of year - and a lot of 1990s stars, of all people, trying to get back in the fray after a decade of hits-and-misses (Harrison Ford, Jackie Chan) or on-screen inactivity (Mel Gibson).

1. When in Rome (January 29th)

This one didn't look like much to me in its previous August '09 slot, but I have since come to see just what a perfect star vehicle it really is. Indeed, after a year of Proposals, Hangovers, and Blarts, should we expect When in Rome to do anything but lord over a weak month like January? After all, this one's a slick, well-broiled romantic comedy package: it's got a high-concept premise, an alluring foreign location (Rome), recognizable romantic leads (Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel), a comically diverse mix of support (Will Arnett, Dax Shepard, and Danny DeVito), and trailers that do their job well - and have been doing it for a long enough time to stick in the memory. Ought to do for Kristen Bell what 27 Dresses did for Katherine Heigl.

Opening weekend: $27 million / Total gross: $76 million

2. Tooth Fairy (January 22nd)

A big guy with a lot of muscles gets recruited to serve as a tooth fairy, in what could only be a Mad Magazine parody of The Santa Clause. Seriously, though, what unacknowledged genius came up with the idea for this one? It's the kind of premise that frankly rises below absurdity (to paraphrase Mel Brooks). The movie's star, The Rock, now seems thoroughly committed to entertaining kids rather than bloodthirsty action movie fans (we miss you, Rock), and it's nice also to see Ashley Judd back in town, even if she's apparently been demoted to repeatedly playing somebody's wife (Billy Crystal's hanging around in this one, too). The Tooth Fairy was pushed back from a plump summer '09 slot, but only because January has been so kind to this type of kids' movie before (and we'll remember every offense, January). Indeed, if Are We There Yet? can make $82 million in January, just how high will the Tooth Fairy soar? I won't predict $100 million, but, gee, you know, it can kind of actually make it there, can't it?

Opening weekend: $25 million / Total gross: $70 million

3. Edge of Darkness> (January 29th)

Guess who's back, back again? Following a decade of controversy, Edge of Darkness signals the return of Mel Gibson to cinematic starring roles - being his first since 2002's double-bill of We Were Soldiers and Signs. Aside from that mild cinematic novelty, the film itself looks about all right, with some excellent talent behind and in front of the screen (it's also based on a British mini-series, as some movies tend to be these days). The plot - Gibson avenging his daughter - is clearly being played up here, in a bid to align this right alongside Taken in the revenge genre; it's an angle that will probably pay off, and may give Gibson a fair head start on rebuilding his on-screen image. We shall see.

Opening weekend: $18 million / Total gross: $46 million

4. The Book of Eli (January 15th)

What an odd thing it is, scheduling a post-apocalyptic special effects epic with Denzel Washington right smack in the middle of January. While Washington is no doubt a veteran of many a hit thriller, this one seems to offer some deviations from his norm, and not for the better: it's grimier and more depressing, and the premise isn't all that well established by the trailer - what is this one really about, other than chasing around another MacGuffin? Co-stars Mila Kunis and Gary Oldman (in what will no doubt be another display of raucous villainy) may breath some life into Book of Eli, but this kind of '80s-style wasteland-set actionstuff hasn't been doing well lately. So, as both a fan of Washington and a box office predictor, I have my reservations.

Opening weekend: $16 million / Total gross: $41 million

5. Leap Year (January 8th)
After the time-jumping novelty of Julie & Julia, the special effects shenanigans of Night at the Museum 2, and the musical aspirations of Enchanted, Amy Adams goes the standard romantic comedy route, and joins Katherine Heigl in the ranks of inexplicably single women looking for love at the movies. Leap Year also looks uncannily like co-star Matthew Goode's own film Chasing Liberty, released just about six years ago to the day and featuring Goode in almost exactly the same role. Taken at face value, though, Leap Year doesn't look all that bad, and could actually turn out to be pretty big - January is a fertile enough ground for this genre, and after the box office onslaught of early '09, who knows just what to expect from a potential crowd-pleaser like this?

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $39 million
(but it's actually going to open with $28 million, isn't it? - just hedging my bets)

6. The Spy Next Door (January 15th)

This is another one of those Pacifier movies where the kids hate him, and then like him, and then they all fight the clueless bad guys who conveniently show up to give the whole thing some closure. Yes, as always, there's a pig for a family pet, and Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez are lurking somewhere in the shadows. It's all very much in the January tradition. Jackie Chan has been stuck in this movie for at least a decade, and now looks to be running for ten more years (hey, Hollywood stardom isn't earned cheaply). At the very least, The Spy Next Door ought to make a good companion piece to The Tooth Fairy for an all-night marathon of big stars trapped in PG-rated nightmares. Now, as for my prediction, below - I know, I know, I know, that January kidstuff often makes untold hordes of money, no matter how cheesy it looks. But I am nothing if not an optimist.

Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $36 million

7. Daybreakers (January 8th)

Every year since 2005 has started off with a horror film, and here comes Daybreakers to keep the tradition going. The story, set in 2019, is intriguing, even if it doesn't exactly inspire me to run around raving about it. The cast is strong (Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Ethan Hawke), and the reviews are coming in with a modest stamp of critical approval. But I don't know, after ten years of Resident Evils, Underworlds, and all the 28 Days and Weeks Later, shouldn't we move on just a little past the futuristic action-horror thing? (See #8 for more of this subgenre).

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $35 million

8. Legion (January 22nd)

This one's a tale of Biblical-based horror, and looks uncannily like one of those Satanic end-of-the-world movies that were all the rage just about ten years ago - albeit with an admittedly higher dose of action, this time around. As is often the case with these films, the fate of humanity is settled in a diner - a fact that also makes Legion a member of the strangers-trapped-together-and-in-jeopardy subgenre. The cast is an interestingly assembled batch - Tyrese Gibson, Dennis Quaid (currently looking to become a long-time resident of the B-movie universe), and Paul Bettany, who's going to be around a lot in 2010, at least if you know where to look. I don't know, though - while I may sound somewhat condescending towards the material, Legion has the potential for entertainment. Indeed, well-reviewed genre action has been doing pretty well lately, and so I'll leave it to movie critics to give this one the go-ahead to succeed, or the vice versa.

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $34 million

9. Youth in Revolt (January 8th)

Michael Cera's back in town, partaking in yet another trek into the vast universe of teenage sexual frustration. Full disclosure: I saw this one and was pleasantly surprised; Youth In Revolt is now just about my favorite Michael Cera movie, bolstered by a well-chosen smorgasbord of a supporting cast (Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, and especially Fred Willard), with Cera himself very effective as his own somewhat inexplicably mustached, villainous alter-ego. Critics seem to like this one too, so it may grow a leg or two after a mild open, and give Cera some shelf life yet.

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $30 million

10. Extraordinary Measures (January 22nd)

Here's a good-natured story with uncertain commercial appeal, an earnest-looking film that will probably play out like an old-school, straightforward, feel-good medical melodrama. The cast is presentable: it's nice to see Harrison Ford dabbling in starring roles again (and back in his entertainingly grumpy mood, I see); Keri Russell is of course always a welcome presence; and Brendan Fraser is probably just happy to be away from all that blue screen (chroma key compositing can be a cruel mistress). As far as these things go, though, this one seems to me more like My Sister's Keeper than The Blind Side, and in a January without any real box office losers, Extraordinary Measures is probably going to have to settle for being #10.

Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $25 million