August 2010 seems ready and willing to forego blockbusters, embracing instead the kind of middle-of-the-road properties that could have come out just about any time of year. Still, it's one of the year's busiest months for wide releases (as Augusts tend to be), and a few of the genre pictures look like they might swerve off the main road and get to a place that's a little more intriguing than usual.
August 2010 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
August 6, 2010
1. Eat Pray Love (August 13th)
We begin with the female-aimed film of the summer, at least if vampire pictures are excluded from consideration. This one's got Julia Roberts, vaguely incognito lately, and matched here with a whole rogue's gallery of potential love interests of all shapes, ages, and sizes (Billy Crudup, James Franco, Javier Bardem, and Richard Jenkins - well, maybe not that last one). The film's also nabbed itself a release date near identical to the one that made Julie & Julia a mini-behemoth last year, and as fortune would have it, it arrives after a summer that hasn't really thrown out romantic comedies at the pace that 2009 did. But that's all just window-dressing, because the math on this one wasn't hard to figure out, anyway: Eat Pray Love is based on one of the most popular recent books among its target demographic, it stars a beloved actress angling for a comeback (remember Bullock '09?), it is almost uncontrollably awash in exotic foreign locations, and it is directed by Ryan Murphy, the man behind Glee, one of the biggest success stories of the year in television (for better or worse - of course). In short, this one's going to be big, big, big, and if the opening weekend doesn't surprise your average box office forecaster, then the legs probably will. Is Eat Pray Love also the month's sole $100 million grosser? Sure seems like it.
Opening weekend: $35 million / Total gross: $114 million
2. The Other Guys (August 6th)
Here's another collaboration from McKay-Ferrell, the director-star team that brought us (or is it you?) Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers (producer Judd Apatow is conspicuously absent this time around, though). The three titles listed above were organized not just by release date but also by order of declining quality, which wouldn't have seemed a good sign for this picture. But the reviews are actually coming in mostly on the plus side, and it's clear that The Other Guys is intended as the big blowout late summer comedy. As such, the star team is certainly workable: Mark Wahlberg is pulling rare comedy duty, Will Ferrell's looking less like a policeman and more like a sort of white collar serial killer (the Roanoke Strangler?), and the film has encaptured itself some name supporting actors (Samuel L. Jackson, Steve Coogan, and the so-called Dwayne Johnson). Still, Ferrell hasn't been on much of a roll as of late, and The Other Guys doesn't look like a game-changer. Methinks a certain 3D extravaganza could end up putting the moves on this one's pre-ordained #1 box office spot.
Opening weekend: $31 million / Total gross: $82 million
3. Step Up 3D (August 6th)
Welcome to another explosion of urban aerodynamical acrobatics, and a film whose existence was as unstoppable as it is amusing. And what does Step Up 3D bring to the table? Another pair of mismatched newcomers joined together by the Dance, another entertaining hip-hop soundtrack ("Club Can't Handle Me" sure is catchy!), a horde of flashy visuals, and a few supporting players who'll look familiar to fans of this franchise (and to me). Oh, and there's the 3D, of course, in a film that could actually benefit from it - not just on the screen, but at the ticket booth, where Step Up 3D will have a real chance at giving that Ferrell-Wahlberg tag-team a whupping on opening weekend. Do I applaud all this? Tough call. But from that all-important commercial point of view, boy, is this one ever a home run. And it looks like it could be fun.
Opening weekend: $25 million / Total gross: $64 million
4. The Expendables (August 13th)
"One last hurrah" is an understatement. Indeed, if you're looking for fanboy dream projects, nothing this month is going to top this one, a Freddy Vs. Jason for fans of 1980s action extravaganzas, a film that unites and reunites - if selectively - some of the biggest names in the game, then and now: Sylvester Stallone (in his biggest non-sequel role since the mid 1990s), Jason Statham (as the masterfully-named "Lee Christmas"), and Jet Li (as the inevitably-named "Yin Yang"), along with the somewhat more opaque Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts, newly-minted uber-character actor Mickey Rourke, and choice, trailer-spoiled cameos by you-know-who and you-know-who-else. The buzz has been growing, and the release date and premise seem determined to position The Expendables as this year's version of Inglourious Basterds, if a bit more stoic and solemn-faced. In general, fanboy movies have shocked at the box office over and over again, but I dunno about this one. Yes, Stallone's been creeping back into the mainstream with his Rocky and Rambo revivals, but Statham and Li basically have the same audience, and the rest of the cast might prove somewhat of a puzzler to general audiences. Aside from that, The Expendables will surely implode on its second weekend. Or its second day.
Opening weekend: $35 million / Total gross: $62 million
5. Going the Distance (August 27th)
It can be said that the trailer for Going the Distance does not exactly inspire long and meaningful conversations. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and it's hard to deny that the film looks like a conventional if likeable enough romantic comedy, with the Drew Barrymore - Justin Long teaming seemingly a winning one, and the release date (August 27) quietly reassuring, if unexciting. But in between this, Eat Pray Love, and The Switch, connoisseurs of romantic comedy certainly have enough to keep them busy. And has Kristen Schaal been in every single movie this summer, or what? (not a complaint, just an observation).
Opening weekend: $17 million / Total gross: $48 million
6. Piranha 3D (August 20th)
Piranha 3D is set during spring break, a release date this film has somehow contrived to miss. But no worry. Summer break is just as good, even in its closing days, and cheesy 3D horror still pulls its weight now and then ("then" was The Final Destination, and "now" is the sharp-toothed fish picture). Piranha's not got any real big draws, but the casting fulfills two absolute horror movie requirements: a few likeable actresses (Elisabeth Shue and Dina Meyer lead the way) mixing it up with a handful of vaguely villainous character actors (Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss stand out in this department). Piranha is also unmistakably and unapologetically a B-movie, and that's something that's being wisely highlighted in advertising. I'd say there's just enough room here for a modest late-summer hit, and I'll be even more enthusiastic if they promise not to make a sequel (unless Piranha II is directed by James Cameron... again).
Opening weekend: $21 million / Total gross: $46 million
7. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (August 13th)
The plot of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World always sounded like the ultimate Michael Cera movie - the logical conclusion and final incarnation of Superbad, Nick & Norah, and Youth in Revolt - and so a Cera movie is exactly what they've adapted it into. It comes at a fortunate time - just a few months after the entertaining Youth in Revolt, the film that really restored my faith in Cera, though Pilgrim is a project that's perhaps even stranger and less mainstream. The cast list reads like a teenage indie film fan's wet dream, with the perky Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the perennially sarcastic Anna Kendrick, the slightly sourpussed Erik Knudsen, the long unseen Kieran Culkin, and - wowsers! - not just the outgoing Superman (Brandon Routh), but also the incoming Captain America (Chris Evans). For Cera himself, this is unquestionably the last college try at leading man territory (he's got nothing else lined up, except that imaginary Arrested Development movie), and it's not exactly a safe project: almost destined to be a cult film, and you know what the price for that bargain means for the box office. While that could seem to be the conventional wisdom, things are looking up: Scott Pilgrim is being heavily advertised, and early reviewers just love it. Let us hope that they are not wrong.
Opening weekend: $18 million / Total gross: $45 million
8. Nanny McPhee Returns (August 20th)
As far as popular literary characters go, Ms. Nanny McPhee does not quite rank up there with Bella Swan (although she is almost certainly a better conversationalist). With that in mind, this somewhat unsolicited sequel seems to be positing itself as the quaint, unexciting alternative to the general lack of children's movies this August. No strong draws in the cast, but there's a whole big batch of recognizable guest stars (Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, Ewan McGregor), curiously unhighlighted by the trailers. Anyway, while I suspect that Ms. McPhee's comeback is not quite so fiercely anticipated by the nation's young, she'll almost certainly be welcomed back, anyway. In moderation.
Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $41 million
9. The Switch (August 20th)
What were the words I used to describe Going the Distance? Likeable? Conventional? Winning? Reassuring? (Doesn't) inspire long and meaningful conversations? Sounds about right for this inoffensive fellow traveler, too. No doubt, Jason Bateman has clout, and Jennifer Aniston certainly props this one up with some star power, even if the sperm donor shenanigans (unfortunately) remind one of The Back-Up Plan. On the plus side, The Switch ought to be better than Aniston's The Bounty Hunter, and it will surely outgross Bateman's Extract. I think.
Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $35 million
10. The Last Exorcism (August 27th)
It's another tale of terror presided over by master of horror (?) Eli Roth. I'm not afraid to admit that the $25 million prediction pencilled down there somewhere will probably be off by... oh, about $700 billion. After all, isn't this another one of those "found footage" horror films that break out of nowhere to gross previously untold fortunes? So, how is this one trending on Craiglist? You tell me. But whatever The Last Exorcism does, it simply should not inspire countless rip-offs: while there are more boring and annoying sub-genres in the world of horror than the exorcism picture, there are not a whole lot.
Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $25 million
11. Lottery Ticket (August 20th)
Just when you thought he was out, they pull him back in: yes, it's a starring vehicle for Bow Wow, his first since the well-made Roll Bounce in 2005 (Fast and the Furious 3 doesn't really count). Lottery Ticket's peppered up with an interesting character actor or two (including the unmeasurably typecast Loretta Devine), though the story and comedy don't seem to hint at a breakout hit. Maybe with some good reviews, though?
Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $22 million
12. Takers (August 27th)
Another late summer action picture, though this one long pushed back and seeming remarkably like a just slightly re-cast version of the recent Armored (and it's from the same studio, too). Armored finished off with $15 mil last December, and though the water's a bit warmer now (it is August, after all), it doesn't look like Takers will overhaul that total by all that much - even with a decent chunk of the Hollywood Squares junior league recruited to star.
Opening weekend: $7 million / Total gross: $16 million
13. Vampires Suck (August 18th)
Tell me about it.
Opening weekend: $0 million / Total gross: $0 million