It's March Madness time. The best thing about the NCAA Basketball Tournament is that it takes all comers from the big schools from the major conferences to the mid majors to even the tiny schools. Realistically, only the major conference schools will make it to the Final Four, but everyone has a shot. The movie business is similar. The wide releases from the major studios are most likely to breakthrough at the box office, but occasionally something like My Big Fat Greek Wedding will surprise everyone. So in honor of March Madness here are ten movies from various levels of release this month.
March 2005 Forecast
By Dan Krovich
March 4, 2005
While not a guarantee, sequels do have the factor of built in awareness that gives them an advantage at the box office. They're the major conference heavyweights that are likely to be still standing in the Final Four. A first round loss isn't out of the question, but expectations are high.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
Sandra Bullock returns after a bit of hiatus. She's always been pretty consistent at providing solid box office numbers, and after some time off, a sequel is a great way to get back in the public eye. Miss Congeniality was an amusing and entertaining enough, if not spectacular, and it became one of her highest grossing films. The trailer to the sequel pretty much signals that if you liked the first one, you'll probably like this one, though perhaps the one thing missing that could cause some problems is Michael Caine, who was a scene stealer in the first one. Still, it's a pretty safe bet to be a success at the box office.
The Ring Two
When The Ring became a surprise, leggy, runaway hit in the Fall of 2002, it established Naomi Watts as a star. It only gained further popularity on DVD and is set up to be one of the biggest hits of the pre summer portion of the year. The marketing looks good and horror has been an (almost) bulletproof genre in 2005. This is sure to be a smash hit blockbuster.
These are the teams that you know have the firepower to go all the way, but something about them makes you a little hesitant to install them as favorites. The movie equivalent is the mid budget film from a major studio. They don't quite have the star power and don't get the tentpole attention from the studio, but they have definite recognizable elements that could set them up for success. It's just that they're missing that factor to make them obvious box office winners.
We've had Barbershop and Barbershop 2 and even Hair Show. Now Queen Latifah brings us Beauty Shop as a producer and star, but a look at the cast indicates that it may be a cut above just the standard knockoff. Alfre Woodard, Kevin Bacon, and Djimon Hounsou's presence all give hope that this may actually be a quality movie. Latifah is also on something of a roll (if you forget Taxi, and trust me we're trying) so this Beauty Shop should have a pretty good run.
Warner Independent Pictures goes out with a wide release here with the Adrien Brody starrer, and in many respects it seems like Warner Brothers could have released this film itself instead of using its specialty arm. It looks to be a pretty standard thriller (with the exception of a bit of time travel thrown in) with a strong cast. Actually from the trailer it appears to be somewhat reminiscent of The Butterfly Effect, which also used a Sundance launching pad and fared pretty well at the box office.
There is always at least one or two surprise teams that make it to the Sweet Sixteen; a mid major school that knocks off a big boy or two. Just like there are mid major conferences, there are mid major movie studios. They are backed by a large studio, so they have more resources at their disposal. They'll still start their films out in limited release, but they can take advantage of the situation if their film catches on.
Melinda and Melinda
It's been many years spent hoping that Woody Allen's next film will be his return to form, so it's best not to get hopes up. Who knows if he has any more good movies in him. He's still able to get big names to star in his films, however (this time Will Ferrell). Based only on Allen's recent films, he is currently a middling filmmaker at best, and a breakout hit would be a surprise at this point.
Danny Boyle returned to indie film prominence when 28 Days Later revitalized the zombie film subgenre. He returns with a more heartwarming effort about a young boy who discovers stolen money. It's a bit odd that the movie which is quite prominently set around Christmastime is opening in March, but Fox Searchlight is apparently hoping that it's the spirit and not the actual holiday that appeals to audiences. The magical tone and story about cute kids sets it up to be a crowd pleaser and a possible breakout hit.
They've made it to the Big Dance, but that's what they're going to have to settle for. They probably had to win their conference tournament to get into the tournament, and it's a season to be proud of. They're just not likely to see the first weekend of the tournament. Similarly, these films tend to be foreign films that performed well in their own country and have gotten picked up by a US distributor. With all the product out there, the distribution is a win in itself and not much beyond that is to be expected.
Best of Youth
If we're going to continue with the basketball metaphor, I suppose this is a quintuple overtime game. The Best of Youth is a six-hour film from Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana. Indications are that the film earns its considerable length. The movie follows two Roman brothers from 1966 to 2000 and how historical events shape them and their relationship in addition to shaping the course of the country. Some times if you're going to tell a story that covers 34 years, you need six hours to do it justice.
Filmmaker Shona Auerbach directs this film from Scotland about a mother who tells her son (the titular Frankie) that his father is a sailor on a ship far away. She even writes him letters from his makebelieve dad, and all is good until Frankie finds out that the ship his father is supposedly on is returning home. Mom must find a man to play the fake dad for her son. Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler lead the cast.
The last guys in the tournament, the NCAA chose to create a play-in game rather than take a tournament bid away from at large teams. They are the only teams that need to win an extra game to even make the field of 64. Same is true for films from the tiny distributors. They have a hard enough time simply securing theaters to run their films, and with little to no advertising budget, they struggle just to become films that people have heard of.
Mail Order Wife
In Mail Order Wife, Huck Botko and longtime partner in crime Andrew Gurland make a mockumentary about a slovenly New York doorman who takes in an Asian mail order bride. Gurland plays himself as the documentary filmmaker who donates the money to the doorman for the bride in return for the right to film the experience. Released by First Independent Pictures and Dada Films, the release is likely to be extremely limited.
Walk on Water
Eytan Fox (Yossi and Jagger) returns with a tale of intrigue about a Massad hitman on the trail of an ex Nazi officer. He befriends the old man's grandson in order to get close to his target and suffers a crisis of conscience when the strategic relationship develops into a true friendship. Of course, the real fireworks come when family secrets are exposed. Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside Attractions will bring the film to theaters.
Marty Doskins's March Forecast
John Hamann's March Forecast
David Mumpower's March Forecast
John Seal's March Forecast