As I write this, it’s snowing where I am, which makes the idea of the summer movie season starting a bit ludicrous, but here we are. As opposed to previous years where one big film has led off the season, here we have two medium-sized films, appealing to very different audiences.
Weekend Forecast for April 29-May 1, 2005
By Reagen Sulewski
April 29, 2005
It’s difficult to imagine a film not yet made with a higher geek quotient than The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (other than maybe a good Star Wars prequel). Douglas Adams’s sci-fi comedy series makes about its final transition in format to the silver screen (about the only thing left is the Broadway play now). Alternatively considered too British, too weird and too funny to turn into a movie, the radio series/book/TV show/video game has finally been tackled, with a rabid fanbase looking on eagerly.
Starting with the destruction of the Earth due a galactic bureaucratic error, we follow the last surviving Earthling, who has been saved by his good friend that he didn’t know was an alien. Listen, I said this was going to be weird. An employee for the titular guide, a kind of guide book to the nooks and crannies of the Universe, the alien helps our nominal protagonist through stranger and stranger worlds as they find themselves involved in a giant conspiracy involving the President of the Galaxy and a revolutionary new spaceship with a propulsion system based on randomness. That’s about as straightforward a description of the plot as you’re going to get.
Adding to the complicated plot as a box office factor, none of the leads in the film are particularly stars, though if there’s any justice they will be afterwards. Martin Freeman, from the BBC version of The Office, plays Arthur Dent, the last remaining human (or so he thinks). Mos Def plays the alien friend Ford Prefect (a daring choice, but one with promise), Sam Rockwell portrays Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed President of the Galaxy, and Zooey Deschanel rounds out the leads as Trillian, the ostensible love interest for Arthur, but really the only sensible character in the whole thing. A whole series of character actors round out the cast, including Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy and John Malkovich.
This completely odd film doesn’t seem like your typical candidate for a blockbuster, but then it’s got that built-in cult fanbase, and it’s at least as mainstream as Men in Black. Without a Will Smith, it might be a tough sell to people who aren’t familiar with the project, but those who are will be as sold as can be. Look for this film to earn about $42 million this weekend, which, although not what some would be hoping for, is a pretty good start for what could be a summer sleeper.
For the action junkies out there, XXX: State of the Union is their kickoff to the season. Replacing Vin Diesel as star and Rob Cohen as director, the potential franchise is already “James Bond-ing” itself by rotating actors and directors. Ice Cube has been recruited for the new film (so much for Vin’s happy ending on the Riviera), which involves a plot on Washington, D.C. by a Willem Dafoe-led splinter military group.
Filled with enough effects that it practically qualifies as an animated film, it appears to be from the slam-bang school of action, packed with stunts and explosions. To further the Gen X Bond connection, the director is Lee Tamahori, who helmed Die Another Day. In comparison to the first xXx film, though, it fails on a couple of levels. Ice Cube doesn’t quite have the pull of Vin Diesel, and the hype about it being an “Alternative” kind of action film fading away to the reality that it was in fact very ordinary. What it really looks like, more than anything, is Under Siege 2. Where xXx opened to $44 million three years ago, look for this one to open to about $33 million.
Last week’s number one film, The Interpreter, will fall to third, but should fare well in the holdover department, after receiving generally favorable reviews. Its older skewing audience should prop it up for a couple of weeks, similar to previous dramas, and it should earn about $15 million this weekend.
The Amityville Horror didn’t take quite as steep a fall as might have been expected for a critically reviled horror film, dropping a little over 40% and closing in on the $50 million mark. Clearly the film is striking some kind of a chord with horror fans and stands to be quite the success with its tiny budget.
Sahara has also hit the $50 million mark, though its hefty budget presents a tougher challenge to profitability. It’s presenting some of the best legs of a film this year, however, and should bring in another $6 million, good enough to stay in the top five.
A Lot Like Love dropped with little fanfare and earned just $7.5 million last weekend. It’s yet another flop for both Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, with the former wearing out his pop-culture welcome and the latter failing again to become a leading lady. Look for it to earn about $4 million this week, and end up around $20 million total.
Significant in limited release is 3-Iron from Korean director Ki-duk Kim, who brought us last year’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring. This film, which won four awards at last year’s Venice Film Festival, continues Kim’s style of looking at unusual relationships, this time centering on a squatter who invades houses for a couple of days at a time. Opening on seven screens this weekend, this is likely to be an arthouse fave throughout the summer.