Max Braden's December 2008 Forecast
By Max Braden
December 5, 2008
Weekend Starting December 5thPunisher: War Zone
The first weekend in December isn't typically a moneymaker for new openers, with the bigger films premiering before Thanksgiving or closer to Christmas. That trend is demonstrated here with a throwaway action flick being the only fully wide new release this weekend. The 2004 Punisher movie starred Thomas Jane with John Travolta as villain; in War Zone, Jane is replaced by an actor who's probably only known to fans of the Rome series. It also faces competition from James Bond and Jason Statham, so a double digit opening may be a struggle.
Forecast: $10 million.
On the surface the strongest hook for this ensemble of 1950s blues singers might seem to be Beyonce as Etta James, but I'm predicting audiences will be talking about Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters as they exit theaters. He's already starred as Colin Powell in W and as James Bond's CIA counterpart this fall. Jamie Foxx scored his Oscar with Ray, and Eddie Murphy got a nomination for last year's Dreamgirls, so there's a chance Wright could be in the running for at least a nomination. On the other hand, the Denzel Washington Oscar bait drama The Great Debaters barely caught any notice last year at this time.
Forecast: strong business leading to expanded release and strong buzz for Jeffrey Wright.
Awards Season Alert! Political junkies may be interested in Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard's dramatization of the 1977 Richard Nixon interview, with Frank Langella as the former President. But I don't expect most audiences to embrace it, and by the Oscars it will be lumped in with W. as just "notable."
Weekend Starting December 12thThe Day the Earth Stood Still
Like Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds, this remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic is pretty much all about the eye candy. With Neo strung out on Prozac, audiences are going to want to see those big shiny ornaments nearly ruin Christmas for Jennifer Connelly. Similar blockbuster films in this time frame have been I Am Legend and King Kong. Let's hope the preachy Earth consciousness doesn't result in a bomb of M. Night proportions.
Forecast: $45 million.
First glance at the poster for this movie might conjure images of a spoof from Tropic Thunder, but no!, this is serious. Meryl Streep stars as a nun who accuses her equally headstrong Catholic school colleague Philip Seymour Hoffman of sinning with a student, with innocent pawn Amy Adams caught in the crossfire. Based on the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play, the sharp dialogue allows Streep draw on her icy Devil Wears Prada attitude. Hoffman may be seen more as reacting than acting, and there's that unpleasant subject matter facing audiences.
Forecast: Award nominations for Streep and screenplay by Shanley.
Awards Season Alert! Oscar maven Kate Winslet stars in The Reader, based on the novel about a post war trial and romantic entanglements, but she'll get more attention from her pairing with Titanic costar Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road.