May 2004 Forecast
By John Seal
1. Shrek 2
I didn't love the first Shrek as much as a lot of folks did, but it had some nice touches, especially the soundtrack, cunningly devised to appeal to discerning grownups via contributions by John Cale, Eels, and er, Joan Jett. Not sure what pop stars will feature in the follow-up, but the time is probably just right for this sequel, which should ride roughshod over the competition and still be putting bums in seats come mid-summer. There's no John Lithgow this time, but hopefully John Cleese will be an adequate replacement, and I'm really looking forward to hearing Antonio Banderas as Puss n Boots.
2. The Day After Tomorrow
Never underestimate the box office power of a disaster movie. Place the nation in peril, and moviegoers will flock to it faster than you can say weapons of mass destruction-related program activities. This topical look at global warming will undoubtedly end with a brave American scientist single-handedly saving the polar icecaps, and consequently will be a massive hit. It's clear that producer/director Roland Emmerich spent his budget on the special effects - no disrespect to Dennis Quaid, but he's the biggest name in the cast - so, barring the technical Oscars, don't expect this to feature at the Academy Awards ceremony in 2005.
3. Van Helsing
I'm getting a League of Extraordinarily Bad Movies vibe from this one, but considering it was directed by Stephen Sommers and features Hugh Jackman in the title role, I'll rank it number three with a bullet, or at least a wooden stake. No doubt Jackman will kick some serious monster butt, but I fear his efforts may be overwhelmed by unimpressive CGI and yawn-worthy Matrix-style action sequences. Call me old fashioned - go on, you won't be the first - but I prefer my Van Helsing a little longer in the tooth, and more inclined to take on his opponents with good old-fashioned holy water. Although burdened by the presence of anodyne actress Kate Beckinsale as the film's heroine, the PG-13 rating should draw in reasonably big crowds, and if the reviews approach tolerable, I might take a peek myself.
Okay, it's got a big-name action director (Wolfgang Petersen), lots of British thesps (Peter O'Toole, Orlando Bloom, Brian Cox, Saffron Burrows), one of the greatest stories of all time adapted for the screen by a promising young writer (David Benioff), and the epic length and big budget to impress Peter Travers and David Manning. Oh, and there's also a guy called Brad Pitt. As Achilles. Gag me with a Trojan horse. Of course, considering that Achilles dies at the end (unless - horrors! - they change the story and have him spare Hector's life), it might be worth my while to put up with two-and-a-half hours of Pitt's sulky emoting in order to see him brought to heel, so to speak. For all of you yearning for Gladiator 2, you'll have to settle for this.
5. Raising Helen
Does she have it or not? This may be the make-or-break film for elfin Kate Hudson, but if she's going to break through she'll have to do it without my help. Directed by three-hanky specialist Garry Marshall, the film features Hudson as a beautiful young model trying to hit the big time in Manhattan (yawn), only to end up taking charge of three adorable but meddlesome kids when mother Joan Cusack loses them in court. Looks like middling box office dollars to me, though, judging from the response I've seen to the trailer, the film may skew younger than the PG-13 rating suggests.
6. New York Minute
My nine-year old is currently going through a Full House phase thanks to endless repeats of that loathsome show on Nickelodeon. Needless to say, he's excited about seeing this film, especially after recently discovering that Michelle was (drum roll please) played by a set of identical twins. Hopefully, his fascination with the Olsen sisters will end in the next week or so, because I'm not at all happy at the prospect of having to sit through their latest motion-picture adventure. Apparently, the blonde lasses up sticks for the Big Apple in this one, exposing themselves to 42nd Street sex emporia, dope-dealing in Washington Square, and Lower East Side radical politics. Nah, not really; they apparently decide to make a rock video, go shopping, and spend time with the bespectacled, curly-haired male member of the overexposed Osbourne clan. Truthfully, the trailer for this doesn't look all that bad, but then the trailer for Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed promised considerably more than THAT film managed to deliver. And what on Earth are Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin doing in this movie?
7. Breakin' All the Rules
Instead, may I suggest Breakin' All the Prints before they arrive at your local Googolplex? Jamie Foxx and Gabrielle Union star in this romantic comedy about a loveable loser who publishes a best-selling book on how to break up. Sounds formulaic, boring, and headed for a brief theatrical run followed by an endless afterlife on Cinemax.
8. Soul Plane
Soul Plane's atrocious trailer should hopefully help condemn this purported comedy to the trash heap of cinema history pronto. I can't stand watching Tom Arnold's "sports show", so I certainly won't be paying to see his new film, even if it does feature a soundtrack by RZA.
Limited treats that should but won't have a box office impact:
Super Size Me
Ah, what some people will do for art. This Sundance favorite follows director Morgan Spurlock through a grueling month during which he subsisted entirely on food from McDonalds. Personally, I can't wait to see this, and I'm especially looking forward to seeing the promotional Happy Meal toys the Golden Arches will distribute during this film's run. Hey, any publicity is good publicity, right?
There's been a spate of excellent Brazilian films in recent years, including Central Station, City of God, and Bus 174, so I'm expecting great things from Carandiru. Directed by Hector Babenco, responsible for the 1981 neo-realist classic Pixote, Carandiru is based on the true-life story of Drauzio Varella, a prison doctor assigned to stopping the spread of AIDS in a hellish penitentiary. No truth to the rumor that Up With People provide the soundtrack.
Coffee and Cigarettes
Jim Jarmusch's newest film is blessed with the year's best trailer, and with big names like Bill Murray, Steve Coogan, Iggy Pop, and the White Stripes involved, has some crossover potential. It's Jarmuschï¿½'s first feature since 1999's terrific Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, which grossed a shameful $3.3 million at the box office. We can fantasize that Coffee and Cigarettes will outperform that paltry total, but considering it's in black-and-white and is a series of vignettes, it's very unlikely.
It's a documentary about my favorite news organization, Al-Jazeera! It'll be packing them in here in Berkeley, but probably won't have enough legs to make it much further east than Walnut Creek.
Time of the Wolf
A new Michael Haneke film! Can I buy my ticket in advance? Featuring Isabelle Huppert as the matriarch of a family who return to their house one day and find it occupied by total strangers, Time of the Wolf sounds a bit like an inverted take on Haneke's Funny Games. Which, for misanthropes such as myself, can only be a good thing.
And one to avoid:
The Boston Red Sox Movie
Unlikely to play anywhere west of Southie, this film takes a look at the annoying crybabies who play for the Red Sox and their whiny fans over the course of the 2003 season. Is there any player more annoying to watch than Nomar Garciaparra? Besides Derek Lowe? And does anyone in Beantown know exactly what it entails to "cowboy up"?
Marty Doskins's May Forecast
Stephanie Star Smith's May Forecast
Zach Kolkin's May Forecast
David Mumpower's May Forecast