June 2004 Forecast
By Stephanie Star Smith
The summer box office season swings into high gear this month as the studios roll out a number of their tentpole releases. As with May, there is a safe bet as to what will rule the box office roost. The remainder of the releases are a mixed bag, and from the looks of things, there are several candidates for high-profile not-really-successes along the line's of May's Van Helsing. In between, there are some films that may surprise, and a few limited releases that have the potential to make a mark on the public consciousness, if not the box office chart.
10) Garfield: The Movie
I think in order for this film to hit it big, we all need to get in our Wayback Machines and set them for the 1980s, when the cat who rides roughshod over his beleaguered owner was at the height of its popularity. Of course, there would've been the little problem of the technology to create a CGI/live-action film being in its infancy (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the first live-action/animation film since Mary Poppins to make a mark on the box office, wasn't released until 1988), but at least people would've cared. I’m not sure anybody does any more. Add to that the fact that Garfield: The Movie is being released only a week after Harry Potter, and we're probably looking at a dead cat. Though a solid run on home video is certainly not out of the question.
9) Fahrenheit 9/11
I know; it seems odd to put a documentary not only in the top ten for the month, but ahead of one of the wide releases. But this is no ordinary documentary, nor is Michael Moore an ordinary documentarian. Whilst his films have always drawn attention and some criticism, Moore really became high-profile with the release of his 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, which remains the most successful documentary at the box office to date and garnered Moore the 2002 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It also led to an ill-considered swipe at Dubya and the current Administration over the war in Iraq during his acceptance speech. So now Moore is back with an even more controversial documentary concerning Dubya's mishandling of the so-called War on Terror. The film, which explores the links between Dubya's family and friends and the Saudis, a state long known as a haven for terrorist organizations and the country of citizenship for 15 of the 19 hijackers in the World Trade Center attacks, was initially pulled from release when Disney, parent company of Miramax, forbade the latter to proceed as distributor of the film as originally planned. "The temperature at which freedom burns" indeed. However, this did create quite the buzz around Fahrenheit 9/11, which the Weinsteins ultimately bought back from Disney in order to release it through a third party. In the meantime, the film has received a great deal of publicity, including an unprecedented 15 minutes standing ovation after it was screened at Cannes, where it ultimately won the Palme d'Or, the top prize at the festival. Now the Weinsteins have secured a distribution deal, with Lions Gate and IFC Films jointly release the film in the US. Given the controversy to date, and the status of Michael Moore, it is more than feasible that Fahrenheit 9/11 will make enough of a box office splash to land it in the top ten for the month, not to mention its opening weekend, where its wide-release competition skews to different demographics entirely. Should be interesting to hear what the moviegoing public thinks of Moore's latest offering.
8) The Notebook
Reading the synopsis for this film, one would almost think someone at New Line wasn't looking at the right month when scheduling its release; this seems more like late-summer or early-fall adult fare, and it's more than likely The Notebook will get lost in the bombast of the summer event films. But as has been proven in the past, there's always room on the charts for a good film, and certainly the tale of a World War II romance told from the perspective of one of the participants years later is an intriguing concept. The film also touches on the disease of Alzheimer's, and how it robs one of not only personal dignity but the memories that make us who we are. If the film is as good as the premise suggests, it might find its niche amongst adult moviegoers who are looking for something a little less...loud.
7) Two Brothers
Another cat film - in a manner of speaking - Two Brothers focuses on two tigers, separated as cubs and taken away from their natural habitat. Each experiences numerous trials and tribulations until they are brought back together in adulthood, and not under the most pleasant of circumstances. The biggest things this film has going for it are its director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, who did such an excellent job with The Bear, and its release date, which is the 25th. Far enough away from Harry Potter and Shrek that there will likely be kinder looking for something new, and almost a week before the Spider-Man juggernaut gets rolling. And since at least some of its target audience likely couldn't care less about Spider-Man 2, Two Brothers might find a nice, comfortable spot at the lower end of the box office chart and curl up there for quite a while.
6) Stepford Wives
Now we move into tentpole territory, and things get a bit harder to predict. Really, any one of the films that doesn’t have Harry Potter in their titles could tear up the box office. They could also fall into obscurity, depending on how well they live up - or down - to expectations. I mainly have Nicole Kidman's version of the '70s Ira Levin novel lower down the scale because there are going to be fewer things blowing up real good, which tends to draw a bigger slice of the box-office pie in a film's opening frame. That being said, however, there is every possibility that this remake of the cult fave, misogynistic as it is, will have legs like its star, and seeing Bette Midler made over into a Stepford Wife might just be worth the price of admission alone. This one, perhaps more than any other film save Chronicles of Riddick, will rise or fall based on word-of-mouth. But with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick as leads, it has a good shot at doing decent business, at least in the beginning of its run.
5) Around the World in 80 Days
This latest version of the Jules Verne classis stars someone you've never heard of as Phileas Fogg, and Jackie Chan as Passepartout, along with about a jillion name stars in supporting and cameo roles. Chan's Passepartout is the lead in this filmed version, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out, because it's not like there are tons of opportunities for updating effects from the 1956 David Niven film, or even the '89 TV miniseries with Pierce Brosnan. Then again, the biggest difference might be that it's Passepartout's show, and I suspect the film will rely on Jackie Chan's fan base and the star-studded cameos to make it at the box office. Whether Chan can pull them in if he's not doing a lot of kicking and punching is a big if at the moment (The Tuxedo, anyone?). Then again, this film could help fill the family niche that Two Brothers will also likely occupy, and might gain a bit by coming the week before it. Only time, and word-of-mouth, will tell the whole box office story, but regardless of its theatrical performance, this has a good shot at making a mark in the home video market.
4) The Chronicles of Riddick
I’m severely on the fence about this one. On the one hand, it's a classic good vs evil flick, and lots of stuff gets blown up real good. On the other hand...well, let's just say Vin Diesel isn't likely to end Tom Hanks' reign as the most recent actor to win back-to-back Oscars any time soon. That being said, one has to hand it to Mr Diesel for knowing his limitations; if the part calls for being sullen, edgy and moral uncertain, he's your man. The effects look good, Diesel seems in his element, and Dame Judi Dench is along as a sort of mystical M, if you will. And the humans-facing-extinction plotline is an oldie but a goodie; if they haven't shown the best bits in the trailer, Chronicles of Riddick should pull in the adolescent male audience with a vengeance.
3) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
My speculative placing of the month goes to Ben Stiller's tale of a group of misfits who compete in an international dodgeball tournament in order to save their beloved gym from being taken over by a soulless corporate health fitness chain (side note: there really is an international dodgeball league). Contrary to current evidence, Ben Stiller can be very, very funny, and this seems right up his alley. Throw in Vince Vaughn, who is the perfect comedic foil in these underdogs-beat-the-BMoC types of films, and the not-a-few audience members who remember what it was like to get picked last for dodgeball - or any sport, for that matter - and I think Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story has the ability to surprise at the box office. And if any of the tentpole releases is an utter word-of-mouth disaster (I'm looking at you, Riddick and Kidman), then Dodgeball stands a good chance of filling that gap. It's going up against the horror film Darkness and Tom Hanks' latest, which could be detriments, but since it will appeal to a completely different audience than either of those two flicks, I like its chances. And if I’m wrong...hey, I got picked last for dodgeball back in the day, so blame it on that.
2) The Terminal
About the only thing keeping The Terminal from the top spot is the fact its being released the same month as Harry Potter. This latest offering from the team of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg is actually based on a true story, which is likely something a lot of people don't realize, but I have no doubt Hanks will point out when he climbs aboard the Celebrity Mule Train to promote the flick. Yes, Virginia, there actually is a man living at an airport, specifically the Charles DeGaulle Airport in France, although due to slightly different circumstances as depicted in the film. My biggest fear for this film before the trailers showed up was the dreaded spectre of Badsky Accentsky; after seeing the trailers, though, it appears Hanks made his usual yeoman effort to nail down the character, and the accent sounds fine. Can you place it beyond being Eastern European? Not really, but that matters little; it's a believable accent, and that, my friends, is the most important thing. The film looks to have a much happier ending than the real-life story, and Hanks' Navorski finds true love, as well as friendship and a job, in his terminal. The Terminal benefits not only from the names at the top of its roster - not to mention Catherine Zeta-Jones as Hanks' love interest - but it is also the sole romantic comedy of the month, and the first real date movie of the summer (no, I'm not counting Raising Helen, cause it sucked...I mean, was more a chick flick). Tom Hanks is one of only two stars, in my opinion, who can pull off a romantic comedy without allowing it to become saccharine; the other being Hugh Grant. Both men never forget that it's a romantic comedy, and that there's got to be some laughs along with the sweet moments or people choke on all the sugar. The Terminal should be with us well into the summer, as it really doesn't have any direct competition until August (unless you count King Arthur, which falls more toward historical romance, I think). Hanks will once again ascend to the box office throne, the anomaly that was Ladykillers all but forgotten.
1) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The third installment in the Harry Potter series hits theatres during the summer months, and whilst that gives the kiddie-winkies more time to rush out and see it RIGHT NOW, I doubt it will have any impact on the film's total box office. One of two films that pretty much has a lock on a spot in the Top Ten for the year, it's also another pretty-safe bet for top of the June chart, much as Shrek 2 was for May. Will it break all sorts of box office records? Yeah, probably. Will it return the faithful to the theatres in droves? Again, probably. Can I say much more about it? No, because I'm one of 12 people in the universe who's never read even one Harry Potter book nor seen either of its two predecessors. But you can read all about it in our TickerMaster listing, which should tide you over until you can storm the theatre box office in a couple days.
There are a couple of limited releases this month that could get some buzz going. While none of them will likely impact the box office like Super Size Me or Day Without a Mexican did in May, they're worth noting.
The Hunting of the President
A friend of the Clintons and TV producer, Harry Thomason undertook this documentary to chronicle the almost-unprecedented probing into the life of William Jefferson Clinton. No other president - or any other elected official, for that matter - has had his private dealings put under more scrutiny than Clinton did, from when he became a viable candidate in 1992 right through till nearly the end of his eight years in the White House. Thomason reportedly took great care to be as fair as possible to the Clintons, but there will naturally be some who claim this is a puff piece. I will leave you with this thought, however: if a small group of people poured unlimited resources into examining every aspect of your life with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, how certain are you that sooner or later, they wouldn’t find something that could be used to nail your hide to the wall? I think the majority of people living on this planet would be hard-pressed to say no.
This Cole Porter biopic is being mentioned mostly because it stars Kevin Kline as the legendary composer. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the Cary Grant-starrer Night and Day, which was the 1946 version, there were apparently many things about Porter's life that were whitewashed in that film, particularly his sexual orientation. The chance to see Kevin Kline is not one to be missed, and it will be interesting to see how different this film version of Porter's life plays. Besides, you know it's going to have a killer soundtrack.
The Door in the Floor
I mention this one because a great deal is already being made about the extended nude love scene that Kim Basinger has in the film. Really, that's about the only thing that recommends it, as it is otherwise a pretty standard marriage-falling-apart-due-to-grief film. However, the prurient interest drummed up by Ms Basinger's parading of her 51-year-old body across the screen will probably give this film a spike in its opening weekend, from whence it should quickly fall into deserved obscurity.
This is a film that promises to be so bad that you're going to wish you had Crow and Tom Servo at the theatre with you. Two of the 5,763 Wayans Brothers star as a pair of FBI agents trying to get back into their bosses' good graces after screwing up a major drug bust. They are assigned to protect a pair of sisters who are heirs to a hotel chain fortune and are the subject of a kidnap plot. For some inexplicable reason known only to the scripter, the Wayans' decide to disguise themselves as the sisters. Who are white.
I'll wait a moment while the horror of the picture that conjures sinks in.
I’m not sure in what space-time continuum this would be a funny idea, but I'm fairly certain it's not this one. If there is any justice in the universe, White Chicks should spend about 25 minutes at the theatres and then another half-an-hour on video shelves before it hits the remaindered bin. And given what happened to New York Minute, I have hope.
Dan Krovich's Indie June Forecast
Marty Doskins's June Forecast