July 2004 Forecast
By John Seal
1. Spider-Man 2
2002’s Spider-Man was a bloated, overrated film, but it benefited from an understated performance by the perfectly-cast Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and a good turn by Willem Dafoe as bad guy The Green Goblin. I imagine this sequel will be louder, faster, and even more packed with bad CGI than its predecessor, with new villain Doctor Octopus (Coffee and Cigarettes' Alfred Molina) resembling a giant animated vacuum-cleaner hose. Regardless of my general displeasure with the first film and my complete lack of interest in the sequel, Spider-Man 2 will be the undisputed box-office champ this month, and possibly the biggest grosser of the year.
2. I, Robot
Oy, vey. Or perhaps I should say ay, caramba. Fresh Prince Will Smith, President of The Screen Over-Actors Guild, returns to cinemas with this special effects epic "based" on the short stories of Isaac Asimov collected in the anthology of the same name. If you’ve ever read I, Robot (or any other book by Asimov), you’re already suffering from heart palpitations, dry mouth, and painful rectal itch at the thought of Mr. Smith’s unique thespic talents being associated with them. Judging from the hyperkinetic trailer, the robots are a cheesy cross between Robocop and those funny aliens at the end of Spielberg’s AI, but they’ll still out-act Mr. Jada Pinkett by a country mile. I predict a huge opening followed by the collective retching of disappointed cinema patrons as the film flushes out of cinemas by mid-August.
America seems to be in the mood for comedy at the moment, and the broader the better, so the timing looks good for Will Ferrell’s new film about an egotistical TV newsman. The PG-13 rating will attract the same crowd of housebound adolescents who provided Dodgeball with its knockout opening. If the film is actually any good - an admittedly questionable eventuality - it could play all summer. I’ll go out on a limb and predict a massive opening followed by (yet another) precipitous drop when folks find out how mediocre it truly is.
4. The Bourne Supremacy
2002’s The Bourne Identity was a surprise hit and a fairly decent intriguer that didn’t insult the intelligence of its audience. Unable to leave well enough, Universal greenlighted this second film in the series, and while I’m less than convinced that the world needed a sequel, I suspect it will have some of the longer legs of the summer. This time, agent Bourne is taking the fall for a Sino-American crisis revolving around the assassination of a Chinese official and is racing against time to exonerate himself. Matt Damon and Franka Potente return, but no word on whether her cute little Mini will also be back. It’ll be interesting to see if talented director Paul Greenglass (Bloody Sunday) will be subsumed by the Hollywood machine or can pull a Peter Jackson or Guillermo del Toro and work successfully within the system.
5. King Arthur
I was mildly interested in seeing this "historical" epic before I saw the trailer, as it stars Clive Owen, The Man Who Would Be James Bond, as Arthur, King of the Britons (“King of the ‘Oo? I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an anarcho-syndicalist commune.”). Having now seen the trailer twice, my enthusiasm has dimmed considerably and I think I'll watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail again rather than drop $10 to watch Keira Knightley turn Guinevere into an ass-kicking riot grrl à la Van Helsing's Kate Beckinsale. A Wednesday opening may help this Antoine Fuqua film get off to a decent start, but by weekend two it’ll be trying to keep its head above water. And for those who care, please note that Arthur is a mythical character, not an historic one as the preview implies.
6. The Village
I’ve seen and heard next to nothing about the newest film by M. Night Shyamalamadingdong, which can’t be good. Considering his track record, though, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this one pulled a Sixth Sense on us. Of course, that film featured a guaranteed draw in Bruce Willis, whilst this one relies on talented-but-little-known Joaquin Phoenix, so the analogy is imperfect at best. Nonetheless, this story of mysterious woodland creatures looks like an intriguing late-summer breakout.
7. A Cinderella Story
Another film with an unimpressive trailer, A Cinderella Story is a contemporary update of the classic fairy tale featuring Hilary Duff as the put-upon ugly sister. I guess Heather Matarazzo’s too old for the role at this point. There’s some chiseled hunk called Chad Michael Murray playing the handsome prince/totally rad dude and Jennifer Coolidge (who?) as the evil stepmother. Should do about as well as that Olsen Twins movie did two months ago. Which, come to think of it, wasn’t so good.
8. The Manchurian Candidate
Another member of the Pointless Remake Club, The Manchurian Candidate at least has the acting chops of Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington in its favor. I’m actually hoping that the film may have some pointed comments to make about the sorry state of American politics today, but considering screenwriter Daniel Pyne also wrote Pacific Heights and Doc Hollywood, I'm probably out of luck. A midsize hit that will play into September.
Someone needs to clean the cat box, because something smells really bad in here. From the minute the pictures of Halle Berry in her cat suit hit the Web, film fans have been sniffing disaster. I have no reason to believe this one won’t crash and burn à la Around the World in 80 Days, especially when it’s compared and contrasted to fellow comic-book opus Spider Man 2.
10. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
The hardest film to predict this month, Harold and Kumar is a comedy about two goofy guys on a road trip to find hamburgers. Is it just me, or are White Castle burgers to red meat as ketchup is to vegetables? They don’t really taste like anything. Anyhoo, this R-rated comedy has a chance of hauling in the same big crowds who swooned over the gross-out yuks of There’s Something About Mary and American Pie. Looks about as funny as a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to me.
There wasn’t much of an American audience for the British television series back in the ‘60s, and there’s probably less of one now. Factor in the replacement of the much-beloved puppet characters with real-life stiffs like Bill Paxton and Anthony Edwards, and you’ve got a box office flop on your hands. It’s going to be awful.
Tweenies are the target audience for this ensemble comedy about a group of high-school girls getting together for one final blowout before one of them moves to a new town. Don’t expect much in the way of boozing, drugging, or naked dancing, however, as the film is rated PG. The only recognizable name attached to Sleepover is Spy Kids star Alexa Vega, and while she’s a decent young actress, I can’t see her as a box office attraction at this point.
America’s Heart and Soul
For those who won’t be going to see Fahrenheit 9/11 but fancy a documentary anyway, comes this Disney-produced salute to God’s Country, the Land of the SUV and the Home of the Surveilled. To be honest, the trailer doesn’t look all that bad, and if the film can avoid a surfeit of overt jingoism, it might actually be fairly decent.
I like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but the trailer offers absolutely no reason to go and see this film. Director Richard Linklater is well past his sell-by date. No doubt an HBO staple for years to come.
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
I’m a long-time fan of Shintaro Katsu’s Zatoichi, an itinerant (and, yes, blind) swordsman who wanders across medieval Japan righting wrongs, winning gambling games, protecting widows, and generally slaughtering bad guys at the drop of an obi. With Katsu’s death in 1997, it looked like the end of the road for Zatoichi, but director-actor Beat Takeshi decided to take the character on, and frankly, who better to do so? Should be extremely entertaining. And bloody. Oh, so very bloody.
I had no idea this Robert Redford film even existed until I started working on this column. Once I finish this column, I will never think about it again.
Aimed squarely at the 65-and-over demographic, De-Lovely stars Kevin Kline as genius songwriter Cole Porter. If the film’s decent it could have a long run in art-houses, but considering Kline’s recent track record - not to mention some less-than-enthusiastic early reviews - I think it’s probably DOA.
The Door in the Floor
Every previous John Irving screen adaptation has been close to unwatchable. Why should this one be any different?
The first trailer for this comedy-drama was awful, the second one considerably better. I still don’t see it breaking out, though Garden State may help bring closure to the Natalie Portman: Actress or Pretty Face? debate.
Maria Full of Grace
Or, Maria Full of Heroin, to be more precise. The trailer looks good for this US/Colombian co-production about a young woman roped into hauling bags of skag into the United States via her stomach. Can’t abide that title, though.
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Sheesh, no kidding; at 138 minutes, this on-screen group therapy session featuring the irksome titular band of metal-heads and anti-piracy advocates really IS a monster. Luckily, it’s directed by the brilliant Joe Berlinger, so the film should be informative and thoroughly entertaining. Count me in.
She Hate Me
Danger, Will Robinson, Danger. Spike Lee films generally have displayed little empathy for their female characters, and his newest "joint" involves lesbians and sperm donations. Hopefully Spike won’t emulate Woody Allen and cast himself as one of the sperm.
Marty Doskins's July 2004 Forecast
David Mumpower's July 2004 Forecast
Stephanie Star Smith's July 2004 Forecast