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August 2004 Forecast

By John Seal

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1. Alien vs. Predator

Two of the most beloved film characters of all time return to the big screen in this sci-fi adventure. Alien, the lantern-jawed, chest-bursting star of a trio of science fiction action flicks, and Predator, the cool, dreadlocked hipster of his own series, go tag-team on the human race in this new film, my pick to top the August charts. Directed by the remarkably lifelike automaton Paul W. S. Anderson and featuring disembodied robot Lance Henriksen as a human scientist, Alien vs. Predator promises to burst forth from the bowels of multiplexes across the nation and devour significant box office dollars.


2. Collateral

The appeal of Tom Cruise has long eluded me, and with the relatively middling performance of last year’s The Last Samurai, the first cracks may be appearing in his formidable box office armor. This Michael Mann-directed feature, however, looks destined to provide him with at least modest success. Cruise plays a hit man rubbing out witnesses to his various crimes, and Jamie Foxx plays his taxi driver sidekick, who figures out in between assassinations that, gosh, he might be next for a set of concrete trainers. Someone wisely kept executive producer Frank Darabont away from a typewriter on this one — otherwise Cruise and Foxx would no doubt be encountering a sin-cleansing, regenerative force by film’s end, with a last minute conversion to Christianity sending Cruise heaven-bound after sparing the life of a cute and furry creature. Instead he’ll probably die an excruciating death, most likely as a result of smoking too many Brown and Williamson cigarettes.


3. Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement

I know I’m an old sourpuss, but I’ve had it up to here with films about ‘ordinary’ girls being swept off their feet and handed the keys to the city, a shiny new crown and/or tiara, and a handsome hunk with whom to wile away the endless hours of boredom in between croquet matches and Corgi races. As the first film grossed a whopping $108,000,000 on the back of a miniscule budget, though, it was inevitable that Disney would go back to the well for more. I imagine they’ll duplicate the first film’s success, but not by much.


4. Without A Paddle

This looks like a good old fashioned late season scheduling dump, but with Seth Green and Matthew Lillard headlining, the film might not be entirely worthless. Perhaps my vision is clouded by my fondness for Lillard, who can be brilliant or banal depending on the screenplay, and Green, who’s really only been good as Scott Evil. With Burt Reynolds cameoing in this tale of lost treasure in the American outback, the jokes about banjo pickin’ and inbreedin’ will be flying. A possible surprise money spinner for Paramount.


5. Exorcist: The Beginning

Wow. I’ve been waiting for this one for ages, ever since John Frankenheimer was mooted as director, only to see him drop out and die (due to health reasons, apparently). But never fear, one of my favorite directors, Paul Schrader, stepped into the breach and produced what promises to be one of the most interesting, cerebral horror films of recent years. Yeah!!

Unfortunately, Warners decided to trash Schrader’s cut and re-shoot the whole thing with Wretched Renny Harlin behind the camera. Harlin, whose previous classics include The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Cutthroat Island, and Deep Blue Sea has no doubt turned this Exorcist prequel into the by-the-numbers slash-a-thon Warner’s wanted all along. Pass.


6. Little Black Book

Oh, boy! Here’s a tagline from Hell: ‘From the screenwriter of last month’s teen turd Sleepover comes a new romantic comedy to enliven your cinematic punchbowl!’ It’s true, Little Black Book was penned by Sleepover scribe Elisa Bell, and what more needs to be said? The presence of box office poison Holly Hunter only underlines this film’s DOA status.


7. Benji: Off the Leash!

Considering how ancient poor old Benji is — at least 30, by my calculations — he must be returning in a wheelchair, or at least pushing a zimmer frame. The title makes the film sound a bit like a canine take on the whole Girls Gone Wild phenomenon. Director Joe Camp has shown flashes of talent over the years, but his latest shaggy dog tale isn’t likely to make much of a dent at the box office.


8. Anacondas: The Hunt For the Blood Orchid

The who? The what? Does anyone recall paying to see a movie called Anaconda? Does Morris Chestnut need money so badly that he stars in stuff like this? Of course, he’ll be the best thing about this turkey, which will be airing on Starz! come Christmas.


9. Super Babies: Baby Geniuses 2

Remember how the first Baby Geniuses film was a surprise hit back in 1999? Reviled by the critics, it went on to gross a surprising $27,000,000. A new batch of precocious rugrats are back for the sequel, which also features some of the original feature’s cast, now well beyond toddler stage. (No, I’m not talking about Kathleen Turner and Christopher Lloyd, who weren’t invited back, or if they were, wisely chose to go grocery shopping instead.) Still, what stony heart can resist the siren song of these tiny tots? It’s a shame they couldn’t get the German super baby to star in the film, but Jon Voight and Scott Baio made themselves available, so you know it’s quality. Chris Hyde’s number one pick of the month, thanks to the presence of Canadian director Bob Clark behind the camera.


10. Yu-Gi-Oh!

Oh! No! Me! No! Go! See! Yu-Gi-Oh! You! No! Go! Either!


11. Suspect Zero

Audience Interest Zero.



LIMITED TREATS

Bright Young Things

No, it’s not a sequel to Dirty Pretty Things, Very Bad Things, or Things Behind the Sun. It’s a frock flick directed by upper crusty British thesp Stephen Fry and based on Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, one of the acerbic Tory’s least interesting books. Nonetheless, the sterling cast — including Fry, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Emily Mortimer, Peter O’Toole, and 96-year-old Sir John Mills — mark this as worth a look for those who like witty, Wildean one-liners. Your majesty is like a big cream bun!


Code 46

This isn’t Michael Winterbottom’s recent infamous sex romp Nine Songs, but an earlier film, a ‘bleak future’ drama about a couple who break all the rules of 2035 — apparently, by not purchasing the right traveler’s insurance — and maintain a steamy but illicit relationship. I swear, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton are the couple in question, and their sex is strictly of the simulated, body double variety. Not likely to replicate the success of Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People or the heart palpitations of Nine Songs.


Danny Deckchair

Rhys Ifans stars as a working class Aussie who floats off in his helium balloon-laden beach recliner one day, only to descend from the heavens and fall in love with girl-next-deckchair Miranda Otto. Sounds like a predictable but potentially enjoyable wacky Antipodean comedy.


Mean Creek

This one sounds like a cross between My Bodyguard and Night of the Hunter. Rory Culkin, younger brother of Macaulay, stars as a bullying victim plotting to get his own back on his tormenter during the course of a boating trip. Josh Peck co-stars as the misunderstood meanie. Mean Creek is rated R, so I think something really bad will happen. Perhaps the boat will tip over.


Open Water

I’m sorry, but I think the trailer is ridiculous. I know some folks like it, but the whole shark thing…not scary. Now, strand two people in the ocean and threaten ‘em with a coelecanth…that’s a film I’d pay to see.


Stander

On the other hand, there’s Stander’s trailer, a brilliant and wordless montage that manages to disguise the fact that Thomas Jane is the ‘big name’ star on hand. Perhaps it’s the fact that it looks like a big screen version of the Beastie Boys Sabotage video, but I’m quite intrigued by this South African crime thriller.


We Don’t Live Here Anymore

The one-two knockout punch of Naomi Watts and Laura Dern guarantee a brief art-house run for this drama about New England 30-somethings and their boring relationships. Is there a more annoying actress currently treading the boards than the po-faced Ms. Watts? Okay, I’ll grant you Jennifer Love Hewitt. More importantly, can Mark Ruffalo regain the love of cineastes after his over-the-top performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Doesn’t look like this film is going to do him any favors.


     


 
 

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