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October 2004 Forecast

By John Seal

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1. Shark Tale

This animated biopic about the Weinstein Brothers’ business practices stars Robert De Niro as Harvey and Will Smith as Bob. Nah, not really, the cartoon sharks in Shark Tale are even more cold-blooded than Los Bros Weinstein. (And contrary to some reports, it has been confirmed that the Brothers ARE mammalian.) The subject of controversy in the Italian-American community, Shark Tale has a lousy trailer that screams flop. Though it should open big, I expect a rapid drop off when families decide it would simply be cheaper and more enjoyable to rent Finding Nemo again.


2. Taxi

It’s all going to depend on the execution. If Taxi is reasonably well written, Fox could have a modest hit on their hands. If not, it’ll still probably perform reasonably well with Queen Latifah in hot pursuit of a gang of bank robbers. There sure have been a lot of African Americans driving taxis on screen lately, which is strange, because most of the cab drivers in my town are Indian or Haitian. Perhaps I live in the wrong neighborhood. But I digress. Taxi was directed by Barbershop helmer Tim Story, which is good, but was written by the screenwriting team whose next assignment is Herbie: Fully Loaded, which is probably bad. My guess? It’ll be dumb, innocuous fun that you’ll have forgotten within ten minutes of the credit crawl.


3. Ladder 49

Sound the alarm! Smug scientologist John Travolta stars in this firefighting drama about men with big ladders and even bigger hoses. He’s a fire captain sent to save colleague Joaquin Phoenix, who’s been trapped in a burning building. Supposedly the cast went through rigorous and realistic training to get ready for this film; in Travolta’s case, that probably meant he grabbed an extra Royale With Cheese from the caterer’s table. The jowled one has been on a box office skid of late, but with Phoenix aboard and My Dog Skip director Jay Russell behind the camera, there’s some potential here. Seems like a perfect October release.


4. Team America: World Police

If there were justice in the world, THIS would be the animated hit of the month. Of course, if there were justice in the world, George Bush would spend a month or two cleaning the latrines at Abu Ghraib. My point, of course, is that this new film from South Park creators Trey Park and Matt Stone is probably going to be overshadowed by a fish with Martin Scorsese’s eyebrows. Nonetheless, the time is right for a Thunderbirds-style superhero spoof — especially considering how bad that live-action Thunderbirds film was. I can’t wait for Team America to open. Let me rephrase that: I CAN’T WAIT FOR TEAM AMERICA TO OPEN. And neither can you.


5. The Grudge

Can The Grudge do for Sarah Michelle Gellar what The Ring did for (gag) Naomi Watts? I wouldn’t bet on it, but this remake of the Japanese chiller Ju-On is being released in time for Halloween. With a dearth of horror titles available this season (unless you count Surviving Christmas), a surprise hit can’t be ruled out.


6. Ray

The early word on this biopic is middling at best. Similar films like What’s Love Got to Do With It? and The Five Heartbeats trod familiar paths of struggle, success, failure, and redemption, and Taylor HACKford (cough, cough, pardon me) hardly seems like the man to successfully bring Ray Charles’ story to the big screen. Ray does feature an interesting cast, though, including the great Harry Lennix and O Brother Where Art Thou?’s Chris Thomas King, but can Jamie Foxx pull off the title role? And what precisely is Warwick Davis doing in this film??


7. Surviving Christmas

True story: after sitting through the awful trailer for this film at the local multiplex, I overheard a patron behind me whispering to his friend, “they should call it Surviving Ben Affleck!” That pretty much sums up the box office chances of this October turkey, flapping its way into theatres in a desperate gamble to get first dibs on the Yuletide movie market. Save your money for Christmas With the Kranks instead.


8. Alfie

Oh, dear. I do like me some Jude Law, but this was a bad idea from the get go. If you’re going to remake one of the quintessential Swinging London films, why relocate it to New York? And if you relocate it to New York, why cast a British actor in the title role? And if you insist on the character being a Cockney, why cast a Lewisham boy? Perhaps I’m allowing my deep and abiding love for the original film to cloud my judgment, but I predict Alfie will open poorly, provide another strike against Law’s wobbly status as a big star, and make an exit from theatres within a month.


9. Shall We Dance?

Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. Just typing ONE of those names is enough to put my teeth on edge, but casting them together in the same film? Another sign of the impending apocalypse, perhaps? This is an English-language remake of the popular Japanese film of the same title from 1997. Director Peter Chelsom was also responsible for the Sharon Stone flop The Mighty (1998) and the legendary Town and Country (2001). Besides the fact that he’s a Lancashire lad from Blackpool, is there any reason people keep hiring this guy? Especially if they’re going to burden him with Gere and Lopez?


10. Raise Your Voice

Poor little Hillary Duff is off to music school, where she meets the casting department’s idea of an eclectic group of youngsters, all of them eager to show off their musical chops and their ridiculous hairstyles. The paint-by-numbers trailer for this film is aimed squarely at the heart of the tweenie audience that admires the chirpy Ms. Duff. They’d be better off going to see sister Heather in the still-in-theatres low-budget treat Napoleon Dynamite.


11. Friday Night Lights

This looks to be another beating the odds sports drama in the spirit of The Rookie, Remember the Titans, and Rudy. Billy Bob Thornton plays a high school pigskin coach trying to keep his players focused and his team in contention. Up-and-comer Derek Luke co-stars as one of the jocks. Likely to play better in the rural south than in the urban north, Friday Night Lights could rack up decent if unspectacular returns.


12. Saw

You haven’t seen Saw until you go to see it. Then you can tell your friends you saw Saw, and you can ask them if they have plans to see Saw, too. If you HAVE seen Saw, you haven’t seen the whole Saw, unless you saw Saw at Sundance, before Saw was cut to get an ‘R’ rating. Seen?


Limited treats:

Around the Bend

The last time Michael Caine adopted a southern screen accent (and I’m talking United States southern, not Estuary English) the result — Secondhand Lions—was less than stellar. Instead of Robert Duvall, another ‘70s favorite, Christopher Walken, is cast opposite Caine in this heartwarming (and R-rated) family drama. It won’t be playing in theatres for long. The similarly themed Undertow is also getting released this month, and both films feature Josh Lucas, who ALSO appeared in Secondhand Lions. Not getting typecast are we, Josh?


Enduring Love

Even though Enduring Love’s trailer isn’t very good, I’m quite enthusiastic about the film. It’s the latest from Roger Michell (Notting Hill) whose previous production, The Mother, is nestling close to the top of my Best of 2004 chart at the moment. With Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton, and Rhys Ifans starring, you can’t go wrong, and unlike The Mother, this one has the potential to be a surprise hit.


Eulogy

Rip Torn! Piper Laurie! Rene Auberjonois! In a film about porn stars and lesbians coming out of the closet! Sounds like it should be a John Waters film, but with the great man’s latest, A Dirty Shame, already in theatres, you know it isn’t. Perhaps the plan is to release Eulogy concurrently and scoop up all the overflow dollars from the Waters’ picture, or satisfy all the disappointed teenagers turned away from that NC-17 rated shocker.


The Final Cut

Apparently still in serious movie mode, Robin Williams stars in this film about a ‘cutter’ (Williams) whose job it is to edit the recorded lives of the deceased into a memorial tribute. Ostensibly this is science fiction, but if you’ve heard of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (http://www.hollywoodforever.com/default.htm), you know it’s not that far from reality. Potentially interesting, and a potential crossover hit thanks to Williams’ name.


Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry

This puff piece documentary is unlikely to get anywhere near the box office dollars generated by Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. It’s also unlikely to explain exactly when John Kerry lost the physical courage he displayed in Vietnam and the moral courage he displayed after the war and became another simpering Democratic politician scared of his own shadow.


Hair Show

Hey! Barbershop was a hit! Let’s make another movie about African-Americans having their hair styled! Only this time let’s make it a beauty salon instead of a barbershop! And let’s cast Tiny Lister in it! That’s guaranteed box office gold!


I Heart Huckabees

I’m going to overlook the fact that the eternally annoying Naomi Watts is in this film, and concentrate on the presence of Jude Law, Jason Schwartzmann, and Isabelle Huppert. Apparently an existential mystery-comedy, this is the latest from Three Kings helmer David O. Russell, and is therefore required viewing. Even if Dave Poland doesn’t like it.


Lightning In A Bottle

Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur) filmed a Radio City Music Hall concert for this blues documentary. All you need to know is that the King of Rock and Soul, Solomon Burke, is a featured performer. Bring a change of underwear, ladies.


The Machinist

I’m a big fan of director Brad Anderson’s spooky Session 9 (2001), so I’m excited about his new feature, a story about the world’s worst case of insomnia. I’m less keen on the film’s star, Christian Bale, but will make allowances.


P.S.

Could someone please tell me how to pronounce Topher’s Grace’s name? Please? So I can stop thinking dirty thoughts?


Primer

A low, low budget effort to rekindle the spirit of cerebral science fiction, Primer will turn a profit within, oh, a day or two of its release. And it still will gross less than a million dollars total. A cult favorite in 20 years? Perhaps. A cult hit in 2004? No.


Sex Is Comedy

To paraphrase Johnny Rotten, I always thought sex was five minutes of squelching noises. Somehow I don’t think the audience is going to be laughing much during this Catherine Breillat film.


Sideways

The Dream Team is here! Wunderkind director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Election) is back with a new film starring American Splendor’s Paul Giamatti as a junior high teacher on a wine-tasting trip with his good buddy (George of the Jungle’s Thomas Haden Church). Add in the luminous Virginia Madsen, and you have an unbeatable acting combo that will be making waves come Oscar time.


Stage Beauty

Billy Crudup is a very fine actor. Billy Crudup appears in drag in this film, a story of 17th century theatre. Billy Crudup will still be waiting for his (deserved) big screen breakthrough the week after Stage Beauty opens.


Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet

Would someone please stop adapting Stephen King stories for the screen? Did we learn nothing from Dreamcatcher? Anyone who pays to see this will get a free ticket to see Stephen King’s Praying to the Porcelain God. Coming soon. Probably right after watching this movie.


Vera Drake

I smell Oscar. Mike Leigh’s new film has already scooped the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, where actress Imelda Staunton took home the Best Acting trophy for her performance as a middle-aged abortionist in 1950s Britain. The trailer is awesome. This will be back in theatres come February.


Woman Thou Art Loosed

Judging from the amount of feedback BOP has been receiving about this film, it’ll beat out Shark Tale and be the number one film of the month. Woman Thou Art Loosed was written by evangelical Christian motivational speaker T.D. Jakes and directed by Michael Schultz, the man responsible for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Krush Groove, and Disorderlies. So much for box office potential. At least the film provides us with a welcome Michael Boatman sighting.


Marty Doskins's October Forecast


     


 
 

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