December 2004 Forecast

By John Seal

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1. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

I haven’t read any of the novels in this wildly popular children’s series, but the Addams Family-style trailer makes the film look like good, Tim Burton-esque fun. Apparently aimed as much at the 18-29 demographic as at the kiddies, the film stars annoying Jim Carrey as a wicked step uncle doing rotten things to three rich young relations, and features a terrific supporting cast, including Jude Law (does the man ever sleep?), Timothy Spall, and BOP favorite Luis Guzman. I’ll say that again: Luis Guzman. And we like him a lot. Yessirree. Lemony Snicket is guaranteed to inherit vast sums of cash and end Paramount’s year on a sweet note.

2. Meet the Fockers

Enough with the trailer. There IS such a thing as too much of a good thing, and Universal has pounded filmgoers with news of the not so imminent arrival of Meet the Fockers for months now. With the big day almost here, I’m still interested in seeing it, but trailer fatigue may adversely affect the performance of this sequel to 2000’s amusing if slight Meet the Parents. Not to mention the fact that Barbra Streisand is in it.

3. Ocean’s Twelve

Hey, I never got the appeal of the original 1961 Ocean’s 11, so the success of Steven Soderbergh’s remake completely took me by surprise. I don’t think this will perform quite as well, but it’ll do well enough to rank it number three this month.

4. Blade: Trinity

My guess is there’s still some life in this franchise, and a December release is probably sensible counter-programming by New Line. Look for Blade: Trinity to match (and possible exceed) the $70-80 million dollar takes of the first two films.

5. Spanglish

Adam Sandler plays nice, and relatively normal, in this romantic comedy about a Mexican woman (Paz Vega) who takes up housekeeping for a family of rich gringos (Sandler and Tea Leoni). Coming from writer-director James L. Brooks, this is probably going to be sentimental, overrated slop similar to Brooks’ earlier films, such as Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets. Expect solid, though not spectacular, box office returns, especially if Columbia convinces folks it’s award-worthy.

6. The Aviator

The early word on Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic is not very good. The eye-browed one has hit a rough patch of late, and though I was willing to overlook the faults of Gangs of New York — which in some respects was actually one of the better American films of recent years — I have a bad feeling that The Aviator will be worse. Hope springs eternal when it comes to Scorsese, but The Aviator looks primed to revisit the nostalgic ground trod so carelessly in his 1977 clinker New York, New York, and is probably going to quickly crash and burn at the box office.

7. Fat Albert

Hey, hey, hey! Moviegoers are going to stay away, way, way from Bill Cosby’s big screen adaptation of the popular television series of the same name. Of course, the series was popular 30 YEARS AGO, so it’ll be boomer parents trying to drag their kids to see this holiday horror show come Christmas Day. Kids, stay home and play the video games Santa brought you instead. Three words, Cos: Leonard Part 6. Perhaps you should spend less time making bad movies and more time fussing about social issues.

8. The Flight of the Phoenix

Originally scheduled for an October release, The Flight of the Phoenix was moved to December in an apparent effort to, erm, garner an Academy Award nom for Dennis Quaid. Or something. Honestly, I can’t imagine why Fox moved this to the most crowded month of the season, because I suspect it’s going to fare very poorly. Looks like a desperate dump to try and squeeze a few extra bucks out of this unwanted remake before it moves on to home video hell.

9. Million Dollar Baby

Yeesh. Clint Eastwood remaking Girlfight? As good as Hilary Swank was in Boys Don’t Cry, that performance is looking more and more like an outlier, establishing expectations that the giant-lipped actress can’t possibly meet. And she is surely no Michelle Rodriguez. Floppo.

10. The Dark

More horror in December? There’s counter-programming and then there’s plain stupidity. Blade has a built-in audience, but now we’re going to find out if Anna Paquin can pull a Sarah Michelle Gellar and deliver a horror hit in the dead of winter. On Christmas Day, no less…is nothing sacred?? Apparently this one’s been sitting in the can for two years, so don’t expect much, either artistically or monetarily.

11. Closer

If this adaptation of Patrick Marber’s well-regarded stage play is a faithful one, it’s going to be too strong for general audiences. If it isn’t, howls of indignation will arise from disgruntled theatre fans. Either way, this is a loss leader for Sony. Alfie confirmed Jude Law’s soggy box office appeal, Clive Owen seems to be sinking back into second-string oblivion, and Natalie Portman is still trying to break out of the Star Wars trap. Just ask Mark Hamill and Admiral Ackbar how easy a task that is.

Limited Treats

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera

Darn, I was hoping this was going to be Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. Heck, I’d settle for Claude Rains’ Phantom of the Opera. Even Herbert Lom’s Phantom of the Opera, fer Chrissake! But Andrew Lloyd Webber? That, dear reader, is a bridge too far.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Every month, another Naomi Watts movie. She’s the female Jude Law, minus the talent and the looks. Here she co-stars with Sean Penn in an awards season picture about a deranged 1970-era office supplies salesman who becomes a political activist. Don’t you hate titles that feature spoilers?

Beyond the Sea

This is the film I was thinking De-Lovely was when De-Lovely came out a few months back. Somehow I had convinced myself that Kevin Spacey was playing Cole Porter, but it was the other Kevin, Kline, who got that role. Spacey is actually featured as singer Bobby Darin in this musical biopic. Early reports indicate Beyond the Sea will be a love it or hate it picture, and while it’s likely to be a cult favorite, it isn’t going to crossover to general success, even if Spacey’s singing is as good as it’s rumored to be.

Hotel Rwanda

Jim Sheridan colleague Terry George gets to helm his own film with Hotel Rwanda, a drama about the 1994 genocide that tore apart that small central African nation. Starring Don Cheadle as a Rwandan hotelier trying to save hundreds of Tutsi tribes-people from death at the hands of rival Hutu militiamen, the film also features Nick Nolte and Joaquin Phoenix. Not likely to be a hit, but definitely a potential player come Oscar time.

House of Flying Daggers

This Zhang Yimou film is being marketed as a Hero-style martial arts epic, but c’mon, this is a Zhang Yimou film. More likely to feature long, lingering shots of Zhang Ziyi in repose than of daggers slicing off body parts, this may get a little box office bump from the aforementioned Hero’s coattails, but not much.

I Am David

Hollywood’s hot new right-wing star, James Cavaziel, stars in this heartwarming anti-Commie family drama about a twelve-year old boy escaping from Bulgaria in 1963, destination Denmark. Then the boy grew up and became Lars Von Trier. I don’t think that’s actually true, but I’m trying to come up with a reason to go and see this film.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

I want to like this film. I really, really do…but oh, that trailer. It’s so bad — and sells the film so poorly — it’s hard to imagine that anyone will want to see The Life Aquatic. General audiences will be put off by the mixed message (is it a comedy? A drama? An underwater thriller?) and the wordy title, whilst art house regulars will think it’s too lowbrow or mainstream. It’s Wes Anderson’s first film since 2001’s superb Royal Tenenbaums, and much of his loyal stock company is featured here — including marvelous Bill Murray in the lead role and Owen Wilson — but it just looks like a horrid misfire.

Love Song of Bobby Long and In Good Company

We at BOP all love and respect Scarlett Johannson, but is it in the best interests of her career to release two of her films on the SAME DAY? Especially when the first one co-stars John Travolta and the second the distressingly named Topher Grace?

Merchant of Venice

Good source material plus good cast plus good director (Michael Radford) should equal hit movie, but this being one of Shakespeare’s bleakest plays, it’s unlikely to have them lining up at the multiplex. With Al Pacino cast as Shylock, the film has some potential, especially considering the season.

The Sea Inside

I guess this isn’t the same Sea that Kevin Spacey is Beyond. No, this sea is inside Javier Bardem, here playing poet Ramon Sampedro, who jumped off a cliff, became paralyzed, and proceeded to live the life of the tortured young artiste until he committed suicide in 1998. Bardem’s a mighty fine actor and his performance here is already being touted as the one to beat come Oscar night.

The Woodsman

Kevin Bacon plays a pedophile! Ready to buy your ticket yet?

Tim Briody's December Forecast
Marty Doskins's December Forecast



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