September 2005 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
1) Lord of War
The multitalented Nicolas Cage returns to the action genre that made him a star in Lord of War. He stars as one of the world's leading arms dealers, a suave but dangerous man who is now being chased by some of his enemies including an Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke). Amidst the violence, he begins to have a conscience and confronts his own morality.
Cage has always been a fairly consistent box office draw, especially in his more action-based flicks. Lord of War will likely end up somewhere comfortably between his last film National Treasure (one of the bigger movies of 2004) and Matchstick Men (the 2003 Ridley Scott movie which was somewhat of a financial disappointment). The latter also opened in mid-September, but my gut feeling is that this will score higher on the radar of teenagers and young adults.
Opening weekend prediction: $24 million.
Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster doesn't do too much film work nowadays, so when she does headline a new movie, many people sit up and take notice. Sure to draw comparison to Fincher's Panic Room (given that it stars Foster in an action film in an enclosed space), FlightPlan is about a woman who searches for her young daughter who goes missing during a flight. To complicate matters, other passengers on the ride won't even admit that the daughter was even there! Alfred Hitchcock's underappreciated early British film The Lady Vanishes springs immediately to mind, and if the movie is even half as good as that then we will have a winner. Also stars the great Peter Sarsgaard and Sean Bean.
Opening weekend: $22 million.
3) Just Like Heaven
It seems that at least once a year the entertainment media world attempts to anoint a rising young actress as The Next Julia Roberts. Many an actress has been put through the test, and all of them have crashed and burned. Sure, there have been some successes and some actresses are relatively solid draws from time to time, but none of them have been able to reliably pull in sizeable audiences for more than a couple films. Well, this may just be the final test for Ms. Reese Witherspoon of Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama fame. In the quirky romantic comedy Just Like Heaven she stars as a spirit who still lives in her old apartment that is now occupied by a young man. Plenty of misunderstandings and foreplay ensue.
One obstacle in the way, though, is that the leading man isn't exactly a household name. Mark Ruffalo has had some good performances before (such as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but doesn't quite draw comparisons to Tom Hanks or Richard Gere. Still, it serves as a nice alternative to the other key opener that weekend, Lord of War. Further, the movie is sure to remind some of the mega-hit Ghost, and will likely have good staying power throughout the season.
Opening weekend: $19 million.
4) Into the Blue
In the Made for Horny Teens selection of the month, the lovely Jessica Alba and the Oscar-worthy Paul Walker costar in Into the Blue, a story about some scuba divers who find some interesting and highly sought after loot in the wreckage of a downed airplane. The problem is, a dangerous drug kingpin wants it back. I'm not sure that the plot matters all that much though, because plenty of young men will be going to this just so they can see Alba of Sin City and Fantastic Four fame.
Opening weekend: $18 million.
Joss Whedon's short-lived cult television series Firefly finally makes its way to your local megaplex in Serenity. After just 14 episodes (three of which never aired during its run) the space-western went to the big TV graveyard. Its fans (and its cast and crew) were distraught and, sure enough, the eventual complete series DVD release has been a pleasant success and ensured that the story would be given another chance on the big screen. The plot has generally been kept quiet, but one can imagine that we will get the trademark Whedon wit along with some fun action scenes, as well as further character development to fill in some of the missing pieces.
The problem is that even if all the Firefly fans went (twice, even) to see Serenity, that still doesn't add up to a very large number. The $80 million question is: how many people who have not seen the TV series will go see this movie? My guess is not that many, other than those wacky people who make it a point to see every single movie that is released. For the newbies that do go, word-of-mouth will be very important.
Opening weekend: $14 million.
6) The Transporter 2
And in this month's edition of the Somebody Was Asking for This? files, comes The Transporter 2. The original was only a lukewarm success three years ago, earning about $9 million in its opening weekend and just over $25 million total in its domestic run. But it found some fans on video and television and so here we are. It's gotta be better than Deuce Bigalow 2, right? Anyway, Jason Statham returns as an ex-special operative who specializes in transporting things. This time he is out to find two kidnapped boys who he is close to, and to bring their abductor to justice. Opening during the usually tepid Labor Day weekend, it won't do boffo business but could still manage to fight for the top spot.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
7) Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
In the same vein as director Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride uses stop-motion animation to tell the tale of a man (voiced by Johnny Depp) getting married. Suddenly a dead, skeleton corpse bride appears and demands that she replace his real, living bride. Sounds romantic - like something the whole family can enjoy, huh? This sure isn't a new Pixar film or Shrek 3, but Tim Burton has some pretty faithful fans....
Opening weekend: $13 million (limited opening release one week before).
8) The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Here is an interesting case of somewhat deceptive marketing practices. The trailer for The Exorcism of Emily Rose purports to be a new take on The Exorcism, featuring a priest and a young girl who dies during a failed exorcism - based on real life events. The movie, though, seems to actually be more of a courtroom drama about the priest defending himself on charges (albeit with multiple flashbacks to the good stuff). Was the girl really possessed? Or was she just sick, and the priest made things worse? Either way, it has the makings of being a pretty good film. Will filmgoers buy into it? That remains to be seen, but it should start out moderately and word-of-mouth will take it from there.
Opening weekend: $10 million.
9) The Man
Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy are pretty much the perfect movie pairing. Perfect because, between the two, they have the distinction of appearing in seemingly every other movie that has been released in the last five years. And even more so because when either of these actors are on, they are a delight to watch, but unfortunately they both also have a knack for taking some pretty flimsy roles.
In The Man, Jackson stars as a law enforcement officer in the middle of a sting operation. Levy is a salesman who inadvertently gets caught up in the situation, one thing leads to another, and the two become partners. When buddy comedies work, like in Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours, they are a delight to watch over and over again. When they don't work, like in Starsky and Hutch, they are akin to torture. Which side of the Jackson/Levy team-up will we see here?
Opening weekend: $9 million.
In Venom, a deranged lunatic in a black alien costume has kidnapped Mary Jane and is holding her hostage in an attempt to lure the friendly neighborhood Spider-man to his death. Oh, right, that's the plot of Spider-man 3 ...and now I've said too much.
Venom, from the director of I Know What You Did Last Summer and starring a bunch of nobodies, joins the ever-growing list of 2005 entries into the horror genre. Taking place in the swamps of Louisiana, this voodoo-tinged movie may be coming at just the wrong time. And furthermore, are people getting sick of horror movies yet? Or are they just sick of bad horror movies? Expect a very mild opening weekend and then a quick fadeout.
Opening weekend: $6 million.
Just Under the Radar
A History of Violence
David Cronenberg, the trippy Canadian director of such existential films as Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, and Spider, is back with A History of Violence. In the movie, a hero is confronted by some strange men who claim that the hero did bad things in the past and they want revenge. Cronenberg's films certainly aren't for everyone, but it is bound to be original and worth a look.
In this modern-day horror take on The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a group of students at a wealthy prep school get caught up in a game of deception. The game turns serious when students start getting killed. Sounds pretty interesting. Plus it costars Jon Bon Jovi!
John Madden (no not that one), the director of the award-winning Shakespeare in Love, returns to the cinema with Proof. Gwyneth Paltrow is a woman who comes to care for her dying father (Anthony Hopkins) and must deal with several other people that were in his life. The pedigree is certainly there; this one could very well be in the mix during awards season.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.