December 2005 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
1) King Kong
Well, it's that time of year again. After being away from the movie scene last year, Big Foot (err... I mean Peter Jackson) is back with his next eagerly awaited CGI extravaganza. Three consecutive years of mega-success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, including 11 Academy Awards for Return of the King, coupled with another very known commodity and we have the must-see film for this holiday season. King Kong, a remake of the classic starring Fay Wray as the damsel-in-distress (though, of course, it was already remade once before in 1976; tepid fare starring Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges), has its share of big name actors. Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody are the headliners, and even Gollum himself (Andy Serkis) reteams with Jackson for some more motion-captured fun.
Some people might cringe at the thought of Black in a serious role. Others have complained about the quality of the special effects in the movie trailers. But this much is true: if Jackson can prove himself with Kong, and show that he's not just a one-hit wonder with Lord of the Rings, then he well very quickly find himself near the very top of the pantheon of current directors. Senor Spielbergo, move over.
Opening weekend prediction: $71 million.
2) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Also hoping to follow in the large footsteps of the Lord of the Rings is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - an adaptation of one of the novels in author C.S. Lewis' classic Narnia mythology. This series is targeted a bit more towards younger people, but also serves as a metaphor on Christianity. The movie is sure to pull in a good portion of the Rings audience, who will be looking for a new series to latch onto. Throw in the many Christians who will be organizing gatherings to see this, and you have a film that is bound to make some studio executives very happy. Expect Narnia books to skyrocket up the best-seller charts as well.
Opening weekend: $55 million.
3) Cheaper by the Dozen 2
I imagine that sooner or later all of these "clueless parents with ridiculously large families, including cats, dogs, and obnoxious little brats, getting into farcically unreal situations filled with outrageous hijinks" comedies will converge and mold into one movie. It will star Steve Martin, Dennis Quaid, Leslie Nielsen, and three and a half score of starving children, and it will be called: Cheaper by the Dozen 33 1/3: Yours, Mine, Ours, Theirs and Nobody's.
Until that fateful time, we will have to be content with Cheaper by the Dozen 2, a sequel to the highly successful 2003 film starring Martin and Bonnie Hunt. This time, the Baker clan meets another large family, headed by funnyman Eugene Levy. (Cue laugh track.) The first was also a Christmas week release. Expect this to be money in the bank as well.
Opening weekend: $33 million.
4) Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha is based on the seminal novel about a woman (Zhang Ziyi) who is thrust into the seductive world of the Japanese geisha at a very young age, and eventually rises up and becomes one of the most beautiful and famous of them all. Directed by Rob Marshall (who previously led Chicago to gold), this story looks to be gorgeously brought to life, with some amazing costumes and scenery. It'll be the feel-good hit of the year!
Opening weekend: $25 million.
5) Fun with Dick and Jane
After being fully in the mainstream and a big name for a little over ten years now, it is quite clear what category each Jim Carrey movie fills. There are the sophomoric, riotous, laugh-out-loud comedies, usually with at least a minimum level of bathroom humor and quite a bit of Ol'Rubberface talking out of his arse. And then there are the serious dramas, usually with veteran directors and nearly all with an eye towards a certain prize in late February (or March in earlier years). Those movies in the first category are pretty much rubber-stamped to be box office hits. With the exception of just one (The Cable Guy, which was still a moderate success), they will score big opening weekend, find positive word-of-mouth and score big in later weeks, and then later score big on home video. These movies, including Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, and Bruce Almighty helped secure Carrey's status as one of the top draw in Hollywood and put him well into the $20 million paycheck club.
The second category of Carrey movies, which includes favorites like Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has been a bit of a bust in the financial department. Well, some would argue that The Truman Show belongs here, but that was clearly more of a comedy.
So, where does Fun with Dick and Jane fit in? Well, this is actually a remake of a 1970s movie about a couple (the other half being Tea Leoni) that turns to crime in order to pay the bills. Sounds funny? Well, actually it is a comedy and so we can mark it down for $40 million and $150 million total, right? Perhaps, but is this right time of year to be releasing this? Will its impact be dampened in a very crowded market?
Opening weekend: $21 million.
6) The Family Stone
Okay, am I the only person who immediately thinks of the soul and funk of 1960s-70s superband Sly & the Family Stone when I see or hear about this movie? Is this a no-holds-barred docudrama about the band and its rise and (of course) subsequent fall to drug abuse and the excesses and riches of rock stardom? Nope, it's actually a comedy about a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) who tries to win over her boyfriend's family. Sort of a reverse-gender Meet the Parents, the large Family Stone includes Luke Wilson, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Craig T. Nelson, among others.
Opening weekend: $16 million.
When I hear or read about Hoodwinked, the very first thing that comes to my mind is "what a horrible title." I am reminded of Bamboozled, the joint that was a colossal flop of director Spike Lee back in 2000. Of course, this is nothing like that misguided farce, but rather a clever animated take on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. With an idea that is brilliant in its simplicity, we are given a Rashomon-style movie in which a police investigator tries to piece together the tumultuous events that unfolded at Granny's place via flashbacks. It sounds hilarious, so why doesn't it seem to be getting more attention and marketing? Well, for starters, the cast of voice actors is large but relatively unknown, other than a few mid-level stars like Anne Hathaway as Red and Glenn Close as Granny. Will this be another Valliant-like CGI flop? Or could it be the sleeper hit of the season? This may have to contend with a modest opening, and will depend greatly on word-of-mouth.
Opening weekend: $16 million.
8) Rumor Has It
I know most of you have been getting extremely impatient during this long, torturous wait for The Graduate sequel. Well, you can stop waiting, because it is finally here. Kind of.
Rumor Has It, starring Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, and even Kevin Costner, is a biting satire of the movie industry (namely: the fascination with sequels). It could be a welcome change of pace from the typical romantic comedies, and is sure to attract plenty of Aniston's loyal fans. And although he hasn't had a good movie in about ten years, multitalented and genre-crossing Rob "Meathead" Reiner directs.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
9) Aeon Flux
Adapted from the old MTV animated series, the live-action Aeon Flux will try to score with teens and young adults. Amazingly, it stars two (!) former Oscar winners - 2003 champ Charlize Theron, and Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) - but expect this to be downright rotten with the critics. A solid opening weekend is likely, followed by a quick and unremarkable exit from theaters.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
10) Brokeback Mountain
Although it is often a whip-smart social satire, lampooning recent events (for example, the hilarious "Best Friends Forever" episode from earlier this season, mocking the Terri Schiavo fiasco), sometimes South Park is clearly way ahead of the times. Witness: Brokeback Mountain. In a classic episode that parodies the Sundance Film Festival, "Chef's Salty Chocolate Balls," Cartman described all independent films as being about "gay cowboys eating pudding." Well, in Ang Lee's newest film Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are indeed gay cowboys. Whether or not they eat pudding remains to be seen, but the picture is generating considerable buzz and is likely to be a strong alternative for people looking for something more intelligent this holiday season.
Opening weekend: $11 million.
Just Under the Radar
Ah... the Farrelly Brothers, soldiers marching to the beat of political correctness! In their newest comedy romp, Jackass Johnny Knoxville stars as a phony who tries to compete in the Special Olympics in order to win some money.
Desperate Housewife (and Sports Night alum) Felicity Huffman stars as a post-operative transsexual in a role that has Best Actress nomination written all over it. Her (his?) life takes a sudden turn when she learns that she fathered a child in her earlier days.
The World's Fastest Indian
This little story stars Anthony Hopkins, in a fact-based story about the man who set the world's land-speed record on an old Indian motorcycle.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.
Marty Doskins's December 2005 forecast
Kim Hollis's December 2005 forecast
David Mumpower's December 2005 forecast