By David Mumpower
1) Date Movie
I am so conflicted over this. On the one hand, I adore Alyson Hannigan as does pretty much everyone who has seen her work. I wish her nothing but the utmost success and hope that she is one day able to drunk-dial Sarah Michelle-Gellar then laugh hysterically about who the real star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was. On the other hand, I have seen this trailer. Suffice it to say that last time I had a fever, I vomited better looking stuff than this. It's not just that the combination of Willow in a fatsuit and Milkshake accompanying her actions is awful. It's that the segment goes on for most of the trailer. Someone cutting the clip actually made a determintation that this was the best sales point of the movie. People oftentimes say they would watch their favorite actress read the phone book for 90 minutes. Directors Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg deduced that this wasn't enough of a degree of difficulty for Hannigan's fans, so they figured out a way to make the experience far more excruciating. Undeterred by this, I still predict the film will do well for two reasons. The first is that the Scary Movie franchise is successful to a disgusting degree. The second is that Big Momma's House 2, the last fatsuit film, just opened to roughly $28 million. And Diary of a Mad Black Woman was also huge. The point here is that Alyson Hannigan is about to have a huge hit film and that is a very good thing. Now, let us never speak of it again
2) The Pink Panther
Steve Martin's career continues to frustrate me. I am reminded of dialogue Bill Murray's character espouded during Lost in Translation. He is stuck taking high paying gigs which shame him rather than listening to his heart and doing a play somewhere. Martin's situation is slightly better in that he did get to a personal work last year in Shopgirl. The self-flaggellation intrinsic to that movie seems telling when we compare it to his other recent outings. Which one was most embarrassing for him out of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Bringing Down the House, either Cheaper by the Dozen or this project? To be fair, there is more cause for optimism here since Martin co-wrote the screenplay for this re-make of a modern classic. I simply feel regret for the fact that Martin has to trip all over himself professionally (and I mean that literally) in order to enable himself to do the occasional Shopgirl. The Pink Panther should be a solid hit and I expect that I will even enjoy it (I am such a mark for Mr. Martin that I even enjoy Sgt. Bilko). But I feel almost as dirty in the process as Martin must feel when he cashes the checks.
3) Final Destination 3
I have been a fan of Glen Morgan and James Wong since they first wrote the X-Files episode, E.B.E. I admire their ability to infuse the supernatural with enough realism to make it presentable as status quo. I was a huge admirer of the original film in this franchise and took it rather personally when the sequel they didn't direct was such a dud. The news that they would return totally reversed my opinion on the need for a third film, and the theme park setting is the icing on the cake. Long time readers of this sight are well aware of the fact that I have a fetish for all things Cedar Point. An action sequence at an amusement park is long overdue (and please don't tell me that Beverly Hills Cop 3 offered any scene which might qualify). I implicitly trust Morgan and Wong to do it up right. With regards to box office issues, the first two films averaged out to roughly $50 million a piece and horror films have only taken off from there. I fully expect this one to at least equal the inferior follow-up and I wouldn't be surprised to see it surpass the original.
A movie certain to make high security details nervous, the project formerly (and superlatively) titled The Wrong Element explores the well known but rarely publicized concept that the best people to break security systems are the designers themselves. Harrison Ford returns after a rare but well-needed break from filmmaking to star as a security specialist forced to attempt to free his family from terrorists. The only way he can save their lives and later, his reputation, is to out-maneuver his own system then outwit a villain portrayed by Paul Bettany. Firewall offers a strong pedigree for an action film in that it is equal parts Die Hard and Jack Ryan film with fantastic talents as leads. 2005 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress nominee Virginia Madsen is even included as the kidnapped wife. I have had lofty expectations for this project's quality since its announcement and will be disappointed if it's anything but stellar in terms of box office as well as quality.
This Julia Moore/Samuel L. Jackson film feels like a kindred spirit to Jackson's surprisingly popular 2002 release, Changing Lanes. It also seems to have a similar plotline to the South Park episode where Butters' mom found out his dad was gay, left the boy to die in a flooded car, then blamed it on "some Puerto Rican guy". Their plan backfires when they find out that other presumed killers like Gary Condit and O.J. Simpson also feel "some Puerto Rican guy" killed their loved ones. Never having read the Richard Price novel which is the basis for this project, I can't help but wonder if it was the inspiration for that episode. The premise is eerily similar. Moore plays a mother who claims her son has been kidnapped in a carjacking. Jackson plays the detective assigned to the case while Edie Falco portrays a reporter who is convinced Moore is lying. The tale of racial tension taps into the same vein which has Crash making a run at Best Picture. It also returns Moore to similar ground as her hit film, The Forgotten. Freedomland has a lot of pluses as it enters the theatrical release phase.
6) When a Stranger Calls
Cellphone technology makes this the obvious horror re-make of the current batch. The Carol Kane original which played upon the idea that the call was coming from inside the house is so much easier to implement these days. All the robber has to do is break and enter, call information, give the current address and the next thing you know, he's got some terrified sexy teen babysitter on the other line hearing him say, "Can you hear me now?" It's the polar opposite of Carrie in this regard since omnipresent high school security checks and depression medications prevent prom night bloodbaths. Anyway, it's a classic horror re-make of a fantastic premise. It will be profitable.
7) Eight Below
Eight Below is the latest based on a true story family film from Disney. The events detail two explorers' adventures in first tracking down metorites. Later, they are forced to attempt a rescue of the sled dogs who have unintentionally been abandoned to their dooms. I am sickened to find myself typing this but...this trailer is so cute it makes me like Paul Walker a little bit. Okay, that is stretching the truth a bit, but I do find myself hating him a bit less once he turns back to save his loyal dogs. Disney has done a masterful job in selecting the perfect project to enhance their quality family film reputation. This true story is so astounding that National Geographic was the source who first brought it to public light. I expect it to be a modest performer in theaters before finding a stellar second life on DVD and cable.
8) Curious George
Curious George, the infernally comforting simian this side of Donkey Kong, has returned to cineplexes. What does he plan to bring to all the kiddies in town? Why, I would wager it's a heapin' helpin' of genteel fun with some occasional unlucky shenanigans thrown in. Toward the end, the children you have pawned off on the neighbors who own the minivan might even learn an important life lesson or two. But what do you care? You'll be tightly hugging a bottle of booze while throwing down migraine relievers like there's no tomorrow. Unless you're the sucker who got snookered by the salesman and wound up getting a great deal on a minivan. In which case, you have my undying pity...and terrible gas mileage.
9) Madea's Family Reunion
In the past calendar year, we have witnessed not one but two African-American men throw on a dress and a fatsuit then clean up at the box office. If ever there were a reason to weep for the status of society, this would be it. What is particularly aggravating is the success of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, one of the worst three films of 2005. It was the worst sort of low brow, preachy dreck. And its box office triumph means that we will be treated to a second helping of humor predicated upon a violent, crazed mother figure. Joy of joys. I had originally expected this title to be a straight-to-DVD title since creater/performer Tyler Perry has had quite the cottage industry in this market as of late. To my dismay, a wide theatrical release appears inevitable now, meaning that we'll see another $15 million opening. Simultaneously, roughly 90% of movie critics watching the title will re-consider their career options.
10) Something New
Here's the good news: stars Sanaa Lathan. If you are anything like me, that's more than enough good news. The bad news that I would rather not focus upon is that Ms. Lathan's last two starring roles were Alien vs. Predator and Out of Time, two projects that were *ahem* lacking in quality. Fortunately, the actress is back in the realm of romantic comedies, a genre she previously conquered in 2002 with Brown Sugar. Here, she plays a wildly successful businesswoman whose love life is in dire straits. Then, she meets not one but two men who could be Mr. Right. One is the very blueprint boyfriend she has recently described in bulletpoints during a PowerPoint presentation. The other proves Paula Abdul right (she was long overdue) about opposites attracting. You can probably already guess which guy she eventually picks, but predictability is generally perceived as a positive in the genre.