By David Mumpower
March 3, 2006
1) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
When the original film came out in 2002, I made what was quite possibly the worst blunder in the history of BOP monthly forecasts. I picked Ice Age to not finish in first place for the month. So, which box office powerhouse did I feel would usurp the instant animated family classic? Resident Evil. Hey, I was only off by $135 million, give or take. At the time, I had yet to learn a valuable lesson about box office behavior that has since been beaten into my psyche. I will never ever never understand how to gauge projects like this...unless I start hanging out with soccer moms and frankly, I'm just not that passionate about being right. Nothing is worth spending a couple of hours being bored to tears pretending to care about what Doris heard Frank's been doing at the Pussyfoot Club. She knew he was into champagne room shenanigans when they met, after all. But I digress. The point is that I'm genuinely bad at predicting the success of children's films and Ice Age was the first demonstrable proof of it. Fool me once, shame on that damn squirrel and his ever-vanishing nut. Fool me twice only by releasing Resident Evil 3 this month. Fortunately, I caught a break here and we're between zombie sequels. Folks, this has been a roundabout way of stating the obvious. Ice Age 2 has killer advertising which hides some genuinely atrocious animation, particularly of the humans. It's going to make a ton of money and there is unfortunately not a damned thing any of us can do about it.
2) V for Vendetta
A is for apples. J is for jacks. And M is for money. Lots and lots of money. V for Vendetta will make a ton of it. The seminal graphic novel from the 1980s is finally being brought to the big screen with the Wachowski Brothers overseeing the project. So, we have Alan Moore's writing brilliance tied to the guys who did The Matrix trilogy. That sounds like a match made in heaven. Why, then, has V for Vendetta had to fight such overwhelming negative buzz? A lot of the problem is Moore himself. The dude redefines the mad genius theory. He took time out from his busy schedule of worshipping a snake goddess (note: not a joke) to randomly announce he hated what was being done with all of his movie adaptations. As was the case with From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Constantine, he wanted nothing to do with this film. Then, the project was delayed into 2006, causing more nervous titters about its quality. Also, the last Wachowski brothers film, The Matrix Revolutions, was not exactly hailed as landmark cinema...at least not in a good way. When the latest trailer came out, though, I stopped worrying about the behind-the-scenes stuff and focused on the obvious. V For Vendetta looks freaking phenomenal. I even toyed with the notion of making it my number one film of the month, meaning I see it as having $150 million plus potential. In the end, I remembered my prior mistake on Ice Age and decided not to let history repeat itself. The final March totals should be very interesting, though. There has not been a strong comic book adaptation since Fantastic Four. That one opened to $56 million...just something to think about.
3) The Hills Have Eyes
Wes Craven's first directorial effort was not The Hills Have Eyes. It was, however, unquestionably the project that brought him the acclaim his talent has justified throughout an illustrious career. Capitalizing on the atomic fear so prevalent in the middle of the Cold War, Craven took a simple premise of the fallout of nuclear testing and turned it into a horror institution. The key was the creation of characters named after planets Pluto, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter. It's Pluto as played by bullet-headed Michael Berryman who has stood the test of time. With all of the staples of the genre getting a new millennium revision, it was only a matter of time before someone got around to this classic. Unfortunately, the director in question is Alexander Aja, who somehow created a buzz with the wildly illogical Haute Tension. Having failed on a dramatic scale with his last offering, it's frightening (and not in the good way) to imagine what he will do to this horror standard. But the little girl in the commercial is creepy, so maybe I am being needlessly pessimistic. Under any circumstance, there are two types of horror film box office performances. There are the good and the great. This will fall into the latter category.
4) The Shaggy Dog
Tim Allen, who once served two years in prison for cocaine distribution, returns in yet another Disney family classic. This makes him the second least appropriate role model in their acting rotation, albeit a distant second behind Lindsay Lohan. Allen takes on the role made famous by Tommy Kirk (*not* Fred MacMurray) in the 1959 classic. Unlike the 1994 Ed Begley Jr. television re-make, this is not a re-telling of the same premise. Instead, rubber-faced Tim Allen will be given the difficulty acting assignment of impersonating a dog (with a little help from CGI here and there). All of the sarcasm I can muster is not going to change the fact that people like dogs and people like this particular reformed drug trafficker. The Shaggy Dog is going to be a solid hit for Disney, and Lohan won't see a dime of residuals for this one!
5) Inside Man
The easy choice for star power contender of March, Inside Man is frontlined by Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen. Between them, that is zero good movies in 2005 out of approximately 17 attempts. So, depending on perspective, they are either all overdue for a great ensemble drama or each of them needs to fire their agent with gross prejudice. This project is particularly complicated to me, because the trailer somewhat spitefully gives away all the big secrets in the movie. No matter, it will do very well at the box office simply due to the presence of its impressive trifecta of leads.
6) 16 Blocks
Intentionally or not, the timing on the latest Bruce Willis project is exceptional. As Crash continues its dark horse campaign for a Best Picture Oscar win, a thematically similar action film cleverly coasts into theaters this weekend. Willis portrays a gruff detective (what an acting stretch!) assigned a near-impossible task. He must take a federal witness the titular 16 blocks before the mostly harmless guy (Mos Def of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) gets whacked. This is easier said than done since racial tension is an issue and the people likely to be impugned by this testimony have figured out a dead man tells no tales. If the idea of Bruce Willis being mismatched with an amiable black man while they avoid acts of terrorism sounds familiar to you, that just means you saw Die Hard and have not been afflicted with amnesia since your screening. 16 Blocks is more thematically similar to Die Hard with a Vengeance, but the point remains. We have seen this before and it seems to be the safest way for Willis to connect with audiences these days.
7) Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Dave Chappelle is a crazy, crazy man. Of course, you were already well aware of this since he rather publicly had a meltdown, abandoned his hit television show and reportedly went off to spend some quality time at a South African mental institution. The beauty of this move is that it assures him a biopic somewhere around his 50th birthday. The tragedy of it is that a genuinely hilarious human being has been derided and his credibility destroyed simply because he struggled with the notion of being too famous. Chappelle was my pick for Best Supporting Actor in 2002 due to the way he stole Undercover Brother out from under a phenomenal cast. Watching him fall apart has been frustrating but I love the way he has chosen to return to the limelight. This movie, directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind auteur Michel Gondry, is little more than Chappelle throwing himself a party and filming the results. Love him or not, you have to admire the comedian's sense of style and daring.
I mentioned Resident Evil earlier and its star, Milla Jovovich, is back in another action film. This time, she's doing her best Aeon Flux by portraying a futuristic super-human whose former race is seeking to exterminate her and anyone like her. It's almost as if they saw Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Ultraviolet is a strange one to call since it looks like garbage but it's directed by Kurt Wimmer. His last work, Equilibrium, received a ridiculous amount of buzz. It currently sports a sensational IMDb rating of 7.7 out of 10 with over 25,000 votes registered. Jovovich is something of an enigma in that she is ostensibly the most successful model turned actress of her generation (she's still the highest paid model in the industry), but her films are generally dreadful. Personally, I like her so much that I even own a CD of hers (give The Gentlemen Who Fell a chance on iTunes...it's worth the 99 cents) yet even I look at this trailer and say, "Uh-oh." Hopefully, I'm wrong. But I don't think I am. If anyone other than Wimmer were the director, I'd be certain.
9) Stay Alive
In future generations, the debate is certain to baffle scholars: Which is worse, the lousy Bee Gees song or the cheap horror movie that apes off its title? Before you answer too quickly, I would like to point out that the residing Goddess of David Love, Samaire Armstrong, stars in the movie. This makes the answer a no-brainer despite the presence of Malcolm in the Middle as the other lead. Stay Alive is more generic horror, but this time it has a World of Warcraft theme. This will either enhance its appeal because of the game's popularity or cause it to flame out due to the inability of players to leave their houses long enough to take in a movie.
The trailer was one of our selections for the top ten of the year in The Calvins. I think that says it all about how much the staff at BOP enjoys it. Whether that translates to boffo box office is a bit more debatable. I am inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt, though, because it seems to strike the perfect chord of B-movie humor along with horror movie sensibilities. Worst case scenario is a long life on Sci-Fi Channel, something star Nathan Fillion has already experienced with Firefly. Best case scenario is a movie every bit as fun as Eight Legged Freaks but hopefully with a bit more box office thrown in.
t-10) She's the Man
Remember the 1980s classic Just One of the Guys? No? Perhaps I have dated myself a bit here. Anyway, the film told the story of a girl named Terri as portrayed by Joyce Hyser - yes, THE Joyce Hyser. Before vanishing into the warm embrace of oblivion, Hyser had this one lead role wherein she was forced to go undercover as a man to prove she was more than just a pretty girl. As is wont to happen in such scenarios, the transvestite in training seduced a boy, falling hopelessly in love with a man who was presumably very disappointed when she undressed for the first time. Flash forward to 2006, and we see Amanda Bynes taking time out from her busy schedule of sucking up to Jenny Garth in order to star in She's the Man. The premise is that the Bynes character needs to take her brother's place on the boy's soccer team for some convoluted reason I couldn't be bothered to look up. During this endeavor, she falls in love with one of her brother's teammates, but he doesn't know dude more than looks like a lady. I'd mock further, but it's actually an update of Twelfth Night, so The Bard would be collateral damage in any further Bynes digs. The actress has a following and there hasn't been a good teen romantic comedy in ages, so it could fill a niche. I am just disappointed they could not find a role for Joyce Hyser.