Weekend Forecast for November 10-12, 2006

By Reagen Sulewski

November 10, 2006

Whatever you do, don't look down.

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With the box office still reeling from last week's shock of the decade, four new films are testing the waters. However it's still Borat's world, we just live in it.

Leading the way for the new films in the box office is Stranger Than Fiction, which has a premise that causes screenwriters around the world to slap their heads in frustration, saying, "now why didn't I think of that one?" It stars Will Ferrell, in one of his first moderately sedate roles, as a mild mannered man who fulfills every writer's dream; his life is apparently being dictated by the latest novel by a prominent writer (played by Emma Thompson). He hears her voice in his head, and shortly thereafter, the things she says come to pass.

At first it's just a moderate distraction, a positive influence on his boring life. That is, until Thompson's writer character decides to do what all writers eventually do � deciding to kill off a major character for interest's sake. Since it's Ferrell she's talking about, he naturally doesn't take that so well, and decides to seek her out.

As movie concepts go, it's a doozy, and it's a bit of a surprise to see that Charlie Kaufman isn't involved. Marc Forster of Finding Neverland fame is the director. Though it's still a comedy, it's a very different sort of one than Ferrell's fans are used to. There are unlikely to be any cougar-assisted driving lessons or Spanish-speaking dogs. As such, his newly minted status as the new Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey won't be in full play, but it will keep the film from being another Melinda & Melinda. Think somewhere in between The Truman Show and Punch-Drunk Love.


It looks quite clever, if not laugh-out-loud funny, and is getting respectable reviews. There are a couple significant barriers in its way to becoming a huge hit, in that Ferrell's typical fans are likely to be disappointed, and those who don't like him in the first place may not give him a chance. Even at that, there's enough of a concept here to carry the day, and it should come in with about $14 million.

Sarah Michelle Gellar continues to try and work her magic in horror films with this week's The Return, which one could probably be forgiven being mistaken for another Japanese adaptation from its style, though it is, in fact, an original. Her character is haunted by visions of a mysterious murder that occurred 15 years ago, and may be premonitions of harm yet to come.

This is your standard "young female in a ghost story" film, which could provide some scares, but is getting very little promotion from its studio, the smallish Rogue pictures, likely because it doesn't have the ability to make a big push for the film. It's biggest success to date was 2005's Unleashed, which managed about $11 million.

They're likely banking on Gellar's pull among young audiences and horror fans from The Grudge, though that card may not be the best one to play, judging by The Grudge 2's relatively mediocre performance compared to its predecessor. It's also not being screened for critics, which doesn't hurt it that much, but is pretty indicative of a stinker. Look for an opening weekend of about $8 million here.

This week's romance selection comes courtesy of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe with A Good Year. Crowe stars as a workaholic London stockbroker who inherits a French vineyard from a beloved old uncle (played in flashback by Albert Finney). It's the place where he largely grew up, but doesn't fit with his lifestyle and he decides he must sell it and... sorry, I nodded off there for a second. Suffice it to say that it's not much of a potboiler. You could be forgiven for thinking this was a Merchant-Ivory film (yes, I know that Merchant is dead).

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