February 2007 Forecast
By David Mumpower
February 3, 2007
6) Bridge to Terabithia
The popular children's classic hits the big screen, and nobody is happier about this than my wife. The Newbery Award winning novel has been considered a classic since its debut almost 30 years ago, and with the ascension of such literary works into the mainstream movie consciousness, an adaptation was inevitable. Katherine Paterson's masterwork is a much darker work than you might imagine. It features a desperately unhappy ending that doses a lot of reality about the dangers of escapist fantasies. Whether Disney softens the edges and gives us the proverbial Hollywood ending remains to be seen, but I do have to wonder how much this possibility dampens the movie's long term box office potential.
7) Hannibal Rising
This cash cow is going to have ever udder milked until it bleeds. We've seen four films about the man already, and now we are circling back to the most desperate territory for franchises: the early life prequel. The premise is to take a character North American audiences know and stick him/her into a point in time where the slate is largely blank. Fine Line tried this in 2003 when they followed up The Talented Mr Ripley with Ripley's Game, a movie that tried to make people believe that Matt Damon would eventually wind up looking like John Malkovich. The Weinstein Company is running a reverse on the same play, attempting to make us think that the withered, venerable Anthony Hopkins once looked like pretty boy Gaspard Ulliel. I also can't help but wonder how the French accent disappears over the next fifty years. But I digress. The point here is that box office gambits such as this one rarely pay off. Hannibal Rising is a low budget production that hopes to capitalize upon the character's recognition fact even if he is not currently recognizable. The book received middling buzz and this movie is probably even looking up at that type of reception.
Ryan Phillippe, Chris Cooper, and Laura Linney are not box office draws. This is a bit unfortunate because their joint effort, Breach, appears to be a brilliant tale of political intrigue and deception. Those of us who have seen the 1987 Kevin Costner classic (you heard me), No Way Out, will immediately recognize a similar sort of "Who can I trust?" tale of FBI under-the-table dealings. The difference here is that Breach is based on the real life events surrounding Robert Hanssen and Eric O'Neill. The former man was a powerful, respected member of the bureau as well as a devout religious man in Opus Dei - Yes, Da Vinci Code fans, those guys. He also took time out from his busy schedule of being an upstanding member of our national security team to sell secrets to the FBI. Repeatedly. Over a 15 year period, Hanssen sold out his country any number of times, causing an internal Department of Justice report to label his treason as "possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history". Movies don't have sexier real-life jumping off points than this. Even better, the trailer is ssssssmokin', but since none of the three actors is bankable, I fear that Breach is a movie more for people like myself who love real-life Bourne Identity situations than it is for mainstream consumers. Rats.
9) Black Snake Moan
Having already seen the movie, I can confirm that Hustle & Flow auteur Craig Brewer deftly avoids a sophomore slump with this story of strife and redemption. I am less certain about the movie's box office upside, however. Paramount Vantage (formerly Paramount Classics) is stepping into the limelight here by giving Black Snake Moan a relatively wide release, particularly by their standards. The uphill battle they face is in getting the movie into enough venues for it to be a box office factor. Given the presence of World's Coolest Human Being Samuel L. Jackson, some doors will be open. When we factor in how poorly Snakes on a Plane did relative to expectations, though, the question becomes how much of a draw Jackson is on his own. Since the movie is the Jackson/Christina Ricci show and given that Ricci is pretty much the opposite of a draw, Black Snake Moan's long-term performance depends on its quality and ability to get people talking. Its short term performance is probably modest, but if the movie plays in your area, take my advice and go see it. I think that it has a decent chance to wind up in my top ten for 2007.
10) The Astronaut Farmer
Does Billy Bob Thornton only consider a script if it's completely whacked out and makes him feel like he's been doing Quaaludes all night? Or does it only seem that way? The story involves a farmer who builds a space ship, thereby stirring up the locals, presumably in a Ray Kinsella way. He also earns a spot on government watchlists, which is probably fair. You can't be all there if you build a rocket ship to the moon no matter what Jimmy Buffett says about Desdemona. I am not particularly enthusiastic about the box office potential of this movie ï¿½ though I definitely want to see something with this zany premise. The main reason I have it in the top ten is because there are only 13 February releases and the other three are all clearly not going to be successful.