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October Forecast

By Kim Hollis

As October arrives, the leaves change, ghosts and ghouls begin their holiday planning, and Hollywood besets audiences with an onslaught of films that they hope will satisfy a wide variety of consumers. From straight horror to suspense thriller, Mob flick to wholesome family fun, the slate for the month is a diverse offering that actually promises to stir some action at the box office after a mostly stale September.

1. Red Dragon

Sir Anthony Hopkins was reluctant to return for this prequel to Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal until he realized that a studio would give him wheelbarrows full of cash for what amounts to part-time work. Still, for the majority of moviegoers, there is no Hannibal Lecter without the man who won the Academy Award® for his portrayal of the ingenious and infamous serial killer more than a decade ago. Though Hopkins' presence in the film is probably enough to guarantee that it will be blockbuster big, Red Dragon boasts a stellar full cast, including Ed Norton as Clarice Starling...er, make that Will Graham, Ralph Fiennes as the criminal nemesis, and supporting players Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson and Mary-Louise Parker.

Hannibal was a tremendous financial success for MGM in 2001, with a huge $58 million opening weekend that came precisely ten years after Silence of the Lambs established itself as an icon of American filmmaking, taking home five of the seven Academy Awards® for which it was nominated, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Hannibal was less successful critically, so it is significant that the screenwriter for Silence of the Lambs is back on board for Red Dragon. Instead of director Jonathan Demme, however, we have Rush Hour 2 helmer Brett Ratner (though we'll see Demme's name later on this list). A lot of the comments about Red Dragon have indicated that it doesn't differ much from Michael Mann's 1986 adaptation of the book, Manhunter. No matter. The film isn't particularly widely known and it's lacking in a key element: Hopkins. Red Dragon, like Hannibal before it, is poised for huge results on both its opening weekend and its complete run at the box office.

2. Ghost Ship

Dark Castle Entertainment has become a Halloween fixture over the past few years. The production company with a focus on re-imagining horror classics of the past has seen what can only be termed uniform results thus far with its first two releases, House on Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts. Both movies opened at right around $15 million in the month of October, with final box office just over $40 million. Fortunately, this means both films were profitable, since each one worked on a budget of $20 million, devoted primarily to terrific, spooky special effects.

Next on the slate is this month's Ghost Ship, which has a bit more at stake, since it boasts an even larger $35 million budget. Ads for the movie started some time ago, and they are impressively spooky and tantalizing. Expect the film to do the same gangbuster-level opening weekend business as the first two offerings from the Dark Castle crew, then to quickly fall off as November hits take over.

3. The Ring

This DreamWorks project has been building buzz for some time now, starting with a creepy teaser Web site that appeared back in May. Recent trailers and television commercials, featuring last year's indie darling Naomi Watts, have an atmospheric, eerie quality and with Halloween waiting in the wings, The Ring is perfectly timed for cinephiles who enjoy suspenseful and psychological horror.

The film is a remake of a 1998 Japanese film that already has a reputation for being terrifying. The general premise revolves around a journalist (Watts) who discovers a mysterious videotape with disturbing images; adding to the spine-tingling aura is the fact that everyone who has ever watched the tape has died within seven days of viewing it.

Though we're already looking at our first two films being at least loosely related to the horror genre, The Ring has enough intrigue and appears to be enticing enough that it should find some solid success with a wide demographic.

4. White Oleander

Boasting a highly pedigreed cast, ads are appearing in all the right places for this psychodrama. Solidly aimed at the adult female demographic, the commercials are prominently featured on morning shows and are very compelling and engaging, with numerous positive blurbs from reputable critics. Headlining the stellar cast are Michelle Pfeiffer, Renée Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn, and up-and-comer Alison Lohman, whose performance is already receiving notice.

White Oleander is based on an Oprah Book of the Month Club novel that has a decent following and positive feedback. It does fill the often underserved niche that should theoretically have flocked to The Banger Sisters, but that film looked rancid and stale in comparison. Expect a very solid long-term box office performance, particularly if the actresses in the film receive awards consideration as expected at this early juncture.

5. The Transporter

The hope would be that 20th Century Fox moved this film out of the dregs of September because they believe they have a quality product on their hands. Early reaction to commercials, at least, has been quite positive. They've been perfectly placed to hit their target demographic during shows aimed at young men, like WWE Raw and other sports-related programs. The Transporter looks action-packed and fun, and even though it doesn't have an A-list cast (though Jason Statham deserves to be), this movie about a courier who gets in some trouble when he starts asking questions about what he's delivering, despite admonitions not to do so from his superiors, is a sleeper to keep an eye on.

6. Tuck Everlasting

Based on a beloved children's book by Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting has a lot going for it. First and foremost, it has a wonderful cast and the full backing of the Disney marketing machine, which is already billing it as worthy of being placed beside recent stellar releases such as The Rookie and The Princess Diaries. Heading the list of performers is the delightful Alexis Bledel, best known to many as Rory Gilmore on WB's wonderful family program Gilmore Girls. With this assurance that the interest of younger viewers is captured, Disney goes the extra mile to draw in adults who can enjoy the film with their children by including past Academy Award® winners such as William Hurt, Ben Kingsley and Sissy Spacek in the mix.

Adding to the fortunate casting decisions is the use of a fine director, Jay Russell, who found minor success a couple of years ago with the terrific family film My Dog Skip. Like The Rookie and The Princess Diaries before it, the true appeal of this sweet-looking romantic fantasy is that it will be safe viewing for the entire family, a quality that is sadly lacking in numerous recent releases aimed at the younger set.

7. Knockaround Guys

Though the hope would be that this film would be a lot of fun, based on its terrific trailer, the unfortunate reality is that it's been pushed back on the release schedule so many times that the quality must surely be shoddy. It's not a film that the studio likely has any confidence in whatsoever, but at long last Knockaround Guys is at least receiving a token October release.

The X factor here is, of course, Vin Diesel, who does have quite a following after the recent box office successes of The Fast and the Furious and xXx. Unfortunately, he's not exactly billed as the top star in commercials (that honor goes to Battlefield Earth's Barry Pepper), and adding to this concern is the honest evaluation that the commercials really aren't particularly effective in the first place. Where the trailers managed to highlight the various performers and their strengths, the recent marketing campaign has appeared to be a bit more convoluted and unclear. Nonetheless, Knockaround Guys is one of those films that should perform well with the coveted young male demographic, which is the one that attends movies most frequently.

8. Brown Sugar

A romantic comedy in the vein of When Harry Met Sally, Brown Sugar should be a contender for the surprise of the month. Its two beautiful lead performers, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan (Love and Basketball) have proven to be solid draws within their target demographic, and the premise about two childhood friends, one an A&R exec and the other a magazine editor, who begin to grow closer romantically even as the woman is being wooed by a handsome basketball player has a lot of appeal. Look for this Fox Searchlight film to surprise during its opening weekend.

9. Formula 51

Another film that has been relentlessly shuffled around the release schedule, Formula 51 nevertheless has the strong benefit of being billed as a Samuel L. Jackson-starring vehicle. The film was actually released some time ago in Great Britain, and reviews have generally been scathing. While none of that matters to opening weekend audiences, it will very likely have a cumulative negative effect on total numbers. The commercials are appealing, though, with a decent blend of comedy, action, and "Click Click Boom". This is a film likely to start somewhat strong out of the gate, but quickly fade away.

10. The Truth About Charlie

I promised Jonathan Demme would be present later in the forecast, and here he is, but rather than being the guy who directed Silence of the Lambs, he's instead the dude who has classic film fans consternated with this remake of the 1963 Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn thriller Charade. That film was truly terrific; a puzzler with twists and turns galore and two leads with such chemistry that it was impossible not to be dazzled. For this "re-imagining", we get Marky Mark, coming off another recent "re-imagining" that wound up being a spectacular blockbuster during the summer of 2001, Planet of the Apes. Though it would seem that would be a tick in the asset column, it's not really. PotA is remembered with revulsion by the general public, and appeared very high on any number of Worst Film of the Year lists by the time it was all said and done. Seeing him potentially ruin another update of a beloved classic might just be a bit too much for people to stomach. Still, the marketing has already begun, which shows a certain commitment on the part of Universal Pictures, and people unfamiliar with the fact that this is actually a remake might be compelled to see it based on effectively-presented suspenseful design. Also, the presence of the lovely Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible 2) doesn't hurt matters at all.

  • Read Tim Briody's October forecast
  • Read Stephanie Star Smith's October forecast

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    Wednesday, November 22, 2017
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