September Forecast

By David Mumpower

1. Underworld

Itís one of the truisms of Hollywood. Everything is better with vampires and werewolves. If you donít believe me, just ask Abbott and Costello. Taking the basic themes of Blade and throwing in lycanthropes is the quickest way to make a killing at the box office. Putting Kate Beckinsale in tight leather outfits also works. The best part of the movie for me, though, is sitting back and imaging what that shoot must have been like, what with the lead actress leaving the villain for the director and all. There had better be a behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD or I am going to feel cheated. Underworld has already been compared to both Blade and The Crow on this site, and rightly so. Since both films were stellar box office performers, itís easy to see why this one is being given the slight edge over The Rundown to be the top performer of September.

2. The Rundown

A couple of years ago, I created major headaches for myself. In a discussion with my sitemates, I pointed out the paucity of action heroes, and exclaimed that with the old guard of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Scwarzenegger well past their expiration dates, the spot was open. It was at this point that I stated that the most charismatic actor with the potential to become the Next Tom Cruise was none other than The Rock. Had I stated a willingness to bet thousands of dollars on the Cincinnati Bengals to win ten straight Super Bowls, I probably still would have not received the same amount of ridicule that was thrust upon me in the days following that statement. If you check some of the alt tag images on the site, you will even notice the occasional allusion to this comment. When The Rock followed up the middling performance of The Scorpion King by signing up for this project, one about a Hawaiian king, and a Walking Tall remake, even I was reconsidering the manís sanity. A buddy picture with Seann William Scott looked to be the biggest of the three films. The future looked bleak. Then, the trailer for The Rundown was released, and all I have to say about it is ďWHO IS LAUGHING NOW? ME! THATíS WHO!Ē Okay, that might be overstating things a bit, but the commercials have been universally well received, and the early buzz for the movie is extraordinary. A year ago when this was still called Helldorado (before being temporarily renamed Welcome to the Jungle), the future of The Rock as an action star seemed to be a perilous position. Just like a wrestling champion, he is staging an unexpected comeback from adversity, and I canít wait to see him drop The Peopleís Elbow on a bunch of midgets.

3. Once Upon a Time in Mexico

This is one of those rare situations where all of the stars appearing to be aligning. What was once considered a potential limited release has now become one of the strongest contenders for the number one film of the month. Itís all in the timing. Six months ago, a Robert Rodriguez film with Johnny Depp as costar sounded much different than it does today. Back then, Rodriguez had seen Spy Kids 2 disappoint and Depp was just another quirky thespian. Fast forward to September 2003 and the combination of pirates and 3D has placed both men in a much better location on the Hollywood food chain. Deppís heat alone is enough to guarantee this one a solid opening weekend a la Leonardo DiCaprio in Man in the Iron Mask, the forgettable Titanic follow-up. Itís hard to expect a lot from an Antonio Banderas movie these days, but Once Upon a Time in Mexico will succeed almost in spite of him rather than because of him or, for that matter, the delicious Selma Hayek.

4. Duplex

Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore are a winning combination as a romantic duo. This is a canít-miss project on paper. That makes the trailer that much more of a head scratcher. SeriouslyÖwhat the hell happened? Between this and Envy, I find myself wondering if some Hollywood hack has negatives of Stiller that are so nefarious they would make fish sex fetishist Troy McClure blush. Based on the talent alone, this one should open okay but unless the movie is MUCH better than what the trailer indicates, this project is a disaster.

5. Matchstick Men

Everyone else seems to be a lot more excited about this project than I am. Coming off of his auspicious overacting in Adaptation (Seriously, those of you who liked the filmÖwere you on any medications at the time that might have altered your state of consciousness?), Cage has received exactly the sort of positive reinforcement no one should ever give this prima donna. Now, heís decided to dial UP the acting ticks, which can only mean bad things for innocent movie goers across the country who simply want to watch Sam Rockwell for 100 minutes. Leaving all of Cageís sequences on the cutting room floor would be addition by subtraction for this movie. People are quick to point out that Nicky Coppola is a box office opener, but the devilís advocate position is simple: Sonny, Windtalkers, Captain Corelliís Mandolin, Bringing Out the Dead, 8mm, Snake Eyes. Donít believe the hype. Unless all of North America suddenly stands up en masse and recognizes what a talent Rockwell is, this one is being badly overestimated.

6. The Fighting Temptations

Cuba Gooding, Jr. has been burned in effigy a million times over by the media for his post-Jerry Maguire projects. Heís the African-American Kevin Costner in this regard, though not without some justification. Boat Trip alone is reason enough to point and laugh in his general direction for several minutes. With The Fighting Temptations, though, he has tapped into an underserved niche of the market. Like last yearís Barbershop, this movie promises to celebrate one of the communal aspects of black culture. With the focus of communities frequently centered around the church and the majesty of the gospel choirs which enliven the atmosphere, this movie will try to follow in the footsteps of 1992 mega-hit Sister Act. The box office performance of Sister Act II is probably a best case scenario for the flick, though.

7. Under the Tuscan Sun

The sleeper film of the month, this feel-good chick flick should be able to tap into the same market which has recently made Freaky Friday such a big hitÖwell, the mothers anyway. Itís not going to be a blockbuster or anything, but Diane Laneís comeback should continue to gain momentum with this tender tale of a successful woman who still hasnít found her place in the world yet. Looking to shake things up after a divorce, she moves to Italy, where she finds a new sense of purpose along with a suave European man to keep her bed warm. Some diehard fans of the book are complaining about the adaptation eliminating some of the strengths of the prose, but I donít expect the Hollywood-izing to be anything but a boon to this oneís success.

8. Cabin Fever

The latest in a seemingly endless line of throwaway 2003 slasher flicks, this one throws a bunch of sexy teens into a cabin. One of them contracts a virus, but itís not the expect kind which is treatable with penicillin. Instead, word gets out to the locals that a 28 Days Later scenario could be occurring. In order to stop the outbreak, the town scholars form a lynch mob. So, the uninfected group must stave off the disease and the hicks in order to survive. And I have just spent more time discussing the plot than any of the writers did. The point here is that forgettable horror flicks make money opening weekend, then vanish to the horror section of the video store. The only difference is that Cabin Fever is shocking the world by getting some good buzz. That makes it a potential sleeper in a slow month of largely forgettable releases.

9. Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

Those of you who read the She Said/He Said reviews of this one know my feelings about it. David Spade has not had the box office success that some of his more notable cohorts from Saturday Night Live except when he was second fiddle to the late Chris Farley. Dickie Roberts is an instantly forgettable vehicle for him, and it will do slight business with decent legs before finding a diehard fanbase on home video. All of these misguided fools will be like our own Kim Hollis, suckers who delude themselves into thinking that there is something good in there somewhere. The poor, naÔve bastards.

10. Cold Creek Manor

Only in September could a movie this lousy get a nod as a top ten contender for the month. The only other candidates are Anything Else (Woody Allen movies make less money than Vivid releases), Lost in Translation (this one is a potential sleeper but itís too far below radar right now to expect much), Secondhand Lions (Ooh look! Old guys!) and The Order (that sound you hear is Fox running the hell away from the potential controversy on this one as fast as they can). Damning with the faintest of praise here, Dennis Quaidís effort looks ever so slightly better than the rest of the dreck. Itís like a darker take on The Money Pit or arguably better analogized to Pacific Heights. Impossibly Caucasian people buy their dream house, then bad stuff goes down. I donít know about you, but I can hardly wait.

  • Read John Hamann's September forecast
  • Read Kim Hollis's September forecast
  • Read Marty Doskins' September forecast