Hot Button Archive for August, 2008

Toronto 08 Preview, Pt 2

The 35 other titles I am quite interested in seeing… which makes a total of 59… and a lot of stuff that I will be looking for advice on.
The titles…
American Swing – Another swinging doc… but this time, chronicling the specific ups and downs (and ins and outs) of Plato’s Retreat, a club whose daily existence, I must admit, I still can’t get my brain around.
Beaches of Agnes – Agnes Varda’s autobiodoc. Yeah.
Biggest Chinese Restaurant In the World – A 5000 seat restaurant with 1000 in staff… this has got to be fascinating. (And in China, I guess it’s just “the biggest restaurant in the world.)
Blind Sunflowers – Another Spanish civil War drama, but the cast is compelling enough to get me in the door (Maribel Verdu and Javier Camara).
Dead Girl – Stand By Me meets a naked dead girl that comes back to life. Eeeewwww….
Examined Life – How can this navel gazer skip a doc about Big Time navel gazing?
$5 A Day – Chris Walken goes road tripping again… it must be better than Around The Bend right?
Fear Me Not – Kristian Levring is a talent. The Intended kinda crashed on take-off, but Levring is always reaching for something interesting. Here, he co-writes with Anders Thomas Jensen, who wrote and directed the terrific The Green Butchers, and wrote on terrific films like Mifune, Open Hearts, Brothers, After The Wedding and even The Duchess, which also screens at TIFF.
Food, Inc. – Yeah, Fast Food Nation kinda sucked… hopefully, it will work a lot better as a doc.
Gigantic – I’m taking a flier on this one… not completely sure… but hopeful. Could be a cloying car wreck.
Goodbye Solo – Ramin Bahrani is the young and the building… we have to watch each step and hope for some growth every time. Here, he has another cast of unknowns and a very personal idea.
Happy-Go-Lucky – Mike Leigh in one of his happier efforts. You know it will be compelling and very, very human.
Hunger – The Irish Hunger Strike of 1981. I don’t have a lot of info on the film, but it won the Camera d’Or in Cannes for a work from a first-time director this year. IFC picked it up, but no release date yet.
Hurt Locker – Is this FINALLY the Kathryn Bigalow movie we’ve been waiting for her to make, merging drama and action with al of her skills as a movie visualist? The film is written by Mark Boal, who was the original writing on In The Valley of Elah… a red flag for American studios, which have still not picked up the film.
Is There Anybody There? – John Crowley is among the best international directors whose name is probably not all that familiar to many of you. Intermission and the recently-barely-released Boy A are really good movies. So, give him Michael Caine, Rosemary Harris, and Sylvia Sims, amongst others to populate an old age home and to change the life of a 10 year old boy… and I’m there.
JCVD – You guessed it… Jean-Claude Van Damme IS Jean-Claude Van Damne in a Jean-Claude Van Damne action movie.
Lovely, Still – A romance between Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau… I’m willing to try it. Hopefully, a true charmer. Could be something special.
Lymelife – The amazingly self-promotional Derick Martini is back at TIFF with a follow-up with, again, all kinds of talent involved and a story that sounds a little hackneyed. We’ll see. But even if it isn’t great, expect to hear a lot from journalists dragged to cocktail parties.
Me and Orson Welles – I am intrigued by Richard Linklater making the film… and scared to death of Zac Efron trying to act. On the other hand, Linklater has gotten some of the best career performances out of good looking, not very good actors. Sounds kinda like An Awfully Big Adventure.
Middle of Nowhere – John Stockwell’s stock rises and falls, but you never really know which way any of the films is going to go… so I continue to be happy to give him the shot each time around. This time, it’s pot selling teens and 20somethings. We’ll see…
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Is this Michael Cera/Kat Dennings comedy the Juno of TIFF 08? Sony sure hopes so.
Not Quite Hollywood – A doc about the Aussie genre push of the 70s and 80s and how it influenced then-young Hollywood.
Paris, Not France – I know… but if this doc about the phenom of Paris Hilton has more to say than Ms Hilton herself, it could be truly worth the time.
Real Time – A Slamdance hit, Randy Quaid is the hitman and Jay Baruchel is his target… a real time hour before the fateful moment.
Religulous – Bill Maher and Larry Charles take aim at organized religion in what seems to be an elaborate episode of Penn & Teller’s Showtime series, Bullshit. Hoping it’s great.
Sexykiller – Kind of a perfect double feature with Paris, Not Hilton, this is the story of a fashion model who is also a psychotic killer… but things really get fun when her victims start coming back to life. Hee Hee.
Skin – Anthony Fabian is a UCLA-trained filmmaker doing his first feature, the true story of a dark skinned daughter of white parents in 1955 South Africa. I am a fan of Sophie Okonedo and Sam Neill and Alice Krige as her parents should be interesting.
Sky Crawlers – Oshii anime… sounds truly bizarre and adult… the story of a culture that watches war as a TV sport and the people who fight that war.
Slumdog Millionaire- Didn’t Danny Boyle see Millions? Oh… he MADE Millions. But this one is in India!
Synedoche, NY – Charlie Kaufman at the helm of his own script. The most easily noted piece of inspiration? Casting Emily Watson as Samantha Morton, since so many people can’t really tell them apart. Some big ideas here, but it still comes back to classic Kaufman… why can’t I clear my mind and my heart and allow myself to love? Believe it or not, this one is more complex than any of the other scripts. But if you ignore much of the first act, figuring it out becomes much easier. Follow the metaphors.
Tony Manero – How can you think twice about seeing a Brazilian movie about a guy obsessed with Saturday Night Fever’s Tony Manero? I mean… it could be horrible and the kitsch value is through the roof?
Uncertainty – From The Deep End writer/directors Scott McGehee & David Siegel, two of the hottest young actors – Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Olivia Thirlby – as a couple that gets pregnant… there are two choices of what to do… and the movie follows them through both possibilities.
Wendy & Lucy – I’m trying really hard to get onto the Kelly Reichardt train… really. People LOVE Old Joy so intensely. I was fine with it, but not bit. Maybe this, slightly bigger film with the ever-watchable Michelle Williams at the center (Lucy is her dog), will be the one.
What Doesn’t Kill You (aka Real Men Cry) – Southie battles with a top notch cast (Ruffalo/Hawke/Peet). The cliché fairies are circling, but let’s hope it is above and beyond.
Witch Hunt – 25 years of false sexual abuse charges, with innocent parents going to jail, make this doc about the tragic situation in Bakersfield, CA a must see.

No Comments »

Toronto 08 Preview, Pt 1

I am now working my way through the TIFF list… here is the first part of what I am finding that I think might be particularly interesting…
Appaloosa – Ed Harris takes on the western… fingers crossed.
Blindness – Fernando Meirelles took a beating in Cannes… but I trust him more than I trust “them.”
The Brothers Bloom – Rian Johnson’s first, Brick, was a cult phenom… and little seen by mainstream movie lovers. Here, he has indie beloved Ruffalo and Brody as brothers/con artists, working Rachel Weisz. Fingers crossed.
Burn After Reading – A Coen Bros comedy. ‘Nuff said.
Burning Plain – The soul of the dramas with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo Arriaga gets behind the camera for the first time with Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger on board in lustful, ripe roles. The only question is whether it will entertain as much as it punches you in the face.
Che’ – I can’t wait to see it. Again, I trust few critics, especially when impatience was the leading theme of most slams. Maybe it really does need to be cut… maybe not. We’ll see.
Disgrace – A remarkably quiet production, given that it adapts a very popular J.M. Coetzee book and stars John Malkovich as the professor whose disgrace starts the story rolling. It could be the fact that the filmmakers, the Aussie husband and wife directing/writing team Steve Jacobs and Anna Maria Monticelli, are little known commodities. But this one smells of being one of those that surprises at the fest.
The Duchess – More pretty dresses, on and off.
Easy Virtue – Stephen Elliot, the man who put Guy Pearce, Terrance Stamp, and Mr. Smith in drag, is back at the movies with a Noel Coward romp. Finding the right speed for movies of this tone is very difficult.
Flash Of Genius – Universal is quite serious about their variation on Tucker: A Man & His Dream with Greg Kinnear in the Jeff Bridges role.
Girl From Monaco – I have become an Anne Fontaine fan, mostly from exposure at TIFF. Once again, she works in the arena of people who don’t belong together, but just can’t help but to be drawn into trouble.
The Good, The Bad & The Weird – Billed as “the first kimchi western,” it comes on the heels of Takshi Miike’s Sukiyaki Wastern Django. Word of mouth is good on this one.
Il Divo – A political film with passionately mixed response at Cannes, at least as far as whether it will play in North America.
Inju, The Beast In the Shadow – A Barbet Schroeder thriller, he is usually a sure bet for a good time in this mode, if the not the most subtle experience.
The Lucky Ones – Veterans cross America on way home… it’s been in the can a while…
Miracle at St Anna – Spike Lee’s black Saving Private Ryan. Hopeful.
Nothing But The Truth – Rod Lurie’s recently delayed tale based on the Valerie Plame scandal, from the POV of the reporter who was jailed for not giving up her source. Lurie risked casting Kate Beckinsale, who has been known for her vinyl pants instead of her acting in recent years, looking to score some serious points, along with Vera Farmiga as the glam CIA agent and Lurie regular Alan Alda in a showy role.
Other Man – Richard Eyre’s follow-up to the very successful and underrated Notes on a Scandal, this is another intrigue with Liam Neeson seeking out the truth about his wife’s secret relationship. Sounds a little like one of my beloveds, Damage.
Pride & Glory – Gavin O’Conner tries not to fall into cliché with the story of NY police family tested by… blah blah blah. The thing is, when those clichés are overcome, the results can be very exciting.
Public Enemy No. 1 – The French version of a familiar tale stars the always fun to watch Vincent Cassel and Depardieu. I’m willing to give this one a chance with hopes for great fun.
Rachel Getting Married – Jon Demme’s tribute to Altman adds in Demme’s love of music with the daring choice to tell a real, human story and not to rely on easy Hollywood answers to every dramatic question. A festival film that will cause fights between friends.
Rocknrolla – Guy Ritchie doesn’t suck… a key theme when his last film was the career-horror Revolver. But this time out, the film works and has a cult star turning bigger and bigger in Gerard Butler.
The Wrestler – Darren Aronofsky has gotten the CG ambitions out of the way and is back to hard core, personal storytelling with style. Mickey Rourke has a shot at being a big story at this year’s fest.
Zack & Miri Make A Porno – As raunchy as this one sounds, word is that it has a degree of sweetness more like Chasing Amy than Clerks, with skills that Kevin Smith has built over the years.
(Director mistake corrected, 8:45p)

1 Comment »

It Was 11 Years Ago Today…

Happy Button birthday to me.
I usually write some sort of heavy perspective column at this time of the year, but… nah.
The column was inspired by the lack of daily commentary from anyone but Army Archerd. I was online because of the late, great Andy Jones recruiting me from EW for a weekly. The support of TNT’s Scot Safon was critical. The anger from most of the staff in Atlanta, once the column caught on, was palpable.
Six months or so off for The Miami Film Festival. VoicesOfHollywood.com. And then Movie City News.
Eleven years later, I am still having the same arguments with Moriarty… ten years of Wells doing my schtick (19 months of not reading him or communicating with him as a result of the prior 100)… about three years of blogs transforming the daily marketplace into something else altogether… the insanity (mostly offline) of Nikki Finke… and the desperation of an group of mainstreamers to be just like her, still not understanding that the opportunity of the web is to be so much better than smears and gossip.
Through the whole 11 years, I have not only done as I like, but I have always had very clear ideas of what I don’t want to be doing on the web, regardless of how it might spark bigger numbers or greater popularity. What I have had to fight off has changed, year by year. People and sites have come and gone. Overresponding to “threats” happens… and I think I have retreated to my real standards each time. (Welcome to the jungle, Sharon Waxman. Good luck.)
Of course, it is the people read my endless musing that make it all possible. It is the eyeballs of the industry that has allowed me my independence and made MCN a viable home not just for me, but for an entire somewhat underpaid staff of writers and other creative people. I couldn’t be more proud of or thankful for our staff, led by my partner in MCN crime, Laura Rooney.
Every year has been a little different. The Hot Blog came along about 3.5 years ago and 3000 entires and over 90,000 comments later, it has become the primary release valve. Lunch With David, now known as DP/30, soon to be known as something else as we take the 30 minute interview on the web to its next step, has been an absolute joy, even though it occupies part of my workspace that used to be spent grinding out copy. I love working with the only traditional editorial cartoonist working weekly on the film beat, RJ Matson, as we continue to seek out new ways to expand the boundaries of web editorial.
I’m healthy. I’m married. I’m busy. I’m still learning every day. And I am always looking for the next thing that will feel fresh and worth the effort.
I am happy.
And I thank you all.

No Comments »

Taking On Fox… But Where's The Beef?

Well… I guess it‘s something to write about…
What is Patrick Goldstein’s problem with Fox?
Has Tom Rothman been refusing to buy him lunch?
If Goldstein or anyone else wants to take on a studio and how it behaves, please, have at it! But be fair in how you use your stats… or you are not doing the job.
Goldstein uses the most petty journalist trick in the book, selective box office information. He writes;
“This summer has been different. Without a true tentpole film, the results have been dispiriting. The studio’s biggest hit was “What Happens in Vegas,” a forgettable comedy that grossed $80 million in the U.S. and roughly $215 million around the world. “The Happening,” a poorly reviewed thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, topped out at $64 million (though it’s performed better overseas).”
Problems?
1) However forgettable What Happens In Vegas is, it is the #2 comedy of the year so far worldwide, behind only Sex & The City, with a reported $209 million to date. As a point of reference, only one Judd Apatow movie (written, directed, or produced) has EVER matched or beaten the WHIV number – Knocked Up – and then, by only $11 million. The #2 Apatow movie is $30 million behind.
I had no idea how very real the success of WHIV was… and if Patrick had his way, you wouldn’t either. Even offering the number, he chooses not to offer the perspective.
2) Worse, Patrick smacks The Happening without mentioning the worldwide number… only admitting “it’s performed better overseas.” Yeah… about $145 million worldwide so far.
3) Likewise, there is the “summer only game,” which eliminates a relative bomb in America, Jumper, which is a $222 million worldwide hit, and allows him to overlook Fox’s animation strategy, which is to release in March, not the summer, which led to a $295 worldwide gross for Horton Hears A Who.
4) Finally, is Patrick really selling that idea that a studio MUST make a summer tentpole – a dead concept still used all the time by old media – to be doing the right thing? Would a smash hit like The Day After Tomorrow, a truly horrible movie in any season that made huge bank before audiences realized they were buying a pig in a poke, have made this summer a success in Patrick’s mind?
No. I don’t think so.
See… what Fox is supposed to do is to turn it all over to producers with deals and directing talent that has minds of their own. Why? Could it be that the people who whisper loudest in Patrick’s ears are the people who benefit from this idea… an idea that died first at Fox, but which every studio in town is following?
And again, Patrick plays the dating game to manipulate his point, even within the confines of his own story. He writes;
“Here’re the people who directed the studio’s 2007 summer films: James Wan, Tom Brady, David Silverman, Len Wiseman, Tim Story and Carlos Fresnadillo. I bet some of them are genuinely nice guys, but there’s not a Warren Beatty or Tim Burton in the bunch.”
Wait… weren’t we talking about the summer of 2008? The three $100 million-plus films of 2007 are the same as the no-$100 million summer of 2008? But I thought… uh… well…
And does Goldstein realize that his slap at Silverman is a slap at the guy that co-directed Monsters, Inc? Not good enough?
Is Brett Ratner – who cherry-picked the X3 job from a relieved Matthew Vaughn and went tens of millions over budget, but delivered the film in time for a pre-Superman release – really the standard bearer for good behavior while working for a studio?
He throws Forrest Whittaker’s Hope Floats into the mix because, what?, he won an Oscar for acting years later? It’s not like it was a great movie or a box office smash. And no mention of First Daughter. Not to mention Whittaker’s inability to make things work with Bill Cosby, back-burnering Fat Albert, an eventual minor hit for the studio as directed by Joel Frickin’ Zwick, for a couple of years.
And who is working for Fox after this summer? The masterful B13 director, Pierre Morel, does his second feature for Fox. Gil Kenan has jumped into a live-action film with his sophomore effort after the excellent Monster House. Wes Anderson is doing a cartoon. They have John Singleton aboard. Baz Luhrmann is back. The Chris Wedge team is back again. And of course, Jim Cameron is coming back.
Plus, the studio hired the art-house director of Tsotsi (and unfortunately, Rendition), Gavin Hood, to handle their Wolverine franchise, much as they tried to hire Vaughn (the production dates did his involvement in), much as Bill Mechanic hired Bryan Singer for X-Men, who they chaperoned to two successes, which led directly to Christopher Nolan being hired for the Batman franchise at WB.
Boo on them! Hacks! Fools!
Are these hires Beatty or Burton or Altman?
Well, Beatty hasn’t directed a film since… and he acted in one, Town & Country, which is one of the three biggest money losers in the history of the industry.
Boo on them! Hacks! Fools!
And Burton, who I do think is brilliant, was an absolute mess on Planet of the Apes, went way over budget and schedule, and was at the low point of his personal issues that affected his career. Meanwhile, he continues to work almost exclusively at WB, where he has done 8 of his 13 films. (The ninth, Sweeney Todd, was co-funded by WB, which has the overseas distribution.)
Boo on them! Hacks! Fools!
And seriously… John Lesher was all Beatty and Burton and Altman types at Vantage and lost over $100 million in less than 2 years. Is that what Patrick wants?
“I say the cruel summer numbers are also the result of a rigidly constructed system that has driven away nearly all of the creative filmmakers and producers who once worked on the lot, putting the studio’s movies in the hands of hacks, newcomers and nonentities who largely execute the wishes of the Fox production team led by studio Co-Chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos.”
Then how did all those years of success happen? And what will you say if they have a billion dollar year next year?
So….
What would I say is a reasonable position?
I would say that the idea that the Fox bad habit under the R&G regime, which is absolutely real, of working with mediocre directors who are willing to work under the hardly pressed thumb of management, does come home to roost now and again.
Tim Story, Rob Bowman, Raja Gosnell, John Whitesell, Andy Tennant are all in that group. Some of them have had some big hits. And that is what is difficult about arguing the choices that any studio makes about the level of talent with whom they work.
I would say that Fox has made some very bad calls about restricting some of the real talent they have had in place, like Ridley Scott and the release cut of Kingdom of Heaven… but that would require making an accusation not based on popular belief.
Was Kevin Reynolds’ teen version of Tristan & Isolde a worthy attempt at something interesting or a child strangled at birth?
Could they have picked a more difficult genius director to work with than Doug Liman… twice?
Are these the same dream killers who backed Sasha Baron Cohen all the way on Borat?
Where do you put Shawn Levy in all of this? Does anyone really think he is a quality director? But can anyone deny he is a cash machine and that Fox is his home studio?
I like Tom Rothman. But then again, I have never gotten spittle all over me from the screaming.
But you can make the argument when any studio head is having a down year that their style has become a problem. Every one of the people in that job has vulnerable points, even the mostly-liked Dick Cook, who has lived with accusations of being too much of a company man when Disney’s had down years.
With Fox and Rothman and Jim G, I look back at their last down year, 2003. They couldn’t get the Peter Weir movie, Master & Commander, over $100 million, even with an Oscar nod. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was weak in the US, but made up for it overseas (almost double domestic). Just Married was horrible, but made money. Peyton Reed’s ambitious effort with Down With Love went down in flames. Phone Booth numbers weren’t over whelming, but it was a strong money maker and established Colin Farrell’s box office potential as an above-the-title name. And there were classic image disasters like From Justin to Kelly and genre experiments Chasing Papi and Wrong Turn… but all were cheap.
A rough year… over 30% down from the year before and the next year would be more than 30% up.
But from that year, they got an Oscar nod… as they may this year with Australia (and don’t let anyone tell you that Baz is an easy ride for a studio). They extended the X-Men franchise more effectively than anyone expected (and yes, Rothman’s chase for the Memorial Day slot for X3 cost a lot… and they did, as it worked out, beat Singer’s Superman by $70 million worldwide), as they may this year with Wolverine. And they got Shawn Levy in place, who will pay off again this year with Museum II.
And as I indicated earlier… things got a lot better again the next year.
You could argue that it is time for Peter Rice, who is much smoother than Rothman, to take over… an argument that will turn Rice green if you suggest its inevitability. When he someday gets the job, he will be ready for the job. But part of why that works is that he is loyal to his current bosses and unflinching in sharing the credit. He is probably the next truly great studio chief and I look forward to his ascension.
But these August cheap shots that guys like Patrick love to take… they don’t hold up. If the year to come doesn’t lead to a domestic number of more than $1 billion, averaging $100 a releases over 10 releases, you can start saying, “This has been going on for years now… they took a strong shot this year and they failed.” Truth is, the two holiday powerhouses made 2007 look better than it had looked as well.
But if you want to make the argument, don’t back it up with the kind of off-the-cuff attacks that people throw around over – yes – lunch. It’s not news or even thoughtful opinion… it’s just gossip.

No Comments »

Preview Week 2008: Planning for The Worst… Hoping For The Best

The summer of 2008 is 17 weeks long.

There are 44 films scheduled to be released “wide” this summer, only 3 of which are not from the major studios or their Dependent specialty arms.

I count 16 of these releases as “The Big Ones,” meaning that a lot of money has been spent – and a lot more will be spent- on marketing, and expectations are very, very high.

Eight of The Big Ones are sequels or spin-offs (like The Incredible Hulk, which is not strictly a sequel).  Eight are non-sequels: the two big animated films (Wall-E and Kung-Fu Panda), the new Shyamalan, the Angelina Jolie-actioner-ripping-off-M&MS Wanted, Eddie Murphy in Meet Dave, andWill Smith as Hancock are originals.

What will they sequelize in a couple of years?  Well … originals Hancock, Meet Dave, and Wanted … they hope.  And The Hulk and Hellboy and Iron Man and Speed Racerand Batman and Narnia and Indiana Jones and animatedStar Wars movies and Mummy 4 and even the King-Fu Panda and Wall-E.

The hope is that these films, some of which already have a mixed record, will get fat and happy enough this summer to be blockbusters (or bigger blockbusters) the next time around.

Really, the only “franchise” films that are probably not hopeful about being the start of a longer legged franchise are X-Files,which already had years on TV, and The Happening, which is a Shyamalan thriller, none of which has spawned sequels.

Amazingly, after going the first six weeks of the season without any opening weekend overlap, there are three weekends that will see duel openings of films with mage-expectations.  On June 13, The Incredible Hulk goes up against Shyamalan’s The Happening.  On June 27, the most same counterprogramming duo weekend, Wanted vs Wall-E… though putting Wanted just a week before Hancock seems a little suicidal.  Then on July 11, Hellboy II meets Meet Dave, with two very different tones, but very similar demographic targets … that is, if HBII is planning on expanding on its previous base.

But there’s a lot more than the Big Ones … there are the Big Comedies!  12, count ’em 12.  The reverse of My Best Friend’s Wedding (though Patrick Dempsey ain’t Julia Roberts),Cameron Diaz & Ashton Kutcher, S&TC: The Movie, Adam Sandler, Steve Carrell in a redux Get Smart, Mike Myers, a Meryl musical, Will Ferrell/Judd Apatow, all-star girl cast inHe’s Just Not That Into You, Kevin Costner in the kind of film that works for him, a second Judd Apatow film, and a Stiller/Jack Black satire.

Are you going to argue that any of these movies are not targeting $100 million… even though realistic expectations at the studios involved are half that or less for about four of them?

Maybe you can make the case that Sony will be okay with $80 million on Made of Honor or Fox with Vegas or Disney withSwing Vote. But they are all also hoping for breakouts.

Add those to the mix and now, you see a summer with only five weekends that are owned by single wide releases.  Three weeks in May (Caspian/Indy/Sex & The City), Hancock’s July 2 4-quadrant launch, and Pineapple Express on August 8.  I would say that S&TC is simply on a date that scares most distributors … and Pineapple is on a date with two smaller niche titles that work against an R-rated comedy, New Line’sJourney To The Center Of The Earth 3D (which will be on a lot of non-3D screens and an unknown number of 3Ds, given the competition this summer) and WB’s grrrl sequel, Sisterhood of the Traveling Culottes (aka Pants 2).

And here come the underdogs.

Anna Farris as The House Bunny, a Legally Blonde-alike from the guys who wroteLegally Blonde.

The Rainn Wilson comedy, The Rocker, from Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo and written by the team of a Simpsons writer and a Larry Sanders writer.

Lionsgate’s Bangkok Dangerous, a Nic Cage action remake, remade by the original directors, the Pang Brothers.

A late-season Tom Tykwer thriller, The International, starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts.

And, of course, Space Chimps, a third film from Vanguard Animation, who placed their first film at Lionsgate, the next at Disney, and now, this one at Fox.

Finding an overall theme for this summer is not easy. There are big movies, but compared to last year, it feels like small change. Expectations of success and failure are, as ever, overly bloated just before the season begins.

Easily the most underrated film, by way of potential box office, is Disney’s Prince Caspian, which people seem to forget grew huge over time after the first film was released.  There is no negative feeling that should make it do less well, though there is a lot more competition in that summer slot… and the potential for an even bigger opening.

Geeks and Girls have got to be drooling coming into the season.  Not only is there an new Indiana Jones, but there is a great comic book hero coming along with some very good buzz, a new Batman from a hero director, a Star Wars that is supposed to look like a cartoon, and the return of two beloved geek colors, green and red.  For women, Hollywood responded strongly to some female-driven hits in recent summers with no less than a half-dozen films aimed at them.

The big question mark of this summer is whether Sandler, Ferrell, Stiller, Carrell, Myers, and Pineapple Express is just too much boy comedy for one summer.  It’s a lot… and I am not even counting Eddie Murphy, whose film seems to have some of that spirit with snot jokes, etc.

The biggest question mark around a single film is Speed Racer… a movie that delivers on all it wanted to be, but seems to be confusing every demographic with its marketing campaign.  This is the great family film of the summer, with lots of unreal action, no deaths, no gun violence in which a bullet hits skin, no sex, lots of positive family messages, and one use of the word “shit.”  But that won’t matter if no one knows.  The example best pointed to is Tim Burton’s Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, which people were dubious about, but which ended up being a $200 million long-legged beauty.   The problem here is that Speed Racer doesn’t have much time to get up to speed.

The spread between the studios is pretty even, though it does look like a down summer for Fox… though the studio isn’t making big gambles this year.

Based on my charts, which will inevitably be flawed, the summer by studio may look like:

The top grosser will be Sony, with $711 million.  But it will take them 7 films to do it, averaging out at “just” $102 million.

I am projecting two big winners battling it out this summer: Disney and Paramount.  Each has three films… and each “will” average $198m per and $197m per.

Interestingly, if you add the DreamWorks product to Paramount’s line-up, this summer, I see it lowering the studio numbers, not adding to them.  Ironically, this is caused byStephen Spielberg making a Paramount sequel that isn’t co-owned by DreamWorks.  Still, I have the two DreamWorks movies averaging over $100 million also.

The other $100 million averaging company I am anticipating is Warner Bros, recovering from some tough summers with a $129, per-film avg.

Here is a list –

And so, the horserace begins …

– Email David Poland

Quote Unquotesee all »

“All of the security, all of the waiters, all of the musicians … that’s 3,000 people!” The shopping required fifty tractor trailers. The are thirty gallons of cocktail sauce; 350 pounds of smoked salmon; 200 pounds of brussels sprouts, 250 pounds parmesan cheese; 3,600 eggs; 6,000 mini-brioche buns; five gallons of hot fudge; 20 pounds pickled ginger; 30 pounds edible gold dust; 7,000 miniature chocolate Oscars. There are 1,400 bottles of Piper-Heidsieck champagne and 2,200 bottles from Francis Ford Coppola’s winery. This will be served in and upon 13,000 glasses, 4,500 bamboo skewers, 4,800 ramekins and 6,000 cocktail forks.”
~ Wolfgang Puck Goes Oscar Dinner Shopping

“While these images seem to reveal all, they disclose nothing beneath the surface. All that we know is what we see onscreen and that Seberg’s face is delicate and lightly creased. She’s rarely shown smiling, although there are instances when she laughs emphatically, moments that feel uncomfortable and artificial, as if she were trying out an emotion she had forgotten. We know the texture of her skin; the patterns on the walls; the depth of field; the quality of the light; the contrast of the black-and-white film; the level of grain; the dowdiness of her clothes. She’s partial to granny dresses, or maybe they’re nightgowns, and when she stands in front of a window, the sunlight glows softly, creating a kind of ravishing halo effect: Saint Jean.”
~ Manohla Dargis On Philippe Garrel’s Les Hautes Solitudes