Enamored by the Olympics

The past week and a bit have seen me pretty much tune the world out so I can watch the Olympics. This is a very regular thing for me, going back as far as Atlanta ’96, when I spent a considerable amount of time watching it while on vacation in Washington D.C. (I managed to get a lot of sightseeing in, as well, which impresses me to this day.) For the summer games since then, I loved watching Sydney ’00 and was quite interested in most of Athens ’04, but I do believe that Beijing is going to top them all.

(I like the winter games, too, but not quite as much. Diving and gymnastics top figure skating and curling.)

Because of this, I haven’t gotten around to doing my movie preview for September, which I should get around to, now that we’re really heading into the dog days of the box office summer. However, I don’t want to leave the blog alone for too long, so it’s time for another comment post. Apparently my dislike of Coheed & Cambria makes me popular. Or something.

I’ll thank ‘Lou’ ahead of time for not descending into profanity.

I’m not gonna’ sit here and attack you for your “attack” on Coheed.

Thank you.

No point in that.

Rarely have truer words been spoken.

However, in almost all forms of creative expression, there is some self-injection.

Okay, what is it about C&C fans that make them think that ‘self-injection’ is an appropriate term for anything? It just SOUNDS WRONG. What’s really, really sad is that in the post, I explained what self-insertion is, and used the term multiple times. If you’re going to comment on something, at least do the courtesy of self-editing so that you don’t self-idiot.

Whether you’re aware of it or not is different.

It’s different? Yes, actually it is. My possible awareness is different from my possible non-awareness. Thank you for providing a tautology.

I honestly have no idea what point you’re trying to make with this sentence. It doesn’t have any contextual connection to the previous.

But people write from what they grew up with, what they experienced.

You start a sentence with ‘But’ as if you’re trying to make a counter-point. But there is no counterpoint. Observe, with paraphrasing:

1. Creativity involves investing something personal in the created product.

2. You may or may not be aware of this, which is different.

3. But creators invest their experiences.

The last sentence is merely a rework of the first phrased as a counter-argument to the second, which has no meaning in and of itself. This is not an argument. If you want to phrase an argument in this fashion, you would need 1. Statement of fact or opinion. 2. Posit about the opponent’s stance. 3. Counterpoint to opponent’s stance with proof that undermines it. You’ve failed in points two and three, because you first haven’t given any stance to argue against AND you haven’t even given yourself a counterpoint.

What bothered them, what pleasured them.

Going on with the above, if this is proof, it’s really flimsy. More specific about the experience point, yes, but not really additional evidence.

This is just a fact of creative life.

You are failing to convince me. This is really, really sad because I already agree with you. I know that writers write from experience and invest themselves in their creations. Write what you know is an age-old adage to apply to writing, and it is often painfully apparent when someone is bullshitting on the fly.

There’s a line (and not an especially fine one) between writing what you know (or at least understand) and writing a self-insert. The first is what makes stories interesting, because you can impart the knowledge of the experiences you have upon the reader. The latter is what makes stories unbearable, because if the separation between author and character is muddled enough to be essentially academic, it’s really difficult to get the reader to invest in the character. This is true for a multitude of reasons, one being that it is almost painfully obvious that the self-insert, Mary Sue character is unlikely to have any real trauma.

That being said,

Usually when I see ‘That being said’ I expect something to follow that provides a bit of balance in a viewpoint. See also ‘on the other hand’.

it’s probably not cool to bash something you’ve only heard a few minutes of.

I fully expected this and it’s still a non-sequiter. Bravo.

Claudio’s got a surprising range, it’s just odd that the songs like “Welcome Home” and “A Favor House Atlantic”, which happened to be two popular singles off of “Good Apollo” and “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”, respectively, happen to have abnormally high vocal parts.

I don’t disagree that he’s got ‘a surprising range’. It’s surprisingly bad, surprisingly grating, and surprisingly consistent with my desire to turn the music off, thank-you-very-much. The fact that it is abnormally high in two of his (apparently more popular songs) does not disagree with that. In fact, I’d go so far to say as it’s not odd at all.

I don’t get it either.

You don’t get why C&C is popular? Join the club! I’m absolutely mystified by this. I am completely flabbergasted that Harmonix decided that not only should they include a C&C song in Rock Band, but they should also cover another song AND use the first C&C song to advertise the Wii release of the game. (Unless the last was a clever, clever ploy to get Wii owners to not buy RB upon release, because they knew that the vastly superior Rock Band 2 would be coming out by the end of the year… even on the Wii.)

But then again, I do like Rush and Our Lady Peace, so who knows.

Hardly a secret, but I love Rush. They’re easily one of my favorite bands. I believe you’re under a mistaken impression. I do not dislike Claudio Sanchez’ vocals because they are HIGH. I dislike them because they are ATROCIOUS. There is a very, very big difference between these two points. The man cannot sing well. Geddy Lee can.

Rush also has a number of other advantages, namely their lyrics aren’t misogynistic crap, their songs are well constructed, and they’re three of the best at their respective instruments on the entire planet. Comparing C&C to them is an absolute travesty, considering the talent that the Canadian trio have.

Maybe I’m biased.

I don’t think that you need to preface that with ‘Maybe’.

Give “In Keeping Secrets” a good listen-through, I think it’s a severely solid album that covers a wide range of creative area.

No, no, no, no, no! God, why would you ask me to do that? I do not like their music. The lead singer makes me want to puncture out my ear drums and the way they put songs together makes my head hurt. I could get the same experience by playing classical, techno, polka, and a samisen all at the same time while Wing belts out AC/DC and it would probably be considerably more enjoyable.

At least taste the food before you say it’s horrible, just don’t smell it.

Seriously, where the hell does this viewpoint come from? When presented with an opinion that is disagreeable, people constantly say “Oh, you haven’t experienced enough of [x] to truly appreciate it.” and then try to force the product upon the disagreer. If the person relents, invariably they’re left still hating the thing, same as before, and they’re pissed off at the lost time.

I’ve got a roommate who doesn’t like cheese very much. She’ll go for milder sorts of mozerella, but anything sharp really sets wrong with her. I happen to love cheese, especially the sharp kinds. But I’m not a complete moron, so I’m not going to say to her “Oh, cheese is wonderful, you just haven’t experienced it the right way” and then shove some really ripe parmasan into her mouth. I know how this is going to end: she’ll likely vomit and then be rightfully pissed off at me. I don’t like mushrooms but said roommate does. She hasn’t said to me “Shiitakes are the best thing EVAR” and tried to force me to eat them, though.

She understands that I don’t care for them and will prefer not to eat them in most situations and I won’t do the same with cheese. We have our acknowledged tastes in foods and that’s perfectly fine.

Usually people will understand this. Food preferences are easy to understand. So why isn’t it the case with music? Seriously, why do people get uppity if someone says something negative about their favorite band?

The fact that I find C&C to be terrible has no effect upon my opinion of any people who like them. Whether or not you like them or any other band does not reflect upon my opinion of you. I might question your taste, and point out that the band promotes a sexist and misogynist message that personally bothers me, but I’m not going to criticize too much.

Hell, it’s even okay to like C&C in a completely ironic way because they’re so bad. I happen to love a bunch of bad bands, and find particular delight in disposable teen-pop. If you find happiness in that, so much the better.

But don’t ask someone to waste their time or money to experience more of something they’re predisposed to disliking. It doesn’t make sense. In the case of C&C, I think I’ve spent more than enough time experiencing their music, and considerably more looking into the band so that I had a strong enough understanding to write the initial post. The stories that Sanchez writes are bad enough I have no desire to experience it any further.

July Movie Recap

Before I drop into the recap for July, I’d like to look at Wall-E again. In my June recap, I estimated that it would end up around $250 million. This was largely because Pixar films tend to have strong legs with final tallies at least four times the opening weekend. The opening here was $15m ahead of Ratatoille, so a final tally about $45-60 million more in the end would be about on par.

Instead, Wall-E has taken its fantastic reviews and strong audience response in hand while falling quite fast. Fast, at least for a Pixar film. This would be a strong result for any other studio, but with its current total (about $205m) it is unlikely to earn much more than $220m, if even that. Indeed, its final tally will likely be roughly the same as Kung Fu Panda.

And while that may be the strongest Dreamworks effort ever, it isn’t the same. Pixar is the name in animation, and I’m beginning to wonder if audiences are starting to take them for granted. There’s this expectation that the films will be great, and they are, but how do you top greatness? I’m sure that they’re wondering the same thing over in Emeryville, even as they work on next year’s expected masterpiece.

Now, onto the July films.

Hancock

Prediction: $70m open, $230m final

Actual: $63m open, $215m current, ~$230m final

My open was low because trying to predict how an Independence Day film opens is a crapshoot from. It earned about $100m in the 5+ day opening frame and is tracking rather close to 2005’s War of the Worlds. Will Smith’s going to make a run at three straight $200m earners this december with Seven Pounds, but even if it doesn’t make it, he’s proving again and again that he’s the strongest draw in Hollywood… and he makes smart film choices.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Prediction: $30m open, $75m final

Actual: $35m open, $71m current, ~$75m final

After the opening, I held out hope that Hellboy would see some strong legs and end up north of the century mark, if only barely. However, it’s fallen rather hard and fast in just about every weekend since and will instead end up close to my original final prediction. I’m figuring that the market for Hellboy was just about saturated. Fans of the first film likely went out this time and may have dragged along some friends, as did the advertising. This is a nice uptick and, after he’s done with the Hobbit movies, del Toro may come back and do a third.

Meet Dave

Prediction: $25m open, $70m final

Actual: $5m open, $11m current, ~$11m final

Usually it seems Murphy can show up in bad films and just barely eke out success. Usually. Sometimes there’s a Pluto Nash. Meet Dave isn’t quite that bad, but, really, when you’re underperforming at this level, it’s all bad. He might really be wanting a Beverly Hills Cop IV right about now.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Prediction: $15m open, $40m final

Actual: $21m open, $72m current, ~$90m final

At the beginning of the summer, if anyone had tried to guess which of the two Walden Media films would be marked a success and which a failure, I’ll bet most people would have chosen Journey to be the latter. As it happens, it’s turning into yet another mid-range success for the development studio, and will soon be the highest grossing of theirs outside of the Narnia flicks. And the recent one of those is probably best forgotten, at least business-wise.

There’s an outside shot this crosses $100m, which would be a stunning success. Depending on how hard and fast The Mummy falls this coming weekend, this might even be the higher grossing Brendan Fraser film of the summer.

Apparently, it doesn’t suck, either, which helps a lot for the final tally.

The Dark Knight

Prediction: $85m open, $270m final

Actual: $158m open, $393m current, ~$510m final

It passed my predicted final tally sometime on its 9th day. It will pass $400m in 19 days. Shrek 2 is the current fasted to that mark with $43 days. And it will cruise past all but the loftiest of goals by the time it leaves theaters.

I went into detail in my last post, but that was prior to the second weekend of the film, where it saw $75m. That’s a mighty total, and good for the biggest second weekend of all time, but it was likely at that point that Titanic became out of reach. A weekend north of $80m might have kept it in sight, and $90m would have made it a fight, but even though it had covered half the distance in 10 days, the latter $300m is the hurdle. Its third weekend of $43m is good for second best in history (after Spider-Man’s $45m) which further proves that Batman can’t top James Cameron. So the boat has sailed out of sight, but it can rest assured that it will be the second biggest film of all time, could break into the top 30 adjusted for inflation, and could possibly have the biggest fourth weekend with a strong hold (beating Titanic at something.)

Mamma Mia!

Prediction: $25m open, $80m final

Actual: $28m open, $87m current, ~$130m final

Welcome to the success of counter-programming. There’s money to be made in hitting a niche beneath a behemoth. The ABBA musical started off a near copy of Hairspray, but in the weeks since it’s held on strongly and will likely end up the third highest grossing musical in history (after Grease and Chicago). This could become a summer tradition to run counterpoint to all the exposions.

Space Chimps

Prediction: $10m open, $35m final

Actual: $7m open, $21m current, ~$25m final

While Wall-E’s fallen off faster than expected, it didn’t lose so much business that families were looking for something else in its place. Also, Journey to the Center of the Earth has provided business for that market. Space Chimps will likely be remembered as another disposable computer animation flick. Or forgotten as one.

Step Brothers

Prediction: $35m, $115m final

Actual: $31m open, $63m current, ~$100m final

It’s not doing quite as I predicted, but I think the final tally will be in the same ballpark. For Ferrell this marks a slight return to his preferred consistency. Semi-Pro’s final tally of $33m was probably quite worrisome. However, at this point it’s probably quite clear that he’s not going to replace Adam Sandler. While he does have three films above $100m and this one could join them there, it’s definitely not a sure thing and he’s not likely to see grosses in the range of Talledega Nights for his comedies unless they’re exemplary.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Prediction: $25m open, $65m final

Actual: $10m open, $17m current, ~$20m final

As it happens, no, this film cannot re-establish the series for the big screen. It’s performing even worse than Serenity.

American Teen

At the time I did this prediction, it was slated to get a semi-wide release. Instead, the distributors have opted for an indie/platform release. It will probably end up with at least a few million but isn’t likely to take off.

Overall

While The Dark Knight is justfiably hogging the spotlight, July was quite a strong month overall. Thanks largely to Batman’s amazing performance, the year on year tally has surged ahead of last year’s record pace. It’s completely up in the air as to whether it can keep that up, though. Last August was quite strong, with Bourne, Superbad, and Halloween all delivering stronger than expected performances.

Rarified Air

I’m going to break a bit from my monthly previews and recaps to talk about some box office specifics. A lot of numbers follow, but we’re looking at some awesome numbers.

If you’ve been following entertainment news at all over the past few days, you probably know that The Dark Knight is huge. It’s historically huge, earning $18.5 million in Friday midnight shows, over $67 million over the entire Friday, and a massive $158 million for its opening weekend.

These are all record breaking numbers. Bigger than Revenge of the Sith for the midnight shows and bigger than Spidey 3 for the opening day and weekend totals. Batman’s also gotten the record for biggest Sunday, widest release (in terms of theaters, not screens), and highest per-screen average for an ultra-wide release. (For wide releases, the record still belongs to the greatest musical talent of all time, Hannah Montana. But her film only hit 600 screens, not 4,366.)

With this performance, The Dark Night has blown away just about every weekend prediction. The stock for the film has rose steadily over time. My early summer prediction of $85 million seemed a bit bullish at the time, but was laughable by the beginning of July. The excellent ad campaign, curiosity due to Heath Ledger’s Death, and stellar performance from heroic rival Iron Man (which gives a good barometer for expectated response) were coming together to create a perfect storm of audience excitement. As such, the predictions rose from the $90s to the low $100s to the $130s up until about a week before the performance.

Despite this (which was putting Batman in the running with Jack Sparrow for the second biggest opening of all time) there were two strong undercurrents of thought. The first was that Spidey’s record was safe: Batman’s considerably darker, DC heroes don’t open as big, the competition is much more fierce in July than early May. At the same time, Warner Bros. was publically stating that they expected ONLY about $90-100m.

I believe the high water prediction was somewhere in the mid $140s, within spitting distance of Spiderman 3, but still shy.

When Friday’s numbers hit, all bets were off. The $67 million was a good $8m beyond Spidey’s Friday, and even a large drop on Saturday would keep it in the running. For large opening films, especially sequels, a poor weekend multiplier (ratio of Friday to the whole weekend) is somewhat expected. There’s a lot of demand to get there and see the film opening day, and as such the ratio will be very low because after the Friday, demand decreases a big way. Even so, Spidey 3 had a large drop and with the extra $8m, Batman could take a bigger drop and still come out ahead.

As it happened, there was a large drop on Saturday, to $47 million. That $20m drop is huge, almost 30%, and it led to some speculation that, despite the big Friday, Batman wouldn’t even stick around enough to even take the weekend total. That would be very bad news for Warner Bros. They played it conservatively, and gave an early weekend estimate of $151-1533m, just barely ahead of Spidey 3. A bit later, they estimated $155m, but rival studios were suspicious. WB had only estimated a drop of about 20% on Sunday, which seemed small, especially in light of the 30% on Saturday.

However, on Monday, the weekend figures hit the final numbers, and the weekend haul came in at $158m, a clear jump up from Spidey. Sunday’s figure was $43m, a mere 8% drop from Saturday.

So what happened here? Why the big drop from Friday to Saturday, but the small one from Sunday? Well first is that unlike many huge sequels, the critical response from both the media and audiences has been overwhelmingly positive. While it’s probably a close toss-up in the end, The Dark Knight is at least on par with Iron Man in terms of percieved quality. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is consistently cited as a standout point and has already garnered some Oscar buzz.

Second is that, counter-intuitively, it seems the market wasn’t saturated. So many people wanted to see this film, that even with 4300 screens they couldn’t find a place to sit. If they’re stuck trying to find a place on Friday or Saturday, they wait until Sunday.

But wait, wasn’t Friday still 20m bigger than Saturday? Why wasn’t Saturday huge and Sunday small if there was that much extra money in the making.

Consider the Midnight shows. Theaters did a massive number of showings early on Friday which accounted for over $18 million of that day’s business. A number also scheduled 3am (and 6am and 9am) shows to try and meet demand that first day. While a number probably did shows for Midnight Saturday and Midnight Sunday, they would be less inclined to keep things running 24 hours a day for three straight days. Hence, there were less showings, and less chances for people to get in. While it’s not a perfect fit, remove the midnight haul from Friday’s take and you’ve got about $49m. Now the drop to Saturday is miniscule and the small drop to Sunday doesn’t seem so strange.

After $158 million in three days, it sat a mere $42m from the vaunted $200m barrier. The big question was how much it would drop in the weekdays and thus how long it would take to cross that point. For mid-summer films, a drop of about 50% from Sunday to Monday is about normal, especially if the Sunday is large. But the subsequent weekdays will probably see consistent drops of about 10% or so. Demand is high for the weekend and tails off somewhat rapidly from there. It’s for this reason that almost all huge-opening films see extremely large drops in the second weekend, even if they’re well-received. There’s a bit of a limit to how much business these things can retain when you’re opening over the century mark.

Speculation follows: If Monday was $21m, it would sit at $179m after four days and probably in the upper $190s after day five. It would fairly easily pass $200m in six. Over the course of the week, we could get a good idea of what it would haul in weekend two. If it dropped, say, to $14m on Thursday, it would probably be close to $225-$230m for the first week, and absolutely astounding haul, but it probably wouldn’t be looking at much more than $60m for the second weekend. Still spectacular, but probably indicative that it’s going to drop fairly fast, so after weekend three it would be below $30m and around half that for weekend 4. A track record like that would see The Dark Knight cruising past $400m, but probably petering out somewhere in the realm of Pirates 2 ($423m).

However, we’ve got an actual number for Monday, and it’s amazing: almost $24.5m. This puts the total haul in four days at almost $183m, and it’s just $17m shy of $200m. It needs a drop of 30% on Tuesday to FAIL to get to the double century in five days. This is almost impossible. Its drop on Sunday and Monday are the lowest in the top ten. Given how much distance is between it and the number 2 film (Mamma Mia! which, to be perfectly fair, is doing wonderfully) this is amazing.

If it keeps with the trend of films of this size, it could see drops of 10-15% for each of the next few days, which means it could earn about $22m or more on Tuesday. Doing that could put it in shooting distance of meeting the entire run of Batman Begins… in five days. That was a spectacularly received film that did very, very good business, and The Dark Knight is making it look like a joke.

In fact, it’s making all of its Batman compatriots look like jokes. It surged passed the entire gross of Batman and Robin in two days. It passed Batman Returns in on Monday and ended up within 2 million of Batman Forever. Both of those films at one time had the opening weekend record. And at its current pace, it should pass Batman, the current highest grossing film in the franchise, sometime next weekend.

The speed that The Dark Knight is accomplishing these records cannot be understated. The current speediest grossing film is Pirates 2, which reached $200m in 8 days and $300m in 16. The Dark Knight will hit the first mark in 5 days and the second in 10 or 11. The current record holder for $400m is Shrek 2, which accomplished that feat in a stunning 43 days (Pirates 2 took 45.) With the way things currently look, a bullish prediction would have Batman crossing the quadruple century in under a month. It’s all but assured of knocking Star Wars Episode 1 and its $431m gross out of the top 5 of all time.

But the big question, which is starting to float, is the big T. Does Batman have what it takes to beat Titanic? Or, more realistically, does it even have a chance?

To answer this, we really need to understand how big that $600m gross really is. It is huge. The second place film of all time is Star Wars, which has just $460m. That $140m gap means you could add the grosses for any of the following films to Star Wars and not equal Titanic: Click, Anger Management, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the first one), Live Free or Die Hard, Superman, The Rock, The Departed, Minority Report, and so on. All of these films were regarded as strong box office contenders, which did some spectacular business. In the case of TMNT, it was the highest grossing film from its studio (New Line) until the release of Fellowship of the Ring. The Departed is far and away the highest grossing film of Martin Scorscese’s career. And Adam Sandler is one of the most consistently successful actors in history. Yet none of these films can make Star Wars match Titanic.

Here’s a story. In 2001, when Harry Potter shattered the opening weekend record with its $90m opening, it led to speculation that it might beat Titanic. In a conversation about this possibility, someone said it was all but guaranteed. After all, Harry Potter had this huge synergy across all demographics and was a huge cultural phenomenon. Plus it had an extremely strong holiday for its follow-up weekend (Thanksgiving) and was a really good movie. (The last was alleged by many fans of the series.)

Ultimately, Harry Potter was an extremely strong film, becoming the highest grossing of the year, but its final tally of $317m was barely more than half of Titanic’s final tally.

Of course, Harry Potter isn’t alone in that. Subsequent record weekend holders Spiderman and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest have also had such talk abound, as have Shrek 2, Star Wars Episode III and (before Harry Potter) Star Wars Episode I. All of these films have done stellar business, earning the most of their release year, but none have gotten even 75% of the total business that Titanic has.

If it isn’t clear, $600m is huge. And as big as the response for The Dark Knight has been, it probably doesn’t have the ability to top Titanic. But it’s not impossible to assume. If it earns $70m in weekend 2, $40m in weekend 3 and $25m in weekend 4, it will probably finish up at least on par with Star Wars’ $460m and could go somewhat more. But to get to $600m, it would need a historically strong hold. Better than Shrek 2 had in its second weekend ($72m, with the whole Memorial Day Holiday pulling in over $90m). It would probably need to see at least $90m for the three days to have a shot. And even then, it would need similarly strong holds in future weeks.

And as strong as it is right now, eventually audiences are likely to tire and look to other films. The third Mummy film will take some business. There’s another Star Wars film next month. And for people who aren’t strongly interested in the dark and brooding nature of The Dark Knight, they will be sidetracked by numerous comedies.

Still, when looking at the question of where The Dark Knight could end up (and Titanic isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but it’s rather unlikely) it is probably more important to consider where it is likely to end up.

Above $400m, certainly, and even $450m isn’t even three times its immense opening weekend. I would give it 2-1 odds of crossing the $500m mark. It would be just the second film in history to do that. Whatever the case, it’s certainly a run worth acclaim.

June Movie Recap

Junes are typically a solid, but not spectacular month. Not in 2008, though. A stellar month that overshadowed May by a fairly significant margins, it was actually strong enough to push 2008 ahead of 2007’s amazing (and record) pace.

Kung Fu Panda

Prediction: $40m open, $135 final

Actual: $60m open, $199m current, ~210m final

Just when I thought I had Dreamworks pegged as a studio of high-gloss, but middling quality animation releases they go and release something that’s very, very good. Kung Fu Panda is arguably the best effort from the studio, and one that hopefully spells a step away from the pop-culture jokes of the past. With hope, the Shrek series can die a quick and painful death as the reigns of the studio transfer over to the panda. As for the box office, the audiences got wind of the quality and kept coming back for more. Only the release of Wall-E, at the end of the month, slowed it down. And the business had mostly spent itself by that point anyway.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

Prediction: $35m open, $125m final

Actual: $38m open, $96m current, ~100m final

The opening is right in line with Adam Sandler’s history. The story here is the final tally, which is a decided step down. It’s not bad, and is going to be yet another century effort form him, but the legs that he usually sees just weren’t there. Perhaps the film was a bit too weird for audiences.

The Incredible Hulk

Prediction: $40m open, $115m final

Actual: $55m open, $128m current, ~$135m final

Such is the bad blood that the first film established. Throughout the new Hulk’s run, I’ve been mystified by the bad press it’s business has received. It opened less than the original, but has had better staying power and will have a (slightly) higher final gross. It’s not quite kept the audience enough to be considered a strong result, a final tally around $150m would have done that, but it’s within spitting distance. Also, it had fairly positive response and I think, in the eyes of the audience, has washed away the sour taste of the Ang Lee effort. I hope that the people at Marvel consider it a success in that regard. If they were hoping for Iron Man or even X-Men numbers, they were just opening themselves up to disappointment.

My prediction was mostly based on the fact that it had this uphill battle and that it would do acceptable, but nothing more. It’s managed to do more than that. Not great, but good enough.

The Happening

Prediction: $25m open, $70m final

Actual: $30m open, $62m current, ~65m final

This should serve notice that M. Night Shyamalan should stop writing movies. He’s still got talent as a director, and is able to do scary as well as anyone (particularly because he understands very, very well that less is more), but his writing is atrocious. Audiences might have bounced back slightly here, but I chalk that more up to the ad campaign than the quality of the movie. Since it’s barely earned double the opening weekend back in total, it’s clear that word of mouth is nonexistant.

Get Smart

Prediction: $30m open, $80m final

Actual: $38m open, $106m current, ~130m final

Right before the release, the ad campaign really took off, and the showcase of the three primary actors helped push the opening higher. The legs aren’t spectacular, but it’s had enough positive audience response and staying power to be one of the bigger surprises of the summer.

The Love Guru

Prediction: $30m open, $70m final

Actual: $14m open, $30m current, ~$35m final

Well, audiences smelled the crap and mostly avoided it. Myers probably needs to try to do something that’s really outside his comfort zone. Cheap parody and poop jokes isn’t going to cut it any more. And (as noted above) the Shrek series probably isn’t long for the world. They’re ostensibly working on two more, but I expect that the fourth will see another large loss of business and they’ll pull the plug on the fifth.

Wall-E

Prediction: $75m open, $290m final

Actual: $62m open, $150m current, $250m final

Despite the fact that it’s a spectacular film, Wall-E’s had a bit of a battle since the dialogue is sparse throughout, and practically nonexistant for the first half. Audiences are keying in on the quality, but the legs aren’t quite as good as Disney/Pixar would probably like. Even so, this is a nice bounce back from Ratatoille’s business, and is going to be a perfectly fine final number. However, I wonder if audiences are beginning to take Pixar’s quality for granted.

Wanted

Prediction: $35m open, $90m final

Actual: $51m open, $104m current, ~$135m final

The advertising department at Universal really needs a bonus for this. Audience response hasn’t been great, but the business is spectacular. It’s hitting a good 50% above my prediction all around, and that has to make everyone involved very happy. The only real downside is that this means we’ll probably see a number of adaptations of Mark Millar’s work in the future. Kick-Ass is apparently already in development.

Overall

Every weekend in June except possibly the Hulk/Happening weekend has had an overachieving film. Even films that haven’t such as Wall-E and Incredible Hulk have done passingly solid business. That’s helped drive the total tally for the year past the efforts in 2004 and 2007. It’s fallen a bit off the pace in July, but the story of Hancock (and how it stacks up against Transformers and Spider-Man) is a story for another day.

The Beauty of Comments

I don’t get many comments here on goddOS.net. That makes sense, since this blog is new, not very active, and probably only read by close friends and such. Still, a few people seem to have come across various posts for whatever reason.

Yesterday one gentleman found my review of Rock Band in which I take a very unfavorable eye towards Coheed & Cambria. Initially, I wasn’t going to release them, but upon consideration I should. I should also respond to them. So, he’s going to get the FJM treatment.

Ok… so, what I just read… was that a review?

Yes. Yes, it was.

It seemed more like an attack.

Admittedly, it’s a biased review. It’s an emotional review. It’s a review from my perspective and response to the music. It’s a personal opinion. But it’s not an attack. It is not an attempt to damage the members of Coheed and Cambria, at least no more than any other critical review. If I wanted to attack them I’d use, I dunno, a laser sword or something.

It also seems to me that you must spend a little too much time sitting at your computer or playing that beloved RB (it is awesome, I’ll admit it).

You forgot that I’m in my mom’s basement.

Coheed and Cambria are a hugely succesfull band, not just in album sales (over 1.5 million stateside alone)

He’s correct in this. They had an album go gold, and then the first Good Apollo album went platinum. That does mean that they’ve sold at least 1.5 million copies. HOWEVER it’s worth noting that the second Good Apollo album, even after over six months in release, has just managed about 150,000 sales, a significant step down from the previous album. Worldwide it’s sitting a bit over 300k. These are fine numbers, and indicative of success, but let’s be clear, it’s not setting the world on fire.

but as a live act as well, selling out venues of sizes ranging from mid-size clubs to arenas and amphitheaters.

I can’t confirm or deny this. It’s probably true. Is it a valid point, though? I don’t think so, but more on that below.

While I’m not the biggest fan of the band (I enjoy the music and story, even Claudio’s vocals… just not a big punk/metal guy) I have to give credit and respect where it’s due.

Fine credit where it’s due: Coheed & Cambria are able to sell music.

Guess what. N’Sync could sell music. No Strings Attached sold over a million copies in a DAY and over two in a week. It sold over 15 million copies total world-wide. As a band, they’ve sold 56 million albums worldwide since 1995 (accepting that they haven’t been together for about half that time.)

And they aren’t even the biggest act in their genre. The Backstreet Boys sold 37 million albums in the US and over 100 million worldwide.

Or from the standpoint of concerts, Coheed & Cambria don’t hold a candle to Miley Cyrus, who’s sold out every show in huge stadiums to the point that she’s increased a recent tour from 55 to 69 dates AND they made a movie out of it just to try and meet demand. That movie, BTW, garnered $31 million in three days, the biggest opening for a film under 1000 theaters. She’s also sold 8 million albums worldwide, and 3 million in the US.

If we’re looking just at the business side of things, Claudio Kilgannon is absolute shit compared to Hannah Montana.

Now my question to you is exactly where the fuck do you get off bashing a band you’ve never listened to outside of one song on a video game and their comics, which you’ve never read.

My criticism of C&C was largely centered on the fact that Welcome Home is an atrocious song. Everything else is extrapolated from that. In order to understand the depth of how bad it was, I needed to research a bit. While that research didn’t extend to finding and buying the comics, online material seems to be fairly comprehensive in establishing that The Amory Wars is a fairly tepid science fiction entry that isn’t establishing anything new.

I can find bad sci-fi very easily, and I don’t need to pay for it.

I imagine you to be a fat, slobby, loser of a guy.

IN MY MOM’S BASEMENT!

I would have been put off by reading this sort of review of anything.

Put off what? Put off giving C&C any money to peddle their at-best-mediocre wares? Then my work here is done.

To keep it short, shut your fucking mouth if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Y’know, I think I’m going to keep talking. How about I go off half-cocked on a rant without taking full consideration for both my own opinion but also the status of that which I am criticizing.

Oh, wait.

Or just shut your fucking mouth… you’ll catch flies.

True story: I once spent a good portion of a family reunion catching flies with my bare hands. Then I taught some younger distant cousins to do the same.

I did wash my hands afterwards.

Arrogant piece of shit.

I have many vices. Arrogance isn’t generally one of them. In fact, I probably have a nearly crippling lack of self-confidence.

Amusingly enough, Mr. Brent C. came back nine minutes later and added more:

Oh and p.s….

Pedantically, it should probably just be P.S. and then “Oh, …”

Also, an ellipse only has three periods. I’m quite curious why both his posts started with a double-ellipse sentence. It’s like he’s gearing up to think about his point.

I just looked up the numbers…

Yay, numbers! I love numbers!

the first five issues of The Amory Wars (which I haven’t read either, I’ll be honest) have sold over 700,000 copies since their beginnings last year

Really? A five issue series moving 700k copies? SURELY I’d have heard about such a stellar-selling series somewhere in all of the comic news I come across. That’s an average of 140,000 copies an issue. Or roughly the same as what Final Crisis #1 sold.

Let me question. Are you seriously suggesting that an independent, non-superhero comic book tie-in to a musical act is selling on par with DC’s top-tier summer event series?

SERIOUSLY?

Well, okay, then.

and have been released as a trade paperback graphic novel.

Correct. I actually saw it in my local comic shop. I cringed.

The first issue of Volume II is due to come out this week

Fair enough. We’ve established that it’s either successful enough to warrant a second series OR that it’s a really big vanity project.

and Hot Topic (that shitty little store in everyone’s mall)

I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Is Hot Topic a shitty store? Or is it successful because it’s everywhere?

has taken 138,000 pre-orders since June.

That’s a lot of pre-orders for a comic book. I’m really doubting them, as well. A search on Amory Wars sales numbers didn’t bring up anything to cooberate this information.

In fact, a check into ICV2’s sales charts for comics and graphic novels shows that in April, the TPB of Amory Wars volume 1 moved about 2500 copies. This is a perfectly respectable number, and shouldn’t be marked as bad. It’s also just for the direct market. Some titles sell considerably better outside comic book stores, but those are usually Naruto and such. Even if I grant that the sales are going to better in bookshops and Hot Topic, I’m not seeing them hit much more than three or four times what the DM moves.

As far as the comic, the fifth issue sold about 6000 copies in the DM in January. This is down from the 10,000 that #1 sold last June. In fact, except for issue 1, all the issues sold around 6k copies. A five issue title that moves 35,000 copies isn’t bad, and for an indie project it’s fine, but it’s not breaking out. Hell, DC Vertigo tends to cancel titles that move so little, because they can’t make their money back.

Again, even if we allow¬† 2-3 times more than that outside the DM (and issues sell considerably worse than TPBs do, comparitively, outside of comic book stores), we’re still not getting into 700,000. We’re not even at 140,000. For the whole series.

For the mathematically deficient: 35,000/700,000 = 5%.

By the available information, we can confirm that The Amory Wars is at least 5% of Brent C.’s claimed success point.

My point is… these guys are highly successful and talented, obviously.

They are successful. I do not debate that. They are not as successful as a number of other musical talents or a number of other comic book talents. If we’re equating their success to an absolute value of their talent, they’re probably firmly middle of the road.

In comparison, Rob Liefeld is an astronomically more talented comic book writer, and N’Sync are significantly better musically.

Hey, it’s not my argument.

In my previous post, I even allowed that there is some musical skill to C&C. That skill doesn’t extend to lyrics or vocals. (And in the intervening time, I’ve come to realize that even as a musical construction, Welcome Home is absolute shit. However, the guys playing the instruments aren’t bad.)

You blog about comics and movies.

I do. And video games. From my mom’s basement.

You talk about the self-injection

Self-insertion. Self-injection sounds like something heroin junkies do.

story line or whatever you called it with such disdain as if you yourself were not suffering from some pretty serious delusions of grandure.

Grandeur. Which, no, I don’t have. Lovely logical fallacy, by the way.

Arrogant piece of shit.

Repetition for the win!

May Movie Recap

As we’ve moved into the first weekend of June, I’m going to look back at what May has brought and how well my predictions have held up.

Iron Man

Prediction: $80m open, $220m final

Actual: $98m open, $288m current, ~$310m final

My opening guess wasn’t too far out of line. What’s big is the legs that Iron Man has had, turning in better than average (and expected) drops each weekend. Currently, it looks like it might grab the top movie of the summer (and possibly the year.) I mostly understimated how strong the initial advertising campaign is and how strongly the critical and audience reception would be. A fantastic job from Paramount and Marvel Studios.

Made of Honor

Prediction: $15m open, $50m final

Actual: $14.7m open, $44.6m current, ~$47m final

Almost spot on, here. It’s dropping too fast to actually hit the $50m mark.

What Happens in Vegas

Prediction: $12m open, $40m final

Actual: $20m open, $72m current, ~$80m final

Ultimately, it does answer the question. Ashton Kutcher does indeed have a fanbase, and this film performed almost exactly in line with his previous work.

Speed Racer

Prediction: $50m open, $140m final

Actual: $18.5m open, $42m current, ~$43m final

Ultimately, the weirdness and lack of retro-nostalgia can be chalked up as the reason this didn’t succeed. It’s a shame, because it’s not that bad of a movie, but I suppose the film is a bit too surreal and unworldy for mass audiences to grasp ahold of it. Perhaps it’ll find life on video and in several years will be a cult hit.

Prince Caspian

Prediction: $100m open, $310m final

Actual: $55m open, $125m current, ~$140m final

After the first film, this was regarded as a successor to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but with this film it’s clear that won’t be the case. Right now, I wonder if the plug has been pulled on Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

The reasons for the failure can probably be identified in three ways. First, the recognition isn’t anywhere near as high as it was for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Second, Disney moved it from the prime family season of Christmas to the more traditional action-blockbuster ground of May. Third, attempts to spice up the action may have aliented the core Christian audience. The first and third probably weren’t huge issues. Had it been the same film but released in December, it would have seen a decline from LWW, but not at this level. Dropping half the business is astonishing.

I was far too bullish on it trending like a traditional sequel to a popular film.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Prediction: $90m open ($150m 5-day), $280m final

Actual: $100m open ($152m 5-day), $253m current, ~$300m final

It’s almost in line with my prediction. I nailed the 5-day, but I was assuming it would behave more traditionally for a well-anticipated film, with a larger percentage of the business coming on the opening Thursday (I expected $40m, it earned $25m.) The final is a bit up in the air, because the legs are unsure. It could remain fairly strong in the next few weekends, in which case it might challenge Iron Man for the summer crown, or it could fade quicker and finish with $290m or so. Regardless, it’s doing stunning business (and Paramount has to be happy with the business of the pair.)

Postal

I’m only mentioning it because I made a prediction with the expectation that it would get a release. As it stands, it showed up in four theaters and is going to be the lowest grossing Uwe Boll film by far. Oddly, it’s also his best reviewed film by a considerable margin.

Sex and the City

Prediction: $20m open, $70m final

Actual: $57m open, $99m current, ~$130m final

While my initial prediction was probably a bit too low at the time, the expectation for big business didn’t really kick in until the week or so previous to the release. Even so, the size of the opening was hugely unexpected. I doubt anyone figured that this film would get a larger opening day than Indiana Jones nor a bigger opening weekend than Prince Caspian but both turned out to be the case. The legs are going to be poor, because it suffers from the fan factor, but that’s not really an issue. This is going to be one of the biggest surprises of the summer.

The Strangers

Prediction: $8m open, $20m final

Actual: $21m open, $37m current, ~$60m final

On any other weekend, this would have been marked as the huge surprise and big news. However, it got completely overshadowed by Sex and the City, so the stellar performance here is probably going to be forgotten. In my personal defense, everyone probably missed this estimate. However, I can’t really excuse myself, because I just read a quick summary of the film and made a guess that it was torture porn. It’s not, apparently, instead going the route of being a psychological horror with slasher elements. What I should have done was watch the trailer, which is brilliant and creepy and actually makes the whole thing look pretty good.

Overall

While I expect May to have three stellar weekends, it’s not these three weekends. The first weekend and Memorial Day went down as predicted, but it’s the underperformance of Prince Caspian that shakes everything up.

The post-Memorial Day session can open big (Finding Nemo did that in 2003), but it’s usually reserved as a breathing weekend after the holiday. The fact that two films outpaced expectations this year might mean that it’ll be targetted for more counter-programming options in the future.

June’s already off to a rocking start, with openings from Kung Fu Panda and Zohan that beat my predictions. While the summer is still behind last year, it might be able to catch up. We’ll have to wait and see.

August Movie Predictor

As a box office month, there are two distinct parts of August. The first half can often be a continuation of a strong July, with a number of well-performing and high profile films. These won’t usually be on par with the releases in the first half of the season, but on occasion there will be some particular standouts. The Rush Hour series, Talledega Nights, The Bourne Ultimatum, Signs, and The Sixth Sense are all films that have done exemplary business after an early August start.

The latter half of the month is very much a summer dumping ground. Films that the studios feel don’t have enough presence or power to hang it in the rest of the season will get shuffled off to the final couple of weeks. (Films that aren’t deemed good enough for the final weeks of summer will get moved to early September, which is traditionally even worse.)

This feast or famine dichotomy is only broken in a few cases. Only five of the top thirty largest opening weekends in August have come after the second weekend. One of those came from last year’s Halloween, over the Labor Day weekend. Two others were late summer surprises from Judd Apatow – Superbad and The 40 Year Old Virgin.

So with the stage set, we look forward to 2008. Will it follow the pattern?

Weekend of August 1

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

In the 19 years since the last time Indiana Jones took to fighting his way through the nooks and crannies of human history, there have been a few attempts to capitalize upon the archeological adventure genre. Perhaps the earliest came in 1994 with Stargate, which started off Roland Emmerich’s directing career and also spun off a popular TV series. However, in that case the archeological elements played second fiddle to the sci-fi elements. More recently there have been the National Treasure films. Despite the implausibility of the plots and very America-centric themes, they’ve managed to capture the fun adventure of the Indy films.

In between the two were The Mummy films, which were very much in the theme of Indiana Jones, both with the time period and sometimes bumbling heroics. However, after the second film in 2001, attempts to get a stumbled time and again. 2002 saw a spin-off Scorpion King movie, which started The Rock’s film career.

Now, after seven years, we get the third film in the series. On one hand, it looks like a fun film, with Brendan Fraser filling his old shoes at least as well as before, Jet Li providing the titular Dragon Emperor, and Maria Bello taking over for Rachel Weisz. It’s well situated to be a big late summer movie, as it comes two weeks after The Dark Knight and doesn’t see another action/adventure contender for another two weeks. And Stephen Sommers (unseen behind the camera since Van Helsing) has passed on the director’s chair in favor of Rob Cohen (unseen since Stealth)–oh, wait, was I looking for positives?

Well, for all his faults, Cohen does a good action sequence, at least. Hopefully he won’t lose on the humor of the series.

The downside, though? It’s been seven years! And while they sold well, The Mummy films aren’t something that stands as a high point in cinematic history. It’s similar in tone, but it isn’t Indiana Jones, and I’m not sure if anyone was clamoring for another film (well, besides Brendan Fraser). Witness how well Rush Hour 3 did last year, and that was after a six year gap.

As a possible offset against that, they’re not billing it as a specific sequel. It’s got The Mummy name, but I wonder if they could just have gone with The Dragon Emperor instead.

Opening: $40m, Final: $130m

The Rocker

One of the strongest staples of the comedy genre is the man who refuses to grow up. A number of comedy giants such as Steve Martin or John Belushi can trace their movie roots to this. These characters will fall into a few somewhat distinct characters, whether it’s the perennial frat-boy (think Vince Vaughn), the Peter Pan (Robin Williams), or the idiot man-child . The last has been quite popular of late, with Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and at least one character in any given Judd Apatow movie try to fill the shoes vacated by Jim Carrey and to a lesser Adam Sandler, who’s been drifting away from this role for the past few years.

The Rocker doesn’t start any of these people, but at first glance it seems like it could be an Apatow production. It’s got the mixture of slightly heartwarming family touches along with observing the humor of maturing and growing up. And it’s got one of Steve Carell’s co-stars from The Office in Rainn Wilson, who had a brilliant cameo spot in last year’s Juno. Wilson portrays a drummer who was ousted from a band in the 80s just before they hit it big. When he’s invited to perform with his nephew’s band at a Prom, he’s given a second chance at stardom. Hilarity ensues.

The film is directed by Peter Cattaneo, who managed to combine heartwarming with risque in The Full Monty. It doesn’t really have any standout names otherwise, so the success is largely going to come on the basis of the advertising. The initial trailer looks funny, but doesn’t quite have the Must See aspect that propelled last year’s Superbad to great heights. It’s also sandwiched between two much comedies.

Opening: $15, Final: $55m

Swing Vote

For all the flack he gets, Kevin Costner has put together a rather respectable career. Certainly, when compared to his big three movies from the early 90s (Dances with Wolves, Robin Hood, and The Bodyguard) it’s looked rather lackluster, but he’s managed to carve a niche out for himself as a mid-tier lead who can do just about anything. He’s managed to do action, romance, westerns, and thrillers with fairly equal success. Certainly he’s not breaking the bank, but you can probably pen him into opening a film to $10 million with a final total around $30 million. The occasional breakout could push him north of $50m.

And he’s cheap, so you can probably figure that any film he’s in won’t cost much more than $20m to make. But he’s often criticized and his films regarded as failures. Such is the legacy of Waterworld.

Swing Vote is a dramedy where through a bit of plot goldbergisms, Costner is an everman who ends up having the vote who will determine the next US President. Both candidates (Republican incumbent Kelsey Grammar and Democratic nominee Denis Hopper) descend to try and influence this improbably important single vote directly.

The release of the film is fairly topical, as most political movies (and especially any campaign-centered film) usually are. Most films of this sort tend to be a bit mercenary. Witness Robin Williams’ Man of the Year from 2006, for instance. Even when well done, political films tend to be a bit offputting. We go to films for escapism, and reminding us of reality doesn’t tend to sell. 1997’s Wag the Dog was a bit of spot-on commentary, but a bit too close to reality. The numerous failed Middle East war films of the past couple of years can also be attributed to this.

In its favor, Swing Vote doesn’t seem to be bending down that path. The focus is instead upon the everyman Costner. On one hand, we’ve got the focus on the hometown americans. On the other, there’s the fantasy of “What if a normal person could make some changes”.

Because of this, I don’t think it’s going to get quite the cold reception that most political films do. Few even get to the $40 million mark. The only in the past decade that’s even got that far was the remake of The Manchurian Candidate. Instead, I think it’s going to play a bit like 1993’s Dave.

Open: $10m, Final: $45m

Weekend of August 8

The Pineapple Express

The Apatow train keeps chugging along. after getting started with Anchorman in 2004, Apatow and crew hit it big in 2005 with The 40-Year old Virgin. A year later they knocked one out of the park with Talledega Nights. And then last year Apatow had the huge comedy tandem of Knocked Up and Superbad. This spring, he was also behind the modest hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The Pineapple Express sees Knocked Up star Seth Rogen taking the lead along with Spiderman’s James Franco. Rogen plays a stoner process server and Franco is his friendless dealer. When Rogen witnesses a murder by a crooked cop and a drug lord, the pair end up embroiled into the age-old comedy routine of buddies-on-the-run.

So we’ve got part stoner comedy, and part action-buddy comedy. In a sense, I think this is going to play a bit like an American version of an Edgar Wright film. The buddy element is a bit odd here because the vast majority of such films have the leads playing police officers or similar. Because of this, the film feels somewhat fresh, despite some standard conventions.

Both Apatow and Rogen are likely to hit more than they’ll miss. While they’ve had Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor, respectively, the number of successes in their career lends a lot of strong support. Additionally, Rogen has gone from unknown to box-office boosting lead in the course of one summer.

Open: $30m, Final: $110m

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2

In truth, there’s one reason this film should stand out as notable. Last October, after Warner Bros. saw the absolute failure of The Invasion and the disappointing performance of The Brave One, production president Jeff Robinov declared that WB wouldn’t be making movies starring women any more.

He quickly backtracked on the statement (saying it wasn’t true, or he’d been misheard, or the context was misunderstood), but as expected there was a large furor over it. I sat down and scoured the schedule. Over the course of the next year, three films could be said to star women from the WB library (so through September 08.) The first two were P.S. I Love You and Fool’s Gold, blatantly labeled as romance films. The third is this one, a junior chick-lit adaptation with some romance elements but (as with its predecessor) a bit more focused on friendship and growing up.

The first film was a modest success three years ago, opening to just under $10m and finishing up with $39m. This is perfectly respectable for the teen girl market, but isn’t a breakout (witness The Princess Diaries). This summer sees a bit of a dearth of such films, however, which could help propel this one to somewhat larger heights.

Open: $10m, Final: $45m

Weekend of August 15

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The Star Wars series stands as the epitomy of box office success, with the six films all registering among the biggest in their given years and bringing combined billions in revenue. Previous to the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999, fans were anticipating and awaiting two trilogies: the first the prequels that we did get and the latter to cover events that happened after Return of the Jedi. The somewhat let-down of the three recent films has dampened that enthusiasm somewhat, but the name and universe still has a lot of public appeal.

With the unknown final trilogy likely in permanent limbo, Lucasfilm has instead looked towards other endeavors, fleshing out the nooks and crannies of the universe in various ways. For the most part, video games, comics, and novels have been the typical venues for this expansion, but in 2003 a series of cartoon shorts began to fill in the storyline between Episodes II and III. Entitled “Clone Wars”, this series was created by Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack) and generated some rather strong acclaim, something that can’t really be said of Lucas’ own endeavors.

Fast forward to the present. Those TV shorts have become the basis of a new film that’s going to flesh out the storyline even more and then spin-off into a new TV series this fall. This time, it’s going to be done in some slick CG animation.

In a lot of ways, this could be very good. Lucas himself isn’t directly involved, so the people at work can probably keep things fresh and interesting. The visual style is a nice change of pace and could help keep the idea of Star Wars interesting. No mean feat when you consider the series is over thirty years old, now. The TV series itself seems to have a good premise with some episodes focused on smaller side characters and some that don’t feature much beyond the titular clones.

Of course, this is about the movie, and it feels a bit more stale. We’ve got an adventure quest featuring the typical Jedi heroes (including Anakin, as this comes before his Vader turn in Episode III). I can’t help but feel that the one thing Lucas really missed in the new trilogy that continues here is that the fun of Star Wars is in the scrappy rebels taking on improbable odds and succeeding, not in the hokey mysticism of the Jedi. Han Solo was an identifiable, flawed and enticing figure in a way that none of the newer characters have tried to match.

Plus, the first trailer for the film is extremely bland, perhaps one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It runs long, gives away much of the story, and has some groaningly awful taglines: “SEE STAR WARS LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE”. It might have worked 20 years ago, but not any more.These things need to be snappy, grab the audience attention and leave them salivating for more. That’s what gets them into the theaters.

Opening: $45m, Final: $140m

Tropic Thunder

Except for The Clone Wars, the end of August seems to be the typical film dumping ground. So why is this possibly priming itself to being one of the most anticipated films of the summer?

Three words: Robert Downey, Jr.

Iron Man transformed Downey from a well regarded actor who’s the butt of many jokes for his off-screen foibles. It’s a career-changing role somewhat akin to Johnny Depp’s in Pirates of the Caribbean. And Paramount cannily attached a trailer of Tropic Thunder to Iron Man, starting off what I expect is a summer-long campaign to whet audience’s appetites.

The concept: an film director, irate with the egos of his actors ruining his Vietnam War epic sends them off for some training in the jungle where they end up embroiled in a real conflict. At just that it could probably be a passable but ultimately forgettable film.

However, Downey’s performance drives the concept over the top. He’s a well-regarded Australian actor who undertakes a surgery so he can play a black sergeant in the film. So driven is he to immerse himself in the role that he refuses to break character. Of course since he has no idea how to be black, he’s left with quoting lines from sitcoms.

The trailer is absolutely hilarious. Downey’s joined by Ben Stiller (as the action hero), and Jack Black (as the prop-joke comic actor), each filling their actor role to a T. And even if Stiller sometimes tickles the annoyance meter, he’s also behind the camera this time, and his last film from that end was the brilliant Zoolander. I expect Tropic Thunder to deliver accordingly.

The downside is that it plays at the end of summer. There’s a long road between now and then and while the first trailer is brilliant, they run the risk of over-exposing it. Also, the actors playing actors in a movie schtick could be a bit too meta and may turn audiences off.

But they should be fine if they keep selling Downey.

Open: $35m, Final: $110m

The International

Clive Owen as an interpol agent investigating corruption in global banking with Naomi Watts as his DA assistant. It’s directed by Tom Tykwar whos’ most known for Run Lola Run. None of the principles are box office draws, and given the release date, I don’t think that there’s any huge expectations for it.

Open: $10m, Final: $35m

Mirrors

A remake of a Korean horror film. While Asian horror remakes were a popular genre a few years ago, it’s become quite tired, and by now it’s very ho-hum. The Eye and Shutter, both earlier this year, failed to draw much. I don’t think Mirrors will do any better. Star Keifer Sutherland is big on TV, not in movies.

Open: $5m, Final: $15m

Weekend of August 22

The House Bunny

I swear someone wrote this script with Reese Witherspoon in mind: an Playboy Bunny is kicked out of the Mansion for being too old at 27. Directionless, she ends up a sorority house mother for a bunch of geeky girls and shows them how to be beautiful. Presumably there will be lessons learned about being true to oneself or somesuch.

Witherspoon has mostly moved on from these sorts of films thanks to her Oscar from Walk the Line. Instead we get Anna Faris, who’s talented but mostly known for the Scary Movie series.

This is unlikely to break out. The trailer has some fairly typical laughs as Faris plays a bubblehead who’s only got a few very specific skills. It’s also somewhat offensive; women don’t need to go the route of Playboy to be beautiful. Plus it’s got the typical Hollywood ugly going on: hot girls with their hair up and glasses, just a layer of rouge away from the red carpet.

Opening: $10m, Final: $30m

The Accidental Husband

A romantic comedy from fledgling distributor Yari Film Group (biggest film to date: The Illusionist). We’ve got Uma Thurman as a radio talk-show host who dispenses romance advice. Due to some internet shenanigans, she ends up married to a fireman (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) while she’s planning her own wedding to Colin Firth.

RomComs can sell very well, but they are somewhat subject to name recognition issues. For this film, there really aren’t any. Thurman is known, but her biggest films are all directed by Quentin Tarantino. With this she could be attempting to remake herself as a romantic lead, but it’s an iffy shot, especially coming from Yari.

Opening: $5m, Final: $20m

Death Race

Another year, another late summer Jason Statham film primed for the Labor Day weekend. He’s had a number of these over the past several years, somewhat setting himself up as the go-to action guy for what is typically the weakest holiday weekend of the year. Hey, if it works.

The biggest film he’s headlined was The Transporter 2 in 2005. Two years ago he had Crank, which proved to be an enjoyable action-fest and finished up with $27m. Last year’s WAR had him face off against Jet Li and saw $22m in business.

This time around he’s starring in a remake of Death Race 2000. It’s being directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, last seen behind the camera with Alian Vs. Predator. Like Statham, he’s carved out a lower-profile niche for himself.

Nothing great should be expected here, but it does have Statham behind the wheel of a car, which is a good sign (he also sat behind the wheel in The Italian Job, his biggest film).

Opening: $10m, Final: $25m

Crossing Over

This could be a powerful drama about immigrants attempting to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. It’s got some pedigree with Harrison Ford and Sean Penn, but I wonder about the quality if it’s got such a shitty release date.

Open: $5m, Final: $15m, but it could end up like Crash

Fly Me to the Moon

A Belgian CG animated film that’s apparently the first such feature entirely done in 3D. The only other notable thing about it is that Buzz Aldrin apparently provides a voice. Visually it looks fine, if a bit too strongly reminiscent of Pixar, but story-wise it looks entirely pedestrian and forgettable.

Open: $5m, Final: $10m

Weekend of August 29

Babylon A.D.

In 2000, Pitch Black set up Vin Diesel for a breakout. He successfully capitalized on it with 2001’s The Fast and the Furious and then followed it up with XXX in 2002. He seemed like he was primed to be the next big action star. However, A Man Apart failed to succeeded and The Chronicles of Riddick disappointed.

The Pacifier in 2005 seemed to indicate he might have a new career direction: family oriented action comedy. But since then he hasn’t appeared in anything. He was slated to star in Hitman, but opted instead to go for Babylon A.D., which seems like it could be a less cerebral Children of Men.

This isn’t likely to be a career revitalization. The film was hit by numerous production delays, went over-budget, and has seen its release bumped from February to late August, which isn’t a good sign. At best it may turn out to be a middling hit for Diesel, but is certainly a step down from his career heights.

Open: $20m, Final: $45m

College

On the cusp of going back to school, a low-brow comedy about a group of high schoolers who take a weekend trip to see what college is like. While it’d probably like to be another Road Trip, it doesn’t even have the name recognition of Tom Green to drive it. Perhaps Accepted would be a better target, but it doesn’t have a cute concept or a good trailer. So it’s left with Eurotrip. Not really great company.

Open: $8m, Final: $15m

Traitor

Don Cheadle is awesome. Guy Pearce is pretty cool. This film may be critically good, but it’s not going to go anywhere.¬† It may not even get a wide release.

Open: $2m, Final: $5m

Disaster Movie

This is another effort by the same guys who brought us Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Meet the Spartans. Spoof films have been experiencing diminishing returns of late, as audiences come to realize that they’re not very funny or good. Given that the budget for any of these seems to be about $20-$30m, we’re probably not long from the tipping point where it’s no longer viable to make them.

Open: $5m, Final: $10m

Overall

We’re probably not going to see much that breaks the typical August pattern. The early films will be fairly big, while the late ones are the dregs that get shoved off to the side. If anything breaks out and surprises, it’s likely to be Tropic Thunder.

After each month, I’ll look into writing up a recap of how things did in comparison to my predictions.

July Movie Predictor

Weekend of July 4

Hancock
On a personal note, this has been my most anticipated film of the summer for some time. It represents something I rather like: an attempt to establish a superhero outside of a comics continuity and consciousness. For other examples, see The Incredibles and the TV series Heroes.

What’s important with these is that they tap into the core strength of the superhero genre without relying on the extensive, and often muddy and conflicting, backstory. The success of these tends to support the fact that well-done superhero stories don’t need either the public consciousness nor the print media to succeed. While the former is helpful (invariably, the more well-known the hero is the better the movie is going to perform, regardless of quality), the latter might actually be a detriment. Arguably the success of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man is due to the filmmakers stripping out as much of the excess and detritus to have the films focus on the core aspects of the characters.

The Incredibles showcased how well this works. We don’t need to know the full history of the supers. It’s hinted at and shown, but a lexicon isn’t necessary. Thus, the story can instead focus on the plot and character development rather than the minutia.

Hancock is another such attempt, so I’m excited. Plus, it stars Will Smith, who’s just about the most consistent actor working today. He’s had an interesting movie career which can be broken into a few different sections, but in almost all of them, he’s been a rousing success. What’s really interesting is that Hancock seems to be a meshing of the formula of his early success (big budget July 4th event films) with his recent success (intelligent films with broad appeal). While he might not ever get back to the heights that Independence Day reached in 1996, he is coming off the second biggest unadjusted film of his career in I Am Legend. Considering that the film was basically him and nothing else, that’s quite an achievement.

Hancock’s got a neat premise, cushy release date, and the biggest star in Hollywood.

Opening: $70m, Final: $230m

Weekend of July 11

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Another interesting superhero film. The first Hellboy is one of the top film adaptations of a comic book. Guillermo del Toro is an excellent director who manages to get across the core strengths of the characters as well as an ability to deliver strong spectacle on a budget. Blade II is easily the best film of that trilogy, and there’s a reason he’s been tapped to do the Hobbit films.

Of course, while Hellboy is excellent, it’s not a big film. Made for $66m, it didn’t even gross $100m worldwide, which would normally forego any chances of a sequel. But it’s probably apparent that it’s lack of success wasn’t due to quality but rather that nobody fucking knows who Hellboy is. I’ve been reading comics for over 20 years, and I didn’t actually read a Hellboy book until late last year. Public consciousness drives some of the success for these figures, and there isn’t any here.

Of course, the quality of the first film, along with a fairly effective (if a bit pedestrian) trailer should help Hellboy II do better. I don’t think we’re in for a spectacular ride, but it should be yet another solid outing from del Toro.

Opening: $30m, Final: $75m

Meet Dave
Eddie Murphy’s career has been a roller coaster. In the 80s, he had a series of successful films that put him among the most successful actors of the decade. The early 90s saw him made a number of poor choices and it seemed like his career was all but over.

Then came The Nutty Professor in 1996 and for a couple years he was hot like the 80s, although his target audience had dropped a good decade or two in age.

He followed that up with a cold spell for two years, and then a small but huge resurgence in 2000 and 2001, centered on the release of Shrek. Not content to rest on his successful laurels, he had three outright bombs in 2002.

For any other actor, three sustained poor periods would probably be a deathknell, but in 2003, Murphy started another strong period with Daddy Day Care, which hasn’t really ended.

The quality of most of his films isn’t there, with offerings like Daddy Day Care and Norbit being derided by almost everyone. Even the Shrek sequels have been denigrated. But Murphy’s shown that he’s a consistent draw, if a bit juvenile, and he did manage to squeeze in a critically acclaimed performance in Dreamgirls.

So where does this leave Meet Dave. From the trailer, it looks like the typical fare that Murphy’s delivered over the past five years. Pedestrian, juvenile, and funny in a lowest-common-denominator way. Whether or not it succeeds will probably depend on whether it’s forgettably funny or offensive to the viewer.

I’m inclined to think that he might be headed for another career downturn, but he’s got plenty of staying power and could be back in short order.

Opening: $25m, Final: $70m

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Walden Media is a troublesome company. While there’s the obvious high point (The Chronicles of Narnia), and a string of other moderately successful book adaptations (Because of Winn-Dixie, The Waterhorse, Nim’s Island), most of the company’s output has been in the range of disappointing (Charlotte’s Web) or an absolute bomb (Hoot, How to Eat Fried Worms, The Seeker, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium).

In fact, besides Narnia, there’s really only two standout successes: Holes in 2003, and Bridge to Terabithia in 2007. Were it not for CS Lewis, I’d honestly be surprised if we’d even see anything from the company right now.

This time around, I think we’re looking at another bomb. See, Journey to the Center of the Earth bears a lot of similarity to the worst mark on Walden’s record: Around the World in 80 Days. Like that it’s an effects driven film based on a Jules Verne novel that is squarely focused on the family-friendly bracket.

It also doesn’t look very good. This can probably look at slightly better business than Around the World, but certainly nothing to be proud of.

Opening, $15m, Final: $40m

Weekend of July 18

The Dark Knight
Like Hellboy, this is the sequel to a well-done comic book film, helmed by a director noted for the quality of his craft and ability to evoke depth in the characters and keeping the narrative gripping. Unlike Hellboy, this has name recognition to spur it to greater heights.

Batman Begins was a phenomenal film. Lifting the Batman franchise back to new heights, it also established itself as a new bar to measure the introductory film for a superhero. However, it was somewhat crippled by the WB marketing engine, lack of recognizable enemies, and the fact that the sour taste of Joel Schumacher hadn’t quite left the public consciousness.

Three years later, Batman’s probably going to stand on his own. Plus, he’s got his most recognizable villain in the Joker to face off against, looking especially psychotic and absolutely gripping as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. Gone is the 60s-esque tomfoolery of Jack Nicholson, this is a Joker that rides on fear, not laughs.

Early concerns about the script have been washed away by the advertising, which is uncharacteristically strong for a WB film. The first trailer made it look like an enticing continuation of the previous, but the new one in front of Iron Man catapults it beyond. Like Spiderman and the X-men, it seems as if the second Batman film is going to be in a league of its own, quality-wise.

Opening: $85m, Final: $270m

Mamma Mia!
Thanks largely to the modest success of Moulin Rouge! in 2001, musicals have had a bit of a comeback this decade. Chicago in 2002 can be pointed as the ideal goal: excellent business and critical acclaim.

Of course, the success hasn’t always been coming. The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and The Producers were, like Chicago, adaptations of Broadway musicals with similarly high aspirations. However, they didn’t garner either the box office success of the movie predecessors or their own live performance counterparts.

Even Dreamgirls (an original production, but the clearest spiritual successor to Chicago) failed to live up to hype and expectations. It seemed like the genre was taking its steps towards obscurity again.

Then Hairspray hit. Possibly the biggest surprise success of last summer, it managed to ride that often-ignored demographic-the teenage girl-to astounding success. Even the frankly weird and a bit offputting John Travolta in drag couldn’t hamper it.

Mamma Mia! seems like it’s well situated to take up the baton and run with it. It’s got a bunch of catchy tunes (from ABBA, possibly the greatest producers of pop of all time), easy to grasp and upbeat plot, and practically the same release date. If nothing else, it’s a brilliantly placed bit of counter-programming against Batman.

But wait. It lacks one thing that Hairspray had: teenagers. The plot centers around a wedding and a bride-to-be with three possible fathers, which skews a bit older than Hairspray’s crowd. Even so, I think it’ll see a fair bit of success, even if not quite at those heights.

Opening: $25m, Final: $80m

Space Chimps
In the realm of computer animated films, there are two groups: the high budget, high performance options from Dreamworks, Pixar, and Blue Sky Studios and just about everything else.

Space Chimps falls into the second group. It might be good, or at least enjoyable, but it’s not going to be big. Patrick Warburton likely has yet another fun role to add to his resume, but it’s not a breakout.

Opening: $10m, Final: $35m

Weekend of July 25

Step Brothers
Since 2003, Will Ferrell has been struggling under the auspice of being the next huge comedy star as the true successor of Jim Carrey. In that year, he stole the show in Old School and then followed it up with the monster hit Elf, both of which established him as a go-to guy to play idiot man-children.

Since then he’s mostly failed to capitalize. Anchorman in 2004 was well received, but Steve Carell upstaged him in a big way. 2005 brought Kicking and Screaming and Bewitched, neither of which satisfied or delivered. In 2006, he provided his voice to the underperforming Curious George, but also headlined Talledega Nights, which finally made it seem like he was delivering on his potential. He seemed like he was on a roll with Blades of Glory last March, but just this year he crashed hard with Semi-Pro.

And now we’re at Step Brothers. The initial signs seem good for the film. It bears some similarity to Talledega Nights. Like that film, Ferrell co-wrote the script with director Adam McKay. Also, he has costar John C. Reilly and a similar release date.

The initial trailer showcases Ferrell’s strength, with both him and Reilly playing immature middle-aged men. And despite both of them skeweing heavily idiotic (they both live with their parents, who get married, hence the step brother scenario), the roles don’t feel annoying and excessive, which may have been the damning point for Semi Pro.

Opening: $35, Final: $115.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Ten years after the first theatrical film, and six years since the end of the TV series, Agents Mulder and Scully return for another adventure. Unlike the previous movie, this one stands alone from the mythos of the series, instead following the monster-of-the-week formula used in some episodes. In effect, it’s an extra long episode, six years after the fact.

The first film did quite well, opening to $30m and finishing with $84m. It did even better overseas, earning $105m. And this isn’t an attempt to just cash in on the name. Stars Duchovny and Anderson are back, as is series creator Chris Carter, this time in the director’s chair. If nothing else, it should be a faithful extension of the original series, likely to please the fans and with potential to drag in some new ones.

However, I wonder about the timing. Fans of the series certainly still exist, but in the intervening time, they’ve likely moved onto other things. Lost, for example. And it hasn’t been so long that nostalgia for the series has set in.

On the other hand, it could be well primed to take that genre fansbase and expand it. I doubt anyone involved expects huge things, but if the film has quality and manages to deliver some positive response, it could re-establish the series for the big screen.

Or it could be another Serenity.

Opening: $25m, Final: $65m.

American Teen
So, take your prototypical high school movie, focusing on senior year. Showcase a slice from all the cliques as these students struggle with the end of their school lives and look forward to moving on and up in the world.

Fairly typical fare, right?

Except this time it’s a Sundance Award winning documentary.

I really have no idea what to expect from this film, but it’s getting a wide release, which is usually reserved for Michael Moore… and penguins.

Opening: $3m, Final: $10m, but it could take off, too.

Overall
While the two huge films should dominate over the month, it’s there’s a number of potentially solid releases. Certainly unlike May, studios are more willing to cram films into the theaters, even against hefty competition like Batman.

August predictions will likely have to wait another month or so. It’s getting to be difficult to find any trailers. I predict The Mummy 3 will have its first in front of Indiana Jones.

Technicolor Cotton Candy

My expectations for Speed Racer were understandably low. This was, after all, a directorial effort by the Wachowski brothers, who’d managed one of the bigger surprise blockbusters in 1999 with The Matrix, but managed to spin that into one of the most soul-deadening sequels of all time in 2003. (Actually, two soul-deadening sequels, but the second was so bad I still haven’t seen the third all the way through.)

However, I had to acknowledge that they do have a certain visual flair. And while not strictly behind the camera, they’d helped put together the enjoyable V for Vendetta adaptation.

The visual flair was readily apparent from the trailers. They had amped up the visuals to a stunning degree with colors just popping out all over the place in the more-than-real sense of high dynamic range photography. On multiple occasions after the first trailer came out, I had a friend describe it as watching a live-action Mario Kart race.

In this sense, the film delivers. The visuals are spot-on throughout. However, I’d have to disagree with my friends. This isn’t Mario Kart, but instead another Nintendo franchise: F-Zero. The cars are not little buggies with weapons, but overpowered machines on gravity-defying tracks where only the slightest loss of control spells the (near) doom of the driver.

That sense barely restrained power is pushed further because these are not just straight muscle races. The cars collide, drift, and skid around the tracks in the sense of a stunt-induced stock car race, but also twist and jump thanks to otherworldly add-ons. Physics, indeed reality itself, is put on hold in an almost loving attachment for the ridiculousness of the original anime.

This is perhaps the greatest strength of the film. The Wachowskis seemed to realize that what they were trying to portray would only be ruined if they attempted to make it realistic. Instead, this might be one of the purest attempts to create a presentational world, that bears little connection to our own, in live-action film. In a sense, it’s like they tapped into the psyches of Spike Jonze and Michael Gondry although without stating that what is happening is all in someone’s mind.

To achieve this, they’ve made this new reality futuristic, certainly, but tied strictly to the style and sense of the 50s and 60s era that begat the original. Hence the bright vibrant colors, of course, but a number of smaller details stand out. The characters themselves all look like they’ve been plucked from a bygone era, perhaps typified most by Susan Sarandon’s flip haircut. The Racer household even more emphasizes this nostalgia, with the wallpaper, furnishings, and even the basic layout looking like it belongs in late 1950s suburbia.

The musical score by Michael Giacchino is an interesting and positive addition to support the overall tone. It samples heavily from the classic anime soundtrack, but rather than taking the sound and modernizing it, the sound is rather made to create that 60s-era sensibility. Giacchino jumped back several decades, spurning techno or rock updates and even choosing to skip on the John Williams-esque orchestrations from the 70s. The score sounds like it might have come from the mind of Hugo Montenegro, and it works perfectly.

The result is a film that, short of 3-D, might be the most likely to jump out at the screen. The races are enjoyable and exciting and linked by slower scenes that at their core show appreciation and nostalgia for the mid-century American family unit.

It’s not perfect, however. At times the race action gets too active and confusing, much the way last year’s Transformers did. At times it would have been beneficial for the Wachowskis to slow things down a bit so we can get drawn into the action more. Rather than sitting on the sidelines with the family, we’d prefer to be behind the wheel with Speed. While we are the movies audience, it doesn’t make sense to also make us spectators to the races themselves.

And despite the excitement in the video game sense, there is a bit of predisposition to the races. We’re never really left with the sense that Speed or Racer X are in any real danger. The one time Speed does lose is first foreshadowed (or predicted), but the action event itself happens off-screen. This makes it more difficult to connect and again creates the sense that we’re not being invited to fully enjoy the world that’s been created.

The film has other problems. The writing is uneven and overly long, which probably makes the entire picture about 15-20 minutes too long. This is really a shame, because the first race sequence manages to fairly successfully blend a somewhat involved and complex backstory into the present action, a rather nifty cinematic trick. After that, the plot proceeds in a fairly pedestrian manner. I can’t help but think how much better it would have worked if they had tried to increase the information density along with the visual density.

Also, the acting is rather bad. Emile Hirsch is a passable Speed, but in truth it probably could have been any young actor behind the wheel. Christina Ricci is an enjoyable Trixie, showing sass and independence, and looks wonderfully alluring, but this isn’t stretching her acting chops any. Roger Allam is an enjoyable bad guy, but he’s also overacting enough to evoke Alan Rickman from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I believel Allam would have eaten all the scenery, if it actually existed. And then there’s Matthew Fox as Racer X, who looks and sounds completely wooden throughout. Apparently Keanu Reeves turned down the part; The Wachowskis must have told Fox to just be like Keanu.

Still, I’m left somewhat surprised that the good outweighs the bad for the film. It’s not great by any stretch, and I’m not sure if I’d ever want or need to see it again, but it’s an enjoyable two hours, and given the visual feast, I can’t say that the time or money spent on the IMAX experience was wasted.

It’s a shame, really, that in the weeks leading into the release, the reception started to tank. The blame can probably be laid at the hands of WB’s ever-vigilent marketing department. Few companies are so good at turning potentially strong products into mediocre-at-best performers. Because of that, we’ll probably not see another attempt like this for quite some time. And while the Wachowskis may not have fully succeeded in making a good film, they did succeed in doing something quite different and doing it well. If this had been successful, perhaps we’d be in for a real treat: a fully presentational film that’s visually stunning and good cinema.

June Movie Predictor

The course of the summer movie season tends to follow a fairly standard pattern. Or at least, that’s what the movie studios attempt to do. May is the place to showcase a few huge films, possibly with a smaller number of counter-programming options. After Memorial Day, things will tend to lighten up, so that early June is relatively light. Over the subsequent weeks, the films will build, culminating around early July. A few weeks later, things will begin to tail off again until you get to late August, when it’s hardly the same season.

The May films followed the typical pattern. There’s a couple huge sequels, another couple large budget endeavors (that hopefully spawn sequels) and a few counter-programming options.

June (and the last weekend in may) starts of comparatively light, but the end of the month could go toe-to-toe with any of the big May films.

Weekend of June 6

Kung Fu Panda
Dreamworks has built itself to be the solid animation alternative. Sure, none of their films compare to Pixar’s in quality, but they do make money, especially Shrek. But it’s not all the green ogre, as Madegascar, Shark Tale, and Over the Hedge all cruised past $150m.

Kung Fu Panda could get into that range. Jack Black’s not exactly a huge draw, but despite Dreamworks’ efforts, the actors behind the roles really do not matter. The advertising is fairly cute, even if the use of “Kung Fu Fighting” is extremely tired.

We’re not seeing much of the plot, but given DW’s track record, it’s probably enjoyable, but not spectacular, opting instead for a number of pop-cultural references and sight gags rather than a developing plot and humor from the character development.

We’re probably not going to see stellar numbers, but it should do well enough.

Opening: $40m, Final: $135m

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
Adam Sandler’s become one of the most consistent stars in Hollywood. Over the past ten years, he’s seen eight films cross the century mark, and this one should make it nine.

Whether or not the films are good doesn’t really matter. He provides a consistent product that the audiences enjoy, his characters are a bit bumbling, a bit loony, and possibly just shy of psychotic, while still being somewhat relatable.

This time around, he’s teamed up with Judd Apatow (who’s also got a bit of a golden touch for comedy of late) to deliver the tale of a Mossad agent who’s tired of allt he counter-terrorism and moves to New York to be a hairdresser. Hilarity ensues.

It’s really a bit of a toss-up between this film and Panda for which will be bigger, I’m inclined to think that this will actually be better, but the kids will drive the other a bit further.

Opening: $35, Final: $125

Weekend of June 13

The Incredible Hulk
The first Hulk film delivered the biggest (at the time) June opening in history. Unfortunately, it delivered little else, leaving critics and audiences alike somewhat bewildered and detached. As such, it fell spectacularly and barely earned again what it had in those first three days.

Even so, it didn’t lose money, and Universal decided to give it another go. Rather than a sequel, they’re trying to jump-start a series again. We’ll find out if you do get a second chance for first impressions. The film sports an all new cast, an all new director, and an all new approach to portraying the big green.

The most recent trailer, which aired in front of Iron Man, looks spectacular. It’s miles ahead of the earlier trailer, which made the oft-repeated mistake of showing us the entire film. This new one is an improvement, but it’s fighting a lot of negative baggage. If the film is going to over come that, it’ll have to be good. Perhaps not Iron Man good, but certainly at least as accessible as the first X-Men film.

Opening: $40, Final: $115

The Happening
Speaking of damaged goods, we’ve also got the latest offering from M. Night Shyamalan. Like his previous films, we’re probably in for a fair amount of creepy atmosphere and a twist ending that’s likely to be divisive.

The real question here is whether M. Night can bounce back from Lady in the Water and The Village. The quality of his direction isn’t in doubt. But his writing has become a big question mark. If The Happening can recover his bleeding fanbase, it speaks well for his career. If not, well, he may not have many chances.

In The Happening’s favor, it’s cheap (just $57m to make), and it looks pretty good. On the downside, the title is really, really dumb.

Opening: $25, Final: $70

Weekend of June 20

Get Smart
The reason why Hollywood keeps remaking old TV shows as movies is obvious. Nostalgia is a powerful market force. Anyone who’s grown up with a show is likely to wish for one more adventure. Obviously, over time it becomes impossible to recapture the sense of the original show exactly, so there is a greater or lesser degree of revision involved.

The downside is that most of these adaptations suck. A few (Mission Impossible, The Fugitive, Maverick) stand out as enjoyable and well-made on their own. The majority are terrible and audiences quite justifiably stay away.

In its favor, Steve Carell is the perfect casting choice. He’s not a huge draw, but has soem quiet consistency. The 40 Year Old Virgin did considerably better than expectation and he stood out among the whole cast in Anchorman. He’s provided his voice to two animated features (Horton Hears a Who! and Over the Hedge). And he’s shown some indie dramady cred with Little Miss Sunshine and Dan in Real Life.

The downside? Evan Almighty was one of the bigger disappointments last sumer, and it hit on the same weekend. Sure, it barely crossed $100m, but it’s not likely to be a resume highlight for Carell or anyone involved.

Where Get Smart ends up will likely depend on its quality. I’d like to say that the cast (besides Carell there’s the talented Anne Hathaway and the always enjoyable Rock) would help it, but I’m hesitant to call anyone here a huge draw.

Opening: $30, Final: $80 (with the opportunity to be surprised if it breaks out)

The Love Guru
In 1999, there was an alleged bet between Adam Sandler and Mike Myers over whose film would be bigger. Sandler had just seen his breakout year in 1998, with The Wedding Singer doing surprisingly strong business in the early months and The Waterboy cleaning up in the holidays. Myers hadn’t had a big hit since Wayne’s World in 1992, but Austin Powers did better than expected in 1997.

So the question was would Big Daddy (opening June 25) be bigger than Austin Powers 2 (opening June 11). At the time, Sandler probaby figured he had a good chance of winning and he would go to see the biggest film of his career. But thanks largely to a brilliant trailer before The Phantom Menace, Austin Powers 2 won by an easy $40 million.

I wonder if they’d make the same bet again this year. While arguably Myers has been the bigger star since then, he’s only been in six films. Three of them are the Shrek films, huge and ‘starring’ him, but not really sold by him. One was the third Austin Powers film, even bigger than the second but also six years old. One was the low-performing ensemble comedy View from the Top. An the final was the atrocious Cat in the Hat film, back in 2003.

Myers hasn’t starred in a live action film in over 4 years. I’m not sure he’s much of a draw at all. From the trailer, it looks like entirely typical Myers fare: he’s got an odd accent and plays a smarmy idiot.

Plus, it’s opening against another comedy, which has actors people still recognize, looks better, and actually has trailers that people can see.

If Sandler is looking to bet again, Myers would be wise to stay clear.

Opening: $30m, Final: $70m

Weekend of June 27

Wall-E
Is Pixar losing its touch?

Now, it’s seen six straight films gross over $200m. But since it’s high point of Finding Nemo in 2003, it’s seen steadily dropping grosses. Two years ago, Cars didn’t get the typically ecstatic critical response (settling for merely very good as opposed to outstanding) and felt like the weakest link in the studio’s oeuvre. Last year’s Ratatoille barely crossed the $200m threshold despite arguably being the company’s best film

So what about Wall-E. Will it continue the company’s rather steller direction? Will it see a further drop-off from Ratatoille? Or will it be a return to form?

I’m inclined to be bullish on Wall-E. While Ratatoille was spectacular, it suffered from a few problems: First, it’s about rats, not really a strong audience draw. Second, it was set in France, which tends to be denigrated by Americans at the best of times, and has been somewhat despised over the past several years. Third, the scope of the story was quite a bit smaller than previous Pixar films; there wasn’t nearly as much wow factor for it.

Wall-E managed to step around all three of those quite nicely. It’s about a robot who doesn’t have any nationality and he goes on an adventure in space. Plus, it looks brilliantly funny. Director Andrew Stanton delivered a home-run with Finding Nemo, so Wall-E is in good hands.

Opening: $75m, Final: $290m

Wanted
Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to this film until about a month ago. I’d tried to read Mark Millar’s series, but it was very typically Millar: full of unlikable protagonists with fascist ideologies. In The Authority it was interesting, in The Ultimates it was funny. Now it’s just a massive amount of treading over the same territory.

But then I found out about a name that means a lot more to me than Millar’s: Timur Bekmambetov. The director delivered one of the most enjoyable action films I’ve seen this decade in Night Watch.

And then I saw the trailer, which makes Wanted look like a slick and fun, if shallow, ride. Bekmambetov’s flair for action is playing well, and it should be quite a ride even if it’s ridiculous.

For the cast, the only real draw is Angelina Jolie, who’s had an uneven career. While she’s had some shining action films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, she’s also done poorly with Sky Captain and Beowulf. More often than not, she’s not so much the draw herself as along for the ride.

Regardless, the expectations for the film should be fairly modest. It’s a comic book property, but it’s definitely lower tier than anything from Marvel or DC. It’s closer to V for Vendetta, Sin City, or Constantine than Batman or the X-Men. Of course, it does have a fairly comfortable summer slot, while those previous films were more likely to show up in the winter months.

Opening: $35, Final: $90

Overall
Last June was a bit of an odd month, with the expected strong performers (Ratatoille, Evan Almighty) not quite hitting par and some under the radar films (Knocked Up, 1408) doing quite well for themselves. Even the films that hit it about right (Ocean’s Thirteen, FF: Silver Surfer), did well in their openings, but lost ground rapidly.

I think this year is an overall stronger crop. There’s top tier films look a little stronger than last years, so the bulk of the lifting isn’t going to fall to the lower-tier products.