Opening August 3rd: A Massive Range Of Probable Outcomes

Generally We Have A Good Idea Of What Movies Will Likely Do, This Week Every Possibility Seems Likely

Hit? Bomb? So-So? Could Be Any Of Them.
Wednesday’s are the days I begin to look at what movies will be released on Friday in anticipation of writing my weekly previews on Thursday. I look through the list of anywhere from 8 to 10 movies and I have a good idea how successful they will probably be. Online buzz, reviews, the weekend they are being released, what other movies are out there, who’s the star, who’s the director, what the trailer looks like and some number of other factors (including how good the movie actually is) all come together to give me (or anyone else for that matter) a pretty good, and generally accurate, idea of what’s going to happen. If you’re saying to yourself “well, then why are there so many surprises?” I would say simply if we didn’t have a good idea and we weren’t generally right than there wouldn’t be ANY surprises. The surprise hits and bombs exist because they are the exceptions to the rule, the statistical outliers. There is a likely, a probable outcome for the success of a movie, so when The Watch significantly underperforms we aren’t surprised because there were a whole bunch of indicators before it ever came out that the movie had problems (same with Battleship, The Dark Shadows and most other underperforming movie of the summer). That is why when The Dictator “bombed” it was surprising, because most of the indicators pointed to (not Borat success maybe, but still) a strong showing. This week it is impossible for me to be surprised.
Do I think Total Recall will be the an August hit, grossing in the $120 to $150 million range domestically and adding significant International box office to it’s totals? Maybe. Do I think Total Recall will be a so-so performer domestically, grossing something like $75 to $100 million, but be markedly stronger internationally and become one of those “why are they making another Total Recall?” movies because people wont appreciate its profitability outside the U.S.? Maybe. I can’t think of any scenario for the box office success or failure of Total Recall that I don’t see as a real possibility. And you know what, I feel the same way about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Even the limited release movies, because some have “stars”, have an abnormally likely range of potential outcomes.
Of course, a large part of the reason behind this abnormality is that it is August and it is an Olympic year and there is a Batman movie in the theaters. Any one of those factors could kill a movie or have absolutely no impact on any given movie. The combination of those factors and movies and stars whose track records are unpredictable to say the least leads to a weekend where I can honestly say, I just don’t know. And if you know me you know how much I hate admitting that.

Total Recall
Interest Level: 9
Is That A Surprise To Anyone Who Has Been On This Site: Nope
First, let’s dis-spell a myth – the first Total Recall is not a classic whose perfection makes remaking the material pointless or downright sinful. Arnold’s Total Recall is campy and over the top and hysterical in the way that most of Arnold’s movies in that era were. The genius of Arnold was that he knew he wasn’t a good actor, he knew they weren’t making important movies, so all of his best movies were made with a wink to the audience. It made for fun goofy action movies that hold up well to this day. Collin Ferrel is a really good actor. He can do things with Quaid that Arnold never could (not the least of which is convincingly play a “normal” guy) and he plays light comedy and action well. This is going to be a very different Total Recall, in truth I suspect it will be closer to Minority Report (also adapted from a Philip K. Dick story and also with Collin Ferrel) in tone and style than the original Total Recall. In the end I am rooting for this movie. I am rooting for it because I feel like both Collin Ferrel and Jessica Biel are the right project away from being real action movie stars. I am rooting for it because I think the Underworld movies are fun and I want Len Wiseman and Kate Beckinsale to have success together away from vampires in skin-tight leather. I am rooting for it because I like good, old-fashioned sic-fi action that do not rely on the origins of man or superheroes. I am rooting for it because the second they announced they were making it my wife and I looked at each other and said “oh yeah!”
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Interest Level: 7 (look at the Interest Level Meter definitions)
If I Didn’t Have An 8 yr. old Son: 1

I’m trying to think of the right way to say this. I HATE the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I hate them because the main character is a horrible, horrible person. He is selfish. He is mean and petty to his friends. He wines constantly and laments what is not given to him. He is lazy. He is dishonest. What’s worse than all of that is that the book sells him as funny, as “oh, see, this is just how we all were.” NO! As a parent the lead character in these books has almost no attributes I would ever want my son to emulate*. The filmmakers have smartly softened the kid a bit for the movies (still a dreadful human being, but not so bad as to be infuriating), but really these are films parents suffer through because their kids want to see them. My wife and I are already pushing hard to leave this movie to DVD viewing so we don’t have to spend $30 in the theater.

*note: I am not suggesting the books are dangerously bad or should be banned. My son has read them all and I am of the opinion that, within obvious reason, any book that gets kids to read are a net positive. Having said that, while my son and I often read books together, I cannot read these books. The boy has to do these all on his own and I don’t even want to hear about them.


Celeste and Jesse Forever
Interest Level: 3
Any Questions How This Movie Will Do: None

My whole preamble to this week’s releases does not apply to Celeste and Jesse Forever. You might think it would given that it stars Rashida Jones and Andy Sandberg and is one of those anti romantic comedies that are kind of popular right now (this is about a couple getting divorced who are trying to maintain their friendship while pursuing other people). The problem is, it is not a good movie, and the premise and stars aren’t anywhere near good enough to overcome that.


360
Interest Level: 3
How Good Was City of God: Top 20 or higher of the 00’s

Fernando Meirelles is a director who in the last decade has made one truly brilliant movie (City of God), two very good movies (The Constant Gardener and Blindness) and now this. Reviews for this movie were so bad that it almost couldn’t get out of the festival circuit even with Jude Law and Rachel Weisz and Anthony Hopkins and Ben Foster (quite a cast). Look, anyone who makes movies that don’t rely on CGI or action or genre and instead present stories about people are bound to misstep from time to time. Here’s hoping his next movie is a return to form.


The Babymakers
Interest Level: 6
Are You A Broken Lizard Fan: Absolutely

Do you know who Broken Lizard are? If yes this movie is directed by one of the guys (Jay Chandrasekhar). If you answered no, go rent Beerfest or Super Troopers (my two favorites).  Are you watching The Newsroom on HBO? If yes than you may or may not care that this movie costars Olivia Munn. If no, it is good, but if you are infuriated by constant bashing of the Tea Party and the right wing in general you will definitely want to avoid it. As for The Babymakers it is an offbeat comedy about a guy who hasn’t been able to get his wife pregnant and for a number of reasons is then compelled to break into a sperm bake to steal back the sperm he donated years earlier. Quirky stars, quirky director, quirky premise. Frankly all of that quirky either has you excited or nervous. If you are nervous you’ll probably want to stay away. If you are excited, you should be excited.

note: the trailer is the Red Band Trailer (the R-rated trailer). FYI for those who don’t want to see that.


You’ve Been Trumped
Interest Level: 8
Are You Surprised It Has Become The Top British Produced Film Of All Time According To IMDB’s User Ratings: Shocked, Actually

Rumblings about this amazing documentary that focuses on a group of Scottish homeowners who try to put a stop to Donald Trump putting a golf course on one of Scotland’s last wilderness areas have been sounding for the better part of a year. You’ve Been Trumped has been racking up awards and praise in festivals all over the world and has already made a hit of itself in much of Europe. As with nearly all documentaries, be forewarned that it will be anti big business/pro the little guy. But it is an inspiring tale and is extremely well told.


Mosquita y Mari
Interest Level: 0
Are You Saying You Think Its Bad: Not At All

Assigned as study partners two girls become close friends and develop a bond that confuses them at times. First time director Aurora Guerrero (who also wrote the movie) got this film into Sundance and has stayed very true, apparently, to her vision of keeping her story aimed toward Latino women. All of which is terrific and a sincere congratulations are definitely in order. But I have to be honest, when and why would I see this movie?


Craigslist Joe
Interest Level: 6
Do You Suspect It Will Keep Momentum For 90 minutes: Nope
As America’s economy is crumbling and our sense of community is being questioned one man decided to leave everything behind to see if he can survive solely on the goodwill of others using Craigslist as his way of reaching out. Great idea, might be kind of interesting for 30 to 45 minutes. I just can’t see how they will make that a 90 minute documentary without being massively repetitive. This just screams “watch me on IFC in a few months when you can switch channels from time to time.”

Conclusion

I already wrote this week how August is my favorite month for movies, and this week is a prime example. Who knows how these movies will do? Will they get swallowed up by the Olympics and TDKR and people getting as much outside playtime in as possible before school starts? Or will this week have the August hits that surprise each year? I’m not sure and while I may hate admitting that, it is kind of fun to live through it.

But hey, what do I know, I’m fat.