RECORDS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN
I will not go off on a rant about Aaron Sorkin’s HBO hate-watch hit, but this last week Olivia Munn’s Sloan Sabbith described the state of hollywood today to a “T”. The big box office bombs get press, people lament the state of movies as “art”, and Hollywood continues to be the most successful and reliable exporter of product in the United States. Sure, fall is the time when the great movies begin to come out to play (and there are plenty this year), but this fall will really be about breaking records, or, more specifically, a record. Can hollywood follow its biggest summer ever with its biggest fall ever? Can hollywood reach $11 billion at the domestic box office for the year? Of course, in order to do that hollywood is going to need the right mix of movies. Fall cannot be carried by big budget blockbusters alone. Fall needs would-be oscar winners. Fall needs horror franchises. Fall needs cult classics. Fall needs big-budget blockbusters too. And this fall they may have it all.
Riddick (September 6th)
Who: Vin Diesel and a bunch of people you will recognize but may not know by name.
What: Our favorite see-in-the-dark anti-hero is back fighting men and monsters and probably his past, because that is what Riddick does.
When: Sometime in the future.
Where: On a desolate planet, because Riddick always ends up on a desolate planet.
How: A LOT of special effects and scifi action. Bloody, graphic action at that. Riddick is getting back to its R-rated roots and is making no apologies for it.
Bottom Line: Given its release date Universal probably doesn’t have overly high aspirations for Riddick in the U.S. (my guess is they would be happy if it did something between $65 and $75 million), but they know better than anyone what F&F movies have done for Vin Diesel worldwide. This movie probably doesn’t even need to be released in the U.S. to be a big hit for Universal.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 (September 27th)
Who: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, NPH and Andy Sandberg
What: Giant food monsters with clever names and lots of colors
When: In an alternate, animated reality
Where: The island they abandoned last time
How: Flint Lockwood and his friends have to somehow turn off the machine that they seemed to destroy at the end of the last movie
Bottom Line: This one is simple, Sony Animation is owning the end of September the way Pixar owns the last weekend of June. This is the same weekend Sony Animation released Hotel Transylvania and cleaned up. You may not have liked the original Cloudy…, I may not have liked it, but you know who did, kids. And if you have kids under the age of 10 you already know you will be seeing this movie. And if all of that wasn’t enough reason to say this is the surest blockbuster of September no other animated family films are com in out until November 1st. Over a month with absolutely no competition! After a summer that had at least two too many animated features why hollywood is handing Cloudy… a whole month is beyond comprehension (Dreamworks could have given Turbo two weeks in October with nothing standing in its way instead of thinking they could compete with Monsters University and Despicable Me 2).
Baggage Claim (September 27th)
Who: Paula Patton and a number of other very attractive people
What: A flight attendant who vows to not be the oldest and only unmarried member of her family embarks on a 30 day quest to find a fiancé
When: In the next 30 days
Where: All over America as our heroine traverses thirty-thousand miles in her quest
How: She’s Paula Patton. I’m reasonably certain she can find somebody to say yes in 30 days.
Bottom Line: A few things to keep in mind here. 1) Never underestimate the african-american centric comedy audience, it exists and it is large. 2) Jumping The Broom might actually have been the best/funniest movie in this genre to have come out over the last few years (also starring Paula Patton). 3) Like Cloudy… Baggage Claim has little competition, 0 romantic comedies until November 1st and other than Don Jon and a new Jackass movie no real comedies either.
Would-Be Oscar Contenders
Salinger (September 6th)
Who: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ed Norton, Judd Apatow, John Cusak….
What: A documentary about J.D. Salinger
When: Interviews and rare footage spanning for the last 50 years since Catcher in the Rye was published
Where: All over
How: As you can imagine given the famed reclusiveness of the subject most is pieced together from other sources and the number of admirers of Salinger who participate is quite impressive.
Bottom Line: It has an outside shot both to have some financial success and to get some awards consideration. It is hard to say because we are really in the middle of a golden age of documentaries and it is hard to know if the irony of documenting a man after he has passed away who so treasured privacy while he was alive will play well. Ultimately will this feel a little bit like seeing the aliens at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the directors cut, where what we see really can’t live up to what we imagined? I don’t know.
Prisoners (September 20th)
Who: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Directed By Denis Villeneuve
What: A man kidnaps the person he thinks is behind the disappearance of his daughter and her best friend
When: The girls are disappear on Thanksgiving
How: Jackman, playing the dad, butts heads with Gyllenhaal, playing the cocksure detective, and eventually decides to take matters into his own hands. What is justice? How far would you go? What they will be mining emotionally isn’t hard to guess.
Bottom Line: Is Denis Villeneuve (oscar nominated director of the brilliant Incendies from two years ago) and a cast full of oscar nominated actors (and one winner in Melissa Leo) be enough to overcome a story that rings too familiar? For the awards, probably not, but for box office Jackman and Gyllenhaal have awfully strong track records.
Rush (September 27th)
Who: Thor (aka Chris Hemsworth), Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer and Directed By Ron Howard
What: The true story of one of the most famous rivalries in Formula 1 history
Where: All over the world
How: Sexy 1970’s ritz and glitz, huge Formula 1 car crashes and speed, speed, speed
Bottom Line: Hemsworth is facing the issue all superhero actors face, will audiences accept him when he isn’t swinging a big hammer around (okay, maybe they don’t all face that specifically). Ron Howard is banking on a “yes” to that question. I’m thinking, with the exception of Taladega Nights, there hasn’t been a successful racing movie made yet (unless you count Cars in this category) and while Ron Howard rarely misses I’m not so sure this one will be a hit either.
Horror Movie Franchises
Insidious: Chapter 2 (Friday, September 13th)
Who: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne… does it really matter?
What: They (the Lambert family) have to uncover the childhood secret that has dangerously connected them to the spirit world
Where: In their home
How: Lots and lots of creepy dark things sneaking up on unsuspecting people. Lots and lots of horrified looks and plenty of horrifying images
Bottom Line: Pretty simple actually. Insidious cost less than $2 million to make and made $97 million at the worldwide box office. No reason to think Chapter 2 won’t do basically the same thing.
Wannabe Cult Classics
The Family (September 13th)
Who: Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Argon, Tommy Lee Jones, Directed By Luc Besson
What: A Mob family stuck in witness protection is forced to adjust to a new life but finds old habits die hard (odds of Old Habits Die Hard being the title for the next Die Hard movie – 3 to 1)
Where: Normandy, France
How: “Fish out of water” comedy will no doubt give way to action when the family inevitably has to protect themselves from assassins. How do I know this? It’s a Luc Besson movie.
Bottom Line: Go back and watch the original Le Femme Nikita or The Professional, Luc Besson knows how to make this kind of movie. The problem is, while he has been writing and producing these movies for years (all of the Transporter movies, each of the Taken films, etc.) he hasn’t actually made one since The Professional (this kind of movie, he’s made movies). So where does that leave us? With a movie that will have moments, that will play on F/X on saturday afternoons and you’ll find yourself getting sucked in for no good reason, and will be the movie that is widely viewed as a failure even though everyone who saw it will secretly like it.
Don Jon (September 27th)
Who: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Scarlet Johanson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Written & Directed by JGL himself
What: A basically good guy develops unrealistic expectations for his life from watching porn
Where: New Jersey
How: JGL playing cool, getting women, and finding some deeper meaning along the way.
Bottom Line: “Marty for the internet porn era” is the way one person described JGL’s directorial debut, and that is definitely a complement. This wont break any box office records and it wont be up for Oscars but it still may be the best movie of September.
September Bottom Line: It’s September. The first two weekends, even if they look good, are generally graveyards for whatever is released. The third weekend is normally dominated by a horror/genre franchise (all of the opening weekend records belong to the Resident Evil movies that are always released the third weekend of September). Second tier Oscar hopefuls drop the second to last weekend (The Master last year and End of Watch). And the last week is when the big guns start coming out to play. That is how September rolls, and this year is no different.
Check Out Part II (October) Coming Soon