December Studs/Duds

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December Studs/Duds

Post by MisterInformative on Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:13 pm

New venue, but I promise, it'll be the same heroic stuff you've come to expect from me. I figure that, since my audience now consists exclusively of FM devotees, I can dispense with all the grandeur that formerly accompanied my column introductions. (Unless, of course, I think of something so incredibly clever that I can't resist.) You know, all the fluff meant to hook in people who found the column on IMDb, or the newbie players looking for any shred of advice to hang on to -- that stuff can be skipped over, at least for this first attempt. What do y'all think? Although the first weekend of December is already past, it went pretty much as I would have figured. Before the weekend, I would have said:

Stud: Frost/Nixon
Dud: Punisher: War Zone
Wild Card: Cadillac Records

And sho' nuff, it looks like I would have been right. Honest, I'm not just looking at the results of the weekend and then formulating those picks -- I started thinking about it when the proposal of continuing columns was first introduced, but just didn't put anything into type until now. As far as the rest of the month goes, here are my thoughts:

Weekend of Dec. 12
Stud: Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood and favorable reviews go hand in hand, and this marks his first appearance in FRONT of the camera since 2004's Million Dollar Baby. He's possibly gunning for an acting Oscar here, and after the lukewarm reception of Changeling, I'd guess this is the film on which Clint is hedging his bets for awards in other categories. For future viability, too, I see this one playing out something like The Bucket List, which opened very strongly in limited release before expanding wide and making a very respectable $93 million. A film like Gran Torino is a rare find -- it'll help you in all four Ultimate quadrants. It might even be worth spending $21 on to have it on your slate -- and that's something I rarely say for an awards-chaser.
Dud: Delgo. Nice try, Freddie Prinze Jr., but you haven't been relevant in Hollywood since Scooby-Doo. In fact, "you haven't been relevant since (insert film here)" seems to be an anthem for most of the cast: Chris Kattan (um, actually, I dunno, maybe Corky Romano?), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Garfield), Anne Bancroft (Antz). Even Kelly Ripa seems to be chiefly concerned with lending her voice to low-budget animation these days -- her last role was in Fly Me to the Moon 3D. (I'll give Michael Clarke Duncan a pass, because I think he's underappreciated.) On top of that, the company behind Delgo is Freestyle Releasing. If for some reason you thought Dragon Wars was wrongly snubbed at the Oscars, then by all means, go ahead and snag Delgo, but in the crowded holiday marketplace, there's no room for it. I'll say it doesn't even top Bolt's fourth weekend.
Wild Card: Nothing Like the Holidays. Last year Fred Claus was the 'big' Christmas-themed movie, but there was still room for This Christmas to squeeze out some surprising success, and I think Nothing Like the Holidays could pull off something similar this year. There's really only one other wide release to compete with, because Delgo is a non-factor, and Holidays appeals to a different demographic than The Day the Earth Stood Still anyway. And given that it's closer to Christmas, maybe people who already saw Four Christmases are looking for something else to keep them in the holiday spirit. On the other hand, Overture Films isn't the most reliable of distributors, and the screen count Box Office Mojo is reporting is a middling 1500 screens, not exactly wide enough to make a huge dent. I think it's cheap enough in the current leagues to justify taking a flyer on, but beware that you could just as easily be burned.

Weekend of Dec. 19
Stud: The Wrestler. By virtue of being new, it should easily fend off all the holdovers for a PTA win. And again, I think this is some Oscar bait that has crossover potential and could end up making more than you'd expect in wide release, especially as Oscar noms draw nearer and are announced. I mean, let's face it, by all early accounts, Mickey Rourke is a lock for a best actor nom. And although the director's name doesn't carry as much weight as Clint Eastwood, Gus Van Sant, or perhaps even Steven Soderbergh (Che), The Wrestler may find some viewers just based on the fact that Darren Aronofsky is involved. And if any studio knows how to handle a slow expansion, it's Fox Searchlight, so The Wrestler is in good hands.
Dud: I was almost going to go against the grain and pick The Tale of Despereaux here, but the safer and much more logical pick is The Brothers Bloom. It's been bumped around more than a pinball -- remember when it was supposed to come out in October? And then the first week of December? An opening exclusively in LA and New York seems to indicate that Summit is aiming towards PTA, but Summit opening a film limited tells me that they've given up on it. Rather than release it wide and be assured of a complete flameout, they'll just bury it (similar to what Lionsgate did with Midnight Meat Train earlier this year). The studio doesn't have the know-how to engineer a successful expansion, so I'd bet they'll just let it flounder on a small number of screens until it fizzles out entirely. And if they WERE planning to expand it eventually, then really? They think it stands a chance against all the Oscar bait, not to mention the glut of new releases on Christmas and soon into January? I think that'd be a case of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses after the success of Twilight.
Wild Card: Seven Pounds. Tracking doesn't suggest anything huge, but Will Smith is always a force to be reckoned with, and I refuse to underestimate this. After all, The Pursuit of Happyness only opened at $26 million, so if Seven Pounds can scrape together a $20 million opening weekend, with the great legs it'll have over the holidays, it'll still be in good shape. Early rumors of Smith earning an Oscar nom seem to have died away, especially with all the other great acting performances this year, but who knows, maybe they'll come back once the film is released. (In all honesty, though, I doubt it.) On the flip side, Seven Pounds lacks the hype, the smash-hit vibe that most of Smith's recent films have had, so it could end up being a disappointment. I'd lean toward the positive side of wild card, because the re-teaming of Smith and director Gabrielle Muccino plus the 'heartwarming story at Christmas' doctrine are compelling arguments, but I won't fault you for disagreeing with me.

Weekend of Dec. 26
Stud: Bedtime Stories. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it's just like Night at the Museum. Take comedian known for making more mature films, make him a family man, have stuff come to life, and voila. Instant winter blockbuster. And the fact that Bedtime Stories falls under the Disney umbrella doesn't hurt matters either. That means the advertising machine is going to kick in soon, and awareness will be very high once Christmas rolls around (if it isn't already). It also means parents will see the name and realize that even though Adam Sandler is in the movie, it'll be family-friendly. And who can resist the humor of that guinea pig with the humongous eyes in the trailer?
Dud: Last Chance Harvey, because even though Valkyrie won't be huge, and there's all kinds of problems with it -- like the fact that none of the Germans have accents when speaking English -- I still think it won't completely put the nail in the coffin of Tom Cruise's career. Last Chance Harvey, however, seems to follow the Righteous Kill formula -- take two actors (in this case, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson) who are a little past their glory days but are still revered, put 'em in a movie, and no matter if it's bad, hope people will see it. It might work to some extent, but against both Revolutionary Road and Waltz with Bashir for PTA (as well as the wide releases), Last Chance Harvey doesn't, erm... stand a chance.
Wild Card: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's set up to be both a commercial and critical success, but I just have a sneaking suspicion it'll fail to deliver on one of those levels. The sheer novelty of a man aging backwards makes for a truly interesting premise, but will audiences eat it up? I'm not so sure. I honestly think it would have done better had Paramount kept it on the 19th, because Christmas weekend is just so crowded. Even the 'start small, expand later' strategy might have paid greater dividends. But maybe it can fight through all the other Christmas wide releases to crack the top 5. I mean, there's no way it's beating Bedtime Stories, but a 2nd place finish is conceivable, or even 3rd place behind Bedtime Stories and Marley & Me.

With the end of December comes the end of this write-up (Dec. 31 releases like Defiance would go on the weekend of January 2). Because I channel-surfed past Anchorman on TV tonight, I'll go with this sendoff: You stay classy, Fantaverse.
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Re: December Studs/Duds

Post by DylanG on Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:30 am

It's set up to be both a commercial and critical success, but I just have a sneaking suspicion it'll fail to deliver on one of those levels.

I have this feeling too. There's something about this film that's made me a little wary. David Fincher has never really had a huge hit that was also a critical success. Zodiac and Fight Club were both bombs, despite the great reviews. Panic Room did decent, but wasn't a huge critical success. Either way, the IMDb score for CCOBB will probably be high, but if the reviews aren't good, it's not going to have the same legs Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, The Wrestler and other well-reviewed films will have, especially in the crowded Christmas season.
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Re: December Studs/Duds

Post by DylanG on Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:06 am

Guess I was wrong about this one (although I nailed The Spirit right on the head)
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