The August 2008 Movie Preview

by Dave Thomas
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Penelope Cruz in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Looks like Pineapple Express might be the best this month has to offer…
JULY 1
THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Jet Li is the mummy. And Maria Bello is Rachel Weisz.
WILL IT SUCK?
Probably the most notable replacement is actually behind the camera, with Rob Cohen (Stealth, xXx) taking over for Mummy 1 & 2 helmer Stephen Sommers who, in spite of all the suck he brought to Van Helsing, really seemed to have a knack for these films. Cohen has a knack for making Brett Ratner seem inspired.
Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (creators of Smallville, two of the 73 writers on Spider-Man 2) definitely have a knack for this sort of thing, so their writing will fight Cohen’s direction.
And it’s always fun to see Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh together (check out Twin Warriors if you ever get the chance).
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This is, arguably, the last major action-adventure flick of the summer. $101mil.
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SWING VOTE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
One guy gets to decide the fate of a U.S. presidential election. No, not Karl Rove.
WILL IT SUCK?
Director’s a newcomer and the co-screenwriter did Bad Company (the Chris Rock/Anthony Hopkins one) which bodes well for the we-hope-it’ll-be-so-bad-it’s-good Bangkok Dangerous, which he also wrote, but not so well for this.


Preliminary buzz, however, is pretty good, and I have to admit, choosing between Dennis Hopper and Kelsey Grammar’s a tough call.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Not much competition. Costner plays to his base. $35mil.
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MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
A photographer stalks a serial killer who finds his victims on the NYC subway system.
WILL IT SUCK?
Good idea to combine Clive Barker (based on his short story) with director Ryuhei Kitamura (Azumi, Versus). Early buzz seems to think so, too.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Even Clive Barker is pissed about Lionsgate’s half-assed release strategy. $1mil.
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FROZEN RIVER
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Single mom turns to immigrant smuggling across the Canadian border to make ends meet.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. Sundance gave it their Grand Jury Prize. And Melissa Leo and Michael O’Keefe are longtime favorites of mine.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
The Grand Jury Prize is no guarantee of box office (see Quinceanera, which won both Grand Jury and the Audience Award at Sundance 2006). $2mil.
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IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
A guy and a girl who met online hang out on New Year’s Eve and will-they-or-won’t-they kiss at midnight ensues.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is very good. Supposed to have a bit of an early Linklater vibe, which is not surprising given the executive producer.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Early Linklater didn’t make much, either. $1mil.
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SIXTY SIX
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
British kid’s Bar Mitzvah has to compete with the 1966 World Cup.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good, which is remarkable given that it’s from the director of Leonard Part 6, City Slickers 2 and Made of Honor. Co-writer also penned the upcoming adaptation of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People with Simon Pegg.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Selling itself as the next Billy Elliot, but that’s unlikely. $2mil.
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JULY 8
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PINEAPPLE EXPRESS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Judd Apatow stoner comedy.
WILL IT SUCK?
And by Judd Apatow, I mean David Gordon Green (!?!). It will be interesting to see what the director of Snow Angels, All the Real Girls and George Washington does with much more genre-driven and, given that this is from the writers of Superbad, funny material. Early buzz is good.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Tropic Thunder will be a problem the following week, and even Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 will find some unsuspecting boyfriends dragged away, but overall it will be among the better-performing Apatow features. $85mil.
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THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
The pants. They keep traveling.
WILL IT SUCK?
They’ve kept the screenwriter and switched out the director, which is fine with me since the direction was the main problem I had with the first one. Everyone else is the same. Just more famous now.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
The closest thing to competition (The House Bunny) doesn’t open for two weeks. $47mil.
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HELL RIDE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Biker war.
WILL IT SUCK?
Quentin Tarantino recruits old school biker flick regular Larry Bishop to write and direct this one, giving him license to make it as sick as he wants. Early buzz is mixed.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
If Grindhouse couldn’t cut it in wide release, I don’t see this faring much better in limited. $4mil.
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BOTTLE SHOCK
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
True story of how California got on the wine map.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed, with detractors feeling it’s just too normal. Great cast – Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Dennis Farina, Freddy Rodriguez, Eliza Dushku, Bradley Whitford. Rickman won top acting honors at the Seattle Film Fest. Believe it or not, this is one of two movies about the same story this year.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a bit of an issue next week and Elegy could be an issue this week, but this is the most mainstream of those two, and buzz going back to Sundance won’t hurt. $6mil.
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ELEGY
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Ben Kingsley falls for a younger woman (Penelope Cruz). Jealousy ensues.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed for this adaptation of the Philip Roth novella The Dying Animal. Written by Nicholas Meyer, who also adapted Roth’s The Human Stain but, more importantly, directed and co-wrote Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Also starring Patricia Clarkson and Peter Sarsgaard.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Penelope Cruz (not to mention Patricia Clarkson) show up again next week in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which has the added cache of Woody Allen. $4mil.
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JULY 15
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STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
More Star Wars shit.
WILL IT SUCK?
Well, Lucas isn’t actually writing the screenplay, so chances for it to be good increase dramatically. Especially when you factor in that the guys who are writing the screenplay have episodes of The Tick, Angel and the short Troops to their collective credit.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
I think people are kind of burned out on Star Wars. $60mil.
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TROPIC THUNDER
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
It’s amazing how enduring the Three Amigos narrative is. Here, actors playing soldiers must become soldiers.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed. Ben Stiller is back behind the camera, co-writing with Idiocracy scribe Ethan Cohen and Iron Man 2 writer Justin Theroux.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This is well-suited to take on the second frame of Pineapple Express and nothing else really challenges it going forward. $102mil.
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MIRRORS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Mirrors will fuck your shit up.
WILL IT SUCK?
Before you ask, yes, this is based on an Asian horror film. It’s been adapted by writer/director Alexandre Aja (with co-writing partner Gregory Levasseur) so expect stylish gore.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Not much competition, but horror ain’t exactly raking it in these days. $23mil.
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VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Penelope Cruz vs. Scarlett Johansson vs. Rebecca Hall (over Javier Bardem).
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is sick. IMDB has this as Woody Allen’s highest rated film ever.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
No one seems to be sure if this is being released wide or not, but if it is, limited is a better bet. $12mil.
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FLY ME TO THE MOON
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Space Flies
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is actually pretty good, which is surprising considering that this looks like Space Chimps but with flies in 3D.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
I don’t know that good buzz will necessarily help this do better than Space Chimps. $21mil.
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HENRY POOLE IS HERE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Religious face appears in this guy’s wall and everyone starts seeing miracles, except the guy (Luke Wilson).
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed and, I gotta say, the trailer looks pretty cheesy. Still, nice to see Adriana Barraza get some work.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Putting Luke Wilson in your indie is no guarantee of anything. $4mil.
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JULY 22
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DEATH RACE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Re-make of Death Race 2000. Or ultra-violent Cannonball Run remake, depending upon how you look at it.
WILL IT SUCK?
You know, if it weren’t for Paul W. S. Anderson’s involvement, I might be a little bit psyched, but he’s basically one step above Uwe Boll. Also, I can see how Jason Statham was destined to be in this flick, but who did Joan Allen piss off?
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Probably about as well as any late August/early September Statham vehicle. $38mil.
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HOUSE BUNNY
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Ejected Playboy bunny (Anna Farris) goes all Extreme Makeover on a dorky sorority.
WILL IT SUCK?
This is from the writers behind Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You but it’s from the director of Strange Wilderness. Good to see Kat Dennis up in here, though.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
There’s another college movie coming out next week called College, but I think it’s for a slightly hairier demographic. $28mil.
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THE LONGSHOTS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Ice Cube coaches his niece, the first girl to ever play in the Pop Warner football tournament (inspired by a true story).
WILL IT SUCK?
Fred Durst brings you this heartwarming comedy. Actually, Fred Durst has directed before. His The Education of Charlie Banks got some good reviews. The writers have brought you Akeelah and the Bee (whose Keke Palmer leads here as well) and a bunch of Prison Break eps. There is actually a little hope here.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
The only other family-friendly fare is the previous week’s Fly Me to the Moon, whose 3D houseflies are no match for the Cube. $38mil.
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THE ROCKER
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Sort of like School of Rock, but without the school. Replace Jack Black with Rainn Wilson as the aging rocker amongst kids.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is kind of meh. From the director of The Full Monty and one of a dozen Simpsons writers and a Larry Sanders Show vet, so you’d expect more.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Rainn Wilson, like Andy Samberg before him about this same time last year, may not be ready to open a film yet. $14mil.
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HAMLET 2
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Down and out actor-turned-teacher (Steve Coogan) tries to save the drama department by putting on Hamlet 2, which includes a musical number called “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus.”
WILL IT SUCK?
Did you read the pitch? It’s already awesome. Actually, though, the early buzz is mixed, with audiences not as in love as critics. Co-writer/director Andrew Fleming hasn’t really done anything interesting since Dick (1999), though co-writer Pam Brady has brought plenty of teh funny with her work on South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Team America: World Police.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
In pretty much any context, “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” is going to have limited appeal. $12mil.
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I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Waiter pursues wealth during WWII Prague.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. From acclaimed Czech writer/director Jiri Menzel. Won a whole mess of Czech Lions (the main Czech film award).
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
When I say “acclaimed,” I don’t really mean “makes a whole bunch of money in the States.” $1mil.
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JULY 29
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DISASTER MOVIE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
It’s just never going to end, is it?
WILL IT SUCK?
This is the reason Kim Kardashian was at Comic-Con.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Unfortunately, if it makes $2 they can afford to make another one. $26mil.
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BABYLON A.D.
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Children of Diesel
WILL IT SUCK?
Don’t get me wrong. I love Hate as much as the next guy. And that film’s director, Mathieu Kassovitz, was great in Munich. But his American directorial debut, Gothika, wasn’t Hate. This probably isn’t, either. Although it is cool to note that parkour champ David Belle choreographed some fights for stars Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Likely to suffer the same fate as dystopian debacles Ultraviolet and Doomsday. $24mil.
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TRAITOR
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
The Cheadle Identity
WILL IT SUCK?
I could watch Guy Pearce chase Don Cheadle all day (and with Neal McDonough and Jeff Daniels on board, another six hours, at least), but I wish this wasn’t from the co-writer of The Day After Tomorrow. I couldn’t watch that all day.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
One hopes Cheadle could win a weekend against Diesel, crappy comedy and more crappy comedy. $28mil.
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COLLEGE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Three pre-froshes have themselves a little R-rated adventure during a weekend college visit.
WILL IT SUCK?
Looks to be as generic as its title. Also looks like it desperately wants to Superbad. The only interesting thing about this movie is that it was directed by a woman, which is rare in the teen-boys-trying-to-get-laid genre.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
There’s no lack of stupid comedy around. $5mil.
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SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Western/Samurai mash-up.
WILL IT SUCK?
Critics are split, but audiences seem to like it. From Audition maestro Takashi Miike, with a cameo by Miike fanboy Quentin Tarantino.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Not much competition, but not much draw, either. I doubt this is going to get the buzz of Audition. $500,000.
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YEAR OF THE FISH
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Rotoscope-y Cinderella tale set in NYC Chinatown.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. Won the Audience Award at the Boston Film Fest.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Don’t think anyone will hear about this. $250,000.
Next Month: This fall doesn’t waste any time getting interesting.

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