The March 2006 Movie Preview

by Dave Thomas
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Even with ‚”A Scanner Darkly” delayed yet again, March is looking better than January and February combined. Which isn’t terribly difficult. A single episode of ‚”24″ looks better than January and February combined.
16 BLOCKS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Bruce Willis has 118 minutes (hey, that’s about the length of a movie!) to get a witness (Mos Def) from police custody to a courthouse.
WILL IT SUCK?
Richard Donner knows how to bring the action (the ‚”Lethal Weapon” series, ‚”Superman”) but, of late, he has only brought the suck (‚”Timeline”). The writer is fairly new, unless you remember ‚”Vamp” or ‚”Just the Ticket.” David Morse should make for a nice villain, however. Early buzz is not very good.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Now that ‚”Ultraviolet” has been moved to this weekend, the second frame of ‚”Running Scared” isn’t the only other action game in town. Expect this to be a middling Willis performer, like ‚”Hostage” or ‚”Mercury Rising.” $35mil.
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DAVE CHAPPELLE’S BLOCK PARTY
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Dave Chappelle holds a block party in Brooklyn and invites all his rap buddies, along with some folks from the neighborhood he currently calls home in Ohio.
WILL IT SUCK?
Caught this at Toronto. Funny. As. Shit. Also, incredible performances from some of the best names in hip hop and R&B, including Mos Def, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, Common, and…wait for it…The Freakin’ Fugees!
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
A little bit of competition from the second frame of ‚”Madea,” but not much. People have been waiting for anything new from Chappelle for a while now. $102mil.
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ULTRAVIOLET
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Futuristic dystopia with butt-kicking action – does the plot actually matter?
WILL IT SUCK?
Four years ago, a guy named Kurt Wimmer wrote and directed a movie called ‚”Equilibrium.” It bombed and didn’t score too hot with critics, either. However, over time, more people saw it, loved it, and recommended it. Eventually I saw it, too, and you know what? They were right.
Now, in the same sci-fi action genre (looks like it takes place in the same future, just with color) Wimmer’s back. So yeah, I’m psyched. Doesn’t hurt to have Nick Chilund on board as the heavy, and the return of William Fichtner (he was in ‚”Equilibrium”) as…who cares, he’s in it.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Though the Wimmer faithful will be lining up, most folks’ll write this off as an ‚”Aeon Flux” knock-off, especially with Milla Jovovich playing an ass-kicking genetically enhanced mutant for the 17th time. Plus, it was ill-advised to move this from a weekend where it had to compete with Paul Walker to a weekend where it had to compete with Bruce Willis. $50mil.


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AQUAMARINE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Teen ‚”Splash.”
WILL IT SUCK?
Well, you’ve got the writer of ‚”First Daughter” and a writer from ‚”Joey” adapting a novel from the woman who wrote ‚”Practical Magic,” so I don’t see any problems.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
I don’t think even tweeners are gonna buy into this one. $10mil.
JOYEUX NOEL
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
A group of soldiers fighting each other during WWII stop for one night (guess which one) and hang out. True story.
WILL IT SUCK?
Nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. So probably not.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Up against the second frame of fellow nominee ‚”Tsotsi,” and a few medium profile indies the following week. $1mil.
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OUR BRAND IS CRISIS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Documentary showing what happens when Bolivian presidential candidate Goni outsources his campaign strategy to some yanks, including one goes by the handle “Carville.”
WILL IT SUCK?
Fascinating stuff. The only thing more disturbing than the fact that campaigns employ the same focus group strategies as product launches is that those strategies work. And after you see how hard it is to get democracy to work in a country without insurgents and IED’s, Iraq will start to make a lot more sense.
HOW WELL IT DO?
Political docs could do really well this year, but exposure is the key. Playing up the Carville connection couldn’t hurt. Palm Pictures needs to push this harder than they did ‚”Gunner Palace.” $1mil.
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March 10
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THE HILLS HAVE EYES
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Remake of the Wes Craven horror classic about Cannibalistic Humanoid, um, Overground Dwellers.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is actually reeeaallly good. And by good I mean it’s the gorefest you’d expect from the talent behind ‚”High Tension.”
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
‚”V for Vendetta” will be a little bit of a drain on the audience the following week, but this will be the big horror hit of the season. $59mil.
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FAILURE TO LAUNCH
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
When I think of a thirty-something guy who still lives with his parents, I immediately picture someone who looks like Matthew McConaughey. And I definitely see his parents needing to try to set him up with someone to get him out of the house cos’ there’s no way he could find somebody on his own. Could be the hardest-to-swallow premise since ‚”Emily’s Reasons Why Not.”
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz not so good and what with writers from some less-than-great TV shows on board and the director of ‚”Showtime,” I’m not shocked that romantic sparks aren’t flying.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
No real romcompetition in sight, and this is where McConaughey lives, baby. $106mil.
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THE LIBERTINE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
The Earl of Rochester was a 17th century poet, biographies of whom often end with the phrase “riddled with syphillis.” This is Johnny Depp’s take on a man who liked to drink, screw, and occasionally write poems.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is no longer so good since its very limited release back in November, but you still can’t complain about the cast, which also includes Samantha Morton and John Malkovich.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
The Depp faithful will turn out, which is significant, but not much more. $52mil.
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THE SHAGGY DOG
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Tim Allen turns into a sheepdog. Repeatedly. No word yet on who turns into the coyote.
WILL IT SUCK?
The pedigree here can only be described as a Perfect Storm of Suck. The director has brought us ‚”The Perfect Score, Hard Ball, Ready to Rumble, Varsity Blues, Good Burger,” and the premiere episode of could-be-the-worst-TV-show-ever ‚”Birds of Prey.”
That’s only the beginning.
The five writers include repeat offenders the Wibberley’s (‚”Bad Boys II, I Spy, The 6th Day”) and scribes behind ‚”Daddy Day Care” and ‚”Raising Helen.”
What hath they wrought?
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
In spite of the crap, this is a Disney remake. $74mil.
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EVIL
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Boarding school is hell. Especially in Sweden.
WILL IT SUCK?
I’m gonna guess no if for no other reason than this actually got nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar two years ago and won the Swedish Oscars for Best Film. Then again, the director went on to do ‚”Derailed.” And this got delayed until after that happened.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Beyond the Oscar, not very high profile, and runners up in that category rarely make bank, much less 2 years after the party’s over. $100,000.
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ASK THE DUST
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Romance between writer (Colin Farrell) and waitress (Salma Hayek) in 30’s LA.
WILL IT SUCK?
It’s not bad. Very leisurely, and some nice dialogue courtesy of Robert Towne who’s been trying to shoot this since, well, ‚”Chinatown.” I’m not super-enthusiastic about it, though.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Got a pretty high profile cast for an indie. And the Towne cache will bring in a few more. $12mil.
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DUCK SEASON
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Two kids are at home with nothing to do, and even less when the power goes out. Comic misadventure ensues.
WILL IT SUCK?
Probably not. This won more Ariels (think Mexican Oscar) than any other film ever and won some Mexican MTV Movie Awards. We call that “broad appeal.” Critics here seem to like it, too.
I can only hope the sequel’s called ‚”Wabbit Season.”
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Unfortunately, this faces some stiff competition, and nobody knows about it, yet. I have confidence that Warner Independent can change that, though. $1mil.
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THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
The only thing worse than one kid’s crappy foster folks is his crappy biological mom.
WILL IT SUCK?
Dark, but positively reviewed. Based on the memoirs of J.T. Le Really-not-an-actual-person.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
If Palm Pictures can milk the JT controversy, they might get some free publicity. Otherwise, this is doomed to obscurity. $100,000.
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MARCH 17
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V FOR VENDETTA
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
The Wachowski Bros. court controversy. Seems the hero of this tale is a little, um, terrorist-y.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed, but those who love it, luuuurrrrrvvvveeeee it and want to have a million of its babies. Detractors are more of the “meh” variety. My favorite early endorsement is here. The fans seem to think of this as a return to form for the Wachowski Bros., though the director is actually one of their assistant directors from the ‚”Matrix” trilogy.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
You’re looking at the first Event Picture of 2006. $140mil.
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SHE’S THE MAN
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Teen ‚”12th Night.”
WILL IT SUCK?
This may sound a bit like ‚”10 Things I Hate About You,” what with the teen Shakespeare and all. The good news is, they actually bothered to get some writers from that movie up in here. Having the director of the ‚”Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical” at the helm is a nice touch, and David Cross and Vinnie Jones should be fun in supporting roles.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This should serve as a fairly viable non-R alternative for tweens to ‚”V.” $36mil.
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FIND ME GUILTY
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
True story of a mob guy who chose to be his own defense when on trial with twenty or so cohorts.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed and I can see why. When I first saw this as footage that Sidney Lumet was shooting shown during his tribute at last year’s Oscars, I thought to myself, “What the hell is up with Vin Diesel’s hair?” I also thought “That looks like a courtroom drama.” The marketing, however, makes it look like, “Oh, that wacky mafia! Look what they’re up to now! They’re kooky!” But the reviews seem to suggest that this really is a drama, at least to some extent.
‚”Find Me Guilty,” you’re hard to understand.
I want to be psyched for this. You’ve got Sidney ‚”Network, 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon” Lumet at the helm and contributing to the screenplay. You’ve got Diesel (who can be good when he wants to be), Peter Dinklage, Alex Rocco, and Ron Silver. You’ve got a fairly intriguing premise. I just hope the marketing is just that. Hype.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
In a weekend with ‚”V” and a viable teen comedy about, something has to take the hit. $27mil.
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THANK YOU FOR SMOKING
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Aaron Eckhart plays a tobacco lobbyist in this hilarious satire.
WILL IT SUCK?
Oh, did I show my hand in the synopsis? Yeah, this fucking rocks.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
I’m not sure if Aaron Eckhart is a big enough star to draw indie heat. Fox Searchlight is a big enough studio to make sure it happens regardless. $13mil.
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DON’T TRIP… HE AIN’T THROUGH WITH ME YET!
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Comedy concert film with the caveat that the performer (Steve Harvey) can’t cuss since this is a church crowd.
WILL IT SUCK?
Intriguing premise, though you’ll find plenty of comedians who don’t perform blue and are hilarious. Harvey showed his stand-up chops in ‚”Original Kings of Comedy,” so no bones there.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Harvey’s following and the ‚”Madea” crowd should make for decent indie numbers. $20mil.
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SUMMER STORM
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Gay crew team! Well, maybe one of them is in this German import.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early reviews are mixed, like the feelings of one crew team member for another.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
In a post-“Brokeback” world, foreign films are still a hard sell. $250,000.
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DON’T COME KNOCKING
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
In Wim Wenders’ latest, a film star (Sam Shepherd) goes all ‚”Broken Flowers” in the middle of a shoot.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is not so good. Part of it seems to be unfavorable comparisons to Wenders’ last outing with Shepherd, ‚”Paris, Texas.” But the movie seems to be faltering on its own lack of merits as well.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
How many people can you name who even know there is a Paris, Texas? $100,000.
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THE AMATEURS
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Small town decides to shoot a porno.
WILL IT SUCK?
The writer/director wrote ‚”Dead Man on Campus”. And though the following actors are strong – Jeff Bridges, Joey Pants, Tim Blake Nelson, William Fichtner – the idea of seeing them in a porno is not an inducement to buy (sadly I’ve already seen full-frontal on Nelson in ‚”The Good Girl”). On the other hand, Lauren Graham and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Still not enough?
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
‚”The Chumscrubber” had a huge cast, too, and nobody saw it. $75,000.
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March 24
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INSIDE MAN
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
‚”Denzel Day Afternoon”
WILL IT SUCK?
Little is known about the writers, but Spike Lee can direct a motherfucker. And with Denzel, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Willem Dafoe in his stable, he’s likely to get some stellar performances and tight action.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Combining Denzel and Jodie’s celebrity is a very, very good idea. $116mil.
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STAY ALIVE
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Players in a video game (where, apparently, you fight Marilyn Manson) begin dying just as their characters do. Just be glad it isn’t called ‚”Stay_Alive” or some dumb shit like that.
WILL IT SUCK?
Why couldn’t it be Donkey Kong? Then they could all be killed by barrels. Or Q-bert. Then…wait, what kills you in Q-bert? In case you haven’t noticed yet, I know next to nothing about this picture and can only say that if you wanna watch Adam Goldberg (and maybe Frankie Muniz) get whacked, here’s your chance. Oooh, I know! Dig Dug. Then they’d eat giant vegetables and have to fight a dragon and the only weapon they’d have is that pump. Exploding fucking dragons man. That’s a movie!
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
‚”Slither’s” gonna knock it out of the water the following week. $11mil.
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LARRY THE CABLE GUY: HEALTH INSPECTOR
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Dude, if the title isn’t enough for you…
WILL IT SUCK?
In case you needed more convincing, the writers did ‚”Max Keeble’s Big Move.” (By the way, Orlando Bloom was in that movie, so if you’re playing the movie game, and you need to connect Orlando Bloom to Li’l Romeo, you’re welcome).
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Let’s call this a niche market, but no less so than, say, Steve Harvey. $26mil.
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THE CHILD
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Okay, you think your boyfriend’s bad? This one sells their freakin’ baby!
WILL IT SUCK?
Won the Palm D’Or at Cannes for its sibling directors. That makes two.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Somewhat more high profile indies in the water. $250,000.
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LONSESOME JIM
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Casey Affleck goes home to chill and be kind of a jerk.
WILL IT SUCK?
This is the latest from director Steve Buscemi, who does a little acting on the side. It’s pretty charming. Full review here.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Buscemi films don’t have a huge history of box office success. $750,000.
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STONED
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
The Brian Jones Story.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed. This comes from the writers behind ‚”Plunkett and Macleane” and some of the latter Bond oeuvre. So maybe that’s not surprising. And any Stones-related bio-pic where they had trouble getting rights to Stones songs makes me nervous.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
I suspect the number of people who care who Brian Jones is is much smaller than it should be. $1mil.
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THE BIG QUESTION
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
What if you were to take the cast and crew of ‚”The Passion of the Christ” and ask them existential questions about their own spiritual beliefs? That’s what this doc did.
WILL IT SUCK?
Intriguing premise. Sounds more like a DVD featurette, though, than a feature.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
ThinkFilm has gotta jump on this. Any traction you can get off of ‚”Passion” translates into interest. $250,000.
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March 31
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ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Our beloved characters from the first movie try to warn the world about global warming.
WILL IT SUCK?
They’ve got one of the directors back and the writer, John Vitti, penned one of my favorite ‚”Simpsons” episodes (“Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk”) and one of my favorite episodes of ‚”The Critic” (“Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice”), so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. All the regular cast is back, plus Queen Latifah for good measure.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This would be the second Event Picture of the year. $177mil.
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SLITHER
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Really gory (but, you know, in a funny way) chiller about an alien invasion of a small town.
WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good, and that’s not surprising considering the source. Writer/director James Gunn has his share of crap to account for (specifically the ‚”Scooby Doo” movies) but his ‚”Dawn of the Dead” remake sript was well-received. What really qualifies him for this effort, however, is his work with Troma films, especially a little gem called ‚”Tromeo and Juliet” which he co-wrote and co-directed (the latter role uncredited). It is the height of tasteless hilarity, and this looks to be more of the same.
This also has my favorite cast of the month, including the priceless Nathan Fillion as the witless sherriff, along with Michael Rooker and ‚”The Office’s” Jenna Fischer.
I’m pretty wussy about gore-fests, but I might steel up some reserve for this one.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
No real horror competition (the second frame of ‚”Stay Alive” can suck it) and I think a healthy cult following will have built up by the release due to advance screenings like the one I’ll try to get into at SXSW. Also, Fillion’s growing his own little posse due to the burgeoning popularity of ‚”Firefly.” $45mil.
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BASIC INSTINCT 2
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Which requires less of an explanation, this or ‚”Big Momma’s House 2?”
WILL IT SUCK?
Director Michael Caton-Jones has made, like, one good film (it’s called ‚”Rob Roy” and you should check it out). The husband/wife writing team has, on the wife’s end, created ‚”Desperately Seeking Susan” and on the husband’s end ‚”Deep Cover” and ‚”The Believer” but together made ‚”Venus Rising,” notable only for connecting Jessica Alba and Joel Grey in the movie game. The only ‚”Basic Instinct” vet here is Sharon Stone and some of the producers. But were you really getting your hopes up when you saw the title?
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
The film is its own worst enemy. That and haunting memories of Stone in ‚”Catwoman.” $41mil.
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ATL
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
‚”Boyz N the Dirty Dirty Southern Hood”
WILL IT SUCK?
Fairly good pedigree. The director is a newcomer from the world of music videos, but of the five (!) writers, we’ve got a scribe from ‚”Drumline” and Antwone Fisher, who wrote, um, ‚”Antwone Fisher.”
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Warner Bros. is gonna hit urban centers with its preview screenings. With its ‚”Roll Bounce” take on bustin’ outta da hood, they may try to turn it into this year’s ‚”Hustle & Flow.” $23mil.
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AWESOME: I FUCKIN’ SHOT THAT!
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Beastie Boys concert film shot by the fans.
WILL IT SUCK?
I’m a Beastie Boys fan, so I’m already sold, but for those of you who are not, keep in mind the concept is new. 50 fans at one concert each given cameras with the footage edited together by Nathaniel Hornblower (a.k.a. MCA a.k.a. Adam Yauch) who directed some of the best Beastie videos. Early buzz is solid.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
I wonder just how strong the Beastie Boys following really is. Concert films are almost always a hard sell. $1mil.
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THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Doc telling the story of musician/artist Daniel Johnston, who has developed a cult following in spite of debilitating depression.
WILL IT SUCK?
It’s not bad, but it’s also not nearly up to the hype that’s preceded its release. A lot of it stands or falls on just how convinced you become of this guy’s genius. It’s not a slam dunk case.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Two music docs in one weekend? I don’t know if that’s a good idea. $500,000.
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DRAWING RESTRAINT 9
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Bj√∂rk on a Japanese whaling ship. That’s about all I can gather.
WILL IT SUCK?
Well, if it’s anything like ‚”Drawing Restraint 1-8″…no, those don’t exist. This is from experimental filmmaker Matthew Barney whose ‚”Cremaster” series you may be familiar with, but probably not. If you like the wacky experimental filmmaking and/or the Bj√∂rk, the early buzz is positive.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Experimental film is pretty much the final frontier of box office gold. $75,000.
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BRICK
WHAT’S THE PITCH?
Teen noir.
WILL IT SUCK?
According to the early buzz, writer/director Rian Johnson pulls it off. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who proved he could do anything with ‚”Mysterious Skin,” takes the lead here. Won a Special Jury Award at last year’s Sundance.
HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Not sure this has generated enough buzz yet. We’ll see what Focus can do. $1mil.
Next Month: Is America ready to relive September 11th? We’re about to find out.
Dave Thomas

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