Feature: Blockbuster or Bust
Fri, 01 May 2009 17:34:28
In the first four months of 2009, Paul Blart: Mall Cop earned nearly $150 million domestically, while the mega-hyped, budget-busting Watchmen struggled to limp past $100 million. In a world where tastes are that unpredictable, all bets are off when it comes to guessing what people will pay to see and see again. But what the heck, it's always fun to try.
Star Trek (opens 5/8)
Some fidgety fans are worried that this "everything old is new again" reboot of the series, captained by a director who says he always liked Star Wars more than Star Trek, might fall short for the faithful. Wow, are they in for a surprise. We caught an advance screening, and this recast reimagining of the four-decade-old favorite is a wall-to-wall fan-gasm—as in BEST TREK EVER. If this irresistibly entertaining return to the final frontier isn't the biggest hit of the year, the entire universe has gone mad.
Prediction: Warp-speed word of mouth will make this 2009's top movie.
Angels and Demons (opens 5/15): The 2006 screen version of Dan Brown's Biblical-proportions bestseller The Da Vinci Code was god-awful, but that didn't keep it from earning a divine $750 million worldwide. Even with star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard back in the fold, capturing heavenly box-office like that again would take a miracle.
Prediction: A righteous take, but nowhere near as celestial as last time.
Terminator: Salvation (opens 5/21): Preview footage of man-sized machines on motorcycles emerging from the shins of a giant robot looked more Transformers than Terminator, which should be worrisome to anyone over age 10. Also, the film stock is that gritty kind of sepia that's supposed to appear arty but only looks ugly. Christian "Batman" Bale stars, but nobody thinks he was the reason The Dark Knight made a billion dollars.
Prediction: Salvation will be short-lived, with a sharp dropoff after opening weekend.
Land of the Lost (opens 6/5): If anyone can keep this big-screen version of a bygone Saturday morning kids show from suffering the crash-and-burn fate of Speed Racer, it's always-reliable funnyman Will Ferrell. Whether today's whippersnappers care about seeing a silly saga about Sleestaks is another story.
Prediction: Not a dinosaur-size hit.
Year One (opens 6/19): Remember a 1981 movie called Caveman, starring Ringo Starr as Atouk? Neither does anyone else, but Jack Black and Michael Cera are hoping audiences are up for another dawn-of-time comedy about schlubs carrying clubs.
Prediction: Probably at least a few laughs, but not must-see enough to evolve into a huge hit.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (opens 6/24): The fact that the deadly dumb first Transformers made a fortune proves two things: The world's collective IQ is on a dangerous slide, and this second helping will be more of the same. Then again, screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci are the same guys who wrote the flat-out-fantastic new Star Trek, so there's a chance they may have upped their game here as well.
Prediction: Good or bad, this sequel will transform into box-office gold.
Public Enemies (opens 7/1): Johnny Depp and Christian Bale star in this 1930s gangster flick directed by Michael Mann, which sounds like a recipe for an absurdly cool flop.
Prediction: Crime doesn't pay.
Brüno (opens 7/10): Sacha Baron Cohen isn't likely to reap another Borat-sized hit with this new fake documentary about a flamboyantly gay Eurotrash fashion maven, but that doesn't mean it won't be hilarious.
Prediction: Fabulous fun, but so-so b.o.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (opens 7/15): Warner Bros. frustrated muggles by delaying the release of this sixth installment in the hugely popular series to July 15, more than two years after the last Potter movie arrived in theaters. It's also been nearly two years since the final Potter book was published, ending the fits of media frenzy that attended J.K. Rowling's creation up to that point. Will "out of sight, out of mind" be the trouble with Harry, or does absence make the heart grow fonder?
Prediction: HP6 will capture the snitch and score.
Ponyo (opens 8/14): The latest feature from legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), about a boy and a goldfish princess, is sure to be another work of sublime, surrealistic genius that won't make nearly as much money as it should.
Prediction: Fans will swoon, but it will be gone soon.
Inglourious Basterds (opens 8/21): Quentin Tarantino might actually make up for his tediously talky half of 2007's Grindhouse with this brutally bloody Nazi-smashing extravaganza, starring Brad Pitt as head ass-kicker.
Verdict: Death proof.