Welcome to the 2008 Christmas edition of the Reject Report. This week I preview six movies – five new flicks and one expanding — on what is bound to be a star-studded weekend at the box office. We are in for a weekend loaded with big stars. Adam Sandler! Tom Cruise! Jennifer Aniston — and this time she is actually wearing clothes… No Doubt about it, we have a Spirited box office race to look forward to this weekend.
Since I am in an extremely generous mood, and since the entire fall season has been dominated by “nice, clean movies” — movies aimed at families and kids such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, High School Musical-3, Madagascar Escape 2 Africa and so on – we might as well preview Bedtime Stories which is sure to extend the winning streak for nice clean movies into the winter. Why? Because Adam Sandler is in it, and Sandler’s presence alone is enough to elevate even the most pathetic junk he stars in to box-office hit status. And yes, I know things can change, and that the $100-Million-Dollar Man Will Smith went down the tubes last week, but I have to look at the history. Sandler is nothing but consistent in terms of strong openings. Here. Sandler stars with Keri Russell and Guy Pearce as a guy whose life changes when his bedtime stories come true.
Yes, this definitely sounds like a nice clean movie to me. This has the widest release of all the new pictures at over 3,600 screens. By the way, it’s a Disney movie. Enough said. This should all be good for a $34 million weekend, and $45 million for the four days including Christmas Day.
Next, onto the dog movie Marley and Me, starring Owen Wilson and that publicity hound Jennifer Aniston, who has never met a magazine cover she didn’t like. You would think the buzz of her naked-except-for-that-tie GQ cover would help sales for this flick, but the fact is that Aniston has a long history of box office flops behind her. (Anyone remember Rumor Has It? Or The Good Girl? How about Friends with Money?) Heck, for all the magazine covers Angelina Jolie has appeared on, at least her movies are hits sometimes.
I don’t know why there’s so much magazine interest in Jennifer Aniston. Maybe people find her love life interesting. It would help her career more, though, if her movies were interesting.
Here, Aniston and Wilson play a couple who adopt a badly-behaved but lovable Labrador retriever. Sounds like another nice clean movie to me. I say $19 million for the weekend and $27.5 for the four-day period for Marley.
Next up is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher, which has been lumped in with Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino and the rest in getting plenty of Oscar-award buzz surrounding it. We’ve heard a lot about these awards contenders in the press and people have been combing through the per-screen averages obsessively, wondering which of these so-called Oscar flicks will be the one to “break-out.” Well, I will say with certainty that Benjamin Button will be the first one of the bunch to actually have a chance to make some money. Why? Because it’s in 2,988 theaters, that’s why. About time we saw one of these flicks get some decent distribution.
Benjamin Button is based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story of the same name and stars Brad Pitt as a guy who, get this, starts aging backwards. Which means the older he gets, the younger he becomes. Cate Blanchett also stars as his lover who grows older, all.while Button is getting younger.
As I have said, this is going to make some money. The subject matter is kind of weird, though, let’s face it. I kind of worry that this will end up like Cinderella Man and that is might turn into a flick the awards-type people will flock to see it but no one else will. That’s my concern. I’m still going to bet it will do better than that, but people will still end up flocking to the nice, clean movies and Button will end up taking in something along the lines of $14 million for the weekend-$20 million for 4-days.
Now onto Valkyrie, and I have to shudder when it comes to writing up a box office preview of this flick. Tom Cruise is in it, and I know that everyone hates Tom Cruise, and he has had the reverse-Midas-touch thing going for a while now with a lot of his recent projects turning into rubble at the box office. In fact, there are lots of stories circulating out there that this movie — shot in Germany and a headache to make to begin with (because of German hangups over Cruise’s Scientology religion and so forth) — will sink United Artists. Cruise co-owns the studio and the cost of the movie was through the roof, reportedly upwards of $90 million. So a lot of jobs are riding on this movie, and too many people in Hollywood have already been thrown out of work. You have to feel for the people at United Artists.
Valkyrie is directed by Bryan Singer. Cruise stars as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who headed up Operation Valkyrie — an operation which led to the famous 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler’s life that didn’t succeed. So the movie SOUNDS interesting, at least. Valkyrie was running at 62 percent at Rotten Tomatoes the last time I checked, but a lot of people are down on it anyway. Let’s face it, look who’s in it: Tom Cruise, that lunatic who jumped on Oprah’s couch. Audiences have turned on Cruise in a big way and are associating him with “schlock”.
I don’t know whether Valkyrie will finish off United Artists, but it might just finish off Tom Cruise for good as a movie star. I am looking at $13 million weekend/$18 mil-4 day. And that is my prediction for Valkyrie.
Next is The Spirit, and all I have to say about this one is merry Christmas, comic book fans, because it’s been a while since a movie based on comic books has shown up at the theaters. This one is Frank Miller’s film version of the Will Eisner comic book from the Forties. Gabriel Macht stars as the Spirit, and the movie also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson and other people. The plot revolves around Denny Colt, a cop who is believed to be dead, who comes back to take on the forces of lawlessness as the Spirit. Frank Miller (of Sin City fame) directs.
I am predicting only $12 mil/16.5 (4-day) for The Spirit. Why? Because a lot of people are saying the movie is TERRIBLE, that’s why. When the comic-book crowd gets behind a movie, they get behind it bigtime. But if they say it sucks, well, you can expect the worst to happen at the box office. Rotten Tomatoes had this movie running at 14 percent, and that kind of response just isn’t going to cut it this weekend, not with all the positive reviews so many of these other flicks are getting.
Finally, we have Doubt expanding wide to 1,267 screens. It stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis in a story about a nun who confronts a priest who is suspected of abusing a black student. The movie is based on John Patrick Shanley’s play of the same name, and Shanley wrote and directed this thing, too. This movie has been nominated for five Golden Globes, four for acting and one for Best Screenplay. I have to say, I just don’t know if this flick is going to be able to make it into the Top Ten this weekend. It might make it to $5 million(weekend)/7 mil (4-days), but even that may not be enough because of the number of holdovers out there. Keep in mind, a lot of people didn’t go to movies at all last weekend because of the bad weather. Things have improved on the weather front, so we could see plenty of business for a lot of holdovers.
So all these wide releases go wide on Christmas Day this Thursday the 25th. Here is what I see happening over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
And that’s it. Back again at the end of the weekend when we count the presents under the tree here at the Reject Report. In the meantime, enjoy spending your holidays at the movies.