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April 2004 Movie Preview
by Dave Thomas

There are no less than 9 movies coming out this month that were supposed to come out earlier (some years earlier). Three of them are coming out the same week! So think of April as Spring-cleaning for studio (mini and major) vaults before the summer onslaught.

Now, let's get this April preview started off right. With a movie from March.

3/26

Yeah, I know. But they changed around the release date and I can't NOT talk about "Dogville," so here goes…

DOGVILLE

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Nicole Kidman comes to a small town (so small that it has no scenery - more on that in a minute) on the run and agrees to barter with the residents for their shelter. The bartering escalates and treatise on man's inhumanity to Nicole Kidman ensues.

WILL IT SUCK?
The most anticipated Lars Von Trier film since…well, ever. It's been garnering buzz since its Cannes debut for several reasons.

1. Anti-American sentiment.
2. The notion of an A-list star in a Dogme 95 film.
3. The lack of sets. Yes, they mime opening and closing doors.
4. Oh, and the wealth of good reviews. (It's already in the IMDB top 250!)

Well, first of all, the anti-American sentiment appears to be more a function of Lars Von Trier posturing than an actual facet of the film. Lars likes to, shall we say, stir the shitstorm. In terms of casting, the A-list star is only the tip of the iceberg. Also scheduled to appear: Stellan Skaarsgaard, Patricia Clarkson, Lauren Bacall, James Caan, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Davies, Blair Brown, Ben Gazzara, Philip Baker Hall, & Chloe Sevigny. Damn. And according to the strong word of mouth, the lack of sets actually works.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This is all anyone's gonna be talking about on the art house circuit. Whether or not the 177min. runtime and Dogme ethic will translate into suburbia is anyone's guess, but Nicole's presence should grease the wheels considerably. $10mil. (A coup for a Von Trier flick.)



APRIL 2


HELLBOY

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
It's like "X-Men," but with Hell. I can't take credit for that one. That would be a South by Southwest pundit summing up the comic. Fortunately, I saw the flick at this fest so more details below.

WILL IT SUCK?
No, but it won't be great. It has plot problems, but the characterizations are pretty tight (Ron Perlman IS Hellboy) and its sense of humor is dead on. I preferred Guillermo's previous effort, "Blade 2."

As good as it was at times, I think it could have been a lot better. I blame Revolution studios. I've ranted on this before, but the suck factor on their films is inordinate. This movie didn't suck, but Revolution brought the suck and made it worse than it could have been. Call it the Revolution Suck Factor. If you don't believe me, look up their listing on IMDB. Maybe two of those films aren't crap.

The other folks at the fest seemed to like it plenty, so my guess is if you love the comic (or even just H.P. Lovecraft stories), you'll love this.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Never underestimate the comic book audience. As Guillermo said at the conference, we're entering an age of films made "by geeks for geeks". The stellar performance of "Dawn of the Dead," (not a comic book, I know, but not an altogether different audience) indicates that the territory will be ripe and with "Scooby Doo" providing a breather weekend in between the fires should be pretty well stoked for "Hellboy," which upon opening will have to share its young, male PG-13 audience with "Walking Tall." Still, there's not that much crossover and it's two more weeks until "The Punisher" and, more importantly, "Kill Bill 2" snatch up this crowd. $69mil.


HOME ON THE RANGE

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Roseanne Barr plays a cow. Snicker at your leisure. One of the last cries of Disney's 2-D animation department, this follows the bovine adventures of cattle trying to save their farm from the auction block by taking down a notorious cattle rustler.

WILL IT SUCK?
They've handed out the dual writing/directing duties to relative outsiders here. One's a debut artist and the other wrote for MGM/UA ("Secret of NIMH") and directed for Dreamworks ("Road to El Dorado"). If the script's half as good as "NIMH's," this has got a shot.

Of course, there are songs, which of late have not been Disney's strong suit. Still, these come from "Little Mermaid/Aladdin/Beatuy and the Beast" scribe Alan Menken, diminishing the crap factor significantly.

The PG rating throws an interesting quirk into the mix, but ultimately I think this will be a slightly above the fray Disney outing, not unlike the underrated "Tarzan".

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
It'll do pretty well when it opens, especially with good word of mouth. "Johnson Family Vacation" and "Ella Enchanted" may present small threats the following week, but this will have "Brother Bear-ish" success nonetheless. $86mil.


WALKING TALL

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
The Rock steps into the shoes of Joe Don Baker in this remake of the 1973…um, er, classic about a man who tries to clean up a one strip joint town. I can only hope a remake with The Rock as "Mitchell" is next.

WILL IT SUCK?
MGM ain't exactly bringing their A game to this one. They've got the director of "All About the Bemjamins" and a writer from "Cradle 2 Tha Suck" on board along with three other writers who've scored varying degrees of success with "Runaway Jury," "Kiss the Girls" and "Rounders". You kind of have to throw "Desperate Measures" in there, too. And since I'm the only one who liked that, I'm not gonna recommend this on that basis.

So call it their B game.

The Rock has already shown that he can handle the action bag with a surprising dose of charm, but this fare seems more suited to movie of the week status, with more boring dramatic gaps between him doing what he does best - kick ass smarmily.

By the way, this is based on a true story, and for the life of me, I can't see why they changed the name of the original guy - Buford Pusser. You can't make up a better movie name than that.

As far as the cast is concerned, I'm much more psyched about Neil "Boomtown/Minority Report" McDonough than Johnny Knoxville.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Its chief competition is "Hellboy," so those who like their action without comic book fantasy will turn here. I think wrestling fans will still be torn. The following week, "The Alamo" and "The Whole Ten Yards" open and, strangely, between the two of them they may eat up what remains of this flick's audience. $52mil.


THE PRINCE AND ME

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Michael Moore tries repeatedly to gain access to Paisley Park.

Actually, a prince pretends to be an ordinary student but then meets someone special (Julia Stiles) and I think you can figure out the rest.

WILL IT SUCK?
Last month I talked about Anthony Anderson's slow career suicide. This month let's talk about Julia's. It started last year with "A Guy Thing" and continued it with "Mona Lisa Smile". That's not to say that "Mona Lisa Smile" was as bad as "Kangaroo Jack," but I don't want to see either. (Although, truth be told, "Kangaroo Jack" had a higher gross).

Now, Martha Coolidge at the helm is kind of the curveball here. She did direct "Real Genius". (And "Valley Girl," granted). But she's also directed her share of crap. The writers, mostly from TV, are not a particularly inspiring lot. Miranda Richardson as the Queen of Denmark lends an air of credibility, but she couldn't save "Get Carter" either. About the coolest thing I can say about this film is that the guy who plays the prince was a soldier in "28 Days Later".

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This was delayed a week or two and with good reason. It now has a wide-open field. I mean, I know a lot of tweenie girls are gonna wanna go see "Hellboy," but they can't all fit in the theater, so a few may trickle into this, the only romcom (teen or otherwise) in sight. The following week, "Ella Enchanted" will step up and cut into the gross. $39mil.


SHAOLIN SOCCER

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
This is the fifth time I've written this preview. Forget it. If Miramax keeps changing the release date, they can stop counting on me to preview their films. What? Oh, Harvey…Harvey don't…don't cry…I was just kidding. Fine. Here's the preview again.

Down and out ex-soccer player and his five brothers get trained by a shaolin student to kick ass (while playing soccer).

WILL IT SUCK?
This has been around for years getting good buzz while being held back by Miramax (who picked it up at Cannes in 2001!). It's even had time to sweep the Hong Kong film awards. There was some controversy as to whether or not Miramax would dub it or release it in the original Cantonese. It looks like they've agreed to go with subtitles, which is a relief. The new trailer still looks cheesy, but fun. Here's hoping Miramax didn't gut it.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This has a core following of kung fu fans who've waited years to see it and won't have much else to look at 'til "Kill Bill 2" comes out a two weeks later. $5mil.


THE UNITED STATES OF LELAND

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Oh, that Ryan Gosling. If he's not a Jew persecuting Jews ("The Believer"), he's planning Leopold/Loeb-ish slayings ("Murder by Numbers"). Here he's accused of killing an autistic boy and is sent to a juvenile facility where Don Cheadle has to figure out his major malfunction. Can you believe this kid used to be in the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney?

WILL IT SUCK?
Actually, I'm very much looking forward to this. I'm still kicking myself that I missed it at SXSW. Cast is stellar. Cheadle's a given and anyone who's seen Gosling in "The Believer" knows he deserves an Oscar. You've also got Kevin Spacey, Jena Malone, Michelle Williams (who, in a smart post-Dawson move, is really making the indie rounds - last saw her in "The Station Agent") and the return of Sherilyn Fenn. Early buzz is strong.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Opening in the same gravitational pull as "Dogville" won't help. Kevin Spacey's name will (even after "The Life of David Gale"). It's been a while since the Cheadle crowd has had an excuse to go the movies, either. It may not stray far from the arthouse, but it'll make an impact. Instead of "American Beauty" Spacey dollars, think "The Big Kahuna" Spacey dollars. $4mil.


SPRING, SUMMER, WINTER, FALL…AND SPRING

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Actually, the title goes on like that for ten pages, but I had to cut it off somewhere. This Korean film follows a Buddhist monk through, you guessed it, four stages of his life (well, five, to be exact) each represented by a new season at the film's sole location, a raft/temple on a verdant lakeshore.

WILL IT SUCK?
With 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and plaudits from numerous international festivals, not bloody likely. Supposed to be a beautiful, elegant Buddhist fable. Bring the kids. Well, actually it's "R" for "some strong sexuality" so…bring a date.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Even with Sony Pictures Classics' backing, it's got "Dogville's" second frame, "The United States of Leland's" first frame and the following week the international buzz will shift to "I'm Not Scared" so it'll probably get snubbed in theaters as it was at the Oscars. $500,000.



4/9


THE ALAMO

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
What? You don't remember?

WILL IT SUCK?
Ron Howard walked away when he couldn't get his R-rated version through Disney. So John "The Rookie" Lee Hancock stepped in and produced a PG-13 version of a bunch of guys getting slaughtered in a fort. On the other hand, I didn't think I was gonna like "The Rookie," either.

The writing is a much more mixed bag. You've got Stephen "Traffic" Gaghan along with Leslie "Nightmare on Elm Street 5: A Dream Child" AND "Daylight" Bohem. Hancock rounds out the trio contributing equal parts "A Perfect World" and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil".

I like to think that Gaghan will prevail, given as he is to balancing multiple points of view, a necessity with this story, with Billy Bob Thornton as Davey Crockett, Jason Patrick as James Bowie and Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston. Early buzz has the Mexican perspective on the event being given equal weight for once, so that should be interesting.

The X factor is the mysterious delay. This was supposed to come out for Oscar consideration in December. Did they think it was not up to snuff? Or did they just need to add more explosions?

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Its biggest competition comes from "The Whole Ten Yards" which has more star power. The crowds for the other three (yes, three) major releases this week are a little different. Also, don't count out an Easter weekend resurgence for "The Passion". After all that's said and done, this should still make a pretty penny. People love epic battles. $76mil.


JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION (4/7)

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
"National Lampoon's Black Vacation"

WILL IT SUCK?
The writers used to do "C-Bear and Jamal". It was a TV show in the '90's. Yeah, that's all I got.

Cedric the Entertainer is funny as shit. He's been on kind of a roll since "Barbershop" and here he plays the Pa Griswald role. The trailer doesn't entirely suck.

Like I said, that's all I got.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
No real competition. Dare I say this weekend can support five new wide releases? Not really, but this one has a bit of a niche and a two day head start. $17mil.


THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

{Look familiar? This was also delayed from last month. Presumably to avoid the, um, crowded weekend on which it would initially open, uh, yeah, why did they move it again?}

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
The girl next door is a porn star. Well, former porn star. Who cares? It's Elisha Cuthbert. She could be a former nun; we'd still want her to move in.

WILL IT SUCK?
Chances are, well, not as much as last month. The early reviews are surprisingly outstanding. The trailer's still pretty funny (well, the original one, the new ones focus more on the starting over than the raunch). I still maintain that having Timothy "I can't believe it's not Josh Duhamel" Olyphant around doesn't hurt, but having the director of "The Animal" and the writers behind "Van Wilder" and "My Baby's Daddy" does. A lot.

I'll grant that I'm more psyched about this film now than I was at this point last month.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
On paper, going up against "The Whole Ten Yards" probably isn't the best move, but I think delaying the film while strong buzz builds was actually pretty clever. The only thing still getting in the way here is the "R" rating (although, in some ways, that could help). Factor in the now probable good word of mouth and the fact that just using the words "Elisha Cuthbert" and "porn" in the same thirty seconds will be enough to get hordes of horny teens into seats, and you're looking at a surprise hit. $40mil.


THE WHOLE TEN YARDS

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
I hated this movie the first time I avoided it when it was called "Analyze That".

WILL IT SUCK?
I'm sorry. I was supposed to tell you what it was about in that last part. Well, it's about taking the schtick of "Analyze That" and recycling it. (Kind of the way "The Whole Nine Yards" was about taking the schtick of "Analyze This" and recycling it). The problem is Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry are not Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal, and even DeNiro and Crystal weren't THAT fucking good in their version. I still maintain that the last great mafia comedy was "Hot Stuff" with Jerry Reed and Dom DeLuise.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
As with "Analyze That," the audience has been miscalculated. They waited too long to release the sequel. Nobody cares anymore. (And they really didn't care all that much the first time). This could actually get trumped by the R-rated Cuthbert flick. $17mil.


ELLA ENCHANTED

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Anne "Princess Diaries" Hathaway plays a girl in a fairy tale land who attempts to break a curse that forces her to do whatever anyone tells her.

WILL IT SUCK?
This has a better pedigree than your average fairy tale. Writers from "Legally Blonde" and "10 Things I Hate About You" team up with the director of "Billy's Onscreen Hollywood Kiss" to adapt Gail Carson Levine's Newberry Award winning novel. Trailer has a very "Shrek" vibe, right down to the ass-kicking heroine, so here's hoping it's not too derivative.

Miramax usually backs better-than-expected teen fare. (Yes, I liked "She's All That" - and look at that cast now.) Plus, you gotta love the ironic casting of Carey Elwes as the heavy. Eric Idle narrates and Steve Coogan anywhere in a film is good news.

This was delayed from last summer (!) to avoid the rush but I think it would have kicked ass in a weak August.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Will teenyboppers have their fill of romcom with "The Prince and Me" the week before? Maybe, but probably not. The added fantasy element plus Anne Hathaway will skew a shade younger than the Stiles vehicle. Still there's only so much room in one weekend, so don't expect a strong opening. After that, though, the field's pretty open til "13 Going on 30" and "Mean Girls" close out the month. $36mil.


I'M NOT SCARED

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Imagine if you were a kid and you stumbled onto a kidnapping in which adults you knew in your small community were implicated. Would you be scared? What if they were all vampires? What if they were all yuppie vampires? Are you scared yet? What if they smelled funny? Dammit! What does it take!?!?

It's really just the first part the kid in this movie has to deal with.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is strong. It's been nominated for plenty of international awards so far, including a Golden Bear at Berlin.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
If the buzz continues to grow, it could do quite well on the art house circuit. "Dogville" will have had time to die down and no major international releases will challenge it (except "Young Adam" next week, and if they stick to the NC-17 rating it won't be much of a challenge). $5mil.


TWENTYNINE PALMS

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
You might not think that there are TWO films out there called "29 Palms," but you'd be wrong. That's why this French film had to distinguish itself in the states by spelling out the title. (In case you're curious, the first was a 2002 caper with Rachel Leigh Cook, Jeremy Davies and Bill Pullman that was pretty thoroughly panned and quickly forgotten). Anyway, this one, also taking place in the Joshua Tree Desert, is closer to "Gerry" but with more fighting and fucking.

WILL IT SUCK?
You also might not think you could make a micro-genre out of the "two people go walking in the desert and talk" premise, but with the arrival of "Gerry," "Japanese Story" and this in as many years, you'd again be proven wrong. Maybe it's the fact that it doesn't cost very much to go out into the desert and shoot two people talking, but I think it's more than that because it doesn't cost much to shoot them talking in a parking lot, either (though you might need to splurge for a permit).

In any case, these films are pretty consistently a take it or leave it proposition and in this case audiences and critics are more often leaving it. Me, I like my conversations in diners.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Another thing these talking in the desert films have in common is poor box office. I guess it's a good thing they don't cost much to make. $50,000.





4/16

CONNIE AND CARLA

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
This is one of the more original (sort of) premises this month. Connie and Carla (Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette) go on the run from the mob a la "Sister Act" but instead of posing as nuns they pose as…wait for it…cabaret drag queens. Then Mulder falls for one of them.

WILL IT SUCK?
Nia Vardalos knows how to write comedy. She's able to take fairly sitcommy fare and infuse it with life. Strangely, this didn't translate well to an actual sitcom ("My Big Fat Greek Life") but worked just fine on the big screen. That may happen again as she has sole screenwriting credit here. Toni Collette is good in any movie, and David Duchovny has an effective, albeit one note, deadpan delivery.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
I think this has more to fear from "13 Going on 30" the following week than "The Whole Ten Yards" the previous week. It's a fair bout of counter-programming since it's up against "Kill Bill" and "The Punisher" when it opens. There may actually be zero crossover. If they play up the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" angle (and they will) they should open fairly well before trickling off. $35mil.


KILL BILL VOL. 2

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
2 down, 3 to go.

WILL IT SUCK?
Probably not. Inside buzz (I talked to one of the stuntwomen, long story) has it moving a bit more slowly than the original, but that could be a good thing (I loved "Jackie Brown" and. it. moved. slowly.).

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Well. But remember, the first one didn't even clear $100mil. At the same time, nothing else this month really has the cache of this film. That plus the simultaneous release of Vol. 1 could add to an already heightened anticipation among the faithful. Wonder sequel powers, activate! $70mil.


THE PUNISHER

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
The second comic book property to hit screens this month revolves around an FBI agent (Thomas Jane) taking vengeance against a mob boss (John Travolta) for the murder of his family. And for "Battlefield Earth," "Michael," "Phenomenon," The "Look Who's Talking" sequels (ah, hell, the first one, too), "Staying Alive," "White Man's Burden," "Lucky Numbers," "Domestic Disturbance," "Swordfish," and fucking "Basic".

WILL IT SUCK?
Writer/debut director Jonathan Hensleigh penned one of my favorite action screenplays, "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" (see the original ending sometime, it rocks). But he also wrote "The Saint" and "Armageddon," so what are you gonna do? They also have one of the "Hulk" writers (who also wrote "Cliffhanger" and "Goldeneye"). I'm not instilled with confidence.

The good news is that John Travolta and Samantha Mathis are finally being reunited after 8 long years ("Broken Arrow").

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This has a very strong core following, many of whom will want to see "Kill Bill Vol. 2". Maybe they'll make a weekend of it. More likely this will disappear off the radar, especially if it doesn't live up to fan expectations. $55mil.


YOUNG ADAM

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Adaptation of cult novelist Alexander Trocchi's 1957 noir with Ewan MacGregor as a mysterious stranger who enters the lives of a married couple. Did-he or Didn't-he kill the woman who's body they just found type fun ensues.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mixed. It's been nominated for a bunch of UK awards but the stateside reception hasn't been nearly as uniform. The general complaint seems to be that for all the sex and moody atmosphere, it's kind of dull.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
There's some buzz surrounding Ewan's, er, lightsaber, which makes an appearance and has apparently resulted in an NC-17 rating, but somehow "The Pillow Book" survived Ewan Jr. with an R intact so the jury may still be out. Point is, with an NC-17 rating it'll be a lot harder to rake in the bucks because fewer theaters will run it. Few enough will as it is. And though the rating may have helped "The Dreamers" because of its novelty, the second time in the same year, not so much. It's got about as much of a chance as the second frame of "I'm Not Scared". $2mil.



4/23

13 GOING ON 30

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
"Big" with that chick from "Alias".

WILL IT SUCK?
I can't believe this is coming from the director of "Tadpole". Hell, even one of that flick's writers is on board. He's teamed up with the "What Women Want" scribes here for what's sure to not be "Tadpole". I'm not saying it was a perfect film and there are actually some parallels, but dude. Maybe this should give me hope. I mean the premise of "Big" looked cheesy and good writing (and an incredible performance by Tom Hanks) saved it.

A lot of critics like the trailer but I remain unimpressed. Maybe I'm just not that huge of a Jennifer Garner fan. I thought she was ok in "Catch Me If You Can" (and I totally forgot she was in "Daredevil," but a lot of people forget a lot of things about that film) and I've never really watched "Alias" (though I'm mainlining the first season when it arrives from Netflix). We'll see. I'd keep a more open mind, but there's the Revolution Suck Factor again.

Random note: Keep an eye out for Andy Serkis in a small role.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Just because I'm not a big fan and haven't willed myself to watch "What Women Want" yet doesn't mean a whole lotta other people won't wanna see this. This will probably hit the high notes that "Mean Girls," "The Prince and Me," and "Ella Enchanted" are all striving for this month. It's arguably got the hottest star in what will likely be her breakout role. "Man on Fire" provides no challenge and "Mean Girls" the following week will skew to only the younger share of this flick's broad demo. $103mil.


MAN ON FIRE

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
You mess with Dakota Fanning, you mess with Denzel.

WILL IT SUCK?
Denzel's usually pretty discriminating about the roles he takes on. Chris Walken, not so much. And Dakota Fanning is apparently the only little girl in Hollywood. Tony Scott directs this remake of the quickly forgotten '87 original (based on the A.J. Quinell novel) which starred Scott Glenn (now Denzel), Danny Aiello (now Walken) and Joe Pesci (now Fanning). With Scott at the helm, it's sure to look as cool as shit. Adaptation master Brian Helgeland ("LA Confidential", "Mystic River") provided the words so we're in fairly safe territory here.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This is totally the month of revenge. The Rock walks tall in hickville, Uma kills Bill (and a whole lot of other guys) and Thomas Jane punishes John Travolta - and the last two are just in the previous week. I think audiences might be all vendetta'd out. Then again, it is Denzel, and he's about as big a draw (and budget item) as all of the above actors combined. The second frame of "Bill" might provide some challenge, but this flick's demo is a little broader. $77mil.


THIS SO-CALLED DISASTER (4/21)

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Doc on the dates preceding the premiere of Sam Sheperd's new play "The Late Henry Moss".

WILL IT SUCK?
Do you like Sam Sheperd? You'll get a whole lot of him plus the stars of the play, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Cheech Marin and Nick Nolte. Early buzz is strong.

The director isn't exactly known for a lot of great films, but he did direct the, um, interesting modernization of "Hamlet" in 2000. But if he just sets up the camera and lets these guys talk about acting and playwriting, he's halfway home. Even T-Bone Burnett is up in here.

If you're into theater, this is the hot ticket for April.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
If you're into theater, you're probably not seeing that many movies. This is looking at a very limited release. This is the sort of film that could afford to open in New York instead of LA (although IFC's smart enough to open in both). If they play up Sean Penn, they could capitalize on his Oscar heat. But even "Looking for Richard," a theater doc about a much more famous playwright with Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey (3 Oscars between them) upping the star quotient, only made a little over a mil. $750,000.

CLIFFORD'S REALLY BIG MOVIE

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Clifford, an enormous red dog, tries to win a lifetime supply of pet food to ease the burden on his family.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz isn't promising. The director's done some straight to video for "The Brave Little Toaster" so a big red animated dog shouldn't be too much of a stretch. And the writer did "Cruel Intentions 3," which, sadly, is also going direct to video. This film escaped that fate by testing well, but not with critics. Still, if you liked the books and the TV series (and you're still in pre-school) you'll probably dig this.

Also, if you're an extremely big John Ritter fan, know this is technically his final film performance (he voices Clifford).

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This is the first time I've heard of a kid's film coming out in limited release, but if that's what they wanna do, there's certainly no genre-similar competition in the art houses. Chances are, though, that this will be a limited release in multiplexes, where "Home on the Range" will be petering out (and playing to a slightly older crowd, anyway). Pre-schoolers are, frankly, underserved, and usually bring at least one more ticket to the party so it'll be interesting to see how this performs. My guess is its real future is on DVD, however. $5mil.



4/30

ENVY

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Jack Black invents "va-poo-rize" which eliminates dog poo with a spray. Getting rich off his invention, he turns his friend, perennial straight man Ben Stiller, into a jealous enemy. And then Christopher Walken does some stuff.

WILL IT SUCK?
Touted as a dark fable by Barry Levinson, which he expects may be misunderstood (most of all by marketing), the film looks to make good use of its strong leads. However a year's worth of delayed release and a script from "Fridays" writer Steve Adams (Remember "Fridays"? It was no "Ben Stiller Show".) make me nervous.

Early buzz is underwhelming.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This will fall into the pit with all the other crap being released this week. Seriously, I think "13 Going on 30" or "Man on Fire" will come out on top two frames in a row. $10mil.


GODSEND

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Look out! It's cloney-baby!

Again, can't take credit for that one. That would be my girlfriend upon seeing the trailer. Here's my synopsis: A married couple (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) lose their son in a terrible accident. A doctor (Rober DeNiro) uses cloning to recreate him on the sly. The only problem is when he gets to be the age their original son was when he died, he turns all creepy.

Now, wasn't her synopsis better?

WILL IT SUCK?
Look, if your parents are Captain Amazing and Mystique, I don't see how there can be a problem. Still, there is, and it's the delayed release. This was supposed to come out last fall, in creepy movie season, but was delayed til now.

The writer and director are fair newcomers. We can only hope the screenplay's good. This is the same guy who's writing the next "Die Hard". One other note of interest, this is the first major film produced, in part, by cyber-mogul Mark Cuban, which explains why the Mavericks show up halfway through the film and try to recruit the baby.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This is one of the few films that stands at least a shot of getting positive buzz this week. If it sets the right tone, people might be in the mood for a scare after a month nearly bereft of supernatural thrillers. On the other hand, this was cut down from an "R" to a "PG-13". Shifting gears like that mid-stream can kind of kill the tone. $29mil.


MEAN GIRLS

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Linsday Lohan is the new girl at school. Again. She takes on the most popular girl at school. Again.

WILL IT SUCK?
This looks to be a step above its clone "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen". You've got Lohan reunited with "Freaky Friday" director Mark S. Waters and Tina Fey on board as writer and supporting actor. As a result, expect a lot of SNL cameos (Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer). The trailer's actually pretty funny. Surprisingly, this was actually SUPPOSED to come out April 30th.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Nothing this week. But holdover from "13 Going on 30" could be an issue. Still, not another popular teen comedy on the horizon for a while. $43mil.


THE LAWS OF ATTRACTION

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
An attempt to resurrect the success of "Adam's Rib" style repartee (or "Intolerable Cruelty" um, okay, maybe "Adam's Rib" is the better example here). Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore play warring divorce attorneys who end up married by accident.

WILL IT SUCK?
Peter Howitt's an okay director ("Sliding Doors," "AntiTrust,") but what's really interesting here is the writing team of Aline Brosh McKenna ("Three to Tango") and Robert Harling ("First Wives Club," "Soapdish," "Steel Magnolias"). It seems appropriate to have a man and a woman write this, but here it's the guy who's really bringing the chick flick factor to the mix. I mean he adapted "Steel Magnolias" from his own play! The trailers seem to indicate the witty banter will be more banter and less witty, but it's hard to tell. It's got a shot, but Hepburn and Tracy have nothing to fear.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Even in an oversaturated weekend such as this, there are no adult romantic comedies for this to compete against. In fact, there really aren't many in sight for weeks. So a (briefly) underserved audience will get a reprieve of which they will most likely take advantage. $70mil.


BOBBY JONES: STROKE OF GENIUS

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Jim Caviezel stars in the true story of golfer Bobby Jones who retired early from the game after dying for our sins…wait…after a stellar start.

WILL IT SUCK?
I can't believe they're revisiting "Bagger Vance" territory this soon. Yes, I know it's been four years.

Admittedly, it's a fascinating story. This is the only guy to ever win the Grand Slam, after which he founded the Augusta National Golf Club and, um, what's that other thing, oh, right, The Masters. On his off days he got degrees in law, literature and engineering.

Now imagine that story in the hands of the guy who directed "Road House" and wrote "Striking Distance".

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
There's nothing terribly strong coming out this week in limited release, but with all the appeal golf films tend to have people looking to go see a Jim Caviezel film will most likely just go see "The Passion" again. $2mil.


THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Contest in Winnipeg during the Great Depression to find the title. Musicians from around the world descend (ascend?) on the Great White North to compete for $25,000 and the opportunity to depress the shit out of the poor.

Wacky romantic entanglements ensue, as they will, including one involving (and this is from IFC Films' synopsis) a "wandering nymphomaniacal amnesiac". I fuckin' love indie film.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is quite good. As you can imagine, it's being hailed as a pretty original work. The director and co-writer Guy Maddin has a decent following in Canada though I've only heard of one of his films in the states ("Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary") which made the fest rounds (you can guess why I remembered the title). He actually just got recognized this year here by the US Comedy Arts Festival as best director for this flick. Anyhoo, it's got Mark "Kids in the Hall" McKinney in a lead role and that can't hurt and the principal screenwriter's the guy who wrote the novel "Remains of the Day".

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
If IFC can get a groundswell going it's got a pretty weak field in which to contend. However, the following week "Valentin" comes out and it's already got buzz going for it. But if this film's as funny as they say…then it can hope for a life on DVD. $100,000.


And Sometime In April…

CLOSE YOUR EYES or HYPNOTIC or DR. SLEEP

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
This film has gone through about as many title changes as delays and at this point no two sources seem to agree on a release date. I'd go to the website, but it's 404. So, assuming this actually does come out, it'll be about a hypnotherapist who somehow becomes involved in the hunt for a mystical serial killer in London.

WILL IT SUCK?
Well, here's what I wrote about it in September of 2003:

"It's possible. It's been on the shelf for a very long time. On the other hand, early buzz isn't all that bad. The trailer looks equal parts cheesy and intriguing. Think of it as 'The Order' with better source material but a smaller budget."

Understand, this was originally supposed to come out in Fall 2002! So this wins the award for most delayed release this week. Which, by extension, becomes the most likely to suck award, as well.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Well, that depends. Any of the three weekends I've seen listed as release dates for this film will be bad. So they may just delay it again. And if they do, I'll be there. To reprint this again and again. I did it for "Shaolin Soccer," dammit, I'll do it for this, too! But I'm gonna keep lowering my estimate. Back then I said it'd do $400,000. I'm revising that to $300,000. They'd better release this soon or it'll go down to $2.50.

This preview, by the way, was delayed from March of 1997. We had to tweak it. It didn't preview very well. No one knew who Jennifer Garner was. It was a whole mess. But now we think it's ready and we hope you enjoyed it.

Next month, I'm going to devote my entire preview to the new Olsen twins movie. Fuck "Van Helsing."

- Dave Thomas
http://travelindave.blogspot.com

 


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