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New Movies and Box Office Predictions: Stranger Than Fiction, Babel, The Return, A Good Year, Borat

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Following last weekend's family time, this week brings a mix to the cineplex. Whether you are thirsting for comedy, romance, thrills, or adventure, there is something here for you. From Oscar potential, to TV creations brought to the big screen, to literature out to kill, there has to be something here that will tempt your eyebuds and make you want to get out. But I have been known to be wrong, and I can also be tempted by most anything that comes out.

Babel. (2006, 142 minutes, R, drama, trailer) I have to be honest, this looks absolutely fascinating. The story follows several groups of people on different continents who do not know each other and will never meet, who are inextricably linked by circumstance. It is the latest film from Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of the excellent 21 Grams. His films seem to deal with disparate people who come together due to circumstances beyond their control. The film stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. This actually opened last week, but is moving out to a wider audience this week.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. (2006, 84 minutes, R, comedy, trailer) Okay, I am still suffering the sting of underestimating the skill Borat's marketing department, but am willing to let it go as I am very much looking forward to the seeing of this movie film. It stormed last week's charts despite its modest release — Fox worked their magic and made it the hottest ticket in town. It will be interesting to see how well it carries over into its second week of release. Will Borat win over an even wider cross section of America? Will tell time methinks.

A Good Year. (2006, 118 minutes, PG-13, romantic comedy, trailer) Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe team up for the first time since 2000 Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator. This time, Crowe trades in the sword and and sandals for a business suit and glasses. The romantic comedy has the ruthless banker Max Skinner inherits his late uncle's vineyard, a place where he spent much of his youth. Complications arise when a woman claiming to be his cousin and owner of the land arrives. I think Scott is a great director and a Crowe a good actor, but I cannot say that this project has excited me in any way. I am interested because of those involved, but my expectations are being held in check.

The Return. (2005, 85 minutes, PG-13, horror/thriller, trailer) Hmm… I have my doubts over this Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle being a success. I am not commenting on the overall quality, not having seen it (but I could probably make a good guess), but on the striking resemblance that it bears to the The Grudge series (Gellar starred in the first, and had a cameo in the second). Even more than that is the fact that it has barely been a month since The Grudge 2 was in theaters. I remember getting a promotional link for the trailer, and the mailing made a point to say that this was not The Grudge 2. In this film, she stars as Joanna Mills, a successful career woman with a personal life that is out of her control. She has visions of a murder and she may be the next victim. She sets out to follow the visions and uncovers secrets that would have better been left alone. Oooooh, scary.

Stranger Than Fiction. (2006, 113 minutes, PG-13, comedy trailer) I have no idea where they are planning on going with this one, but it looks pretty entertaining. Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, playing possibly his most normal character yet. He is being haunted by the voice of an author, who seems to be writing his life, and he has to find out what is going on before it is too late, as she has designs on his imminent demise. Seems like a clever high concept, I just hope it doesn't fizzle. The cast looks good, including Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhall, and Queen Latifah. It will be interesting to see if Marc Foster can continue his streak of interesting films, following the good but flawed Stay, the excellent Finding Neverland, and Monster's Ball, which I have yet to see.

Also opening this week, but not near me:

  • Harsh Times
  • Cautiva
  • Coffee Date
  • Come Early Morning
  • Copying Beethoven
  • F**k
  • Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
  • Night of the Living Dead 3D

Box Office Predictions

Hmm, this week is a tough call. Well, before I get started, let me state that these predictions are for entertainment purposes only and not based on any reality except that tingly feeling in my gut, although that may be the Chinese I had for dinner. Whatever the case, be aware that I am still learning to navigate my way through the fields of the box office prediction game.

Number one is a tough call. On one hand there is last week's champ, Borat, which took all by storm as it took the crown at a mere 837 theaters, this week moving into a total of more than 2500. On the other hand, there is Will Ferrell, who is a proven box office draw, and the high concept comedy Stranger than Fiction. Both of those have a legitimate shot at the top spot. In the end, I am going to have to side with newcomer Sacha Baron Cohen and the unstoppable force that appears to be Borat. Whether or not it will exceed last week's take is anyone's guess, but I am guessing it will be close.

Here is how I think the top ten field will play out:


Rank Title Box Office
1 Borat $28million
2 Stranger than Fiction $24 million
3 Santa Clause 3 $17.5 million
4 A Good Year $16 million
5

Flushed Away

$12 million
6 Babel $10 million
7 The Return $8.5 million
8 The Departed $5.5 million
9 Saw III $5 million
10 Harsh Times $3.75 million

What are you seeing this weekend?

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