If there is even the smallest trace of doubt in your mind about what the box-office leader is going to be this Memorial Day weekend, then you’re clearly not paying attention. In fact, the madness has already started.
*With 19 years of pent-up demand for the Indiana Jones franchise, at least among males old enough to have seen the movies the first time around and some of our more respectful children, the only unknown regarding “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is how massive will the inevitable cascade of shekels be for the gang at Paramount. Newshound Nikki Finke is already providing some numbers from the Thursday opening of it’s very long holiday weekend and, so far, it looks potentially ginormous, though it remains to be seen if it will be ultra-super-stupendous ginormous. My personal guess is that it comes up just a little short of the $172 million Memorial Day of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” Whatever else was wrong (and many, many things were) with that second/first “Star Wars” trilogy, there was an awful lot of curiosity and suspense built up over just how the series would end, which isn’t quite the case here. I mean, even after hating the first two films in the series, I found myself shelling out to see the third because I just kind of had to. On the other hand, while I didn’t really love either of the two Indy Jones sequels, my strong affection for the genius popcorn rush of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” will carry me giddily into this one. (Though, like most folks in my age group, I likely won’t be seeing it the first weekend…unless I really want to all of a sudden.)
Also, though I’m personally looking forward to seeing Cate Blanchett as a Soviet villain and the long-awaited return of Karen Allen to the series, hats off to the canny casting of talented youth-fave Shia LaBeouf (whose name, I’m told, means “char the beef” in a rarely spoken French-Urdu dialect) to counter the not-quite a septuagenarian Harrison Ford in the title role. There is some concern out there in the moviesphere about the youth appeal factor, but it’s not like Mr. Ford is exactly, you know, old. To quote my man Roger Ebert, Ford “has one of those Robert Mitchum faces that doesn’t age, it only frowns more.”
Speaking of Ebert, the reviews on “Crystal Skull” are largely positive (though significantly less positive with “top critics“). Still, reading many of the reviews and pull-quotes, we see large undercurrents of “well, it’s not the best, but it’s definitely not the worst” or simply a case of critics wanting to not be killjoys to a movie that almost everybody is going to see anyway. Though “Iron Man” and the (finally reviewed by us) “Prince Caspian” will most certainly be hanging in there this weekend, anything less than $130 million would be an insult for Indy. I could say more on the subject, but why? Instead, check out Will Harris‘s fine appreciation of some of the lesser known films in the Harrison Ford oeuvre. Will watched long and hard for us, show him you care.
*Oh, but there are other new releases coming to theaters this week — though probably not to a theater near you if you don’t live in a very large city, as per the Box Office MoJo theater counts. There are several indie flicks of varying levels of interest entering theaters, but I now draw your attention to two attempts at take no prisoners political satire.
By far the weirder of the two is “Postal” — a film crafted by “he’s not just a director, he’s also a punchline” Uwe Boll, whose skills as a pugilist are ranked well above his filmmaking powers. I can’t personally speak to his film talents, as I’ve somehow managed to avoid all of his video game adaptations — as I’ve actually managed to avoid all videogame adaptations. Yet, I can speak to his lack of humor and decency as I just watched arguably the lamest and most offensive trailer since “The Birth of a Nation” on the flick’s website, in which he and some unfortunate but game actors attempt to mine humor from the cockpit of one of the planes that destroyed the WTC on 9/11, stealing it’s main joke from a scabrously effective piece in “The Onion” and missing the point entirely. Seriously crappy stuff.
Intriguingly, Carl DiOrio of the Hollywood Reporter writes that a major release was planned for the “Postal” but megachains Regal and AMC nixed the idea, cutting 1,500 hundred theaters down to somewhere between DiOrio’s estimate of 15 theaters and B.O.Mojo’s four. Gee, could it be that wrapping up a trailer with the destruction of the twin towers isn’t the way to sell your zany comedy? Simply calling it “politically incorrect” doesn’t cut it.
Okay, so the only surprise about the “Postal” reviews is that 17% of critics were willing to go on record as liking it, but the unpleasant surprise for the makers of the new anti-war black comedy, starring and cowritten by critical favorite John Cusack, “War, Inc.” is that only 22% of critics seemed to have much good to say about a movie that should be critical catnip. (Proof, for once and for all, that just putting one’s liberal politics on display does not guarantee good or even decent reviews from film critics.) This is a film that really needs strong reviews, and while it’s likely to go wider, I guess, based on its star power (Marisa Tomei, Hillary Duff, and Ben Kingsley are also aboard), this one seems doomed. Still, “War, Inc.” features Cusack once again playing a likable assassin, once again ably assisted by the wondrous Joan Cusack. While not an actual sequel to “Grosse Pointe Blank,” (Cusack’s character is not named Martin Blank), it might merit a look from those of us who loved that bit of blackest comedy, and our reviewer, Jonathan Flax, seemed to like it.
UPDATE: More on “Postal” and the amazing Mr. Uwe Boll. Here’s an interview with him explaining the situation from MTV (via this morning’s IMDb Movie & TV News). The short version is he’s distributing himself through his own company — and not all that well. It’s not playing in Manhattan, though they were able to get a screen in Brooklyn, and many of the theaters are showing it only once or twice a day. The interview also links to some “remarks” by Boll, which indicates he also has trouble assembling a coherent self-important rant. He really thinks his movie is like Monty Python….