Who's In It And What's It About? Peter Berg ("The Kingdom," "Hancock") directs this summer's mostly randomly-assembled cast, with TV stars Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgard leading, Liam Neeson lending gravitas, and Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker lending...well, boobs, if we're being honest.
What's The Risk Factor? Let's not beat around the bush here: it's an action movie based on the board game, and it's been a punchline ever since it was announced. It looks dumber than a rock and bar Neeson (who's likely stuck behind a desk for the movie, rather than playing to his strengths by punching foreign people or animals), is entirely absent of names (it's possible that that could change when it comes to Taylor Kitsch, but we'll discuss him more below). It seems to be the kind of thing where something's been greenlit without anyone wondering if anyone actually wants to see a "Battleship" movie, and it faces a tough line-up of competition in May. That being said, something being too stupid has never exactly been a downside to the general public, and Universal's plan to make the film look like "Transformers 4: At Sea" in the trailer could be a genius stroke.
What's It Cost? $200 million, give or take.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Universal knows where its bread is buttered here; they're rolling out internationally up to five weeks earlier than the U.S., with a U.K. release set for April 11th, and we're expecting the film to do well there. Whether the film can crack $100 million in the States is another question.
When? May 18th
Who's In It And What's It About? It's a potentially explosive revenge slavery Western from Quentin Tarantino, with the auteur's starriest ever cast, featuring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, among others.
What's The Risk Factor? "Inglourious Basterds" was by far Tarantino's biggest-ever hit, taking over $300 million worldwide, and he's clearly stuck with the formula, making sure that there's at least one Brad Pitt-style A-lister there to carry the can for the film: in this case, DiCaprio. But Westerns are unpredictable (see "Cowboys & Aliens"), and the film is likely his most expensive to date, and the subject matter is likely to turn off as many as it turns on. As depressing as it is, black actors who aren't Will Smith (who turned the film down) aren't box office draws overseas, and black subject matter doubly so ("The Help" took a mere $35 million internationally). And that's even without mentioning a particularly crowded Christmas season, with the film opening on the same day as another DiCaprio picture, "The Great Gatsby." Which one do you think his female fans will be drawn to more?
What's It Cost? "Inglourious Basterds" was about $70 million, we're going to assume that this one crests closer to $90 mil, given the wealth of star names.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Hard to say. 'Basterds' made over $300 million worldwide, but the politically-charged nature of this, plus the fact that Westerns don't do well overseas (even "True Grit" wasn't a smash abroad) makes it a question mark for being a huge 'Basterds' sized blockbuster. Plus that film had Brad Pitt in the lead. Watch for the studio to put supporting character and villain Leonardo DiCaprio is the marketing as much as possible.
When? Christmas Day
Who's In It And What's It About? Classic British comic character, the near-fascist supercop Judge Dredd, returns to the screen, with Karl Urban donning the helmet and Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey in support. "Vantage Point" helmer Pete Travis directs a script from "28 Days Later" and "Never Let Me Go" scribe Alex Garland.
What's The Risk Factor? In a year full of better-known comic book characters, Lionsgate are hoping to make a minor killing with the revival of the much-loved 2000AD character. But the bastardized version starring Sylvester Stallone didn't have much success a couple of decades back, and that at least had star power; this has the guy from "Red" and "Star Trek" continually behind a helmet. On top of that, reports flew of behind-the-scenes clashes, with Travis supposedly being locked out of the editing room by Garland. The rumors were swiftly denied (less than convincingly) by the creatives, but it can't help but feel like damaged goods. It's likely to get an R-rating too, and has some tough competition in September too, with "Looper" and "Resident Evil: Retribution."
What's It Cost? All that being said, the film's probably the cheapest one on this list, independently financed to the tune of about $45 million.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Lionsgate and DNA Films are likely hoping for something around "District 9" numbers ($200 mil worldwide), but they'll be lucky to get to half that, unless it turns out to be a real surprise hit. A film like this is probably close to being in profit from international pre-sales before it hits theaters, but it won't necessarily birth a franchise.
When? September 21st
Who's In It And What's It About? Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi star as a crack team of 1940s LA cops assembled to take down legendary mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Emma Stone is the woman playing both sides, and her "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleischer is at the helm.
What's The Risk Factor? Studios continue to outside the summer calendar for places to unleash potential blockbusters, and the latest month to attract their attention in October. The trouble is, it hasn't worked out so well so far: none of last year's candidates, like "Real Steel," "In Time" or "The Three Musketeers," really connected. Unbowed, Warners are trying again in 2012, setting their big hope "Gangster Squad" in October. We're excited about the film, to be sure, but neither Gosling, Brolin nor Penn has proven himself to be a big box office draw, and Fleischer's last film "30 Minutes Or Less" died on release. And it's got a fair amount of competition, with "Taken 2" and "Parker" landing in the weeks before, plus it's going head-to-head with horror behemoth "Paranormal Activity 4." Will they be able to do blockbuster numbers in one of the quieter months of the year?
What's It Cost? Given the cast and period setting, it won't be cheap, but might not be a bank-breaker either; let's call it $65 million for now, conservatively.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? In genre terms, there's no real recent precedent, bar Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," which could only manage $214 million worldwide, despite megastar Johnny Depp. Then again, this is less experimental in style, so should do fine unless it gets dreadful reviews. Expect it to be a solid "The Town"-style hit, rather than a juggernaut, though.
When? October 18th