"Men In Black 3"
Who's In It And What's It About? The original trio of Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld return for a time-traveling adventure that sees Josh Brolin play the younger version of Jones' character, with Jemaine Clement as the evil alien killer they face off against. Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg and Bill Hader are also among the cast.
What's The Risk Factor? The return of Will Smith to his biggest franchise after being absent from screens altogether for four years seems like a home run on paper, but it's riskier than it looks. Smith's having a bit of a Tom Cruise-in-2005 moment, with plenty of negative publicity for the previously untouchable star. And the film's had well-publicized production problems, with the budget heading north of $215 million. Perhaps most importantly, the disliked second installment a decade ago took $441 million -- strong, but not when your film costs not far off that, once you add in P&A. We suspect that there's enough residual love for the original, and for Smith, for this to do OK, but OK doesn't necessarily bring you out of the red when a film's this expensive.
What's It Cost? Last we heard, $215 million, but that's got to be close to $350 million with P&A.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Worst case scenario: the film's a trainwreck, teens don't care about a franchise that started when they were toddlers, and it does "Wild Wild West" numbers. Best case scenario, 3D add-ons sees it top the original, which made nearly $500 million, the franchise is reborn, and Smith is safely the world's favorite movie star again. But it's such a big global brand, you can almost guarantee that even if it's a huge piece of shit, it's going to make at least $200 million worldwide and Sony knows this.
When? May 25th
Who's In It And What's It About? Tarsem ("Immortals") gives a comic spin to the Snow White tale, with Julia Roberts as the wicked queen, Armie Hammer as the prince, and Lily Collins as the heroine.
What's The Risk Factor? Have you seen that trailer? Looking like some kind of dreadful ABC Family TV movie, with severely misjudged comic timing, it's arguably our least anticipated film of the year. But that aside, it's got other problems: Julia Roberts is no longer the box-office behemoth she once was (see: "Larry Crowne" last year), and that goes double when she's out of her comfort zone, as she is here. Hammer and Collins aren't yet box office draws, and there's no evidence as yet to suggest that anyone wants to see any of these fairy tale movies, especially as it's got "Snow White and the Huntsman" hot on its heels. Plus, the film was moved back a couple of weeks recently, meaning it's opening head-to-head with "Wrath of the Titans" and "The Pirates!," cannibalizing its own audience. That being said, it seems to skew very young, which may be a genius stroke -- after all, that's the audience that should be watching fairy tale movies.
What's It Cost? Well, it looks cheap as hell, but there are plenty of effects, and Roberts still commands a hefty paycheck. Somewhere in the region of $70-90 million, most likely (conservatively of course).
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? "Red Riding Hood" didn't even make it to $100 million worldwide, but this being less edgy, it may be able to bring in the kids over spring break, although any hope of it being a four quadrant monster is pretty much dead on the vine.
When? March 30th
Who's In It And What's It About? Ridley Scott reboots/prequelizes/does something vaguely connected to the "Alien" franchise he made his name on, with Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green and Idris Elba leading the cast.
What's The Risk Factor? It might be one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year among the geek set, but does it have the same appeal to the general public? They're not necessarily aware of the "Alien" link, and even if they are, that brand was tarnished by weak later installments. They've likely not heard of much of the cast, and the film looks prohibitively dark, even if it ends up with a PG-13 rating. While some will point to "Inception" as evidence that original sci-fi can pay off in a big way, that film had Christopher Nolan coming off "The Dark Knight," and an A-lister in the lead role. We're not saying it doesn't look great, but it's a less-than-concrete commercial proposition, particularly with "Men In Black 3" and "Snow White and the Huntsman" in theaters ahead of it.
What's It Cost? H.R. Giger was quoted as saying the film cost 230 million Swiss francs, which is something like $250 million, but our guess is it's probably closer to $200 mil; still a hefty sum.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Very hard to say. We can absolutely see a world in which the film doesn't clear $100 million in the U.S, like "Robin Hood" (although international should be strong, like that film). We can also see it taking off in a big way, as (relatively) original fare in a sequel- and reboot-happy summer.
When? June 8th
Who's In It And What's It About? Oliver Stone returns to studio fare for a crime thriller, based on Don Winslow's novel, about a pair of Californian pot growers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) who do battle with a Mexican cartel. Blake Lively, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Demian Bichir, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and Emile Hirsch co-star.
What's The Risk Factor? Universal raised eyebrows this week when they moved the film from September to the very heart of summer. Presumably putting the film head-to-head with "The Amazing Spider-Man" suggests a certain confidence in the project, and we can certainly see it working as good counter programming; there are almost no grown-up adult thrillers between May and September, and clearly the studio saw a gap. That being said, it's a cast led by untested young stars, and opening directly against 'Spider-Man,' on the July 4th weekend, no less, could see it trampled on completely. Plus, Stone hasn't had a film that's topped $100 million since "Platoon."
What's It Cost? It's unclear, but our guess would be no more than $55 million, and possibly less.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? We're in almost uncharted waters here, it having been a long, long time since someone tried to release this kind of (presumably) R-rated crime fare at the height of the summer months. We can see it falling flat with domestic audiences, but we could see the gamble paying off unexpectedly.
When? July 6th
"Snow White and the Huntsman"
Who's In It And What's It About? The second of the two Snow White movies this year, this is a harder-edged, "Lord of the Rings" style version, from commercials helmer Rupert Sanders, with Charlize Theron as the wicked queen, Kristen Stewart as Ms. White and Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman, plus a who's-who of British character actors as the dwarves.
What's The Risk Factor? As we said above, Hollywood have pinned their hopes on fairy tale reboots as big box office hits, but "Alice in Wonderland" aside, none has landed to date, This film, originally set for a release later in the year before being moved up to unsuccessfully try to beat its rival to the punch, has the added problem of being the second in the marketplace; will it be the "Infamous" to "Mirror Mirror"'s "Capote"? Furthermore, neither Stewart, Hemsworth nor Theron have ever been major draws outside their franchises. That being said, the cracking teaser trailer seems to have made people genuinely excited about the project; if Universal can keep that up, they shouldn't have too much of a problem.
What's The Cost? At least $150 million, probably higher.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? The billion dollar toll of "Alice in Wonderland" is likely well out of reach, but this feels like one of the more solid prospects on the list at present, although it's in more trouble if "Mirror Mirror" is a hit.
When? June 1st