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Summer Movies: What Can Top Iron Man 2?

by Anne Thompson
April 20, 2010 4:01 AM
13 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

It's starting to look a lot like summer.

Previews and forecasts are cropping up, as Hollywood hopes to best last year's $4.31 billion domestic summer total.

Thompson on Hollywood

Universal is scheduling screenings of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood in advance of opening the Cannes Film Fest May 12. The studio put Russell Crowe, looking puffy and thick-waisted, on the Oprah Winfrey Show to charm her femme audience, but he looked half-hearted and miserable, trying to demonstrate his prowess with a giant cross-bow. (Despite the presence of Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian, the movie looks very action-male to me.)

And Paramount is revving up the Iron Man 2 marketing machine, moving the junket from London to L.A. this coming weekend, due to that pesky Icelandic volcano. Here's the Audi ad.


Thompson on Hollywood

Iron Man 2, judging from what I saw and learned at Comic-Con, is likely not only to please me, but everyone else. As a sequel, it's much more pre-sold than the first movie, which built good buzz to a $98.6 million opening in May 2008, a $318.4 million domestic gross and $585 million worldwide. The record to beat: The Dark Knight's July 2009 $158.4 million opening. Some b.o. prognosticators say Iron Man 2 can pull $160 million.

But Marvel wanted to make sure that Iron Man 2 would advance the first success, not just bilk it. Downey, Favreau, Marvel exec Kevin Feige and writer Justin Theroux collaborated for months hashing out the story, and continued improvising and changing on set until the last minute.

Iron Man 2 starts out six months after the first one, as billionaire Tony Stark deals with going public as Iron Man. Now everyone knows he has the power to save the world—if he can keep his sanity. Assistant/love interest Pepper (Gwenyth Paltrow) tries to help him to fly straight, shooting him stern glances as he baits a nasty Senator (Gary Shandling) out to steal his invention. And old chum Colonel Rhodes (now played by Don Cheadle) is not necessarily on his side.

Thompson on Hollywood

Word is, the villains are better this time: Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johannson deliver the goods as vicious Russian prison vet Whiplash, snarky rival arms dealer Sam Rockwell and super-fit fatale Black Widow. Paramount grabbed the same early May slot as the first one, and should roll up enormous grosses before any real summer competition gets under way. What could beat Iron Man 2 at the summer box office?

OTHER TOP SUMMER TENTPOLES

While Chris Nolan's Inception (July 16), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and a cartload of mindbending effects, is a strong contender for best summer movie, that doesn't mean it can beat a franchise sequel like Iron Man 2. It's not a Batman film.

Potentially more robust are two animated sequels: Paramount/DreamWorks Animation's Shrek Forever After boasts an early release date (May 21) as well as the 3D premium; Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3, also in 3D, follows four weeks later on June 18 and will chug along all summer. Toy Story 2 grossed 245.8 million in North America back in 1999, but the franchise thrives on DVD. Shrek 2 grossed $441 million, while Shrek the Third dipped 26% to $322.7 million. It will be a close race but I will put my money on perennial quality-guarantor Pixar to deliver great WOM, with a nice 3-D boost.

While The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (June 30) will deliver a huge opening off star combo Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner, judging from some ill-favored winds surrounding David Slade's direction (losing one's editor and lengthy reshoots are not a good sign), I suspect it might fall off. Twilight: New Moon grossed $296 million last year.

Angelina Jolie is Hollywood's most bankable female star because she can do action. But one franchise (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) petered out on bad execution, she turned down the Wanted sequel (the original delivered $135 million domestic, $341 million worldwide) and where's the return of her biggest grosser (with partner Brad Pitt) Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Philip Noyce's spy thriller Salt (July 23) (which Cruise was originally up for) could do serious business, but it's a launch.

While Jolie is attempting to mount a Bourne-like franchise, Matt Damon is starring opposite Emily Blunt in George Nolfi's romantic The Adjustment Bureau (July 30), which as another non-Bourne movie, requires a hard sell. Another movie with femme appeal could be the film adaptation of the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love (August 13), starring Julia Roberts as a peripatetic woman in search of her identity. But it's unlikely to cross over to males.

Sex and the City 2 (May 27) should do even better than the first movie ($153 million domestically). This brand name is catnip to women and men who like shopping, but the picture won't push into action blockbuster territory.

The Cruise/Diaz combo could lure audiences to James Mangold's non-sequel Knight and Day (June 25), but neither star is a guaranteed b.o. draw at this point, even in a popcorn movie. Cruise's last two pictures, the adult-targeted Valkyrie and Lions for Lambs, struggled at the box office; his last tentpole sequel, 2006's Mission: Impossible III, topped out at $133 million and lost Cruise his producing shingle at Paramount.

Disney/Bruckheimer boast two VFX-heavy live-action summer entries: Mike Newell's glossy sword-and-sandal epic Prince of Persia, starring Jake Gyllenhaal (May 28) and Jon Turteltaub's The Sorcerer's Apprentice (July 16) starring Nic Cage (it's partly based on animated classic Fantasia). Both will need to build great buzz to outlast the competition.

The Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators (July 7) will be strictly R-rated male action, so there's a cap. In the same ballpark but possibly more commercial is Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables (August 13), with its all-star action ensemble led by Stallone, Jet Li and Jason Statham. Rocky Balboa grossed $70 million domestic, $155-million worldwide in 2006, and Li and Statham boast global followings.

Comic book action western Jonah Hex (June 18), starring Josh Brolin, and Edgar Wright's ensemble action comedy Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (August 13) look like two sleeper candidates to break out beyond the fanboy demo. But they won't challenge the big guns. To me, also lacking the right stuff to reach the b.o. heights are The A-Team, The Last Airbender, The Karate Kid, Grown-Ups and Despicable Me. But you never know what's going to break out.


13 Comments

  • Koto | April 22, 2010 9:08 AMReply

    Patrick Goldstein is great read.Very insightful.It indicates what kind of public images like Crowe.Penn or Kidman have.And why.I think talent is most important thing for actors,of course,but I love actors more,if they are nice (that's why I love Jim Sturgess so much.He is not only very talented,but also really nice person).And hope good things happens to them.But if they aren’t so nice,I'm not sure.(Still I would see their films,if they are good and love them though)

    As for the summer movies,I'm also interested in "Salt".Philip Noyce is a talented director and Angelina is a biggest female action star today.

  • Koto | April 21, 2010 6:55 AMReply

    I'm really looking forward to seeing Inception.It looked fascinating! And it has our own Ken Watanabe.I'm sure he did great job in it.American comic hero films are actually not so popular in here and these films are not my cup of tea,but I think Iron Man 2 looked interesting.The cast of this film is just stellar.

    Normally I don’t take celebrity gossp seriously,because mostly it's crap.But Russell Crowe's "throwing phone" story was so awful,I disliked him immediately.It was that bad.I'm sure he is mature now.And today it seems like his career is just fine.Of course I never met him,so I have no bad feeling toward him anymore.But I think it is true that many people who met him or worked him had an awful time in the past.I read many comments about that.If these people have mixed feeling towards him,it's reasonable.I think Anne just stated her honest opinion about Crowe. It's nothing wrong.

  • moviefan | April 21, 2010 4:02 AMReply

    Maybe you're talking about print journalists who might ask him such 'intelligent' questions like "Ah, gee, Russell, are ya wearin' tights in this movie?" probably the 109th time he'd heard that question that day. If a journalist (which are few and far between these days) asks intelligent questions he/she will get considered, honest answers. A lot of it is in the approach. Some so-called journos start out with an obvious agenda and get what they expect and probably what they deserve. Some come armed with actual questions and have done a little research and those will be successful and interesting interviews.

    There just aren't that many real journalists anymore, print or otherwise. Too many want the interview/article to be all about them, too many want to be snarky satirists who are trying to out-clever each other and too many pretty faces in skirts who want to be interviewing celebs on so-called entertainment shows.

    I consider Anne to be an actual journalist, which is why it's disappointing to me when someone of her caliber makes the comments that she did...and it's not the first time.

  • Anne Thompson | April 21, 2010 3:54 AMReply

    check out this piece by Patrick Goldstein, which gets into some of what I'm trying to say about Crowe:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/the_big_picture/2010/04/is-kobe-bryant-just-like-a-cranky-arrogant-hollywood-movie-star-or-even-worse-.html

  • netherregion | April 21, 2010 3:02 AMReply

    Of course he was in a good mood on Oprah. But put him together with a print journalist and no cameras around to capture the moment, and Crowe becomes a surly, arrogant creep. He and Tommy Lee Jones are two of the biggest jerks around, and I respect both of them as actors. Crowe was great in L.A. Confidential and a few other flicks, while Jones is always good when he's not selling out for a paycheck. Still, they are miserable human beings, and I'm glad I don't have to work with them.

  • Brian | April 21, 2010 2:30 AMReply

    I just read about STEP UP 3-D and PIRANHA 3-D in Entertainment Weekly. I've now doubled my viewing list for the summer.

  • moviefan | April 21, 2010 2:25 AMReply

    M&C, Anne? What, 7-8 years ago? You may have had a bit of a rough Q&A but that's a long time ago and you still seem to have some sort of grudge against Crowe. I read you daily and I've seen it from time to time.

    If you saw nothing but puffy-faced, thick-waisted, half-hearted and miserable on Oprah then your prejudice is showing and any objectivity is out the window. Oprah was charmed and appreciative of Crowe's gift of the #1 sword from Robin Hood, Russell was in a good mood and charming, and he told really cute stories about his kids.

  • Chip | April 20, 2010 8:25 AMReply

    I'm pretty sure that Toy Story 3 can. It's Pixar, it's Toy Story, and it's my only sure bet of the summer. I'm extremely excited for it.

  • Anne Thompson | April 20, 2010 8:01 AMReply

    I did a Q & A for SAG for Master & Commander with Crowe and Paul Bettany. (Was it pleasant? no.) I have made a study of him, because I admire his acting tremendously. What I see is a man who loves his wife and kids and his work who has tried to overcome his demons but should never never drink. He is a great actor, one of our best. But he doesn't always behave in a way that will make him a huge movie star.

  • moolib | April 20, 2010 7:38 AMReply

    I don't know what Russell Crowe you're talking about -- I thought he was sweet and charming on Oprah and I have always found him to be quite charming in person. I think you're talking through your hat about someone you've never met and something you don't know anything about.

  • Brian | April 20, 2010 6:49 AMReply

    I've long wanted to see Angelina Jolie in a remake of LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, simply because she'd be great in the role (and I love the original, no knock on Geena Davis at all). SALT is the closest we'll get, so I'm ready for it.

    THE EXPENDABLES is action movie heaven. The kind of movie that used to flood the multiplexes (and 42nd Street) back in the day and seems so rare in these SEX-AND-THE-CITY/romcom saturation days.

    So, basically, that's it. SALT and THE EXPENDABLES are the only films I'm looking forward to this summer.

  • netherregion | April 20, 2010 5:14 AMReply

    Robin Hood will be a bust. OK, maybe they'll buy the opening weekend, but that's it. People do not like Russell Crowe because Russell Crowe does not like people. He throws phones at helpless desk clerks. He acts rude to interviewers who aren't named Oprah. And he's generally a jerk. Money is too tight these days, and no one wants to spend money supporting a jerk (except maybe those who contributed to George W. Bush's presidential campaign.)

  • Lily | April 20, 2010 5:08 AMReply

    Sorry but inception is the film for me this summer.it looks like it is going to be great.

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