August Turns Crucial for Hollywood Blockbusters

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An article in today’s New York Times explains that film studios usually reserve August for difficult movies that might not do so well if they were released, say, a week after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Which makes sense. But because box office sales are down this summer, some of these tricky August releases are shouldering more weight than anyone — the studios, producers, or directors — expected or hoped. After the jump we preview five of the month’s biggest releases and rank them according to buzz and box-office potential. There may still be some surprises, a la The Hangover, in store for us this summer.

1. District 9 (August 14) We have to admit, we wanted to see this one just to figure out exactly what the hell is going on in that trailer. Lucky for us, it seems as though our curiosity is well founded. Variety reports, “Though compelling throughout, ‘District 9’ never becomes outright terrifying, largely because Blomkamp [the director] is less interested in exploiting his aliens for cheap scares than in holding up a mirror to our own bloodthirsty, xenophobic species.” Sounds deep. And with Peter Jackson’s name attached as a producer, we’re guessing this one will do well.

2. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (August 7) Shockingly, Cinemablend is reporting that G.I. Joe is receiving relatively good early buzz. Is it possible? If this is true, and the film isn’t going be a total flop, then the person who made the trailer should be executed. We think we’ll wait until after the opening weekend to buy our tickets, but there’s no telling if all this heartland marketing noise will work or not. In the meantime, we suggest you watch this G.I. Joe instead.

3. Inglourious Basterds (August 21) After Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 double feature, Grindhouse, disappointed at the box office by taking in $25 M domestically, he (and apparently the Weinsteins) really needs this film to do well. According to The Hollywood Reporter, they should be nervous: “The film is by no means terrible — its two hours and 32 minutes running time races by — but those things we think of as being Tarantino-esque, the long stretches of wickedly funny dialogue, the humor in the violence and outsized characters strutting across the screen, are largely missing.” But then there’s also Brad Pitt, who managed to rake in over $100 M playing an old man baby. This one could go either way.

4. Julie & Julia (August 7) This film, about TV-cook and author Julia Child, and Julie Powell, a woman who many years later decides to recreate all 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, looks sure to delight. And we’ve been reading it about everywhere. However, according to a review published yesterday by the Associated Press, we may be a little disappointed. “The Julia parts are a delight, but the ones about Julie? More like an annoying distraction,” reports the AP. Darn. We’ll have to think hard about spending $12 to go see only half of a good movie.

5. The Time Traveler’s Wife (August 14) Although there are no reviews yet available, we think this one looks promising. The book was a bestseller (and Oprah approved!), which is a good indicator, and there hasn’t been a big romantic flick for adult females so far this summer. Plus, we’re Eric Bana fans, even if he doesn’t have the best box office record. Hopefully this turns out to be more of a Star Trek than a Funny People

So, we’ve gathered the contenders and presented you with the evidence. What movie do you think will be August’s biggest hit?