Angels & Demons: Chatter on the mainstream movie blogs that I read has centered, in recent days, over what franchise type title will be the Prince Caspian of 2009 — that is, a surprise disappointment to a thought-to-be-healthy franchise. Not quite a bomb, mind you, but a curt reminder, in the form of vastly diminished grosses, that not every hit movie demands a follow-up. The Night at the Museum sequel was subject to much speculation as was, to a lesser degree, Terminator: Salvation. I think those movies will do fine, financially, but when Angels & Demons came up, it sounded right.
And by “right” I mean, “likely to gross no more than $150 million even though the last one broke 200.” Think about it: do you know anyone who really, thoroughly enjoyed the Da Vinci Code movie? Seriously, even the people you know with terrible, terrible taste. Lots of people tolerated it, sure, or found it novel as a magical way of seeing their favorite terrible book come to life, but I’m not convinced this movie had its very own fans. Also, what’s up with Tom Hanks? His career isn’t really in trouble, but it’s strange how, about five years ago, he morphed from having this unique resume based around solid, adult-minded mainstream movies that actually made bank to a more traditional “one for me, one for them” model yielding interesting performances (The Ladykillers, The Terminal, Charlie Wilson’s War) and several cakewalks (The Polar Express, this Da Vinci crap). Granted, even a typical Hanks “me” movie makes $50 million or more, and I doubt he’s losing sleep over faltering box-office clout (or over doing another Ron Howard movie, for that matter). But Da Vinci and Angels collectively represent the schlockiest couple of movies he’s done since the mid-eighties. I mean, even Turner & Hooch was sandwiched between two underrated weirdo comedies: The ‘burbs and Joe vs. the Volcano. In fact, every time Hanks suits up to play Robert Langdon, he’s making serious competition for his worst movie ever. I’d expect the guy to be munching on a nicer brand of popcorn.
The Brothers Bloom: Be still my heart. Rian Johnson’s high-school noir Brick was my favorite movie of 2006 and remains one of my very favorite debuts of the past bunch of years. As such, I’ve been looking forward to his con-artist tall-tale The Brothers Bloom pretty much as soon as I read that its script existed; last August it ranked first in want-to-see for the remainder of 2008. That was back when it was supposed to come out in December, which at the time represented a disappointing postponement from October. Then Twilight came out, and Summit got all cocky, or skittish, or I don’t know what, and knocked Bloom into May. But now it’s May! And it’s actually coming out! And I feel like general critical consensus came and went when it played a bunch of festivals last summer and fall! But I haven’t seen it and I doubt I’ll care if it’s too cute or too clever or too silly, and anyway, I just want to see the damn thing and compare it to Brick and Wes Anderson and whatever else myself. There are too few new indie directors whose movies actually get me excited, not just respectful, and that’s what Johnson has been up to so far.
Management: I can’t abide Jennifer Aniston, but she is preferable in indie mode (The Good Girl, Friends with Money), so this clearly has a better shot at tolerability than her next inevitable big hit. She plays a businesswoman sorta-stalked by a goofball motel worker (Steve Zahn). Last time I considered seeing an indie rom-com even though all signs pointed to cutesiness, I completely dropped the ball and lost track of Gigantic. But maybe romantic comedy junkies will want to take a shot.
O’Horten: I feel like there must be some kind of deranged purity in working in marketing for indie distributors, like a sick pride in not cutting trailers that make a movie look enjoyable or exciting in any way. Because having seeing the trailer for O’Horten, about a train engineer about to retire and taking stock of his life, I was pretty damn shocked to see that it’s getting wonderful reviews; the trailer makes it look plodding and precious. But apparently it’s austere enough for eighty-two percent on the Tomatometer.