May Flowers

May 03, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

May brings good news to those who have had trouble getting excited about 2007's theatrical fare. In fact, thus far the only movie to really excite movie-goers in general has been 300. Sure, there have been other success stories, but the adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel is the only film of the year thus far to have energized the public. April was a horrible month, which is surprising since the movie industry usually starts ramping up to the summer season a week or two before May Day.

If you like variety, May is a bad month. Consider, for example, what the lineup of a 24-plex might look like on Memorial Day: 10 auditoriums for Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (first weekend out), 6 auditoriums for Shrek the Third (second weekend out), and 3 auditoriums for Spider-Man 3 (fourth weekend out). That will leave about five theaters for other titles. In smaller 'plexes, it might be all Pirates, Shrek, and Spidey. The message: if you're not interested in these blockbusters, stay home or go to an art house.

Advance word, which is often not accurate, isn't rosy for any of these films. Shrek the Third in particular is getting some unkind things said about it. It doesn't matter, though. Even if word-of-mouth is dismal, these movies will rake in an astonishing amount of money. (Example: the oft-despised The Phantom Menace topped the $400M mark.) $110 million each for their respective opening weekends is not out of the question. Pirates 3's four-day Memorial Day weekend opening could net $150 million (although nice weather in the northeast could diminish this). Nevertheless, the year's ultimate box office champion is probably sitting the month out. I expect that to be the fifth Harry Potter movie, which has three big things going for it: it's opening at a time when the kids are out of school, it's opening a week before the seventh book comes out (although that could result in a temporary drop in numbers the second weekend), and it's the last family friendly mega-blockbuster of the summer.

So, beyond the obvious, what's coming out this month?

Only one wide release film wasn't scared away by Spider-Man, and that's because the target demographics are different. Frankly, I'm not sure whom Lucky You is aimed at. It's a father/son relationship drama crossed with a sports movie where the "sport" is poker. Not exactly a big draw during the best of times, which is probably why this movie is on its fourth release date. Also worth noting: the trailers for Lucky You are misleading. They promise a romantic comedy with Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore. The love story is actually secondary. The father/son angle (Robert Duvall, Eric Bana) is primary.

In terms of stupendous, rock-the-boat entertainment, May 11 is a slow day. There are four wide releases, none of which has the juice of Spider-Man 3, which will probably top the box office for the second consecutive weekend. I will not be seeing Delta Farce, applying the theory that if the trailer for a comedy is unwatchable, the movie must be pure torture. The Ex, with Zach Braff, is mediocre and will get lost in the summer fray. 28 Weeks Later has some potential but it might have been better placed for a late summer or fall release. Many of those who might normally see this will be watching Spider-Man 3 a second or third time. Finally, there's Georgia Rules, which I probably won't see until it opens. I'm having trouble getting past the gag reaction that the cast - in particular Lindsay Lohan - is causing. The problem with actors who court the paparazzi and revel in being daily tabloid fodder is that it becomes impossible for them to effectively portray a character other than themselves.

Opening opposite Shrek the Third on May 18: nothing. A little movie called Once is showing up in "major markets" but I wouldn't expect to see it in any multiplexes. In actuality, I'm looking forward more to Once than Shrek the Third, but that may just be the contrarian in me. I must add, however, that I have not been frozen out of the Shrek screening the way I was the Spider-Man 3 screening. I get to see that one early along with the big boys.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the only film opening in more than a handful of theaters other than Pirates 3 is Bug. This one sounds intriguing - a freakish psychological horror story that is definitely not family friendly. It may not be any good, but I can guarantee I'll see it. If nothing else, it will be an antidote to the PG and PG-13 movies polluting the May schedule. I like a good R-rated effort once in a while.

That's pretty much it for May. There are some other, smaller films that will pop up along the way, but it's even a quiet month for foreign and independent fare. If you don't like weekend crowds and long lines, this might be a good month to become re-acquainted with your DVD players. All three of May's shining stars will still be showing mid-way into June.