The Remaining Summer Blockbusters: Who Will Win, Who Will Lose

The "official" start of summer -- two weeks' worth of upper-90 degree temps notwithstanding -- isn't until this Sunday. For Hollywood however, the summer blockbuster season kicked off in May with the release of Wolverine.

In the ensuing month-and-a-half, we've had some box office successes (Star Trek, Night at the Museum 2, Up), some disappointments (Terminator: Salvation, Angels & Demons, Land of the Lost), and one surprise hit (The Hangover). And there are still over two months and a dozen or so major releases left to go.

In this economy, selecting the right movie to spend your hard-earned nine dollars on is more important than ever. Lucky for you, Hair Balls is here to guide you in the right direction, complete with totally arbitrary guesses as to box office performance. Enjoy.

Year One

Release Date: June 19
Actual Tagline: "Meet your ancestors"
Better Tagline: "From the writer/director of Bedazzled"
Harold Ramis returns to the director's chair to offer a speculative account of what ancient civilization might have been like if populated with braying nincompoops (Jack Black) and otherwise inoffensive man-boys (Michael Cera, whose deadpan shtick is nonetheless getting really old). Also included, the ubiquitous Paul Rudd and David "I Only Make Shitty Movies So I Can Buy Property in Upstate New York And My Artistic Credentials Are Still Spotless, You Ignorant Homunculoids" Cross.
Probable Domestic Gross: $75 million

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Release Date: June 26
Actual Tagline: "Revenge is coming"
Better Tagline: "Bay brings boobs, 'bots, blammo"

One has to go to previously unscaled heights of belief-suspension with these movies, and I'm not talking about the concept that colossal alien robots are doing battle on our planet, but that Mikaela Banes would have anything to with a stammering doofus like Sam Witwicki. Early indicators are that this is going to be bigger than the first Transformers, so we can look forward to more robo-carnage, pyrotechnics, and heaving, sweaty bosoms. All in requisite Michael Bay brand slo-mo.
Probable Domestic Gross: $375 million

Public Enemies

Release Date: July 3
Actual Tagline: none
Better Tagline: "Depp and Bale can succeed outside of kids' movies...we hope"

Johnny Depp's box-office track record outside of movies with the words "Pirates" and "Caribbean" in the title is pretty sketchy, and minus a certain DC Comics franchise, Bale would probably be looking at picking up the Substitute DVD franchise from Treat Williams. This John Dillinger biopic at least has lots of gunplay going for it, but it remains to be seen how many people will want to spend July 4th weekend watching these two gnaw at the scenery.
Probable Domestic Gross: $100 million

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Release Date: July 3
Actual Tagline: none
Better Tagline: "You wanted a Scrat movie; you got more of the same"

Can we just subtitle all subsequent entries in this wearisome franchise "Three Has-Been Comedians Try to Wring More Profit Out of Their Marginally Entertaining Careers?" Give the studio its credit: whenever Pixar releases a thoughtful, intelligent, and entertaining film, 20th Century Fox will always be around to offer a crude and unfunny alternative.
Probable Domestic Gross: $150 million


Release Date: July 10
Actual Tagline: "Borat was so 2006"
Better Tagline: "Sacha Baron Cohen thinks you're stupid; proves it"

I'll be the first to admit, I didn't think anyone would be fooled by Cohen again following the overexposure of the Borat phenomenon, but if the trailer is any indication there's no end of people eager to become enraged at the slightest provocation. If his first movie floated the hypothesis that perhaps Western civilization deserves to come to an unquiet end, Brüno might as well be the barbarians at the gate.
Probable Domestic Gross: $125 million

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Release Date: July 17
Actual Tagline: "Once again I must ask too much of you, Harry"
Better Tagline: "Just fucking die already, Dumbledore. Oops..."

It's the franchise that never ends (Deathly Hallows is going to be split into two movies, in case you hadn't heard), and -- unlike their American counterparts -- the Potter actors run the risk of growing way too old to believably play a bunch of high school kids. Warner Bros should've better anticipated the problem in casting a series of movies spanning seven books and ten years by casting Ralph Macchio as Harry, Gary Coleman as Ron, and Yeardley Smith as Hermione.
Probable Domestic Gross: $300 million

Funny People

Release Date: July 31
Actual Tagline: none
Better Tagline: "Hey Judd, maybe you need a hobby"

I don't blame Judd Apatow, really I don't. The cancellation of his beloved Freaks and Geeks obviously made him a little squirrely, so when The 40-Year Old Virgin took off, he probably couldn't help but latch on to any property offered to him in some subconscious attempt to make sure he'd never know that humiliation again. At this point, I think I speak for everyone when I say: "Relax Judd, you've made it; we don't need one of your peculiar gross-out/heartwarming comedies every other month. Take a break before you burn out like your idol Steve Martin." "Oh, and quit casting your annoying wife in your movies."
Probable Domestic Gross: $90 million

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Release Date: August 7
Actual Tagline: "When All Else Fails, They Don't"
Better Tagline: "You used to play with these too, right?"

The opening weekend estimates for 2007's Transformers hadn't even made it to Variety before Paramount started desperately searching for another `80s-era toy line to turn into an FX-bloated extravaganza to compete with it. Judging by some early reviews, it sounds like the studio forgot that most kids only bought G.I. Joe figures so they could blow them up as savagely as possible. A better tactic might have been to stick with the old, bearded model or stick with a relatively unknown product, like Mobile Armored Strike Kommand or the Galaxy Rangers.
Probable Domestic Gross: $60 million

Inglourious Basterds

Release Date: August 21
Actual Tagline: "Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France..."
Better Tagline: "Grindhouse? What's a Grindhouse?"

The list of actors that were in talks at one time or another to appear in this is pretty formidable: Leonard DiCaprio, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Adam Sandler...don't get me wrong, Brad Pitt is still A-list, but it gives you pause when QT can't even nail down old buddies like Madsen and Roth. Not to worry, I'm sure the presence of Mike Myers will make everything balance out.
Probable Domestic Gross: $75 million

Halloween II

Release Date: August 28
Actual Tagline: none
Better Tagline: "Is the Shatner face still scary?"
You see how insidious this is, right? Rob Zombie remakes the 1978 original in 2007, thereby spawning not a sequel to the original sequel, but an entirely new timeline with its own subsequent movies. And they aren't even released in October anymore. Are you prepared to live in a world where Season of the Witch never happened? I didn't think so.
Probable Domestic Gross: $50 million

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar