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FireflySerenity number 1 on Box Office Prophets 25 of Fall 2005
Wednesday 14 September 2005, by Webmaster
BOP 25 of Fall 2005: 10-1
Autumn at the cinema. Usually, it’s a cooling-off period, a step back from the hot summer box office. With one of the worst summers in recent memory - financially, at least, if not also quality-wise - there may be no place to go but up. The BOP staff somehow finds time away from frantically finalizing their fantasy football rosters to bring you their 25 most anticipated films debuting after Labor Day through October.
If you have read the incomparable Truman Capote’s classic book In Cold Blood, you will recognize that he essentially recreated the non-fiction genre by immersing himself in an investigation into a small-town murder in our nation’s heartland. Capote will examine the process that went into that exhaustive research, from the author’s early work alongside fellow author Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) to his eventual strangely close relationship with the two men who were arrested for the gruesome crimes. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as the title character is already developing some substantial buzz, and might finally be the role that gets him some true recognition come awards season. Along with Hoffman, the cast is stellar, including Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood and Bob Balaban. We certainly love our literary heroes, and Capote ranks right up there with the best of them. I wonder if I have the dorkiest haircut in the world. I’m taking up a collection so that I will never appear in film again
You take it on faith. You take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part. Don’t believe us? Just ask anyone who has ever suffered the indignity of waiting tables for a living. What we have with this film is an expanded 90-minute version of the Jennifer Aniston story arc from Office Space. A group of aimless 20-somethings work at Shenanigan’s (nice Broken Lizard reference!) while they try to figure out what to do with their lives. Waiting in some ways sounds like a theatrical adaptation of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, but since there is a television series of exactly that this season, the thematic similarities are coincidental. After all, the universality of the concept is much of its appeal. What really sells us on Waiting, though, is the cast. BOP has been saying for several years now that Ryan Reynolds is a superstar in the making and Anna Faris has shown her comedy chops in the Scary Movie series while offering a flair for the subversive in Lost in Translation. Throw in hard-working Luis Guzman and Jeepers Creepers victim Justin Long and we’re sold. And BOP promises to tip well if the service is good.
8. Legend of Zorro
There was a time, if you can remember it, when Antonio Banderas was a bigger star than Catherine Zeta-Jones. This imbalance in the universe was corrected in 1998, when they both appeared in The Mask of Zorro, a reintroduction of the swashbucking Mexican crime-fighter (and the inspiration for Batman, don’tcha know). Zeta-Jones attempted to give her fame all back by appearing in a couple of crappy films and marrying a man approximately 63 years her senior (or is he?), but an Oscar win later, she still remains somewhere near the top.
Both main leads are back for this sequel to Mask of Zorro, which partially set the table for a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which itself returns the favor by proving the market for this sequel. California’s pending statehood has brought the attention of many, including despicable enemies of the common people. Martin Campbell is back to direct after ably handling the initial installment of this franchise, and although we’re a tad concerned about the presence of Zorro’s son in the action (this almost never works as a plot device), we’re more than ready for some more old-fashioned swashbuckling and rollicking adventure. Take this sword and stab me with it, Dr. Freud. If you are such a big star, why did we have to make a black & white film?
7. Good Night, and Good Luck
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of George Clooney’s directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, was its maverick nature. Clooney created a cast from his Hollywood buddies IM list including Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts. He even convinced Matt Damon and Brad Pitt to drop by for cameos, yet when it came time to choose a star, he chose a great actor in Sam Rockwell rather than a bigger celebrity who might fill up the box office coffers. The result was a disappointing $16 million domestic performance, but that number does not tell the whole story. Critics rejoiced over the film and BOP wound up nominating it in virtually every category of our 2003 Calvins. Fast-forward to the fall of 2005, and it’s obvious why we are so excited by his next outing. Will Clooney suffer from a sophomore slump or is he poised to break out in the mainstream with this tale of McCarthyism? BOP is betting on the latter.
Clooney has been an outspoken critic of modern journalism and its failures to be a political watchdog, choosing instead to be a propaganda lapdog. While recent events with regards to hurricane coverage show that the timing might be poor now, Clooney is to be applauded for attempting to show the story of a single journalist, Edward R. Murrow, and his battle to hold politicians to ethical standards during the Red Scare. Good Night, and Good Luck is poised to be one of the first legitimate end-of-year awards contenders on the 2005 schedule, as well as a cautionary tale on the dangers of letting politicians go unchecked.
This is every parent’s nightmare, I guess. Not only does poor Jodie Foster have to fly coach (oh, horror of horrors for an A-list actress!), but her child’s very existence comes into question. As has been previously summarized on BOP, FlightPlan is nothing more than The Forgotten on a plane. Of course, judging by the surprise popularity of that Julianne Moore production as well as the critical and financial success of still-in-theaters Red Eye, that’s a pretty solid concept for a claustrophobic thriller. In addition, North American audiences have a weird blind spot for Jodie Foster. Personally, I would rather eat paste than watch her in almost anything, but FlightPlan looks intriguing enough to get me to soften my stance on the issue. No! The BLUE wire! Cut the BLUE WIRE!!!! Sure, the haircut was scary, but it still beat going to Ross the Boss.
5. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
You know, for most people, getting married is a tense enough experience without the undead sneaking in to make it complicated. Leave it to Tim Burton, the director who has tinkered with notions of ghosts and other assorted dead-type things previously in Beetle Juice, to be the guy who considers the idea in elongated movie form.
One of Burton’s very first directorial efforts was the animated short Vincent, a story about a lonely young boy whose obsessions take him to the very edge of insanity. Since that time, Burton has been keen to explore protagonists who dwell on the fringes of accepted society. Given the premise of The Corpse Bride, that trend does look to continue. Created in gorgeous stop-motion animation and chock-full of music from the incomparable Danny Elfman, the movie definitely brings to mind another cartoon in which Burton had heavy involvement: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Both films have commonality in the fact that they deal with friendly (and not-so-nice) oogly-booglies and also that they might not be so perfectly targeted for an audience of children. That’s okay with us, though, because if Burton can carry on the winning streak he started this year with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we can’t wait for opening day.
How does BOP love Cameron Crowe? Let us count the ways. From his screenplay for Fast Times at Ridgemont High to his directorial debut Say Anything... to such delightful nuggets as Almost Famous, Crowe has consistently shown audiences that he is a man with a strong notion of what it means to be a young adult in contemporary America. In all of his films, he touches on the frenetic nature of interpersonal relationships, whether they be romantic, platonic or familial. On top of these canny observations, Crowe relates his stories perfectly to the music from the time where they take place.
This time around, Crowe’s protagonist is a young man whose father has just passed away. The funeral will take place in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a place where our hero sticks out like a bit of a sore thumb. As someone who was a transplanted Yankee with all her family members living in the South, I can attest to the fact that the trailer’s scenes that illustrate the funeral ring very, very true. The presence of Orlando Bloom (for the Lord of the Rings geeks) and Kirsten Dunst (for the Spider-Man nerds) sure doesn’t hurt any, either. Sorry, I only kiss guys who are upside down. He might not have any opposable thumbs, but he does have a green one.
3. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Welcome to another edition of "You can’t be my friend if..." You can’t be my friend if you don’t appreciate the mad genius of Nick Park’s Claymation creation of Wallace & Gromit. OK, perhaps that’s a little harsh, but you should still be prepared for some icy stares across the table. Their adventures in a series of three award-winning short films earned them a cult following the world over, celebrating the absent-minded inventor Wallace and his long-suffering companion and assistant Gromit, who just happens to be a dog. This success led to Park and partner Peter Lord creating the popular film Chicken Run, which in the days before the wide advent of computer animation was briefly the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film.
Aardman Animation studios returns to the series that made it famous with this film, which in typical quirky and British fashion concerns a plot about missing vegetables, evil industrialists and a possible possessed rabbit. Suffice it to say not everything is as it seems, adventures and laughs will be had and secrets will be revealed. Oh sure, but did a film about escaping chickens sound any less strange? I see, you’re all seduced by the fancy star power and voice "acting" of Mel Gibson, huh? Well you can all forget that right now unless you’re all a bunch of... ahem. Excuse me. Got a little carried away there for a moment.
We love Steve Martin here like a member of our own family, which makes his unfortunate tendency to star in, not to put too fine a point on it, crap like Bringing Down the House all the more painful. So, how much better do we feel about him starring in Shopgirl, which is based on a book he wrote? That’s a rhetorical question, silly.
Of course, he’s just a supporting character in Shopgirl, a tale of a shy and lonely 20-something retail clerk in Los Angeles, played here by Claire Danes (for whom the role was almost specifically written). She tends the ladies’ gloves section at a major upscale department store, and the fact that almost no one wears gloves anymore tends to make her job a little dreary. One day, an older gentleman (guess who?) visits her counter, purchases an elegant pair of gloves, which she later finds as a gift on her doorstep. Meanwhile she’s courted by a goofball guitar player (Jason Schwartzman, replacing Jimmy Fallon, for which we all can be eternally grateful) with no ambitions and few prospects. As she has to decide between her two suitors, she sees that her future happiness hangs in the balance. It’s Martin’s expertly crafted characters and astute observations on the perils of youth that has us intrigued, and we’re expecting nothing less than greatness. You owe us, Steve. Yes, I would like you to take something out. Two things, in fact. Captain Reynolds and Jayne Cobb prepare to give Fox TV execs what they deserve.
Joss Whedon has done the impossible, and that makes him mighty. The oft-lauded writer/director has somehow managed to pull a largely unwatched science fiction/western series off the 14-episode scrap heap and evolve it into a major motion picture. And to say that the BOP staff is excited by this proposition would be the understatement of 2005. A bubbling undertone of revolution exists within our ranks as true Firefly believers have spent the body of the summer converting their Serenity-free brethren. Offers have been made within the site to reimburse members who purchase the TV series boxset and find themselves nonplussed. The group has that sort of confidence that more discriminating viewers will fall in love with the Whedon creation by the time they know the lyrics to Jaynestown. Some of us have even spent an absurd amount of money and driven several hours to enjoy preview screenings of Serenity. Those that have claim that it’s the rare film that witnesses an auteur reward his (over)zealous fanbase for their patience and fervor. BOP wishes to pass that generosity on to our loyal readers by politely but firmly suggesting that you pick up Firefly on DVD then go watch Serenity when it enters theaters later this month. You can thank us for it later.