Pop Of King (31) – My Summer Hit List – (3 czerwca 2005)

My crystal ball has been partly cloudy this year. While I did pick the 50-1 Kentucky Derby winner (you’ll just have to take my word on that), I didn’t have any money on the damn thing, and when it comes to how I did in EW’s in-house Oscar pool…don’t ask. Let’s just say I was right about the Best Picture and leave it at that.

So when I rashly promised to pick the big box office winners and losers of the 2005 summer season, I knew I needed help, but not from any of the traditional box office prognosticators; they’re the ones who dropped the ball on Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Napoleon Dynamite, and The Passion of the Christ (ow, that must have hurt). Nope, on May 16 of this year – three days before the official wide release of Star Wars III kicks off the summer movie season – I went to the man I trust the most when it comes to predicting cinematic success and failure, the guy who’s almost never wrong.

Shane Leonard grew up going to the movies with my kids and still never misses a major release or a minor chopsocky flick. In the old days he was known in the neighborhood as The Longhair. Well, you know how that usually turns out – he finally had to visit one of the local head-choppers in order to get a damn job – but to me Shane will always be The Longhair, Peerless Guru of Movie Success, and I went to him like Luke Skywalker goes to Yoda.

”Longhair,” I said. ”Make me an EW hero. Pick the summer’s winners.” And he did. It took him, I’m gonna say, five minutes. I concur with most of his choices, although I had some quibbles.

And so, without further ado: The Longhair (with some help from Steve) picks the summer’s box office winners:

1. Star Wars III It’s a no-brainer, dude, even though I am writing this before the debut…but watch grosses drop like a crippled TIE fighter after the second weekend.

2. War of the Worlds This remake is going to rock the house…and the cash registers. The world has been waiting for Spielberg to do bad aliens, and Spielberg is going to give the people what they want. Having Tom Cruise on board won’t hurt.

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Longhair says Johnny Depp will appeal to both the kids and the mommies. I agree.

4. Batman Begins Like most early-thirtysomethings, The Longhair thought the last couple of Batman movies blew (and Catwoman – let’s not even go there), but he’s psyched for this one, and believes younger moviegoers will turn out in droves. I agree. A brilliant trailer hasn’t hurt. Igor says, ”Master, the Batman franchise is alive!”

5. Fantastic Four The Longhair says it’ll fly, especially with sweet positioning post-Star Wars and about 10 days after War of the Worlds. I’m not so sure, but The Longhair seems positive. And with Michael Chiklis as the Thing, I’m certainly pulling for it.

6. The Longest Yard The prisoners play the guards; Adam Sandler leads the charge. This looks like a winner, and for Sandler’s sake, it better be. When funny guys cool off, it happens scary-fast. Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Dan Aykroyd, case closed. The Longhair says no sweat this time, Adam.

7. Must Love Dogs This is my pick for the summer’s dark-horse surprise. The Longhair is doubtful, but I think John Cusack is poised to become the American Hugh Jackman…only funnier and sexier, because us Yanks still do everything more -er.

8. Land of the Dead The final film in George A. Romero’s Dead Quartet (not to be confused with Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet). Good or bad, it should succeed splendidly, because – let’s face it – summer wouldn’t be summer without flesh-eating zombies.

Other projected winners: Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (”Same ho, new lo”) and Dark Water (more Ring-style PG-13 horror for the junior-high/Harry Potterset).

When it comes to predicting hits, my friend’s success rate is high. When it comes to predicting misses, however, The Longhair is awesome. I was surprised by some of his picks for summer losers, but when you think about it (a thing movie people don’t do a lot of, possibly feeling it encourages hair loss), most make a fair amount of sense.

Madagascar is a word nobody can spell, about a place nobody’s been, featuring more funny cartoon animals nobody’s going to want to see – clank! The Island looks like warmed-over Survivor, and Stealth looks like reheated Top Gun with a malevolent HAL 9000 computer thrown in for good measure – clunk! Bewitched has that horrible pawed-over squad-of-writers feel to it; if this year’s going to have a Stepford Wives, this is it. The Pink Panther doesn’t look like the real deal; neither does Herbie: Fully Loaded. And, according to The Longhair, the summer’s worst idea: adapting The Dukes of Hazzard for the big screen.

Those are our picks; write ’em down. If we hit it out of the park, someone owes us a chicken dinner. Of course, it’s faintly possible that we might screw up. In that case, we’ll be eating the bird associated with Thanksgiving. Side by side with summer’s big-budget failures.