Next year, two films about best friends trying to maintain a fuckbuddy relationship will be released six months apart. Which will be better?
No Strings Attached
PLOT: A guy (Kutcher) and girl (Portman) try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it's not long before they learn that they want something more.
DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman (My Super Ex-Girlfriend) [-5 points]
CAST: Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, Jake M. Johnson (Paper Heart) [+2 points], Ludacris [+2 points], Cary Elwes (Princess Bride) [+2 points], Olivia Thirlby [+2 points], Mindy Kaling ("The Office") [+2 points], Lake Bell [+1 points], Adhir Kalyan ("Rules of Engagement" and Youth in Revolt) [+2 points].
VERDICT: I noticed the weirdest thing this morning. Ashton Kutcher and Nick Cannon are living almost the exact same life. Both are married to older women, who are richer than they are. Both are producers of an array of media. And both have dwindling film careers. If it were not for Katherine Heigl's rising star power, The Killers would've totally bombed instead of barely recouping its budget, which is why the casting of an A-lister like Portman is the only reason this film will get noticed. [+2 points] Getting a January release date, however, doesn't bode well for the studio's confidence in how it'll play in theaters. That month is always designated for films that won't make it if they have any real competition. [-2 points] It also doesn't help that the director's last rom-com opened with $8 mil. The pluses though are the genuinely funny people who are in the cast and the opportunity to see if Portman can be mainstream funny again, like she was on "SNL" in 2006. = [+8 points]
Release Date: Jan 21
Friends with Benefits
PLOT: The relationship between two friends (Timberlake and Kunis) gets complicated when they decide to get romantic.
DIRECTOR: Will Gluck (Easy A) [+5 points]
CAST: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Emma Stone (Easy A) [+2 points], Woody Harrelson [+2 points], Jenna Elfman, Patricia Clarkson (Easy A) [+2 points], Bryan Greenberg (Bride Wars and "How to Make It In America") [+2 points], Andy Samberg ("SNL" and I Love You, Man) [+2 points].
VERDICT: With every sporadic cameo on "SNL," Timberlake gets funnier. [+5 points] And Kunis had funny down by the time she was 15 on "That 70s Show." And with every film she proves to still be funny without the series, whether she's playing a thief (Date Night and Extract) or a sympathetic concierge (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Plus, Director Gluck is riding on the coattails of his hit teen comedy, and it appears the studio is backing him 100%, giving the film a mid-summer release date. [+2 points] The only negative of the film is that it seems like it wants to out-raunch P&K's film, and it loses the heart that NSA has, which is what will make it a believable romantic story. The last film that went a little overboard to please both genders, Going the Distance, left the critics divided and opened with $7 mil. [-5 points] Then there's the fact that viewers of P&K's film might get sour on the premise in January, and may not sign on for another version. [-5 points] = [+12 points]
Release Date: July 22
WINNER: Friends with Benefits. For the red band trailer alone, people are more likely to skip NSA and go straight for FwB.
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