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So… back from Monsters University…
Not a lot to add to Man of Steel. WB did a good job of underselling their expectations of opening.
Current projections have the opening around the Iron Man 2 opening… which is quite good. As always, opening has nothing to do with the movie. So time will tell how audiences feel about the movie itself. But $300m-$400m domestic would be pretty much what would be expected of this opening.
The June opening stat is really more a function of how the summer is programmed.
This Is The End‘s opening suggests that it’s looking at between $75m-$100m domestic, which will make the relatively cheap film a success financially.
Next weekend will be interesting, as Monsters University is likely to be in the high 60s to the low 80s somewhere and Dragon Ball… strike that… World War Z is looking for an opening closer to Man of Steel. WWZ goes into opening more hopeful about international than Supes, but still, it needs to do some big business here too.
Here’s space for you all, aside from my review.
Do not click through unless you are okay with spoilers or have seen the film.
I often write non-spoiler reviews of movies because I think the experience of the film is worth preserving for people who might read my comments. Not this time. (But all real spoilers are after the jump.)
If you want the short strokes, this is a movie with little stability. The effects are huge, but as usual, Zack Snyder wants to do everything in close-up and offers little or no context for the visuals. The exception is when a building is about to fall over from the middle (an effect you would have seen done better in Transformers 3 and a minor variation on Inception), so congratulations on that one bit of continuity. You also get to see “learning to fly” by John Carter, babies by The Matrix, speed-fighting by first-person shooters and the Matrix films, production design of Krypton by Dune‘s Anthony Masters, and dozens of other stolen images. And we’ll have to talk another time about the penis-shaped spacecraft and the sperm-y spaceship.
The core problem for many audiences, I believe, will not be lack of CG action. You can gag on it. It’s the lack of pleasure in the film. There are a dozen comic book-based films that have grossed over $250m domestically. They starred The Avengers, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Men in Black. What did these movies have that others did not? They were very entertaining. Not just loaded with great effects and stuff that made fanboys happy. They offered movie movie pleasure to a wider audience than the ones who know what that side reference was to “Superman” #749 (for the record, I made that # up).
Is an alien creature seen early in the film a reference to a comic book or TV’s “Super Friends”? Don’t know. Don’t care.
I don’t want to drone on about the often terrible dialogue… or the disregard for any reality re: the world of journalism… or the torture of fine actors who were given little to do… or the laughable coincidences that we can’t seem to go 10 minutes without. That is all bad, but it is, to some degree, the premise with which the film was made. I believe (as a rule) in giving a film and its filmmakers their premise.
What I want to talk about is the ideas — or lack thereof — behind the film. And to do that, it’s all spoilers, all the time. So check out now if you don’t want to be thinking about what you are watching before you watch it.
I will push this over to an additional page now to make this easier for those of you who don’t want to be spoiled…
I have been avoiding mentioning this for over a month now, but I am still not writing as much as I’d like because of it, so I thought I’d explain.
My 3-year-old son clocked me in the right eye unintentionally while wrestling around about 5 weeks ago. Didn’t think much of it. But I noticed over the next few days that my eyesight was a little off.
I can see movies. I can see in 3D. I can read in rooms that are well lit. But the basic thing of looking at my desktop computer, about 18 inches away, and typing… blurry and frustrating. I can see, but the focus is soft. I’d say that I am at about 85% of my normal vision, which I took for-granted as 100% (with contacts) just weeks ago.
I have seen an optometrist. There is a new anomaly in my eye jelly. He expects it to clear up in time, between 2 weeks and 3 months. I am going to a specialist tomorrow.
So… I am anxious to write more. (I’m writing this on a mini iPad.) But the physicality of the work has become a frustration… hard to flow when you are working to see.
I’ve also been traveling for most of the last 5 weeks, so now that I am in one place for a while, even if it doesn’t improve In a hurry, I will find ways to more effectively adjust.
So now that my enthusiasm has increased, there is a different issue in the way. My apologies. I will do better/more.
I want to start again today with praising Universal’s summer start so far. Being negative is all too easy for media and praise usually comes with blinders on. If there was one biggest little-engine success this summer so far, it would be Summitgate’s Now You See Me. But The Purge opening is right there and F&F6 looks to be slightly bigger than the last one (which is often a warning that the next one will start to show Franchise Drop… in the case of F&F, for the second time.)
Fox also has two movies paired on the Top 10 chart this weekend, but at #4 and #5. The Internship is the second disappointing opening in the last 2 weekends. Fox is claiming a budget under $60 million. Vaughn’s international draw is not great. So even at this relatively low budget, it will be a fight to get to breakeven on this one.
The other Fox film is Epic, which is looking a bit more Robots than Ice Age for Chris Wedge. The big ongoing question at Fox, having taken on DreamWorks Animation, is animation saturation. DWA’s Turbo is coming from Fox in July, the second animated release by the studio in 4 weeks. But next year, it really gets nuts, as DWA goes to 3 releases a year (March, June, November) with Fox pushing out 1 of its own, just one month after DWA’s March release.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is an interesting study moving forward. It’s down about 25% domestically from the first JJ movie and up about 50% internationally. What does this mean going forward? Well, probably at least one more shot at this franchise breaking out foreign. The ceiling would appear to be $400m worldwide, which is not bad, but not great at the price of production and marketing. Depending on how much they are paying Mr. Abrams in adjusted gross, this film is right at the border of profitability and loss.
After Earth is looking like a big writedown for Will Smith, the third of his career. Can you name the others?
The Legend of Bagger Vance and Ali. Both movies with Will Smith playing something other than WILL SMITH. And not for nothing, Smith will also turn 45 this year.
Don’t bet against a comeback… and now 5 years from his last big movie star hit, it will be a comeback. He has 3 sequels in the development hopper. But 3 originals too. The one that sounds like a great bet for him is the Ed Zwick post-Katrina hero movie… but I haven’t read (nor plan on reading) any of them. But it sounds the least tricky and the most “like” Smith’s natural persona. We shall see.
And now is that part where Vince Vaughn gets nervous. This is three paired-star comedy openings in a row to open under $20m for a star who had gone four of five opening to over $31m in wide-release comedies going into this slump-y period. (That goes back to 2005… it’s really five in a row, going back to Dodgeball, which is also when he cracked the $20m opening barrier as a lead and became box office.)
Is it a coincidence that Vaughn is now 43? Not likely. Some stars survive their 40s just fine. Most do not and have to make a comeback closer to 50.
It has not been a good summer for comedy so far. Hangover 3 will have a number that might look good next to an original comedy, but is ugly next to the first two in the series. The Internship. Which leaves 5 comedies left, starting with This Is The End, which I kinda loved, but is smarter than some of its seemingly likely fans might expect. Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy bring The Heat, which I hope is great fun, but hasn’t locked in for me conceptually yet. Searchlight has the only non-major comedy that I think could end up being one of the big ones this summer, The Way Way Back. Sandler & Co have a sequel to his most subtle comedy-but also after the first back-to-back bombs of his career-with Grown Ups 2. And CBS Films has The To-Do List.
There hasn’t been a summer without at least one $148m+ domestic comedy since 2004, in which, somewhat ironically, Dodgeball was the #1 summer comedy with $114m domestic, which was outstanding for a completely underdog movie. Hangover 3 is not getting there (though the films should hit black thanks to foreign). So who will it be?
Even if The Purge settles into the high 30s for the 3-day weekend, it’s a pretty great number and a really smart (and rare) piece of counter-programming. You just don’t see films running that close to horror this early in the summer opening to these kinds of numbers.
Fast & Furious 6 will pretty surely be the #1 in franchise history domestically and will come close or surpass international. Universal’s hot streak will certainly continue with Despicable Me 2 coming next. Then, there is the less sure trio of mid-July and August films, which could be surprisingly big or disappointing… but one thing they won’t be is enough to turn the summer to crap, even if all three fail. The biggest budget is R.I.P.D., which has terrible buzz, but at $130m or so won’t ruin the summer run, even if it ends up being a big write-down. Kick-Ass 2 is almost guaranteed breakeven with some real potential for upside. 2 Guns and Elysium will duke it out for top film of August, it seems. Both Wahlberg & Denzel are consistent draws and $100m domestic seems like the bottom for the film with a real upside (especially as Denzel gets stronger and stronger internationally).
The Great Gatsby is already Baz Luhrmann’s biggest film and is in some very good company as Leo DiCaprio’s #7 movie worldwide to date. It’s really been the surprise hit of the summer so far. Warners did about as much as they could do with Hangover 3. And now, the big money hits the table with Man of Steel and Pacific Rim. Both are pure boy movies and both have to make a lot of money to break even… but either or both could end up one of the summer’s breakout hits. Good luck, Burbank.
A little extra room to talk Man Of Steel and other summer movies without having to use acronyms.
First Sentence: Who knew that Hancock would be the turning point of Will Smith’s remarkable box office run?
Making a good Rat Pack movie is really, really hard.
One of the packs in Hollywood these days is The Apatow Gang, emerging from movies like Superbad, Pineapple Express, and Apatow’s personal films, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People and This Is 40. Even within most of those films, there were pack sequences, though none of the movies were really Pack movies. (Other packs include Clooney/Soderbergh, Sandler, Ferrell, Stiller, Team Seattle, Team Austin… all with lots of overlapping.)
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg emerged as writers with their semi-autobiographical comedy, Superbad. Rogen also built a career as an actor, launched by Apatow and Paul Feig’s “Freaks & Geeks.”
With This Is The End, Rogen & Goldberg take the leap into directing with their version of a Pack film. The film is built on the public personas of its actors, real or imagined. This is a step away from Pack films like Tropic Thunder, Grown Ups or even one non-pack movie that evolved into a Pack favorite, Anchorman. But, surprisingly, Goldberg & Rogen are completely up to the task.
For me, the film plays as an apology for or correction of The Watch, a terrible Pack movie for which they share writing credit. Not only is the material similar, but it’s almost as though they took everything that went wrong on The Watch and pointedly fixed each issue. Too meandering? Tighten it up. Effects kinda sucked? Do great effects. Pack stars seem to riff and wander? Define each character (in this case, each playing themselves) clearly and don’t allow them to play too much… story stays first.
I don’t want to spoil anything, though it’s really not a spoiler movie. But the question of what is actually happening is an issue throughout the movie and you should see it and have the experience of wondering. And there are 20+ gags that people will quote back to one another, none of which will cease to be funny if you know they”re coming, but which can’t really be done justice to in a movie review.
What really makes the movie fly is the choices that Goldberg & Rogen and all the stars made/agreed to play through the film. People love Danny McBride, but aside from “Eastbound & Down,” his characters have been a little boxed in and don’t feel like we are getting the full subtext of this guy’s schtick. Here, he finally feels fully free. James Franco gets to do both the thing people have come to expect and offer a new shade. Jonah Hill does great, basically bitch-slapping himself through the whole film.
I don’t want to keep listing actors because part of the fun is figuring out who is in the film a lot and who isn’t. But what is so good about the film is that it all balances out in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a Pack movie. There is a near-perfect balance of vanity and respecting the story.
More than anything, Rogen & Goldberg know how to keep things moving so nothing becomes too precious. As directors, they are like the best bartenders you can find. All they really want to do is to get you blind, raging drunk—happy drunk—on the comedy. But they understand how to balance what they serve so that no one throws up and no one gets maudlin or angry. The audience just has a great buzz for 107 minutes.
And I honestly think this should have been at Cannes, because it is truly a movie about movies. Not only are real-life celebrity actors playing with perception, but the movie plays with movie cliches and genre, and the borders of acceptable behavior on film, and many specific homages to other films (calling Billy Friedkin!).
I didn’t expect it, but this is a comedy that gave me that feeling I had when I first saw 40-Year-Old Virgin or Beverly Hills Cop or great Mel Brooks… even bordering on Albert Brooks (a standard in comedy insight, skill, and explosive subtlety that is rarely touched). It is daring, assured, and never has you waiting for one gag to be over so you can get to the next one (aka feeling like a cartoon written at a roundtable with writers or actors selling gags, not story movement that happens to be funny). Not every one (or everyone) is comedy gold, but enough are and the pace is so strong that you just swim with the tide the entire way, right to the ending that has no business being as fun as it is.
I could still be high on the pleasure of this film. I don’t want to ruin it by overhyping it. But it was a singular, joyous, surprising pleasure for me. And I hope it will be again and again.