Saturday, August 30, 2008

Left spoiling in the summer heat. Part Two.

Here's part two of our megaflops of Blockbuster Summer '08 list. As these digital pixels embed themselves into memory files and we commemorate the rancid stuff of bad ideas baking in the summer sun, it's worthwhile to note that today's box-office news puts into the records one of the true achievements in filmmaking from this or any other American summer. 

Warner Brothers' The Dark Knight officially crossed the 500 million mark today to become only the second film in American box-office history to cross that milestone. The first was Titanic which past the 500 million mark in just a little over three months to land at a 600.8 total. The Dark Knight achieved it's half billion dollar take in just over 6 weeks.

So it's with the memories of  summer hits like Iron Man, The IncredibleHulk, Mamma Mia, Wall•e, and The Dark Knight, that we offer a well deserved raspberry to part two of this summer's real dreck.

X-Files: I Want to Believe. (Fox)
In pre-release publicity for this long-past-losing-interest sequel, Fox executives were fond of pointing out that this was a standalone movie that didn't require previous knowledge of the X-Files established alien mythology. Asked if they thought audiences loyal to the TV show would accept a film meant more for the masses than the fans, execs pointed to creator Chris Carter with a "who could know better than the man who created it all" confidence. That may have been the first mistake. Underwhelming comments from co-star Gillian Anderson, challenged with morphing into the icy Dana Scully six years after the end of the TV series, didn't seem to ring with excitement and some truly convoluted, b-roll looking trailers sure didn't help. Ultimately the feature release on July 25th only scored a fourth place finish, barely cracking 10 million. More embarrassing was it's trouncing by the sophomoric (aren't they all) Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers which came in at number 2, tripling the take of X-Files. In fact, even Journey to the Center of the Earth (at the time in it's third weekend) was a threat, coming in fifth less than a third of a million off X-Files numbers. Point to Chris Carter now as "the man who knows when it's time to grab for one more big paycheck". Box-office: $20,750, 041 against an estimated $35,000.000 production budget.
Who takes it in the shorts. Fans of the show that expected and deserved way the hell more.

Swing Vote. (Disney)
Of the films I saw this summer, I hated this film almost as much as I hated Speed Racer. Who could possibly green-light a family film about the precocious daughter of a single dad who's teaching him a thing or two about life while she's also trying to get across the social responsibilities and privileges of voting, and make the father in the piece a bumbling drunkard with no more respect for his daughter than his pickup truck. Disney, that's who, trying to endear to us a character who is more taken with going for a ride in Richard Petty's race car than even showing up at his daughter's school's Parent's Day. I was so angry at the irresponsible behavior of Kevin Costner's character in this film that I rooted against him for the entire pointless plot. Even Budweiser should have had the integrity to have pulled their product placements instead of condoning this mess with ever-present cans of Bud in frame and enough Budweiser signs to shellac a football stadium. This, along with the illustrious Speed Racer were the only two films I saw this summer that required a substantial effort to sit through to the end, but this one perhaps is even more detestable. Throw in a handful of talented supporting actors who were entirely mis-cast and underused and astonishingly bad writing and this is easily the most inexcusable flops of the summer and certainly one of the year's worst. A laugh-less failure. Box-office: $15,555,204.
Who takes it in the shorts? Hopefully everyone even remotely connected to the project, but most deservedly The Walt Disney Company who allowed a total lapse of integrity and common sense.

Meet Dave. (Fox)
I keep wondering if Eddie Murphy is having a contest with his buddies on whether he can star in a bigger failure than Pluto Nash before people will stop offering him money to make movies. I will confess up front that I didn't see this movie. I will also shout to the rooftops that I didn't see this movie. No one should have. According to the box-office, very nearly no one did. You can easily base a "no-go" decision on the poster, and there are really no excuses on Earth to have gone if you've caught even mere seconds of the trailer. This is a bad idea wrapped inside an awful idea. Not unlike Mike Myers, Mr. Murphy has apparently been shown the future by his studio and his accountant and low and behold, the rumors are flying that there's a Beverly Hills Cop 4 screaming toward the near horizon. No wonder, total box-office: $11,644.000.
Who takes it in the shorts? Murphy deserves the swiftest and hardest boot in the ass. But doesn't this guy have an agent? Allow me... Eddie, screw the BHC sequels and make a hard, down and gritty cop flick. Get a little drama and a little ass kicking in of your own and quit going for laughs. You can laugh all you want after you've got your dignity back.

The Rocker. (Fox, these guys must not exactly be geniuses.)
Here's a snapshot of Hollywood genius if I've ever seen one. Let's take Rainn Wilson, the goofy guy on NBC's The Office, and make him into the next Jack Black. We can even rip off the character in School of Rock, yeah, that'll make it more mindless to write and way easier to hype. Well kids, you pay for what you don't get and clearly nobody writing, directing or even considering putting money into The Rocker gets it. Or gets anything funny for that matter. And what they also aren't going to be getting is rich off the lame idea. This was one of the summer's worst and suitably held to be one of the summer's last. Bowing on a Wednesday, looking to build box-office and word of mouth into it's opening weekend, The Rocker rocketed to a number 13 spot in the box-office which by the end of the weekend had nailed down a 5 day take of, oops, $3,686,460. The worst opening number of the summer for a major studio wide release. In 2,784 theaters, The Rocker pulled in just $947. per screen. That's over 5 days. By this past Thursday, just 9 days into it's run, The Rocker was holding steady at number 17 on box-office charts and it's per theater take was a staggeringly embarrassing 70 bucks. Total box-office to date: $5,664.559.
Who takes it in the shorts? Take your pick. Everyone who thought of it, made it, appeared in it or saw it deserves to share the blame for being part of one of the worst projects in lame comedy history. Congratulations.

And that's a wrap, thank God. There were lousy movies and movies we rooted against that did just great, so we'll tip our hat and admit to being opinionated. But that's part of the fun of summer movies. We'll also remember seeing one of the most fun filled and sparklingly silly movies of the year in Mamma Mia, one of the classiest casting decisions of the year that went pure gold with Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance as Iron Man and being there on opening weekend for The Dark Knight, a memory that will carry as much legend as having been around for the opening weekend in 1977 for Star Wars. It was a good summer, but then, right at the heart of it, aren't they all?

Next up... get ready for Hollywood back-slapping to kick back into obnoxious hype mode as Award and Festival season descends. In the meantime, get out and see a movie.

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