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Posts Tagged ‘Jon Favreau’

Cowboys tie Smurfs

August 1st, 2011 No comments

 

It’s a Tie: The Smurfs win!

As the summer movie season heads into its final month, the preliminary box office report is in for the past weekend, and the winner is… “The Smurfs.” But wait… Didn’t “The Smurfs” tie with “Cowboys & Aliens” at a reported $36.2 million each for their opening weekends? Well, technically, they did. But Sony and Columbia’s animated, 3-D, kid-oriented feature outperformed for its opening, while Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” series follow-up underperformed. And there’s always the ‘liar’s poker’ aspect of preliminary box office – frequently it turns out that the margin between a ‘tie’ or even a $100,000 ‘squeaker’ finish is far wider than studio ‘estimates’ suggest. In other words, sometimes people inflate figures to enhance their company bottom line. Gee, when did artifice, insincerity and self-interest creep into Hollywood business? Oh, right – never mind. [As this post was being completed, the final numbers came out for the weekend: “Cowboys & Aliens” $36.4 million, “The Smurfs” $35.6 million.]

Favreau got smurfed like nobody’s business

“Cowboys & Aliens,” which cost $163 million to make, is writer/director Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man 2” follow-up, and producing partners Universal, DreamWorks, Reliance and Relativity were depending on Favreau’s mojo with fanboys to drive the film’s opening. The movie participated at Comic-Con last weekend, and its stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford have been grouchily honoring their publicity obligations, but this project seems to have fallen on Favreau’s shoulders, and getting gang-smurfed at the weekend box office probably came as a rude surprise to him. It doesn’t help matters that “Cowboys & Aliens” was shot in (apparently now passe) 2-D, so it did not get the 3-D premium coin its diminutive blue Belgian competitors enjoyed. Western films, in general, have been poison at the box office in the last few decades, with a few notable examples like last year’s remake of “True Grit” or 1990’s “Dances With Wolves.” Just a handful have made it past the $100 million dollar B.O. mark, and “Cowboys & Aliens” will have a tougher time making it there now that it has opened lower than hoped. Let’s face it, though: “Cowboys & Aliens,” a genre mash-up, is about as much a ‘Western’ as next year’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” can be called a ‘Lincoln biography.’

The (small) Blue Man Group

It’s pretty clear Sony’s marketing machine revved-up and ‘got its smurf on’ in a big way. In addition to a huge advertising campaign, the company pacted with Build-a-Bear, FAO Schwartz and McDonalds to grow awareness of the film among the Smurf set. Neil Patrick Harris dilligently performed his PR duties with a smile, appearing across the TV channel spectrum. As a result, the $110 million production resonated with youthful audiences, who, accordingly, dragged along at least one parent to pay enhanced 3-D prices for their tickets. Tellingly, “The Smurfs” was on 355 fewer screens than ‘Cowboys,’ so the final B.O. totals should be interesting, to say the least. The end result was a happy weekend for director Raja Gosnell and the folks at Sony and Columbia – at least until the final B.O. figures come out. [See the end of the first paragraph for ‘Cowboys” narrow margin of ‘victory.’]

‘America’ comes in third; ‘Love’ loses big…

Last week’s number one film (it opened at $65 million), “Captain America: The First Avenger,” slipped dramatically (62%) into 3rd place, with $24.9 million, but its box office take (and B.O. stalwart Harry Potter – see below) bested the only other film opening last weekend, the adult-skewing “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Disapointingly for Warner Brothers, ‘Love’ brought in only $19.3 million from more than 3,000 screens, earning it 5th place  for the weekend, behind the ‘boy-wizard-who-could,’ Harry Potter. Although it claimed most of the adult audience (and a more-than-half female audience), “Crazy, Stupid, Love” simply couldn’t beat the world’s love affair with Potter, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” earned $21.9 million over the weekend, giving the final picture in the Potter series the notable achievement of being its first of the Potter franchise to make over $1 billion at the box office. ‘Hallows Pt. 2”s domestic total is $318 million, but the film has earned over twice that overseas, with $690 million (and counting!).

Coming Soon: Even More Remakes!!

If you haven’t gotten enough of Hollywood’s ‘creativity’ in terms of re-inventing (exploiting?) franchises they already own, get ready for next weekend’s “Rise of Planet of the Apes,” from Twentieth Century Fox, starring graduate degree record holder James Franco. In the alternative, if quality adult drama appeals to you, there’s “The Whistleblower,” starring Rachel Weisz.

See you at the movies!

Is the Western genre a goner?

July 7th, 2010 1 comment

So, what’s up with Westerns? Doesn’t ANYBODY make them anymore?

Blame Michael Cimino, I say. He wrote and directed “Heaven’s Gate,” the notorious film that sank United Artists (sort of) and prompted “Final Cut,” Steven Bach’s fascinating tell-all tale book of the filmic excesses, corporate eccentricities and inglorious exits of the company’s leadership during and after the ill-fated Western that redefined cinema (sort of).

Of course, there have been bigger and worse genre flops since then – anybody remember “Waterworld” or “Treasure Planet” (sort of?). And the Western genre has been in decline for a long time now, especially since what had started out as cheap-as-dirt escapist fare grew expensive, complicated… and tired. By the time “Dances with Wolves” won 7 Academy Awards in 1990, including Best Picture and Best Director for star Kevin Costner, the Western had become an expensive museum-piece, and most Western genre fare was relegated to television, where it was cheaper (“Lonesome Dove,”) or had been turned into revisionist feature fare, like the lionizing  “Geronimo”, or even weirder, the bizarre pairing of pals Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando in “The Missouri Breaks,” which, despite a Thomas McGuane screenplay, is a strangely confusing tale.

Here’s the good news: the Western genre is NOT a goner. Repeat – not a goner…

Here’s the bad news: as YOU know it, the Western genre may indeed be a goner – with a few exceptions… Like “True Grit,” the Coen Brothers’ upcoming re-take on the 1969 classic, or Jon Favreau’s next project, “Cowboys & Aliens,” as well as the recent “Appaloosa” from director/star Ed Harris. There are undoubtedly other ‘classic’ projects in development – high profile or not – that fall into the ‘Western’ genre, but we are unaware of any that have been publicized recently.

Instead, Western genre films have been transposed to other genres. To cite an example, sci-fi adventure film “Outland” is simply ‘”High Noon” set in space,’ (sort of), where a marshal waits for the next inbound shuttle to bring trouble – and the story’s dramatic resolution. “No Country for Old Men,” while set in the west, is more of an existentialist crime drama, featuring a villain worthy of Hannibal Lecter status (sort of). In other words, every Western can be something else, like a sci-fi adventure, a drama or fantasy; just remember to include the fantastic, the unexpected or the romance. It’s crucial to turn a ‘goner genre’ into a best Western, even if its frontier firepower ends up as death rays (sort of).