You know, sometimes it’s hard being right. I was little nervous about calling for all three movies opening this weekend to bomb, but sure enough, they did. The Nativity Story opened strongest at the number four spot with $8 million, but in 3,100 theatres that makes for a paltry $2,500 a screen. Apparently it takes Mel Gibson-sized controversy to generate $370 million. Turistas clocked in at number eight with just $3.5 million, and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj barely cracked the top ten with $2.2 million.
All three of these movies suffer from the same creative bankruptcy that I was complaining about with The Return. Somewhere, some executive looked at the success of Passion, Hostel, and Van Wilder, ran their scripts through a photocopier and rushed into production. Nothing against Catherine Hardwicke and John Stockwell, but these movies were made by money-men and marketers, and this weekend is proof-positive that you can’t piggy-back on the success of someone else’s artistic risk. This may become the mantra of moviegasm, but this is what happens when you make a movie just because you can, and not because it’s something you’re passionate about.
There’s even less to talk about with the rest of the box office. Happy Feet and Casino Royale each fell about 50% to take number one and number two, respectively. Totals are $121 million and $115 million. DÃ©jÃ Vu was number three with $11 million, and a standard Denzel total of $44 million. Is there any actor who is more consistent in his box office production (between $60 and $80 million, almost every time out of the gate)? Then The Nativity Story, Deck the Halls with $6.6 and a $25 million total, The Santa Clause 3 with $5 million, Borat with $4.8 ($116 total), Turistas, Stranger than Fiction with $3.6 for a reasonable $36 million total, and finally The Rise of Taj. Bobby and The Fountain both crumbled more than fifty percent and fell out of the top ten. Unless the Golden Globes heap awards on Bobby, I was wrong about it beating Men at Work to become Emilio’s highest grossing film as a director. But it’s still doing better than Rated X. And word around the campfire on The Fountain is that. with P & A (prints and advertising) and all the pre-production they put into it five years ago, the budget is more like $80 million than the $35 they’re reporting. Ouch. Aronofsky may have to do The Fast and the Furious 4 to get out of the doghouse after this one.
So with so little of interest happening at the weekend box-office, I thought we’d jump back a little to my first column, when I asked you, the readers, what directors you felt should just stop making movies. I got the ball rolling with the usual names: Michael Bay, Brett Ratner… you get the drift. But I reserved my top three spots for McG, Tarsem, and Pitof, as much for their pretentious use of a single name as for the extremely poor quality of their films. And while I got a couple of ‘amens’ to Bay and Ratner, many of your responses were a little surprising.
For example, a couple folks chimed in to say that Paul Haggis needs to be stopped, and yet not one person mentioned Uwe Boll, who somehow managed to secure a $60 million budget for his latest affront to the moving image. I got a passionate defense of Renny Harlin from FlyingGuillotine and a reader by the name of Wickedstep who flees at the name Cronenberg.
Needless to say, these are not the answers I was expecting from you wacky moviegasm readers. But the important thing is, I think we can all agree on plethLaura’s suggestion of Steve (Without a Paddle) Brill. So if and when Drillbit Taylor, Brill’s next movie, opens, exercise your box office muscle, stay home, and watch a terrific, little-seen movie called Brick. I watched this movie for the second time last night, and if you are a movie person, it is definitely worth your time. Mark my words, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (that kid from “3rd Rock From the Sun”) is going to win an Oscar in the next five years.
Something else I mentioned in that first column is that I like to see people do good work, and it’s been painful for me to watch the declining quality of work in some of those actors that I loved growing up. And it occurred to me that what many of these actors need is to get back together with certain directors, who in many instances need them just as badly. I’m thinking here that Bruce Willis, for instance, needs to do another M. Night Shyamlan movie just as much as Night needs to do another Bruce Willis movie. I’m a bigger fan of Unbreakable than The Sixth Sense, but I think
these two obviously bring out the best in each other. Or how about Michael Douglas and Steve Soderbergh? Traffic was the last really good movie either of those guys made, and Steve needs to expand his casting calls beyond George Clooney once in awhile. Harrison Ford and Peter Weir? Harrison needs Peter more than Peter needs Harrison, but Witness and Mosquito Coast have to be the two most challenging performances in Ford’s career, and I don’t think another Indy movie- now that he’s substantially older than Connery was when he played Indy’s father- is the cure for what’s ailing his career.
So what do you readers think? Disagree with my suggestions? Have some of your own? Or would you rather see these actors just fade away? I was trying to come up with a good director for Stallone to get back together with, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured maybe it’s better if he just stops altogether. The guy’s got more Razzie nods than I’ve had hot meals.
That’s it for this week. Tune in next week to see if Apocalypto can save Mel from himself, and… well, Blood Diamond goes wide, and The Holiday and Unaccompanied Minors open, but let’s face it, all anybody’s going to want to talk about is Apocalypto, right?