One of my inspirations, the late great film critic Roger Ebert, wrote a book named Your Movie Sucks in which he lays it out straight why certain films are a disaster. But a box office flop isn’t always a bad movie. Over time, some of the biggest cinematic blunders have become cult classics or film scholar projects to dissect.
Repulsing audiences then lambasted as ridiculous when first released, both Showgirls and Rocky Horror Picture Show became phenomenal successes after cinema owners decided to screen them at midnight creating a party atmosphere. Howard the Duck, Last Action Hero and Waterworld are examples that have enjoyed a second coming, others such as Catwoman or Alexander have not been so revered. Actually listening carefully to the unintentional camp dialogue, Alexander is best enjoyed as a comedy.
To be a flop, a movie has to be negative in box office returns to its filming budget and are generally excessively large scale productions known as studio prime time tent pole releases. Two different films in separate decades practically shut down the grand old studio that funded them, MGM. Historical epic Cleopatra was supposed to be amazing with beautiful icon Elizabeth Taylor as the sultry snake like queen. Over schedule, ever expanding budget and turmoil amongst cast took dramatics to a new level. When released, critics were harsh creating a non audience.
1980 MGM suffered an even worse financial loss with Heavens Gate from a hot young director of the time, Michael Cimino. At a cost of $44 million, it made $3 million almost taking MGM down with it. The fact James Bond films came out of the same studio was the only reason it kept afloat. A director’s cut has since been released on DVD and believe me, the scope and vision of this film amazed me, as did Cleopatra.
Motherhood, starring Uma Thurman has the distinction of being pulled from British cinemas at the insistence of exhibitors after three days because nobody attended. The box office total was 8 pounds. Bruce Willis has four films in the top 20 flops of all time, Hudson Hawk and Bonfire of the Vanities being the most notorious.
This year is not quite two months old and the flops have already started rolling in. February is cinema lemon month, traditionally a dumping ground for studios to offload films that have received poor tracking on social media, production problems, bad word of mouth and no interest after a trailer is released.
Penguins of Madagascar began the year during the Christmas school holidays when families will see anything just to get the kids out of the house. However compared to other films out, it was slow. Big Hero 6 took the spoils with Paddington a close second. Penguins was a dud, the appeal or memory of the three Madagascar films did not translate sending the studio animation team at Dreamworks into their third flop in a row after Rise of the Guardians and Turbo. First real turkey of the year goes to Mortdecai. Not entirely the fault of Johnny Depp and Gweneth Paltrow who try hard utilising the appalling script. Dull, overtly stupid in no uncertain terms, I can see the idea was to make a light brisk comedy caper with swinging 1960’s zing but this is no Austin Powers or Inspector Clouseau. Unfortunately Depp is on a roll after Lone Ranger and Transcendence. Let’s hope his next Pirate adventure is no Cutthroat Island.
Even worse is The Interview, a painful comedy with zero laughs, I smiled twice. Controversial due to the Sony Pictures hacking scandal, North Korea should not have bothered. A premise of two Americans interviewing ruthless dictator Kim Jong-Un is abysmal. I admire Seth Rogen and James Franco, they are indeed enthusiastic but nothing is positive in this pathetically offensive waste of celluloid.
Out next week, Jupiter Ascending, man of the moment Channing Tatum is unleashed as a pointy eared alien who sweeps a cleaning lady (Mila Kunis) out of her routine earthly existence because she has a hereditary link to as a galaxy conquering space princess. Yes I just said that. Put back almost a year, this had a foul aroma from the outset which is a shame since it is a large scale innovative space adventure from the guys who created The Matrix, a film which broke ground in 1999. Since that hit and subsequent lesser sequels, the directing duo have had two massive flops in Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas, so this latest adjourn could spell the end of a blank cheque from studio chiefs to go make a film.
Some may say the title is appropriate, Jupiter Ascending had a production budget of $179 million. Sure the effects are magnificent but lack of superheroes or familiarity with characters will not attract the young adult audience it is attended for. Warner Bros Pictures have the red texta at the ready.
To continue the 2015 trend would be fantasy epic The Seventh Son. Derived from a series of books called The Spooks Apprentice, the idea was to make a new set of films for fans of The Hobbit or Harry Potter to devour, except followers of those brilliant adaptations are fussy. The Seventh Son has not only been delayed, it has changed release dates over two years only to be wheeled out now, in washout month. Legend Jeff Bridges and favourite for this year’s best actress Oscar, Julianne Moore, cannot save this wet blanket sorcery misfire. It’s the same old stuff regurgitated that the audience may need a rest from after six consecutive Tolkien films and eight Potter tales.
The term straight to video was coined in the 80s when movies bypassed cinemas. Starring Australian Chris Hemsworth, Blackhat is a cyber thriller that was a recent hope for a return to form from acclaimed director Michael Mann (The Insider, Heat). But it has been canned from local release after extremely poor box office returns stateside. For a movie to be dropped in flop filled February is unheard of. It’s straight to DVD.
The year ahead has an inbuilt audience full of sequels, prequels, and remakes, something has got to give. Maybe an original script will reign such as heist thriller Focus with Will Smith or Chappie, a gritty looking short circuit robot thriller with Hugh Jackman. Time will tell.
Huge hits are often random with no guarantee the sequel won’t bomb. The stench of Basic Instinct 2 or Speed 2 can attest to that.
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.