Sunday, December 28, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Film: Why so many high-priced duds this year like ‘After Earth,’ ‘The Lone Ranger,’ ‘The Last Stand’ and ‘White House Down’?

By Rafer Guzman, Newsday

The return of Arnold Schwarzenegger! A teen romance from the creator of “Twilight”! Will and Jaden Smith in a massive sci-fi spectacle! As movie concepts go, these must have sounded like surefire ways to start printing money.

So . . . what happened?

The year is only half over, and already we’ve seen a string of major duds. “Gangster Squad,” a costume drama starring Sean Penn and Emma Stone, had an almost Oscar-like glow but wound up freezing in January. Jennifer Lopez and Jason Statham courted the action/romance crowd with “Parker,” but shot themselves in the foot. And while we were still marveling at the implosion of “After Earth,” along came the belly flop of “The Lone Ranger.”

Who or what is to blame for these major letdowns? We asked a handful of movie-industry observers to help us do a postmortem on 10 of this year’s most high-profile duds. The recurring problems were unoriginal stories and underwhelming stars, but the larger issue seems to be a combination of increasingly inflated production budgets and a mercilessly crowded marketplace.

“Movies are having a hard time holding,” says Todd Cunningham, news editor at TheWrap.com. “There’s just blockbuster after blockbuster. If you don’t connect with your audience on your first go-round, you’re not going to.”

RECENT BOX OFFICE BOMBS:

• “The Last Stand”

(Jan. 18)

THE PITCH: Schwarzenegger tackles his first starring role in a decade as a small-town sheriff battling an international drug lord.

WHAT HAPPENED: Despite a sizable fan base for “The Expendables” movies, audiences barely noticed this dead-of-winter release.

WHO’S HURTING: All vintage action stars, says Phil Contrino, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “What they’re finding out is that they can’t transition from doing a franchise movie and then doing an original movie.”

BOTTOM LINE: $37.1 million (all are recent worldwide figures according to reporting service BoxOfficeMojo.com)

• “Parker”

(Jan. 25)

THE PITCH: Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez team up as a thief and a real-estate agent in this action romcom. Based on a novel by veteran crime writer Donald E. Westlake.

WHAT HAPPENED: Statham’s violent antihero and Lopez’s bubbly office girl made for a weirdly noxious mix.

WHO’S HURTING: Statham. “He’s always stuck in this range of between $10-$15-million openings,” says Contrino, “and ‘Parker’ did less than that.”

BOTTOM LINE: $17.6 million

“Beautiful Creatures”

(Feb. 14)

THE PITCH: In a small Southern town, an average teenage boy falls for the witchy new girl in school. Based on a young-adult novel and starring newcomer Alice Englert.

WHAT HAPPENED: This adaptation didn’t come with the built-in fan base of “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games,” says Andrew Stewart, box-office reporter at Variety. “There wasn’t the same kind of heat behind the source material.”

WHO’S HURTING: Other young-adult franchises with less-than-rabid followings. (That’s you, “Percy Jackson.”)

BOTTOM LINE: $60 million

• “Jack the Giant Slayer”

(March 1)

THE PITCH: The old fairy tale gets the “Lord of the Rings” treatment with an action-fantasy vibe and elaborate CGI.

WHAT HAPPENED: It wasn’t an ultraviolent twist (like “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”) or a pure kids movie, and “Jack” never found its audience. An A-list lead actor — rather than the little-known Nicholas Hoult — might have helped.

WHO’S HURTING: Budgeted at $195 million, “Jack” has made some money. But it’s a slight ding for director Bryan Singer, who’s accustomed to an “X-Men” level of success.

BOTTOM LINE: $197 million

• “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”

(March 15)

THE PITCH: Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi don campy costumes and kooky wigs as old-school Las Vegas magicians, while Jim Carrey plays their crazed nemesis.

WHAT HAPPENED: “Competition, crummy marketing, bad reviews — you could check a couple of boxes,” says Cunningham. “And none of this addresses the idea that it was a really bad movie.”

WHO’S HURTING: Carrey, especially given the pre-release damage he’s done to his upcoming film “Kick-Ass 2” by publicly disavowing it.

BOTTOM LINE: $22.5 million

• “The Host”

(March 29)

THE PITCH: While battling an alien invasion, one human girl (Saoirse Ronan) must choose between two suitors (Max Irons and Jake Abel). Based on a novel by “Twilight” sensation Stephenie Meyer.

WHAT HAPPENED: A serious case of supernatural-teen-love-triangle fatigue.

WHO’S HURTING: “Stephenie Meyer is not Stephen King,” says Contrino. “People aren’t going to line up for anything she does just based on her name.”

BOTTOM LINE: $48 million

• “After Earth”

(May 31)

THE PITCH: Box-office megastar Will Smith plays father to real son Jaden (2010’s “The Karate Kid”) in a sci-fi adventure set on an abandoned Earth.

WHAT HAPPENED: Produced by Will Smith and based on his story idea, “After Earth” ended up looking like a vanity project for Jaden, who proved unable to carry a $130 million movie. Whiffs of Scientology – Will has been a donor and the movie features a possibly Hubbardian volcano – didn’t help.

WHO’S HURTING: Director M. Night Shyamalan (“The Last Airbender”), whose name is becoming synonymous with “bomb.”

BOTTOM LINE: $199 million, but only $59 million in the United States

• “The Internship”

(June 7)

THE PITCH: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play unemployed salesmen who finagle a tryout at the hip, young, high-tech company Google.

WHAT HAPPENED: Not a total disaster, but a poor showing from two major comedy stars. One theory: This PG-13 comedy wasn’t raunchy enough for older fans, while its aging leads didn’t pull in younger viewers.

WHO’S HURTING: Vaughn. He’s had several successes (“Four Christmases,” ‘’The Break-Up”), but could use another home-run hit like “Wedding Crashers.”

BOTTOM LINE: $63 million

• “White House Down”

(June 28)

PLOT: A Secret Service reject (Channing Tatum) must protect the president (Jamie Foxx) from armed attackers. Surely audiences won’t remember the virtually identical “Olympus Has Fallen,” released three months earlier?

WHAT HAPPENED: “I don’t think they envisioned ‘Olympus’ doing as well as it did,” says Cunningham. That movie took in a healthy $160.9 million worldwide, leaving little for this repeat.

WHO’S HURTING: Someone at Sony/Columbia has some explaining to do.

BOTTOM LINE: $69 million

• “The Lone Ranger”

(July 3)

PLOT: An amped-up version of the old series, with Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp wearing weird makeup as Tonto. Directed by Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean”).

WHAT HAPPENED: Near-universal opprobrium – a kind of hatred, actually – from critics.

WHO’S HURTING: “Things are very iffy,” says Stewart. Westerns rarely appeal to either Americans or foreign audiences, but Depp’s megastardom could still sell it overseas. “Domestically, it’s going to flop.”

Scripps Howard News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • thebetterworkplaceAugust 17, 2013 - 1:03 am

    Presenter Mike Dilger - who spent many of his school holidays at his grandmother’s in Gregg House Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield - will present the show from his favourite city.Presenter Mike Dilger - who spent many of his school holidays at his grandmother’s in Gregg House Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield - will present the show from his favourite city.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

New circulation director for Daily Republic has California roots

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Suisun’s transformation launched 25 years ago

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
AARP tax program seeks volunteers

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Kwanzaa educates, celebrates African-American heritage

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Rush Ranch plans birds of prey workshop

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Weather for Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B6

 
County graduates complete basic training

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B10

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 26, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Dec. 26, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Del. WWII vet honored with medals 70 years later

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Families take future war dogs into homes as foster pups

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Woman uses quilt to help those in military

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Opinion

Leaders fan flames of racial hatred

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Comforting immigrants is nun’s mission

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Pope’s role in Cuba deal fractures Cuban-American flock

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

Bethel Community Church buys Temple Baptist site

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Coping with mental illness or loss during holiday season

By The Associated Press | From Page: C4

.

Entertainment

Company loses bid for rights to Marvel superheroes

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Jonah Lehrer working on book about digital life

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Blagojevich brother: I was fed ‘pawn’ to get then-governor

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
.

Sports

Warriors shake off skid, beat Timberwolves 110-97

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
No. 1 Kentucky holds off No. 4 Louisville 58-50

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Vanden’s Koss named 2014 DR Male Athlete of the Year

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Broncos see a much better Raiders team this time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Cardinals have hopes of division crown, 12 wins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Anze Kopitar leads LA Kings past Sharks, 3-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sam: Coming out was right thing to do

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Vikings stadium builders work on career highlight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Devils replace DeBoer with 3-headed coaching staff

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Authorities question Cubs’ Castro after shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Browns suspend receiver Josh Gordon, Manziel late

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sports deaths: elegant Tony Gwynn, Jean Beliveau

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Cousins leads Kings past Knicks 135-129 in OT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
First Step seeks players, help for 2015 season

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Devil Dawgs retiring after run of success

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

 
Virginia Tech beats Cincy 33-17 in Military Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

S Carolina tops Miami 24-21 in Independence Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Arizona State beats Duke 36-31 in Sun Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Penn State tops Boston College 31-30 in OT in Pinstripe Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Kessler leads No. 24 USC to 45-42 win over Huskers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Jameis, Marcus and Mickey: Rose Bowl week starts at Disney

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Bowling report for Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

 
This date in sports history for Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Business

 
Top business stories of 2014: US grows, world slows

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

BP appeals rejection of removing spill claims head

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
US company to open tuna cannery in American Samoa

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

6 US cities: Good jobs but hard-to-afford homes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
Why areas with good jobs have hard-to-afford homes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

Ruling opens door for cruise malpractice lawsuits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Obituaries

Frances Cruz Pangelinan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
John Benjamin Calvin Adams

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4