Wednesday, July 23, 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

Fairfield labor pact wins City Council OK

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 9 Comments | Gallery

 
 
 
Solano leaders feel left out of Delta decision-making

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3

Polk first to file for Fairfield council

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Dally seeks to retain seat on Vacaville school board

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Carpenters training center set to expand in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Governor signs 2 bills by Frazier into law

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

 
Library friends set spring book sale

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A6

 
Video chair exercise class returns to senior center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

2 Vacaville homes hit by gunfire

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
Man, woman, comic and dance contest primed for box office

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Rockville Trails hike on August calendar

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Mayor’s Commission on Crime hears from community

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A12, 12 Comments | Gallery

.

US / World

Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
IRS employee charged with identity theft

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Assailants sought in fatal train platform beating

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Senate, House on collision course on border money

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

ACLU may fight for California migrant shelter

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9, 1 Comment

 
Board puts soda tax before San Francisco voters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

George Harrison memorial tree killed by beetles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
California agency to consider hiring “water cops”

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Gaza blockade key to any Israel-Hamas truce deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Mexican-born professor eyed for state high court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Airlines ban flights to Israel after rocket strike

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
AP source: Thieves got into 1K StubHub accounts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Obama nominee McDonald pledges to ‘transform’ VA

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Body of missing S. Korean shipping tycoon found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Crews make gains on massive Washington wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Lax security at crash site hampers investigations

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Plane crash bodies removed from war zone

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

Opinion

 
 
Walmart donation benefits Meals on Wheels

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

Batson’s column on Mideast peace is wrong

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 5 Comments

 
Fix our problems first

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

.

Living

Today in History for July 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: July 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

How to argue appropriately with your mate

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

 
10 Things: 10 fresh ways to use fresh blueberries

By J.M. Hirsch | From Page: B6

Horoscopes for July 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
Bulking up the classic BLT without adding fat

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

I’m tired of my parents judging me because of who I date

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

 
A summer sausage roll with a triple dose of fennel

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Entertainment

‘Downton Abbey’ back on Jan. 4 for season 5

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
‘X-Men’ VR experience coming to Comic-Con

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
.

Sports

Raiders enter camp with ‘chip’ on shoulders

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers start fresh after forgettable offseason

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Giants beat Phillies 9-6 in 14 innings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s agree to 10-year lease to stay in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Selig still waiting on Tommy John report

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

AP source: Cavs to sign Andrew Wiggins to contract

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Paterno son, other former assistant sue Penn State

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Pyrenees please Nibali, Rogers in Tour Stage 16

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Warriors announce Brandon Rush’s signing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

CEO: Rivers to quit Clippers if Sterling stays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Racehorse owned by Britain’s queen fails dope test

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Mudcats score early, get 7-3 win over South Bay Storm

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

 
Seahawks start atop AP Pro32 rankings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

Ackman goes after Herbalife’s nutrition clubs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8, 1 Comment

 
China meat scandal hits Starbucks, Burger King

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Solid earnings drive more gains in US stocks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Microsoft 4Q earnings hurt by Nokia acquisition

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Apple post biggest earnings gain in nearly 2 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
One in every 25 New Yorkers is a millionaire, study says

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: B8

California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Obituaries

Joseph Ross Smith Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
John Klefstad

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Shirley T. ‘Mac’ McFadden

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

 
.

Comics

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6