Monday, August 28, 2006

Snakes IV

Before it premiered, I predicted that Snakes on a Plane would be number eight in its second week. AP has it at six. Yahoo has it at nine. I'll average them together and claim victory.

I suspect that a couple of things hurt it. One is that people were expecting Samuel L. Jackson to spend the movie running around the plane killing snakes, possibly with his bare hands. He doesn't.

Then there is the "ick factor". Lots of people, especially women, will not go near a movie with snakes.

On the other hand, this does not prove anything about Internet buzz. Granted both Snakes and Howard Dean fizzled but Blair Witch was a huge hit based on an Internet campaign.

Sequels and Trillogies

A friend recently saw Pirates II and complained that, since it was continued to the next movie, it was nothing more than a trailer for Pirates III. My wife and I thought that this was a bit unfair and we came up with a list of similar movies. To make this list, a movie must have been a big enough hit to justify two sequels and the sequels must form a continuous story arc. Movies like the Indiana Jones series do not qualify because the sequels have nothing to do with each other. Lord of the Rings was filmed as a trillogy so it doesn't count. Neither do the newer Star Wars since they were planned as a trilogy.

Star Wars (the original three movies)
This is the grand-daddy of the list. The first movie was so big and so open-ended that it cried out for more movies. When they made The Empire Strikes Back they didn't know if it would be a hit or a flop but Lucas took a chance and gave it a cliff-hanger ending anyway. This movie also set a new standard for sequels. Previously it was assumed that a sequel would gross less than the original so production values for the sequel were cut accordingly. This was painfully obvious in the Planet of the Apes movies. Empire, in contrast, had higher production values. and it paid off. While not as popular as the original, it was still one of the most popular movies ever made. This also set the tradition that by the third movie everything has been wrapped up.

Back to the Future
This movie was such a big hit that they went ahead and committed to making two sequels back-to-back with a shortened release date. Unfortunately, the middle movie was the weakest. It took in less than the original and the third took in the least. This was a shame because the third movie is as good as the first although it misses the aspect of visiting your parents generation.

The Matrix
This was the first time the sequel took in more than the original - $171,479,930 for the original and $281,576,461 for the Matrix Reloaded. Unfortunately, Reloaded lacked the charm of the original. Most of the Matrix followed Neo's journey from regular-guy to super-powered messiah. In the second movie there was no room for him grow. For the big fight on a freeway, they had to ship him off to the ends of the earth and leave the fighting to the lesser characters. Like Back to the Future, Reloaded was not good enough to pull people in for the third movie. Unlike back to the Future III, Matrix Revolutions did not have much appeal on its own.

So where does this leave Pirates III? Dead Man's Chest was fun but not as much fun as the first. This might cut into the box office fromthe next one. Or it might not. Pirates II hung onto the top 10 box office list for a long time. It just dropped to number 11 this week and might resurface in the top 10 next week. The original had this sort of staying power, also. I don't think that Matrix Reloaded lasted anywhere near as long. That means that there is a lot of repeat business and good word of mouth. People like the characters, especially Jack Sparrow. That is a hopeful sign for the third movie.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Snakes III

Snakes on a Plane either opened to a weak first place or a close second place, depending on how you count the 10:00 pm Thursday showing. Either way, it only took in $15 million.
Prior to the release, the producers went back and re-shot parts of it to add sex, gore, and language. This seems to have been wasted effort.  wonder if it hurt the movie. Movie producers have been convinced for some time that the late-teen/early 20s crowd will not come to a movie that isn't R rated. It you check to top-grosing movies, te top ten are all PG or PG-13. Number 11, the Passion of the Christ, is R but not for the usual reasons. After that, you have to drop down to nmber 28, the Matrix Reloaded and 29, Meet the Fockers, to find typical R-rated movies. Next is number 46, Beverly Hills Cop and number 50, the Exorcist. Of the top fifty, only those five are R-rated. There are only six in the next fifty.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snakes II

The first reviews are in. This reviewer thinks that Snakes surpasses the hype. He compares it to Rocky Horror (which is probably the definition of a "so bad it's good" movie).

Snakes on a Plane - the prediction

I'm going to make a prediction about Snakes on a Plane - the movie will suck. Why do I think so?

  • It is being released in mid-August. Traditionally movies released between August and October are second-rate (or worse) and expected to do poorly at the box office.
  • It was not screened for critics before the release date. This often happens when a movie sucks and the studio is hoping to make some money before word gets out.
  • It was not screened at the San Diego Comic Convention. If its appeal was to a specific crowd but not the average movie critic, this would be the place to generate good word of mouth. Instead of showing the movie, they showed ten minutes of clips.
  • The whole concept sounds like something that should be a Sci-Fi Channel original movie, something bookended by Kimodo and Snakehead Terror .

All of this indicates that the studio has no faith in the movie. These are the people who have seen it.

Second prediciton - so many people have heard about the movie that it will have a huge opening weekend then sink to number eight on the box office the following weekend.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Being a Superhero

*Spoiler alert*

I got a real kick out of the second episode of Stan Lee's Who Wants to be a Superhero?. After two episodes the format has become clear. Two potential heroes are eliminated each week. One in an informal setting and one in a formal setting, after dark on the roof with lighted platforms. For each elimination Stan names three heroes who are in trouble, gives them a chance to explain themselves, and makes his choice. There can be only one (Wait a minute - that was Highlander).

Each week one choice is based on informal behaviour and one based on an assigned task. What the heroes haven't really grasped is that the task is a test of character. The winner is not who completes it fastest. Rather, it is who shows heroic character traits in doing it.

The first task was for each hero to change into costume in secret and run to an archway. Several heroes ran as fast as they could and congratulated themselves on "completing the mission", not noticing that there was a lost and crying girl nearby. The ones who passed the test are the ones who stopped to help the girl.

The second task was to help a little old lady who had locked herself out. Each hero had to let her in by going around and entering the back door. Which was guarded by two vicious dogs. The heroes were given protective costumes. The object was to touch the door. They could call "uncle" at any time and give up.

Some of the guys made it through in impressive times. I think that only one of the women managed. They were at a real disadvantage since the dogs outweighed them. A couple of surprises - Iron Defender, the biggest, strongest guy, got pulled down just short of the door and surrendered. Monkey Girl who had failed the first challenge, refused to give up. After ten minutes of attack she wore the dogs down enough that she succeeded. This is someone you want fighting to save you. In contrast, Cell Phone Girl gave up after four seconds because she had a headache and was rightly ejected.

From the beginning Iron Defender was a strange hero. He looks like a comic book character - tall, huge muscles, shaved head, big gun - but he doesn't look or act like a hero. He's an obvious villain. I suspect that the producers figured this all along. He was finally eliminated but was immediately offered a position as Stan's newest super-villain, Dark Defender. This was a laugh-out-loud moment. After all, what's a hero without a villain to fight?