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Movie Predictions – The Biggest Films of 2014 – Part I

25 Mar

The Lego Movie was released barely a month ago (it hasn’t been released in Australia yet) and it has already grossed US$391 million worldwide, the highest grossing film of 2014 so far. Clearly it is on its way to smashing past the half billion dollar mark, which got me wondering, what other films this year will reach that financial benchmark?  Will any break the fabled one billion dollar barrier? Of the eighteen films to have grossed over a billion dollars, eleven have come in this decade, so it’s not only possible, but probable.

In part one of this post, we look at the films that will definitely be successful at the box office and threaten to join those eighteen movies in the elite billion dollar club, as well as some big sequels and how much they might earn. Later we’ll look at other films that could be box office juggernauts, including a few dark horses to reach half a billion and beyond.

And just to clarify: this is not a commentary on what will be the best films of the year, just the biggest earners. Although no doubt there will be some overlap.

(All figures are in $US and taken from boxofficemojo.com at the time of posting.)

The Sure Fire Mega-Hits

The Hobbit: There and Back Again

the-hobbit-there-and-back-again

Let’s see.  The worldwide grossing for the three Lord of the Rings films were, in order, $871.5 million, $926 million, and $1,119.9 million.

The first two Hobbit films grossed $1,017 million and $944.4 million (and counting).

Given that pedigree, there is little doubt that The Hobbit: There and Back Again will join its predecessors in earning its producers more loot than all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.  The real question is whether this final tale of Middle Earth can outdo The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, currently the seventh highest grossing film of all time.  Given that There and Back Again will not only offer closure on this story arc, but will be the last opportunity for film goers to enjoy Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth, my prediction is that it will comfortably break the one billion dollar mark. However given that the Hobbit series is slightly less epic than the LOTRs series, I don’t think it will quite overtake The Return of the King. Still, I don’t think the film’s backers will be complaining.

Prognosis: Not even Smaug can prevent The Hobbit: There and Back Again from bringing home the loot. $1 billion +

The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay, Part 1

hunger-games-mockingjay-movie-poster

Following the trend of recent young adult fiction series adaptations, the final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is being split into two parts. (And like other recent young adult adaptation finales, will include all kinds of punctuation in the title.) Is this for artistic reasons? Um, right – and the Capitol has the Districts’ best interests at heart.  No, by splitting the film in two the makers of this franchise hope to also follow the trend of those films other young adult films (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1) and earn their way to box office glory.

And it will.

The first movie in the series, The Hunger Games, was a success, earning $691.2 million worldwide.  The sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was superior to its predecessor in every way, and it showed in its box office receipts: a cool $864.3 million.  The upward trend should continue, especially given Jennifer Lawrence’s current status as Hollywood’s ‘It’ girl, and with Philip Seymour-Hoffman’s tragic death.  Expect Mocking Jay, Part 1 to give the billion dollar mark a good nudge.

Prognosis: When it comes to this film breaking the bank, the odds are ever in their favour.  $1 billion.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Unlike the Hunger Games franchise, the Transformers franchise hasn’t received as much critical acclaim. In fact, the second instalment, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, was heavily criticised, for everything from its ludicrous plot to its inane humour (because racist robots are funny!)  But that didn’t stop the film – or the others in the franchise – enjoying massive box office success.

So far the films have earned $709.7, $836.3, and $1,123.8 million, the most recent, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, being the sixth highest earning film of all time.  Whilst there will be a few changes with the latest instalment – out goes Shia LaBouf and in comes Mark Wahlberg – it will no doubt follow the same formula of lots of action, explosions and amazing special effects.  And Dinobots! It will also no doubt have the same level of success.

Say what you want about Michael Bay, but the man knows how to deliver action blockbusters that appeal to the masses. Transformers: Age of Extinction could be another billion dollar earner.

Prognosis: Autobots, roll out…your bank notes! $1 billion.

The (Other) Big Sequels

Did you notice anything in common with the sure fire mega-hits?  Yep, they are all sequels to successful movies.  Film studios love nothing more than backing franchises that have already provided them with good returns.  With a readymade fan base, and often bigger budgets to produce and market the films, sequels can often outperform their forerunners financially.  That is, if they get them right.

The following sequels will be hoping to break the bank in a big way.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Animated films are huge business. The second and third highest grossing films of 2013 were animated (Frozen and Despicable Me 2 respectively), and we’ve already seen what The Lego Movie is doing this year.  Earning $494.9 million, How to Train Your Dragon was the tenth highest grossing film in 2010, a year where half of the top ten movies were animated, with Toy Story 3 ranking number 1.  Four years later and How to Train Your Dragon 2 could well break the half billion dollar mark.

With enough time to digest what made the original film so successful, as well as to render the amazing graphics, the sequel (and the planned third movie) should capture audiences’ imaginations just as strongly as the first time around, if not more so.  If DreamWorks get it right, especially given the relatively light animated competition this year, this chapter of the tale of Hiccup and Toothless could even approach the three-quarter billion level.

Prognosis: You’d better train your dragon to fly you to the bank.  $500 – $750 million.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This one is slightly harder to pick. The 2002 Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire was a huge hit, reviving the superhero genre after years of lacklustre productions (I’m looking at you, Batman and Robin).  However it was downhill from there, the nadir being the bizarre evil/goth evil Peter jazz sequence in Spider-Man 3 (I still don’t know what they were thinking).  And so the franchise got rebooted a mere seven years later.

The reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, raked in $752.2 million worldwide. Why then isn’t the sequel in the sure fire mega-hit category?  Believe it or not, the box office receipts for The Amazing Spider-Man was actually lower than all three of the original films, and wasn’t quite as successful as the studio might have hoped for. The cast was solid and it looked great, but the reception from audiences and critics was somewhat lukewarm. Will the sequel trend upwards? Or will movie goers be more wary?

I’m giving The Amazing Spider-Man 2 the benefit of the doubt, at least financially. The trailers look good, so hopefully the movie will be an improvement on the first.  If not, the strength of the trailer and Spider-Man’s inherent popularity should result in a windfall irrespective.

Prognosis: Spidey is your friendly neighbourhood cash cow.  $700 – $800 million.

Log back in soon for the rest of this post.

Zombeavers: The New Sharknado?

11 Feb

As regular Hesaidwhatnow? readers will be well aware, Sharknado is one of the greatest movies of all time.  Any time you see former Beverly Hills 90210 supporting star Ian Ziering flying through the mouth of a flying shark with a chainsaw and coming out the other end, you know you are watching cinema greatness.  These are moments that shape our lives.

Well grab your chainsaw and get ready to suspend your belief in a huge way again, as we might be in for some more greatness.

The good folks at top tier studios Armory Films and BenderSpink have conspired to bring us a new film, Zombeavers.  What is a ‘zombeaver’ you might ask?  Well, it is the stuff of nightmares: zombie beavers.

You'd better believe that's a bad movie poster pun!

You’d better believe that’s a bad movie poster pun!

I know what you’re thinking: “A movie about zombie beavers?  Well it’s about time.”  Yes it is, and if the trailer is any indication, the wait has been worth it.

As you might expect with a budget horror film, the usual rules are adhered to.  A bunch of college students go away on a trip together in a cabin in a small town, spooky enough that something bad is bound to happen, and secluded enough that no one can rescue them – except maybe the random (and in this case, extremely creepy) local that they bump into.  Said college students are hot, meaning plenty of excuses for nudity and innuendo.

And with that standard template an extraordinary vision is realised.

"Wait - that's not my shoe."

“Wait – that’s not my shoe.”

Here are some highlights from the trailer:

–        Three hot girls in two and a half bikinis have no problem making chit chat with a creepy stranger who is carrying a massive gun.  No surprise that Creepy Guy makes the first of what no doubt will be many of the film’s very unsubtle beaver puns.  In fact, they manage to squeeze two of them into the 90 second trailer.

–        After killing a vicious beaver, the guy pulls a classic horror movie error and leaves it out on the porch instead of disposing of it properly.  Yep, that won’t come back to bite you.  Literally.  Although in fairness, it’s probably not anyone’s fault that they didn’t anticipate a beaver coming back to life as a bloodthirsty zombeaver.

–        Apparently a beaver dam on one road is enough to prevent a car of students from leaving town.

–        There are some cracking lines, but the best is easily, “We cannot turn against each other right now.  That is exactly what the beavers would want.”  Yes, yes it is.  I guarantee you no one graduates from acting college dreaming of delivering that line on film.

–        The trailer ends on an absolute high.  I will leave it to you all to watch instead of spoiling it, although I will say that I think we have 2014’s marquee Halloween costume idea already.

The trailer claims that zombeavers are the “next level of zombies”.  Based on what we’ve seen, it’s hard to argue with that.

Hesaidwhatnow? will definitely keep you posted of any zombeaver news.  In the meantime, if you come across any creepy dudes with guns, make sure you befriend him just in case.  And brace yourself for some double entendres.

Movie Doppelgangers: The Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time – Part II

18 Sep

As we’ve seen in Part I of this post, it’s not unusual to see two movies being made and released at the same time with essentially the same plot.  Whether it’s a case of Hollywood executives being lazy, unimaginative, or flat out stealing the ideas of their competitors, it happens more often than you think.  Here are five more Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time.

The Truman Show v EDtv

He's smiling cos he just saw EDtv's box office takings.

He’s smiling cos he just saw EDtv’s box office takings.

A reality show following Matthew McConaughey?  Spoiler alert: it features a lot of shirtless torsos.

A reality show following Matthew McConaughey? Spoiler alert: it features a lot of shirtless torsos.

The Truman Show   EDtv
5 June 1998 Release Date 26 March 1999
8.0/10 IMDb Score 6.0/10
90/100 Meta Critic Score 48/100
94% Rotten Tomatoes Score 64%
$60 million Budget $80 million
$125.6 million Box Office Gross (US) $22.4 million
$239.0 million Box Office Gross (World) $30.7 million

It’s hard to imagine, but once upon a time there was no such thing as people willingly and enthusiastically stripping themselves of their dignity on camera, but then the late ‘90s came and with it a real surge of reality TV as a viable genre.  Fifteen years later and it seems as though that’s all there is.

It’s no surprise, then, that at the end of that decade, two movies came out exploring the world of reality TV: The Truman Show and EDtv.

Both films are centred on TV shows that follow the lives of an ordinary person, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) and Ed Pekurny (Matthew McConaughey) respectively.  The movies take a look at the ‘behind the scenes’ goings on of making the shows, but focus more on the impact the shows have on their ‘stars’.

Of course the big difference between the films is that the Ed Pekurny signed up to being on a reality TV show voluntarily, whereas Truman was born into one and remains oblivious until a mid life crisis causes him to start questioning his life.

Actually, there’s another big difference.  The Truman Show was almost universally acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, whereas EDtv’s critical reception was lukewarm and its box office takings were atrocious.

Winner: This one’s easy.  It’s a case of good afternoon, good evening and goodnight to EDtv, as The Truman Show is the clear winner.

Saving Private Ryan v The Thin Red Line

Not as good a poster as the one for 'Shaving Ryan's Privates'.

Not as good a poster as the one for ‘Shaving Ryan’s Privates’.

The best damn army of one-eyed soldiers ever.

The best damn army of one-eyed soldiers ever.

Saving Private Ryan   The Thin Red Line
24 July 1998 Release Date 23 September 1998
8.6/10 IMDb Score 7.6/10
90/100 Meta Critic Score 78/100
92% Rotten Tomatoes Score 78%
$70 million Budget $52 million
$216.5 million Box Office Gross (US) $36.4 million
$481.8 million Box Office Gross (World) $98.1 million

In a slight change of pace, 1998 also saw two of the grittiest and most realistic World War II movies to hit the screen, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line.  Boasting great ensemble casts lead by Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, and Sean Penn and Adrien Brody, the films were bloody, dirty, and painted an intense picture of war.

Both films were critically acclaimed, being nominated for (and winning) a swag of awards, and receiving positive reviews.  However, even though some would argue it was more powerful and pulled less punches, The Thin Red Line received less attention than its counterpart and underachieved at the box office, whereas Saving Private Ryan treated the box office like an enemy soldier and blew it up, raking in almost half a billion dollars world wide.  Perhaps not having a big name director like Spielberg at the helm hurt, or maybe audiences had World War II fatigue by the time it was released.  Either way, when listing the greatest war movies of all time today, Saving Private Ryan is almost mentioned, whereas The Thin Red Line is often overlooked.

Winner: Saving Private Ryan.

Chasing Liberty v First Daughter

"Don't worry - my dad isn't George W."

“Don’t worry – my dad isn’t George W.”

My god.  Even the poster is boring.

My god. Even the poster is boring.

Chasing Liberty   First Daughter
9 January 2004 Release Date 24 September 2004
5.9/10 IMDb Score 4.7/10
46/100 Meta Critic Score 41/100
19% Rotten Tomatoes Score 8%
$23 million Budget $20 million
$12.2 million Box Office Gross (US) $9.1 million
$12.3 million Box Office Gross (World) $10.4 million

Neither gritty, nor realistic, and definitely not a box office success is this pair of flicks.

Chasing Liberty is a film starring Mandy Moore as the daughter of the President of the United States of America.  Sick of the fact that a swarm of secret service agents are constantly watching her, she sees a trip to Europe as a chance to break free and she rebels, falling in love with a handsome stranger.  In a twist I’m sure no one saw coming, it turns out the handsome stranger is in fact a secret service agent.  Who would have thought!

Chasing Liberty was well and truly a flop.  It barely recovered half of its meager $23 million budget, earning $12.2 million dollars in the US and an atrocious $117,697 in foreign revenue.  So what was Hollywood’s response to this epic failure?  To release an exact duplicate later that same year.

Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar.  First Daughter stars Katie Holmes as the daughter of the President of the United States of America.  Sick of the fact that a swarm of secret service agents are constantly watching her, she sees a trip to college as a chance to break free and she rebels, falling in love with a handsome classmate.  I bet you can’t guess the twist.  Yep!  It turns out the handsome classmate is in fact a secret service agent.  How did you know?!

The other thing that First Daughter has in common with Chasing Liberty (which, by the way, had the working title of ‘First Daughter’ until right before its release) is that it bombed in every way possible.  Its Rotten Tomatoes score was a putrid 8%, and it also barely managed to scrape in half its budget.  The people have spoken, and they want Mandy Moore and Katie Holmes out of the White House.  Immediately.  And preferably with extreme prejudice.

Winner: Terrorism.

Killers v Knight and Day

Most critics would've preferred the bullet.

Most critics would’ve preferred the bullet.

Why is this film even called Knight and Day?  The characters' names are Miller and Havens.  Don't they know how movie puns work?!?  Sheesh.

Why is this film even called Knight and Day? The characters’ names are Miller and Havens. Don’t they know how movie puns work?!? Sheesh.

Killers   Knight and Day
4 June 2010 Release Date 23 June 2010
5.2/10 IMDb Score 6.3/10
21/100 Meta Critic Score 46/100
11% Rotten Tomatoes Score 62%
$75 million Budget $117 million
$47.1 million Box Office Gross (US) $76.4 million
$98.2 million Box Office Gross (World) $261.9 million

Released within a couple of weeks of each other, Killers and Knight and Day are action-comedies revolving around a woman falling for a man, only to find that he kills people for a living, and then the couple subsequently having to rely on each other to survive enemy threats.

In fairness, there are some differences.  In Killers, the lead (Ashton Kutcher) is an assassin, while in Knight and Day, Tom Cruise is just a plain ol’ spy.  Also, Kutcher is married to Katherine Heigl for three years before the action really kicks in, whereas Cameron Diaz only just meets Cruise when hell breaks loose.  Still, no one needs to see two movies about a professional tough guy and his unsuspecting love interest traipsing around twice in one year, let alone one month.

Killers was killed by critics, and Knight and Day was seen as decidedly ordinary.  One thing is for sure though: Cruise and Diaz pull audiences a lot better than Kutcher and Heigl do, as evidenced by the stark difference in box office takings.

Winner: Knight and Day, with one shot to the head of Killers, and one to the heart.  That’s just being professional.

K9 v Turner & Hooch

"This guy is dog gone good."

“This guy is dog gone good.”

"I just had this jacket cleaned."

“I just had this jacket cleaned.”

K9   Turner & Hooch
28 April 1989 Release Date 28 July 1989
5.7/10 IMDb Score 5.8/10
-/100 Meta Critic Score -/100
22% Rotten Tomatoes Score 62%
$17 million Budget $20 million
$43.2 million Box Office Gross (US) $71.1 million
$78.2 million Box Office Gross (World) $- million

Released three months apart to the day, K9 and Turner & Hooch are your typical ‘80s buddy cop action comedies with one notable difference: in each film one of the buddy cops is a dog.  That notable difference is what makes these two films a clear example of movie doppelganging.  Two different people suddenly came up with that idea independently at the exact same time?  Puh-lease.

The main variance between the two is that the canine in K9, Jerry Lee, is a drug-sniffer police dog given to Jim Belushi to help him stop a drug warlord who plans on killing him, whereas Hooch is a dog taken in by Tom Hanks after its owner is murdered, Hanks hoping Hooch will help him find the killer.  Otherwise it’s pretty similar stuff: the dogs test their partners’ patience, spend more time getting up to hijinks than helping, but ultimately contribute to saving the day in an adorable manner.

Both films did fairly well at the box office, although K9 clearly had the poorer reviews.

Winner: Turner & Hooch.  When it comes to choosing between Hanks and a Dogue de Bordeaux, and Belushi and a German Shepard, I’m choosing the former.  Although I’d probably choose both over Kutcher and Heigl.  And definitely over the President’s daughter, no matter who was involved.

Movie Doppelgangers: The Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time – Part I

10 Sep

It only takes one glance at your local cinema’s timetable to realise that Hollywood isn’t the most original place in the world.  Do I want to see the superhero movie, the alien/vampire/zombie/robot/alien vampire zombie robot film, the Jennifer Aniston rom-com, or the one where Tom Cruise plays a hero and we have to try to pretend he’s not a crazy Scientologist?

Sometimes, however, even Hollywood goes too far.  Sometimes two movies come out at the same time and with the same premise, so that you can’t help wondering whether executives are looking over each other’s shoulders and copying their exam answers.

For example, this year it was possible to have this exchange:

Boy: “Do you want to see that new movie about the White House getting attacked?”

Girl: “Sure!  I love Channing Tatum!”

Boy: “You mean Gerard Butler?”

Girl: “No, Tatum.”

Boy: “You’re thinking of the wrong movie.  I’m talking about the one where the White House gets attacked.”

Girl: “Yeah, and the President gets held hostage.”

Boy: “Right, but it doesn’t have Channing Tatum in it.”

Girl: “Sure it does, and Jamie Foxx is president.”

Boy: “What? Aaron Eckhart is president.”

Girl: “No he’s not.  It’s Jamie Foxx.”

Boy: “Are you thinking about Morgan Freeman, cos that’s racist.  He’s in the movie, but he’s not the president.”

Girl: “I’m positive it’s Jamie Foxx.  You know, ‘The White House Has Fallen’.  A failed presidential guard is stuck on the inside, has to save the day.”

Boy: “Right, an ex-presidential guard is stuck on the inside and has to save the day.  Is it called ‘White House Has Fallen’ though?  Isn’t it ‘Olympus’ something?”

Girl: “Yes!  ‘Olympus is Down’!  That’s it.”

Boy: “No, it’s ‘Olympus Has Fallen!”

Girl: “That’s it, that’s the one.  It’s called ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ and it stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx.”

Boy: “No it DOESN’T!!!  It has Eckhart and Butler!  Eckhart and BUTLER! AND BUTLER SAVES ECKHART FROM THE KOREANS!!!”

Girl: “The Koreans?  What?”

Boy: “Let’s just go watch Wolverine.”

Yes, within three months Hollywood released Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, two movies about the White House being attacked, the President of the USA being held hostage, and a failed presidential guard on the inside the only possibility of saving the day.  And both plots, according to most reviews, are equally ludicrous.  No surprises there.

It’s not the first time Hollywood has managed to release essentially the same movie twice at the same time.  Here is part I of Hesaidwhatnow?’s list of the Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time.

The Illusionist v The Prestige

"My crystal ball tells me there will be another movie just like this!"

“My crystal ball tells me there will be another movie just like this!”

"Wolverine's a pussy!" "Shut up Batman!"

“Batman’s a pussy!” “Shut up Wolverine!”

The Illusionist   The Prestige
1 September 2006 Release Date 20 October 2006
7.6/10 IMDb Score 8.4/10
68/100 Meta Critic Score 66/100
74/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 76/100
$16 million Budget $40 million
$39.8 million Box Office Gross (US) $53 million
$87.9 million Box Office Gross (World) $109.7 million

No, it’s not an illusion.  In 2006, Hollywood pulled the magic trick of releasing two period dramas about magicians within a fortnight of each other.  The similarities are numerous: both films are based on books (the Illusionist on Steven Millhauser’s short story ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’; the Prestige on the award winning novel of the same name by Christopher Priest); both films are set in Europe in the late 1800s; and both juxtapose the wonder of magic with a darker underside of dangerous rivalries, on stage and for love.  The main differences?  Whilst the Prestige focusses on the rivalry between two competing magicians, the Illusionist focusses on a magician’s quest to take his true love and escape from the evil clutches of her betrothed, Crown Prince Leopold.  Also, the Prestige delves somewhat in the mystical, whereas the Illusionist stays strictly on the seemingly mystical.

Unlike many movies on this list, this pair of films are both very good, with critics and audiences alike reacting positively to both movies.  The cast of the Illusionist is excellent: Edward Norton as the protagonist, Jessica Biel as his love interest, Rufus Sewell as the evil Crown Prince, and Paul Giamitti as the chief of the Vienna police.  However the cast of The Prestige is even better.  Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play the rivals, with Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine,  Piper Parabo, and David Bowie playing significant roles.  Plus The Prestige is slightly more entertaining throughout, and importantly for a movie about magicians, has the better ‘reveal’.

Winner: The Prestige

Dante’s Peak v Volcano

"I can't believe a volcano is about to erupt in a small town in Washington state."

“I can’t believe a volcano is about to erupt in a small town in Washington state.”

"At least it's slightly more plausible than a volcano erupting in Los Angeles."

“At least it’s slightly more plausible than a volcano erupting in Los Angeles.”

Dante’s Peak   Volcano
7 February 1997 Release Date 27 April 1997
5.7/10 IMDb Score 5.3/10
43/100 Meta Critic Score 55/100
27/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 44/100
$116 million Budget $90 million
$67.2 million Box Office Gross (US) $47.5 million
$178.2 million Box Office Gross (World) $122.8 million

What we have here are two disaster movies released within a few months of each other about a volcano erupting, threatening the lives of local citizens. Can the experienced but troubled protagonist (Pierce Brosnan, whose girlfriend and fellow volcano expert who four years earlier was killed by, yep, a volcano; and Tommy Lee Jones) convince the local authorities that tragedy is looming?  Can they protect their love interests (Linda Hamilton and Anne Heche) and at least one child from the volcano threatening to erupt?  And can they do so to positive reviews by critics and viewers?  Sadly, they could not, with both movies’ reviews and box office grossings ranging somewhere between ‘ordinary’ and ‘destroyed by liquid hot magma’.

Winner: The volcanoes.

Deep Impact v Armageddon

I'd be hugging someone with gratitude too if I found out that they gave the Aerosmith song to the other meteor movie.

I’d be hugging someone with gratitude too if I found out that they gave the Aerosmith song to the other meteor movie.

"Armageddon that asteroid, that's a promise.  And a pun!"

“Armageddon that asteroid, that’s a promise. And a pun!”

Deep Impact   Armageddon
8 May 1998 Release Date 1 July 1998
6.0/10 IMDb Score 6.5/10
40/100 Meta Critic Score 42/100
47/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 40/100
$75 million Budget $140 million
$140.5 million Box Office Gross (US) $201.6 million
$321.0 million Box Office Gross (World) $553.7 million

Speaking of disaster movies, once Hollywood were done watching volcanoes ravage the planet, they decided to think bigger.  So it is that two movies about giant space rocks on a path of destruction hurtled through the atmosphere and into our cinemas – within two months of each other.

In Deep Impact, a comet on course to flatten Earth is discovered and the US and Russia secretly plan to send a spacecraft to intercept it and detonate it with nuclear weapons.  However, there are problems, and the world remains in danger, forcing the US and Russia to inform the world of its impending doom.  In Armageddon, an asteroid on course to flatten Earth is discovered and the US secretly plans to send a spacecraft to intercept it and detonate it with nuclear weapons.  However, there are problems, and the world remains in danger, forcing the US to inform the world of its impending doom.

The main differences?  Um… one’s a comet and one’s an asteroid?  One could cause an “Extinction Level Event” and one could cause an “Extinction Event”?  One has Steven Tyler screeching “I don’t wanna miss a thing” whilst Ben Affleck walks animal crackers over his real life daughter’s half naked body, whilst the other doesn’t (thank god)?

Actually, the main difference is that Armageddon is typical Michael Bay over-the-top-ness, whereas Deep Impact is (apparently) slightly more grounded in scientific theory.  That and, despite poor critical acclaim, Armageddon made an asteroid sized amount of money in the box office whereas Deep Impact only earned a comet sized fortune.

Winner: Armageddon I guess.  And animal crackers.

Drop Zone v Terminal Velocity

A movie about skydiving villains happened...

Yep.  A movie about skydiving villains actually happened…

...twice.

…twice.

Drop Zone   Terminal Velocity
9 September 1994 Release Date 23 September 1994
5.4/10 IMDb Score 5.3/10
N/A Meta Critic Score N/A
35/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 14/100
$45 million Budget $50 million
$28.7 million Box Office Gross (US) $16.5 million
N/A Box Office Gross (World) N/A

1994 was the first time I remember being gobsmacked that two movies with virtually identical premises could come out at the same time.  If, as a thirteen year old, I can think, “Wait – there’s two movies about skydiving coming out?  Is that a typo?” then surely Hollywood should have been able to stop and realise that perhaps doubling up on such a ridiculous concept wasn’t such a good idea.  If only.

The plots?  In Drop Zone, US Marshal Wesley Snipes loses a brother to a terrorist attack on a plane, although he suspects it was an elaborate plot.  It turns out he is correct – the ‘terrorists’, led by the always well presented Gary Busey, were after the computer hacking genius Snipes was escorting, and parachuted to safety, planning to use the computer wiz to help them with their plausible criminal plan: parachuting onto the DEA building in Washington DC, hacking into their mainframe, stealing information on undercover agents and auctioning them off to bad guys.  Snipes must then learn skydiving from a sexy love interest to stop Busey.

Terminal Velocity has Charlie Sheen as a maverick skydiving instructor.  When a sexy love interest goes up with him for her first dive, she falls out of the plane and seemingly dies, although Sheen suspects it was an elaborate plot.  It turns out he is correct – the woman was a Russian spy who wanted to fake her own death so as to recover a shipment of gold.  In what is one of the greatest single lines of a plot summary of all time, Sheen then has to use “all of his skydiving skills to outwit the villains and stay alive”.  And his mother thought he was wasting his time being a skydiving instructor.

These two films are awful.  Both were duds at the box office and were laughed at by critics, although the reviews for Terminal Velocity were particularly scathing.

Winner: Drop Zone.  Whilst both films failed to open their parachutes, Drop Zone hit the earth with slightly less of a thud.  Although in Terminal Velocity’s defence, it did have Charlie Sheen deliver an immortal line: “I’m not just a walking penis – I’m a flying penis!”   Yowsers.

No Strings Attached v Friends With Benefits

"Hey Natalie, you know how I said that love scene was for a movie?  Well you've been Punk'd!!!"

“Hey Natalie, you know how I said that love scene was for a movie? Well…Punk’d!!!”

I'm trying really hard not to make a dirty joke about their hand gestures.

I’m trying really hard not to make a dirty joke about their hand gestures.

No Strings Attached   Friends with Benefits
21 January 2011 Release Date 22 July 2011
6.1/10 IMDb Score 6.6/10
50/100 Meta Critic Score 63/100
49/100 Rotten Tomatoes Score 70/100
$25 million Budget $35 million
$70.7 million Box Office Gross (US) $55.8 million
$147.8 million Box Office Gross (World) $149.5 million

No Strings Attached is a comedy about two attractive friends (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman) deciding to have a physical relationship without any emotional commitment.  Trouble is, they start developing feelings for each other.  Friends With Benefits is a comedy about two attractive friends (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) deciding to have a physical relationship without any emotional commitment.  Trouble is, they start developing feelings for each other.

Both of these films have the same plot, both star male leads who probably shouldn’t be in movies, and both earned roughly $150 million worldwide.  However Friends With Benefits had more support from critics and is generally considered the superior film.  Still, the only thing worse than trying to have a physical relationship with a platonic friend is to make two movies about it and release them at the same time.

Winner: Friends With Benefits.  Loser: anyone trying to convince someone that they should try being friends with benefits.

That’s five pairs of movies with the same premise released at the same time.  But there are plenty more.  Check back into Hesaidwhatnow? for Part II of Movie Doppelgangers: The Most Implausibly Identical Movies of All Time.

A Joining of Titans

8 Aug

Something unusual happened in New York yesterday that has baffled many people.  However, upon examining the evidence to hand, I have determined that this seemingly random event has a perfectly understandable, and awesome, explanation.  Sit down and put on a helmet – I’m about to blow your mind.

Yesterday a commuter on New York’s subway, identified only as ‘Mary M’, stepped into a carriage in Manhattan and immediately noticed something was wrong: there was an unusual odour on the train.  Now of course something would be wrong if there wasn’t an unusual odour on the train – we’re talking the New York Metro here – but as Mary M described the stench, “It’s not the typical urine/trash smell, it’s…fishy.”

Let’s overlook the fact that the New York subway normally smells of human waste, bodily or other, and focus on what Mary M saw.  “I look down to the end of the car,” she said, “to see a dead shark on the floor.  I think I stood there for a good minute just staring, thinking ‘Is this for real?  Oh come ON, NYC!’”  (I love Mary M!)  Sure enough though, there was a dead shark sitting on the floor of the carriage.  That’s weird, even by New York standards.

"So buddy, did you catch the Knicks game last night?"

“So buddy, did you catch the Knicks game last night?”

When asked how it would dispose of the dead shark, a Metropolitan Transportation Administration official stated, “Live sharks are wrangled by Shark Maintainer IIs, who have passed the qualification test and have minimum three years in the Shark Maintainer I title.  Dead ones are handled by Shark Maintainer Is, or if none are available on that shift, then by Aquatic Mammal Handler IIs.” Typical New York smart ass.

The shark was in fact disposed of, but no one knows how it came to be on the New York Metro in the first place (especially without a ticket).  As Mary M might say, something smells fishy.

The answer, however, is obvious.

Less than a month ago, US’s SyFy channel aired what is widely considered one of the decade’s top ten movies about sea-dwelling creatures in airborne weather patterns, Sharknado.  Due to the social media attention it garnered, it wasn’t long before a sequel was announced.  Not much has been revealed about the sequel to date, but we do know one thing: it will be set in New York City.

Mystery solved.

Yes, this dead shark on the Metro MUST be a publicity stunt for Sharknado 2: Sharks and the City (my early vote for the movie’s title).  Not only that, it could be a clue for what might happen in the film.

The only other fact about Sharknado 2: Biting the Big Apple that we know, besides its intended 2014 release date, is that Tara Reid will not be back to reprise her role of April Wexler, estranged wife of chainsaw-wielding, jumping-into-sharks’-mouths hero, Fin (played by Ian Ziering).  This means that there will need to be a new cast of actors, a new band of heroes.

"What? I'm not good enough to be in Sharknado 2?  This is a new low for me."

“What? I’m not good enough to be in Sharknado 2? This is a new low for me.”

Now, should it be the case that part of Sharknado 2: Some Fin in the Air is that the sharks will find themselves on the New York subway, as this incident seems to indicate, who would be a suitable actor to fill the void left by the departure of Reid’s vacant stare?  It would have to be someone unafraid of dealing with terrifying beasts, and preferably someone who has experience dealing with them on transport.

Of course!  There’s only one man for the job: Neville Flynn, aka Samuel L. Jackson’s character from Snakes on a Plane!

What better choice to be Ziering’s wingman than the furious Jackson?  Even their characters’ names are similar: Fin and Flynn!

And who wouldn’t want to hear Jackson, chainsaw in hand, scream out, “Enough is enough!  I have had it with these muthaf*ckin sharks on this muthf*ckin train!”  The answer: no one.  Except maybe Tara Reid.

He's not saying 'fudge'.

He’s not saying ‘fudge’.

I, for one, cannot wait for Sharknado 2: Sharks on a Train.  As the original Sharknado poster brashly stated: enough said.

Arnie’s Best One Liners

30 Jul

When it comes to one liners in action movies, no one can compete with the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In honour of his awesomeness, and to celebrate his 66th birthday today, I’ve compiled the very best of his puns, wordplays, and wisecracks.  I couldn’t narrow them down to ten, so here are his fourteen greatest efforts.  Get in the chopper, strap yourself in, and enjoy.

"Hi, I'm Arnold.  Check out these great one liners from some of my moofies."

“Hi, I’m Arnold. Check out these great one liners from some of my moofies.”

14. Eraser

Eraser is a film that doesn’t immediately jump to mind when thinking of Arnie greats, but it certainly follows the usual format: action, some mandatory muscle shots, and of course, classic one liners such as this one.

Having trapped the bad guys’ limo on the railroad track, the vehicle gets demolished by the train with the requisite explosion.  Love interest Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams) then asks Arnie for an update on their disappearing pursuers:

Cullen: “What happened to them?”

Arnie: “They caught a train.”

13. Commando

Commando is without peer for classic Arnie one liners, and features heavily in this list.  As a retired Black Ops Commando, Arnie is faced by a green beret called Cooke who is keen for a fight and a little trash talk.  A mistake on both counts.

Cooke: “You Scared motherf*cker?  Well, you should be, because this green beret is gonna kick your big ass!”

Arnie: “I eat green berets for breakfast.  And right now, I’m very hungry!”

12. Total Recall

Before Colin Farrell was running around as  Doug Quaid in last year’s reboot, Arnie was the man running around in the sci-fi mind trip Total Recall, and I for one can’t imagine anyone other than Arnie delivering lines like this quite so well:

Arnie: (Whilst killing the traitorous mutant Benny with a giant drill) “Screw you!”

11.  Eraser

To prove that his one liners aren’t reserved for human enemies, Arnie delivers this gem:

Arnie: (Shoots dead an alligator) “You’re luggage!”

10. Commando

Early in the movie, Arnie promises a low level thug called Sully that out of all the bad guys, he would kill him last.  Later, he interrogates Sully for information in the typically Arnie manner of dangling him over a cliff by his ankle.  Only when he has the information he needs does he give a one liner:

Arnie: “Remember, Sully, when I promised I’d kill you last?”

Sully: “That’s right Matrix!  You did!”

Arnie: “I lied.”

(Arnie releases Sully, who falls to his demise.)

9. Commando

Not stopping with giving Sully a quip before releasing him off the cliff, Arnie immediately backs it up with a rare one liner double play to love interest Cindy:

Cindy: “What happened to Sully?”

Arnie: “I let him go.”

8. The 6th Day

Set in a future where cloning humans is possible, Arnie confronts bad guy Michael Drucker, and sets him up for a one liner:

Arnie: “If you believe that, then you should clone yourself while you’re still alive.”

Drucker:  “Why is that?  So I can understand you’re unique perspective?”

Arnie: “No.  So you can go f*ck yourself.”

7. The Running Man

In this classic film in which people are forced into a life or death live TV game show, Arnie is challenged by a character named Buzzsaw who, surprisingly, has a chainsaw as his weapon of choice.  There’s only one way this can end for Buzzsaw – badly.  Namely being cut in half by his own weapon.  At least it resulted in a one liner:

Amber: “What happened to Buzzsaw?”

Arnie: “He had to split.”

6. Last Action Hero

A film within a film, Arnie plays a caricature of himself as the titular hero, Jack Slater.  Which means, of course, a few Arnie-esque one liners:

Arnie: (To a policeman barring his way) “You wanna be a farmer?  Here’s a couple of acres!”  (Kicks policeman in the groin)

5. Commando

Again, Commando comes through with the goods!  After killing a thug sitting on the seat next to him on a plane, Arnie gets the attention of the flight attendant so he can tell her this:

Arnie: “Don’t disturb my friend.  He’s dead tired.”

4. Predator

You can’t make a list involving Arnie action movies without including Predator (another Arnie film so good it was remade).  And you can’t make an Arnie action movie without a signature one liner:

Arnie: (Throws knife at bad guy, pinning him to the wall) “Here, stick around!”

3. Total Recall

Being married to Sharon Stone is not a bad thing, right?  Well, unless she’s trying to kill you.  The best way to defend yourself?  Be Arnie and hit her with a patented deathblow/one liner combo:

Lori: “Doug, honey… you wouldn’t hurt me, would you, sweetheart?  Sweetheart, be reasonable.  After all, we’re married!”

(Lori goes for her gun, Arnie shoots her through the head)

Arnie: “Consider that a divorce!”

2. True Lies

The climax of this action comedy finds Arnie in the cockpit of a fighter jet, a terrorist hanging precariously from one of the jet’s missiles.  There’s only one thing that could possibly happen in this situation: a one liner!

Arnie: (Launches the missile, shooting it into the terrorist’s helicopter) “You’re fired!”

1. Commando

What else could be number one on this list other than Commando?  After 90 minutes of classic Arnie where he delivers dozens of one liners and kills hundreds of bad guys, Arnie saves his best for last during the climactic fight seen with friend turned enemy Bennett:

Arnie: (Throws a pipe through Bennett)  “Let off some steam, Bennett!”

If you enjoyed that post, check out some more Movie posts here.

How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in ’80s Movies – Part II

21 Jul

It’s fascinating to see what movies almost looked like had certain casting decisions actually happened.  As we saw in Part I of this post, plenty of our favourite ’80s films were very nearly completely different (Charlie Sheen as the Karate Kid anyone?) and in Part II we have a further look at the actors who were almost cast in some of the best ’80s films of all time.  Spoiler alert: Steven Segal does not make an appearance.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

One of the great high school adventures of all time, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows the title character as he skips school with his girlfriend and best friend to enjoy everything spring time Chicago can offer a group of teens – all without getting caught by his parents or his suspicious principal, Ed Rooney.

To pull that off, Ferris had to be smart, creative, and extremely likeable, and Matthew Broderick pulled that off perfectly, even adlibbing some of Ferris’s funniest moments.  However, he wasn’t the first person to be offered the role; that was Johnny Depp.  Due to scheduling conflicts, though, Depp had to turn down the offer.  Jim Carrey and Michael J. Fox, among others, were considered, but Broderick ultimately got to play the wannabe sausage king of Chicago.  Danke schoen Johhny!

Johnny Depp wishes he could rock a shower mohawk like this

Johnny Depp wishes he could rock a shower mohawk like this

Big

Along with skipping school, another schoolboy fantasy is to be all grown up and able to do what adults can.  That’s exactly what Josh Baskin got to do as the protagonist in Big.  The instant adult version was played by Tom Hanks, who was director Penny Marshall’s first choice for the part, but it almost never happened.

Initially Hanks had to decline the offer due to commitments to filming Dragnet.  After looking at other options, Marshall offered the part to Robert De Niro.  It might have been a different film; instead of dancing on giant floor pianos and grossing out his best friend with silly string, Josh would have become an organised crime lord.

De Niro actually accepted the offer, so the above could have happened, but his asking price of $6 million was too much and the offer was withdrawn.  In the end Marshall waited until Hanks – and his more palatable $2 million fee – was available, and the film went on to become the first film directed by a female to gross over $100 million.  Now that’s big.

Beetlejuice

Just one look at his films tells you that Tim Burton is a quirky guy.  A guy with scissors for hands?  That’s not weird!  His quirkiness isn’t just limited to his directorial style though, as evidenced by this near casting choice.

Back before the days when every single Burton film starred Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, Burton had one person and one person only in mind to play Betelgeuse, and it wasn’t Michael Keaton.  When he pictured the eccentric ‘bio-exorcist’ in his mind’s eye, Burton apparently envisioned a swinging, happening, Las Vegas crooner.  He envisioned Sammy Davis Jr.  The fact that the Rat Pack member was most popular in the ’50s and ’60s, and was 63 years old at the time didn’t seem to bother him.  It did bother the studio, however, who stepped in and exorcised that thought from Burton’s mind, leaving the role wide open for Keaton.  That’s showbiz, baby!

Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop was the movie that took the rapidly on the rise Eddie Murphy and rocketed him into superstardom.  Not only did that almost not happen, the movie itself was almost very different entirely.

Initially Beverly Hills Cop was an action film, with Sylvestor Stallone set to star.  The story was to follow Axel Foley – who was from east Los Angeles, not Detroit – as he got transferred to Beverly Hills.  Stallone, among others, tinkered with the script but ultimately passed on it (although it’s said he used some of the plot to develop Cobra).  The studio then looked to Mickey Rourke to take it over but that never eventuated.

In the end, to our eternal gratitude, the script was reworked and Murphy brought on board.  The best part about it is that when there were gaps or problems in the reworked script, it allowed Murphy to adlib some of the funniest moments of that movie, such as the ‘super-cops’ monologue.  Don’t believe me?  Watch John Ashton (Sgt. Taggart) closely at about the 55 second mark and you’ll see what I mean.

Ghostbusters

One of my favourite ’80s films, Ghostbusters is unique, hilarious, and boasts a great cast.  But the question, ‘Who ya gonna call?’ almost resulted in a completely different answer, as the cast originally intended was vastly different to the end product.  In fact, the movie itself almost looked quite different.

Originally Dan Akroyd’s vision was of a film set in the future where the ‘Ghost Smashers’ (seriously!) were an on-call emergency response team like fire fighters or paramedics.  Their proton packs had wands on the end of them, and by the conclusion of the film there were ‘Ghost Smasher’ franchises all across the United States – and not a marshmallow man in sight.

Who ya gonna call?  Ghost Smashers!  Wait...what?

Who ya gonna call? Ghost Smashers! Wait…what?

The problem with that script is that to actually turn it into a film would have cost way too much money, so Dan Ackroyd enlisted Harold Rambis to come in and help rewrite it.  He suggested making it a tale of how the team got started, and set it in the present.

The other problem was this: it was always Ackroyd’s intention that Ghostbusters be another buddy flick with him and his good mate John Belushi as Peter Venkman, with the third and final member of the team Winston, to be played by Eddie Murphy.  Needless to say that’s quite a different line up than what actually eventuated.

Belushi, of course, sadly died in 1982, meaning the role of Venkman was up for grabs.  Then Eddie Murphy pulled out to do Beverly Hills Cop, a decision he probably didn’t regret given Beverly Hills Cop was the only film to out-gross Ghostbusters in 1984.  So when Ramis helped Ackroyd rewrite the script, it started taking on a whole new flavour.  The character of Dr Egon Spengler was drafted, and Winston Zeddmore’s role was reduced.

When it came to casting, Ackroyd was the only person left standing from the initial plan.  Michael Keaton was offered the chance to play either Venkman or Egon, but turned the opportunity down.  In relation to Egon, the pair decided that Ramis was the man for the job and, thankfully, after Chevy Chase passed, Bill Murray was signed on to play Venkman and completely own it.

They weren’t the only near casting choices.  John Candy was to play Louis Tully, but he consistently wanted to make changes to the character – making him German with a pair of schnauzer dogs.  When his changes weren’t considered he quit, leaving Rick Moranis to fill the void.  Finally, Gozer was to be played by Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, before he too pulled out.

Talk about a completely different cast.  Just goes to show that casting a film is as dangerous and chancy as crossing the streams.

If you enjoyed this Hesaidwhatnow? post check out these posts: 

How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in ’80s Movies – Part I

How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in Blockbuster Movies