We always end up back here, don't we?
THE MOST INTERESTING FILM OF THE WEEK
Originally, I would have said it was Ocean's 13, but we'll have to get to that. It turns out it's Hostel: Part II. Eli Roth has been a controversial figure since Cabin Fever made a huge fest splash, got bought by Lionsgate and proceeded to divide the horror fanbase. A "spam in a cabin" movie, there were some great sequences though in total it got a pass (from those who liked it) for its inventiveness and some odd moments of comedy. Even when the DVD hit, audiences were still divided (I saw it theatrically on a night I wasn't driving, if you know what I mean, so my memories of it are fond but fuzzy).
Then came Hostel. It was released off-season, but with Quentin Tarantino's name front and center, there was definitely some bait and switch at work. As has been reported elsewhere (including on our boards) some people went to the thing thinking it was directed by the Grindhouse master himself. Hell, some people still do. It showed a more refined approach, and a smart knowledge of genre. Though some who've read the screenplay noted that Roth pulled his punches for the final indignities, it was also a marked improvement - head and shoulders (or should I say decapitated, headless shoulders) above his previous entry in terms of craft and tone.
And then there's Eli the person. Some were charmed by the man, others repulsed. Having gone through a Troma-tic upbringing, and having spent some time with David Lynch, the man is much like his films: Hugely divisive. This though is more industry scuttlebutt, and likely to have little effect outside of the movie scene. But when you talk to people who know or have met the man, you never know where they stand until they launch into an appreciation or tirade. And I must admit I admire that. But with the financial success of the original Hostel (it did an impressive $47 million with a January sixth release date), a sequel had to be in the works, and Roth swears it’s the last of the franchise. The first film focused on men going to Europe looking to get fucked (and they did, literally and figuratively), the second on women. It's a nice divide, all things.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, it also leaked onto the internet, and then that leakage became a story. It's bad enough when something hits the pirate market pre-release, but even worse when everyone knows something has been pirated (Jason X blamed its fiscal failure on such leakage). I kinda feel like when this happens, it should be treated like when everyone "knows" a celebrity is gay, and a lot of people in industry have stories that confirm as much, but it's kept to shadowy whispers and catty comments that might sail over (severed*) heads. When everyone knows that a pirated copy is out, then people are more likely to grab it. But that cat has left the bag, and – unfortunately – the bag has a price to pay.
But then there's this side of the story, where because the leakage has been reported, now -if the film doesn't perform that well - the boogeyman to blame already has a name. If the film does less than half the business of its predecessor (never mind that some people were legitimately repulsed, or worse still, not entertained by the original) it's the god damend internet's fault. I have heard that the tracking was weak, and so if you can blame the internet, that amorphous sponge to which studios have been hanging too many of their failures since Batman and Robin, why not? It'd be easy to say "It's the film, stupid!" But when marketing has become, for better or ill, one of the greatest factors if people see things or not, then there is a case to be made.
On the plus side, David Poland said that the film is morally repugnant. If I were Lionsgate, it might be worth printing the "Greatest Hits" of David Poland's attempted assassination on the TV Spots and print buys. Being considered the most offensive thing ever has a great place in the heart of young men around the country who, for decades, can't resist the allure of a real R rating. And then you throw in some gratuitous nudity, and it sounds like a good night out. But hopefully for Roth that money won't be going to Surf's Up or Pirates of the Caribbean.
Side Note: Along with Devin, I have been going back and forth on the Hot Button (here) about David's complaints, and the value of Roth, these films, and "torture porn" in general. But what I find distasteful is the thought process that why Poland went ahead with his review is because the film is from Lionsgate. LG is a mini-major, banking on smaller, generally genre pictures and this leak hurts. I'm sure that everyone over there has had a hard time because of it. But would David put this review live if it was for, say, Transformers? Perhaps LG is just not as litigious, and keeping David out of the pre-release screening of Saw 4 isn't much of a threat – they need people like him to spread good word when they do. That noted, he and some of the other Internet/journalist/critic/gossip columnist/pundits have definitely opened their mouths (even if only cryptically) on pictures pre-release and pre-embargo. But it's just such insanely bad form to review a bootleg, first and foremost because it's not the finished product. Then again, what he wrote – in terms of the internet – may be good press. And likely he had such a strong reaction that he had to put his thoughts up, regardless of the propriety. Poland, like Jeff Wells and Eli Roth, always draws a mixed reaction.
But as such, it's hard not to feel sympathy for the Devil Dick this weekend.
THE MOST INTERESTINGINDEPENDANT OF THE WEEK
Well, though Once is continuing its expansion run, La Vie en Rose (aka La Mome) is pretty much the only picture going small. Seven screen of Edith Piafery. Since she is the grandmother of the Crunk movement, this should play well regionally under its roadshow name: Sad Bitch (Cheah).
THE GUESSIN' TREE
This weekend is reminiscent of November of last year when another casino-centric movie squared up against penguins. But Surf's Up is no Happy Feet, and Occam's Thirteenth Razor has none of the goodwill of Casino Royale. Parents ain't taking their kids back en masse to Shrek, and Pirates seems to have sailed aground, so if parents want to treat their tots, Surf's Up has already received a warm reception, and the coast is clear.
As for Oh-One-Three, word is that it's good. And people are surely looking for some diversions. And yet… There are exactly six members of the O12 fan club, and two of them are Headmaster Nick Nunziata, and "Mighty" Micah Robinson. There's got to be some blowback coming, regardless of the dazzling smiles of George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Casey Drowning Mona Affleck.
But the big surprise should be how well Knocked Up holds. People like it. Word of mouth is great, and $100 Million and more shouldn't be a problem. Yay!
As for Hostel, I'm going to say ten mil, and sixth place. But if it does six, I wouldn't be surprised.
1. Happy Surfing Penguins – $32 Million
2. Ocean's 13 – $30 Million
3. Knocked Up - $22 Million
4. Pirates 3: Sail For Me - $21 Million
5. Shrek The Sexually Unsatisfying - $13 Million
6. Hostel: Part II – 10 Million
*That's my last attempt at a Cryptmaster impression**
** And that was my last attempt at using the Asterixs*** and Obelixes
*** Until now. But I swear this won't turn into The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover **** nor will I follow the trend of "Face down, Asterix up, that's the way we like to write" on Chud. I'm my own man.
**** Though I did love the shit out of that book as a child.
We always end up back here, don't we?