FIFTY SHADES OF MARKETING

17 Feb

mila-kunis-08
1. Fifty Shades of Grey/ Universal Wknd/$ 85.0 Total/$ 85.0
2. Kingsman/Fox Wknd/$ 36.2 Total/$ 36.2
3. The SpongeBob Movie/Par Wknd/$ 31.7 Total/$ 94.8
4. American Sniper/Warner Wknd/$ 16.5 Total/$ 304.2
5. Jupiter Ascending/Warner Wknd/$ 9.2 Total/$ 32.4
6. Seventh Son/Universal Wknd/$ 4.1 Total/$ 13.4
7. Paddington/Weinstein Wknd/$ 4.0 Total/$ 62.2
8. The Imitation Game/Weinstein Wknd/$ 3.5 Total/$ 79.6
9. The Wedding Ringer/SGems Wknd/$ 3.2 Total/$ 59.6
10. Project Almanac/Paramount Wknd/$ 2.8 Total/$ 15.8

LONELY MOVIE WEEKEND CHOICE #1
Fifty Shades of Grey opens at number one and this wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Make no mistakes, it’s bad (the very fact the lead character’s name, Anastasia Steele, is presented without a hint of humor or irony tells you that), but just as my definition of good is a bit higher than others, so my definition of what sucks is much lower. Despite its attempt to seem modern and edgy, the story of 50 Shades of Grey (and Twilight for that matter) is the same one your mother and possibly grandmother have been reading in Harlequin novels for decades: stories of bad boy princes and pirates who are inexplicably brought down by the virginal heroine (yes, Anastasia is a virgin, because god forbid a woman have some actual idea about her sexuality) they cannot resist her. Only now rather than be tormented by the events of Spanish Civil War or The Crusades or whatever tumultuous time period those books were set, she’s now tormented by the hero himself. While the literary ancestor of Anastasia Steel (a name which would fit perfectly in those), had to fight her way through various kidnappings and the fall of the czar as she made her way from Moscow to Venice, this one has to deal with a lover who won’t let her actually sleep next to him or know his past and insist he’s bad for her while stalking her cross-country. Oh, and there’s the occasional spanking. Somewhere, trapped by the sexy pirate Taggart McGirth on his ship The Thruster, Constance Hymen rolls her eyes in disgust. Now, there’s an old rule of thumb that bad books can make good movies because you can change things and if any book need it, then this was it was this one. Unfortunately for them the author (and I use that term loosely) has a background in the entertainment business and she knows what happens to books, so her deal gave her a certain amount of control over the film. The end result is a film so empty and devoid of any sex appeal I was on the verge of reading it despite the many, many, MANY negative reviews saying how awful it was. My curiosity as how something so bland could be so successful consumed me, but then it dawned on me that’s probably why something that started off as Twilight fan fiction (it suddenly makes sense now, right?) could find such an audience. Because it was awful and simplistic, not despite it. Since when are we surprised that ineptitude soars while quality sinks? Surely not in this post-Twilight-Nicholas-Sparks age. But as empty as the books seemingly were they became even moreso when the opportunity to merchandise it took hand and the result is a movie that it so ironically chaste that beyond the nudity there are exactly two uses of the word fuck and absolutely no sucking dick. They wanted the built in audience these books contained, but at the same time wanted to keep them safe enough so as not to put off anyone and draw in even more people (preserving those marginal percentages that only business majors know or care about). Now that makes no sense given the audience would know exactly what and was isn’t in the books (“Where’s all the dick sucking!?! Where’s that tampon!?!”), but the end result is whatever tiny edge they had was dulled and you get something that looks like it escaped from the Lifetime network and into theaters. There is more graphic and honestly arousing sex on your basic cable show, much less pay cable. I mean, I know it’s the Pacific Northwest, but is it really so cool and temperate that no one sweats when they fuck!?! Maybe in the two sequels to follow (it made almost $100M in a weekend from a $40M budget with another $150M overseas) they’ll address it.

LONELY MOVIE WEEKEND CHOICE #2
Now, if opening 50 Shades of Grey on Valentine’s Day was perfect programming to grab the lonely, sexually frustrated female audience, then opening Kingsmen: The Secret Service was equally perfect counter programming to get the lonely, angrily sexless male audience. Both were counting on an audience that would be dateless this lover’s weekend and both were right and rewarded. The difference this is actually entertaining and delivered on what its source material promised: comedic, silly ultraviolence. This is based on a comic book series by Mark Millar and the best description of his work that I ever read was that it was something an angry 15-year-old would love, which is to say he understood the heart of superhero comics better than anyone else around him: angry virgins. This wasn’t a superhero comic but it still applies and carries over to the film. Our hero is a smart, capable guy, but the world is in his way (not his own personal choices). His chances to be better are derailed by the fact he’s such a good guy and had to take care of his mother, while she’s married to a guy who is a low level thug and beats her. Typical bullshit, geek self-serving-pity. Fortunately for him his father was a recruit of a secret intelligence agency and died in the field so one of its top agents feels a debt is owed and our hero is recruited to be James Bond times ten. His training begins just as The Kingsmen stumble upon a plot hatched by an insane corporate billionaire to save the world by killing most of the people one it. The violence is graphic but exaggerated deliberately to maximum silliness and there’s actually metatextual commentary on how dour modern secret agent films are, as opposed to the wonderfully silly ones with would be world conquerors in the conversation between the cool, bespoke secret agent Colin Firth and the eccentric megalomaniac (he plans mass genocide, but hates the sight of blood, and has an assassin sidekick with blades for legs) Samuel L. Jackson. Needless to say this is clearly a love letter to the crazier Bond films though believe it or not, even more British. The movie is actually partially driven by the class awareness that still exists in England to this day (both our hero and his dad are working class and their recruitment is considered an “experiment”) and ironically gives it a depth that it’s desperately trying to avoid in favor of simply being entertaining.

THAT 21ST CENTURY CAREER
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water is down to number three, followed by American Sniper at number four and Jupiter Ascending down to number five and starring in this is Mila Kunis who must have thought she grabbed the brass ring when she got the lead in a Wachowski big-budget science fiction action film. Clearly she didn’t read the script, which showed her as a princess who constantly needs to be saved along with a dozen other problems. While on one hand she’s actually having a somewhat successful career going from Oscar nominated, overrated indie fare like Black Swan to empty big budget vehicles like Oz The Great and Powerful to crass comedies like Ted and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (hell, she was even in the remake of Annie), on the other hand none of those were truly starring vehicles for her. She was the female lead alongside Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits which tanked (ironically her fiancée Ashton Kutcher’s version with Natalie Portman was hit) and now this where she is flat out the title character. Clearly it did not go well and while The Wachowskis are at fault, it won’t be the same black mark on Channing Tatum’s career (also equally varied) as it will be for her. You know, ‘cause she’s a chick and it’s an action movie. Forget they don’t actually allow her to be an action star, which is odd for them. Trivia: she played the younger version of Angelina Jolie in Gia.

YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE CONTRACT YOU SIGNED, JON SNOW
The Seventh Son is down to number six is Seventh Son and also in this for about 5 minutes as a previous Seventh Son is Kit Harrington, limited as to the roles he can take when not shooting Game of Thrones as his contract doesn’t allow him to cut his hair! This is how he winds up here and in that Pompeii movie last year. Though I guess he could play a musician…or a poet…or just someone pretentious in the present day.

THE OTHERS
Paddington is down to number seven, followed by The Imitation Game holding at eight and The Wedding Ringer down to number nine.

CINEMATICALLY TRASMITTED DISEASE
Finally, Project Almanac closes out the top ten at number ten and this is part of a small genre empire Michael Bay is clearly building. He’s producer on this as he was on Ouija and The Purge films. Because their budgets are so low they’re pretty much guaranteed to make money, which means they will continue. He’s like a rash. An itchy ugly one that spreads the more you scratch it.

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