Another week of geekweek contributions. We were joined by Cerina Vincent this time. I tried not to ogle. You can watch it here. I also tried not to gesticulate so wildly this time, but… gin and tonics.



STAR POWER

If there’s anything noticeably different about the 21st century re: cinema, it’s that cinema rarely fosters stars. To wit, Josh Brolin and Casey Affleck came off extraordinary years in 2007. Brolin had Jonah Hex, Affleck’s The Killer Inside Me went to VOD. The studios are – I think – mostly happy with this, even if a franchise is usually driven by a returning cast (to be continued when Spider-Man comes out). But at this point, even a bad Jason Bourne film with Matt Damon is a guaranteed $300 Million global gross. And yet, as much as it’s bemoaned that only Will Smith guarantees an opening, this is kind of bullshit. As this weekend attests. Norma Desmond once said “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” To that, cinema is still a huge global enterprise, it’s the stars that have become more niche-specific.

To that point, there’s no other way that Sylvester Stallone got financing on The Expendables. With the cast, even though the film was done on a budget, Lionsgate knew they could make their money back with Stallone top-lining. The picture is going to open and open well (even if the word on the film runs from “good trash” to “actual trash”) and it’s because Stallone is coming off two modestly-budgeted successes. Rocky Balboa and Rambo tapped into the reason why people love Stallone. The first showcased his sensitive action side, and his innate likable lugosity. Rambo offered the vision we all had of what John Rambo should be or thought he was in the haze of a twenty year absence: a master of maximum carnage. With these sucsesses, he made a men on a mission film and got a cast of actors that might normally be DTV stars, but in their combined assemblage make for an appealing ticket – even if the poster and trailer are selling more of Bruce Willis and the governor of California than actually appear on screen. This is a movie that can’t exist without the baggage of known (albiet faded) star-power. The exponential math of these stars together is enough to get people excited.

And though Julia Roberts has – in a lot of ways – floundered over the past couple years, it’s partly because she’s tried to do different things. Closer, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Duplicity weren’t barn-burners, but they weren’t to the core of Roberts’s appeal. Though the film that launched her cast her as a hooker, Roberts has never been that sexual. It turns out that’s a good thing. We’re generations removed from the Greta Garbo’s or Marlene Dietrich’s, and the sexual bombshells like Scarlet or Megan Fox don’t sell movies – they sell magazine covers, and hits for skeezy sites. Few bombshells sell movies: Eva Mendes might be in hit movies, but she doesn’t headline… Milla Jovovich has the Resident Evil franchise, but people don’t go to see her films (Ultraviolet). Roberts is twenty years into stardom and like Stallone she’s weathered the backlash that’s come and gone to the point that she is safe when doing this sort of film.

And that’s the thing with the modern stars. Those that have stuck with it have to take their licks. Everyone has a cold period and it’s possible that the back and forth of love/hate is accelerated by the internet. Seth Rogen emerged off of Knocked Up and Superbad as a draw. Then came Zack and Miri, Observe and Report and Funny People. Steve Carrell is something of a star, but he doesn’t guarantee anything, and has some TV stigma. Orlando Bloom starred in six of the biggest films of the decade, and he’s not working that much. Sam Worthington, who’s to say. Shia… maybe? This partly has to do with few projects resting on any one person’s shoulders. And so we’ve seen a lot of backlash on Michael Cera for… what exactly? Being gawky repeatedly? Making movies no one saw (Year One, Youth in Revolt)? When Scott Pilgrim was going into production, Cera was coming off of Superbad ($100+), Juno ($100+) and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist ($30 plus, which considering budget was solid). From the outset, he looked like a star, along with the cult following that came with being on Arrested Development. Though the internet may over-pronounce the backlash against him (the echo chamber effect of the – not always but sometimes – bitter), he had been in two well-known, well-liked, and well-seen movies at that point. All stars have a period where it seems their fans grow tired or hate them, whether it be because of vanity projects, or general overexposure, and this becomes more pronounced with comic performers, who often tap the same vein repeatedly.

And that’s the thing, there are people who star in movies, and people who are movie stars. But few stars are sui generis, and even those that are called as such usually come after a couple of years of hard work. Sylvester Stallone spent much of the 90’s making the worst films of his career (which is saying something). And yet here we are, with a sixty-year-old looking to take the weekend because of his star power (and the star power of his cast).

SOMETHING LIKE A PREDICTION, TELLING MY BODY TO COME ALONG

The Other Guys opened, so there’s that, and Inception is still strong. But The Expendables is going to be huge with its audience, as is Eat Pray Love.

1. The Expendables - $28.5 Million
2. Eat Pray Love – $24.5 Million
3. The Other Guys – $18.7 Million
4. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - $16.4 Million
5. Inception - $13 Million

I might be going high on two of the new pictures, and low on Expendables. $13 gets Inception to $250, and so I bet the estimates hit that round number. $300 is probably out of reach, but it isn’t done, that’s for sure. More Sunday.