Thursday, August 2, 2012

John Gosling previews the week's new releases (08/03/12).

Staring this week, Mendelson's Memos is proud and pleased to be presenting weekly new release previews from John Gosling.  Mr. Gosling is a fellow box office nerd who does a fine weekly write-up from He has generously agreed to give this site his obscenely detailed previews of each of the week's major new releases. The essay below will be less about box office and more about historical context for the films being released. Each weekly piece will hopefully go up sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday night, depending on our respective schedules.  Feel free to chime in below and if you feel like offering your box office predictions, this would be the place to do it.  Gosling's contact information will be at the bottom of this piece.  Enjoy...

This weekend bring two wide opening releases, both aiming for opposite ends of the market. Total Recall began life as the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story, 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale'. The rights to adapt (and expand) the story into a feature length film were purchased by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett around the time of Alien (which the duo wrote), but despite their best efforts, they were unable to find a backer for their screenplay. It would be the mid-80s before the project showed signs of life again, when Dino De Laurentiis came on board, with a view to signing Richard Dreyfuss or Patrick Swayze for the lead role. However, David Cronenberg, who was set to direct, wanted William Hurt for the role of Doug Quaid (Quail in the original story) and clashed with Shushett over the direction of the story - the helmer favouring a closer adaptation while the writer was looking for "Raiders of the Lost Ark...On Mars". Cronenberg left the film, and De Laurentiis lost interest after the failure of the costly Dune adaptation in 1984. Curiously, while he received no credit on the eventual film, a number of the director's ideas made it into the picture, including the Mars mutants and the character of Kuato. At this point, with De Laurentiis's company in trouble, Arnold Schwarzenegger convinced Carolco to purchase the rights to 'We Can Remember..' with a view to star. The actor cut such a powerful deal that he was given veto power over producer, director and screenplay, amongst other things. He recruited Paul Verhoeven to helm the picture, who in turn hired someone who could knock the script into shape - at this point it was on its forty second draft. Gary Goldman worked with Ron Shushett and finally created a workable third act. Meanwhile Verhoeven began hiring some of the cast and crew he had worked with on his U.S feature debut, Robocop, including Ronny Cox as villain, Vilos Cohaagen, and special effects designer Rob Bottin. Shooting began in Mexico City soon after, on what would become known as Total Recall.

Despite running into problems with the MPAA over its graphic violence, Verhoeven found a way to keep its impact without cutting the film to shreds. For the time, Total Recall was a costly feature to produce, weighing in at around $65M ($116M in 2012 dollars). However, it quickly became apparent that this was money well spent. Opening to $25M, the picture went on to make $119M ($212M today) in North America, from a location count of just over 2,000. Overseas it would be stronger still, amassing $141M. Total Recall went on to have a long and rich life on video, and further cemented Schwarzenegger's reputation as the action hero of the time. (A year later he would return in the iconic role of the T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day). With almost twenty years having passed since the release of the original film, it came as little surprise when Sony announced in late February of 2009, that they would be remaking the film, teaming up with uber-producer Neal H. Mortiz (21 Jump St, Fast Five, The Green Hornet) and his production company, Original Films. In June of the same year, Kurt Wimmer was hired to script, along with co-writer Mark Bomback (with a further pass being done by Amazing Spider-Man's James Vanderbilt). Work would quietly progress for almost a year before Sony announced that Len Wiseman had been taken on to direct what was now being described as a fresh, yet loose take on Dick's original story, rather than a remake of Verhoeven's 1990 classic. Wiseman began his career working with Roland Emmerich as a property assistant on Stargate, ID4 and Godzilla, before venturing into advertising and music video directing. In 2003 he made his feature directorial debut with Underworld, a film that went on to make $95M from a budget of only $22M. He would return to direct a further sequel (Evolution) and produce two more in the series (Rise of the Lycans, Awakenings). His next big break came in 2007, when he directed the fourth instalment of the Die Hard franchise (Live Free or Die Hard), which made $383M in total global ticket sales.

With Wiseman in place, work began on casting Doug Quaid. In August 2010, rumours began to surface that Schwarzenegger was interested in once again taking on the role, but by October, Colin Farrell, Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender were all said to be in the running for the lead, with Farrell being officially announced as Douglas Quaid in January 2011. Joining him would be Wiseman's wife, Kate Beckinsale (in the role made famous by Sharon Stone in the 1990 film), Jessica Biel as Melina and Bryan Cranston as Vilos Cohaagen. Rounding out the cast would be John Cho and Bill Nighy. While the characters and situations sounded similar - Quaid visiting Rekall and finding his memories are false and that he may actually be an undercover agent - the locations would not be. No longer would the last half of the picture take place on Mars. Instead, Quaid would be earthbound, finding himself between two warring super-states - Euroamerica and New Shanghai. While Sony were eager to distance themselves from the original movie, the first trailer revealed quite startling similarities. Indeed, since that first footage was released, the only difference between the two versions appeared to be their location - everything else seemed to be present and correct, right down to the three-breasted lady. Sony have marketed the film hard, and opted to take a PG-13 rating so as to open it up to as wide an audience as possible (though, curiously, they chose not to shoot or post-convert into 3D). The studio have a lot riding on the picture too, with costs long rumoured to run up to $200M (despite news in the last few days that they were closer to $140M), and knowing full well its visuals and brand recognition will be needed to sell it due to a lack of star-power. Early signs weren't promising, with reviews embargoed until late Wednesday evening. The film is out to over 3,400 locations and Sony will be looking, nay hoping, for close to a $40M start to reduce issues going forward (especially with The Bourne Legacy due next weekend) but many analysts have it pegged as a $25-30M opener. Could the curse of John Carter and Battleship be about to strike again?

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books are written by Jeff Kinney and actually began life as an online journal of sorts back in 2004. The site proved so popular that readers urged Kinney to release a print edition, which appeared as 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' in 2007. Such was the success of the book that a second volume was released a year later, with the subtitle, Roderick Rules. Less then a year on from that came The Last Straw, followed quickly by Dog Days, which would go on to become one of the best selling books of 2009. Book five and six, The Ugly Truth and Cabin Fever, debuted in November 2010 and 2011 respectively and a seventh book, The Third Wheel, is due at the end of this year. The stories all follow the high school struggles of a boy named Greg Heffley and his best friend Rowley Jefferson. Hollywood, ever on the hunt for the next franchise, were quick to come calling, with Fox securing the rights to the series back in early 2009. The first picture, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was released on March 19th 2010 and went on to recoup its $15M production budget within the first three days of its release - taking more money than the Gerard Butler/Jennifer Aniston comedy The Bounty Hunter, also released that weekend. All told, the movie would make $65M domestically. With plenty of material to work with, Fox pushed Roderick Rules into production for a March 2011 release. While Rules opened stronger (and again recouped its $21M production budget from its first weekend) it would finish lower than the first movie, banking $52M in all. 

Overseas, where the books appear less well known, the original picture made $11.6M, while its sequel managed $19.7M. With decent numbers on the home market, the studio moved forward with the next book in the series. Curiously, instead of trying to stretch the franchise out by splitting a single story into two movies (see Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) Fox opted to merge The Last Straw and Dog Days into one feature. Roderick Rules director David Bowers would return to helm, this marking his second live action feature after working in animation for a number of years (cutting his teeth on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, before going on to direct Flushed Away and Astro Boy). Zachary Gordon (Greg) and Robert Capron (Rowley) would also return for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and it would be the first of the series to chance a later summer release. This third film sees Greg having finished school for the summer but quickly finding all his plans going awry. The books have a very solid fan base meaning the picture should at least open well, and there's only limited competition for the demographic from the current family releases (Ice Age 4 and Brave, both starting to look a little worse for wear). However, whether Dog Days can best Roderick Rules' $23.7M opening frame remains to be seen.  This film, like the previous two, was produced by Color Force along with Fox 2000. 

New in limited release this weekend are The Babymakers and Celeste and Jessie Forever. The former is directed by Broken Lizard's Jay Chandrasekhar and stars a number of Lizard alumni. The plot follows a couple who are struggling to conceive due to the husband's low sperm count. Along with some friends, he conspires to break into a sperm bank to retrieve a seemingly healthy donation he made years before. Celeste and Jessie Forever is a comedy drama co-written by its star, Rashida Jones, and deals with a recently divorced couple as they come to terms with moving on with their lives, and the issues that arise when they begin seeing new people.

John Gosling

John Gosling - I'm a married father with two daughters who resides in central England. I've always been a film buff, but I prefer writing about films to watching them. I've been an amateur box office reporter since 2002, writing a weekly report from mid-2004. After posting my report on an internet forum for a number of years, I transferred them to a dedicated site, earlier in 2012. You can find me on twitter @boxofficevoodoo or find Box Office Voodoo on Facebook.


Alan Worsley said...

Aside from Box office anyone actually excited to see Total Recall? I have to admit watching the trailers...I just want to go rent the Arnold version.

Ted said...

Awesome article, its fascinating to hear "the story" behind the current movies coming out. A feature I"ll definitely be checking out each week!


Related Posts with Thumbnails