ChickFlicking – Weekend Box Office: A Tale of Two Chick Flicks (Nadia Sandhu)

This was supposed to be a positive review of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but a funny thing happened on the way to posting. The first box office projections started coming in and I found myself enthralled by the widely diverging fates for Friend and Pixar’s Brave, the two big chick flick contenders this weekend.

The source of my fascination is a question that keeps popping into my head with each successive tent pole’s release – simply put, and pardon my language in advance, ‘WTF is going on at the marketing departments in Hollywood?’ It could be just me, but the campaigns this summer are looking increasingly slap dash and a little clueless even. This looks to be the case right across the board with films as divergent as Rock of Ages, Prometheus, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter,  Spider Man, and so on.

Both films this weekend had counter-intuitive marketing campaigns, and while things turned out great for Brave at $66.7 million domestic, the results were really dire for Friend which barely grossed $3.8 million for a tenth place finish.  Both campaigns decided it was best to hide the fact that ultimately, these were flicks for chicks.  The primary quadrants were definitely female here and I can’t help but wonder what suddenly gave Hollywood the idea that women of legal drinking age don’t go to see films, but there you have it.

Disney was very nervous about the first Pixar fairytale and the first Pixar film to feature a female lead. Disney of course has cause to worry – their past is littered with failed female princess vehicles like Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid…(yes, sarcasm is absolutely necessary here).  They went the warrior princess route with their campaign and the gamble paid off.  They got us into cinemas to see for ourselves, and the result was  both heartwarming and action packed enough to make up for the shock of the film we received versus what we were expecting.

For Friend, it was the weight of expectation that doomed it.  Audiences were set up for a comedy – and while this film does deal with the impending apocalypse with some levity (the asteroid is innocuously named Matilda after all), ultimately this is a film about relationships, regret, and the meaning of life.  This is most definitely a bittersweet relationship drama, and one that I actually found to be quite touching.  There is just no way that a sentimental romance like this can live up to the expectations of a screwball comedy-road movie as set up by marketing, and the damning word of mouth bears this out.  If you set the dinner for steak, you better produce a steak!

For what it’s worth, a completely unscientific exit poll of my film going companions post-Friend did reveal a definite fault line forming along gender lines.  Does this mean men were never going to see it, or could this have been the date movie of the weekend with a different approach?  We’ll never know for sure, and that is too bad.

It will be interesting to see the figures for Brave’s second week, now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag and the boys know what the movie is about.  I’m betting it won’t matter and expect to see a standard drop here, nothing disastrous.

Brave is sitting at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, significantly lower than the average for a Pixar property ( which generally hover closer to 90%) and some are blaming the mother-daughter theme for the perceived shortfall.  Again, I can’t stress enough that if you set up a warrior princess story in the trailer, you can’t substitute will o’ the wisps, witches and bears and expect people not to be jarred.

In the meantime, I am simply breathless with anticipation for the results of the next bizarre tent pole campaign  (I’m looking at you Magic Mike).  Will it be a success?  I honestly can’t say, but the buzz is building nicely and I do think I owe it the Eye Candy treatment at the very least.

Now excuse me while I go ponder on the fact that I used Magic Mike and tent pole in the same sentence.

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The Movie Junkie’s 2012 Summer Movie Preview Part 1 (Kirk Haviland)

I know, I know. The Avengers has already broke records everywhere, and you’re doing a summer preview now? I must confess that I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that I feel the real summer season starts on Victoria Day in Canada/Memorial Day in the US. And since we recently had Victoria Day in Canada, it seems like as good a time as any for this article (ed – apologies, posting this a bit late). I’ll try to give indie/smaller releases their due along with the blockbusters. Ultimately, everything on here will be stuff that intrigues me…in either a good or bad way.

Ed – Two of the Movie Junkie’s picks already have reviews by him, MIB3 and Chernobyl Diaries.

JUNE

Piranha 3DD (June 1st)

The first Piranha (from 2010, not the James Cameron version I have yet to see) was a guilty pleasure. Will the next one have the same goofy campiness that made the first one, or will it “jump the piranha”?

Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1st)

The second re-envisioning of the Snow White story this year, Snowy and the Huntsman at least features Chalrize Theron camping it up as the wicked queen. The real question though is will we get the same emotionless performance out of Kristen Stewart as Snow White that she has become famous for in the Twilight series.

HIGH School (June 1st Limited)

This brilliantly overlooked comedy and Sundance sensation that has been sitting on the shelf for over two years will finally get a release, albeit a limited one. I saw this at Toronto After Dark in 2010 and loved it. Search this one out!

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8th)

The gangs all back! *shudder*

Prometheus (June 8th)

Easily the most anticipated of the summer outside of The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus features a stellar cast and Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited return to the Alien universe, although not a direct sequel/prequel. Consider this an opening weekend must see before it’s ruined by the proverbial “water cooler” on the following Monday.

Paul Williams: Still Alive (June 8th Limited)

The Tiff surprise hit comes to regular theaters, as Paul Williams proves he is still very much alive and struggling to keep the fame going.

That’s My Boy (June 15th)

Adam Sandler tries to destroy Andy Samberg’s career in this awful Happy Madison vehicle. *shudders again*

Rock of Ages (June 15th)

Tom Cruise doing Karaoke versions of classic 80’s hair metal tracks with Alec Baldwin running around in a very bad wig? This could be Hairspray “John Travolta in a drag fat suit” bad. The awful sounding soundtrack clips that have landed online aren’t helping.

Brave (June 22nd)

Pixar tries to atone for last year’s disappointing Cars 2 with this tale of a young princess in the highland times of movies like Braveheart. The animation looks crisp and every trailer makes me interested more and more. Merida could be the most adventuresome female Disney character since the underrated Mulan.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (June 22nd)

Based on the best-selling novel, Abraham Lincoln is revisionist history where his parents have been killed by vampires and Abe seeks revenge Dark Knight style with a big axe. If this embraces the goofiness of its premise it could be the most fun in a movie theater this summer, or it could be this year’s Jonah Hex. Fingers Crossed.

G.I. Joe : Retaliation (Pushed back to 2013)

With Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans out, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis in, G.I.  Joe looks like tons of fun and could be the surprise hit of the summer. The trailer scene with Cobra Banners emerging on the White House is still pretty badass.

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (June 29th)

Love or hate him Tyler Perry’s films make money, and lots of it, especially the ones with Madea. Expect this to beat out G.I.Joe  for the opening weekend.

The Loved Ones (June ?)

This brilliant TIFF Midnight Madness selection appears to be finally getting a release. Read my thoughts on the film.

In the meantime, keep your eyes locked on Entertainment Maven; the July and August portion of the preview is still to come!

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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