Hollywood Playbook: Tuesday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Tuesday's Top 5 News Items

Apatow, Rogen Blast WaPo Film Critic for Blaming Santa Barbara Rampage On Their Movies

Lawdalmighty, what was Ann Hornaday thinking with this anti-science tripe that attempts to blame Seth Rogen’s “Neighbors” and Judd Apatow films for the actions of 22 year-old Elliot Rodger, the confessed killer who went on a shooting/stabbing rampage in Santa Barbara over the weekend. Her column is obviously her own cry for attention and a pathetic attempt to exploit a tragedy to nudge the agenda of empowering more women in Hollywood:

Indeed, as important as it is to understand Rodger’s actions within the context of the mental illness he clearly suffered, it’s just as clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in. With his florid rhetoric of self-pity, aggression and awkwardly forced “evil laugh,” Rodger resembled a noxious cross between Christian Bale’s slick sociopath in “American Psycho,” the thwarted womanizer in James Toback’s “The Pick-Up Artist” and every Bond villain in the canon.

As Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA. For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.

How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?

In her final paragraph, Hornaday does finally admit what came before is pseudo-intellectual crap:

Even if 51 percent of our movies were made by women, Elliot Rodger still would have been seriously ill.

Using Twitter, both Apatow and Rogen swung back calling her thoughts “horribly insulting and misinformed” and the using of a tragedy to “promote herself with idiotic thoughts.”

Hornaday’s column is every bit as stupid and willfully ignorant as those who blame hurricanes on The Gays.

For all its sex and drug antics, “Neighbors” (which I saw over the weekend) is ultimately a film about accepting responsibility and moving on past the sex and drug antics. This is also true for Judd Apatow’s most popular films.

Does the Bible promote sex and violence? There is plenty of sex and violence in the New and Old Testaments — but of course not. Other than exploring actual history, the sex and violence in the Bible is used as a device to promote a positive message.

I’m certainly not comparing the Rogen/Apatow canon to the Bible, but the message in those films is the exact  opposite of the nihilism and narcissism that seemed such a large part of what drove Rodger.

As far as Toback’s “The Pick-Up Artist,” all Hornaday’s got is a completely- forgotten 27 year-old film that flopped upon its original release?

That movie is five years older than Rodger.

Dirty Little Secret Behind Redbox Hitting a Wall: Movies Suck Today

After 7 years of furious growth, Redbox appears to have finally hit a wall. With 40,000 DVD rental kiosks littering America outside of gas stations, Walmarts, and grocery stores, Redbox is pulling 500 kiosks this year and the company’s earnings have pretty much flat-lined.

Verizon-backed Redbox launches streaming service

The Wall Street Journal attributes this to America’s growing love affair with streaming and the fact that there are only so many places you can put a Redbox anymore. With the market saturated, there’s just no more room for growth. I live in a small town of just 17,000 and there are five Redbox locations and 8 kiosks within a mile or 2 of me.

Redbox has recently tried to boost growth with other services, including kiosk-based event ticket sales and its own streaming service (Redbox Instant). Neither has taken off.

The last time I looked, the problem with Redbox Instant (which is majority-owned by Verizon) is that it already looks exactly like two other Streaming services I’m already paying for: Netflix and Amazon. Redbox offers coupons for its kiosks rentals through the streaming service, but I just don’t rent enough of those to make another $8 a month streaming subscription worthwhile.

Redbox Instant has all the same old, tired film titles as other Streaming providers and all the new releases but those cost an exorbitant $4 – $6 fee for a digital rental, which is even more than what Blockbuster charged. Unless Redbox comes up with something quickly, I see no way for its Streaming service to survive. It needs a “House of Cards” asap.

It appears as though Redbox is at a crossroads. Can it remain profitable without having room to expand (the Illinois-based company is now moving into Canada, it’s only foreign territory thus far) or will the phenom of Streaming slowly kill it off?

At first the film industry absolutely hated Redbox. Hollywood blamed those $1 rentals for plummeting DVD sales. Redbox was undoubtedly a factor but so was the rapid decline in the quality if movies. During the aughts, how many movies did you walk out of excited over the prospect of owning your own copy?

Today, though, when all that remains of Blockbuster and other rental giants are empty buildings, Redbox is pretty much it — the only retail giant that rents those little hard discs. The Red Menace is now Hollywood’s only Big Boy still purchasing semi-truckloads of “The Wolf of Wall Street” discs for rental.

Redbox is also at a crossroads as far as its deals with 5 of the 6 major studios, all of which expire this year. The question is, will the studios lighten up on Redbox in order to keep America’s last major DVD rental outlet alive? Right now, a number of studios refuse to let Redbox rent its titles until four weeks after their release. The hope was to boost sales. Obviously, fresher same-day titles would boost Redbox revenues. The question is whether or not the studios have had a change of heart and now see that as a win-win.

One particular sentence in the Journal’s report hit me more than all the rest of the analysis [my emphasis]:

Much of that stagnation can be attributed to the fact that there are no more good locations left for Redbox machines. But the company is also contending with the growing popularity of online streaming and more original television programs.

Reading about this story late last week, I initially and mistakenly assumed the studio’s might have finally outmaneuvered Redbox with their fairly new home video release strategy. Today, all kinds of titles (“Lone Survivor,” “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”) enjoy a digital release for a week or longer before physical copies are even available for sale, much less for rental through Redbox (which can take another 4 weeks).

Even when I thought that was the case, it seemed counter-intuitive. In this Obama economy, the difference between paying $5.99 and $1.20 for a rental matters. It just didn’t make sense that people would suddenly be unwilling to wait and save that money for a gamble on what is more likely than not to be a mediocre title. Streaming is obviously more convenient than driving to a Redbox, but that much more convenient?

Apparently, not. Not only is Streaming in general hurting Redbox, so is the popularity of television shows — which we all know is due to the phenomenal increase in quality of television over the past decade.

In other words, the fall of Redbox is in part due to the dirty little secret that in part caused the shattering decline in DVD sales 8 or 10 years ago: Movies just aren’t very good or appealing anymore.  

Ten, fifteen, twenty years ago there were a lot more movies people wanted to rent and/or own.

Not anymore.

Movies are not a growth business. Speaking of that fact…


Memorial Day Weekend Box Office Plummets 27% Over Last Year

Through the end of April, this year’s box office was tracking a healthy 9.1% ahead of 2013. As of today, that has dropped to just a 3.3% increase.


For all the hoopla surrounding the success of “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Hollywood’s Super Bowl Weekend (Memorial Day weekend) fell a whopping 27% over last year. The latest “X-Men” installment also failed to beat 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” which opened on the same weekend eight long years ago — $111 million compared to $123 million, respectively. Moreover, that is not accounting for inflation or “Days of Future Past’s” added advantage of premium pricing at Imax and 3D screens.

Adam Sandler’s bomb “Blended” surely hurt this weekend’s overall performance, but so have “Godzilla” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” “Godzilla” dropped 67% over last weekend, which was much bigger than anyone expected. Box Office Mojo points out that “Cloverfiled” dropped only one-point more, 68%, and that monster movie was a shaky-cammed disaster.

The new sequel to the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise is also hurting 2014, under-performing in a major way.

This coming Friday will see the release of Angelina Jolie’s “Malaficent,” which is tracking to open at $60 million, and Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die In the West,” a Western comedy with an untested MacFarlane as leading man. Both, though, could easily beat last year’s new releases: the Will Smith bomb “After Earth” and the magic-themed thriller “Now You See Me.”


ManOnFireTakenPunisher: Denzel Washington Is ‘The Equalizer’

For your viewing pleasure: The latest trailer for Denzel Washington’s “The Equalizer” (Sept 26).

In the YouTube comments someone says the story looks like a “mix of Man of Fire, with some Taken and little dash of the Punisher” — as though that’s a bad thing.

“The Equalizer” also looks like an origin story that will explain how Washington’s character becomes The Equalizer. If I recall the nearly thirty year-old TV series (1985 – 1989) the film is based on, Edward Woodward (the original Equalizer) advertised his services as a detective and made a business of helping people as a way to atone for his black ops-past in both the British and American intelligence services. From the trailer, the film version will likely end with Washington hanging out a shingle.

Could Denzel, who has never even starred in a sequel, be stepping into the franchise business?

How’s this for a mind-blower: Edward Woodward was 54 when his series launched. Denzel turns 60 this year. Sixty is the new 40.

Anyway, the film is directed by the hit-or-miss Antoine Fuqua who directed Washington to an Oscar in 2001’s “Training Day.”

The trailer looks terrific, and although I am tiring of Russian villains, Denzel is always worth a look, especially in “Creasy” mode.


Relax: Director Shake-Ups at Marvel Are Nothing New

The big spastic fan-boy freak-out this weekend circled Marvel Studios and the news that director Edgar Wright had dropped out of “Ant-Man,” which he had been attached to for seven years, and Drew Goddard leaving the Daredevil Netflix series. Almost every story came with the subtext or outright text of “Trouble at Marvel!”


Things looked much worse two years ago after Jon Favreau dropped out of the “Iron Man” franchise after “Iron Man 2,” Joe Johnston walked away from “Captain America 2,” Kenneth Branagh chose not to return for “Thor 2,” and then Branagh’s replacement Patty Jenkins also dropped out. The news surrounding all of these drop-outs was just like the news today: creative differences.

And what happened?

Marvel had its best two years yet with “The Avengers,” “Iron Man 3,” “Thor 2,” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

If any studio has proven it knows what it’s doing, it’s Marvel.

Though this does give me pause.


Quick Hits

Why The Lone Ranger Keeps Bombing In Theatres

New York Times Editorial Board Opposes Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal

The Best Films of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival

David Schwimmer Helps Police Solve New York City Stabbing Case

Seth MacFarlane and his writers name their 5 most offensive jokes


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