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Warner Bros. (#110 of 27)

Watch the New Trailer for Ocean’s 8 Starring Sandra Bullock and Rihanna

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Watch the New Trailer for Ocean’s 8 Starring Sandra Bullock and Rihanna

Warner Bros.

Watch the New Trailer for Ocean’s 8 Starring Sandra Bullock and Rihanna

The new trailer for Ocean’s 8 reminds us, more than once, that committing a crime can be deliciously fun if you happen to be part of a crime syndicate composed entirely of women and that counts Sandra Bullock as its boss lady. In the film, Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean (Danny Ocean’s estranged sister, if you’re wondering), who, along with her motley crew of merry women (played by Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sara Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter), plans a heist at the annual Met Gala. Among the reported cameos in the film: Anna Wintour, Alexander Wang, Kim Kardashian, Maria Sharapova, Zayn Malik, Kendall Jenner, Katie Holmes, Olivia Munn, Serena Williams, Kylie Jenner, and Zac Posen. Sadly, no Madonna, a staple of the Met Gala. Or Rebecca Romijn, star of Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale, which opens with what may be the most incredibly directed heist in the history of the movies. Which is to say, Ocean’s 8 director Gary Ross has a lot to live up to. Notably, the trailer for the film sees Debbie Ocean and company riding the subway, perhaps to get to the Met Gala, suggesting that they will actually not get to the event in time to rob Anne Hathaway’s Princess Diaries jewels. If you don’t live in New York: Sorry for ruining the movie, but our subways are no good. Please send help.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Starring Jude Law and Johnny Depp, Gets First Trailer

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Starring Jude Law and Johnny Depp, Gets First Trailer

Warner Bros.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Starring Jude Law and Johnny Depp, Gets First Trailer

When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, our own Eric Henderson bemoaned: “J.K. Rowling’s newest salvo in a career spent writing mostly about the world of wizards exists so resolutely outside of salience and so doggedly within the comfort of escapism that even witch hunts, underground railroads, self-righteous religious fundamentalism, parallel societies with their own discrete presidents, and harbingers of world war are all presented with the same weightlessness of anything under Hermione Granger’s levitation spell: Wingardium leviosa.” Warner Bros. is now going back to the well with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which is set to be released almost two years to day after the first film arrived in theaters to fill the hole in the hearts of Harry Potter fans the world lover. And judging from The Crimes of Grindelwald’s first trailer, we are in, perhaps, for a darker experience, though the footage suggests that Eddie Redmayne, reprising his role as half-blood king of the gingers Newt Scamander, will continue to leave us shook by his uncanny ability to avoid eye contact at all costs.

Box Office Rap Pan and the End of the Fantasy Franchise

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Box Office Rap: Pan and the End of the Fantasy Franchise

Warner Bros.

Box Office Rap: Pan and the End of the Fantasy Franchise

When The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opened on December 17, 2014, Kevin Tsujihara, the CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, had to realize it was, in some ways, the passing of an era. No longer would these Peter Jackson staples be surefire moneymakers on the backend of a calendar year; after six films and some $5.85 billion in global box office, it was back to the drawing board to find even a modest replacement. For the remainder of the year, Creed and Point Break are their only releases that could have even a modicum of hope for global box-office glory, but they’re modest (and tremulous) at best. For the time being, the studio will simply lie in wait until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice drops in March 2016.

Summer of ‘89: Surely, You Can’t Be Serious! Young Einstein

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Summer of ‘89: Surely, You Can’t Be Serious! <em>Young Einstein</em>
Summer of ‘89: Surely, You Can’t Be Serious! <em>Young Einstein</em>

Its trailer trumpets that Young Einstein is a film “Warner Bros. is proud to present.” While the studios say that about all their films, Warner Bros. went out of its way to prove it, as the company spent $8 million to advertise a film written, directed by, and starring someone completely unknown to American audiences. They hoped for a replay of Crocodile Dundee which, like Young Einstein, did big business in its native Australia before being imported to the States. But as the Bible tells us, pride goeth before destruction: While Crocodile Dundee yielded a $174 million take at the 1986 American box office, an Oscar nomination, and two sequels, Young Einstein settled for a paltry $11 million in receipts and a one-way ticket to obscurity.

Technically speaking, the film did make a profit. Warner Bros.’s marketing machine got audiences to come out to see the unforgettably named Yahoo Serious reimagine German-born Princeton, NJ native Albert Einstein as the son of Tasmanian farmers. In addition to playing the Aussie-fied Einstein, Serious also wrote and directed the film, and the opening credit announcing his auteur status is Young Einstein’s biggest laugh: It reads “A Serious Film.”

A serious film this is not. Young Einstein begins in a Tasmanian village complete with its own Tasmanian devil. It’s an appropriate opening as this is one big Looney Tunes cartoon, where people get hit with heavy items, go flying through the air, and emerge from explosions and electrocutions covered in smoke and disturbingly appearing as if they’re wearing blackface. A true-life figure’s history is retold with little regard for the truth, and the main character is a funny-looking wiseass who’s smarter than everyone around him.

Box Office Rap The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the Fantasy-Entertainment Complex

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Box Office Rap: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the Fantasy-Entertainment Complex
Box Office Rap: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the Fantasy-Entertainment Complex

Confession: I don’t like The Lord of the Rings films. All of them. Well, at least the first three, as I skipped The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey because of my disdain for its predecessors, and needless to say, I’ll be skipping The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as well. Of course, millions of others will not be skipping the film this weekend, as it tries to land somewhere in the $80-90 million range, matching the previous film’s performance. For me, director Peter Jackson’s initial trilogy operates on bloated runtimes meant to appease fanboy OCD, including Jackson’s own. The apex of contemporary pop-cultural obsession-as-sickness is no better embodied than by these films, which edify young moviegoers to view film culture as narrative/character/imaginary playtime rather than a mindful and serious medium for artistic expression.

However, rather than further lambast The Hobbit, Jackson, and Warner Bros. for their transparent, masturbatory decisions to turn one novel into three films for means of tripling profits, of more importance this week is examining how critics are responding to The Desolation of Smaug, and the sorts of qualities being sought after in their evaluations of Jackson’s latest. The film currently boasts a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 75%—a full 10% higher than the first installment, though the middling reviews did not negatively affect its box office, as The Unexpected Journey had the highest-grossing opening weekend of any films in the entire franchise. Critic proof, like most franchises, but it nevertheless remains the critic’s role to instruct attentive filmgoers to the qualities worthy of contemplation.

Box Office Rap The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the No-3D Karma

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Box Office Rap: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the No-3D Karma
Box Office Rap: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the No-3D Karma

When a film is set to make the exorbitant amount of money that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire surely will this coming weekend, further lamenting the woes of global capital via cultural products will undoubtedly find little purchase among fans ready to see Katniss and Peeta unwillingly do battle yet again for (and against) the Capitol. Nevertheless, take note of Thelma Adams’s review, which details how “The Hunger Games has become a victim of its own success, co-opted by Hollywood, a rebel not without a cause, a money minter.” Adams’s attention to film-as-product engages a discussion of economics too often omitted from film reviews, especially when a film’s “call to arms” doubles as a “call to more ticket sales.”

This week, a more essential nerdist box-office question emerges: Can Catching Fire top the $207.4 million opening weekend of The Avengers without the support of 3D showings? And true to the spirit of this franchise, it’s only appropriate to evaluate the competitors in relation to this new, Francis Lawrence-directed entry. To recap, The Avengers opened on May 4, 2012 in 4,349 theaters (still the widest North American opening of all time) in IMAX 3D, regular 3D, and regular 2D, with a 40% 3D share, a number that helps to explain how the $169.2 million record previously held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 could be so bracingly shattered. Earlier this year, Iron Man 3 took the second-highest opening with $174.1 million, with a similar 3D share as The Avengers. Much like Warner Bros. with The Dark Knight films, though, Lionsgate has elected not to dabble with 3D in hopes that the film’s quality will be all the pull needed to get audiences into theaters; it’s a decision that, while certainly forgoing the surcharge on each 3D ticket, retains a degree of integrity on the part of the studio, which isn’t trying to milk consumers for every last penny in their pockets.

Box Office Rap Machete Kills and the Gravity Wrecking Ball

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Box Office Rap: Machete Kills and the Gravity Wrecking Ball
Box Office Rap: Machete Kills and the Gravity Wrecking Ball

In January of 1993, Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi screened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award and was picked up by Columbia Pictures. A month later, it was released in theaters, grossing over $2 million at the domestic box office, an anomaly for a film made for a mere $7,000. At the time a director with no formal training, Rodriguez served as a beacon for the independent spirit, even writing Rebel Without a Crew in 1996, a book recounting his initial success and subsequent collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. This week, Rodriguez’s Machete Kills opens in theaters, but the film reveals the filmmaker to be far removed from his independent and creative origins.

Rodriguez appears content to make sequels of his own hits: Machete Kills marks his sixth, and next year will bring a second installment in the Sin City franchise. Such practices are certainly not uncommon in Hollywood, nor were they uncommon to the exploitation cinema of the 1970s, which Rodriguez has clearly modeled so much of his work after. As Ian Olney explains in his recent book Euro Horror: Classic European Horror Cinema in Contemporary American Culture, Hollywood stole distribution tactics from B-film production studios, such as saturated openings, while also recognizing the viability of cheap sequels to accompany these methods, where films could make so much money in one weekend, as to become profitable, that whether or not audiences actually liked the film ended up being an afterthought.