Judgment Dave: The Box Office Disappointments of 2013 You Probably Would Have Enjoyed

Judgment Dave: The Box Office Disappointments of 2013 You Probably Would Have Enjoyed

Dec 17, 2013

Missed these movies? You weren't alone. But here's why they're actually worth a look.


Movie 43

Box Office: $8 million (on a budget of about $6 million, sure, but it opened on over 2,000 screens)

Why You Ignored It: Because its prerelease buzz included the promise of shocking, offensive comedy. Then it got hellish, furious, morally indignant reviews.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: Because it went there. Sure, it went way past there. A lot. And to more than a few places nobody wanted to go. And it was disgusting. And occasionally boring. And repellent. And amoral. But it was also really funny quite often. And filthy and wrong. But still funny. And gross. You get where I’m going with this.



Beautiful Creatures

Box Office: $19 million (cost $60 million to make)

Why You Ignored It: Twilight

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: It was smarter and weirder and more daring than you were led to believe. The teens were talented, the British character actors hammed it up like a platter piled high with croquet monsieurs, and Margo Martindale walked around carrying a live peacock in her arms. Why? Because groovy, that’s why.




Box Office: $1.7 million (200 screens)

Why You Ignored It: Extreme weirdness, a bizarre fixation with shoes, the sex creeps

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: See above. Maybe sometimes it made no sense. Okay, maybe more than sometimes. Chalk that up to director Park Chan-wook grafting a perverse Korean sensibility onto everything, especially the innocent face of Mia Wasikowska. But it had atmosphere and nerve and disturbo style like a fashion shoot at a car accident, so it still wins. Just not with money.




Box Office: $2.3 million

Why You Ignored It: Who knows? Somebody dropped the ball, though. A marketing failure, probably. It’s a bit of a mystery.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: It was good looking and clever, it was never dull thanks to Danny Boyle’s frenetic pacing, it had an appealing cast, it was about an art heist turned guess-who’s-doing-what-to-whom puzzle, it featured some really cool twists and it had Rosario Dawson. Is there a person who doesn’t like her?



The Iceman

Box Office: $1.9 million

Why You Ignored It: Michael Shannon’s not famous enough to open a movie yet and the real-life murderer he played didn’t have the name recognition of, oh say, a Charles Manson. If only history had exploited this guy’s bloody reputation in a more lucrative manner.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: Shannon. Dude is the king of crazy eyes and making everyone nervous, like he’s this close and you don’t want to know about it.



White House Down

Box Office: $73 million (a hit by most standards, unless it’s the standard where the film costs $150 to make and needed to hit $300 to make anyone happy)

Why You Ignored It: Olympus Has Fallen beat it out of the gate, for starters. And then it decided to be goofy instead of stone-faced. Most people who didn’t see Four Lions just aren’t interested in terrorism with intentional laughs.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: Terrorism with intentional laughs.



The Canyons

Box Office: $51,000 (opened on nine screens and streaming)

Why You Ignored It: Was it the presence of Lindsay Lohan? Or James Deen, the porn star next door? Or did it feel like an uncomfortable pairing of bored subject matter and moody, exhausted execution? Do people really hate Bret Easton Ellis that much?

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: It had the courage of its ennui-soaked convictions. Sometimes that’s what cinema gives you, depictions of bored, spiritually bankrupt people that are a little too well realized.



You’re Next

Box Office: $18.5 million (which means it probably made its low budget back, but still)

Why You Ignored It: No stars? Possibly. Too many pile-on critics talking about how intelligent and stylish and fun it was? Does that ruin it for you guys? Did smarty-pantsers talk too much and make it seem good for you? It can’t be because you don’t like sick murders. That’s the gasoline that runs the horror engine. Anyway, your loss.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: It felt like the combined force of two swelling waves, the weird, happy, gory connection where cool, shrug-it-off indie met nasty horror. The good news is that the cast is full of interesting filmmakers who aren’t going to quit. They’ll be back. And you will be next.





Box Office: $27 (and it made a lot in Europe, where Formula One racing is a thing regular people give their attention)

Why You Ignored It: You think sports are great unless it’s a sport you don’t care about. And you think Thor should just be Thor and quit trying to be Not Thor.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: Subtlety, ambivalence, the intelligent decision to create characters (based on real people) that were neither all good nor all bad. You know, the reasons lots of good movies fail to attract audiences.



The Counselor

Box Office: $17 million

Why You Ignored It: Rotten (and immediate) word of mouth, reviews with headlines like THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING, Cameron Diaz’s gold tooth.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: It defiantly toyed with audience expectations for crime thrillers. Novelist Cormac McCarthy wasn’t interested in writing a normal movie, so he didn’t. He wrote a weird movie about bad people and the script committed itself to making sure everything stayed bad. Heroes? What is this, a family movie about fire fighters? No, it was about drug people and crime doers. They usually get away with it. Here’s a film that remembers that.



Ender’s Game

Box Office: $60 million (versus a reported $110 million budget, one that was banking on becoming franchise starter)

Why You Ignored It: Do boycotts work? All contemporary logic says they don’t. But maybe the anti-Orson Scott Card sentiment floating around the Internet made people stay away. In any case, something happened here and it wasn’t ticket sales.

Why It Wasn’t Terrible: A smart, compelling, moving sci-fi film, one that had a lot on its mind, one that could have kept a conversation about moral integrity going. That’s what it was. Too bad not enough people were interested.



Prediction: 47 Ronin

It’s been sitting around for awhile, maybe hoping people are going to return to being into Keanu Reeves. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. Look, it’s got ronin. How bad can it be?*

*Unseen at the time of this writing. I reserve the right to tell you just how bad it can be soon enough.




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