As always, the weekend brings with it a smorgasbord of cinematic delights. You might choose The Ides of March, about political operators stabbing one another in the back as they struggle to preserve their own careers; or you might choose Real Steel, about fighting robots. Really, you can choose either one! It doesn't have to be the fighting robots!
If you're feeling nostalgic, however, you might cast your mind back to this same weekend a year ago, when an entirely different set of new movies was hitting theaters, not one of them -- this is true, I verified it -- featuring fighting robots. It's hard to believe there was ever such a time, but there it is. Join me now as we examine this dark period in our history, 365 days ago.
The weekend of Oct. 8-10, 2010
Life As We Know It
Starring Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, and poop.
When you hear that a movie stars Heigl and Duhamel as two people who can't stand each other but must raise a child together after the baby's parents die, and in the process of caring for the kid they fall in love, you think two things. One, this movie will be so bad it will make geysers of blood spurt from your ears. Two, this movie will make a lot of money.
As it turns out, only one of those things was true for Life As We Know It. The movie was bad (28% at Rotten Tomatoes), but not apocalyptically bad. People who saw it were still able to feel love and joy and operate motor vehicles afterward. It did make a fine pot of money, though. After a slow start of $14.5 million (not enough to topple the previous week's champ, The Social Network, from the No. 1 spot), it made its way to $53.3 million in the U.S. and about the same overseas, for a worldwide total of $105.6 million. Not bad for a movie with the worst imaginable premise and Katherine Heigl!
Speaking of Heigl, this came at the end of a very productive period of time for her, in which she starred in 147 terrible comedies. She hasn't been on the big screen since then, but she'll be back for New Year's Eve, from the same creative team as Valentine's Day, so kill yourself now. Josh Duhamel was in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (fighting robots alert!) and -- wait, he's in New Year's Eve, too? You mean we're getting a Life As We Know It reunion?? I hope he and Heigl play the same characters, and they're still raising that baby, and now they're back to hating each other again. I would enjoy that.
Starring a horse.
In those days (early October 2010), racehorses were the closest thing we had to fighting robots. This particular film was based on the true story of some people who saw Seabiscuit and thought, Hmm, we should make a movie like that. And so they did! Very inspiring.
Disney was hoping for some awards prestige and a healthy box office, but fate said NEIGH! Though the reviews were generally favorable (63% at Rotten Tomatoes), the story of a racehorse and the nice Betty Draper-looking woman who owned him only made $59 million. The human star, Diane Lane, isn't currently scheduled to appear in a film until she plays Clark Kent's mom in that Superman reboot/sequel/reimagining/relaunch, in 2013, which is like a hundred years from now. We're kind of upset about this, because Diane Lane is a terrific actress who should appear in at least one movie per calendar year. We don't want to live in a world where Katherine Heigl has more cumulative screen time than Diane Lane. On the other hand, remember Must Love Dogs? Good grief.
My Soul to Take
Starring the last vestiges of Wes Craven's reputation.
The disappointment of Scream 4 was still several months away when Wes Craven released My Soul to Take, which didn't disappoint anyone, because nobody saw it, and the people who did see it weren't expecting it to be good anyway, so hooray, I guess?
This laughably dumb horror film wasn't screened for critics (not usually a good sign) and was hastily stretched into 3D (also not a good sign) in order to charge more money for the tickets that nobody was buying. When critics did get around to seeing it, only 9% of them approved. The movie ultimately made $14.7 million in the U.S. and another $6.2 million overseas, which wasn't even enough to cover the paltry $25 million production budget. The whole thing was just a big, smelly disaster, that's my point.
What will Wes Craven do next? Oh, probably make a couple more Scream movies, maybe produce a sequel to the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, maybe light some money on fire while he reminisces about the days when he had good ideas. Meanwhile, the long-awaited sequel to his inspiring Meryl Streep drama Music of the Heart sits on the back burner.
Hey, look what else opened a year ago!
Nowhere Boy, starring Aaron Johnson as a young John Lennon, opened in limited release, along with the Wall Street documentary Inside Job and the loathsome exploitation remake I Spit on Your Grave. Just for fun, imagine those films swapping their titles around. I bet more people would have seen the John Lennon thing if it had been called I Spit on Your Grave. "Why is the John Lennon movie called I Spit on Your Grave?" people would have asked. "I have got to check this out!" Missed opportunity.
And what about FIVE years ago??
Those of us lucky enough to have been alive on Oct. 6, 2006, saw The Departed (for which Scorsese would finally win his Oscar), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (for which nobody won anything), and Employee of the Month (the awful Dane Cook/Jessica Simpson comedy -- but I guess I didn't need to say "awful" if I was also saying "Dane Cook/Jessica Simpson").
(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)