One Year Ago: Catching Up with 'Unstoppable,' 'Skyline,' and 'Morning Glory'

One Year Ago: Catching Up with 'Unstoppable,' 'Skyline,' and 'Morning Glory'

Nov 11, 2011

I don't know what you people did to anger the Movie Gods, but they have forsaken you this weekend. Forsaken the hell out of you! If you're into tepid biopics about FBI directors, J. Edgar is definitely one of those. If you're in the mood for ancient Greeks disemboweling each other, your best bet is Immortals. And if you suffer from a medical disorder that causes you to suffer excruciating pain every time you laugh or feel pleasure, your safest option is Jack and Jill.

Do not despair, however! Though the Movie Gods are angry right now, history shows that they are fickle, their moods changing from week to week. Let us look back at a happier time, 365 days ago, when a different batch of piping hot cinematic cookies were coming out of Hollywood's oven.

The weekend of Nov. 12-14, 2010

Unstoppable
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, a missile the size of the Chrysler Building.

Just 15 months after appearing in a Tony Scott movie about a runaway train (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), Denzel Washington starred in another Tony Scott movie about a runaway train. That's what Denzel does now. DEAL WITH IT. This one got solid reviews -- 86% positive at Rotten Tomatoes -- for being a well-executed version of a generic movie idea. The train did turn out to be stoppable, though, making the title yet another example of Hollywood's lies.

Audiences supported the movie to the tune of $22.7 million its opening weekend, but that was only good enough for second place, as Megamind held the top spot from the previous week. Unstoppable eventually made $81.6 million in the U.S. and about the same overseas, for a grand total of $168 million. That kind of money usually means sequel, but it's hard to imagine how the characters would plausibly wind up chasing a runaway train again. On the other hand, if you take out the word "plausibly," there is no problem, so be on the lookout for Unstoppable 2: The Little Engine That Couldn't (Stop). No, but for serious, Washington will star in the CIA thriller Safe House next February, and Pine has that Star Trek thing going on.

Skyline
Starring Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, aliens.

There was a hilarious mix-up with this cheesy alien invasion thriller. It was clearly supposed to be a SyFy Channel movie, and yet somehow it accidentally wound up in theaters! Being shown in exchange for money! It was written and directed by some dudes who had previously worked as visual effects technicians, and one of the lead characters is a super-buff, super-wealthy visual effects technician. Bonus irony: the visual effects look cheap.

The critics weren't kind -- 16% at Rotten Tomatoes -- but the movie was unstoppable, almost as unstoppable as that other movie, Unstoppable. It opened to a small but respectable $11.7 million, on its way to $21 million. Add to that the $45 million it made overseas (foreigners looooove cheesy American sci-fi movies) and you have a fine return on a production budget of $10 million. The filmmakers, brothers Greg and Colin Strause, have talked about a sequel, but there doesn't seem to be anything definite scheduled yet. And they executive produced the excellent Take Shelter, which cancels out any negative karma for Skyline.

Morning Glory
Starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, despair.

Even as a fan of schadenfreude, I hesitate to tell the sad story of Morning Glory. What a fine cast! And what a fine premise: Ford and Keaton as bickering co-anchors on a glossy morning news program, McAdams as their producer. There was a time when most of America would have walked over their own mothers' dead bodies to see a grumpy Indiana Jones and cheerful Annie Hall costar in a comedy.

Morning Glory didn't turn out to be terrible. It has a few laughs, and it scored 54% positive at Rotten Tomatoes. A big ol' "meh," that's what people said. The embarrassing part is the box office. It made $9.2 million its opening weekend -- $2.5 million less than the laughable Skyline. Its total haul in the U.S. was $31 million, plus $27.7 million overseas, a total of $57.7 million -- $11 million less than Skyline. A movie starring Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, and Rachel McAdams did worse than Skyline. I don't know how you come back from that.

Actually, I do know: franchises. McAdams will be in the Sherlock Holmes sequel this Christmas; Harrison Ford did Cowboys & Aliens and is on board for another Indiana Jones as soon as George Lucas comes up with a story stupid enough to film; and Diane Keaton has eight or nine chick flicks lined up where she'll play a hyper-screechy version of Annie Hall.

Hey, look what else opened a year ago!

Nothing! You had your three wide releases, or you stayed home and wept.

And what about FIVE years ago??

Nov. 10, 2006 had an odd assortment of goodies: Stranger Than Fiction, a semi-absurd semi-comedy in which Will Ferrell comes to believe he is the character in someone's novel; The Return, a listless horror film with Sarah Michelle Gellar doing what she tends to do, i.e., be in bad horror films; and A Good Year, with Russell Crowe gadding about the French countryside drinking wine and being insufferable.

(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)

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