Need for Speed (Total Domestic Box Office: $35 million) — We were so happy to see Aaron Paul in a major feature film after Breaking Bad, but not happy enough to actually go see it. I mean, it was based on a video game with no discernable storyline, and it looked like cinematica roadkill. Jesse Pinkman wouldn’t speed across country in a race car. That’s ridiculous. He knows a guy with a van who could transport him quietly!
The Legend of Hercules (Total Domestic Box Office: $23 million) — The $70 million budgeted action film from Renny Harlin starring Kellen Lutz opened in early January and was completely forgotten a week later after scoring a lousy 4 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Granted, the film became a camp classic when it was released on Netflix in November, but it was hardly enough to make up for its huge box-office losses.
Pompeii (Total Domestic Box Office: $60) — Never underestimate our growing disinterest in swords-and-sandals films, even the Titanic of swords and sandals films. Kit Harington and Emily Browning are no Leo and Kate, and a volcano isn’t a gigantic cruise ship crashing into an iceberg. Harington’s abs looked great on a movie poster, but great abs don’t sell movie tickets (just ask Ryan Reynolds). Sure, we turned out for 300 and its sequel earlier this year (out of morbid curiosity) but a roster of B-stars wasn’t enough to motivate the moviegoing public off their asses to go see a schlocky Paul W.S. Anderson historical tale when we all knew how the damn thing would end. We stuck with Game of Thrones, thank you very much. Beheadings are much preferable to meltings.
Noah (Total Domestic Box Office: $63 million) — Darren Aronofsky is an amazing director, just stop giving him huge budgets! Remember The Fountain? Neat movie. It made $10 million. Noah was an interesting movie, but it wasn’t a commercially viable one, and it didn’t matter how good the film was, it’s failure at the box office will stain it as a failure of a movie. I mean, look at Russell Crowe’s beard. Did Aronofsky actually think people would pay to see that? No sir, not at the multiplexes.
Transcendence —(Domestic Box Office: $59 million) It was a great Black List script, and came from director Wally Pfister — the excellent cinematographer behind the Dark Knight films — but he didn’t have enough clout to push back when the studio insisted on a broader vision to suit the current incarnation of Johnny Depp. It was a smart small-movie concept — a terminally ill scientist downloads his mind into a computer, which grants him power beyond his wildest dreams — that got lost in the translation into a huge, Johnny Depp tentpole. (The Johnny Depp fatigue didn’t help). Hopefully, Pfister gets another shot.
Blended (Domestic Box Office: $35 million) — We’ve been saying it would happen for years, but 2014 was finally the year that audiences gave up on Adam Sandler, and not even a reunion with Drew Barrymore in a sh*tty family movie could bring them back. Thank God. The Happy Madison era is finally over.
Edge of Tomorrow (Domestic Box-Office: $65 million) — Yeah, it made up for much of the losses internationally, but here in America, no one wanted to see yet another Tom Cruise sci-fi film, nor yet another twist on the Groundhog Day concept (we liked this movie better when it was called Source Code). Plus Emily Blunt is even bigger box-office poison than Cruise is these days, and I have no idea why.
Jupiter Ascending (Domestic Box Office: $45 million) — The Wachowskis managed to keep their box-office flop streak alive, mostly because their concepts are too dense, and too weird for mainstream audiences. Audiences who saw it — not that there were that many — were fairly divided, with some calling it original and groundbreaking, while others called it mawkish. Their novel ideas, unfortunately, are often weighed down by scripts that are obtuse in sci-fi matters and ham-fisted in matters of the heart. Jupiter Ascending was no different.
Hercules (Domestic Box Office: $69 million) — Two Hercules movies in one year, and two Hercules flops in one year. Audiences love Dwayne Johnson, they just don’t like “Dwayne Johnson” movies. He’s much better in large ensembles that aren’t directed by Brett Ratner. Honestly, guys, we’re just not that interested in dumbed down versions of Hercules, and not even the huge Hollywood marketing machine can make us go *foot stomp*
The Expendables 3 (Domestic Box Office: $60 million) — The first one made $100 million. The second one made $85 million (and no one liked it) and the third one dropped another $15 million, veering into unprofitable territory. Stallone has to be feeling pretty crummy about writing Harrison Ford a $3 million check for four days of work now. Did he not see Paranoid in 2013? Of course he didn’t. No one did. That’s the point. Ford has no more box-office pull that Stallone and Arnie these days, and even the combination of 80’s action stars has diminishing returns. And why did anyone think that Mel Gibson would help, and not hurt the box-office prospects?
The Equalizer (Domestic Box Office: $40 million) — Actually, this was a pretty typical Denzel movie: He played a former black-ops guy, who had to rescue a young girl, Chloë Grace Moretz, and it was directed in typically competent fashion by Antoine Fuqua. The only problem with The Equalizer is that it tried to borrow on an 80s brand name with zero nostalgic appeal, and instead of attracting audiences, it turned them away. Not even Denzel could bring them back. Plus, everyone knows that Denzel with the goatee > clean-shaven Denzel.