Filmism.net Dispatch July 4, 2013

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Sony, Sony, Sony, where did you go wrong?

It's not like you haven't been trying, although there were a couple of years there where you didn't really have any of the big northern summer tentpoles that have made Warner Brothers, Paramount and second-tier producers like Marvel and Legendary rich beyond their wildest dreams.

The warning signs appeared last year, when audiences finally got sick of the Adam Sandler golden goose and gave you back only $50m worldwide from the $70m That's My Boy. This year you've had your share of blockbuster midyear films, but two of the seemingly safest bets have stumbled badly.

After Earth didn't look like a half bad movie (I'm yet to see it). You even hedged your bets by keeping M Night Shyamalan's name out of the limelight, mindful of the box office poison his name has become (Fobres has already wondered if that was your mistake).

But if it wasn't all the comment around about how the sheen was coming off Will Smith's $100m King Midas reputation it was the stories linking the film to scientology, some reporters suggesting the plot itself had parallels to Hollywood's favourite kooky religion. And the final result? 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, 33 out of 100 on Metacritic and most importantly of all, a paltry global haul of $189m on a $130m budget.

Then came White House Down, a seeming dead cert from the ever-bankable Roland Emmerich and man-of-the-moment Channing Tatum. It's about a terrorist takeover of the White House (seems familiar), but seemed up to Emmerich's standards of destructive action. The reviews have been snarky, but Emmerich never was a critic's director.

The real sting? After a week or so of release (the most important period for any film), it's racked up a potentially ruinous $37m from a $150m budget. To be fair it's yet to open in all the foreign markets that matter, but I'll bet there's some hara-kiri already planned in corporate headquarters.

There are certainly bright spots on the horizon. Elysium is all-but guaranteed to be smart, exciting sci-fi, just look what director Neil Blomkamp did with only $30m in District 9 a few years back. But audiences haven't exactly flocked to dystopian sci-fi so far this year, Oblivion and After Earth among them.

Still, the first Smurfs movie returned five times the $100m budget worldwide, so maybe you figured you could take some risks with everything else in 2013, readying for the blue and white ATM to start spewing money again.

So far Marvel and Warner Brothers have owned the northern hemisphere summer (usual for the last few years). The latter weren't having a great year up until a few months back, but if Man Of Steel and Pacific Rim were stocks, I'd have put all my money in them at the beginning of the year and started picking out islands to retire to by now.

One wonders if the much talked-about plan to spin off your entertainment from the electronics business might build up more steam as you try to offload under-performing assets.

But before I start sounding like an AP business reporter, here's that rarest of beasts, a great low-key sci-fi movie and a great found footage movie all in one, Europa Report.

I also recently watched two movies that were long overdue on my must watch list. The first was The Godfather: Part III. Considered a disappointment when it came out because of Coppola's indulgent approach, it might not quite be genius stacked up to The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, but it's a very high quality drama.

The other one was a werewolf movie I finally found on DVD (thanks to a good friend who knows who she is), Project Metalbeast. It was campy, schlocky and cheap, but it was full of blood and guts, a cool new spin on the werewolf mythology and despite the constraints the earnest performances really sell it. If you're a werewolf aficionado it's a must see.

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