Holy Summer Blockbusters! Universal’s “The Purge” will lead the box office this weekend for raking in the dough. The film studio is riding high right now, as “Fast & Furious 6” topped the box office last week, making it number-one two weeks in a row! I just knew “After Earth” would take the top spot, since ‘Furious’ was released for Memorial Day Weekend… WRONG!
Waaayyy back in the day John Wayne was the “Action Hero” via Westerns; Jim Brown and Fred Williamson did their thing during the “Blaxploitation” era; Clint Eastwood stepped into the action genre ala spaghetti Westerns and “Dirty Harry” for a series of crime dramas; then there was Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, who now do movies that even spoof the type of “Action” characters they portrayed ie; “The Last Stand” and “The Expendables.” Back in the — not so long ago — day, Wesley Snipes had a moment, but Will Smith was “The Man”. A flick released on Memorial Day weekend starring Smith, was sure to be number-one that opening weekend. The comic rapper turned TV to movie star was at the top of his game. Overbrook Films (Will’s company) even waited until the following week to release ‘After Earth’, after ‘Fast & Furious’ dropped on the holiday weekend, and it still didn’t match the turn out for the high speed chase flick. It actually came in third place behind other first week opener “Now You See Me,” that features an ensemble cast including Morgan Freeman http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2013/03/29/101-funkin-films-from-morgan-freeman/.
Has Will Smith’s big box office draw lost its momentum? The last installment of “Men in Black” opened taking in an estimated 18-million dollars when it was released, which was on par with MIB II’s 18.6 million dollar opening. It was close to the 18.9 million dollars the first ‘Men in Black’ did between its opening day and some evening shows the day before. Now think about the fact that both those movies opened in 2002 and 1997, and were not in 3D…. MIB 3’s initial numbers actually pale in comparison. Smith’s reign as King of summer releases began with “Independence Day” in 1996, which followed a very successful “Bad Boys” the year before. His summer hits like “Wild Wild West”; “Enemy of the State”; “I Am Legend”; “Hancock” and “I-Robot” all followed.
Vin Diesel’s last three ‘Furious’ pics all had strong opening weekends, as did Will’s last three action releases. The success of the action packed popcorn ‘Furious’ franchise has an incredible loyal following. I personally don’t get it. I’ve watched a couple of the ‘Furious’ flicks and they were cool but… I’m considering re-visiting, but only those with Vin in them, and I won’t be rushing it. I’ll do a marathon, skipping “2 Fast 2 Furious” and ‘Tokyo Drift’, going from one to 4, 5 and 6, when I can watch them during the course of a weekend – maybe before going to see ‘Fast 7’. SEVEN movie installments for one concept… this is unprecedented, that alone deserves a tip of the hat whether you like the franchise or not. But the ‘Furious’ series has taken on a quite an “evolution” of sorts. This article sums it up better than I can… http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/06/03/los-bandoleros-the-fast-and-furious-film/
Although I have not invested a great deal of time following the character “Dominic Toretto”, I’ve been a fan of Diesel’s character “Riddick” since “Pitch Black.” I did a piece on Sci-Fi flicks coming out this year a little while ago http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2013/03/27/seven-funky-sci-fi-flicks/, but I didn’t include “Riddick” because I believe it stands apart from the rest. A Sci-Fi/ Action movie, Universal is obviously banking on Vin to kick-off and close their summer box office numbers with a bang, as “Riddick” hits the silver screen on September 6th. The third movie featuring the character, elements of this installment incorporate dynamics of the two previously released movies, using flying menacing alien creatures and bounty hunters. I talked to Diesel when he was promoting “Pitch Black” back in 2000. He expressed to me then that he had hopes of doing more with the ‘Riddick’ character. It was also then that he told me about his idea for doing a movie about Hannibal the Conqueror, which I thought was an amazing idea, but extremely ambitious. Now with the success of the ‘Furious’ movies and the production of ‘Riddick’, which was once thought that it wouldn’t get done, an epic about Hannibal seems within reach. This is really exciting! In all honesty, my initial awareness of Hannibal was by way of a calendar that Budweiser used as a marketing tool to increase beer sales in black communities, called “Great Kings of Africa”. Am I the only one that remembers that campaign? Despite Bud’s ultimate objective, as a little boy growing up in Newark, I was inspired to be introduced to not one African king, but several? I had no idea, and was never told or taught that there were any before then. There’s been period pieces about Romans, Greek Gods and Vikings, but rarely about African Kings with the exception of “Shaka Zulu”, which was done in 1986 and was a TV movie.
According to history.com: “In 219 B.C., Hannibal of Carthage led an attack on Saguntum, an independent city allied with Rome, which sparked the outbreak of the Second Punic War. He then marched his massive army across the Pyrenees and Alps into central Italy in what would be remembered as one of the most famous campaigns in history. After a string of victories, the most notable coming at Cannae in 216 B.C., Hannibal had gained a foothold in southern Italy, but declined to mount an attack on Rome itself. The Romans rebounded, however, driving the Carthaginians out of Spain and launching an invasion of North Africa. In 203 B.C., Hannibal abandoned the struggle in Italy to defend North Africa, and he suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Publius Cornelius Scipio at Zama the following year. Though the treaty concluding the Second Punic War put an end to Carthage’s status as an imperial power, Hannibal continued to pursue his lifelong dream of destroying Rome up until his death in 183 B.C.”
Can you imagine this as a major motion picture? In the past year, Diesel spoke about the ‘Hannibal’ project on his Facebook page, expressing he had a conversation with the recently departed Tony Scott. Here’s an excerpt: “The first movie centering around Hamilcar, Father of Hannibal and the Defender of Africa, in the First Punic War. He said he would get our friend Denzel to play Hamilcar… Denzel is a friend, whom I admire and who has given industry advice that I use to this day. Him playing Hamilcar and for Tony to Direct… exciting to say the least.” Given the nature and caliber of the film, Scott’s brother Ridley Scott would certainly do the project justice. Ridley is the man behind movies like “Gladiator”; “Black Hawk Down”; “Kingdom of Heaven”; “American Gangster”; “Prometheus”; “Alien” and “Blade Runner.” He’s currently producing the TV movie “Pompeii”, so his skills and thought process for cinema is definitely in sync with that of Diesel, even though Vin was talking to Tony about the project. As to it actually being produced and the next trilogy in Diesel’s cinematic future, remains to be seen.
Diesel’s success certainly won’t stop the Smith movie train of course. Anticipated to have a bigger box office draw in its first week of release, a follow-up to ‘After Earth’ was already in talks — making the movie an ideal vehicle for Will to pass the preverbal “Action-Hero” baton over to his son Jaden. While that conversation may have ceased, and marks another flop for director M. Night Shyamalan, sequels to previously released Smith summer hits like ‘Hancock’ and ‘I Am Legend’ (that he’s starring in and producing), ‘I-Robot’ and the long anticipated ‘Bad Boys’, are all in the works. Smith has several stories in development, currently shooting “Winter’s Tale” and is cast to star the film “The American Can.” The latter is based on actual events, about a New Orleans native and combat Marine that risks his life in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for the safety and rescue of 244 people trapped in his apartment building.
Diesel’s upcoming pictures include “The Machine”, “The Last Witch Hunter” and “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.” Diesel did the first ‘xXx’ opposite Samuel L. Jackson in 2002; Ice Cube starred in the follow-up “xXx: State of the Union” in ’05 with a returning Jackson and Nona Gaye. The ‘xXx’ characters are essentially an “Urban” take on the ‘00’ character of the James Bond franchise (see http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2012/11/26/the-funkin-bond-franchise-lives-on/). Vin is also in talks about taking the lead in the film adaptation of the classic TV show, “Kojak,” that starred Telly Savalas.
For the LOVE of Action flicks