Posts Tagged ‘The Interview’

Any publicity is good publicity? Tell that to Sony, The Interview and Blackhat

blackhatBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Sometimes clichés are clichés because they are true. No news is good news. A penny saved is a penny earned. Any publicity is good publicity.

No news is usually good news — unless you’re the editor of a newspaper with blank pages to fill — and the math behind a penny saved is a penny earned isn’t so hard to figure out, but recently the veracity of any publicity being good publicity has been put to the test.

The Sony hack and ensuing commotion that swirled around the Seth Rogen movie The Interview garnered headlines around the world, moving the story off the entertainment pages and into the news sections.

Stories, some true some not, and reviews, some good, some not, lit up social media.

The brouhaha surrounding the film lived at the very heart of popular culture for several weeks and even President Obama weighed in. But notwithstanding the endorsement of the most powerful film critic in the world, the movie is unlikely to actually make money.

The Guardian suggests The Interview’s total cost sits somewhere near $80 million in production and marketing costs, and at the time of this writing has only earned $36 million in digital rentals, purchases and traditional theatrical receipts. The Guardian also says Sony could be facing “damage north of $1 billion by some estimates” as a result of the hack.

So, if this was all a massive publicity stunt, as asserted by certain outspoken twitterratti, it was a marketing failure of Titanic proportions and it could even hurt the box office of other films.

This weekend Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth as the world’s best-looking computer hacker, now serving a 15-year sentence for internet crime.

Authorities give him a get-out-of-jail-free card because he’s the only computer whiz on earth geekified enough to stop a cyber terrorist from causing havoc.

You might think a hacking movie would be perfectly timed to take advantage of the hoopla surrounding the Sony situation and yet Universal made no attempt to connect the dots between real-life events and their movie.

Why? The New York Times, quoting unnamed sources, opined that “ticket buyers could be tired of hacking stories after weeks of media attention on Sony, and a film that is too topical might strike potential viewers as less entertaining.”

Perhaps Universal’s decision not to cash in on the publicity generated by real life events reveals there is no room for current events in a marketplace where two of the top 10 grossing movies of 2014 were based on toy lines (the rest were inspired by novels and comic books) or maybe that sound we hear is the swoosh of an old cliché swirling down the bowl.

THE INTERVIEW: 2 STARS. “needs more satire and less hiding-things-in-Rogen’s-bum.”

The-InterviewThis year a Christmas cinema miracle happened. “The Interview,” a Seth Rogen comedy materialized on screens big and small, despite hacker’s attempts to silence the movie. Chants of “Freedom” rang out across the land as the faithful lined up for their chance to see Rogen and James Franco exercise their right of free speech and make bad jokes.

Rogen and Franco play TV host Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapaport of the celebrity gossip talk show Skylark Tonight. Skylark is a smarmier version of Barbara Walters, a talk show host who trades in getting personal scoops form his guests. 1000 episodes in Eminem comes out of the closet on the show—”I’ve been playing gay peek-a-boo for years,” he says. “I’ve pretty much been leaving a gay bread crumb trail.”—but despite stratospheric ratings Rapaport doesn’t feel he is being taken seriously as a journalist. “I want to cover actual news,” he says, “not Nicki Minaj’s vagina flopping out at the Grammys.” When he learns North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show and wants to be interviewed by Dave, Aaron leaps at the chance to go to Pyongyang.

What begins as a chance at journalistic credibility soon turns into an assignment of a different sport when CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) recruits them to “take him out.” “Like for drinks? For kimchi? Take him out on the town?” Their job is to assassinate Kim with a special poison gadget hidden in their palms. Trouble is, when they touch down in Pyongyang Skylark becomes seduced by Kim’s charm. Convinced he is simply misunderstood and not evil, the dimwitted TV host has second thoughts about completing the mission. “He’s not evil, he was born into a bad situation.”

At a private dinner Dave discovers Kim’s truly dark side and, working with Aaron and propaganda minister Sook (Diana Bang), bring their visit to North Korea to a wild, bloody conclusion.

“The Interview” isn’t nearly as bad as some of the twitterati suggest—“I thought I’d never laugh again,” wrote one tweeter—or as subversive as others would like it to be.

The first twenty minutes has some genuinely funny moments, most fuelled by the Abbott and Costello-style bromantic chemistry between Rogen and the arrogantly idiotic Franco. The set-up earns some giggles at the expense of the media and celebrity journalists—an easy and deserving target—and the audacious nature of the film’s premise. Once the scenery changes from Hollywood to the hermit kingdom, however, the laughs become as rare as Angelina Jolie compliments in leaked Sony e-mails.

Still, there are some funny lines. “That tank was a gift to my father from Stalin,” says Kim. “In my country it’s pronounced Stallone,” replies the oblivious Dave. It’s not Noel Coward, but it’s a nice window into the chat show host’s tiny little world.

The rest of the movie, while intermittently entertaining, isn’t nearly as sharp. In fact it is a blunt instrument that spends 152 minutes (about ¢6 a minute if you rent the download) hammering the audience over the head with poop and rectum jokes. More actual satire and less hiding-things-in-Rogen’s-bum might have made watching the film act of political activism or even an exercise in freedom of speech, but as it is “The Interview” is a buddy comedy and not a declaration of war.