The Olympics are underway! Controversial cross-country delays, wacky opening ceremony and all! And if you’re anything like me, well…nothing in your life has changed a bit and the disappointing Michael Phelps is far less interesting than belly-flops like Battleship, and all of its many drowning Hollywood friends.
I’ve never fully understood the Olympics hullaballoo. The truth is that we care very (very, very) little about beach volleyball and the discus throw yet scramble to make up for our disregard by pretending we know something about slalom and pentathlons for a few weeks every four years. I assume I just missed the golden days: Cold War times when we Americans had evil foreigners to root against and striped starry flags to adorn our lawns.
But now, what with all this diplomacy and political correctness, the Olympics actually bring the world together—and that’s not very much fun. You know what is fun? Watching movies. So don’t sit down night after night in front of NBC’s re-run footage of trampoline or equestrian dressage or walking the dog or whatever is an event these days; instead settle in, microwave that popcorn, and appreciate one of these gold medalists.
Forget Phelps and Lochte and all those other hair-free amateurs. Have you seen Jaws? Now that shark can swim. You want guts? Witness the nerve of experienced shark hunter Richard Dreyfuss. Put Michael and Ryan on the ocean floor in a steel cage and then we’ll talk. And what about the man who never saved anything for the swim back? Ethan Hawke’s Vincent Freeman is stunning in Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca, and his dangerous ocean-set marathons against his flawless brother are far more breathtaking and nerve-wracking than any breast-stroke heat I’ve ever seen.
Sailing was known as yachting until 1996. Maybe that is why I didn’t know it was an Olympic sport until just the other day. More likely it is because no one watches televised sailing, even during the Olympics. There are much better ways to be entertained by people on boats. How about the Oscar-nominated (I know, right?) Perfect Storm? Or Christopher Smith’s overlooked horror film Triangle? Or the shrimping boat scenes in Forrest Gump? Also there’s that small-budget, little-known flick called Titanic. Don’t watch too many ill-fated boat movies though, or you’ll never want to go back in the ocean.
Gymnastics is one of the only events I don’t mind leaving on in the background (like right now). But what’s better than baby-faced girls botching their landings? (Sticking their landings is so not the answer.) Bring It On. It’s not a gymnastics flick, but cheerleading is a sport too! I learned this from Head Cheerleader Torrence (fresh-faced Kirsten Dunst at her best). This scene is a gymnastic fan’s dream, in which Eliza Dushku’s stunt double does a ‘standing back handspring back tuck’ and totally wins over the squad! If this flick doesn’t satisfy your bizarre gymnastics cravings (in which case you are crazy!), you can check out the classic Disney movie Tarzan, featuring the best animated disproportionate gymnast ever.
Weightlifting at the Olympics is a poor (weak) man’s The World’s Strongest Man. When the Olympics permit truck-pulling and boulder-throwing, then I’ll tune in. Until then, I recommend Chris Bell’s fascinating documentary Bigger Stronger Faster. I promise you’ll never think about steroids the same way again.
Again, Forrest Gump has an Olympic sport beat. Did any of these Jamaican men grow up with their legs in braces? Did they run across the country, non-stop, paying no mind to their unkempt facial hair? I didn’t think so. When you’re done watching Forrest run (and shrimp), check out another race—Jerry Zucker’s Rat Race to be exact. This adventure-comedy is the virtual antithesis of any Olympic event, and I mean that in the best and worst way possible.
Come on. Rocky.
Basketball is a sport people actually watch regularly, therefore an anomaly in the Olympics. It doesn’t belong. Watch your favorite team during the season. America has this one in the bag anyway. Now is the time for Space Jam. Live-action-animation at its best.
Where’s that Forrest Gump when you need him? He’s already in your DVD player! (Seriously, this movie is the Olympics; it even has a scene set at the Olympics!)
Now that you know how to really get the most out of your Olympics, here’s your box office fill for the week.
The Dark Knight Rises took the box office this past weekend with a modest $62.1M, dropping 61.4% from last week, compared to the 52.5% The Dark Knight fell in its second week in 2008. As I predicted last week, TDKR will have a hard time ever surpassing its predecessor, particularly with the Olympics hampering last Friday’s box office (it was awful 76% lower than last Friday, bringing in only $18M). Christopher Nolan’s finale endures though, with trailers returning to television and stragglers slowly making their way back out to the theater.
New releases Step Up Revolution and The Watch struggled quite a bit. The Watch came in at third with $12.8M and Step Up Revolution followed with $11.7M, proof that things in the movie biz do expire. Not only has interest for the Step Up franchise significantly waned, comedy mega-stars Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn just don’t rake in the big bucks like they used to (take a gander at Tower Heist and The Dilemma). I don’t expect studios to support them so generously in the future.
Note: The Dark Knight Rises has certainly been impacted by the Colorado tragedy, particularly as a legacy association, but the rest of the flicks in this past weekend’s top ten are feeling pretty downtrodden right now as well. This weekend was down an astonishing 26% from last year, back when Cowboys & Aliens was leading the pack. This isn’t a good sign going forward. With not too many blockbuster saviors on the horizon, the movie biz is yet again in a slump.
Looking ahead to this Friday, kid and adult fare alike come to the big screen in the form of the moderately-successful (I’m being nice) franchise Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3, and Len Wiseman’s Total Recall remake starring the brooding Colin Farrell.
With theatergoing still down, forecasts aren’t looking great for either. I predict Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3 will bring in $13-16M, slightly down from its low-20s predecessors. There’s not as much buzz surrounding the Total Recall remake as Sony had anticipated. It is a movie, like many, that didn’t seem to need much remaking. We’ll see how the masses feel about that come Friday, but I’d put the flick lower than studio estimates, at a mild $23-27M.
So let’s hope for the best for this monkey biz of ours. May it have a much better August. Happy Wednesday!
Jennifer Sperber currently studies Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. When she’s not writing for or about film and television, she is usually watching.