“Pitch Perfect 2” Strikes the Right Note at the Box Office

17 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Banks: I’m super organised.

The Barden Bellas are back with a vengeance. Pitch Perfect 2 opened in cinemas on Friday (May 15) and Banks told Collider: “I will say, it would be disingenuous to say that no one’s talking about a Pitch Perfect 3; the possibility of it.

The Hunger Games star makes her debut as a director with the musical sequel, which stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Hailee Steinfeld, after producing the first film with husband Max Handelman. We are really focused on getting as many butts in seats for this one. “I guess I really love the story of legacy in this one, I knew I wanted the riff-off to look pretty much exactly what the riff-off looks like in this movie and I knew what the finale looked like, so I had some connection points into the story that really jazzed me up, and I don’t know what the story of the third one is yet.

The 41-year-old filmmaker added: “It’s really important that more women get involved in directing and in leadership positions in Hollywood, and I’m really excited to be providing an example for my generation of women.” “It did feel natural, just because I’ve been involved since day one. For comparison among geek-centric genre films, Pacific Rim collected $3.6m worth of Thursday shows in July of 2013 and ended up with a $14.5m Friday gross.

The Bellas’ finale performance of “Flashlight,” an original song by Jessie J, was so emotionally and visually manipulative that I got goosebumps and teary eyes and loved every single second of it. Although this new tune—written by red-hot singer-songwriter Sia—is sonically different from “Cups,” it’s still hoping to be the earworm you won’t be able to get rid of. “Well, first, what could ever be ‘Cups’?” asks Jason Moore, who directed the first Pitch Perfect and returned to produce the sequel. “That was the most unusual history of a song and the most unusual song on radio in the last, like, 30 years. This isn’t unheard of (The Spy Who Shagged Me also opened to more than the first Austin Powers made during its entire theatrical run), but it’s still pretty rare — and it’s a testament to just how popular Pitch Perfect has become since the first one left theaters. I wanted to improve upon everything that we’ve accomplished – as well as have the girls looking gorgeous, which they do.” Elizabeth continued: “We were very protective of this franchise. Obviously the reviews and buzz are much better for Mad Max, but the R rating means we won’t get kid-powered matinee business today and tomorrow (Pacific Rim was a soft PG-13).

Anna Kendrick revisits her too-cool-for-school shtick, which is a little tiresome the second time around but still highly entertaining because Anna Kendrick has that unachievable relatable perfection thing going for her. Having said that, word-of-mouth on social media is white hot (I’m seeing Avengers/Gravity level excitement on my feeds), which may allow a stronger multiplier over the weekend as the casually curious are convinced to take the plunge. This R-rated, post-apocalyptic tale has earned rave reviews, and while it wasn’t expected to break any box office records, it still brought in a solid $44.4 million.

Either way, a $40m+ debut for what could have been a geeks-only affair is a huge win for Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. marketing regardless of how this all shapes out over the long run. Meanwhile, Avengers: Age of Ultron made $38.8 million in its third week, bringing its global total to an estimated $1.143 billion and making it the eighth highest-grossing film of all time. As I’m assuming you know, Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth film in George Miller’s post-apocalyptic desert action series, with Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson thirty years after the last installment. The big surprises are A) how terrific the movie turned out to be and B) that it’s a female-centric action adventure film with Charlize Theron as the lead and the primary action figure.

With assistance from Sam Smith (who was still under-the-radar at this point) and Christian Guzman, she submitted “Flashlight”—and the filmmakers loved it. “The original musical draft was the same, but the lyrics were quite dark,” Moore recalls. “But the lyric ‘Flashlight’ was always there, and I always liked that it was kind of a simple, sweet notion—it felt appropriate for the age group and that kind of friendship.” To lighten the song, Moore suggested a few dummy lyrics—borne from his past in musical theater—and Sia tweaked them for the demo. The film opened in much of the world this weekend and had $24.6 million overseas as of this writing, but we will know more about that until Sunday afternoon.

More, it doesn’t make sense for such laziness and off-putting writing to sour the experience of watching a film that there was already so much goodwill for. By the time Banks signed off on the final song, Sia generously insisted that Moore get a lyric co-writing credit. (“I didn’t expect to add that to my Wikipedia page,” he jokes.) The actual song itself appears in the film five times—during Emily’s first audition; in the studio, when Beca (Anna Kendrick) remixes it; during the riff-off, albeit briefly; in the world a cappella championships; and in the end credits, where audience members will hear Jessie J’s radio version (which also has a music video). I cannot predict at this juncture if the film will gross enough here and abroad to justify the $150 million price tag expended by Rat Pac and Village Roadshow, but I can say that Warner basically did everything they could short of giving away all the good parts in order to sell the film.

But Hollywood’s response to a hit like that is much easier to predict: a sequel with more characters, more chaos, more meta pop culture riffs, and more medleys (so many medleys!) than you can aca-shake a stick at. In this film, they just drop racially charged one-liners for comedy shock value—jokes so lazy and obvious they elicit eye rolls and groans instead of any laughs. They had the film of course, and they cut some eye-popping trailers that truly made this film feel one-of-a-kind, and they screened it early enough to build critical buzz. The biggest weakness of the movie is “race jokes that don’t pay off,” says Jessica Goldstein at Think Progress. “One new character is from Guatemala and, as far as I could tell, literally did not say anything that was not about human trafficking, cheating death, or other too-real hardships she left behind when she fled to America.” This is true. Heck, they even let the embargo drop a day earlier than intended when they saw the writing on the wall and noticed critics like me desperate to tell the world how wonderful this film was.

Maybe there’s a new way that we try and integrate a new kind of song, if there’s another opportunity to do so.” Nevertheless, one expectation has already been unintentionally set. The majority of these race jokes are presented as stand-up comedy bits from returning a capella commentators played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Between cups and flashlights, must all Pitch Perfect originals be based on household objects? “Yeah,” Moore jokes, “Pitch Perfect 3, it’s going to be ‘Bicycle.’”

They had to know that the film would get buzz based on its surprisingly non-patriarchal leanings, and this feels not unlike Fox cutting Live Free or Die Hard to a PG-13 to get the kids but then opening it against Pixar’s Ratatouille. PP2 sometimes feels less like a movie than a two-hour episode of Glee ghostwritten by Amy Schumer; jokes fly like they’re being shot from T-shirt guns at a gonzo pep rally, and not all of them stick the landing. But the story also gives big, joyful voice to groups whose members have spent their whole lives being targeted because of who they are, be it black, gay, overweight, female, or just deeply uncool.

I don’t particularly need to see a new trilogy of Mad Max movies and it’s hard for me to root too much for a film whose success will mostly inspire Hollywood to further raid their franchise vaults for decades-old properties to revive. Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is probably the best example of the film as an empowerment message: take pride in your weirdness and of the base-level things that other people will define you by, and then throw it back in their faces. But it’s not like its theoretical underperformance down the line will have any bad lessons since it’s such a unique cocktail of elements unlikely to be replicated in the future. The film itself kicks off with a terribly offensive transphobic gag, and does an odd job of objectifying star Sofia Vergara, considering that star is one of the film’s executive producers. I’m going to skimp on holdover news today, because most of the other films made less than $1 million (and because my kids are up and clamoring for my attention).

Smith at Bitch Magazine, “While Vergara threw in a few withering comments about Latina stereotypes, perhaps designed to offset the fact that her character was a stereotype herself, they fall flat.” We’re not saying that race can’t be used smartly as a tool for comedy. Furious 7, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Age of Adeline, and Ex Machina all made over/under $1m with likely $3m-4m weekends, but we can discuss that tomorrow.

The worst example of all of this, however, is Get Hard, a film made all the more egregious for the lack of ownership its creative team takes in the offense that its comedy caused. The film, starring Kevin Hart as a man charged with preparing Will Ferrell for the perils of an upcoming prison stint, attempts a satirical take on race, class, and the prison system—skewering all of it in the name of comedy. It failed. “[Director Etan] Cohen repeatedly places himself and his performers on a tight rope between the fire and the frying pan,” The Wrap’s Inkoo Kang writes. “It’s a multiple balancing act that Cohen doesn’t have the grace, wit or sensitivity to pull off.” Get Hard was called out for its racism back at its first screening at South by Southwest.

A Los Angeles Times reporter, calling the film, “racist as [expletive]” asked Coen, “How nervous were you presenting this in front of a live audience being completely, absolutely and unapologetically . . . racist and hysterical at the same time?” Cohen’s answer attempted to defend his film and alleged that he charged into the film’s racial issues with sensitivity. Producer Adam McKay, however, took a different route: he called the amount of outraged articles about it “lazy journalism.” Its very premise is ripe for a sharp satirical take—a white 1 percenter assumes a hard-working black man is a criminal merely because of his color—but rather than use comedy to confront our ingrained and problematic social mores, the broad take on the topic instead merely offends. The rules of pop culture are different today than they were back when a ‘90s Adam Sandler comedy could make jokes like the ones in these films and get away with it. A move towards a Hollywood that finally normalizes diversity and champions representation is a challenging one, and one that will require active behavior, constant debate and conversation (like this one), and especially humor.

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