Los Angeles — It's the biggest movie of the summer that practically no one has seen.
"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" opens Friday, but Paramount Pictures isn't screening the blockbuster for critics beforehand. Only a select few writers from blogs and movie Web sites have seen it for review — such as Harry Knowles, the self-professed "Head Geek" from Ain't It Cool News — and their opinions have been mostly positive.
Instead, the studio says it's intentionally aiming the movie at the heartland, at cities and audiences outside the entertainment vortexes of New York and Los Angeles. Paramount held a screening Friday for 1,000 military service members and their families at Andrews Air Force Base; it's also focusing marketing efforts in places like Kansas City, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio.
While appealing to a sense of patriotism nationwide, the plan also is inspired by the disparity that existed between the critical trashing "Transformers: Rise of the Fallen" received and the massive crowds it drew at the box office.
"'G.I. Joe' is a big, fun, summer event movie — one that we've seen audiences enjoy everywhere from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Phoenix, Arizona," said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures. "After the chasm we experienced with 'Transformers 2' between the response of audiences and critics, we chose to forgo opening-day print and broadcast reviews as a strategy to promote 'G.I. Joe.' We want audiences to define this film."
With a reported production budget of $175 million and a cast that includes Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "G.I. Joe" follows the adventures of an elite team using high-tech spy and military equipment to take down a corrupt arms dealer. It comes from director Stephen Sommers, whose previous films include "The Mummy" and "Van Helsing."
Long before anyone saw the completed product, though, "G.I. Joe" drew mixed buzz at best for its trailer, which premiered during the widely viewed February telecast of the NFL Super Bowl. Now it's the final action picture of the summer — and it has a lot in common with the highest-grossing film so far this year, the "Transformers" sequel. Both are effects-laden spectacles based on Hasbro toys and both are Paramount releases from producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
"Transformers" has gone on to gross more than $388 million in the United States alone since its opening six weeks ago, despite receiving just 20 percent positive reviews on the Web site Rotten Tomatoes, a critical aggregator. The withholding of "G.I. Joe" from mainstream critics suggests that the studios believe they can succeed at the box office without them.
It's a tactic normally reserved for horror movies or other genre pictures with built-in fans who don't necessarily care about reviews — ones based on video games, for example — not summer blockbusters. Still, "G.I. Joe" has been tracking well because it represents the last big bang of the season, said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com.
"They don't need (to screen) it and there's no upside to negative reviews. The film is going to open well no matter what," Dergarabedian said. "They're being very strategic in who they show the movie to. If they can win over their core audience from these reviews, that's good for the movie."
Devin Faraci from the film Web site CHUD.com is one of the few writers who have seen it for review purposes, and not just for junket interviews. He's among the critics who've contributed to the movie's 88-percent positive rating as tabulated by Rotten Tomatoes, saying: "If I was 10 years old, 'G.I. Joe' would be one of the best movies I had ever seen."
Faraci said he was in Toronto recently when he received a phone call at 8:30 a.m. Los Angeles time, asking if he could come to the Paramount lot that day for a "G.I. Joe" screening. He flew back, got off the plane and headed right over.
"It's silly. It's a film that plays on its own terms," he said. "I don't think reviews will kill it but I think it'll get a more positive response than they expect. It's a big, silly, pulpy, cartoony action film and it makes no apologies for being that way."
Los Angeles — It's the biggest movie of the summer that practically no one has seen.
- At the Movies
- Mel Gibson returns in 'Edge of Darkness' It's been seven years since his last film, but Mel Gibson is still playing martyr. One might fairly call Gibson "The Crusader," and not just because of his widely known religious views or because he directed "The Passion of the Christ."
- 'Saint John of Las Vegas' no divine comedy The deadpan comedy "Saint John of Las Vegas" opens with Steve Buscemi walking into a Vegas convenience store, plopping down an envelope full of cash and asking for a thousand lottery tickets. "Why not?" he asks with a mixture of defiance and despair.
- FILM REVIEW: 'Tooth Fairy' full of smiles, clichés Just weeks after something dubbed a "squeakquel," we have a movie advertised with the tagline: "You can't handle the tooth." One quakes for the marketing that awaits us for "Marmaduke."
- Vampire thriller 'Daybreakers' is DOA The only lesson to take away from Ethan Hawke's horror-action tale "Daybreakers" is that vampires cannot run the world's affairs any better than we tasty humans can.
- Effects wow but story limps in 'Avatar' When a film brashly asserts that it will change moviemaking forever, one feels the urge to either take its "king of the world" arrogance down a notch or hail it as the masterpiece it claims to be.
- 'Ninja Assassin' sports a dull blade When considering the meager merits of the bone-snapping, blood-splattered "Ninja Assassin," it's best to remember the words of John Goodman's PC-challenged character in "The Big Lebowski": "The man in the black pajamas, Dude. Worthy ... adversary."
- ‘Princess and the Frog’ is a hearty hop The spirit of animation maestro Walt Disney lives on. The studio has gone back to its roots with a fresh, funny retelling of a classic fairy tale in “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation after a five-year hiatus.
- Wildness intact, ‘Bad Lieutenant’ returns It’s post-Katrina New Orleans and there are snakes in the water — none bigger than Terence McDonagh, an exceptionally corrupt detective, who slinks through town snorting coke, smoking heroin, harassing women and brandishing a .44 Magnum stuffed in the front of his pants.
‘Planet 51’ proves unable to support intelligent life
It’s been a big year for animation, with a great variety of styles represented by “Up,” “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and the upcoming “The Princess and the Frog.”
- 'The Blind Side' focuses on the feel-good The redemption-minded sports flick "The Blind Side" serves its inspiration straight-up with no twist. Writer-director John Lee Hancock wisely lets the true story of Michael Oher — the African-American teen who found a home and, eventually, football stardom, after being adopted by a wealthy Memphis family — speak for itself.
- Army drama ‘Messenger’ delivers fitfully It’s an unenviable task, making films about the war on terror for audiences that don’t want to sit through dramatizations of the same bad news they get for real out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
- ‘Gentlemen Broncos’ a saddle-sore mess “Gentlemen Broncos” is a comedy so weird, so off, so simply wrong that even freakish hero Napoleon Dynamite would have a hard time lending it his catch word, “Sweet.”
- Gorgeous ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ roars to the screen “Where the Wild Things Are,” the book, is just 339 words long. But in turning it into “Where the Wild Things Are,” the movie, director Spike Jonze has expanded the basic story with a breathtaking visual scheme and stirring emotional impact.
- Sheen shines in the gritty ‘Damned United’ You don’t have to be a soccer expert, or even know all that much about the sport, to get sucked into the competing personalities and personal dramas of “The Damned United.
- Showmanship Moore’s top commodity in ‘Capitalism’ How do you make a movie about the country’s current economic crisis and actually get people to see it? Two obstacles most obviously arise: illustrating such a potentially dry subject in a compelling way, and persuading audiences to pay money for information they can get at home — and feel depressed about — for free.
- ‘Reasonable Doubt’ like ’80s TV movie Beyond its generic, forgettable title, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” feels like some throwaway 1980s TV movie, with its implausible premise, dizzying twists, cheesy montages and melodramatic score.
- '9' is breathtakingly original Despite their roughhewn appearance, the resourceful rag dolls in "9'' obviously were crafted with great love and care, both by the scientist who made them in the film and the mastermind behind them in real life, director Shane Acker.
- 'Extract' tastes too bland Ten years ago, Mike Judge satirized the absurdities of the workplace experience from the perspective of put-upon employees with "Office Space." It didn't do much when it came out but, as we all know by now, it became a cult favorite on cable and home video, to the point where it changed the way you looked at the common stapler.
- Big Fan' a vivid portrait of sports geekdom Jim Rome urges his listeners (or "clones," as he so lovingly calls them) to have solid takes, to bring it, when they dial into his sports talk radio show.
- Quentin Tarantino's new movie has its glorious moments If only Quentin Tarantino the director weren't so completely in love with Quentin Tarantino the writer, "Inglourious Basterds" might have been a great movie rather than just a good movie with moments of greatness.
- No go: Paramount won't show critics 'G.I. Joe' It's the biggest movie of the summer that practically no one has seen. "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" opens Friday, but Paramount Pictures isn't screening the blockbuster for critics beforehand. Only a select few writers from blogs and movie Web sites have seen it for review — such as Harry Knowles, the self-professed "Head Geek" from Ain't It Cool News — and their opinions have been mostly positive.
- 'People' is both funny, frustrating If only Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen hadn't gotten in the car. If only they hadn't left Los Angeles, where everything in "Funny People" was going so well, and driven north to Marin County, where everything falls apart. Judd Apatow would have had his most mature, accomplished film to date.
- 'G-Force' topples 'Harry Potter' at box office An elite squad of guinea pigs has worked its own brand of magic at the box office, taking the No. 1 spot from boy wizard Harry Potter.
- 'The Ugly Truth,' battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy, that isn't pretty t the end of the drearily formulaic romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth," as our two leads are finally admitting they've fallen for each other (no spoilers here, folks), Katherine Heigl's character asks Gerard Butler's why he's in love with her. Basically, he says he has no idea, only he phrases it with a word we can't reprint here. Our sentiments exactly.
- ‘Shrink’ showcases Kevin Spacey’s strengths Say what you will about some of Kevin Spacey’s more questionable choices over the past decade, movies like “Pay It Forward,” “K-PAX,” “The Life of David Gale” and his labor-of-love Bobby Darin biopic, “Beyond the Sea.” When he’s on — when he has strong dialogue to work with and solid actors to play off of — he’s got a presence and a command that are tough to beat.
- New 'Harry Potter' goes to head of class Harry Potter has kept his fans waiting for two years, the longest school break they have had to endure for a new movie adventure about the teen wizard. It's been worth the wait.
- 'Bruno' quickly goes out of style The problem with "Bruno" is Bruno himself. Compared to Borat — and it's impossible to avoid the comparison — there simply isn't enough to the character to build an entire feature-length film around him.
- Review: 'Ice Age' is 'yawn of the dinosaurs' tale There's more action and cuddly creatures for kids to love in "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" than in the animated franchise's first two installments. For their parents, it's more of the same, a "Yawn of the Dinosaurs" adventure with some new faces and places but the same central characters rehashing the themes of the first two movies.
- 'Public Enemies' dazzles the eye but drags With "Public Enemies," all the pieces would seem to be in place for an epic gangster drama: director Michael Mann, who has an affinity for complicated criminals; stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, who are famous for immersing themselves in their roles; and a thrilling true story of brazen bank robbers on the run.
- 'Moon' a haunting sci-fi tale "Moon" does something extraordinary: It seems familiar and derivative, yet upends your expectations about science fiction and surprises you over and over. Melancholy and mesmerizing, equal parts mystery and character drama, it keeps you guessing until the end.
- More At the Movies Headlines