Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 16, 2010: Kick Ass, Death at a Funeral

Two movies opening this weekend, one fairly original, and the other a remake. Both comedies. Both looking good.

Kick-Ass (KCKAS) is based on a comic book, sort of. I'm not quite clear on the turn of events, but apparently both were conceived/written at the same time. The Original Fund is not investing in this, much as I would like to, because it's not completely original. It is, however, one of the most anticipated movies of the year. The only star is Nicholas Cage, but he doesn't have a starring role. It's about a teenage boy who decides to become a superhero, despite having no superpowers. It sounds deliriously fun. Stock is at H$95, down from a high of almost H$130, because the hype was just through the roof for a while there. Of course, every now and then hype is justified. The strike price is H$40, which would have been perfectly reasonable at H$120, but is a shade high for where the stock is now. Not surprisingly, the call (KCKACA) is sinking, below the IPO, while the put (KCKAPU) is above H$4. It's opening on 3,000+ screens. Critics are mostly very enthusiastic, with a 74% rating on rottentomatoes.com, although Roger Ebert hated it. Harry Knowles, on the other hand, not only loves it, but posts a long rebuttal to his friend and hero Mr. Ebert. The CX derivative is slightly below the stock, which is somewhat unusual. One factor to consider is that it's rated R, which should technically limit the box office, since many of the target audience allegedly will not be able to see it on their own. Not terribly worried about that one. There is one essential question that has to be asked when evaluating movies and how well they might do at the box office: why is this movie being made? Is it being made because a studio wants to make money? If that's the case, it's probably a very safe, generic movie, the kind that is entertaining, but doesn't take too many risks. Or was it made by people who are passionate about the story? That's the kind of movie that takes risks, and sometimes hits very, very big. The movies that make the most money are usually the movies that are so distinctive that they become part of the cultural consciousness - they become touchstones, the movies that people use as references. My favorite example is Thelma and Louise. It's not a complicated movie, but it's unique and interesting enough that I can refer to it and be confident that even people who haven't seen it have heard of it, and know what it's about. The other great example, of course, is Pulp Fiction.

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those movies. The director, Matthew Vaughn, raised the money himself. It's not being sold on the basis of the stars, writer, or director. There is a big name involved with this movie: Brad Pitt is one of the producers. But his name is nowhere in the marketing - I've only read one mention of his involvement. Which strongly suggests that he is producing this just because he likes the project, and he doesn't want his name used in the marketing, because that would distract from the movie itself. Good for him.

I'm betting against the market on this one, because I think this one is going out of the park.
Stock: Long
Call: Long
Put: Short
CX: Long

The other movie opening this weekend is "Death at a Funeral" (DEFUN), a remake of a British movie from just a couple of years ago. The original movie was based on an original idea, and a rather funny one: a funeral home delivers a casket with the wrong body to a funeral, and bizarre family secrets are revealed. It was funny, but rather dry. It wasn't particularly successful in this country, only pulling in $8 million, but it made $38 million overseas. Chris Rock must have absolutely loved it, because he is the one who decided to remake it. He stars in it, co-wrote the script, and produced it. It's directed by Neil LaBute. Yes, that Neil LaBute, known for depressing dramas. Stock is at H$68.16, the all-time high. This one has just been rocketing up in the last couple of weeks. Strike price is H$20, which almost looks underpriced at this point. Call (DEFUCA) is moving up nicely, aiming at H$4. Put (DEFUPU) is down below the IPO. CX derivative is at H$65, almost perfectly in line with the stock, although it has dropped, from some astronomical heights. Like Kick-Ass, this is a passion project - really can't see any studio executives clamoring to do this. Remaking a British arthouse movie with an African-American cast? That's got to be a first. It's opening on 2,400 screens, which should be more than enough. Critics aren't very impressed, with only a 43% rating on RT, but there are only 9 reviews up at this point. I liked the original, although I didn't love it, but my guess is that Chris Rock can make this one funnier than the original. I don't bet against Tyler Perry, and I'm sure not going to bet against Chris Rock.
Stock: Long
Call: Long
Put: Long
CX: Long

Update Friday morning: I have to admit that I was slightly nervous about DEFUN, since the reviews have not been great, and the original was, after all, an arthouse flick. But it's up H$5 this morning, a very strong sign, so I am maintaining that position. KCKAS, on the other hand, is down H$5, usually a sign to bail. I'm maintaining my long position on this as well, because the buzz is just so ridiculously strong. It's a gamble, and I don't like betting against the market, but I have a good feeling about this one. What particularly appeals to me about this one is that it could appeal to most demographics: the fanboy crowd, parents with teenagers, even regular adults who just want to see a fun movie. I have every intention of seeing it, possibly this weekend. It's got an A- so far from users Yahoo! movies. I take that source with a large grain of salt, assuming that there is a strong contingent of studio plants, but it's still a good sign. It's also doing quite well on IMDbpro, with an 8.4 rating from almost 8,000 users. That's enough that it is legitimately a wide user base, not just studio plants. So still planning to go long to delist.

Update Sunday night: Well, damn. This may be the best and worst weekend of my prediction career. It's the worst because I went exactly the wrong way on both of my predictions - I bet against the market on KCKAS, and with the market on DEFUN, when I should have done exactly the opposite. Kick-Ass came in at just under $20 million, just a tad shy of the $30 million I was predicting, and DEFUN came in at $17 million, also well south of my $25 million prediction. I have been thinking of coming up with a spreadsheet/checklist of questions and issues I can and should ask around each release. I really, really have to come up with that. I need to be able to play devil's advocate with myself.

But it's the best weekend for me because I don't think I have ever been less worried about being so dramatically wrong than I am in the case of KCKAS. I saw it on Saturday night. My review is here. The actual viewing started out a little odd - we saw the first few minutes of Clash of the Titans, rather than this. Someone alerted the theater immediately, and they corrected the situation fairly quickly, but it still started a good half an hour late. Not unheard of, but a little odd in this day and age. And this was Pacific Theaters at The Grove, a fairly new facility.

The reason I am so not worried about being wrong about KCKAS is that I enjoyed the movie so much. It's a phenomenal movie. It may take a few days for word of mouth to build, but build it will. It's already at #166 on IMDb's list of the top 250 movies of all time. It's that good. Very, very highly recommended.

3 comments:

  1. everybody makes mistakes mitchell... I felt that was really rude.

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  2. It was not intended to be rude, I say the same about myself when I make mistakes..that I was owned..I bought the original ideal fund at ipo and have great respect for its manager, which is why i read this blog, furthermore if what I say offends you, you have my apologies

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