The Beaver

The Damage: Minimal. Jodie Foster is famous because of her talent and ambition, not her status as a box office moneymaker. Plus, the entire failure of this (not all that bad) film has been laid at the feet of Mel Gibson, who may have at long last exhausted his supply of second chances.

The Lesson: It is, amazingly enough, still possible for a celebrity to become so profoundly unlikable that people actually do stop going to their movies. Who knew?

Conan the Barbarian

The Damage: This was the capstone to a years' long attempt by the current Conan rights holders to relaunch Robert E. Howard's barbarian pulp hero via videogames and an MMO that has thus far failed to find any real success. Jason Momoa, the next big action star? How about no. Onetime German commercial-directing superstar Marcus Nispel - who burst onto the Hollywood scene as a potential next-big-thing in the late 90s (he was supposed to direct End of Days) only to self-destruct when outlandish diva behavior purportedly led Hollywood to bust him back down to the minors - has now directed five films, all of which have been remakes, four of which have been remakes of "cult classics," and none of which have been good.

The Lesson: Nobody really seems to give a damn about Conan the Barbarian. I hate typing that out - I'm a fan of Robert E. Howard's work (which puts me in some interesting company) and the sword-n-sorcery genre in general - but that's sort of the truth of the matter and the general history of the character's reception by mainstream audiences bears that out. Though popular in the pre-WWII heyday of pulp sci-fi/fantasy magazines, Conan and his ilk slipped into relative obscurity when The Lord of the Rings upended the fantasy genre in the 1950s. After that, Conan didn't return to the popular conscious until the late-60s - and it's often speculated that it was more the explosion in popularity of the Frank Frazetta cover art that graced the paperbacks that drove a lot of the sales. Aside from a cult classic comic book series, the only time a Conan-related property has really broken through was the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in 1982, which, perhaps tellingly, weaves only slivers from Howard's short stories into a more robust epic narrative.


The Damage: Zero. Nothing. Nada. It cost money, it lost money, but it won't matter. Nothing will ever stop the production of slapstick-y family comedies. Kevin James is a real talent and well liked in the industry - that, plus being part of the Friends of Adam Sandler Comedy Clique means he will never hurt for work. Not enough people saw this to know that Rosario Dawson was in it, so she's safe too. The common cockroach will go extinct before this genre does.

The Lesson: See above. The next Night at the Museum retread will make money and everyone will forget that this particular one didn't.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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