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Speiriscope: Box-office bombs

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Hey, summer film fans, have you seen The Lone Ranger yet?

No? Well, you're not alone, because apparently no one has gone to see it.

Sadly, this may be the year the iconic masked ex-Texas Ranger has to sell his silver bullets and turn to bank robbery because he's riding into history as one of Hollywood's biggest box-office bombs.

News reports say The Lone Ranger, starring the always-quirky Johnny Depp as a dead-bird-wearing Tonto, is a spectacular critical and financial flop.

With a staggering $225-million budget, The Lone Ranger was poised to be a blockbuster, but pulled in a measly $48.9 million over the Independence Day holiday weekend in the U.S., causing analysts to predict it will lose between $150 million and $190 million for Disney.

Here's one critic's woeful take from the website Rotten Tomatoes: "Somewhere, around the hour-and-a-half mark, The Lone Ranger makes the fateful decision not to end. Worse, the movie keeps not-ending for another full hour."

Fortunately, as L.A. Times film writer John Horn has noted, when it comes to embarrassing bombs, The Lone Ranger doesn't ride alone. Here are five of our all-time favourite flops:

5) The flop: Mars Needs Moms (2011)

The alleged plot: Who needs moms? Mars does! Nine-year-old Milo finds out just how much he needs his mom in this animated flick when she's nabbed by Martians who need her to help raise their own young. Could happen.

What it cost: $150 million.

What it took in: $38.9 million worldwide (Wikipedia currently rates it the No. 1 box-office loser of all time).

What the critics said: According to one voice on Rotten Tomatoes: "Children are unlikely to enjoy it, and parents will be aching for a few stiff drinks in a Mars bar long before it's over."

4) The flop: Gigli (2003)

The alleged plot: This Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez (You remember "Bennifer," don't you?) rom-com has become a buzzword for cinematic awfulness. It was the winner of seven Razzies for being horrible. IMDb says it's "the violent story about how a criminal lesbian, a tough-guy hit man with a heart of gold, and a mentally challenged man come to be best friends."

What it cost: Budget of about $75 million.

What it took in: $7.3 million at the global box office.

What the critics said: Here's a typical Rotten Tomatoes review: "Torture. Impossible to imagine how it could've been worse."

3) The flop: The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

The alleged plot: This offensively unfunny sci-fi flick didn't actually have one, but here goes: Eddie Murphy is Pluto Nash who runs the hippest nightclub in a moon colony called Little America, and Randy Quaid is his robot bodyguard. No hilarity ensues.

What it cost: Reportedly $100 million.

What it took in: Just $7 million worldwide.

What the critics said: One of the more upbeat Rotten Tomatoes reviews: "How did so many lines fall flat? Why were the action scenes so corny and unconvincing? Who put the stink on this?"

2) The flop: Heaven's Gate (1980)

The alleged plot: A legendary failure, it almost killed the western movie. It reportedly takes "a revisionist, post-Vietnam view of American imperialism" and used "the historical Johnson County War incident in Wyoming to create an impressionistic tapestry of western conflict between poor immigrant settlers and rich cattle barons." Huh?

What it cost: $44-million production budget.

What it took in: Less than $3 million in U.S. ticket sales, a loss of $112.9 million in today's dollars.

What the critics said: Some folks kind of like it now, but a typical Rotten Tomatoes review grunts: "This beautiful but notoriously disappointing film is one of the most overblown epic westerns of any decade."

1) The flop: Ishtar (1987)

The alleged plot: Two terrible lounge singers (Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman) get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the Emir of Ishtar, and rebels trying to overthrow his regime.

What it cost: $55 million.

What it took in: $12.7 million in U.S. box office.

What the critics said: "This movie is a long, dry slog. It's not funny, it's not smart and it's interesting only in the way a traffic accident is interesting." -- the late Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times

When the curtain falls, will The Lone Ranger ride into the sunset as the biggest box-office flop in history? If it loses $150 million, the answer has to be, Hi-Yo, yes!

No wonder he wears a mask!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 D2

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