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'Ocean's' Away: No More Clooney-Pitt Romps

No More Clooney-Pitt Romps | Lennon Film | Lou Reed's Surprise; Paul Bowles Returns; Merv Leaves

'Ocean's' Away: No More Clooney-Pitt Romps

It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any more sequels to "Ocean’s Eleven," the Steven Soderbergh revival of an old movie that no one really remembered and didn’t do much business in the first place.

"Ocean’s Thirteen," the final episode, is ending its run in theatres with $115 million in domestic ticket sales. Internationally, the film — maybe the best-written of the trilogy — took in about $164 million, although that number is always hard to judge, thanks to currency fluctuations and less-than-modern ticket counting in all countries.

Compared to its predecessors, however, "Thirteen" didn’t fare so well. "Ocean’s Eleven" brought in a hefty $183,417,150 here and $267,300,000 internationally. "Ocean’s Twelve," a horror of a film, did $125,544,280 in the U.S. and a whopping $237,200,000 internationally. The first two movies made no sense, but they had the additional allure of Julia Roberts, a superstar draw.

The modest success of "Thirteen" says a lot about Brad Pitt, who — like his real-life leading lady, Angelina Jolie — is not a guaranteed box-office star. He’s had exactly one mega hit in his career that was built on his standing as a movie star. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" took in $186 million domestically, largely thanks to the tornado of gossip surrounding the Pitt-Jolie affair. But that’s it.

The rest of Pitt’s recent non-"Ocean’s" oeuvre — "The Mexican," "Snatch," "Spy Game," "Fight Club," "12 Monkeys," "Devil’s Own" — have been turkeys. And that doesn’t include his two most famous disasters: "Meet Joe Black" and "Seven Years in Tibet."

Alas, the allure of the original "Ocean’s 11" was the Rat Pack — Frankie, Dean, Sammy — but that ship has sailed, and is now a distant memory. The new Pack — George, Brad, Matt, plus a seemingly endless group — was more a publicity construct than a reality.

It also lacked music. Where the three guys could break into song, the modern "Ocean's" gang is not so entertaining. They are, however, charitable. Thanks to them, and producer Jerry Weintraub, more than $10 million has gone to aid groups in Darfur, Sudan.

Weintraub was smart. At least he made the premiere of "Ocean’s Thirteen" seem like something other than a big cash-out. The Darfur charity, Not on My Watch, elevated the proceedings.

But the reality cannot be so good. "Eleven" is said to have cost $85 million and "12" was up to $105. On that scale, "Thirteen" would have cost at least $125 million (and that’s what they admit to. Add another $50 million per film for marketing.)

The fees for Pitt, Clooney and Damon alone could come to $50 million, conservatively. Then there’s Soderbergh ($10 million), and a strong secondary cast of Don Cheadle, Ellen Barkin, Al Pacino (who doesn’t come cheap), plus Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, Andy Garcia, Casey Affleck, etc.

Add to that a figure probably no one can calculate yet: promotional expense. That gang trooped all over the world, and in first class. They all stayed at the Hotel Du Cap, required drivers, cars, planes, handlers, etc., and all of it in euros.

Sacre bleu!

"Ocean’s Thirteen" may break even down the line, but Warner Bros. has to be happier with "Harry Potter." Once you slice up the "Thirteen" pie, there isn’t much left for the studio.

At best or worst, they keep their important relationships with Soderbergh and Clooney for future projects. Clooney, for example, will open in Warner’s "Michael Clayton" this fall and could wind up with another Oscar nomination. If so, then it was all worth it.

So we bid adieu to the cliquey, often annoyingly precious "Ocean’s" crowd. And tedious though the modern trilogy can be, there’s always the original to inspire a martini and a little late-night warbling.

Lennon Film: Producers Denied Release Date

Believe it or not, the producers of "Chapter 27," the boring and offensive film about John Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman, are still up to their old tricks.

I’m told that Peace Arch, the strange company that insists on foisting this mess on the public, actually wanted to release the movie on Dec. 8, the anniversary of Lennon’s death.

Luckily, they were denied. Sources tell me that the inappropriate request was made to movie houses, all of which turned it down.

As things stand, Peace Arch will put "Chapter 27" into New York’s Angelika Theater — way downtown from Manhattan's Dakota apartments, where Lennon lived and died — in late November, right before the anniversary.

What’s unclear is what kind of premiere Peace Arch could have for this extremely tiresome yet offensive project.

Besides boycotts from die-hard Lennon fans, the film will probably suffer from the absence of co-star Lindsay Lohan. That would leave it all to Jared Leto, the actor who gained 30 pounds to play Chapman. His rationale for playing this part, let alone making the movie, would be an interesting subject for Letterman" or Leno.

Peace Arch, by the way, is releasing "Chapter 27" itself because no one who saw it at Sundance wanted it. The same was true for "Hounddog," in which the character played by 12-year-old Dakota Fanning is raped. So far there are no takers to distribute that one, either.

Meanwhile — and more importantly in a way, there’s a lot of good buzz on Julie Taymor’s Beatles film, "Across the Universe." In all likelihood, this upbeat, innovative musical using Beatles music will erase all interest in "Chapter 27," a film that should go the way of last year’s worst release, "Death of a President," and head straight to DVD after a short, inglorious theatrical run.

Lou Reed's Surprise; Paul Bowles Returns; Merv Leaves

One of New York’s most beloved rockers, Garland Jeffreys, isn’t waiting for the man when it comes to Lou Reed. In Belgium last week at the Lokerse Festival, Jeffreys was surprised on stage by Reed during his song, "Hail Hail Rock and Roll."

Click here to watch the YouTube video.

Jeffreys has been ripping at Europe, getting astounding reviews as he tours to promote his greatest hits album, "I’m Alive."

In the '70s, Garland was signed to A&M Records by Jerry Moss, and he released a series of hits that have now reverted to him. Universal Music has released "I’m Alive" in Europe. I hope they’ll release it here in the States soon, too. ...

Paul Bowles — novelist, writer, poet — was the author of many great works including his famous novel, "The Sheltering Sky." Bowles died in 1999.

But in 1995, Regina Weinreich and Cathy Warnow made a spectacular highly regarded film about Bowles — an expatriate who lived in Tangiers with his equally fascinating wife, Jane. The film is called "The Compete Outsider." This week, at long last, the documentary is being released on DVD for the first time, and with lots of great extras. "The Complete Outsider" is full of Bowles’ amazing musical compositions, too. It’s not to be missed. …

Alas, Merv Griffin is gone. He lived his life just as he wanted and made millions besides. You can’t beat that.

Merv’s talk show, like those of Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore, were different than Johnny Carson's. Merv’s show was a real Hollywood gab fest, and anything could happen. It seemed almost unguarded by publicists and open to blasts of candor.

Merv also loved music, introduced many acts and featured lots of great stars. His featured trumpet player in his band was Jack Sheldon, a wild man who was also a great foil for Merv.

Of course, no one can forget Arthur Treacher, Merv’s original sidekick, who seemed embalmed long before he died — Merv had a lot of fun with that.

From Eva Gabor to Denny Terrio and everything in between, Merv had a great, great ride. Something tells me not much got him down as he amassed a fortune in hotels and even famously took on Donald Trump. The stars loved him, and loved confiding in him. And he invented "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune." Not bad, folks.