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Bill Couturié
Writing Credits:
Peter Bart (book, "Boffo!: How I Learned to Love the Blockbuster and Fear the Bomb"), Bill Couturié

Through exclusive interviews with over two dozen top names in Hollywood, as well as clips and montages assembled from dozens of notable Hollywood films - from megahits like The Godfather and Jaws to busts like The Clan of the Cave Bear and Howard the Duck - this 75-minute documentary focuses on the razor-thin line that separates memorable blockbusters from forgettable bombs. The interviewees provide illuminating insights into the moviemaking process, as well as anecdotes about some of their own movies, both good and bad. Produced and directed by Oscar and Emmy Award-winner Bill Couturie, the documentary was executive produced by Peter Bart, the editor of Variety magazine, which is celebrating its 100th year in 2006, and whose headlines appear as bridges dividing sections of this film.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 76 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 11/14/2006

• None


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Boffo!: Tinseltown's Bombs And Blockbusters (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 27, 2006)

Every year produces plenty of “can’t-miss” movies that flop along with sleepers that pop out of nowhere to rake in the big bucks. Boffo! Tinseltown’s Bombs and Blockbusters examines the processes that go into Hollywood’s hits and misses.

Boffo offers the expected mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. It features a nice mix of prominent filmmaking personnel. We hear from actor/producer/director Danny de Vito, producer/studio head Peter Guber, director/producer Peter Bogdanovich, actor/director Jodie Foster, producer/writer Brian Grazer, studio head Tom Rothman, director/producer Sydney Pollack, actor/producer Morgan Freeman, producer/studio head Richard Zanuck, producer David Brown, actor/director George Clooney, director/producer Penny Marshall, actor/writer Nia Vardalos, producer/studio head Robert Evans, actor Richard Dreyfuss, writer/director Willard Huyck, writer/producer Gloria Katz, director/producer Steven Spielberg, actor/producer Charlize Theron, studio head/producer Sherry Lansing, studio head Alan Horn, director/producer John Singleton and actor/producer Pierce Brosnan.

Boffo looks at the “rules” in Hollywood and related risks. From there it leaps back to look at the flicks that defined the concept of a “blockbuster”. We hear about The Godfather, the first movie to earn more than $100 million in the US, and go to Jaws, the film that established the idea of the big summer hit. Sequels then get attention, as we find notes about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Ocean’s 12. After that, the documentary checks out risky successes like Moulin Rouge! and Forrest Gump.

From there, Boffo deals with flops. We hear about “can’t miss” bombs like Clan of the Cave Bear and personal reactions to failure. Notes about screenplays and storytelling follow, and then we shift to a need for self-confidence to navigate the industry. There’s info about the “movie gods”, successful accidents and the magic of movies.

While enjoyable and consistently entertaining, I must admit Boffo ends up as a disappointment. The show boasts a great notion, as it’s fascinating to hear from many Hollywood moves and shakers about the business side of things. Throughout DVD extras, we’re used to hearing folks talk about the filmmaking side of things, but we don’t often learn about the financial areas and reactions to both failure and success. An exploration of what happens after the movies hit the screens – for good or ill – stands as territory ripe for exploration.

Unfortunately, Boffo remains too superficial and fluffy to truly succeed. Part of the problem stems from its disjointed nature. If there’s a plan behind the show’s structure, I couldn’t discern it. It flits from one area to another without much apparent logic as it covers various subjects.

For a while, it looks like it’ll view the changes in the industry as blockbusters became more and more expected. We learn about how The Godfather and Jaws affected the industry, so it appears that we’ll then follow subsequent related issues. This fails to occur. There’s a token nod to the rise of sequels, but this never becomes a subject of substance.

That’s really my main complaint about Boffo: a lack of substance. The filmmakers can’t decide if they want to examine the industry or if they want to give us notes about the creation of various flicks. We get details about different productions that have nothing to do with the program's overall arc. These are interesting, but they shed no light on the issues at hand.

I also think Boffo spends too little time on the “flops” side of things. We hear a lot about the various hits but the show only superficially touches on the negatives. Because the show is so puffy, it doesn’t want to dwell there too long; it prefers to keep us in happy territory.

At least Boffo boasts a great roster of participants. It’s hard to fault the long list of Hollywood movers and shakers on display here, even though some get much more time than others. That means lots of De Vito and Clooney but very little Spielberg. I don’t regard this as a major problem, as it’s not like we only hear from lesser lights; virtually everyone here is a big name. Still, a little more balance would’ve been nice.

Those involved do present some good stories. I really like Freeman’s discussion of The Bonfire of the Vanities. He seems somewhat reluctant to actually discuss the issues, but his expressions are priceless; they tell the story non-verbally and prove more effective than words might have. Foster also gives us an entertaining tale about how hard she worked to get her part in The Accused.

Oh, and as an aside, Dreyfuss provides today’s definition of irony. He berates the trend toward story and character deficient effects extravaganzas while he’s on the set of Poseidon, a film that absolutely defines the concept of the story and character deficient effects extravaganza.

Ultimately, Boffo amuses and entertains but doesn’t achieve its goals. It eventually becomes more of a celebration of the movie industry than a serious look at the subject of hits and flops. I enjoyed Boffo but I couldn’t say I felt like I learned a lot from it.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus F

Boffo! Tinseltown’s Bombs and Blockbusters appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This is an average transfer without much to make it stand out from the crowd.

Sharpness usually looked good. Some movie clips appeared slightly soft, especially in wide shots. However, the majority of the pieces were acceptably concise and distinctive. Largely because of the lack of anamorphic enhancement, some jagged edges and shimmering occurred, though these didn’t seem major. Light edge enhancement also popped up at times. Source flaws occurred, mostly due to the older archival materials, though a few movie clips showed them as well. Some specks and marks appeared, but these never became too intrusive.

Colors varied dependent on the sources and generally looked decent, though they tended towards some heaviness. The tones were a bit thicker than I’d like and came across as a little dense, though usually reasonably accurate. Blacks also varied and went from fairly deep to somewhat flat and inky, but they were usually decent, and low-light shots followed suit. Those were acceptably visible but not tremendously concise. Overall, the image of Boffo did little to come across as stellar, but it represented the material acceptably well.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Surround 2.0 audio of Boffo. The talky program mostly concentrated on the forward speakers. Speech dominated the program and stayed in the center. A lot of music adapted from the films also appeared throughout the show, and those elements demonstrated pretty positive stereo imaging. Effects duplicated the original material reasonably well, though without quite the same breadth as the source movies, as these stayed somewhat in the background most of the time. The surrounds simply echoed the forward channels for the most part, and they didn’t present anything more than general support.

Audio quality appeared fine for this material. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, with only a smidgen of edginess at times. Music didn’t display full range because those elements usually stayed in the background, but the bits of score sounded reasonably full and dynamic. Effects also mostly kept a little to the rear, but they were acceptably detailed and lively. Those various pieces never worked as well as they would in the movie DVDs themselves, but they seemed satisfying for a documentary. Bass response was fair to good, though not better than that. Ultimately, the audio was fine for this sort of piece but not anything better than that.

No extras come on this DVD. That’s too bad, as it would’ve been great to get extended interview segments.

Anyone who hopes to find a serious exploration of the “business” side of show biz will leave Boffo! Tinseltown’s Bombs and Blockbusters disappointed. While the program boasts a stellar roster of participants and always proves entertaining, it simply does little more than tell us “ain’t movies grand!” The DVD provides adequate picture and sound but lacks any extras. Boffo is a good show to watch if it pops up on HBO and you have time to kill, but don’t bother to pursue it beyond that.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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