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Friday, January 6, 2017

2016 Winners and Losers

Winners:

Walt Disney Pictures. Disney had a banner year, and I mean banner. The top 3 movies of 2016 are all Disney titles, and 6 of the top 10. Disney was the fastest studio to hit $1 billion dollars, with 37 days to spare, and owned a 26.4% market share, so far. Disney's $3 billion haul is the largest ever for a studio. Disney has made full use of their purchases of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, and it's paying dividends with Finding Dory, Doctor Strange, Civil War, and Rogue One, which still hasn't finished its run. It also doesn't hurt that Walt Disney Animation Studios has become a powerhouse with back to back smashes this year in Zootopia and Moana. Oh yeah, and Jungle Book.

A Madea Halloween. I know, I know, what an odd choice for a "winner", but hear me out. A Madea Halloween was the first Madea movie since 2013. The Madea brand had seemed to have been on the decline after the obvious peak in 2009. Shticks get old quick and 3 years of no Madea was enough time for the brand to fade, but it didn't. A Madea Halloween played strong and finished with $73 million, which is the 2nd highest total for a Madea movie. What's even more shocking is Tyler Perry was able to do this with the Halloween theme. A Madea Halloween also had the 2nd best legs for a Madea movie. That's a winner in my book.

Deadpool. This is probably the most obvious one. This movie wouldn't have even been made if it wasn't for fans going rabid over leaked footage. And then when it was given the greenlight, many still saw Deadpool as C-list at best and didn't think he could break the mainstream glass. Well, he did. Deadpool broke records left and right: biggest February opening, Winter opening, and R-rated opening. Deadpool wasn't able to pass Jesus, but still, number 2 for all time R-rated is pretty nice, considering R-rated movies have been getting less and less blockbuster attention by the studios.

Suicide Squad. This movie was everything we didn't want it to be. A bloated, studio-manufactured, CGI fest, and an incoherent and tonal mess to top it all off. Yet, we still had fun with it. After reviews came out, Suicide Squad's run was looking to shake up to a disaster, but it still managed to muster up $325 million domestic, which is just a few mil below Guardians of the Galaxy and $745 million worldwide. Suicide Squad stumbled out of the gate, but found pretty good later legs. It didn't have the best multiplier, but for a release that could have easily fallen off of a cliff, it came out fine in the end.

Trolls. As with Madea and R-rated blockbusters, DreamWorks was supposedly on the way out. Then came Home. But Home could have easily been a fluke. Well it wasn't. Trolls assured that DreamWorks still has some staying power left. Trolls also wins because it ended up not being as absurd as the teaser trailer made you believe. From what I hear, Trolls is actually enjoyable.

Bad Moms. "STX? Who dat?" "Mila Kunis leading? Okay." "Katherine Hahn? Oh, the crazy lady from Step Brothers. Yeah, sure." "Kristen Bell? I mean yeah she's cool, but whatever." Bad Moms could have easily fell on it's face like Hot Pursuit did, yet it ended up being the Bridesmaids of the year, grossing $113 million domestic on a modest $23 million opening, and a little over $170 million worldwide. What a surprise this movie's reception was. Next up: Bad Dads, Bad Aunts, Bad Siblings, and Bad Sleezy Uncle Who Always Asks Where You Got Your Shoes Then Asks You To Let Him Hold Some Money at the Family Dinner.

Purge: Election Year. Are we not tired of the Purge fad yet? Guess not. Election Year managed to become one of the rare threequels that increases over its predecessors. Universal keeps finding a way to reinvent the Purge concept, and it's showing at the box office.

Sausage Party. Sausage Party couldn't pass $100 million in the end, but it came close at $97 million. R-rated animation is rare. It's rare because it's super niche. Sausage Party was able to break out of the niche and have a respectable run. Sausage Party was met with some controversy and mixed WOM which may have been enough to halt the $100 million train, but for an R-rated animated movie about a foul-mouthed hot dog wiener with gloves, $97 million is more than successful.

Don't Breath. This movie had a quiet, yet leggy fall run, falling $1 million short of $90 million, and managing to gross another $20 million or more than similar recent horrors. Like the concept of the movie, Don't Breath's run was pretty quiet, but its staying power deserves attention.

Hell or Highwater. Only one movie could make West Texas look so cool, and it was this one. Hell or Highwater was a refreshing, intimate surprise and legged its way through the late-Summer. While it didn't put up blockbuster numbers, it definitely is one of the best movies of the year and succeeded in finding an audience.

10 Cloverfield Lane. This movie managed to make only $8 million less domestic than the original Cloverfield, even though it had no monster, no New York City (or any city for that matter), no found footage, no decapitated Statue of Liberty money shot, and no anticipation as no one knew it was coming until like a week before. That's a winner.

Lights Out. James Wan knows two things: horror, and how to keep the horror cheap. He did that with Lights Out and while its $67 million domestic gross isn't Earth shattering on its own, for a recent supernatural horror, that's pretty good. Add in overseas and you get a worldwide total of $148 million. The budget you ask? $4.9 million. That's a staggering ROI for Warner Brothers and Mr. Wan.

Losers:

Batman vs Superman. This movie should have blown past $400 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide with ease. And I mean ease. Grossing that is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but for the world's two most recognizable superheroes, in a time when superhero movies are at a zenith, in their first ever cinematic meeting? Yeah, it should've happened. Yet Warner Brothers meddled in the production and Zack Snyder delivered a mediocre product. This movie tried to do too much: introduce Batman, dig deeper into Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane (who again is too much of a plot convenience), shoehorn Wonder Woman, shoehorn Doomsday, dose down on an awful Luthor, while trying to be sleek, edgy, rough, polished, and sexy all at once. It didn't work.  What exactly was Holly Hunter's role again? Oh I totally forgot about the wheelchair guy. Ah, the jar of pee. Don't remember much about it other than that's a pretty gross metaphor.

BvS still grossed a respectable $330 million, but that's less than Guardians, which was an unknown property that was headlined by a talking raccoon. That's $5 million more than Suicide Squad. Even with 9 years of inflation, that's less than Spider-Man 3, which the internet is still making fun of. And that 27% RT score is unacceptable, no matter how you spin it. Batman, Superman, and the DC brand should be fine in the long run, and I'm sure Warner sold plenty of Batman bedspreads at Target, but you can't help but wonder what really could have been.

Allegiant. This franchise is so bad, it's getting tossed to TV. And not the good part of TV either. As far as I'm aware, no network has agreed to air it yet. Take this L, Lionsgate.

Sequels Trying to Recapture Magic. There's nothing wrong with sequels, but Hollywood is still doing them all wrong. Sequels are either coming out way too late, ala Zoolander 2, Independence Day Resurgence (20 years!), Bad Santa 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Greek Wedding 2, or we didn't need a sequel in the first place, ala Now You See Me 2, Neighbors 2, and Ride Along 2, and all those other sequels I just mentioned.

Jason Bourne posted a nice $162 million, but adjusted and unadjusted, it's a fall from grace. Star Trek's $158 million ranks 15th for the year, but it's still a hefty drop. X-Men Apocalypse lost its way. And Kung Fu Panda 3 didn't really make any headlines, even with the reveal of Po parents. While it's wrong to call these movies "losers" in terms of individual performance, they didn't manage to bring their respective franchises back to the spotlight.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. I know the internet thinks the first movie is horrid, but audiences obviously enjoyed it after it grossed a surprise $191 million in August 2014. Looks like audiences had short memory as the sequel dropped very harshly. Turtles 2 was only able to capture $82 million, a 57% drop from the first. As the wise Chris Tucker says "damn, he gonna be in Turtles 3."

Huntsman: Winters War. Either Kristen Stewart has a really good agent, or Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, and Emily Blunt have bad ones. Like the vast majority of 2016 sequels, Winters War couldn't capture any major and fell flat on it's face. $48 million with that budget, cast, and marketing? Ouch. That's a 69% drop, even worse than Turtles. At least no one's making fun of this movie like they should be.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Maybe my expectations were too high? Okay, they were, but look: this movie was coming off the heels of red hot modern war movies American Sniper, Lone Survivor, and Act of Valor. Also, this movie was releasing during Hillary Clinton's presidential run, where Benghazi had been a focal point. CNN, Fox News, Twitter, you name it, Americans were still demanding answer for Benghazi.

And to top it off, America lately has been its most patriotic since 9/11. Look at American Sniper and Lone Survivor, the kneeing controversy, political attitudes, and the election aftermath for proof. Plus, Michael Bay and explosions. So why couldn't 13 Hours capitalize on all of this? Well the 50% RT score didn't help, but 13 Hours still landed a 83% audience score regardless. Expecting an American Sniper 2 levels was too much, but with everything going for it, a $53 million total is just too, too low.

Zach and Zac. Our pal "Alan" shot into the A-list after The Hangover, suddenly becoming one of Hollywood's leading comedy men. The Hangover franchise, The Campaign, Due Date, Puss in Boots. He was suddenly left and right. Well 2016 was not kind as he suffered not one, but two cringe-worthy flops as a leading man with Masterminds and Keeping Up With The Joneses, which had the 8th worst opening ever for 3,000 screens. Are people sick of Galifiankis? Personally, I say no. I'm sure he'll provide a better Joker in Lego Batman than Leto could, and he'll be a part of A Wrinkle in Time which irons out next year. And hey, his "Between Two Ferns" with Hillary Clinton was still funny.

Efron was given three leading roles last year, and none of them made a dent in the box office. While Neighbors 2 isn't really on him, Dirty Grandpa and Mike and Dave were pretty come and go. Efron is obviously still a popular dude, and Baywatch should suit him much better, but he's still not making the noise you'd think he'd be capable to make.

Gods of Egypt. I honestly wanted to put this in "not full losers" (see below) since no one was expecting anything from this other than Lionsgate. Still, the budget was ridiculously high and this movie was ridiculously laughable. When your action-adventure is taken as a comedy, and when you spend $140 million on something that looks like it cost $60 million, well, you have to take a tub full of L's. So many L's, you could drown in them. More like "L-ionsgate."

Alice Through the Looking Glass. I know I already mentioned this, but I just had to highlight the fact that this movie dropped a whopping 77% from Wonderland. So for every 10 people that went to go see Wonderland, 7.7 of them didn't come back. That turnover rate is higher than Walmart's. And that's not sarcasm, I actually looked that up.

Sure Wonderland was 6 years old, was aided by 3D at its apex, and starred Johnny Depp before he went deep, but lord, 77% and a $257 domestic drop (we won't even mention worldwide)? That has to be a record. I'm calling it a record.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. Ah Billy Lynn, you thought you were gonna escape this. Nope. Billy Lynn was looking to be a major awards player, but that quickly faded during the festival circuit. Hype for Billy Lynn and the 120FPS format died, and a movie that was supposed to play out strong through the holidays, ended up with a botched released, the 25th worst opening for a film on over 1,000 screens, and a 76% second weekend drop. Billy Lynn has only grossed $1.7 million domestic. Maybe it should've been Billy Lynn's Standing National Anthem. Get it?...

Wide Release FlopsRules Don't Apply (6th), Morgan (8th), and Max Steele (14th) were pretty terrible all time openers for a movie in at least 2,000 theaters. Hardcore Henry had the 5th worst opening of all time for a movie in 3,000+ and probably did more harm than good in trying to start the "VR" genre. And The Bounce Back, whatever that is, had the 3rd worst ever opening in wide release aka 600 theaters. And while Green Room is supposedly good, we have to mention it, at number 16 and The Bronze at 13. So, yeah.

Birth of a Nation. I'm not going to dive into this one much other than it had potential, but that potential was pretty much squandered. It couldn't even beat a movie called Middle School that wasn't even appealing to current middle schoolers. Netflix dodged the biggest L of the year after they offered $20 million for it, but lost out.

Inferno. Inferno lost 74% of Angels and Demons' audinece, which had already lost 38% of Da Vinci Code's audience. Do the math and Inferno lost 84% of Da Vinci Code's audience in 10 years. And that's just unadjusted gross, not ticket sales. That's a capital L.

Mixed:

Ghostbusters. Let's be real, this movie was never given a fair chance. This movie was so alt-righted that we broke control Q. Did having an all female cast really hurt the gross? Probably not, but I don't think it helped either. Either way, the whole hoopla that this movie had to endure was ridiculous. In terms of success, I think we expected too much. Expectations were lofty because it had "Ghostbusters" in the name, but we forget the last Ghostbusters movie came out back in the 80's, which is a lot longer ago than it sounds like. Ghostbusters' $128 million pull is respectable, but the $229 worldwide pull is not. Ghostbusters came and went, and the feminists and meninists have finally stopped bludgeoning each other. Now this movie can finally rest in peace, until it's time for FX to exhume it out of the grave.

Passengers. Predictions were wayyy too lofty with this one, but even with Jennifer Lawrence's waning it-girl status, the combination of JLaw and Pratt, the release date, and the track record of recent sci-fi space movies, this movie could have cleared $150 million. I'm saying mixed because it's obvious reviews hurt it, plus Rogue One stole much of the sci-fi crowd. Passengers is still shaping up to have a decent run when it's all said and done, all things considered. And besides, this movie will definitely be overplayed on FX by 2019.

Faith based adaptions. While Miracles From Heaven was able to keep the Christian-targeted film train running with $61 million domestic, God's Not Dead 2 fell flat, only able to get $20 million in the collection plate - a 67% drop from God's Not Dead's $60 million haul in 2014. Risen also wasn't the next Passion, but to be fair, it was never in position to be.

Not full winners, but on the winning side:

Legend of Tarzan. Many movie buffs were rooting for this to fail, for whatever reason. Well, Tarzan stuck it to them. While still not a "box office success" thanks to its high budget, Tarzan played well throughout the summer with a surprising $126 million finish. Nothing earth shattering, but that's much more than the $40-70 million many were expecting this to leap into.

Sully. Hanks still has it. You'd think Sully was automatic to be successful with Hanks and Eastwood, but the Hudson River miracle didn't look that dramatic on paper, and Hanks didn't have any handicap he had to battle throughout the movie, unlike Denzel battling alcoholism, drug abuse, dead passengers, too many side characters, and lawsuits in Flight. Didn't matter. Sully had an impressive Fall run, and impressed audiences and critics alike.

The Angry Birds Movie. This movie was incredibly boring, incredibly stupid, and had pretty terrible legs for an animated kids movie, but!...it was still based on a smartphone app, and managed to pull in $350 million worldwide on a modest budget. There aren't many apps in the App Store that could do that. Maybe "Goat Simulator" and Tinder. That's about it.

The Shallows. I honestly can't put my finger on exactly why I think this belongs here. Maybe considering this could have easily been a laughable, MTV quality movie. Yet, it wasn't. The last 10 minutes alone were more thrilling than anything you'll ever see on Teen Mom. Okay the whole movie was. Blake Lively staring at sand > Teen Mom. While expectations for Shallows were modest, I think this movie still passed them in reviews, in delivery, and in box office. Plus $119 million worldwide on a $17 million budget. Cash out. 

Not full losers, but on the losing side:

The Girl on the Train. I had to put this here because it was clear this was expected to be the next Gone Girl by most everyone. And it seemed to be heading in that direction too before it derailed (come on, you knew a train pun was coming). Instead, a $75 million finish. Less than half of Gone Girl, but nonetheless, fine on its own.

Assassins Creed. I know you're thinking Assassin's Creed, or Ass Creed as the locals call it, should be in the full loser column, but, it's a video game movie, that directly adapted the video game. Even with that budget, what did we expect? The narrative is still alive and well. It's not a loser to me, because I was never expecting big things to begin with, but it's even farther from a winner because Fox couldn't help but make the same mistake yet again that studios continue to make with video game films. Now do you get why Mario is locked under ten feet of steel and poison gas?

Warcraft. Another movie where much shouldn't have been expected. Yeah the budget was huge and the studio went all out with the marketing, but we see this story every single year. Nothing new. The year before it was Jupiter Ascending. This year it's Valerian. At least Warcraft had China to help stop the bleeding.

Ben-Hur. It feels off to call this one a loser considering Paramount never really tried with it in the first place. Plus, this was so harmless. It was like a lady bug.

Storks. I just can't help but be disappointed at Storks' run. Only $72 million. Considering this was the year of talking animals - Finding Dory ($486 million), Secret Life of Pets ($368 million), Zootopia ($341 million), Sing (will finish over $200 million), Kung Fu Panda 3 ($143 million), and Angry Birds ($107 million), Storks pales in comparison. Plus, those cute babies. Come on, man. Ice Age 5 did worse, but...it's Ice Age 5.

Not a loser, but damn we get it:

Office Christmas Party. For how many times I had to sit through the TV, radio, and Spotify spots for this during the month of December, you would've thought this was going to be the next Force Awakens. Should've been, shouldn't it?.

Some 2017 movies to look out for:

Here are some movies releasing this year that could easily teeter into either column. Power Rangers, Wonder Woman, Kong: Skull Island, Justice League, The Mummy, Jumanji (already losing thanks to people crying over Karen Gillan's outfit), Baywatch, Dreamworks, King Arthur, Alien: Covenant, Saw: Legacy, Marvel, Snatched, and Dunkirk.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Talking Animal Takeover

   

     While diversity has become a pressing issue in pretty much every aspect of society today (America's changing demographics, inclusion on TV, #OscarsSoWhite, etc), it seems American moviegoers this year haven't demanded a diverse lineup and instead have slimmed down their genre preferences. 2016 has been an alright, albeit unusually top-heavy year at the box office. Yet when it comes to this year's box office, two genres have emerged as kings. Superhero movies and talking animal animation have single-handedly taken over domestic cinemas and studio receipt books.
     As of this post, the current #1 domestic movie is Finding Dory (talking animal). What occupies the #2? Captain America: Civil War (superhero). #3: The Secret Life of Pets (talking animal), #4: The Jungle Book (talking animal), #5: Deadpool (superhero), #6: Zootopia (talking animal), #7: Batman vs Superman (superhero), and #8: Suicide Squad (young adult book adaption...kidding, kidding, they're superhero...or anti-heroes?). #9 for now: Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), #10: Doctor Strange (superhero), Star Trek Beyond (science-fiction), #12: X-Men: Apocalypse (superhero), and last, but not least is Kung Fu Panda 3 at #13. 
     If you've lost track, that's talking animal, superhero, talking animal, talking animal, superhero, talking animal, superhero, superhero, Matt Damon, superhero, sci-fi, superhero, and talking animal.
  While we're finally done with superhero adaptions for the year, Disney's Moana and Illumination's Sing both have very solid chances to crack the top 10. 
     While the talking animal takeover has been generally stronger this year, not every film has passed the test. Scrat and the gang have long overstayed their welcome with Ice Age: Collision CourseTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 ended up netting $82 million over the summer, but that's a far cry from its 2014 predecessor's $191 million. One of the years biggest bombs was Alice Through the Looking Glass. While there's plenty of human characters, I'm pretty sure there's a talking rabbit somewhere in the movie. Nine Lives was released about 16 years too late. And Warner Brothers' Storks wasn't a bomb, but it's $70 million total could be seen as a momentum killer.
     While the abundance of superheroes and animals seem like overkill, it's actually not a far cry from 10 years ago. The 2006 top 11? Pirates, family fantasy, talking cars, superhero, Da Vinci Code, superhero, talking animal, talking animal, James Bond, homeless Will Smith, and talking animal. We've always had a fondness for talking animals and that doesn't seem to be disappearing anytime soon, but the superhero craze is now in full force. Every year, box office analysts and nerds predict that it's the year audiences grow tired, but every year tells us otherwise. Maybe 2017 really will be the year we grow tired. Or maybe the top 10 will again end up a hot potato between superheroes and talking dogs.
     It does make you wonder: if animals really could talk, what would be co-king at the box office with superheroes? Talking kitchen appliances? Hmm, it's possible.
     

Thursday, January 14, 2016

For Your "You Really Should Consider These" Consideration

     Every year there is a wave of great, deserving movies that seem to be left out by the awards guilds; mainly the Academy Awards. While 2015 was a solid year for film overall, the tides powering the wave of movies this season seem pretty weak. There will be some big players, such as The Big Short, Spotlight, and The Revenant, but this year still doesn't seem to stack up to past years. Here are nine movies that I personally feel won't get all the attention they deserve come nominations, but should, and why.

I wrote this article yesterday before the nominations were announced. They were announced today and even though some of these movies were nominated, I decided to keep them here anyway to show my argument.


     Creed. Michael (not) Jordan, Sly Stallone, and Tessa Thompson deliver knockout performances. Direction from Ryan Coogler is also deserving. The movie got the "real Philly" tone down to a tee, the boxing scenes were well choreographed and thrilling, soundtrack and cinematography was great, and there was always stakes. This movie was a 2 hour commercial for "you're not given it, you have to earn it" + end credits. Well, I think Creed earned it.

     Inside Out. Yes, I know, Inside Out is pretty much a lock for Best Animated Feature, but what about Best Feature period? The Academy is pretty rigid when it comes to animated movies in the best picture category, but if any animated movie deserves a slot, it's Inside Out. One of the best of the year, irregardless of medium. The screenplay was the Pixar gold standard. And while cinematography could seem tricky to deduce from animation, Inside Out was very imaginative, clever, and provided us with some moving and memorable shots. This has no chance of happening, but Amy Poehler for Best Actress? Her voice work as Joy was some of the best in a while. Honestly nominate the whole cast. What a cast. What a movie.

     Straight Outta Compton. With it's August release and hip hop subject matter, it'll be easy for Compton to be overlooked. One of my favorites of the year, Compton took everyone by surprise. This wasn't your typical BET-esque "black picture", no. And even if Kevin Hart, Tyler Perry, or Loretta Devine were in this, this movie still wouldn't be brought to that level. While the "industry rags to riches" story was pretty standard, the way it was done was very fresh and heartfelt. F Gary Gray did an amazing job in the directors chair. The movie really did have that 1990's South Central LA feel. Acting was superb all around, the soundtrack killed, writing was pretty sharp, and you can tell the cinematography had a budget.

     Dope. It was pretty easy to pass by Dope last summer and not notice. I didn't catch it until Redbox a couple months ago, but it really was a treat. Witty, irreverent, and they really put a fresh take on the "oops, I found drugs and now drug dealers are after me" storyline. Acting was solid, the screenplay had a nice beat, and the movie ultimately had heart. Dope won't have the same lobbying and backing the more star-studded and recent films will have, but it's a movie that will appreciate in value.

     Spy and Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation. A Melissa McCarthy movie? A modern Tom Cruise movie? Are you drunk? No, but this is a weak year, and these spy films were pretty strong and pretty fun. (Seriously, go watch).

     Ex Machina. This was a good film, but it didn't leave a lasting impression on me. Either way, I feel it's a film that could easily be overlooked because of its release date (which feels like eons ago).

     The Martian. It's become pretty standard now for October to produce a contender. Why not Martian? I didn't fall in love with Martian, but it's a good movie that would seem to be up the Academy's wheelhouse. The Academy is rigid with blockbusters, but Martian really isn't one. Yes it's made $600 million worldwide, but director Ridley Scott utilized the movie's smarts, strong acting and characters, brisk narrative, and beautiful imagery to get it there, not a bunch of random explosions and girls in bikinis. (Which wouldn't be too feasible on Mars).

      Mad Max: Fury Road. This is nowhere close to your standard Oscar film. Heck, this isn't your standard film period. Mad Max was a cinematic darling with breathtaking visuals and fast storytelling. Director George Miller deserves a lot of credit for keeping this project together and delivering the final product that he did. Yes, it's a May release, yes there's blow-em-up action, yes it's weird and usual, and no there isn't any scenes with Meryl Streep crying or Jennifer Lawrence stern, but Fury Road really is one of the best of the year and should be noticed as such.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Mission'...X?, X = No Limits?

    It's 2015 and we're now on the fifth Mission Impossible movie. That's right - fifth. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is the latest Tom Cruise vehicle in the action franchise. The first Mission Impossible was released in 1996, with follow ups in 2000, 2006, 2011, and this year. Five movies in a franchise seems redundant and unnecessary, right? Why can't Hollywood come up with fresher, original ideas? Why keep churning out Mission Impossible after Mission Impossible? Well, when it comes to certain franchises and the creative team in charge...does it really matter? Let's see.
     Eventhough it's the fifth movie in a near 20 year old franchise that stars a 53 year old, Rogue Nation has currently totaled near $160 million dollars domestic. Rogue Nation has held very well the past three weekends, and though its a stretch, $200 million is still in play, which would put Rogue Nation right behind 2011's Ghost Protocol. Rogue Nation is also making strides at the overseas box office with over $280 million so far.
     Not only is the box office solid, but Rogue Nation currently holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 233 reviews. Though it's not the most accurate or useful metric, the audience score for Rogue Nation sits at 91%. With these solid reviews and box office returns, it's quite obvious that people still aren't tired of the franchise. Mission Impossible 6 is reportedly already in the works over at Paramount (and judging by their current library, they need it). 
     Another franchise that seems to defy aging is the Fast and Furious franchise. Not only was Furious SEVEN a hit with critics, with 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is also the fifth highest grossing movie of all time. Yes, all time. Worldwide. Without 3D. We talk about how big the Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are, but no MCU movie, including both Avengers movies, have higher attendance than Furious 7. We're talking about a franchise that was relegated to near TV-movie status with Tokyo Drift (the third movie). Universal was about to give up on Fast, but they decided to keep going, and freshen up the franchise some how. Well they did. And it worked. No one is bothered that there is a "7" in front of "Furious." And no one seems to be bothered by the invisible "5" with Rogue Nation.
     Three used to be and sort of still is the magic number for franchises, but with today's growing international marketplace, technology, and synergy, studios are trying to pump out fours and fives and sixes. I'm not the biggest on sequels; I'd like to see more original or creative content, but when you think about it, maybe the number should be just that - a number. Even though Mission and Fast are aging, they still bring something new to the table that re-freshens the concept. Mission is more than "Tom Cruise dodging bad guys with self destructing messages" and Fast is more than "let's race and talk about family." I mean did you see Furious 7? Did you see the car go out of one skyscraper into the next skyscraper? Did you see the cars being dropped from the plane? Heck, in Fast 6 did you see the tank taking a Sunday drive down the highway? In Ghost Protocol, did you see Cruise scale the tallest building in the world? What was the last movie that you saw the main character hanging from a plane as it departs and ascends? It's spectacle like this that keeps these franchises going. If any franchise can keep bringing something new to the table, then it should not matter what number it is.
     Paranormal Activity is stale. Why? Because it's the same thing every movie, just a new household. Same old blue-scale posters, same old jump scares, same old Toby. It was fun the first couple of times, but now it's a retread. And adding 3D doesn't count. But if Paranormal Activity can bring something new and fresh, like Purge: Anarchy did, instead of being literally "Purge 2", then there is no problem with 10 Paranormal Activities. Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water brought something new to the table, and audiences showed up. Even though 10 years older, Sponge Out of Water managed to sell more tickets than The Spongebob Movie. And y'all said Spongebob was dead.
     So to conclude, I think Hollywood makes too many sequels, but at the same time, the number at the end of the title should not be a deterrent. If the studio can bring something new, fresh, and rejuvenating to the franchise, then I don't care if they make 10 of them. But when each new movie is a carbon copy of the first, you can expect diminishing returns and backlash. Don't make Iron Man 4 for the sake of it, and make it literally the same as Iron Man 1-3. Take Stark to space, give him a new color suit, heck let Tony Stark time travel back to Ancient Egypt, I don't know. Just don't give us the same-thing-over. Thanks. And a better villain next time.
     So don't fret when Fast 9 through 11 is announced, and don't moan and groan when Tom Cruise says he's returning for Mission Impossible 7. And we know eventually Star Wars will go into the double digits, but don't be too quick to panic. While right now it seems like too much, if we keep getting what we currently are, it may not be enough. Then again, there's still a chance of the franchises getting stale. Time will tell. Until then, enjoy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What The 'Emoji Movie' Idea Says About Priorities

   
 Yesterday, Sony Pictures announced plans to produce a movie based on the popular Emoji keyboard emoticons that make your Iphone feel naked if they're not installed. Emoji's consist of ideogram smileys, flags, families and couples, animals, everyday items and vehicles, and even a bomb, cigarette, bathtub, gun, and a smiling pile of poop. Oh and there's even a floppy disk. Yeah, I know, "what is a floppy disk?"
     How could Sony possibly develop a 90 minute long feature out of the emojis? To be completely honest with you, I have no clue. I don't think Sony does either. I know everyone said "how could they possibly make a movie out of Lego and Need For Speed?", but...come on, that's not the same thing. Other weird concepts that have been announced lately include a Play Doh movie, Hello Kitty, Minecraft, Cut the Rope Movie, Monopoly, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Temple Run, a "Robin Hood Cinematic Universe", the 70s TV show "Good Times", 5 Nights at Freddie's (this has potential): it seems Hollywood is latching onto any fad harder than ever. Like an octopus that latches onto you, and you just can't shake it off, so you just go ahead and go about your day with it. That's how this feels.
     Even if Sony did find a worthy pitch, this is not something that should be happening. Latching onto a fad is one thing, but a ideogram keyboard with a smiling pile of poop? I would rather a Bed Bath and Beyond movie, a movie based on Nutella, a Lucky Charms movie, even a movie based on Little Rock, Arkansas. What is in Little Rock worth making a movie about? Exactly. But no, no Little Rock movie, no Nutella movie, instead we get an emoji movie.
     Honestly, Sony should be embarrassed with this emoji announcement. While emojis are obviously popular, the average person will tell you that trying to adapt them into any kind of media is dumb. No one is going "yesss! An emoji movie! I'm so happy, screw Star Wars!" The general reaction is more like "lmao, I can't with this." Sony got no one excited by this news, but rather just invited a barrage of laughs and Nick Young question mark memes
     The point of an announcement is to drum up excitement. I remember the moments I found about a new Star Wars trilogy, Ben Affleck playing Batman, Marvel's upcoming MCU schedule, and even when Finding Dory was announced. How is this emoji reveal drumming up excitement? It's not. It's instead drumming up confusion and mockery. If no one is excited, but instead mocking this announcement, what does that say about the movies prospects? To be fair, The Lego Movie was mocked by some when it was first announced, but at least that was already a tangible franchise, and it wasn't made aware that the movie would be based on an anthropomorphic Lego figure, and not the actual Lego bricks that we would step on as kids. Emoji is different because its a cell phone keyboard with no history or appeal other than use in text messages.
     The offensive thing about this announcement is not necessarily that we're getting a emoji movie, but that this announcement is an assault and insult on creativity. Dozens of great scripts from dozens of great screenwriters are turned away everyday in Hollywood. Plenty of new, independent writers writing Oscar-caliber scripts, scripts with fresh, new concepts, and scripts that have the potential to take audiences new places. But those eager and hopeful screenwriters are shot down. Hundreds of scripts on the "Black List" website alone that Sony could pull from, but instead they decide on emojis.
     As a screenwriter who has currently written 5 film scripts, 3 separate television shows with multiple completed episodes, a skit, commercials, and over a dozen other ideas currently on my hard drive and cloud storage, I have big aspirations. I'm willing to make the over 2,000-mile journey from the east coast to the west coast to test the waters and try to achieve my goals. And I know I'll get more "no" than "yes", but it's upsetting to know that a Hollywood studio will be turning down my new idea, while at the same time trying to figure out how to make a movie about Snapchat, the "Deez Nuts" guy, or the Goat Simulator game. I wish there was more balancing. A more welcoming atmosphere for novice screenwriters to showcase their talent, while we find new IP's to adapt. Maybe there is? I've haven't been to Los Angeles yet, so I can't speak from experience, but the past decade, it seems the majority focus has shifted to studio-generated adaption. It's amazing a completed Wonder Woman script can sit on the shelf for a decade, but we fast track an emoji script.
     Bottom line is Hollywood is an industry. Movie making is a business. In order to keep businesses open, you need customers, who bring money. The sad truth is a Play Doh movie and Temple Run movie are more guaranteed to make money than a random script off the "Black List." I can't completely fault Hollywood. They have to make what's profitable and sustainable. We can hate the overabundance of sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes all we want, but as long as people keep going to them, they're going to keep getting made. That's bottom line. If I'm given the opportunity to write a sequel, prequel, reboot, or remake, I'm not going to say "are you kidding me? Take that offer elsewhere Warner Brothers!" I'd definitely take the deal if its meaningful (Play Doh Movie 2?), but I just hope my original content turns heads as well.
     But listen up, Hollywood. Yes, there is plenty of established properties that are ripe for a movie and that have potential, but you need to know your limit. Just because it is popular does not mean it is a good idea. Emoji's are popular, but they're not Angry Birds type of "popular." This is probably the worst idea proposed this year, but that's the business. I will say, if we're going to make an emoji movie, the smiling poop and the woman fluffing her hair better be the main characters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

'Force Awakens': Is the Stars the Limit?

   
     5 months. Just 5 more months before the force is awakened. That's right, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, aka Star Wars Episode VII is just 5 months away, releasing domestically December 18, 2015. A franchise with one of the most passionate fan bases: hopes, dreams, and expectations are high for Force Awakens. And so is the box office possibilities.
     Before May 1st, the battle for the #1 crown seemed to be between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Force Awakens, but after Ultron's diminishing returns were realized, Force Awakens instantly looked like the early favorite for #1. Once June 14th and Jurassic World's $209 million opening rolled around, the competition for #1 ramped back up and now seems to be between Jurassic and Force. Jurassic is currently at $612 million and counting, and should end in its dino-sized run in the lower-mid $600's. Can Force top that? To be honest, I have no clue. While box office nerds can throw around their $400-$800+ millon figures all they want, no one honestly has a clue where this movie can and will land. Star Wars: Force Awakens may be one of the hardest movies ever to predict, and here is why.
     You may or may not notice, but the Star Wars brand has found a new owner. The Mouse House. 20th Century Fox were the distributors of the previous Star Wars films, but after the purchase by Disney in 2012, all future Star Wars titles will go through them. It's not even a competition: the marketing for Force Awakens will be much broader and dazzling than Revenge of the Sith and co. Disney does not hesitate to spend marketing dollars, and their corporate synergy can only help. Another advantage Force Awakens has over previous Star Wars movies is the advent of social media. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, and whatever they have in China in 2005. There was Youtube, but it was in its infancy and was mainly just a website of amateur videos of babies biting their siblings. Advertisements and footage for Force Awakens will spread over the web like wildfire, adding fuel to the fire called "hype." You won't only see Force Awakens content on social media sites, but they will definitely play a big role in getting the general public excited.
     Another thing that Force Awakens is doing that many franchises haven't done is bring back the old cast. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill will be returning, as well as Chewy, R2D2, and C3PO (my favorite), and other characters and locations from the original trilogy. Bringing back the original gang, locations, and even music adds nostalgia to this movie, and many people who saw the originals in the 70s and 80s that may have been considering skipping Force Awakens, may now be inclined to get back on board. The Han/Chewy relationship and C3PO sass is worth admission alone. It's confirmed nostalgia is added, but how much will this effect gross? Sith didn't have nostalgia, and Phantom Menace really only had the nostalgia of being "a new Star Wars 16 years later." Force is in good position here.
     Solid points, but the biggest factor that is preventing anyone from giving a concrete prediction for Force Awakens is the fact that today's box office climate is nothing like before. Force Awakens in 2015 is in a completely different box office world than Revenge of the Sith in 2005, just 10 years ago. Not only has 3D invaded and IMAX became mainstream, but overseas markets have exploded. China, India, Russia, Brazil, the list goes on. For example, in 2010, Iron Man 2 grosses a healthy $623 million. Just 3 years later, Iron Man 3 pulled in $1.2 billion, good enough for #5 all time. In just TWO short years, Iron Man 3 has already fallen to #9. Fast Five shocked the world with $626 million in 2011, and Furious 6 improved on it with $788 million. Bring in Furious 7, just two years later...$1.5 billion. One of the best examples is the Transformers series. 48% of Transformers 2's take came from domestic audiences. Bring on Transformers 4, just 5 years later and domestic grosses only accounted for 22% of the box office. Just like Furious 7, Transformers 4's gross in China alone was bigger than the US/Canada.
     For that reason alone, predicting Force is impossible. It's hard to gauge how interested American audiences still are, but its even harder to gauge how interested overseas audiences have become, especially in Asia, where box office has grown the fastest in the last few years. In this series, we have 6 movies for precedent, but just like Force Awakens, the original trilogy was in a different box office climate than the prequels. There was no $12 ticket prices, Netflix, piracy, HD, and movies weren't going on home video just 3 months later. It's easy for someone in today's climate to say "I can wait a few months. It'll be cheaper." But then again, this is a movie 32 years in the making. Do people really want to miss out on this event? Another factor is the fact that Force Awakens will be released in December, which behaves differently than May. With May, school and work is still in session, so most people have to wait for the weekends. With Force Awakens' December 18 date, Christmas break will be beginning for most. Instead of moviegoers rushing out for Thursday previews and Friday evening, there will be plenty of time for people to do Christmas shopping and see Force Awakens throughout the next couple weeks. With the holiday weekdays, add in the lack of blockbuster competition and Force Awakens could be in for a forcible gross. 
     The general consensus on Phantom Menace, 16 years later, is "it sucks", but that didn't stop it from selling over 80 million tickets. Even if Force Awakens "sucks", the sheer giddyness of having a new Star Wars in theaters when we weren't even supposed to (Sith was "supposed" to be the last), should keep fans blinded long enough to keep Force Awakens from suffering too hard. But if Force Awakens is seen as just "good", possibilities are then endless. Look at Jurassic World for instance. An "okay" movie, but still steamrolling the box office. "Crap", "meh", "good"...but what if Force Awakens is "great?" Oh boy. 
     Over $1 billion for Force Awakens is a given, but is $1.5 billion a given as well? Is $2 billion on the table? Or should Iron Man 3's $1.2 billion be a good target? Only time will tell, but until then, no prediction is wrong or right.
     As of now, I could see Force Awakens doing $600 million and at least $1.2 billion. After Jurassic World, and looking at past Star Wars history, $500 sounds too low, but $700 sounds too high. After the D23 Expo, and once the marketing blitz starts up, we'll have better idea, but for now, just sit back and enjoy the uncertainty. Oh, and be excited (and thankful) that we're getting another Star Wars movie with C3PO in it, and Jar Jar not.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Is 'Interstellar' The Next Big Discovery?

     Recently, astronomers and scientists have discovered an asteroid with rings, new moons orbiting Pluto, extrasolar planets, a star that is 13.6 billion years old, and the God particle. But there's another potential discovery that could be bigger than all: Interstellar. 
     As important as directors are, most are still unknown to the general public. Spielberg, Tarantino, Bay, Emmerich, Zemeckis, and Burton arguably help form the league of A-list directors, but one visionary has skyrocketed into a household name in recent years as well: Christopher Nolan. Thanks to the massively successful Dark Knight trilogy, and Inception, Christopher Nolan is now a huge deal. Not only are his movies success stories, they're also good. No movie he has directed has received a "rotten" tag on Rotten Tomatoes, and The Dark Knight is considered one of the best superhero movies of all time, and was the highest grossing for 4 years. But this isn't about Christopher Nolan, it's about his new project, and why it could be the next big thing in cinema, astrophysics, and life.
     Interstellar has been in development since 2006, and it's so ambitious that Paramount, Warner Bros, Legendary, and Synocopy have teamed up to finance and distribute it. Interstellar tells the simple story of a widow living on a dying Earth, who partners with a team of scientists to find new habitable worlds after they discover a wormhole. There's a couple reasons why that simple story could be the years biggest.
     In Interstellar, the Earth has been depleted of natural resources and agriculture. Mainly corn. No more corn means no more gas, cosmetics, hand soap, tires, Windex, toothpaste, aspirin, spark plugs, plastics, diapers, and corn chips ala Doritos, Cheetos, and Fritos. How can we survive on Earth without any of these products? Especially the Doritos? Can you really imagine traveling to Walmart, Target, Kmart, CVS, Publix, Kroger, and every vending machine in the world and not being able to find a single bag of Doritos? You'd die. In Interstellar, they don't want that to happen so they have to find alternatives, and thanks to the wormhole discovery, they're able to transcend space in a fraction of the time it would take without it. Matter of fact, without the wormhole, they would die before they got out of our solar system. Fascinating!
     Plenty of innovative movies have been set in space such as Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Gravity, and even though they provide inspiration, Interstellar is something not yet seen. Gravity was innovative in letting audiences feel what its like to orbit the Earth (minus the G's), but didn't go any further into space, 2001 was made before modern CG technology, and Star Wars and Trek are space operas. Interstellar is using real space travel, physics, and reality concepts, and with todays CG technology, Interstellar should be unlike anything we've seen. Gravity stayed contained with Earth's orbit, yet looked breath-takingly real; imagine Interstellar, that's going even further into the cosmos. We've seen time and time before that audiences love innovation and originality. In a sea of sequels, reboots, and remakes, original movies are a gasp of fresh air. If Interstellar's marketing can distinguish itself as that, it'll have no problem bringing in audiences. Much of movie was also filmed in IMAX, so that just adds to experience.
     The cast is also an A. Matthew McConaughey headlines, and he's hot off winning his first Oscar, and has lately been delivering acclaimed role after acclaimed role. Interstellar also stars Anne Hathaway, who won an Oscar a few years ago and is a household name, Jessica Chastain, whos been nominated 2 times since 2011, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Matt Damon, and the legendary Michael Caine, among others. All you're missing is Morgan Freeman and Marion Cotillard. Now a star-studded, Oscar-heavy cast doesn't always guarantee butts in the seats, see: The Counselor, but it doesn't help if your movie is also ebola of cinema. When you combine a good movie with a good cast, great things usually happen. See: American Hustle. Expect it here as well. 
     The fact that this is a Christopher Nolan movie also raises potential - and expectations. Because of Nolan's recent success, high-quality product is expected of him, and fanboys worry if this ambitious product could be an ambitious bust. But by what I've seen and heard so far of Interstellar, I think there's a better chance of Chipotle switching to an all-seafood menu, than Interstellar being a  fail.  Inception opened in 2010, featured an all-star cast, and an innovative concept, and went on to shock everyone and gross $825 million worldwide. A similar situation could be in store for Interstellar, but Nolan's name alone won't get it there. Warner and Paramount have to hook audiences with their marketing. Highlight the emotion, but dazzle us with shots of sexy Saturn. But, at the same time, Nolan's name will produce an awareness boost that a typical director doesn't have the luxury of.
      Marketing so far has been hot. TV spots have been airing since September, trailers have been well viewed online and in theaters, IMAX is being highlighted, and they're letting audiences know this is sort of Gravity Plus. Awarness is high, tracking is solid, and they show Saturn in every clip. All these factors can only help.
     Interstellar also has a prime release date: holiday season and Oscar season. It will have the Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, and Christmas season to buoy the gross. Interstellar will have to deal with the typical adult-targeting Oscar-hopeful competition, and there looks to be some good ones this year, but Interstellar still can set itself apart from the rest thanks to its concept.
    For it's budget, Interstellar is also putting emotion alongside spectacle, instead of giving it the backseat, which blockbusters typically tend to do. It's not just females that like emotion, we all do, since emotions is something we all feel every day. Having to leave your family behind to go transcend space? Having to deal with elements and worlds never before set foot on? Having to deal with the possible ending of the world? A world without Doritos? Yeah, this movie is gonna be hard-hitting. Even though it's a movie with wormholes and dried-up crops, it still has a human element, which is key.
    Early buzz has been good for Interstellar. Some critics and early viewers have gone as far as saying this movie will be one remembered for generations, like Jurassic Park, Jaws, and Forrest Gump. That's likely hyperbole, it's still pretty early, but the stars are still aligning for this to be a critical darling. Interstellar, though a blockbuster tentpole, will still rely on word-of-mouth to get the audiences coming. There's some big name stars and a big name director, but it's still not based on existing material, and the concept is still not a normal one. I personally believe Interstellar will open 60 million, but I think it's legs will chug on into the holidays. IMAX will be Interstellar's top hook to keep people coming through the fall.
    Interstellar may not be the "generational" event that some are hyping, but it should still be nothing short of (inter) stellar. Pun intended. Much of the movie was filmed with real IMAX cameras, and Warner Brothers has secured an exclusive IMAX deal, so that'll hopefully loft grosses for the studio, and put the audience in an immersive experience we may have never seen before on screen in modern times. It's still hard to predict this movie. It could finish with $250 million domestic and $800 million worldwide, or $150 million domestic and $400 million worldwide, or $400 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide, we just don't know.
    Either way, Interstellar looks to be shaping up to be a big discovery: a discovery for moviegoers and cinema. A reason why we go to the movies. Hollywood is not a fan of taking risks, but they took one here, and it as of now looks very well looks to be paying off. Let's see if it can be sustained. Interstellar starts next month. Order your tickets and stockpile your Doritos. Stay tuned to the news, because a new big discovery may have been made, and you don't want to miss it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How 'Guardians' and 'Turtles' Have Changed Us

      On August 1, we were introduced to Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. On August 1, we were also introduced to a new way the Hollywood scheduling game will be played. Before the release, even days before, people were skeptical of Guardians' potential. "Marvel's first flop?" "Will audiences connect with the characters?" "Will Guardians damage the Marvel brand?" "Are the characters too silly?" All these and more were asked until Guardians' midnight numbers rolled in. Groot and co. ended up grossing $94.3 million over the weekend: beating the undoubtedly more popular Spiderman and X-Men and falling only $1 million behind Captain America, which already opened to a surprising high. Yeah, so what, right? Plenty of movies have already opened to $94 million or higher: 31 to be exact, so why is Guardians so special? Well because Guardians, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have changed the game for the future.
     What makes Guardians' $94 million opening so impressive, other than it was it an original and unknown franchise, was that it did it in August. August in the past has mainly been seen as a dumping ground for Hollywood movies that were too good for September, but not sexy enough for the prime out-of-school days. Before Guardians, the highest opening for August was Bourne Ultimatum with $69 million. Even with inflation, it falls short of Guardians. Next up was 2001's Rush Hour 2 with $67 million. In terms of attendance, Rush Hour 2 still holds the crown. But that doesn't diminish Guardians' success. What's even more impressive is that a little, already hated by the internet movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was able to post the 4th best August opening of all time with $65.5 million the next weekend. Back-to-back weekends of over $170 million from the top 12 movies. No one saw it coming. This August is the first to gross $1 billion in sales, and saved summer 2014 from being a complete disaster. It was still a disaster, but not complete! This is also the first time in the modern era that August has beaten July, and that an August movie has finished #1 for the summer. 
     Guardians and Turtles have shown that you can still have a blockbuster opening in August; and not only opening, but also legs. Guardians, Turtles, Let's Be Cops, and other releases last month have been legging it out better than most of the bulimic May-July releases. Guardians is already the highest grossing movie of the year and will eventually reach $300 million. Turtles still has a shot at $200 million, and Let's Be Cops had a soft opening, but will finish higher than other higher-profile summer comedies Sex Tape, A Million Ways to Die, Blended, and Think Like A Man 2. Already, studios are starting to flood August 2015, '16, '17 and beyond will higher profile movies. The previous problem has been studios trying to cram everything in May-July, mainly May, but thanks to the success of Guardians and Turtles, August has been given new hope.
     Guardians' success also means more assemble movies, and Turtles' means more 80 and 90's nostalgia. Guardians gave Marvel new confidence, and now they have announced Inhumans. Sony has now put Sinister Six back on track, and Fox has something up their sleeve with their Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises. Warner may also be exploring the possibilities of assembles outside of Justice League. Del Toro's dreamed Justice League Dark could also possibly get off the ground. Turtles, that Saved By the Bell special, a Full House revival: the 80's and 90's is about to take back over, and deservedly so. But thanks the success of Turtles, one 90's franchise has just struck a July 2016 date: Power Rangers. That's right, they're bringing back Power Rangers. The possible reboot had been announced before Turtles was released, but after Hollywood saw decades-old Turtles shocking success, Lionsgate quickly found a date. With so many great things to come out of the 90's, don't be surprised to soon hear more announcements. Animaniacs? Doug? Seinfeld: The S#8t They Didn't Show? We'll see.
     October and April have also been seeing massive success lately, and March is now a certified powerhouse month, so hopefully this will lead to movies being more spread out in the future. One of the most shocking date announcements is Batman vs Superman being released in March, instead of the traditional summer. This movie is arguably the most anticipated of 2016, and is with Avengers 2  for near future movies, but it just screamed summer. But, this is a good thing. Warner Brothers has confidence that people will still see the two most popular heros, no matter the month, and they're correct. Does this mean the end of the summer season and beginning of the spread out 12-month fiscal year? No. Summer's still crammed, and for the most part, any movie with a budget of $150 million or higher is still finding home there, but it does mean that thanks to some newfound confidence, and breakout movies, these films will have more room to breathe. What if Guardians had underperformed, or even performed at expectations? What if Turtles had flopped like the internet was waiting for, or what if it had a modest, typical opening of $30-40 million? Hollywood still hasn't completely learned their lesson, and August may still stay 2nd-tier for a while, but Guardians and Turtles have broken some stigmas and given the studios confidence, showing they had a bigger impact other than their numbers on the 2014 box office calendar.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why 'Frozen' Has Put Us In A New Ice Age

     Are you tired of "Let it Go"? Too bad. You haven't seen Frozen yet? You live under a rock. What is your girlfriend, kid, and maybe even boyfriend going to dress as for Halloween? Elsa. Frozen and its associates have taken the world by storm. If you tell someone that Frozen is the biggest animated phenomenon since 2004, they may laugh at you, but it's true.
     What was that 2004 phenom? Shrek 2. Even ten years later, Shrek 2 remains the highest grossing animated film domestically at $441 million. Adjusted, Shrek 2 raked in $565 million - without 3D, making Shrek 2 likely the 2nd or 3rd biggest film of the 2000's decade. Ten years later, it's Frozen's turn. Frozen is the biggest animated movie since 2010's Toy Story 3. Frozen won't pass the domestic gross of TS3, but it doesn't need to to solidify its cultural status.
     While Toy Story 3 was the biggest animated movie in six years, it didn't have the impact that Frozen has had. Toy Story 3 had the luxury of 1 and 2 and was mainly huge in theaters, video, and merchandising. Frozen is not a sequel with 15 years of built-up goodwill, and has a few more categories that it gets to claim. From its stratospheric box office gross to its two Oscar wins to its staggering Youtube views, you just can't stop the Elsa blizzard. Looks like you just gotta freeze.
     Soundtrack. Frozen's soundtrack is pulling an Adele. It is the longest running #1 animated soundtrack in history and has been #1 on the Billboard 200 for 10 non-consecutive weeks, and shows no signs of slowing down soon. "Let it Go" has also peaked at #5 on the Billboard 100. Youtube. Frozen is a viral sensation. Firefighters, little girls, college students, violinists, soccer moms, African tribes, choirs, parody makers, celebrities, news anchors, and maybe even prisoners have been caught singing "Let It Go" and have made covers. The official "Let It Go" video has nearly 200 million views, the sing-a-long adds another 50 million, and the Demi Lovato version nets 137 million. Altogether, videos about "Let it Go" alone have generated over 500 million views. Just "Let it Go". Still not on the level of "Gangnam Style", but what other movie has pulled 500 million views and hundreds of covers for one song? None. Just Frozen.
     Home video. Frozen sold 3.2 million DVD's and Blu-rays in its first day of release; something that hasn't been done in a decade. For comparison, Toy Story 3 sold 3.8 million in its first week. The digital download is also the fastest selling of all time. Merchandise. Frozen's merchandising potential is seemingly unlimited. Who does synergy better than Disney? Furniture, plush toys, dolls, apparel, school supplies, snacks, Frozen on Ice, Frozen on Broadway, Lego Frozen, Disney Channel and ABC, Disney World and Disneyland appearances, games and apps, soundtracks, animated shorts, Olaf Christmas specials, costumes, it just doesn't end. The Anna and Elsa costumes will undoubtedly be the #1 costumes this upcoming Halloween, whether you're 6 or 26. There have also been reports of parents shelling out hundreds on Ebay for sold-out Frozen dolls to give to their daughters. Disney is trying it's best to keep Disney Stores stocked. Frozen merchandise sales are poised to surpass ticket sales (if it hasn't already).
     Even cosplay, fan-fiction, and conspiracy theories are becoming Frozen obsessive. If you didn't know, children don't really participate in those, so this shows how teens, young adults, and adults are embracing it as well. Was Olaf responsible for Stonehenge? Is Anna rigging the NBA? Is Elsa melting glaciers? Somewhere, someone thinks so.
     Lastly, the box office. Back in October, the average prediction for Frozen was $200 million domestic and $400 million overseas. Turns out...everyone was wrong. Frozen is now the highest grossing animated movie of all time worldwide and #6 overall. It is currently sitting at $1.2 billion, with Asia being a huge surprise contributor. South Korea, China, and Japan all gave Frozen a surprisingly warm welcome (no pun intended). Any day now, Frozen will cross $400 million domestic, becoming the 19th overall and 4th animated movie ever to do so. Frozen is also the 2nd biggest PG-rated movie ever, the 7th biggest overall of this decade so far, and the 2nd biggest animated of the 2010's so far, in North America. No one saw this coming, and the way Frozen was able to survive in mainstream theaters for five months (in dollar theaters now) shows how amazing of a reception the movie has received. 
     When I saw Frozen in theaters, a little girl walked in wearing Elsa's snow dress. I have never seen someone dress up to a movie before (I don't do midnights) and it was very aww-ing. That same girl also sang along. This has to have happened all across the country. I've overheard many people talking about Frozen in conversations and friends have asked me about it.
     If you think Frozen's pop-cultural impact is overrated, you're in a small, small, small minority. From 6 year old girls to 50 year old male news anchors, people just can't let go of Frozen. We haven't seen an animated movie phenomenon like this in a decade and Frozen deserves it all. There have even been reports that Anna and Elsa are soon going to be inducted into the Disney Princesses. Is there a Frozen 2 on the horizon? Many fans actually don't want a sequel because they don't want the charm of the original to be ruined, but when Frozen 2 is announced, it will be welcomed with open arms anyway. If it is not released in 2016, which is pretty likely it's not, don't expect it before 2018 based on Disney's current schedule. No telling when the Frozen train will slow down, but it's good to see the world coming together for something like this. Like Shrek, Pixar, and Despicable Me, Frozen had the perfect formula to make it happen. Now let's make like Olaf and bring back Summer, because the cold weather has to go.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Game of Hollywood Chicken 2

    I didn't think I'd have to write another one of these for a while, but here I am, writing another. And who better it involve than Warner Bros and Disney? It's not often that you see films targeting the same demographics open on the same day, but it does happen. Last year we had Furious 6 and Hangover 3. One prevailed, while the other obviously suffered. Now that that battle is over, another "foot" measuring contest has begun in Hollywood. Captain America 3 and Batman vs Superman (neither titles are official) are currently both set to bow on May 6, 2016. No, don't reach for your glasses, and no don't refresh the page, you read correct. Two superhero movies are currently playing chicken. They're not a week apart, even 2 days apart, no they're on the same damn day.
      In my opinion, both studios have a right to claim this spot, but then again they don't. "Marvel untitled film" was put in the spot last year, but Warner Brothers put an actual movie there first. So who stays? Currently, both studios say they're not backing down. The Marvelites argue that Cap should get the rightful spot because "Marvel was there first", but why didn't they just announce a movie there to begin with? This eeny-meeny-miny-moe culture with studios and dates is ridiculous. There's an "untitled Fox/Dreamworks/Blue Sky animation" set for December 21, 2018. WHY? Release dates are competitive, but you can't just slap your untitled and unconfirmed movie anywhere and call it your weekend. No. But at the same time, why is Warner Bros even making this a thing? A Marvel film has opened the first weekend of May every year since 2002, excluding '04-'06 . Warner has never released a DC Comics film in May, so why start now? June and July have been goldmines for WB and DC. To movie buffs, the 3rd Friday in July is "WB day", as they always release a tent-pole on that weekend. So why choose May? Why choose "Marvel day"?
     This date war is pretty amusing, considering both studios have so much to lose. Neither film is invincible. While Winter Soldier and Avengers 2 will propel Cap's popularity even further by the time Cap 3 comes around, Batman vs Superman seems like more of the event film. Fans have been waiting for these two heroes to share screen time since the invention of the wheel. Batman vs Superman will also include Wonder Woman for the first time, and will serve as the precursor to Justice League. The potential here is huge, maybe $400+ million domestic huge, and Cap's goodwill shouldn't be able to match it. At the same time, even though it may not be as big as BvS's, Cap 3 will have an audience. If these films stay in the same date, Cap 3 will put a dent in Batman vs Superman. Man of Steel was a mixed bag in reception and BvS will have to deal with a rebooted Batman universe, while Winter Soldier's word-of-mouth and reviews have been stellar. If Avengers 2 lives up to the hype, and "Avengers effect" keeps growing, then Cap 3 could cause even more damage than BvS would cause.
     Hardcore fans have also seemed to be pleased with most everything Marvel has been doing so far with Cap, Avengers and the MCU, while Man of Steel and BvS got and have been getting mixed receptions with the castings of Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, director Zack Snyder, and how WB has been handling their DC properties lately. (You watch the CW, right? Just check your TV guide, it's there somewhere.)
     WB has found success in mid-summer and Winter Soldier proved that Marvel can open big in April or anywhere (and no, April is not "summer" now, please stop with this). What if Warner gave the spot up to Disney, but then opened Batman vs Superman a week after Cap 3? What if Cap 3 just took April again? What if both left May? What if both just leave 2016 and never come out? Eh, okay.
     I'm personally excited for both movies and I think both have potential for $300 million or more domestic and $800 million worldwide, so what's the best solution? Initially, I felt that Warner should just give the date up and move to July 22, 2016, but they have now scheduled King Arthur for that date. The King is no match for the Bat, but I don't see WB shifting that unless production problems arise. No, DC-ers, I don't want BvS to move because Cap 3 will be "better" or "more hyped" or whatever, but because that date was wide open, and it's successful for WB. That July date would've provided BvS with less competition as late-July and August are weaker than May and early-June, so putting unknown King Arthur there instead is a dumb move, in my opinion. The first Captain America opened in July, so it's possible that Cap 3 just goes there as well and lets BvS take on that (eventually) crowded May schedule, but another, surprise surprise, "Marvel untitled" is currently sitting at July 8. That could be moved, but chances again are low. Spring could really work for Cap 3, which would make Cap 3 the event movie of the Spring, and allow Disney a head start on the Superman/Batman, Spiderman, and X-Men competition. November 2016 is also a possibility for either film, but December is not. A long, and I mean long, awaited film called Avatar 2 will be hitting a theater near you. Even though the Holiday season can provide great legs, the likelihood of either movie opening that far out is very slim. 12 months in the year is just not enough apparently.
     Ironically, this same thing is happening with How to Train Your Dragon 3 and Finding Dory for June 17, 2016, but we'll save that for another day. So, is it likely that Cap and Supes will still be opening on May 6, 2016 come May 5, 2016? No, very unlikely, but stranger things have happened and studios can be stubborn, and I'd imagine Disney and Warner will keep on driving towards each other for as long as possible until one finally takes that swerve of faith, which may be next week, or next year, or maybe never. No matter what happens, just make sure you have no plans for May 6, 2016. You will see what Clark did, you will join them in the Sun, or you will "hail Hydra!"
    

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why The 'Winter Soldier' Makes Marvel A Winner

      Let me start by saying Captain America: The First Avenger sucks. I didn't like it. I don't know why; it seemed like it had heart, but I just loathe it. I was not sold on the character of Captain America, though I do like Chris Evans in the role. Marvel's Avengers brought Cap back, and though I thought he was solid in it and brought team unity, he was nowhere as exciting as Iron Man and Hulk. Here comes Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it didn't look like Captain America 2, it looked like SHIELD: The Captain America Story. This concerned me. SHIELD was the least exciting thing about Avengers, they have a show on ABC that I don't watch, and I just didn't care to see them yet again so prominently. Well, I'll say again,  I did not enjoy the first Captain America. As it turns out, that was not same for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Honestly, it didn't even come close.
     Winter Soldier follows the life and times of Captain America/Steve Rogers, Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, Nick Fury/Nick Fury, and ya boy SHIELD after the attack on New York. Steve is doing fine, Natasha is doing fine, Nick is doing fine, and SHIELD is kicking tail better than ever. Steve has also made a new friend - Sam Wilson aka Falcon. After a mission on an oil tanker (like Captain Phillips with high tech weapons), it is revealed that SHIELD has been compromised. Steve and Natasha get framed and have to go on the run. When they figure out who is really controlling SHIELD and what their plans are, Steve, Natasha, Sam, and a couple other "trustworthies" must try to stop them. Oh, and there's also another small obstacle getting in their way - Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier. Bucky is a longtime friend of Steve, but parishes in the first Captain America. When Steve was recovered by SHIELD, it turns out Bucky was recovered by another significant group of people. He's been brainwashed and altered, and the only thing that goes through his brain is "kill my target". Steve and Bucky run into each other, and not in a normal way, and what follows is great characterization and stylized knife fights.
     I loved most aspects of Winter Soldier, so I'll start by saying the few things I didn't. The early parts of the movie, even though it does a good job at establishing characters, is still pretty slow. The first action sequence on the ship felt like a low-rent episode of 24. The Falcon didn't add much to the movie. This bothered me the most, considering I was really anticipating him. It was good to finally see another super-suited minority hero in the MCU (after War Machine/Rhodey), but he was severely underused. I liked Sam; he was funny and he fit in well with the already established team, but honestly if you cut out all of his scenes, it wouldn't have changed the movie one bit. It felt like once he would get in, he would get right back out. His screen time just flew by (pun intended). Bucky as Winter Soldier provided plenty of outstanding action, but a little more Bucky as Bucky would've been nice as well.
     There was also a lack of danger at times. I had this problem with Avengers too. The characters were hit with the elements: explosions, bullets, falls, punches, and even electrocution, but for the most part, they seemed to walk away unscathed. This makes what they're trying to accomplish feel too easy, especially for Black Widow. Yes shes the best at what she does, but will she ever get a noticeable cut? Falling off your bike in the park does more damage than hurdling through a window? Also, Steve and Natasha were confronted with a flash drive with precious data that they needed to extract. Like most movies, they got through the complex computer security, extracted the complex data, and found where they needed to go pretty easily. Can this plot point ever become a challenge? Also the score was forgettable, considering I've already forgotten it. The last problem I had was that damn shaky cam. It was headache by the first 15 minutes. It became less noticeable as the film went on, but I still wish it wasn't included at all.
     These sound like major complaints that would put the film in the C-range, but it's not like that. My overall feeling on Winter Soldier was that it was well executed. For someone that thinks the first movie is complete doo doo, they really made it easy to enjoy this one. Winter Soldier had a lot more wit than I thought it would, with all the major characters contributing. And speaking of characters, other than than Falcon, they all have great development, especially Steve. Every new complex thing tossed at him brings out a new dimension in his character. The chemistry between the characters, Falcon included, was also very strong. The action scenes and combat were well executed, and you could feel the drama during the fights, giving the action another dimension. The acting was great - Chris Evans is Captain America, the story was coherent, and the effects for the most part looked top notch. Winter Soldier was a lot more enjoyable than Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, which is ironic considering of phase one, First Avenger was the only one I didn't like. Winter Soldier has also done the best job in establishing a base and creating anticipation for Avengers 2. The filmmakers wanted to deliver, and they did, shattering my mid-range expectations. It's hard to call this one out and fault it after being such a big improvement. Here's hoping Captain America 3 is...well you already know - Winter Soldier 2 and not First Avenger 2.

A- -.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Year Of The SciFi

   2014 came up on us fast. We waved 2013 goodbye and brought in the big 1-4. 2014 is bringing an interesting huddle of movies to the screen. A big player of original movies is sci-fi movies. 2013 wasn't a disaster year for sci-fi, but it damaged its bankability. In my first sci-fi article, I discussed how After Earf, Oblivion, Star Trek Into Darkness, Pacific Rim, and The Host didn't put up the grosses studios and fans were hoping for. It was up to Elysium, Gravity, Ender's Game, and Thor 2 to turn things around. Well Ender came and went quietly, Thor's and Elysium's numbers were respectable, and Gravity was sensational - becoming the highest grossing October movie of all time, by far. All this still wasn't enough to redeem 2013's sci-fi slate.
     There's no point in crying over spilled milk. 2013 is done. 2014 has a fresh upcoming slate of sci-fi adaptions that could turn things around. Robocop, Transendence, Dawn of the Apes, Interstellar, Godzilla, Jupiter Ascending, Divergent, X-Men: Days of Future's Past, Edge of Tomorrow, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lucy, The Giver, Resident Evil 6, The Maze Runner, and Mockingjay Part 1 are the listed sci-fi classified movies set for release this year. Geez, that's a lot. See, Hollywood isn't being too skeptical.
     X-Men, Transformers, Apes, and Mockingjay will obviously make money, but there still risk in all of these projects. Guardians is a strange concept and it has yet to be seen if it will connect with mainstream audiences, but with the backing of Marvel, an all star cast, and good early reactions, Guardians could be a summer surprise. Half of the internet is still waiting on a trailer, but when it debuts expect a lot of talk, whether good or bad.
     Divergent will be trying to capitalize off of The Hunger Games success, kind of like the annoying little sister that wants to be just like the older sister, so she mimics everything she does. Last year was not a good one for young adult adaptions, but Divergent seems to have more going for it than those movies did. Divergent won't be the new Hunger Games, but it should be able to break out enough to gain it's own identity. Maze Runner is in the same boat, though this movie is the bigger risk. Since Maze Runner was pushed back to the Fall, not much has been seen from it so it's hard to gauge anything about it yet.
     Robocop has a lot of work to do. Not only is the title simply ridiculous for 2014, but 80's remakes haven't fared too well lately. Total Recall seems to be right up Robocop's alley; compare the trailers and they'll look exactly alike. There's nothing special about the reboot and Joel Kinneman isn't exactly a household name - even though Gary Oldman and Samuel L Jackson are. Robocop will likely have trouble making noise for the box office. There isn't much reason to be optimistic that Robocop will pass Recall's $58 million haul. Seriously, just title it Iphone-Cop already. Godzilla on the other hand has been making a tidal wave of noise online and so far Gareth Edwards and Warner/Legendary have done a fantastic job of differentiating this from the dreadful 1998 version. It's still a while until May, but Godzilla looks to be tracking to be a sleeper hit of summer.
     Jupiter Ascending includes Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, two big A-listers, but Kunis' Friends With Benefits and Tatum's White House Down showed that drooling women and men aren't going to automatically show up for them. JA is a strange concept and Warner's marketing will need to go all out to explain to audiences why JA is the event movie it's budget makes it out to be. Warner is risking with JA, and it's up to them if it'll pay off. I'll get more into Interstellar, Guardians, The Giver, and others as the year progresses.
     Science fiction is a genre you can't live without. 2014 has plenty of it and these movies have potential to do things 2013 couldn't. We'll see how the year and these sci-fi movies progress, but so far things look good.