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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Mighty '13

    Updated 1/4/14. 2013 has came to close and what a year it was. What looked to be a disaster of a year back in March, with a strong second half it was poised to become the highest grossing ever. We all know the hits and flops of the year - Iron Man 3, Catching Fire, After Earf, Despicable Me 2, Lone Ranger, etc, etc, but do you know the surprises? Plenty of movies this year pulled a 180 on us and did the complete opposite of what they were expected and only a few saw coming.
     By the far biggest surprise of the winter season and possibly the year is Disney's Frozen. Frozen initially looked like a rehash of Tangled with snow, but after 6 weeks of release, it's proven to be much more. Most saw Frozen doing no more than $200 million, around the same range as Tangled - Frozen's total as of now? $289 million, and counting - even after 7 weeks it'll be #1 this weekend, meaning its going to be out welllllll into 2014. Audiences have fallen for Frozen. The Disney princess musical has been attracting grown men just as much as young girls. The soundtrack is also #1 on Itunes. Just to give you an idea of how big Frozen is, it's going to end up the highest grossing original animated move ever and the biggest Disney animation of all time, topping The Lion King (counting out the re-release), which is ironic since TV ads were calling it the best Disney animation since then. Even Despicable Me 2's $367 million haul could be in danger, which is just flat out remarkable for a movie most analysts and movie buffs saw doing $200 million or less, and just remarkable period.
     Gravity defied box office astronomy and has brought us a movie going experience that we really have never experienced. When Gravity finally crashes down, it'll be the highest grossing October movie ever - by over $100 million. Gravity's simple concept wasn't guaranteed to be a success, with most predicting an opening of $30 million or lower. $40 million was considered ballsy. Well, yeah Gravity ended up pulling a jaw-dropping $55 million in it's opening and thanks to its universal reviews and rollercoaster IMAX-esque experience, it held well in the weeks since and is now at $255 million where it has seemed to stall, but with guaranteed awards noms coming up, Gravity still has a few more millions to rake in well into the new year. I knew Gravity would be good, but that good? The last 10 minutes were the most emotionally invested/edge of my seat I've ever been in the theater. Truly life-changing. And with that said, after this I'm going to submit my application to NASA.
     Also a contender for surprise of the year is World War Z. The June Brad Pitt led thriller shut up naysayers fast. Projected to open with $45 million or less by most, Z added to a record breaking June with a $66 million opening, #2 at the time for a movie that didn't open #1 (Frozen now has that #2). Z has finally died off with $202 million and with $540 million worldwide, Z showed that just because you have production problems doesn't mean your movie is destined to be a turd.
     Comedy We're the Miller's was the biggest movie of August and the 2nd biggest comedy of the year, just $9 million shy of The Heat, and with an opening of only $26 million. Millers, the story of a fake family hired to smuggle drugs across the border, looked like a modest hit, but it proved to be more than modest as it had one of the best legs of any of the movies this summer. Most didn't even know Miller's was a thing until the first trailer, so a great run indeed.
     Add The Conjuring to the list, which had phenomenal legs for a horror. Conjuring bucked the trend for horror movies and had steady 40% drops every weekend instead of the usual 60% or bigger. With a worldwide total of $316 million and only a $20 million budget, don't be surprised to get the hell scared out you, literally, again with a sequel.
     A few other better-than-expected surprises were Bad Grandpa (that 2nd weekend drop!), Warm Bodies, Now You See Me, Identity Theft, Great Gatsby, 42, Captain Phillips, and Planes.
     Surprises can go both ways. With its share of "wow that made so much more than I expected!", theres a crop of "wow that sucked, it didn't even make half of what I thought". White House Down is possibly the biggest offender of the year. It had everything going for it - Channing Tatum fresh off a stellar 2012, Jamie Foxx who was hot off Django, a late June release, Roland Emmerich, an appealing concept, a democrat President, a flashy budget, and a cool title. What more did Sony need? Well, Sony definitely didn't need Olympus Has Fallen. Olympus was a cheaper version of Down with cheaper effects, a cheaper star, coming from a cheap B-list studio, yet Olympus went on to pull near $100 million, which makes it a 2013 surprise as well. I'm telling you the trailers looked straight-to-Netflix quality, but the movie was actually badass. Unfortunately, not too many people wanted to see basically the same movie just 3 months later. Down opened to an appalling $24 million, $15 million lower than The Heat which it was projected to beat, and has finished with a weak $73 million. I call that weak considering a total of $150 million or higher was most everyone's expectations. Maybe we'll get a Mount Rushmore Down or Fort Knox Down or Golden Gate Bridge Down, and White House will be redeemed. Can't wait for the Waffle House Down parody. It's coming. I feel it.
     Most expected After Earff, The Lone Ranger, Turbo, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hangover 3, Gangster Squad, RIPD, Scary Movie 5, and Believe to dissapoint, so not really a surprise there.
     Beautiful Creatures, The Host, and City of Bones weren't expected to be the next Hunger Games and Twilight, but they should've at least been able to become the new something. None did well enough to justify a franchise and with Twilight finished and minus Hunger Games, it makes you wonder if the young adult genre has lost it. At least they still have Barnes N Noble. With Maze Runner, Vampire Academy, Divergent, and The Giver, 2014 has a lot to prove or Hollywood will be leaving young adults adaption-less soon after.
     Can we nominate a month? Yes. And I nominate February. February 2013 was dreadful. The worst grossing and attended in over 10 plus years. This is even more disappointing considering February 2012 set a gross record and was the 4th best attended ever. January wasn't special either and if it wasn't for a strong 2012 Christmas slate, it would've been equally ugly. At least we had June.
     Another disappointing fact is that Thor: The Dark World and Star Trek Into Darkness won't be occupying the domestic top 10. Both looked to dominate based on the success of their predecessors, but it wasn't enough after all. Trek was stuck between Iron Man 3 and Furious 6, couldn't break out of its niche audience, and Paramount didn't do a good job showing audiences who saw Star Trek in 2009 why they should come back after a 4 year wait and secret villain. Into Darkness' gross of $228 million domestic and $467 worldwide is pretty dang good, but everyone seemed to be expecting a little more. Ehh, actually a lot more...Thor 2 started off well thanks to the Marvel brand, but couldn't hang on due to competition and lukewarm reception. Good thing overseas loves Marvel as Thor has picked up $627 million worldwide.
     2013 like every year had its hits and misses, but eye-openers is one 2013 had plenty of. From Gravity shattering Fall records to Hangover 3 completely dropping the ball to Frozen seeming to please pretty much everyone, 2013 was a year for the calendar. Since 2014 seems to have a line up full of "eh's", there's a chance those "eh's" will surprise and put 2014 on the map, but for now 2013 is truly the year no one saw coming.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Like Fire and Ice

      Thanksgiving weekend was a big one for females, and not because of TJ Maxx, Macy's, Khol's, and DSW Black Friday deals. Frozen and Catching Fire, both with female leads, amassed over $200 million by themselves over the 5-day Thanksgiving weekend. It has been a common myth in Hollywood that females can't carry a big movie by themselves, but that myth has been busted (pun intended). Frozen is Disney's adaption of the "Snow Queen" and has surpassed all expectations. Over the 5-day weekend, Frozen earned a staggering $93 million, which ranks 1st all time for Thanksgiving, and for the the 3-day it raked in $67.3 million which is 2nd all time - behind Catching Fire. Frozen also ranks 2nd all time for a movie that did not open at #1. Tangled, Frozen's counterpart, only raked in $68.7 million over the 5-day back in 2010. 
     Both of Frozen's main characters are female - Anna and Elsa. Having two females in a lead role is uncommon; even Tangled only had one. With highly positive reviews and little competition over the holiday season, Frozen can give Pixar's Monsters University a run for its money for 2nd biggest animated film of the year and top 10 all time. Frozen's polled audience was only 57 percent female, as opposed to 70-80 percent for Twilight. This shows that even with multiple female leads, men will still show up.
     If you don't know who Katniss is by now, then add that to your list of 99 problems. Catching Fire is doing what Harry Potter did last decade. Catching Fire ignited $74.1 million over the 3-day weekend and $110 million over the 5-day, both which rank 1st all time. Catching Fire's second weekend is also 4th all time. You could argue many people buy tickets for Hunger Games to see the arena battle scenes, but that's not the the main focus. Katniss Everdeen is "Hunger Games" and if more people are showing up for her than for the boy wizard Harry, then how can you say a female cant lead? Sure you have her love triangle co-stars, but it's Katniss' story, and she's the badass. Peeta and Gale do what she tells them to do.
     Wonder Woman is the most popular female superhero and one of the most popular in general, but Warner Brothers still hasn't given her the greenlight. Why? You could say they can't find a star or director, which is false. You could say the source material is too tricky and complex, which is false. You could say because Warner is afraid, which is true. Here we are about to get a 4th version of Batman, 3rd version of Superman, 2nd version of Spiderman, and more Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor sequels to come, but Diana has yet to see the green screen. Marvel has said they're looking into a female-led movie, but that none is in their current plans. There are plenty of self-righteous and sexist people in the world; it's a naive thought that the average male would refuse to see a Wonder Woman movie because she's not a man. Wouldn't men rather see a woman in a tight-fitting costume than a man anyway? Yes. Catwoman and Elektra did not fail because of their female stars, but because they were truly awful movies - with 9 and 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes respectively, compared to the big names which land on average in the 70's and 80's. Anyone who studies movies could tell you that.
     We have plenty of movies where females co-lead with a man; when will we just let them do their own thing instead? Frozen and Catching Fire weren't affected. And you can look at past movies; Angelina Jolie's Salt was more successful than Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher, Sandra Bullock carried most of Gravity on her own, Bridesmaids and The Heat which had all female leads out-grossed recent comedies from Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, Zach Galafinakis, and Sacha Baron Cohen - male Hollywood comedy heavyweights. Brave, Zero Dark Thirty, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Help, Bad Teacher, Black Swan, and Princess and the Frog are all recent action, comedy, and drama movies with female leads that audiences, both male and female, showed up for. Romantic comedies and dramas star women because they are made for women, but its time let women entertain us men too. 
     Hollywood is taking small steps forward. Melissa McCarthy has an endless number of comedies coming up, an all female Expendable's spin-off is in the works, and more females such as Kathryn Bigelow, Angelina Jolie, and Melissa McCarthy are directing bigger name movies, but until we can at least get a Wonder Woman solo movie with the same budget and focus as the big boys, not much has changed. With Catching Fire and Frozen paving the way, hopefully Hollywood will start getting the memo. Just remember, even Shaquille O'Neal has gotten to play a superhero...