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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- -.