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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.