Monday, September 7, 2015

Summer Wrap-Up 2015

Another summer at the movies has come and gone, and it's been a wild one.  The year's big winner, thanks to the massive runaway success of "Jurassic World," is Universal.  There's been a lot of chatter about them being in the top position in spite of no superhero films, but one glance at their slate reveals franchise film after franchise film, so they're hardly bucking the trend.

Nobody was all that surprised to see "Age of Ultron" and "Minions" having big opening weekends.  However, this was also the year of "Spy" and "Trainwreck" and "Straight Out of Compton."  This was the year PIXAR got back on track with "Inside Out" and "Pitch Perfect 2" couldn't be stopped.  The franchises certainly made money, but they didn't dominate the landscape the way many expected.  It's tradition to try and suss out the hot trends in moviegoing, but the most important one as far as I'm concerned, is that few of the box office winners this year were egregiously awful, the way they have been in the past.  "San Andreas" and "Minions" were about as bad as it got.  The once bulletproof Adam Sandler, however, saw his much-derided "Pixels" bomb, and stateside audiences and critics were both equally hostile to "Terminator Genisys."  On the other hand, I'm disappointed that "Shaun the Sheep" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." slipped through the cracks.  No comment on "American Ultra."

You could make a lot of premature pronouncements looking at this year's bombs.  Does "Hot Pursuit," mean the female buddy comedy is dead?  Does "Aloha" mean travelogue rom-coms are out?  Should we be worried about smaller science-fiction films after "Self/Less"? Modest successes like "Paper Town" and "Magic Mike XXL" suggest that midrange films aren't quite dead yet though.  And it's too much to hope that the tepid performances of "Poltergeist" and "Vacation" will mean any slowdown in the reboot craze.  The "Fantastic Four" disaster surely doesn't say anything about the state of superhero movies, but then again "Age of Ultron" and "Ant-man" weren't as profitable as some of their Marvel Universe predecessors.  There's no question why the  "Entourage" movie flopped, though.  Seriously, who decided to spend $30 million making an "Entourage" movie?

But enough negativity.  There were some great surprises this summer too.  Three cheers for George Miller for finally getting to make the "Mad Max" film he wanted to.  Hooray for Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy for silencing their critics.  "Straight Out of Compton" brought out an underserved audience and hopefully Hollywood will see fit to make more movies for them in the future.  "Jurassic World" wasn't one of my favorites, but it turned out much better than I was expecting, and I hope that Colin Trevorrow uses his newfound power wisely (and doesn't screw up "Star Wars" Episode IX).  And also, kudos to the Rock for proving that he's still a headliner with "San Andreas."

Summer was traditionally the season for kids' movies, but the specifically family friendly titles have actually been shrinking in recent years with the superhero takeover.  Of course "Inside Out" and "Minions" made a big splash, but there wasn't much else for the youngest kids.  There were only two PG rated live action films released by studios - G rated films have disappeared entirely.  Warner Brothers had the rescue dog movie "Max," which went mostly unseen, but made a little bit of money.  The other was Brad Bird's "Tomorrowland," one of the big financial disappointments of the year.  The lean pickings make the poor showing of "Shaun the Sheep" even more bizarre.

The arthouse had a rough time, without many breakthrough hits aside from the Amy Winehouse documentary and a handful of films aimed at older folks like "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "I'll See You in My Dreams," and "Far From the Madding Crowd."  Even Woody Allen couldn't catch a break.  I still have my fingers crossed that some of the Sundance favorites like "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," "The End of the Tour" "The Stanford Prison Experiment," and "Dope" might find some love during awards season.

Finally, below are my results of the summer movie wager.  I failed pretty miserably, having picked a bunch of flops in the second half of my list, but since many of those choices were very cynical, I'm actually very happy with how the rankings shook out.  It's far more heartening to see "Pitch Perfect 2," "Mad Max: Fury Road," and "Straight Out of Compton" making money than "Pixels," "Ted 2," and "Terminator Genisys."  Also, keep in mind that the worldwide rankings are different, with "Genisys" notably having gotten a boost.

Actual Domestic Box-Office Rankings:

1. "Jurassic World"
2. "Avengers: Age of Ultron"
3. "Inside Out"
4. "Minions"
5. "Pitch Perfect 2"
6. "Ant-Man"
7. "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation"
8. "San Andreas"
9. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
10. "Straight Outta Compton"

My Predictions

1. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" - 7 points
2. "Minions" - 5 points
3. "Jurassic World" - 5 points
4. "Ant-Man" - 5 points
5. "Inside Out" - 5 points
6. "Ted 2"
7. "Pixels"
8. "Tomorrowland"
9. "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" - 5 points
10. "Terminator Genisys"

Wild Cards

Mad Max: Fury Road - 1 point
Magic Mike XXL
Fantastic Four

Final score: 33 points out of a possible 100

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