Sunday, April 23, 2017

The 2017 Summer Movie Wager

It's that time again! Following the rules of the Summer Movie Pool, I'm going to predict the top ten domestic box office grossers of the summer. It's not about which movies are the best or the most deserving, but which ones simply bring in the most cold hard cash. So while I'd really love for "The Dark Tower," "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," and "Baby Driver" to make oodles of money, realistically that is not going to happen. Still, I am notoriously bad at this, and scored only 34 points out of a possible 100 last year. At least this was better than the 33 points I scored the year before that.

Anything being released between May 1st and Labor Day is fair game. Here we go.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - I made the mistake of underestimating the first movie, which turned into the biggest hit of the summer. With an August release date, no less. Well, this time Star Lord and the gang get my number one spot. I wasn't the biggest fan of their last outing and I'm hoping to see some improvements, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is more than enough goodwill out there for "Guardians" to repeat their past success.

2. Despicable Me 3 - I keep underestimating Illumination Entertainment, but not this year! "Despicable Me" is the studio's most durable franchise, and the latest installment should be good for one of the top spots. Even the "Minions" spinoff managed over $300 million domestic while barely being a coherent movie. So, I'm fairly confident that it's going to be the big family film of the summer, and I'll probably be begrudgingly dragged along to see it at some point by the ankle-biters.

3. Spider-Man Homecoming - Is this going perform like a Marvel origin movie, a Marvel teamup movie, or like a Sony Spider-Man sequel? Nobody knows for sure, but Spidey is still a headliner, and his appearance in last year's "Civil War" was very well received. So I'm going to place his first outing with the MCU relatively high in the rankings. However, as with the Andrew Garfield movies, I think I'll wait a while and see what the critics say before watching this one myself.

4. Cars 3 - The trailers have promised a darker, more grounded "Cars" movie, which I'm not sure is the best thing for this franchise. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate that PIXAR is trying to get ambitious again and trying to tell a different kind of story with these characters than they have before. However, "Cars" really never had much emotional depth, and that was perfectly okay. I'm sure that young fans will turn up just for the PIXAR name, but I don't expect a big crowd-pleaser.

5. Transformers: The Last Knight - Now, I'm sure the "Transformers" series has enough juice left in it to make some impact at the box office, but not as much as it once did. The previous film, "Age of Extinction," managed a third place finish three years ago. The shine, however, is definitely gone. With Michael Bay leaving, and very little buzz going into this, I expect "The Last Knight," to slip a few spots further down. The real question is how "Bumblebee" will do next year.

6. Wonder Woman - This is the only movie I really, really want to do well. There's no doubt that "Wonder Woman" is going to get a storm of attention, but will that translate into a big box office? I expect that this is going to do better than last year's the "Ghostbusters" reboot, but probably not that much better with so much competition in the mix. However, this is also certainly one of the DC franchise's last chances. WB will throw everything they have at this.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - How much are people going to care that Orlando Bloom has come back to the series? Probably not much to stall the series' winding down. Overseas the movie should fare very well, but at home I don't see any stopping "Pirates" continuing to slide in revenues. There's also the worrying precedent set by the "Alice" sequel last year, which was a total bomb. "Pirates," however, should still have enough juice for #7.

8. Baywatch - There's usually one big R-rated comedy somewhere on the list every year. I think there's a pretty good chance that "Baywatch" will fit the bill in 2017. I mean, what better property to convert into a summer movie than the superbly cheesy 90s series that was all about ogling hotties on the beach? This version will star The Rock, who has made several appearances on the charts in the past, and Zac Efron, who is seriously overdue for a bigger slice of movie stardom.

9. Dunkirk - Now here's a real question mark. Christopher Nolan's films are reliable moneymakers, but "Dunkirk" is a war film, and comes across as an Oscar season prestige picture. The older audiences will probably come out for it, but will it be enough to challenge the big tentpole titles higher on this list? My guess is that the "Dunkirk" will perform respectably, but won't be a big blockbuster. And depending on what kind of year it is, that could still mean a spot on the list.

10. The Mummy - I would have been highly doubtful about the chances of the newest Universal monster reboot, but for one thing: Tom Cruise. Somehow Cruise is still a reliable action star after all this time, and I think there's a real possibility that "The Mummy" could turn out to be a decent vehicle for him. The trailer didn't win me over, and I think the whole shared universe plan is still nuts, but there' probably enough love for Cruise to eke out a minor win.

Wild Cards (for extra points if one of them does make it into the top ten)

The Emoji Movie
War For the Planet of the Apes
Rough Night

I think "The Emoji Movie" looks pretty desperate, but kids love Emojis, and there's no predicting what unlikely looking premise will actually turn out a decent movie. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this turns out to be a hit. Meanwhile, I love the "Apes" movies, but they've never been very strong performers. The third installment may be able to build on the momentum of the first two and grab a bigger audience though. If this is where the new series is going to end, that would be a great way to go out. Finally, the strong performance of "Bad Moms" last year points to an underserved audience for raunchy female comedies. "Rough Night," which involves Scarlett Johansson and a bachelorette party gone wrong, might surprise. I wish they hadn't changed the title though. "Rock That Body" sounded more fun.


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