Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hyperbole-Laden, Quasi-Prediction Filled, Summer Movie Season Blockbuster Preview 2007

When I get time, I'll proofread and edit this. Until then, this warning of plenty of forgotten words and typos in the following text will remain here.

There’s something special about the summer blockbuster season that I enjoy. Sure, I love the Oscars and enjoy the run-up to the bloated spectacle at the Kodak every year, but the Academy Awards are a step above the general public that the movie studios aim to please during the summer. I was inspired by an Onion AV Club piece on whether or not the blockbuster was becoming obsolete, and after seeing both Spiderman 3 and Shrek the Third roll at the box office despite bad reviews has me thinking that A) As long as the blockbusters are coming from established franchises, they will never fail or B) If studios keep making crappy movies, people will eventually stop going.

The summer blockbuster loses something when it’s not seen in the summer on Friday or Saturday night. While it is still worth seeing on the big screen, there’s something about the buzz of a packed house, “Oohing” and “Ahhing” along with the swashbuckling, the alien invasions and the super hero coming to save the day. Was Star Wars: Episode II a subpar movie until the last forty minutes of action? Absolutely, but was it still awesome hearing the entire theater go nuts when Yoda ignited his lightsaber? Of course it was, and thanks to a great crowd for Spiderman 3, I don’t hate it as much as most of my peers[i].

Different types of movies should be judged on different criteria. If you want to win an Oscar, your movie should have certain qualities, just as it should have certain attributes if it wants to be successful in a sequel-laden summer market. This summer could be potentially disastrous for studios, because there is a lot of freaking money going into both the production and advertising of these flicks, and simply by a process of elimination they all cannot be successful. This summer will probably set all kinds of records and leave some people scratching their heads with a “What the hell just happened look?” look on their face[ii].

We’re going to be as comprehensive as I can be with a headache, a wireless internet connection that’s been remarkably sturdy lately (leaving me to believe it’s about to give out) and a pressing need to finish up Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation. Let’s do this:

First Potential “Flop” and The Movie I Most Need To Be Good: Pirates of the Caribbean (3): At World’s End

The only reason I think this could be a flop is that it comes at the end of a huge May, and the majority of people just don’t see that many movies. Granted, they’ll probably make an exception when they’re all third parts of previously enjoyed trilogies, but you never know. Also factor in that people might not have been happy with either Spidey or the orge and Pirates 3 reviews are not stellar and there’s the potential for disappointment. By disappointment, I mean not exceeding the money made by Dead Man’s Chest last summer and falling somewhere between Shrek the Third and Spiderman 3, but hey, there’s a lot riding on this.

Also riding on Pirates 3? The fact that if it’s not a good movie, what could have potentially been a great movie trilogy just becomes another series of movies where the first movie was loved so sequels were made with diminishing returns in quality, ala Beverly Hills Cop, the 90’s Batman movies, Jurassic Park and every single horror movie franchise ever made. I want to love this franchise, and I can forgive the finale for being “plotty”, but if the whole thing just reeks of disappointment, I’ll be heartbroken and my favorite non-Brokeback Mountain score of the last few years will go to waste. Please don’t suck, Pirates 3, although I’m fully prepared for you and your three hours of length to do so.

Klaus BadeltHe's a Pirate

Your Sure Thing Comedy I’ve Already Invested in Heavily on Hollywood Stock Exchange, following in the tracks of Wedding Crashers, 40-Year Old Virgin and The Break-Up (which sucked, but still made money): Knocked Up

If Knocked Up isn’t a total success I’ll be shocked. After a long while sans any good comedies (let’s just say Norbit and Wild Hogs don’t really count), this can hit on every demographic. All the people who love Grey’s Anatomy (how you still could, I know not) will go for Katherine Heigl. People who know comedy will go for Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. People who just like good movies will go because right now the reviews are positively glowing, clocking in at 92% on the Tomatometer, although there’s a scant 13 precincts reporting. Again, I’ll be nothing but totally surprised if this doesn’t do very well all summer long, not just on opening weekend. This will have the kind of slow burn, “Hell yeah I’ll go again” success you don’t often equivocate with summer movies, but pop up every once in a while (Wedding Crashers, although that might have been just me).

You Might Have Hated the Second One, But You’ll Still Gladly Give Them Your Money/Matt Damon Rules The Universe, Part One: Ocean’s Thirteen

Even though Twelve was sort of depressing to watch with how little anyone involved in the movie actually cared about it, this is the kind of movie no matter how bad the trailer looks or how much you might want to resist, you’ll still go see it. On the many plus sides, they’re back in Vegas (not in stinky, confusing, over-plotted Europe) and the guys who wrote Rounders penned the screenplay for this. That should make you feel great, yes? Plus, George Clooney is just so freaking cool. I’m going to rant about Cannes a little later on, but I think I want to go there considerably more than Sundance right now. From EW’s Popwatch:

Check out everything that was going down: The Oceans 13 crew was milling around the Hotel du Cap (think the fanciest hotel you have ever seen, multiply that times 100, add a few sheiks and George Clooney, and you get the general idea). There was a Death Proof soirée. (Quentin Tarantino [pictured, second from left, with Eli Roth, Harvey Weinstein, and Rosario Dawson] + Weinstein Co. publicity booze budget + hundreds of people = a party that may still be going on as you read this.) And even better, there was the elegant New Line 40th anniversary party, which unfolded on the lawn of an old Rothschild estate and saw Daniel Craig (who stars in New Line's upcoming His Dark Materials franchise) wandering around, looking dapper, drink in hand, and every bit the movie star. It was the ultimate Cannes moment. James Bond sipping champagne on a stunning estate. How could you not swoon?

That’s just awesome, I don’t care how cynical and anti-celebrity you are (Other than Eli Roth, you can hate on him and his torture porn all you want). This movie also happens to conveniently open the weekend before we’re all heading up to Casino Niagara for my sisters’ 19th birthday. Is there a better way to get prepped for long stretches of losing at blackjack then watching Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, Damon and Clooney chill in a casino? I think not.

(The only thing that might hurt it? The other two Oceans opened over the winter, where everyone is so depressed from all the Oscar bait that stuff like Oceans and Bond movies always do a lot better then they might do in summer. I still say “Great Success” for this thing.)

Not Only Do I Not Know How This Sequel Got Approved So Quickly Two Summers Ago, I Don’t Know Why They Made The Damn Thing: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I’ll go see this movie only because my dad’s favorite comic book characters are both the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer – which is why I saw the original: didn’t have to pay – but I just don’t understand. The trailers are confusing, making Surfer look like the bad guy when he’s not one, and the first movie was just a complete was of ninety minutes. If you saw the trailer, you saw the movie. Perhaps they’re intentionally making this trailer as ambiguous as they can to avoid that problem, but since their only real selling points are “We have a few cheesy one-liners you might enjoy”, “Surfer can deflect missiles like flies” and “Jessica Alba is still really, really smoking”, how much money can this thing make?

(Then again, the original was successful simply because every other commercial in the weeks leading up to it was a F4 ad. I don’t know if they actually made any money, but we’ll see if that strategy is employed/works again in round two. I think it goes without saying in the header that this movie is a potential flop.)

Potential Flop Number Three, But Also Potential For Huge, Sun-Shiny Comedy Dollars: Evan Almighty

I doubt this movie only because the budget was enormous and so far they haven’t unleashed the advertising monsters (I’ve seen a few commercials, not a huge amount with the May superpowers hogging a lot of airtime), but there’s still plenty of time with the June 22nd release date. This might be successful simply for the fact people really like Steve Carrell, people really liked Bruce Almighty and any movie with Morgan Freeman in it immediately becomes 13% better. As I go through this list, I’m slowly realizing there’s a chance I’ll see a movie every weekend this summer. I have a feeling it will slow down as we get into the dog days of July and August, but at this rate, I should start conserving some cash for the studios.

The “Screw you, Wong Kar-Wai and Jude Law. I knew you’d mess it up for her” movie of the summer: My Blueberry Nights

To be fair, when I saw Wong Kar-Wai’s apparently masterpiece, In The Mood For Love, I was very tired and couldn’t follow it as closely as I would have liked. Still, I remember the general consensus of my FTT class being “Uh, that wasn’t very good”. Critics love it, calling its style “understated”, but while sometimes things like “understated” and “ambiguous endings” add something to a film, other times they’re just fancy ways of saying “boring, slow, lack of drive” and “didn’t know how to end it”. A few semesters ago, Caitlyn wanted to go see one of his more recent films, 2046, but I think we ended up skipping it because I found it was incredibly long, was still adamantly against Wong after Mood and it was the same Friday night as the RecSports Christmas party at Anne’s.

So of course, in Norah Jone’s feature film debut they pair her with a director I don’t get (again, I need to watch it again, but I’m not holding out hope) and an actor who asserted all sorts of bad theatrical karma on himself for his 2004 run of absolute crap, Jude Law. Yes, Natalie Portman and David Strathairn make up for some things, but not apparently a total lack of script. All the reviews basically that “Yeah, it was decent, but…” – you can read some here, here, here and here – so thanks guys, for debuting Norah at Cannes and screwing it up for her. As far as the reviews go for Norah, they’re along the lines of “Starts a little awkwardly, but finds her groove.” I can accept that for a first try.

Anyway, sorry for ranting. Back to the list.

The Rocky Balboa of Summer 2007, Only If Rocky Was Great Because Of All The Violence and Swearing And They Made The Sequel Twenty Years Later PG-13: Live Free or Die Hard

This could also be a complete disaster, as while the trailer looks pretty cool and they should be able to elicit some patriotic, action movie, 4th of July vibes, it could also just be a total bust. Bruce Willis’ last few notable movies? Perfect Stranger, Grindhouse, 16 Blocks, Lucky Number Slevin, Alpha Dog, Sin City, Hostage, The Whole Ten Yards. I think it might be safe to say that if nostalgia doesn’t take over, it might be difficult for Willis to carry the movie. That being said, “Yippy Ki Yay…”:

The “Ooo, Pixar is challenging themselves” Movie of the Summer: Ratatouille

Pixar, which pretty much makes a gazillion dollars with anything they release, has decided to up the challenge for themselves by making a movie with a difficult to pronounce title about a French rat who wants to become a gourmet chef without any huge names attached to it (I guess Peter O’ Toole, plus a Will Arnett alert.). They’ll start marketing it soon and end up successful. I hope their next summer flick, of course marketed towards children, is about a rabid raccoon who wishes to better understand the works of Nietzsche while plotting a terrorist attack – all in Spanish.

The Biggest Question Mark of the Summer, Bar None: Transformers

So confused on where to go with this. Transformers just old enough that I only remember it because of my strict dedication to one of those “Collect sticker” books when I was like five years old, so everyone twenty-one or twenty-two and younger is not that familiar with the source material. On the other hand, Shia LeBeouf owns the freaking world, so you probably don’t want to mess with him[iii]. But going against it is Michael Bay, responsible for (sweet heavens) The Island and Pearl Harbor, two of the summer season’s most recent tragedies. Going for Transformers? The fact it’s going to have the hell promoted out of it, the animation in the trailers look amazing and previously unknown Megan Fox, who will be opposite LeBeouf, is amazing. I’ll say this ends up doing well, but again, huge question mark.

Robin Williams Kills A Movie, Part 845: License to Wed

Neither John Krasinski or Mandy Moore is enough of a draw to counter Robin Williams as a crazy priest. Sorry, kids. Plus, won't you feel bad for Jenna Fischer anytime

Best Bet of the Summer: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By the time the middle of July rolls around, there will he legitimate Potter hysteria across the world. There’s zero chance this movie doesn’t do well, no matter how the final books turns out or the quality of the film. I’m yet to start reading the Potter books, but encouraged by the print size, I feel like starting towards the end of June and knocking them out in a few days apiece will give me ample time to prepare for The Deathly Hallows.

Predicting Musicals Is Really Hard, But I’ll Say “Success” Because It Has The Kid from High School Musical: Hairspray

Musicals can really go either way – Producers, awful; Chicago, destruction wrought on all challengers – and I’m not sure John Travolta dressing in drag helps or hurts the movie. You get the Christopher Walken bump, but I think the kids will go to see Zac Efron. I have no idea, though again, I’m leaning yes. It is summer: Anything can be successful.

Long Time Coming – Perhaps Too Late Coming – Film: The Simpsons Movie

Going for The Simpsons Movie: it comes out at the end of July, where there appears to be minimal competition. Lots of people have watched The Simpsons, so there’s a massive built-in fan base. Going against it?: Do that many people watch The Simpsons any more? Will anyone care at this point? I think it’s going to do well, but not as well as it would have done, say, five or ten years ago.

Matt Damon Rules the Universe, Part Two: The Bourne Ultimatum

I never really got into the Bourne movies, but they’ve done very well – the first made 121 million, the second 176 – so why bet against this one? Matt Damon, other than a few slip-ups here and there (Brothers Grimm, Stuck On You), has been absolute money over his career, rocking out Rounders, both Bourne and both Oceans movies, Syriana, The Departed and The Good Shepherd. Despite coming at the end of a sequel-saturated summer, this film will hit the 100 million mark with little effort.

Movie I Don’t Think Anyone Wanted To See Made That Might Already Be On TBS: Rush Hour 3

Sometimes you’re out drinking one night with the other movie execs, somebody starts talking with an Asian accent and brings up sequels, some other guy starts talking so fast nobody can understand him, and boom, you’ve got yourself a deal for more Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Harmless, but also pointless. Is it even worth saying this might be a flop? Then again, after Wild Hogs, I won’t ever assume a level of intelligence for the movie-going public.

Question Mark of the Summer Number Two, As All Fantasy Movies Come With Question Marks: Stardust

This has the potential to be a really cool Princess Bride­-type thing, but the late summer release bothers me. Still, if the reviews are good, this could be a nice little August success. I’m not really sure what to make of the trailer, but Ricky Gervais is in it and the rest of the cast looks fun, so it can’t be all bad. I don’t see this becoming a huge financial success, but there’s definitely some potential buzz here.

Movie I Want To See Succeed The Most (And it looks like it will): Superbad

I was watching Arrested with my uncle the other night, and it’s amazing after not watching for a few months how you forget just how freaking brilliant a show that was. This is Michael Cera’s first real attempt at stardom on his own, and I he’s in good shape. The trailer looks funny and the earliest of reviews is, in a word, sterling. Go, Mike Cera, go.

Movie I Want To See Fail The Most: Good Luck Chuck

I hate it when people turn on anything simply because they become too mainstream or too successful. The whole “selling out” argument never really worked for me, as isn’t the point of doing what you love eventually getting to the point where you get to do what you love while making lots of money, which means you don’t have to do anything else to sustain an income but do what you love?

Well, that’s not why myself, along with plenty of others, do not like Dane Cook. He used to be funny. The Kool-Aid man joke remains one of my favorites, but somewhere before his latest album, all the HBO stuff, hosting SNL and the Jessica Simpson movie, Cook stopped being funny. I think I first noticed when he was on SNL, because while the show isn’t particularly good anymore, great performers can transcend the poor writing (Hugh Laurie, Alec Baldwin, J-Tim), but Cook just stunk it up. Then Employee of the Month bombed, both at the box office and critically, so the movie execs decided in a last ditch effort to pair Cook with Jessica Alba and her insane hotness to make him a legitimate star. Hey, if you were going to attach your hopes for a career on the attractiveness of one starlet, why not Alba?

(And it’s not just the whole “Everyone quotes him” issue. To a lesser degree, a lot of people know Mitch Hedberg, but his stuff remains genuinely, gut-busting funny, with even his lesser jokes eliciting snickers just because of his delivery. To some degree, Dane Cook became “Loud” while Hedberg remained “Funny”, even in death.)

While this summer looks on the surface just to be Sequelfest, there’s some legitimate intrigue to it. Is Shia LeBeouf big enough to open two movies (Transformers and the random penguin surfing toon)? Is Steve Carrell a legitimate draw/superstar? Dane Cook’s doomed to failure, right? Does anyone still care about The Simpsons? How viable do musicals remain? Who owns us to a higher degree: Matt Damon, JK Rowling or Pixar?

Perhaps the blockbuster season is off to a great monetary but poor quality start, but that can start turning around Thursday night at 8, when Pirates 3 starts opening early. I won’t be able to see it until Friday night, but expect some sort of review by mid-Saturday. As a post-post disclaimer, I only hit the big openers for each weekend and movies that interested me for whatever reason, but there are plenty more potential sleepers scattered in. Perhaps we’ll touch on those in a later post, but for now, these will do.

[i] [i] Anyone who didn’t find Spiderman 3 at least mildly disappointing - and I’ve talked to a few people who thought it was fine, not as good as the others but a perfectly serviceable movie – need to sit down, watch all three of the movies together and try to tell me there wasn’t a huge, gaping screenplay problem with that sucker. Have people no scruples about declaring movies good or bad, even when they’re bubblegum summer fare?

[ii] Not unlike Celtic fans watching last night’s draft lottery. There’ll be a whole post coming later about how the NBA offseason is easily the most exciting, even if their conference finals are happening right now and absolutely nobody gives a crap.

[iii] I some how missed the boat of Shia, which hurts me. Looking back, I now realize he was the son from Even Stevens, a show Tina forced me to watch the musical episode of countless times, and in Holes, which was supposed to be awesome. His resume is all over the place and totally awesome – Surf’s Up, Bobby, Constantine, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, the lame Dumb and Dumber sequel, Caroline in the City, Suddenly Susan, Jesse, Freaks and Geeks, ER. I’m going to rent A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, which kind of looks like Queens Boulevard only with a good actor (Robert Downey, Jr.) instead of Vinny Chase, for a full appreciation of his work.


Anonymous said...

Megan Fox isn't quite ''previously unknown'' (Transformers blurb)... I seem to recall her pulling a 'Bewitched' (as opposed to a ''Roseanne'' where the original actor/tress returned later) with Nicole Paggi at the beginning of the 2nd season of Faith & Hope.

~CW~ said...

I saw that on her IMDB page, but didn't watch a whole lot of Faith and Hope. I'm an old school TGIF guy.