Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Summer Movie Report Card 2015

The 2015 summer movie season has finally come to a close and my oh my what an interesting summer it ended up being. Despite having all the prerequisite summer blockbuster quotas being met such as a superhero movie (3 of those actually), a Pixar movie, another bomb from Adam Sandler, a disaster flick, a number of action films, a couple romantic comedies and a ton of sequels (although there was no real independent stand out this year surprisingly), this was a summer to be remembered for how unpredictable it was. Get the full report after the break.

For instance, nobody expected a sequel to a forgotten franchise like Mad Max: Fury Road to have the mass appeal and positive buzz it received and nobody gave a second thought to the notion that Avengers: Age of Ultron would NOT be the biggest movie of the summer. Everyone had a good laugh at the Ant-Man trailer when it debuted but now Marvel is laughing all the way to the bank. How about the one, two, three punch of a Cameron Crowe romantic comedy starring current Hollywood sweethearts Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper grossing a pitiful 20 million (over a holiday weekend no less!). Finally, who knew a movie about a trio of rappers from the 80's would become one of the biggest films released not only in the summer, but for the whole year?

So to help put things in perspective a little we have what will ultimately become a annual report card singling out the many successes and failures that occurred in the past 3 months at the box office. The rules for this are simple, any movie released theatrically from May 1st to August 31st is eligible. It must have been released solely in theaters (sorry on demand releases). For films released at the tail end of the summer in regards to any category dealing with box office gross, any film released in the last 2 weeks leading up to August 31st will not be included due to fairness (you can't say a movie is a failure after only 1 week of release). Lastly, aside from the categories dealing with facts like total box office gross or official consensus tracking, these are my selections and should not be considered anything other than being based solely on my opinions. Let the controversy begin!

Best Summer Movie Overall
(Best of the best, nuff said)

Mad Max: Fury Road

Dinosaurs and superheroes may have ruled the summer box office, but it was one man on the hood of a car who re-defined what a summer movie can be. After a 30 year hiatus, franchise creator and director of every Mad Max movie to date (as well as Happy Feet...that's right) George Miller delivered one of the most visceral, raw and outright explosive adventures of the summer movie season. While the story was thin as ice and its debatable as to whether or not the title character was even needed to tell this story, there is absolutely no denying the expert level of craftsmanship and attention to detail (love all those practical effects and stuntwork) used to create a film unlike anything you have ever seen before.

Runner Up:
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Worst Summer Movie Overall
(Worst of the worst, nuff said)

San Andreas

Whoa boy, where to start. Aside from the fact that Dwayne Johnson plays one of the worst rescue workers in the history of the profession (he only saves his own family and steals valuable resources to do it!), this relatively simple disaster flick failed to register on the entertainment richter scale across the board. The effects were surprisingly dull, the action scenes were straight out of every other disaster movie ever made (they even found a way to have people stuck in a highrise building AND almost drown at the same time thus mashing together Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno into one) and the characters were so thin that calling them cardboard cutouts would be giving them more credit than they are due. Just about the only thing one can give the film credit for is at least they resisted the urge to put a dog in peril scene in there.

Runner Up:
The Fantastic Four

Best Non-sequel Summer Movie Award
(Anything without a number or colon in the title)

Straight Outta Compton

In the battleground of the summer movie season it is usually sequels versus big budget blockbusters, but that doesn't mean there aren't original movies that make their mark, as is the case with Straight Outta Compton, the real life accounting of one of the most influential rap groups of all time. While one can most likely attest its massive success to its August release date (a month notorious for smaller films capitalizing on audiences burnt out on big blockbusters), the real reason behind this docudrama's appeal is that it is a really good movie telling a story that is equal parts inspirational and downright fascinating. N.W.A. dominated the music charts over 25 years ago and now they are dominating the box office as well with a film that will surely be remembered come awards time later in the year.

Runner Up:
The Gift

Most Disappointing Summer Movie
(Expectations were high but the final product was unable to deliver)


Wow, what a travesty this was to sit through. That initial trailer which promised us a magical city in the future where anything you could imagine was possible was one of the worst things that Disney could have every shown to sell audiences on the film simply because that wasn't the movie they were making. Art imitates life as the main character herself is shown what is essentially the same trailer we got for Tomorrowland and just like her we were so disappointed to find out the grim reality all the amazing sights we were promised didn't actually exist. It was like a demo reel for an idea for a really cool movie instead of the magic we usually associate with the man who gave us The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Calling this a disappointment is doing it a favor.

Runner Up:

Most Surprising Summer Movie
(Modest expectations are met with overwhelming success)

Jurassic World

While at this point (a billion dollars later) it may seem strange to think that Jurassic World wasn't exactly at the top of everyones list as the most anticipated movie of the summer, the truth of the matter is that the film overcame a number of hurdles and obstacles placed in its way by the tainted heritage of the previous sequels. Heck, after the two dismal sequels killed the franchise a couple decades ago most thought this was just going to be some sort of quick cash-in on a popular franchise, but surprised everybody who saw it when it turned out to be way better than it had any right to be. While it doesn't really hold a candle to the original, this is the true sequel to that beloved 1993 Spielberg classic that we should have got in the first place but don't hold your breath expecting lighting to strike twice when the inevitable sequel comes along in a couple years.

Runner Up:

Second Chance Award
(Good but just didn't catch on)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

There is always at least one movie every summer that gets glanced over or overlooked even if it got generally favorable reviews and word of mouth. That dubious honor this year goes to the new Guy Ritchie film The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the big budget Hollywood movie based on the old television series. While the finished film was a fun and often times exciting little action spy adventure, it's lack of any real star power along with a retro setting that is doubtful anyone born after the 1980's would find appealing sealed its fate long before it was even given a chance. It didn't help that it was released just a couple weeks after the similarly themed and more action oriented Mission: Impossible sequel came out either. If you missed this one (and I'm betting you did) and fancy yourself a good little spy espionage flick directed with style and flair by the man who gave us Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, then give it another chance to win you over.

Runner Up:
American Ultra

The Houdini Award
(Now you see it, now you don't)


I didn't see Aloha. You know why? Because within a couple weeks of release it was practically nowhere to be found. While most low end films with smaller budgets and a more modest cast of actors are known to disappear fairly quickly if they don't catch on, this is a big budget studio flick with a top tier cast and a critically acclaimed filmmaker we are talking about. Even Adam Sandler movies stick around longer than that! Not even controversy over the whole Emma Stone ethnicity thing was enough to garner any interest in audiences for this trip to Hawaii. It takes a special kind of bad for a film to disappear from theaters as quickly as this and no other film this summer had audiences saying Aloha to it faster than they did to this debacle which grossed a pitiful $20 million.

Runner Up:

Most Pointless Re-sequel-boot Award
(Fails to prove why we needed another one)


No way was this remake ever going to be as good as the original, but that didn't stop the filmmakers from trying. They assembled a decent enough cast with solid actors like Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie Dewitt, but no matter what they tried they just couldn't capture the magic that made the original such a classic. It doesn't help either that so many other recent movies like Insidious and The Conjuring already feel more like proper extensions of the original Poltergeist formula than this remake does. From a number of poor alterations to the original script to a rushed finale that lacked any of the scares and excitement of the original film, the Poltergeist remake is the posterchild for when a remake goes beyond bad and just ends up being completely pointless.

Runner Up:

Franchise Killer Award
(Even a reboot can't fix this)

The Fantastic Four

There were worst movies this summer, let's just get that out of the way right now. Did you see Hot Pursuit? No? Well guess what, nobody else did either. But anyway, Fantastic Four is a cursed franchise that at this point will likely never get the film treatment it deserves, until it returns home to Marvel that is. As long as 20th Century Fox keeps a vice like grip on this franchise, there is little hope that we will ever see the Fantastic Four get the respect and the success they deserve on the big screen. You want to know how little anyone cares about this franchise anymore? How about the fact that not even the original creator of the comic Stan Lee wanted to appear in it...and he was in the frickin 2004 Fantastic Four movie...and that one was worse than this!

Runner Up:
Terminator Genisys

The Indifference Award

Inside Out

Walking out of the theater just after watching the latest Pixar offering Inside Out filled me with an overwhelming sense of blah. The visuals were up to par and there were some fun moments mixed into its clever premise, but it just failed to leave any sort of impression. This is at the heart of feeling indifferent towards something where you didn't like it enough to talk about it and you didn't hate it enough to talk about it either. Watching Inside Out was this summer's equivalent of watching an expensive fireworks show, its pretty, loud and when its over you don't really think about it much.

Runner Up:

All Budget And No Brains Award
(AKA The Michael Bay Award)

Terminator Genisys

There are so many plot holes and nonsensical actions that take place in Terminator Genisys that one has to wonder if the writers only contributed a few pages each without ever checking what the others had written. How the film dove tails through time rewriting well established historical facts in the Terminator timeline and creating future events that would never be possible even if the impossible technology used actually existed was one of the most preposterous examples of time travel ever used in cinema. After a while you just sort of give up trying to make sense of anything and just let the razzle dazzle of the expensive special effects distract you from using your brain for anything other than to process how cool it looks when things go boom.

Runner Up:
San Adreas

All Hype Award
(We were lied to in spectacular fashion)


Not since the likes of The Lone Ranger (another Disney production as luck would have it) has a film landed with such a resounding thud after such an elablorate and extensive advertising campaign. You see, it is one thing to fail at something, but it is an entirely other beast when the hype train is in full gear and the finished project is the equivalent of an aborted fetus. At least The Lone Ranger delivered what it promised which the same cannot be said for Brad Bird's Tomorrowland, a film so far removed from what it was hyped up to be that it had audiences (including myself) wondering if they were watching the same movie we saw advertised. Not every movie needs to show you everything in the trailer (I actually prefer it if they don't) but at the very least don't use a single 3 minute scene from your film to sell it when those 3 minutes are wholly misrepresentative of the actual film going experience. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Runner Up:
The Gallows

Worst Career Move Award
(There are bad decisions, and then there are REALLY bad decisions)

Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper & Cameron Crowe (Aloha)

You would think that both Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper starring together in anything would instantly drive fans into theaters. But they learned a harsh lesson this summer when nobody showed up for their Hawaiian adventure, the lesson of which was that not even with two of the hottest stars in Hollywood at the moment can bring in audiences when nobody cares about the movie they are in. Aloha is one of those misfires that only actors of their caliber can walk away from and still command top dollar in future projects, but sadly the same can't be said for the once great Cameron Crowe (Say Anything/Jerry Maguire/Almost Famous) who after the crushing failure of other recent bombs We Built A Zoo and Elizabethtown will be lucky to find funding for his next script.

Runner Up:
Seth MacFarlane (Ted 2)

Rising Star Award
(This person can do no wrong)

Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)

Guardians of the Galaxy introduced the world to a new Chris Pratt. Gone was the lovable oaf we all knew and loved from Parks and Recreation. What we have now is the lovable badass Chris Pratt who is as quick with his witticisms as he is with his trigger finger. Not since the likes of Harrison Ford circa 1980 has an actor commanded the screen with such dashing charisma. But there is also a sneaky mischief behind that gruff exterior that lends a certain comic charm to his characters which allows Pratt to stand out from the shadows of comparison to legends like Ford and forge his own identity. GotG may be the film that put Chris Pratt on the map, but Jurassic World has solidified him as a bonafide movie star. That is why he has received this summer's Rising Star Award.

Runner Up:
Amy Schumer (Trainwreck)

The People's Choice Award For Best Summer Movie
(Based on a combination of each movie's cinema score and total gross)

Jurassic World 
Cinemascore: A
Total Box Office: $640 Million

Runner Up:
Avengers: Age of Ultron

The People's Choice Award For Worst Summer Movie
(Based on a combination of each movie's cinema score and total gross)

The Fantastic Four
Cinemascore: C-
Total Box Office: $50 Million

Runner up:
The Gallows

Top 10 Summer Movies By Domestic Box Office Gross:
(The best of the best according to the numbers)

1. Jurassic World: $643 Million
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron: $457 Million
3. Inside Out: $344 Million
4. Minions: $325 Million
5. Pitch Perfect 2: $183 Million
6. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: $170 Million
7. Ant-Man: $169 Million
8. San Andreas: $153 Million
9. Mad Max Fury Road: $152 Million
10. Straight Outta Compton: $135 Million

Full Disclosure
(Summer movies I didn't see for one reason or another)

Hot Pursuit
Pitch Perfect 2
Insidious Chapter 3
Magic Mike XXL
The Gallows
Paper Towns
Shaun the Sheep
Ricki and the Flash
Hitman: Agent 47
No Escape

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