Friday, September 16, 2016

Summer Movie Report Card 2016

The 2016 summer movie season has finally come to a close and even though I have had a full 3 months to compile my thoughts I still find myself at a loss of words for the most part (not really though as you will soon find out). The problem with this particular summer season is that there just wasn't anything that stood out, not even anything bad. Don't get me wrong though as there were plenty of both bad and good that were delivered unto our collective unsuspecting souls but it is difficult to imagine anyone looking back a couple years down the road and being able to recall a single film that was released without doing a Google search.

One of the most telling signs that something was amiss is that there weren't very many runaway blockbusters. Aside from the juggernaut known as Finding Dory nothing lasted long enough to make any sort of impression. Superheroes were still out in force with offerings from both Fox's X-Men: Apocalypse and Warner's Suicide Squad (Marvel got a head start in April with Civil War) and despite middling receptions turned a buck or two. Sequels and remakes however didn't fair too well with films like Independence Day: Resurgence and Now You See Me 2 failing to regain their audiences and others such as Alice Through the Looking Glass being dead on arrival. We did see some smaller films make a dent with Me Before You, The Shallows and Nerve helping deliver some much needed diversity. We even saw some major flops domestically turn a huge profit overseas such as the videogame adaptation Warcraft which has become China's biggest release of the year. But nothing really stood out from the pack enough to warrant more than a passing glance and that is the ultimate failing of the 2016 summer season.

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)


These hot dogs are ready to party!

Let's get the most controversial one out of the way first. Sausage Party wins this one simply because it is everything it promised it would be and even more. The guys responsible for films such as Pineapple Express, This is the End and The Interview have delivered probably one of the smartest comedies of the year and it just so happens to be packaged inside what on the surface appears to be a movie solely about drugs and sexual innuendos (which it most definitely is). The story won't blow anybody away (it is essentially Toy Story but with food...and sex...and drugs) but the laughs come at a blistering pace and is guaranteed to keep you smiling the entire time. Don't judge a book by its cover is as apt a term as ever with this one.

Runner Up:
Lights Out

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


"Yes Mr. Damon, the check has cleared".

No other movie released this year (let alone this summer) was as derivative and stale as the return of Jason Bourne in this self titled disaster of an action movie. If you loved the first three Bourne films and/or Matt Damon as Jason Bourne you will STILL find nothing redeeming about this poor excuse for a paycheck. All the actors look disinterested, the action is marred by horrible shaky-cam edits, the story is contrived at best and completely non-existent at worst and it can't even bother to try and do anything original and instead takes all the best parts of the other films and dilutes them into pointless globe trotting nonsense. I almost created a new category for most insulting film of the summer thanks to the people responsible for this trainwreck.

Runner Up:
Now You See Me 2

Biggest Disaster
(Critics and audiences hated it equally)


This is kind of what everyones reaction was to the movie.

I didn't see this film but even I know that it was one of the biggest disasters of the year. This was a strange one as even leading up to its release you could find absolutely no one who cared. This indifference was then coupled with the fact that apparently it wasn't very good which shouldn't come as a surprise as the first film, despite making a ton of money, wasn't very good either. Labeled as a poor imitation of a bad Tim Burton film (which it was), Through the Looking Glass was forgotten quicker than it was kicked out of theaters with the only worthwhile footnote being yet another failed attempt to bank on Johnny Depp to bring people in to see your movie. I don't think we will be returning to Wonderland anytime soon.

Runner Up:
Nine Lives

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


The premise isn't totally unique but it dam well nailed the execution.

It's difficult to not only be original but also successful and actually good at the same time but Sausage Party achieved all those goals in one fell swoop. With a summer filled to the brim with sequels and reboots (something that may change after their dismal performances this summer) it is always refreshing to see a film like Sausage Party, which not only took on the challenge of being an animated film geared towards adults but also isn't a sequel of any kind and still prevail. While it's humor is certainly not for everyone there is little argument that it outshines just about all other films released this summer (live action included) with a unique premise that it totally delivered on.

Runner Up:
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

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


This is what the audience looked like while leaving the theater.

The X-Men movies have to be one of the biggest roller coaster rides in quality in cinema history. Outside perhaps the Star Trek films, it is almost impossible to judge when one will be either good or bad since the usual tools we use to gauge such things (actors/directors/studio) are null and void for the most part in regards to these films. It was made by Bryan Singer, the guy who gave us at least 2 of the greatest X-men movies ever but who also delivered one of the worst Superman movies of all time. It stars all the actors from the greatest X-Men movie ever First Class. It is from the studio that gave us X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Fantastic 4 but who also gave us the great Deadpool movie. But alas X-Men: Apocalypse represents a severe low point for the franchise and with all the potential and momentum leading in from the better-than-it-should-have-been X-Men: Days of Future Past it is difficult to see this as anything other than a massive disappointment.

Runner Up:
Suicide Squad

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


Creepy and surprisingly smart, a rarity in the horror genre.

Horror movies are a dime a dozen but we were blessed with a surprising number of good ones this summer. From Conjuring 2 and The Purge: Election Year we got a lot of diversity in our horror selections but none was more diverse than the delightfully creepy offering Lights Out. Horror films that are heavily reliant on a central gimmick are generally not very good with poorly written characters, bad acting and a highly predictable plot filled with predetermined character deaths. Lights Out instead gave us characters we care about, good acting and a highly unpredictable plot where the few deaths we got were well deserved and kind of messed up. Most of all it didn't rely solely on its admittedly clever gimmick and decided to tell a story first and foremost. This is a clear contender for best horror film of the year.

Runner Up:
Star Trek Beyond

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


Regardless of what audiences thought, they will always have each other.

I think we have begun to take Steven Spielberg for granted. You would be hard pressed for anyone to recall the last few films he has made since they seem to come and go largely unnoticed which is a real shame. The recent victim of this blatant indifference for one of the greatest filmmakers of all time is the family oriented film The BFG which aside from a rather unfortunate title is one of the most delightful and purely magical films released this summer. But none of that matters since just about no one saw it and instead opted to make the painfully banal Legend of Tarzan (released at the same time as this) into a bonafide hit. The BFG isn't an instant classic by any means or anything remotely on the same level as Spielberg's greatest achievements, but much like all of his films there is an undeniable charm and level of craftsmanship to the whole production that makes this one worthy of another look if you so happened to miss it.

Runner Up:
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

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


Matthew McConaughey attempts to remember why he chose this project.

So many movies get released each week during the summer season that it is inevitable that at least one film will always get swept under the rug. However, it is the more high profile ones that inspire this award each year and no other film was kicked to the curb quicker than the Matthew McConaughey period action/drama flick Free State of Jones. Call it bad timing or call it a bad idea altogether, no one wanted to watch a movie about a confederate white man leading an army of slaves to freedom during a time when most audiences just want to turn off their brains. But it is difficult to even think than anyone would want to see a film like this regardless of when it was released as it just looked devoid of any sort of urgency or purpose while telling a familiar story that has already been told countless times before and most likely much better than here. If you want to watch something that tells a similar story but in a much more profound and moving way, watch Glory instead.

Runner Up:
Ice Age: Collision Course

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


The only con that happened here is the money I paid to see it.

The first Now You See Me was what I like to refer to as mindless escapist fun which is basically a more articulate way of saying turn-off-your-brain entertainment, but in no way shape or form did that film deserve a sequel. We all know Hollywood doesn't make sequels based off whether they actually NEED them or not, just based off how much money the first one made which is fine just so long as they can make said sequel just as fun as the original; that did not happen here. Watching NYSM2 it is readily apparent that the writers had no idea where to take these characters since it appears they decided to just jam them into a poor man's version of Ocean's 11 where both the objectives and heists themselves are yawn inducing at best. The greatest sin committed here though is that all the magic from the first film (both literal and metaphorical) is absent for most of the film and when it does pop up is generally unbelievable to the point of inducing laughter at the ludicrous antics being displayed (that card throwing scene...sigh). If you liked the first film (as I did) do yourself a favor and steer clear of this blatant cash-in.

Runner Up:
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Primary Export Award
(If we don't like it, then maybe they will)


China apparently really really loves them some Orcs.

Just because a film bombs domestically doesn't mean it failed completely. Case in point and the originator of this award (I may end up naming the award after it actually), Warcraft was one of the most notorious failures of this summer season. Some may say it was released way too late in the videogame's life cycle for anyone to care, others may say it carries the videogame film adaptation curse and others may say it just wasn't very good, but no matter what there is no denying that American film going audiences just didn't care. Luckily for the studio (and fans) then that China welcomed the film with open arms as it went on to become the highest grossing film in China for the summer and making over $386 million overseas compared to its pathetic US tally at $47 million. It became so successful as a matter of fact that the studio is thinking of making a sequel and only releasing it in China, how crazy is that?!

Runner Up:
Ice Age: Collision Course ($327 million overseas versus $62 million domestic)

Franchise Killer Award
(There's no coming back from this one)


Girl power wasn't enough to save it from its own mediocrity.

You know what, I liked the new Ghostbusters film. It wasn't great but it also wasn't bad, it was just sort of OK and I think that more than anything else (including all the internet haters out there) is what killed it this summer. Surprisingly though it didn't bomb and made back a respectful amount of its budget but that wasn't enough for Sony though since they recently announced that they have no plans to follow it up with a sequel despite it being set up for one during the end credits. Sadly most will create a revisionist history of events outlining that it was the fan outrage that killed this untimely reboot where in fact it was its own mediocrity that put the final nail in the coffin of this beloved franchise. Perhaps one day someone will try again and hopefully fans won't be so quick to judge before they see the final product for themselves.

Runner Up:
X-Men: Apocalypse

Franchise Redemption Award
(We didn't want you but now we just want more)


Taking the franchise boldly to better places.

Following the unremarkable Star Trek Into Darkness had already created an uphill battle for this J.J. Abrams-less Trek sequel but then couple in the fact that it debuted itself with one of the worst received trailers in film history (outside the Ghostbusters reboot that is) and you have yourself a recipe for impending doom. Then when all the people who worked on it (including actor/writer Simon Pegg who helped pen the script) started to come to its defense most everyone blew it off as the Captains trying to save their sinking ship. Well color me surprised then when low and behold the actual film is way better than anything we saw in those initial trailers. Sure it still wasn't the Trek we want it to be and is filled with plenty of eye rolling moments (killing the bad guys with the Beastie Boys...really?) but it resembled the original Trek more so than any either of the previous Abrams Trek films. The most surprising thing about it though was that going in I didn't care about the Trek film series at all any more but coming out I couldn't wait until the next one.

Runner Up:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of The Shadows

The Indifference Award


"Me Tarzan. You not care."

How many times do we need to see the Tarzan story retold? Seriously, the guy was raised by apes, we get it already. Other than maybe Frankenstein, it's one of the most widely known stories in the world yet we always seem to get another one as if the others never existed. To be fair though at least director David Yates (of Harry Potter fame) picked the story up AFTER the events we already know about and tried to tell a somewhat different story (although it really isn't that different). Depicting the king of the jungle almost as a superhero, this Tarzan may look good and feature a slew of good actors but watching it really makes one shrug their shoulders and wonder why we needed it. It is decent enough entertainment as you watch it but once it is all over you begin to question whether it was worth the time invested to bother seeing it all.

Runner Up:
The Angry Birds Movie

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


If only Apocalypse had known nuclear weapons could kill, he would have won.

The actual script behind X-Men: Apocalypse was the real culprit behind most of its failures, but the biggest lapse in logic for a film already steeped in plot holes and inconsistencies had to be everything related to its central villain Apocalypse. No other villain in recent memory (super or otherwise) has fumbled the proverbial ball as much as the so called ultimate intellectual being known as Apocalypse. Touted as one of Marvel's greatest forces of evil, the film incarnation left a rather sour impression with his inability to actually destroy humanity despite having multiple opportunities to do so over the course of the film. Then when we do get to see his master plan it is little more than just an excuse to make Xavier go bald and to give Magneto his third attempt at redemption just before he is shut down by all the rookie X-Men whom he could have beaten had he not been so inept as to recruit some of the weakest mutants in existence for his personal guard (Angel...seriously?). This one made X-Men 3 seem somewhat competent in comparison and that is just sad.

Runner Up:
Jason Bourne

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


The joke was on us apparently.

I know there are a lot of people who actually liked Suicide Squad (I thought it was alright but nothing great by any means) and this by no means is trying to convince them otherwise. But for me the film just didn't live up to the potential of its premise, a sort of Dirty Dozen but with "super" villains. The villains weren't really villains but more like people who chose to go down the wrong path and the mission they get sent on (the cornerstone of any movie featuring a squad on a mission) was severely lacking in anything resembling a plot or reason. The only thing that held it together were a handful of genuinely well executed action sequences and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. This was not the movie we were sold on in all the trailers leading up to its release (mainly due to some behind the scenes tinkering) and perhaps if what we got was better than what they promised it would have been alright, but as it stands this is a pale imitation of what it should have been all along, a movie about bad guys doing things for the greater good but in very bad ways.

Runner Up:
Jason Bourne

The Counter-programming Award
(In a season full of blockbusters this successfully kept it simple)


Emilia Clarke shines in this heartbreaking ode to living life to its fullest.

There is always at least one tear jerker filmed released every summer that hopes to bring in audiences who are turned off by all the adrenaline fueled mayhem of most summer blockbusters, but Me Before You is different simply because of its lead actor Emilia Clarke. Known mostly for her more somber role as Daneryis Targerian on Game of Thrones it was a real treat to see her bouncing around the screen in some of the most ridiculous outfits imaginable. Her passion and energy were infectious in a way that made you want to reach out and just give her a big hug. The rest of the film as well as her co-star Sam Claflin were all good as well and even though it does end on a rather sad note Clarke's sheer enthusiasm for life has you leaving the theater feeling exhilarated about life.

Runner Up:
Bad Moms

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

(Alice Through the Looking Glass)

Does this picture even need a caption?

Poor poor Johnny Depp, once the king of the summer blockbuster thanks to all four of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies but now looked at as pure box office poison. Starting with the dismal Dark Shadows then carried over in the fun but ill-received The Lone Ranger and now with the dead on arrival Alice Through the Looking Glass, no other actor in Hollywood can tout such a disastrous summer movie failure track record than Mr. Depp. Sadly this is more of a situation where the character (Captain Jack Sparrow in this case) was the real draw for audiences than the actual actor playing the character which would explain how audiences simply refuse to show up for any of his other blockbuster films. Perhaps it is time for him to retire to smaller films again outside the crowded summer market and rediscover what made him such an appealing screen presence in the first place.

Runner Up:
Zac Efron (Neighbors 2 and Mike & Dave)

Rising Star Award
(This person can do no wrong)

Margot Robbie 
(Suicide Squad)

Robbie stole the show as the Joker's main squeeze.

Margot Robbie has been busy making sure that she shows up in just about anything you see this year. Starting with the merely OK-ish Whisky Tango Foxtrot and then as the iconic Jane in this summer's The Legend of Tarzan, she is making the argument quite well that she is on her way to fame and fortune. But ultimately it was her turn as the indomitable Harley Quinn in the Warner Bros. smash hit Suicide Squad that has cemented her position as a force to be reckoned with among the Hollywood elite. Not only was she considered the best thing about the film as a whole but her star making performance has green lit a solo Harley Quinn film which will no doubt be an even bigger hit and solidify Ms. Robbie as one of the top tier A listers in Hollywood.

Runner Up:
Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)

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

Finding Dory 
Cinemascore: A
Total Box Office: $483 Million

Runner Up:
The Secret Life of Pets

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

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Cinemascore: B
Total Box Office: $9 Million

Runner up:
The Nice Guys

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

1. Finding Dory: $483 Million
2. The Secret Life of Pets: $360 Million
3. Suicide Squad: $301 Million
4. Jason Bourne: $157 Million
5. Star Trek Beyond: $155.6 Million
6. X-Men: Apocalypse: $155.4 Million
7. Central Intelligence: $127 Million
8. Ghostbusters: $126.7 Million
9. The Legend of Tarzan: $126.4 Million
10. The Angry Birds Move: $107 Million

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

Angry Birds Movie
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Money Monster
The Neon Demon
Central Intelligence
Free State of Jones
Finding Dory
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
The Secret Life of Pets
The Infiltrator
Ice Age: Collision Course
Nine Lives
Ben-Hur (the biggest flop of the summer losing over 120 million)
Pete's Dragon
War Dogs
Mechanic: Resurrection
Hell or High Water
Don't Breathe


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