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Freshly Popped Culture Presents: The 2018 Summer Box Office Game of Death

A.K.A. How badly can we judge the purchasing decisions of mainstream audiences this time?

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The concept of a Summer Movie Wager is simple: assemble a bunch of people, have them create a list of what they predict will be the 10 highest grossing films of 2018, and bask in how wrong everybody was so far down the line when nobody can remember what the fuck we said to begin with. Shamelessly cribbed from the concept popularized by the /Film crew, we here at Freshly Popped Culture very much wanted to get in on the fun of looking foolish in hindsight, so our fab four (Matthew, Jared, Justin, and Jeremy) are doing just that, and seek to defeat them. May the odds be in our favor.

At the end of the summer movie season (a.k.a. Labor Day), we will return to tabulate the scores, and determine who reigned supreme. That is the brilliance of the Summer Movie Wager: you’re either wrong, super wrong, or least wrong. There is no right. There is only the person who screwed up the fewest times, and is therefore the victor.

Without much further ado, here’s how our internal point keeping system works. We run things a little bit differently than some of the other Summer Movie Wagers out there, so pay close attention. It might seem completely arbitrary but, trust me, it totally is.

The scoring system is thus:

  • 10 points for hitting a movie dead-on on the list
  • 7 points if your pick was only one spot away from where it ended up
  • 5 points if it was two spots away
  • 1 point if your pick is anywhere in the Top 10
  • 3 points for each dark horse that makes it into the Top 10
  • 5 points if your prediction on total domestic box office is within $10 million dollars

The winner gets to force the rest of us to play truth or dare on Twitter, and you don’t want to be caught revealing your darkest secrets online (at least not intentionally). I heard Matt committed arson once, he’s a firebug!


MATTHEW’S PICKS: 

Dark Horses:

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies — Teen Titans Go! is insanely popular for Cartoon Network, but will that translate to huge box office success? Ask The Simpsons Movie or The Lego Ninjago Movie, and you’ll get widely different responses. It’s a coin toss, really.

SkyscraperIf recent years have taught me anything, it’s that betting on Dwayne Johnson is rarely a bad thing. The man is a star, and throwing him into his very own Die Hard could end up being insanely lucrative….or just do okay. Hard to tell, really, making it a perfect Dark Horse.

Christopher RobinCall me crazy, but I think this movie is going to do huge, simply because the trailer alone nearly brought me to tears. This might end up playing really well come August, but considering the timeframe of the wager, it would have to make that money VERY fast in order to crack the Top 10.

10. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $110 million

Ocean’s 8 is a bit of a mystery to me, if I’m being honest, just because I think it has the potential to breakout in a way that is pretty much unpredictable. That being said, anticipation seems soft for this one so far, and the film could easily get lost in the summer shuffle. Granted, 15 years ago this was EXACTLY the type of movie that would do well in the summer months (see: Ocean’s Eleven, 12, 13, etc.), but the time’s have changed. Then again, don’t count out Sandy Bullock. She’s still America’s Sweetheart somewhere!


9. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Predicted Gross: $125 million

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is not for me. But, for the crowd it is aiming for, it’s pretty much the Incredibles 2 of Summer 2018. The first film made nearly $150 million back in July of 2008 (up against The Dark Knight, no less!), and I expect this one to do about as well. Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, I don’t expect it to do quite as well, but I think the gap won’t be all that wide between the two. Meryl Streep is singing ABBA songs, and our parents are still totally into it.


8. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Predicted Gross: $150 million

Hotel Transylvania is actually a decently performing franchise for Sony Pictures, and I don’t expect that to change with the third installment of the series. The summer is light when it comes to animated family fare, and with a story tailor-made to the season (AND a prime July release date to utilize as well), expect families to show up for this one just as much as they did the last few. Which, eh, whatever. I’m just happy Genndy Tartakovsky has a well-paying gig, and will use the remainder of this blurb to remind people that we got a conclusion to Samurai Jack last year, and it kicked ALL THE ASS. Hopefully Tartakovsky can make some money here, and return to that kind of stuff in due time.


7. Mission: Impossible — Fallout

Predicted Gross: $180 million

Mission: Impossible is one of the few non-comic book franchises left in Hollywood that dependably makes money, and six installments in, I’m not expecting a huge drop-off or anything. Tom Cruise is still dangling from buildings n’ shit, and audiences (including yours truly) will still show up to see it. Plus, Henry Cavill back in spy mode should entice some of that big, lucrative Man from U.N.C.L.E. fans into the theater as well. There’s dozens of us. DOZENS!

6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $200 million

Ant-Man ranks as one of Marvel’s lowest performers, only managing to scrape up $180 million back in July 2015. That was still apparently enough to warrant a sequel, however, a decision that was primarily influenced by its relatively low budget ($130 million) and decent performance overseas. That being said, I think Ant-Man and the Wasp has a good chance of being one of the few blockbusters to outperform its predecessor. The original turned out to be a decent crowd-pleaser, and the character’s appearance in Civil War probably did a lot to boost his popularity. And between you and me, blog reader, I have a sinking suspicion that Ant-Man and the Wasp is stealthily going to be more important to the MCU than it may appear, and that Avengers: Infinity War might even tease things for the character that will leave people VERY curious to see his follow-up film. But groundless speculation aside, Ant-Man and the Wasp should play well come July.

5. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $255 million

I get Fox needed SOME kind of big release for their Summer 2018 calendar, but I can’t help but feel releasing Deadpool 2 smack dab in the middle of May isn’t going to end up being the most fruitful of decisions. Deadpool did so well back in February 2016 because it had a lot of room to breathe, and was truly the only blockbuster of its kinds for weeks on end (also see: Black Panther.) But the competition from Infinity War and Solo is going to cannibalize Deadpool – not enough to make it bomb or anything, but enough to make the possibility of it even approaching the original’s huge $363 million haul a shifty prospect.

4. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $320 million

Solo: A Star Wars Story is riding little buzz, soft marketing, and overwhelming reports of behind the scenes turmoil, which is enough to make me believe it will be the worst performing live-action Star Wars movie in a while, maybe even of all time (once adjusted for inflation, of course.) But as much as I want to go truly crazy here and peg it with a haul of like $200 million or something…at the end of the day, it’s still Star Wars. The ceiling of this franchise is still rather high at this point, but Disney better watch themselves. If the film A) turns out to not be very good and B) exhausts audiences ultimate interest in the brand, than that ceiling might start shrinking rather fast. For now, don’t expect anything less than $300 million.

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $375 million

Jurassic World ended up screwing over my list back in 2015, taking away the expected crown from Avengers: Age of Ultron and grossing an absolutely insane $652 million at the domestic box office. But I very much believe that Jurassic World was an aberration, and that its sequel will suffer quite the heavy drop off once the “wow” factor of a new Jurassic Park movie dissipates. After all, that’s what happened to its forbearer’s first sequel (The Lost World made half of what Jurassic Park made – still GREAT at the time, but not the sensation that was the first.)  The film will obviously still be a huge success, but more squarely in the “well-performing sequel” category than the WHAT THE FUCK LOOK AT ALL THAT MONEY one.

2. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $400 million

Does The Incredibles 2 have a shot at being the highest grossing film of the summer? The answer is very much yes, and I was honestly 50% of the way there to predicting that very eventuality. After all, if it can happen to Finding Dory, it can happen with something as eagerly anticipated as the long awaited Incredibles 2…right?

Well, it’s complicated. The first film was a big hit in 2004, but it still topped out in the high $200 million range at the time of its release. To do as well as I’m predicting, the film would have to perform Toy Story 3 numbers, which could very much be out of range for it. But time is on Incredibles 2’s side here, with the first film becoming a classic in the decade and a half since its release. Incredibles 2 also has the luxury of virtually NO animated competition until more than a month after its initial release and, in fact, is facing little competition overall in the month of June. I don’t know, I’m going to bet high on this one. Never count a long-awaited Pixar sequel out. Even A Bug’s Life 2 would probably make like $700 million domestic.

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $670 million

Every year, I predict the big Marvel movie that opens the season is going to end up ruling the summer, and every year I am proven absolutely wrong. All that being said…c’mon, I gotta go with Infinity War here. Disney is doing an absolutely slam-bang job of marketing this one as the event film to end all event films, and the anticipation in the air for the film’s release is palpable. Combined with residual Black Panther fever and my pretty high faith the film will deliver big time (The Russo Brothers haven’t let me down yet), and I just can’t reason myself away from choosing any other film as the de facto box office champ of Summer 2018. But check back a few months from now when I’m proven wrong again, though.


JARED’S PICKS:

Dark Horses:

Christopher Robin — This is the only movie of note coming out in August, and honestly, I just threw it in here for the morbid curiosity of seeing that bear come to life in such a creepy way.

Uncle Drew — This is the pick that I had at number 10 for a while, then switched out, then back in. I have no idea of what to make of this one honestly, and I want it to do really well because it just looks like the sort of fun to take us all away from the fact that a second rate reality TV star has the nuclear codes, and is being enabled by a collection of conspiracy theorists, hack Fox News personalities, con artists, crooks, criminals, liars, frauds, phonies, cronies, and the scum of the earth known as the republican party.

Basketball is very good, and I hope this is too.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! — Well, Mamma Mia, here we go again indeed. This could make just as much money as the original, or close to nothing, and I wouldn’t be surprised either way. There is always a random dark horse that makes it into the top ten, and screws up some lists, and last year it was Girl’s Trip and before that was Central Intelligence and before that was Straight Outta Compton and I think you get my point here, people.

10. Skyscraper

Predicted Gross: $110 million

The Rock is such a magnet for money, it’s not even funny. It’s just a fact, written in stone (or rock) and considering San Andreas did like $150 million domestic, this was the toss up for that ten spot that I wrestled with (get it) before going with Skyscraper and its Super Bowl ad instead of Uncle Drew. They don’t play those commercials anymore, and the Rock is in everything. Sorry Kyrie, the world revolves around Dwyane Johnson because the EARTH IS FUCKING ROUND YOU STUPID TROLL, YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL AND IDOL TO CHILDREN, DO NOT MAKE THEM ANTI-SCIENCE YOU DIRT BAG.


9. Hotel Transylvania 3

Predicted Gross: $125 million

No one has actually seen any of these movies. They are a myth, they do not exist, and any reports to the contrary are fabrications. Somehow, a global conspiracy has laundered money through ticket sales at abandoned movie theaters to generate massive amounts of cash using these “films”, and therefore I expect another 100+ million dollar run. Robert Mueller should investigate this, after he’s done.


8. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $150 million

I so wanted to put this higher, and I really want this to not only be amazing but a smash hit so I can inject more Ocean’s movies into my veins. Heists where you root for criminals to pull a Robin Hood on some evil rich people are my heroin, and I’m addicted to feel good action comedy team ups. But this summer has stiff competition, all packed into May and June, and everything I predict to make more is a direct sequel and not a reboot. As much as I want this to surpass expectations, $150 million is nothing to sneeze at, and would be a welcome success.


7. Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

Predicted Gross: $175 million

I hate the use of fallout in the title. That bothers me so much. Anyways, all of these MI movies are fantastic and they do better in the box office every single time, but at some point there is fatigue, a ceiling on how much old man Tom Cruise and who-gives-a-shit Superman Henry Cavill alongside the same director and cast as the last one. Not that the masses and general audiences notice these things, but the remaining heavy hitters are going to put a damper on what would be otherwise $200+ runs.


6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $200 million

I cannot believe how little the previous Ant-Man made, and that it has to be ranked so low on this list (not that this is set in stone, in fact this will all be wrong come September). But around the middle of the top ten it’s going to be a slugfest, and every single factor goes into who comes out on top; release date, word of mouth, marketing budgets, if anyone still cares about Marvel movies post Infinity War or if the hunger still exists, etc. This could be way less or way more and I have no clue where it will end up landing, but all hail Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas.

5. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $275 million

For some reason, Disney’s new Salacious B. Crumb FOX is releasing this sequel at the worst time imaginable, sandwiched between two of the biggest entities on the planet: the Avengers and Star Wars / Han and Chewie. What a stupid move, this is going to hamstring what would have otherwise been a runaway success. Black Panther stole the February release date that proved to make Deadpool 1 a smash hit, and now it’s going to suffer for it. No wonder why FOX is being sold to Disney, morons work there. Nothing is in August! Just take that whole month! What are you people doing?


4. The Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $325 million

So far, all of these picks are really tough calls, not just because we know what the main 8 movies will be in the top ten, but this entire game will come down to a matter of splitting hairs; Avengers and Jurassic Park seemed locked at one and two respectively, and three – four – five are also somewhat locked, but in what order and how much they make will likely decide this contest. Pixar films make money, the original didn’t in comparison, although that was fourteen years ago, but inflation……..yeah I have no clue with this one, and it could do double the predictions and I wouldn’t be shocked.


3. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $375 million

I cannot fathom a Star Wars film coming out in May again. I cannot believe it is a Han Solo prequel story. I do not expect any of the bad press or rumors to affect its box office because nobody actually gives a shit, and word of mouth will barely impact its gross. I am mystified at the aggressive release date after the reshoots, and I am thoroughly pessimistic about everything this film stands for and represents. Yet I cannot deny it’s cultural imprint, and while I am completely Star Wars fatigued, and it’s only months after Last Jedi over-saturation / outrage, I ended up placing this one behind the remaining juggernauts below, and Rogue One’s domestic total is not indicative of how this will perform; Donald Glover will be. Not the dude who doesn’t look or sound like Harrison Ford / Han Solo, who should have been cast like 10 years younger so it wouldn’t be a huge deal. Donald motherfucking Glover.


2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $400 million

Fuck this movie, fuck the previous one, fuck the other two that were made after 1993, fuck everyone who made Colin Trevorrow rich and famous, and fuck the absolutely preposterous $1.6 billion that this movie made which could have gone to ending world hunger instead of masturbating our nostalgia of dinosaurs. I so want this to do worse, and really wanted to be bold about its placement, but I cannot deny the simple fact that Jurassic World is a top ten all time blockbuster in terms of global box office, and I wish I was dead.


1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $650 million

This is going to be among the biggest movies of all time and is such a no-brainer. Therefore, it reigns supreme over the course of the entire summer plus the giant weekend coming up IN FUCKING APRIL. If this isn’t the #1 on everyone’s list, then they are idiots who I will enjoy beating. This movie had the balls to move up to late April and start the summer whenever the fuck it wanted to. Disney owns the world and you will pay any amount to see this movie, and you probably have already bought your tickets (you read this website and if I know who our core audience of readers truly are, then I am right). The question becomes how much exactly domestically Infinity War ends up with, and you could go lower than Black Panther ($675 ish), or higher to around $700 million, but I’ll put it at a moderate $650 million. Just think about that for a moment, the sentence I just wrote. Moderate…followed by that much. Moderate amount. Bananas.


JEREMY’S PICKS:

Dark Horses:
BlacKkKlansman — What a title! It’s more awkward than the original one, Black Klansman, but it still demands attention. Given that it’s coming from Spike Lee and Jordan Peele, it should have plenty.
The Equalizer 2 — They made another one. Call your dad.
The First Purge — Each new installment in this series has made more than the last. Will the upward trend continue? Probably not!

10. Uncle Drew

Predicted Gross: $100 million
Every time I’ve watched the trailer with an audience, it’s killed. That enthusiasm might not span
the country, but considering Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa pulled in $100 million five years
ago, I think a similar idea, applied to a sports film that stars Kyrie Irving and Shaq, could be a
home run.

9. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Predicted Gross: $120 million
This is a light summer for animation, as both Warner Bros. Animation and Illumination Entertainment
are holding their big releases until the fall (though Warner Bros. also has Teen Titans Go! To the
Movies in July). I’m totally ignorant to what interests kids these days, but the computer tells me
that the previous Hotel Transylvania films each made around $150 million. Animated series
usually see a drop off around this point, but the dearth of options could work in Hotel
Transylvania 3’s favor.

8. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $130 million
I was tempted to put this at $147.65 million (80.5% of what Ocean’s Eleven made), but wasn’t
confident enough to risk a win on a joke. The cast is strong and the trailers are sleek, and there
hasn’t been any #NotMyOceans talk that could affect the stride in this movie’s step. This could
actually perform better than I’m predicting, but looking at the descending grosses of Ocean’s
Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen has me feeling pretty good about where this is at.

7. Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

Predicted Gross: $190 million
Tom Cruise spent a few years on the skids, and then he started punishing himself for our
entertainment like Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club. Now, we’re obligated to buy a ticket
to each new Mission: Impossible film, because otherwise, he’s punching himself in the face in
an empty parking lot. Cruise seems to have continued doing riskier and stupider things with this
summer’s installment, so it should fall in the same $190-$210 million range as the last two.

6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $200 million
This really should have come out in the fall, as Avengers: Infinity War is hitting theaters before
Black Panther is even available to rent. However, Ant-Man did well following Avengers: Age of
Ultron, so maybe there’s nothing to worry about. Fatigue or no fatigue, Marvel seems incapable
of making below $200 million domestic on each film. But given my uncertainty, I’m placing this
one right on the line. If Ant-Man really shines in Infinity War, though, the sequel could be giant,
man.

5. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $250 million
This may be too low, but I can’t see this being as big a sensation as the first, especially since it’s
coming out in a packed summer and not February. But I said something similar about Guardians
of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last year, so what do I know?

4. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $350 million
I can’t get a read on the public’s interest in this. Will people make the effort to see this in
theaters, or will they wait? With Star Wars in the title, does it even matter that nobody asked for
this? I’m betting on the brand and going with this performing well, but the high placement could
be a Wookie mistake.

3. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $375 million
Someone who saw The Incredibles theatrically while in kindergarten can now see the sequel
during the break between college semesters. Fun, right? The delayed approach to sequels has
consistently worked well for Pixar, as it doesn’t just appeal to people who saw the original – it
also appeals to the kids they’ve had since then. The Incredibles was the Pixar film best suited
for a sequel, but it’s one of the last to receive one. Instead of coming after audiences have
moved on, though, Incredibles 2 seems right on time. People seem excited to revisit the world
and the characters, especially after the changes in superhero films since 2004.

2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $400 million
It seems like every comment section for every Jurassic Park related story posted on every
website includes at least one person saying that regardless of the series’s quality, they’ll show
for every sequel, because dinosaurs. And look – I get it. Dinosaurs are rad. I don’t have the
same blind, eternal love for this series as most of the population, but I get that they like seeing
dinosaurs eat people and destroy stuff, and as long as each Jurassic movie offers that, most will
be satisfied. I expect nothing different from Fallen Kingdom, so I expect nothing different from
moviegoers.

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $525 million
 ‘nuff said.

JUSTIN’S PICKS:

Dark Horses:

For my Dark Horses choices, I went with three films that from one of the most unpredictable categories, adult leaning comedies. Some times the flop, some times they’re a hit, and occasion, sometimes they become a phenomenon.All the films I have chance to be something because they have built in demographics.

Tag
Action Point
Crazy Rich Asians

10. The Meg

Predicted Gross: $125 million

It’s a really big ass shark attacking things and Jason Statham says stuff like “Oh My God, It’s A Megalodon”. If doesn’t at least $100 Million+, what we even doing here?

9. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Predicted Gross: $150 Million

Small human beings like these films and are taken to them by large human beings.


8. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $165 Million

I’m fascinated to see how this turns out. It looks slick, has a great cast, and it’s got popular franchise name. But it’s been a while. My thinking is this Girl’s Trip type numbers but you add some because its going to be PG-13 and then you add a little more because people kind of know what they’re getting here.


7. Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

Predicted Gross: $215 Million

You have Tom Cruise fight a Mummy, meh. You have Tom Cruise smuggling cocaine for CIA, okay? You have Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt, let’s go! Despite the fact this sixth film in this franchise, the series is thriving under J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot. Action packed, great locals, and the maybe the last movie star left, these film generally have domestic ceiling around $200 Million and I don’t imagine much change.


6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $225 Million

Marvel fever will be at epidemic levels after Avengers: Infinity War. Destruction, death, and wondering what next’s will give this franchise a bump from it’s first go around. I don’t know if the comedic tone of this franchise is really the best move after political nature of Black Panther and board shuffling that will occur in Avengers 3 but I’m not really going to argue with The Mouse on how they’re handling Marvel Cinematic Universe.


5. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $255 Million

I have absolutely no idea what to make of this film. First, I thought first The Incredibles was an awful film with a terrible message, and secondly, Pixar’s name doesn’t ring bells anymore. Pixar’s most heralded film in nearly a decade, Coco, barely made $200 Million. I know this is supposed one of Pixar’s most storied properties but the keyword there is “storied”, The Incredibles came out November 5, 2004. I know they’ve seen success despite long layover’s, Toy Story 2 was released in November 1999 and Toy Story 3 was released in June 2010 but A. Toy Story 3 is a masterpiece and one of the greatest animated film ever made and B. Toy Story 3 was the tail end of the Golden Age of Pixar where it was one of the best movie studios in the world at the time. Last year, Cars 3 topped out at $152.9 Million, I’ll add 100 Million to that because people have fond memories of these characters.

4. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $300 Million

Oh, I get it, he uses profanity and tells meta jokes. Sign me up! Deadpool was an awful film but it made $360 Million , so what were getting is probably more of the same. So I’m imaging much of the same box office except that the following weekend, a Star Wars film comes out, so this film is not getting that 360 Million again. Or maybe I’m wrong and this ends up being best superhero film of the year “Looks at Camera & Winks”. There, that was my attempt at one of those third wall breaking jokes.


3. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $500 Million

There’s a lot going on here. On one hand, we’re getting a story centered around one of the most iconic characters of the 20th Century and someone who is adored by an entire generation. But the rumors around the re-shooting and rewrites are something to consider, yes the production problems are something known to “Film Twitter” and not largely known to the general public but the question still remains, what is this film going to be? A dramatic shift in tone, as it was reported, could lead this film to be “whispers in soft tones” bad. Or maybe it doesn’t matter because everything Star Wars is “critic proof” at this point. But, one thing is assured, this film is going to take a little hit because, this is the first modern Star Wars film to be released in the summer so it has more competition then the previous three film who all saw a December release and whose only competition was the holidays and award films. Lastly, I know this supposed to be a star making performance for Alden Ehrenreich but whatever charisma he’s showing in these trailers is getting dunked on by the swagger Donald Glover is giving us as Lando.


2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $525 Million

Two things: 1. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a real dope title, I just wanted to take a moment to say that. 2. I have no idea how Jurassic World ended up as one of the ten highest grossing films of all time. That being said, there’s going to be a serious regression for Fallen Kingdom, this rebooted series lacks the hype for Fallen Kingdom to do numbers near Jurassic World.

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $575 Million

There really isn’t an argument about this film not being #1 Film of Summer. The question is does it get Black Panther levels, I say no. I don’t think this film has cultural resonance to get there but I think because of a post Black Panther wave of enthusiasm for Marvel this film surpasses Age of Ultron $459 Million Dollar box office but falls short of first Avengers film by a wide margin.


And there you have it, our picks for the biggest films of Summer 2018. Check back in a few months to see just how massively we all missed the mark.

Movies

Feel Free To Take The Rest of The Day Off, The John Wick: Chapter 3 Trailer Is Here

The national holiday known as John Wick Trailer Day begins…now.

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I love movie trailers. I know for some they find the mere act of watching a movie trailer a “spoiler” for what is to come in the final film, and look, I get it. Sometimes, there are moments and things I see in a trailer that, when I watch the full movie, I wish I could have taken back seeing. But, for me, there’s something so magical about the trailer watching experience that I can’t throw away the art form entirely. And though you might bristle at my definition of trailer making as an “art form”…eh, you’re wrong. There is a beauty to a well produced, well edited trailer, and the best ones are examples of the power that come with the form. Yes, they’re marketing, and yes, they’re sometimes scattershot, thrown together bores. But the good ones? Watching those come hand in hand with watching movies, at least from my perspective.

All of which is a long preamble to me saying that, on Youtube, I have a private little playlist of trailers for movies, TV, and video games that I absolutely LOVE. Trailers that I return to again and again and again, just because the craft that went into them is so staggering. One of those trailers is this first one for John Wick: Chapter 2, which was my first indication that “Woah, this one is going to be something special.” And it very much was! But even outside the general kickassery of that sequel, the trailer was and is absolutely delightful. So coming into today’s big release of the John Wick: Chapter 3 trailer, I had some very high hopes. Would — and could — this trailer manage to match the quantified hype levels that the Chapter 2 teaser put out?

Honestly, no, not quite. But the first trailer for Chapter 2 didn’t show us a FREAKING KATANA MOTORCYCLE CHASE/FIGHT, so it rather evens out, don’t you think?

And not being as masterful as the first Chapter 2 trailer ≠ being bad. In fact, from a purely technical and academic level, this trailer would probably best be described as something that, fundamentally, “fucks to the max.” You got the aforementioned motorcycle chase, which indeed fucks hard. You got the much teased “Keanu on a horse” action, which indubitably fucks. You got John Wick murdering people with a book, which of course fucks, how could you even question such at thing. And you got Halle Berry and her attack dogs joining in on all the fun, which in this franchise of course, is murdering people. Sounds like Trailer Fucks Bingo, if you ask me.

And what the trailer does so well (and what I hope the film will do well too) is amp up the tension, to an insane degree. Ending the second film on that huge cliffhanger was a brilliant move, as seeing Wick prepare in the “one hour head start” he has to get the hell out of New York before literally every hitman around comes to assassinate him makes for a heck of a sequel pitch. And the trailer plays around with that deliciously, racketing up the tension in the first half to deliver the true fireworks in the second. Set to a remixed version of the crooner tune “The Impossible Dream” by Andy Williams, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the operatic, pulse pounding remix of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” used in the Chapter 2 trailer, but it still makes for an interesting, exciting contrast.

John Wick: Chapter 3 Trailer

And everything else about this trailer is classic John Wick greatness, from the many, MANY creative kills (seriously, that book thing) to the surprisingly crisp, exciting photography brought to life by cinematographer Dan Laustsen. Lausten took an already pretty presentation from the original John Wick and made it flat our gorgeous, and that sense of visual beauty is all over this trailer. I love action movies that take the time to actually look good, and John Wick is one of the few franchises committed to having that kind of aesthetic. In addition to the mayhem, carnage, and wacky-ass world building, of course.

Anywho, this is a great trailer, but it does little to change my overall excitement for the film — after all, it’s hard to go much farther than “PUMP THIS SHIT IN MY VEINS NOW,” right?

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum (yes, this one has a subtitle, to the annoyance of SEO managers everywhere) hits theaters on May 19. And even if the first trailer is a smidge below the one for John Wick: Chapter 2, the astounding first two posters released for the film more than make up for it. BRB, clearing wall space.

“John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run for two reasons… he’s being hunted for a global $14 million dollar open contract on his life, and for breaking a central rule: taking a life on Continental Hotel grounds. The victim was a member of the High Table who ordered the open contract. John should have already been executed, except the Continental’s manager, Winston, has given him a one-hour grace period before he’s “Excommunicado” – membership revoked, banned from all services and cut off from other members. John uses the service industry to stay alive as he fights and kills his way out of New York City.”


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God Damn It, Sony is Back On That Ghostbusters 3 Shit Again

“I am so freaking tired writing about Ghostbusters sequels.” – Me, in the year like Two-Thousand-God-Damn-Twelve

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I thought we were passed this, you guys. I really, truly did.

After nearly a decade of writing stuff about Ghostbusters 3, I thought the release of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot (maybe subtitled Answer the Call? I don’t fucking know) signified the end of an era. All the in-fighting, fanboy hyperbole, acute sexism, accusations of sexism, controversies, cameo wrangling, and nostalgia baiting all led up to 2016’s Ghostbusters — and it all fizzled like a recently used Muon Trap. The reboot got mixed-positive reception from critics, but absolutely bombed at the box office, grossing a paltry $229 million worldwide off a budget of $144 million. After literally decades of build-up, I thought this was how the saga ended: a middling-to-bad reboot that would end up being forgotten to time, in a franchise that likely wouldn’t see the light of day for decades to come.

Oh, but don’t underestimate the folks at Sony Pictures! Apparently it only took them two years to turnaround from the failure of 2016’s Ghostbusters, wipe their hands on their jeans, and get back to work on revitalizing the series. So in a move that I can’t imagine anyone in the year of our lord 2019 asked for, we’re getting another Ghostbusters movie, completely divorced from everything set up from the last one. So another reboot, essentially!

But, no, that would be inaccurate. Because this project will be a sequel of sorts…a sequel to the original two Ghostbusters, that is. In what should have been clear from the start, but inexplicably wasn’t for the team behind 2016’s reboot, these “thirty years later” revitalizations are incredibly popular nowadays. From The Force Awakens to Creed, every series that was once popular decades ago is now being revitalized, with a younger cast indeed “rebooting” the series, but the old guard sticking around to serve as a continuation, rather than a rehash, of what came before. It’s like having your cake and eating it too: the studio gets their “new” franchise off the back of an old one, but you respect and excite fans by showing more of what they loved the first time. It’s a win-win and, quite honestly, I think the quality of these legacyquels (as Matt Singer so brilliantly coined) has been better than the standard reboot/remakes we were getting for a while there.

By going this route, franchise films can at least make a statement about their own impact, or their place in the pop culture cannon, which is a lot more than standards reboots usually do. Those end up just saying the same exact story over again, trying to tap into the magic of seeing it for the first time, but absolutely failing to do so. You know, like how the 2016 Ghostbusters did. As much as one group might like to bitch and moan about how casting women ruined everything, it wasn’t the genitals of the cast that took down Ghostbusters, and it’s absolutely insane I have to write something like that in the first place. It was the uninspired, meandering, and ultimately forgettable way Ghostbusters tried to cash in on its predecessor’s clout that ultimately did it in.

But let’s make like Sony, and forget that whole movie ever even happened: a new Ghostbusters is coming, whether you like it or not. And if you think this is just in the planning stages, or something Sony rattled off as a potential project during an investor’s meeting, think again. Because, slightly burying the lede here (that you probably read everywhere else, so forgive me for assuming you already know) is the fact this project is coming from none other than Jason Reitman, the filmmaker behind Tully, Juno, and the like. He’s also the son of franchise director Ivan Reitman which, y’know, I’m sure is totally unrelated.

Anywho, he has been working on it in secret for a while now alongside Monster House writer Gil Kenan, and the project is already set to begin shooting by the end of the year for a Summer 2020 release. Still don’t believe me? Just take a look at the already released teaser for the film, reportedly done by Reitman himself, and brandishing the “Summer 2020” release in plain sight. This one’s coming folks, and coming fast.

Now just in case you needed reminding, this one DEFINITELY takes place in the original continuity — you hear that Elmer Bernstein score? Oh yeah, buddy, that’s OG shit right there. And on the surface, yeah, it’s pretty cool to ape that aesthetic. And Jason Reitman is a strong director, even if this one seems like a very strange fit for him (his films are funny, sure, but not out-and-out comedies: his sensibilities are more Sofia Coppola than Judd Apatow). But I just can’t get excited about this thing, not in a way I might have back in 2012 or whatever. After years and years of talk about further Ghostbuster films, only to get the subpar 2016 reboot, I’ve rather soured on this franchise. Unless the pitch is really strong, and the actors involved (all teenagers, from what’s been reported) are interesting, I just can’t get enthused about the prospects of Ghostbusters 3: Here We Fuckin’ Go Again.

Even worse will be the discourse around it, and the shit that stained the last one floating back up to the surface. Another round of talking about whether or not the original movie is good (it is.) Another round talking about whether Ghostbusters 2 is bad (it is, very.) Another round of needless appreciation for Paul Feig’s tepid reboot. Another round of MRA asshats whipping their dicks out and complaining about how only men can shoot imaginary beams out of imaginary packs while capturing imaginary beings in an imaginary story. Another round of well-meaning but overbearing people, in kind, giving more credit than necessary to a movie that frankly doesn’t deserve it. And another round of me whining about the discourse, whilst doing absolutely nothing to divorce myself from it.

It’s all just…so…tiring.

Ghostbusters 3

Like Bill Murray in another, non-Ghostbusters movie (that actually is a lot better than Ghostbusters if you think about it), I can’t help but feel I am stuck in an endless loop writing about this thing. Ten years from now? I’ll be writing about Ghostbusters 3. Twenty years from now? Ghostbusters 3. Thirty years from now? I won’t be writing about anything, what with the collapse of all life on the planet and what not. But the last thing I write before I fight in the water wars, or engage in vehicular combat for gasoline, or — most likely — drown in the rising sea levels?

Fucking Ghostbusters 3, man.


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The Crushing, Existential Sadness of The Disappointing Glass Reviews

R.I.P. Shyamalanassaince: September 2015 – January 2019.

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I am eternally fascinated by the career of M. Night Shyamalan. After bursting on the scene with The Sixth Sense nearly 20 years ago, the man went on to gain an incredibly rare status amongst his directing brethren: actual name recognition! He’s one of the few directors who many people outside Film Twitter can name — up there with Spielberg, Scorsese, and Tarantino. But unlike those other directors, Shyamalan’s brand can probably be described more as “infamous” than famous, especially in recent years. The man went from the New Spielberg to a laughing stock…literally.

And well his fall from grace is, in some accord, deserved (his movies post Signs are all dire to varying degrees), I still can’t help but feel pretty bad for the guy. He went from being a huge up-and-coming talent, the next big thing in the world of Hollywood, to an absolute joke amongst critics, audiences, and his peers. It’s the classic Hollywood rise-and-fall, played out in slow motion over a twenty year period. But right when all things seemed over for Shyamalan, and he delivered for the first time something Hollywood would not allow (a legitimate box office bomb in the form of After Earth), Shyamalan attempted what few failed artists can surmount: an honest-to-goodness comeback.

And it wasn’t a sudden comeback either: Shyamalan spent years revitalizing his public image, first doing so with the surprisingly solid The Visit back in 2015. It was a return to low-budget roots for the director, and its nature as a sort of pallet cleanser for the director was very much apparent. It was a movie he seemed obliged to make to get even an ounce of his creative juices flowing again, and it turned out to be a pretty fun little comedy/horror movie to boot.

After some decent television work developing and directing Wayward Pines, Shyamalan came roaring back to life with another low budget delight, 2017’s Split. It was a film that was thrilling, funny, well crafted, and genuinely exciting. Basically, it was something we hadn’t seen from the man in damn near 15 years, and audiences took notice. On the backing of a bravado post credit scene, linking the film to his previous cult classic Unbreakable, response to the movie was incredibly promising. And remember that whole thing about Shyamalan’s Hollywood clout running out because he made a bomb? Well, Split, off a $9 million budget, made $238 million — making it a massive, massive hit. A good movie AND a hugely successful one? Yup, Shyamalan was back, and as a huge fan of his first three features, I couldn’t have been happier for him.

Now we stand a mere five days away from the release of Glass, Shyamalan’s newest feature. As a sequel to his current hit Split, and one of his past hits, Unbreakable, it serves as pretty much a crescendo for the entire man’s career. One of those “everything has been leading up to this” moments those voiceover guys are always talking about in the commercial. Glass was — had to be — the thing that solidified the Shyamalanassaince.

…And he whiffed it. Goddamn it, he fucking whiffed it.

Glass Reviews

That’s at least according to the first reviews for the film, which were released Wednesday following the lift of the film’s press embargo. To say they were incredibly mixed is an understatement. Here’s just a sampling of some of the notable ones:

‘Glass’ Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Grounded Superhero Movie Is the Biggest Disappointment of His Career

Glass’ tries and fails to shatter the comic book movie formula

M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is half-empty and deeply unsatisfying

M. Night Shyamalan’s Long-Awaited ‘Glass’ Is A Bewildering Misfire

‘GLASS’ REVIEW: M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN BREAKS HIS CLEVEREST FRANCHISE

I don’t say this often because I’m not a character in an early 90’s sitcom, but…ouch-a-rooney. Those are not pretty reviews, and are a direct return back to the critical dragging that was unleashed upon films like Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender. And though it would be easy to cry “Well, the critics are wrong!” here (as people on the internet often do, bafflingly)…they weren’t wrong with those last three. They were all terrible. And with Shyamalan’s track record, I’m unfortunately going to have to take the critic’s side here: by all accounts, Glass is an excruciating disappointment. And, man…what a fucking bummer.

Of course, I have yet to see film myself (I’m not special like all those other film journalists), and I remain somewhat hopeful I’ll come out on the positive side of things. But, at this point, it’s undeniable that this whole thing has put a massive dent in the pent up anticipation for the film. Since Split, it’s been a solid two years of anticipation from Shyamalan apologists like myself: we finally got the sequel we spent a decade asking for and, even better, it came in a way that seemed unique, fresh, and necessary. It wasn’t just a last ditch effort for Shyamalan to gain some clout back from his former fans. He did the work, guys! But like a drug addict who was on the op-and-up, only to suffer an insurmountable relapse, Shyamalan has fallen once more. He was supposed to be our Timothee Chalamat — our Beautiful Boy. And now we’re all very, very sad Steve Carrell.

Because, on a personal note? This has massively curbed my enthusiasm for Glass which, up until this point, was pretty sky high. I really had faith in the movie — naively, I admit — and my hype was frankly off the charts for it. I’m currently in the process of writing up my list of most anticipated films of 2019 (yeah, yeah, I’m late, whatever), and let’s just say Glass had a very high ranking amongst that list. Emphasis on the had — as much as I want to see the film still, I just can’t get excited for it like I was before the negative reviews. And I doubt I’m the only one either; this really puts a damper on the pre-release hype, as you would expect.

On my planned path to MAXIMUM HYPE, I just got done re-watching Unbreakable in the lead up of Glass‘s release. And guess what? That movie still fucking rocks. It’s slow and contemplative and weird, but it manages to engross me with every single frame. And just seeing it again made me slightly more optimistic for Glass, if anything to see these characters again. But in the back of my mind, that voice was still being cautious: “it’s going to be a disappointment. It’s very bad, apparently. DON’T. GET. EXCITED.” That voice is probably right…but also a fucking buzzkill.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Glass-Bruce-Willis.jpg

And the saddest thing of all, to me, is that it seemed no one really saw it coming. Usually when a film is going to be poorly received by critics, press releases are held very close to the film’s opening weekend. You don’t want bad word-of-mouth to sour the launch, so you cut off as many people from seeing it as you possibly can. And yet, Glass screened almost two weeks earlier for critics: usually, a sign that the people involved imagined that it would be, at the very least, tolerated. Hell, when I first saw Film Twitter commenting about the press screenings, I got exciting, thinking that Universal and Shyamalan probably imagined the film was going to get great reception, and wanted to ride that buzz into the film’s launch. I mean, you wouldn’t set up a series marathon across the country a week before the film’s domestic release if you didn’t have faith people would respond well to it…right?

That’s my thinking at least, which leads to a pretty depressing conclusion: the poor response is blindsiding everyone involved. They screened the movie early because, generally, they thought that people were going to end up liking it. The fact that a majority didn’t (and, even worse, some outright despised it) probably came as something of a sneak attack. And for a director whose probably experienced that experience MANY times in his career (for better or worse, Shyamalan seemed to buy into his own hype there pretty bad for a while), for it to happen to him again right on the cusp of his grand return is probably the harshest sting of all. Or in Simpson meme:

There’s a reason why so many movies are about underdogs: everybody loves them. To see a character rise up from the bottom and make it to the top is one of the most common — yet satisfying — forms of storytelling. Even more satisfying is the “comeback kid,” someone who manages to rise from the bottom, fall from the top, and rise up yet again. It’s inspiring to know that, despite our failures, we can still succeed — and we love to see that narrative play out. But this is no movie: this is real life, and things don’t always turn out as we want them to in real life. Rocky gets knocked out in the first round. The Slumdog Millionaire beefs it on Question #1. Daniel-San gets his ass handed to him instantly. And M. Night Shyamalan makes yet another bad movie. For as much as the characters in his movies might be Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan sure as hell isn’t.


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