The barometer might not indicate it, but, true enough, the summer is over. School buses and backpacks are coming out of their hibernation as the kids all head back to school as the box office prepares for their hibernation of sorts, as the big-money weekends are likely gone for a little while... although I wouldn't be surprised if this weekend's 3:10 to Yuma makes a very big box office splash. So, with the summer season come and gone, it's a perfect time to take a look back at four months of summer moviedom and dissect it all to see what worked and what should've waited until January to be released. Lastly, it looks like the releases for the last quarter of the year look like an amazing crop, so I'll give you my Top 10 Most Anticipated Fall Flicks. Lets snap to it, shall we? Ready... BREAK!
Bigger Isn't Always Better...again
Oh Hollywood. When will you ever learn. It might have been a record summer at the box office for grosses, but it very well might have been a record summer for money spent making the movies as well. The budgets were as big as I've ever seen this summer from Spider-Man 3's $258 million budget, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End $300 million and even the dopey sequel Evan Almighty ringing up a whopping $175 million budget... FOR A COMEDY! Insane, folks. Spidey fared decently with $336 million domestically, but Pirates have just recently started to make a profit with $308.6 million and there's no hope for Evan Almighty at $99.4 million, although I must say I'm surprised it made that much. Of course, there were big-budget winners like Transformers ($310.5 million from $150 million budget), Shrek the Third ($321 million from $160 million budget), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ($286 million from $150 million) and The Bourne Ultimatum ($202 million out of $110 million budget), but there are many movies that either just barely made a profit or are desperately close to doing so, thanks to the hefty budgets.
On the flipside, a pair of low(er) budget comedies that Seth Rogen was involved with in some way,Knocked Up and Superbad both knocked it out of the park. Knocked Up has taken in $148.1 million from a $30 million budget and Superbad has snagged $92.6 million in just three weeks, from a $20 million budget. 1408 ($71 million from a $25 million budget) was another moderately-budgeted success, but you really didn't see many low budgets out there this summer. It seemed that $70 million is starting to be the summer median and there were many flicks at or near this level including The Simpsons Movie ($178 out of $75 million budget) and the vastly underseen (in my opinion, I LOVED it!) Stardust ($32 million from a $70 million budget). If there were any super-low budgeted movies this summer, you didn't hear of them, which brings me to my next point.
No Napoleon?? God!
For the past few years, every summer usually has its "indie darling" or the movie that rises from obscurity to be a cult hit. Last year it was Little Miss Sunshine, the year before that there were a few of them with the hit documentary March of the Penguins along with Hustle & Flow and Best Picture winner Crash and the year before that was that one Napoleon Dynamite' target='_blank'>Napoleon dude you might have heard of. This year, though, it appears that none of the indies really separated themselves from the pack, despite a number of decent contenders like Fido, Eagle Vs. Shark and Day Watch, amongst many others. I don't know if it was just the blockbusters blocking everything else out more than usual this year or not, but there just wasn't that one indie flick that gets pulled into the limelight every summer.
Revenge of the Nerds
While Hollywood certainly depends on the proverbial "fanboy" to come see all the big blockbusters, some of the most profitable flicks this summer featured nerdy/loser-ish characters. Shia LaBeouf plays a high school dork who doesn't want to be a dork and then gets a cool car that changes into a robot in Transformers, Seth Rogen shined as the naive, dopey Ben in
Knocked Up and then there's one of the coolest nerds of all time, McLovin, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse in his screen debut. I'd also count the whole cast of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because no cool kids do magic these days... well, who knows. At any rate, these characters really seem to be striking the right chord with the moviegoing public and I wouldn't be surprised to see more of these types of movies start rolling out.
Pixar on the Slide? Say it Ain't So...
OK, I might be stretching a big, but then again, maybe not. The animation powerhouse's latest flick, Ratatouille has made over $200 million domestically, but just barely and its somewhat "lackluster" performance has even caused Pixar to call out Disney's marketing staff and blame them for not creating an efficient campaign. This will likely be the first Pixar flick ever not to land in the top 5 domestic box office performers and apparently Pixar is salty about that. I wouldn't necessarily be pointing fingers at any marketing staff though. Ratatouille was probably the weakest movie Pixar has put out (i.e. it's a fine flick but the worst compared to rest of Pixar's library) and to make matters worse, the hardest to market (a rat in Paris wants to become a chef...) with a non-A-list voice cast (sorry Patton Oswalt. Love your work, but you're not an A-lister). It does say something for Pixar that even their worst offering can drum up $200 million at the box office, but from this movie and the small bits I've seen from their forthcoming WALL•E, they might have to go back to the drawing board, quite literally.
MY TOP 5 MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIES FOR THE REST OF 2007
#5 - Hitman - November 21
Call me crazy, but I think this looks pretty damn sweet, folks. I know this is from the writer who's only other credit is Swordfish and the director is making his American feature film debut, but this was such a cool game and story behind it that I think it's just one of those that will be hard to screw up. I've been a BIG fan of Timothy Olyphant for the last few years now (for his movies; I've never seen Deadwood) and he just looks slick as hell here with the shaved barcoded head and the tailored suit. I really hope this ups Olyphant's stock a lot and we can look forward to more great toplining roles from him.
#4 - No Country for Old Men - November 9 (Limited)
Call me overly Minnesotan (which I am), but I am just a HUGE fan of the Coen Brothers and this just might be the project to throw them back into the spotlight. This Western-ish tale set on the Rio Grande about a hunter who stumbles upon a cache of corpses, heroin and $2 million should bring Tommy Lee Jones back into the spotlight as well, and it won't hurt Javier Bardem or Josh Brolin's careers a bit. The Coens last few movies haven't set the world on fire at the box office and even though there aren't any huge names in the cast here, the Coens should get plenty of critical support and, hopefully, plenty of financial support as well.
#3 - We Own the Night - October 12
It seems that James Gray likes to take his time between projects. He only has two other films under his belt, but they were both critically praised (Little Odessa, The Yards). The Yards came out six years after Little Odessa and this one is coming out seven years after The Yards. He may be thrown into more demand after this one, though, as it looks like some surefire Oscar bait, especially after the last year when the gritty The Departed took home Best Picture. This movie is in the same vein, just set in New York instead of Boston, and with a pair of brothers (Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix) on opposite sides of the law right when a street war breaks out. We get more great actors in supporting turns in Robert Duvall and the luscious Eva Mendes and if this takes off the way I think it will, I don't think Mr. Gray will be able to take such lengthy sabbaticals between movies.
#2 - Lions for Lambs - November 9
I know the Academy likes to stray from political fare, and I wouldn't be surprised if this gets snubbed all the way, even though it looks like one of the best movies of the year. With its incredibly-timely story, a powerhouse cast (Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Derek Luke, Michael Pena and Robert Redford) and Redford at the helm, this looks to be one complete package, folks. I know Luke and Pena aren't blockbuster stars, but given their wonderful performances over the last few years, I wouldn't be surprised if that changed soon. The movie is basically three different perspectives on "the war on terror" - one from a two young soldiers who get stranded (Luke and Pena), one from a university professor who taught them (Redford) and another from a Senator (Cruise) and a journalist (Streep) and how ALL their paths intersect. On an interesting note, this movie was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, brother of smash-mouth filmmaker Joe Carnahan and Matthew also has the solid-looking The Kingdom later this month.
#1 - American Gangster - November 2
This flat out looks like the best movie of the year. There are Oscars written all over this movie, and there are Oscars floating all around this movie as well. Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe and Cuba Gooding Jr. star here with a script from the amazing Oscar winner Steve Zallian (Schindler's List) and direction from Ridley Scott. No, he hasn't won an Oscar but has been nominated for three. This looks like a powerful and compelling look into the 1970s underworld from both sides of the law. Based on a true story, Denzel stars as Frank Lucas, a drug runner who moved on up and now smuggles heroin back from Vietnam in the coffins of dead American Soldiers and Russell Crowe stars as the cop who tries to stop him. An interesting side note: Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Nicky Barnes and the real Nicky Barnes is the subject of what looks to be one of the best documentaries of the year, Mr. Untouchable.
Well that's it for my summer review and fall preview. Thanks for stopping by and always remember: if it looks like a good time, sounds like a good time and feels like a good time... it probably isn't free. Peace in. Gallagher out!