Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Movie Preview: May 2014

2014 has started out surprisingly strong as the first third of the year has already produced eight movies that have (or will within a week or so) earned over $100 million in the US box office. In comparison, 2013 had four at this point, 2012 had six, 2011 had four, and 2010 had five. In fact, no other year in movie history has produced so many $100 million movies in the first third of the year. This once again shows that Hollywood is learning that a big hit can happen in any month of the year and thus Summer in Hollywood seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year. The official start of Summer for Hollywood, however, is May and this May is jammed packed with blockbusters, so the success of 2014 should continue. Last May holds the record for the highest grossing May with $1.14 billion. It also holds the record of most $100 million dollar movies in the month of May at seven. With no huge movie like Iron Man 3 or The Avengers, this month may not break the former record, but it has enough moderate to decently big movies scheduled that it would take several disappointments in order for it to not at least tie the latter. So without any further ado, let's jump in and analyze this month more closely.

May 2nd - 4th-

Every year since 2007, the first weekend of Summer in Hollywood has been kicked off by some sort of Marvel movie, whether it be Sony's Spider-Man, Fox's X-Men, or something from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This year The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will continue that trend. In general, the first weekend of May has been good to the Spider-Man franchise. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3 also opened up on the first weekend of May and both opened over $100 million (Spider-Man got $114 million in 2002 while Spider-Man 3 got $151 million in 2007). The other two opened up in June and July respectively and both missed the $100 million mark. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks to continue this trend by cashing in on this lucrative weekend. Sony has made sure that no one forgets that a new Spider-Man movie is coming out. At the recent CinemaCon, Sony used all four of their movie poster spots on Spider-Man posters and showed 30 minutes of footage as well. In addition to that, it seems that there have been half a million different trailers that they have released in the last several months. With the origin story out of the way, Sony looks to up the ante as there will be three villains in the movie. And while this brings to light the disaster of Spider-Man 3, it's worth mentioning that multiple villains has worked out in movies before, so that idea alone shouldn't scare people off. Also, Rhino will only be in this movie for five minutes, so there's really only two villains. Sony has also made it clear that Electro is the main villain here, so Harry Osborn's Green Goblin looks to be more of a setup for a future movie.

May 9th - 11th-

The second weekend of May is a bit tricky as the movies here will be sandwiched between two huge blockbusters. There are three movies that open this weekend, though, and all three have the potential to provide good counter-programming to the May blockbusters, so if they fail, it won't be because they got eaten up by blockbusters. Spider-Man should actually win this weekend, but the biggest new release will be Neighbors. Seth Rogen's name is pretty big right now after last year's hit This is the End. That goodwill should carry Neighbors to a good numbers. Also, R-rated comedies have done well previous summers and this summer has several great options for that crowd. Advertising for Neighbors has essentially ensured that this will be the first big R-rated comedy of the summer.

The second movie of the weekend will take audiences back to the land of Oz via The Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return. Before you complain at a second attempt at Oz in two years, let me counter with two arguments. First off, there is a HUGE pool of material from Oz that has rarely been used. L Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz books himself and that has been followed by many more by various other authors. Second, this movie started production before last year's Oz the Great and Powerful, so it's not copying that movie's idea. It just took longer to get to the screen. It was initially titled Dorothy of Oz after the actual book in the Oz world that it is based off. Dorothy of Oz was written by L Frank Baum's great grandson Roger S Baum and is a story about what happens the day after Dorothy returns to Kansas. In fact, the initial tagline of the movie was "You've waited 70 years to figure out what happens the next day." They dropped that tagline and even changed the title to what it is now. The new title suggests confidence that this can be come a successful franchise. Yes, some have said that the movie looks bad based on the trailer, but it has a few things going for it. First off, the animation will allow them to use all the random Oz characters without having to spend a ton of money. Second, it brings the musical back to Wizard of Oz, something that Oz the Great and Powerful essentially left out. Third, there's not a whole lot of competition for family audiences. Rio 2's run is ending and How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn't open until June. The distributor here is Clarius Entertainment and this is their first go at things, so a lack of a big name distributor will hurt, but Free Birds and The Nut Job have shown that decent numbers can happen without a major distributor. And Disney/Pixar lost the monopoly on animated movies a long time ago. Plenty of new animation companies have risen in previous years. Finally, the cast of the movie is quite prolific. It includes Lea Michelle, Kelsey Grammar, Dan Akroyd, Patrick Stewart, James Belushi, and Martin Short.

The final movie of the weekend is probably the biggest wild card of the weekend and that would be Moms' Night Out. The movie is a comedy, but it's only a PG-rated comedy, so it definitely won't conflict with the other comedy this weekend in Neighbors. If anything it will be competing more with Legends of Oz, but Oz is a slightly different audience as it's more of a parents and their younger kids type of audience. Moms' Night Out is about a group of moms that want a break. A moms' night out. But doing this requires their husbands to watch the kids and of course you know this means things will go bad as their husbands try to do this. It most noticeably stars Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, and Patricia Heaton. It's hard to imagine a large crowd of people storming out for this one, but you never know.

May 16th - 18th-

Another Godzilla movie? That was the reaction when this movie was announced. Then the trailer came out. Suddenly, everyone's tone was changed. ANOTHER GODZILLA MOVIE!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, that's about right. Talk about a marketing success. Suddenly no one cares that Godzilla has been done upteen times. After some footage from the movie was shown at CinemaCon, Adam Sandler got up and said, "Forget about Blended, how about that f---ing Godzilla?" It goes to show that in a day riddled with remakes, if you do your remake right, no one will complain. While some might call it this year's Pacific Rim, with advertising focusing more on disaster, tragedy, and panic while making Godzilla more of a surprise, a more accurate description would be calling it this year's World War Z. Cast-wise, this will be an Avengers: Age of Ultron preview as Godzilla stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, both of whom were teased at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as "the twins," aka Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. The other big names in this movie are Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston and the recently Oscar-nominated Sally Hawkins.

Opening alongside Godzilla is the second sports drama of the year in Million Dollar Arm. Disney is super confident in this movie after initial testings were done. Also, reaction at CinemaCon was also very positive. Million Dollar Arm is a baseball movie where a certain sports agent uses an unconventional strategy of recruiting Cricket players to come play in the MLB. This brings to mind other sports movies like Moneyball and The Blind Side. It looks like reviews of Million Dollar Arm will also be in those movies' range. This is the type of movie that would get a lot of Oscar attention if it opened in the Fall. Unfortunately, the Academy usually forgets that movies come out before September, so that might hurt this movie's chances for awards. Baseball movies also have a short ceiling when this comes to the box office, but this should be a decent hit.

 May 23rd - 25th-

The next guaranteed blockbuster of the month comes with X-Men: Days of Future Past. All of the X-Men movies have made over $100 million in the US box office, but none of them have made it too far above that as the highest grossing X-Men movie is X-Men: The Last Stand at $234 million. In fact, the franchise has been losing a bit of steam as of late as the last two X-Men movies, X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine are the lowest grossing X-Men movies yet. Days of Future Past is set to break this trend and will actually be a huge disappointment if it doesn't become the highest grossing X-Men movie. This is because it is essentially the Avengers of the X-Men movies. As was teased at the end of The Wolverine, in this movie Wolverine is sent back in time to change the past so that mutants and humans can both be saved. Thus this unites the old cast of X-Men in the original trilogy with the new cast of X-Men in First Class. Thus we see a cast that includes Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, and Anna Paquin amongst others. That's a rather impressive listing.

Opening with Days of Future Past is the Adam Sandler comedy Blended, the one that Sandler told people to forget about in favor of Godzilla. I'm sure he won't be too offended if people actually do see. And they will. Sure, Sandler has had some recent misses with Jack and Jill and That's My Boy, but Grown Ups 2 got him back on track last year as Sandler is usually a pretty consistent draw at the box office. Starting with The Waterboy in 1998, Sandler has led 14 movies that have earned over $100 million. Blended reunites him with Drew Barrymore, his 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer co-star.

May 30th - June 1st-

Since their inception, Disney has always been good at finding new ways to earn a ton of money. Right now they are on a kick of doing live action versions of their old animated classics and that continues with Maleficent this weekend, which is a unique telling of Sleeping Beauty. This started with the huge 2010 hit Alice in Wonderland. Disney wasn't responsible for the two live action Snow White movies back in 2012, but I'm sure that helped spark their imagination. After Maleficent this year, next year will bring us live action versions of Cinderella and The Jungle Book, while 2016 will bring us Tarzan and Alice in Wonderland 2. Now in fairness, these aren't just re-tellings of the old Disney movies. Alice in Wonderland is a sequel. Maleficent is Sleeping Beauty told from the perspective of the villain. I'm sure the other movies will be done in a similar fashion. Speaking of the actual movie at hand, the character of Maleficent in this movie is played by Angelina Jolie and her name has been on the forefront of the advertising. Also in the movie is Elle Fanning playing Princess Aurora. Dakota's little sister has become fairly big as of late as she's gone from child actor in smaller roles to playing the attractive teenager in movies like Super 8 and We Bought a Zoo. This is essentially her first "grown-up" role as being born in 1998 in this day means you are 16 years old. I'd say a 16-year-old Disney Princess is a pretty grown-up role comparatively, so it'll be interesting to see how she does.

Last but not least is another R-rated comedy that the trailers have made look absolutely hilarious and that is A Million Ways to Die in the West. As stated earlier, R-rated comedies have made bank in recent summers and this one should be the second big R-rated comedy in May. This movie is helmed by Seth MacFarlane, who had a fantastic live action debut with Ted back in 2012. The raunchy teddy bear comedy made over $200 million in the US and even more overseas to give it a worldwide total of $549 million. A Million Ways probably isn't going to get that high, but Seth MacFarlane's stamp on it should make it a huge hit. Stars of the Western comedy include Seth MacFarlane himself as well as Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Chalize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, and Christopher Lloyd.

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