Thursday, July 10, 2014

Movie Preview: July 2014

After a very healthy first third of the year, this Summer has taken a very negative toll on the movie business here in the states. After May saw several huge releases all self-destruct (three $90 million openings that all ended below $250 million), June came up rather empty. Out of the three major sequels in June (22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction) only 22 Jump Street will end up higher than its predecessor, while the other two will end up significantly lower (here in the states anyways -- Transformers is going crazy overseas). And with Transformers 4 only being in release for the last four days of June, May release Maleficent took the crown as highest-grossing movie of the month with 22 Jump Street being the highest June release. Looking forward, July is typically the biggest movie month of the year. Despite that trend, though, this July is looking like it will follow in the footsteps of the two previous months as there is really only one guaranteed hit in a month that is full of wildcards.

July 2nd - 6th-

Independence Day isn't typically a holiday where people rush out to the movies as fireworks and other celebrations take precedence. But even with that in mind, this Independence Day was still slower than usual. Despite falling over 60 percent in its second weekend, Transformers 4 still managed to easily take the weekend. As far as new movies, though, Tammy was the biggest newcomer. Melissa McCarthy has become one of the biggest comedy names in Hollywood today as was shown last year with Identity Thief and The Heat. She looked to follow that up this year by leading the road trip comedy Tammy to similar success. This didn't quite work out, though. Yes, McCarthy fans still showed up and led this movie to a decent success, but an uninteresting premise combined with reviews that were in the cellar (4.7 on IMDb; 24% on Rotten Tomatoes) ultimately held this back from breaking out.

Despite not breaking like like McCarthy's recent movies, Tammy was epic compared to the other releases this weekend. After scoring several home runs last year, the horror genre has failed to produce much this year. Early trailers from Deliver Us From Evil made people believe that it would be the first big horror hit of the year (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Devil's Due, Oculus, and The Quiet Ones all fell flat). This turned out to be wrong as Deliver Us From Evil fell short of $10 million in its 3-day opening weekend. While trailers provided plenty of scares for horror audiences, the movie itself turned out to be loaded with every horror cliche in the book, so horror fans elected to skip it while saving their money for The Purge: Anarchy later in the month.

Family audiences have been neglected this Summer pretty badly because outside a few major busts in May, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has been the only option thus far. Earth to Echo looked to bank on that neglect, but it failed in that goal as it was avoided by pretty much everyone. Problems included a lack of interest in the found footage style it used as well as an uninteresting story that looked too much like a rip-off of E.T. and The Goonies. It was evident that the filmmakers were wanting to introduce that type of movie to this generation, but audiences didn't buy in. Not only did few show up, but reviews show those who did weren't too entertained.

Finally, after a few days in limited release, Dinesh D'Souza's America arrived in a little over 1,000 theaters just in time for the Independence holiday. America is D'Souza's follow-up to 2016: Obama's America, which arrived just before election time in 2012. D'Souza's anti-Obama political documentary failed to make an effect in the election as Obama won re-election, but conservative crowds ate it up as it become one of the highest-grossing political documentaries ever. America most likely won't reach that level as not many showed up, but it did score an A+ cinemascore, which infers that at least a portion of those who loved 2016: Obama's America showed up for this one and were also impressed.

July 11th - 13th-

I mentioned earlier that this July does include one guaranteed hit and that would be Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Back in August 2011, no one expected anything from yet another Planet of the Apes movie, especially after Tim Burton's reboot just ten years earlier gave audiences a bitter taste in their mouths as far as those movies go. However, Rise of the Planet of the Apes took everyone by complete surprise by actually being an excellent, well-made film. Thus it became a surprise hit. Dawn is the sequel to Rise and due to the success of Rise, Dawn has been one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. With the bad luck that this summer has brought to movies, it's anyone's guess at this point to how exactly this movie performs. This summer has seen a record number of movies open above $90 million, but all of them have fallen like a rock in their second weekend, regardless of reviews, so Dawn's second weekend will be very telling. Early reviews are very promising as one top critic on Rotten Tomatoes claimed that Dawn is to Rise as Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars.

July 18th - 20th-

There are three newcomers this third weekend of July that all have decent potential. In theory, one of them could turn out to be a huge breakout hit and steal the top spot away from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But at this point it seems more likely that Dawn will rule for the second straight week and these three will be fighting it out for second place. I'm won't make any attempt to predict the exact order, but the first one that I will talk about is Planes: Fire and Rescue. Last year, Planes was originally planned as a straight to DVD. Almost last minute, though, Disney made the decision to throw the Cars spin-off into theaters. In August. After several animated movies have come that summer. What's more is that before it actually hit theaters, the sequel was planned for less than a year later. What in the world was Disney doing? Well, $219 million later (worldwide total -- $90 million in the USA) Disney definitely had the last laugh. These Planes movies may not be epic animated movies, but they are there for the smaller kids. And in that aspect, Planes: Fire and Rescue should do it's job just like the first did.

In talking about the failure of Deliver Us From Evil this month, I noted the horror genre is on a really bad streak this year. The Purge: Anarchy is going to try to buck that trend. Last summer when the horror genre was on a huge roll, an intriguing premise led The Purge to a $30 million opening weekend. What would happen if all crime, including murder, was made legal for a period of 12 hours? Even though The Purge tanked after its opening weekend due to poor reviews, making $64 million on a $3 million budget was a huge win and thus now we have a sequel just a year later. Horror franchises do have a tendency to be milked to death and The Purge is the latest to jump on that train due to the huge profit and the easy premise wherein a lot can be done. Look for many more Purge movies to come in the future.

Last, but yet the most likely winner of the three is the raunchy comedy Sex Tape. I really don't have a whole to say about this one. It is what it is and the title says enough. Those who go see this know what they are going to see. A married couple make a certain tape of themselves to spark their relationship and that tape gets into the wrong hands. Audiences will see a lot more of Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz than is typical, if you know what I mean. For better or for worse, Diaz especially seems to have become a lot more comfortable with herself as she has gotten older. Don't expect a review of this movie from yours truly because it won't happen.

July 25th - 27th-

If this July is going to save this summer, there needs to be at least one breakout hit to go along with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And while there's a small chance that the third weekend could produce a modest hit, it's really up to this final weekend to discover something as two of the biggest wildcards of the summer open up. The first of these two is another attempt this year at everyone's favorite demi-god via Dwayne Johnson's Hercules. If you are wondering what I'm referring to when I say another attempt at Hercules, let me remind you that in this past January, the movie The Legend of Hercules entered theaters as an attempt to bring Hercules to the big screen. It quickly was booted out of the theater as it's final total in the states was less than $20 million, which is pretty bad considering its $70 million budget. Its IMDb score of 4.2 shows that it's poor reception was at least part of that reason. This time around, Dwayne Johnson and company are going to try to make you forget about that adaption, if you even knew it existed in the first place. Trailers for this have shown a much more recognizable Hercules this time around, fighting monsters and large animals single-handedly. It seems like a perfect fit for Dwayne Johnson, who, despite his reputation, has actually played several decent roles recently. Director Brett Ratner is most well-known for angering pretty much every X-Men fan with X3, but his resume also features other likable projects such as the Rush Hour trilogy and the popular TV show Prison Break.

Challenging Hercules for this weekend will be Scarlett Johansson's Lucy. Not that a cross-over between these two will ever happen, but it would entertaining to watch Hercules vs. Lucy in an actual physical duel, and not just a fight for the box office title. Thanks mainly to Disney, we all know how powerful Hercules is, but the movie Lucy also features an unstoppable human with Scarlett Jo's title charater Lucy. The premise of the movie brings to mind 2011's Limitless as both movies toy with the idea of mankind finding a way to get human beings to access 100 percent of their brain while showing theoretical consequences of such a venture. And before one goes and picks apart this theory that humans can't access 100 percent of their brain, it's worth noting that Lucy doesn't appear to be really taking this seriously, but instead are just using that as a footstool to make an intense action movie. Scarlett Jo has had quite the illustrious career as she has played all kinds of different roles, but this role as an action star brings to mind her most notable role as Black Widow in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has most recently put her character front and center, so the timing of Lucy seems quite optimal as plenty of Black Widow fans will show up to watch Scarlett Jo kick butt again this year.

There are two other smaller movies also entering theaters this weekend. First of these two is The Fluffy Movie. People not familiar with comedian Gabriel Iglesias might glance at that title and think that this is a movie about bunnies and unicorns, but this is certainly not the case. Fans of Iglesias have been excited about this for quite some time now as this is indeed Iglesias' stand-up comedy movie. Stand-up comedy movies don't make a ton of money compared to other movies, but they don't need to. Fans of Iglesias will turn up to this as it's like he's doing a quick nationwide tour where he can be everywhere at once.

Last and probably least is the movie And So It Goes. Brand new distributor Clarius Entertainment struck out big time with their first ever movie earlier this year as Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return took in only $8 million total with a production budget of $70 million. Initially it doesn't look like Clarius will do much better with this second movie, but yet it does have the cast and crew that could make it a sleeper hit. It stars prolific actors Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton and is directed by Rob Reiner, who is responsible for movies such as The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally..., and A Few Good Men. The movie itself is a comedy about a man who is suddenly left in charge of the granddaughter he never knew he had.

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