Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Movie Preview: August 2015

July has come and gone, and so has the first weekend of August for that matter. This means that the Summer for Hollywood is just about over. This July was an improvement over last July, but that wasn't actually saying much as last July was the first July in 12 years that didn't hit $1 billion. In fact, since 2007 there have been six July's that hit at least $1.25 billion and five of those made it over $1.3 billion, so the fact this July only managed $1.18 billion could be seen as a slight disappointment, but that's not anything too upsetting. That $1.18 billion slid right in between this May and June, with June being the high month thanks mainly to Jurassic World's enormous total. The slight drop off this July could be blamed on movies such as Terminator Genisys, Magic Mike XXL, PixelsPaper Towns, and Vacation not pulling the weight they were expected to. Moving forward to this current month, August is the wildcard month. Usually what ends up in August are the movies that studios hope do well, but aren't extremely confident about. There's also usually a drama or two aimed for early awards recognition. Last August was more of an anomaly as Marvel took advantage of an empty month to release Guardians of the Galaxy. This August doesn't have anything like that. In fact, this looks to be a fairly weak month, even by August standards. But there's still movies to talk about, so lets dive in!

August 7th - 9th-

I always have a goal to get this released before or during the opening weekend, but various circumstances prevented that this time around, so instead this first weekend will be a review of the four movies that were released. Let's start with the disaster that was Fantastic Four. Fox is one of the many studios that has been trying to match Marvel following the huge success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On paper it seems like the Fantastic Four has what it takes to at least provide Fox with a fraction of that success. Both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are group of very different superheroes that team up to try to save the world. Both the comics are really popular. But for some reason it seems like the Fantastic Four are cursed as this is the fourth attempt to make a Fantastic Four movie and all four have been unsuccessful at pleasing audiences. This latest attempt is arguable the worst of the bunch as reviews by everyone, fans and critics alike, have been nothing but atrocious. This even had a cast of talented young actors including Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan as well as a promising young director who found huge success with Chronicle a few years back. But this is a sad example of how everything went wrong on every level and it all translated into an extremely weak $25 million debut that couldn't even top Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation's second weekend.

There were a lot of parties that benefited from the failure of Fantastic Four this weekend. One of them was Joel Edgerton's directorial debut The Gift. In addition to directing the movie, Joel Edgerton also wrote it and starred alongside Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. Don't let the title on this one deceive you as it's not some sort of happy holiday-themed movie. It's in fact an intense thriller about a young couple who moves into a home in California and soon after gets visited over and over by a mysterious man who seems to know Jason Bateman's character from high school. The movie has definitely been a crowd-pleaser thus far as it came out of nowhere to earn $11.8 million this past weekend, which is excellent considered it had a very small marketing push and a production budget of only $5 million. It's score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes definitely played a huge role in it's success and these strong reviews should help it to play very well throughout August as more and more people become aware of its existence.

The third movie of the weekend has Meryl Streep gunning for her 20th Oscar nomination with Ricki and the Flash. Many actresses would be ecstatic to get just one Oscar nomination. The fact that Streep has received 19 is absolutely stunning. That most certainly puts her in at least the conversation for best actresses in the history of cinema. Although word on the street has it that she may have to wait another year for that 20th nomination. In Ricki and the Flash, Meryl Streep has a lot of fun playing the guitar and singing as she plays the lead singer in a fictional band called Ricki and the Flash. As the story plays out in this musical drama, the band isn't the most successful and Streep's character has to learn to balance her career with her family as she struggles particularly with her daughter. It may seem cliche, but apparently it doesn't quite follow the cliches, although it also doesn't do the best job of pleasing audiences as critics are split with the movie being 61% on the tomato meter. Thus is why Meryl may have to wait to get her next nomination. But I'm sure she's not broken up over it. She got to have fun playing a guitar in a movie.

Finally we have Shaun the Sheep Movie, which is the latest stop-motion animation movie by Aardman Animation, creators of Chicken Run and Wallace Gromit. The movie is based off the Shaun the Sheep TV series, which is a UK-based TV show consisting of short 7-minute episodes. Neither the TV show nor movie has any dialogue, so this is essentially a silent animated film with only grunts and animal noises. The story follows a flock of sheep on a farm who come up with a plan to get rid of their owner. After succeeding, they quickly learn that they want him back, so they go to the big city to rescue him. In terms of reception, this has been very well received as it stands at a stunning 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. That didn't quite translate into tickets, though, as it hasn't even made it to $10 in a week of release so far. But that's okay in this instance as it's already earned $60 million overseas, which included a strong $20 million in its home country. It will be interesting to see if it ends up earning more in the U.K. than in the U.S. Considering the population of both places, that would be a very impressive feat.

August 14th  - 16th-

Now with that first weekend review out of the way, it's time to move forward and look at what the rest of the month has to offer. We'll start off with Straight Outta Compton, which may end up as the top grossing new release from August. This movie is a musical biopic of the group N.W.A, which was the American hip hop group that consisted of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella. They are considered one of the most influential groups in the history of hip hop as they are one of early groups that popularized the genre, specifically the subgenres of Gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop. They were an extremely controversial group and their music was banned by many radio stations due to their disrespect towards women as well as the glorification of drugs and crime. Despite this, they gained a huge following and have sold more than 10 million albums in the U.S. alone. Their debut album was called Straight Outta Compton, which is where the movie title comes from. The album title describes their origins: Compton, California. The group was active from 1986 to 1991, after which several went on to have very successful solo careers. Given the huge following these artists have, these fans are almost sure to show up in big numbers this weekend.

Competing with Straight Outta Compton this weekend is the spy thriller The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Advertising on this has been very aggressive recently as they have focused heavily on statements from some critics that have claimed that the movie rivals Bond and Bourne in terms of quality. The movie follows CIA agent Napoleon Solo, played by Henry Cavill, and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer as they join forces to stop a secret organization that is working on mass producing nuclear weapons. The movie is also starring Alicia Vikander, who is having herself quite the year following her acclaimed performance in the sci-fi hit Ex Machina. The director here is Guy Ritchie, who directed both of the Robert Downy, Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, so he has experience with this type of movie. It's also been a very successful year for this genre following enormous success of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. The success should continue later this year with latest Bond movie Spectre. So that bodes well for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 

August 21st - 23rd-

The latter half of August usually delivers at least one horror movie and that trend continues with Sinister 2 getting released on the third weekend of August. Horror movies are typically a dime a dozen and it's often hard to predict in advance which ones will actually earn money and which ones will be completely ignored. It usually depends solely on the reviews. The first Sinister was released three years ago in October and actually did get fairly positive reviews and earned a decent amount of money, so there's some good will from that movie that should carry over to this sequel. It's also once again produced by Jason Blum, who has had quite a bit of success with the horror genre as he's been the producer for the Paranormal Activity, Insidius, and The Purge movies in addition to the Sinister movies and a few others. Sinister was directed by Scott Derrickson, who is now working on Marvel's Doctor Strange. Derrickson is only listed as a writer this time around as the directing duties are being handled by Ciaran Foy, who has very little directing experience prior to this. That could be a minor red flag right there, but we'll see.

Speaking of action movies, just a week after The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is released, the U.S. gets another action movie with Hitman: Agent 47. At first glace this movie feels a little bit troubling. While the advertising from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has been pretty aggressive, I've seen very little from Hitman: Agent 47. Do people know this movie is coming out? And if they do, are the willing to go to two action movies back to back? The other disadvantage this movie has is the rating. While The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has more of a user friendly PG-13 rating, Hitman: Agent 47  is a strong R. While that didn't effect Kingsman or Mad Max much, it will take a really good movie in order to breakout. The other flag is that director Aleksander Bach has only one credit to his name. This movie. There's also almost no big name actors. The biggest one that I recognize is Zachary Quinto, but that's pretty much it. I've seen a lot of late August releases get completely ignored and this might be another candidate

And last but not least we have American Ultra, which you could say makes for three action movies in two weeks. Something's gotta give right? Or since it's August, it's possible that all three of them will fail. However, American Ultra is actually more of an action/comedy hybrid, so it could be seen as different than the other two and thus attract a different crowd. The big draw here is the cast, which is led by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Eisenberg plays a stoner who is secretly a government agent. He gets seen as a liability and is targeted to be killed, but of course he is pretty much unstoppable, thus the wild ride begins. Kristen Stewart plays his girlfriend in all of this and if you rolled your eyes when I mentioned her name, it's time for you to educate yourself because the girl has been on quite the roll recently, making movie after movie where her acting abilities have been praised, proving that Twilight was the exception, not the rule when it comes to her acting. Although this may or may not be the project to boost her resume. American Ultra is directed by Nima Nourizadeh, who's only other directing effort was Project X, which isn't the best sign.

August 28th - 30th-

We're getting into dangerous territory here. And by that I mean that the final week of August essentially is the sign that the Summer is over. School has started. Labor Day is around the corner. People just don't go to movies. In fact, Labor Day weekend is historically the worst weekend of the year for the box office. This isn't Labor Day weekend, but it is the weekend before Labor Day weekend, which historically isn't a whole lot better. The movie We Are Your Friends will do its best job to buck that trend, though. Whether or not it will succeed is debatable. It's the third musical drama of the month following Ricki and the Flash and Straight Outta Compton as its a fictional story about a DJ named Cole Carter trying to make it in the world of electronic music. It's written and directed by Max Joseph who has done... a bunch of documentary shorts? Hmmmm... It does star Zac Efron in the lead role. He's always good at getting a few people out. His female co-star is Emily Ratajkowski, who showed up in last year's Gone Girl. She's also known for her appearance in a certain music video. I'll let you look that one up if you're curious.

The final movie of the month is the action/thriller movie No Escape, which stars Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan and is actually released on Wednesday the 26th. In the movie, Owen Wilson moves his family over to the other side of the world to start over and of course nothing good comes of it as he finds himself in the middle of some huge conflict where foreigners are getting shot and killed. The movie was shot in Thailand and a lot of Thai people who have seen this trailer aren't exactly the happiest as this appears to be an extreme exaggeration of the conflict happening right now in that area of the world done for entertainment so that we Americans can get a "fun" action/thriller. I've been noticing that the marketing push by the Weinstein Company has been greater than some of the other movies I've mentioned here. We'll see if that actually translates into tickets, though.

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