Thursday, June 30, 2016

Movie Preview: July 2016

The summer of the disappointing sequels continued in June as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Now You See Me 2, and Independence Day: Resurgence joined May releases Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and X-Men Apocalypse as sequels this summer to disappoint. Several other non-sequels also fell flat on their faces here in the U.S., including Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Warcraft, and Free State of Jones. The Chinese people are doing their best to redeem several of those, but it's still surprising how many of these attempted blockbusters are failing this summer. Of course, not all was a loss this month, especially not if your name is Pixar as Finding Dory has shattered all kinds of records on its way to not only being the top movie of the summer by a long shot, but also potentially the top grossing movie of the year. The Conjuring 2 also scared up a ton of money and a handful of original films including Me Before You, Central Intelligence, and The Shallows were rewarded. July is another month loaded with blockbuster hopefuls that will try to keep things positive. On paper it looks like this should be a strong month, but we shall see. Let's dive in!

July 1st - 4th-

After impressively spending two weeks at the top of the box office, Finding Dory is looking like it will pull off the three-peat this weekend, which is especially impressive being that it's an animated movie released in the middle of the summer. Three new releases will join Independence Day: Resurgence in the fight for second place and it's looking like the winner could be The Purge: Election Year. The annual purge is becoming a tradition here in mid-summer as the past two summers saw the releases of The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy, both of which opened around $30 million and made $64 million and $71 million respectively. It's a low-budget franchise as both movies made the money they did on a budget of less than $10 million. The idea of this franchise is very simple. Once a year, all crime, including murder, becomes legal for 12 hours and in this universe that's supposed to make world an overall safer place. It's really just an excuse to have an extremely violent movie and this has successfully pleased audiences and it doesn't seem to be losing steam at all as The Purge: Election Year is tracking ahead of The Purge: Anarchy at this same point. The election year theme is also very well-timed given that we're right in the middle of election year in real life. Don't be surprised to see a fourth Purge movie announced before too long for next summer.

Next up is our latest attempt at making a live-action remake of a Disney animated property with The Legend of Tarzan. Granted, Tarzan had been around for many years before Disney's animated movie in the late 90's, but most of Disney's animated movies are also adaptations of something, so this still fits the bill. This is the third movie this year in this trend following The Jungle Book and Alice Through the Looking Glass. The latter was a huge flop, but with the huge success of The Jungle Book, this trend isn't going to slow down any time soon. In fact, Disney is planning on speeding it up even further as they alone will be doing two to three of these movies a year. And it's not just Disney remaking their own movies. Other studios are joining the party as well as is shown here. The Legend of Tarzan isn't Disney's work. It's Warner Bros. Last year, Warner Bros. joined this trend with their movie Pan, which was a critical and financial disaster. The Legend of Tarzan is tracking ahead of Pan, but that's not saying much. People don't seem to be super excited about this movie and early reviews are coming in sour. Although Tarzan is a popular character, so there's a chance it could surprise, especially with a large cast that includes Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, and Samuel L. Jackson.

These three movies could realistically end up in any order, but I put The BFG in third place for now because it seems like it has the biggest uphill battle to climb. Fans of The Purge franchise probably won't care that two other horror/thrillers also came out in the last few weeks (The Conjuring 2 and The Shallows) and The Legend of Tarzan seems to be going for a broader audience with a PG-13 rating in addition to having a fan base already built in. The BFG will be specifically targeting family audiences, meaning not only will it be competing directly with the seemingly unstoppable freight train that is Finding Dory, but it also has the highly anticipated The Secret Life of Pets to deal with the upcoming week. Too many options for family audiences in such a small window of time usually means something gets left in the dust. That being said, will people really turn down the opportunity to see another Steven Spielberg directed movie with a John Williams score? This is one of the most successful and popular directors in history we're talking about. Plus, the novel this is based on is one of the more popular novels written by Roald Dahl, who also penned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach.

July 8th - 10th-

Something's got to stop Finding Dory, right? The Secret Life of Pets is looking like it will do just that. Or you can call it a passing of the baton as this will be the fourth straight weekend that an animated movie will top the box office. Not only has Illumination thrown together a phenomenal marketing campaign for this movie, but it's also had a head start overseas as it was released in the U.K., Ireland, and Norway on June 24th and will hit a few Asian markets before its U.S. release on July 8th. The early word is positive. Great marketing campaign combined with good reviews is usually a great formula for success. There is the possibility that the crowded family market might hurt it a bit, but it doesn't seem like it will hurt it too much. And if we're talking about an animation company that is on an absolute roll, it's definitely Illumination. This will be their sixth movie thus far and their five previous movies have averaged $255 million in the U.S. and $641 million worldwide. This is mainly due to the hugely successful Despicable Me franchise with the ever so popular minions. That connection has been all over the advertising here. Plus, everyone loves their pets. Toy Story with pets seems like a winning idea on its own.

This summer hasn't been so nice to R-rated comedies. Granted there's only been two of them, but both Neighbors 2 and Popstar flopped pretty hard. If you throw in The Nice Guys into the mix, which was more of an action comedy, you have a third one that didn't do so well. That means one of two things for this next R-rated comedy, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Either it will follow the trend of being a disappointment or it will take advantage of the current dry market for this genre and be a surprise. The title of the movie tells you all you need to know about the plot of this movie. Mike and Dave, played by Adam Devine and Zac Efron, are searching for wedding dates. Their two female co-stars are Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. Connect the dots there and you have an idea of what will happen. All four of these actors are popular in their own right, but in most cases it's been in supporting roles. Can they carry their own movie? The director here is Jake Szymanski, who has zero previous experience working on a feature-length, theatrically-released film. Wedding comedies have been huge in the past, but recently they've been hit and miss. Thus all signs point to this being another disappointment at the box office.

July 15th - 17th-

The third weekend of July will see easily the most controversial film of the year get released and that is Ghostbusters. Starting with the positive, director Paul Feig has a very good history at the box office as Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy were all huge hits both financially and with audiences. All three of those starred Melissa McCarthy, who is a comedy superstar at the moment, making the Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy combination a rather dangerous one. But this here is a much different animal. First off, this is the first time that Paul Feig has attempted to direct a PG-13 rated comedy. Thus he's really unproven when it comes to more family-friendly comedy, which is what Ghostbusters is attempting to be. Some people aren't super happy about the idea of female-led Ghostbusters movie, but the much bigger issue here is the idea of Ghostbusters being rebooted in the first place. When it comes to reboots, a good trailer or two can usually win over at least some audiences. But that's the biggest issue. The trailers for this movie have been unanimously hated across the board. In fact, they're the most hated trailers in YouTube history and anyone that's tried to defend them has been mauled by an angry, rabid Ghosbusters fan base. What does that mean financially? Well, controversy often sparks curiosity. So there's a chance that all the hate might actually help this movie. But if it's as bad as everyone thinks it will be, this could also disappear quickly.

There's no real competition for Ghostbusters this weekend. The only fight it will have will be holdovers from previous weeks. But there is another smaller release and that is The Infiltrator. This is a thriller that will be aimed at adult audiences, which means a giant opening weekend isn't expected, but its box office life will be determined by how well it's received. This is based on the book written by Robert Mazur in which he tells of his experience fighting the biggest drug cartel in history. Playing Robert Mazur in the movie is Bryan Cranston, who is fresh off of his Oscar nomination for Trumbo this past year. In the last few years, Cranston has becoming a big star both on the big screen and on the small screen, so his presence could attract some people to theaters. Movies about the fight against the drug cartel are fairly common, but they're also usually very well received by those who actually go out and see them. The director here is Brad Furman, the director of The Lincoln Lawyer and Runner Runner. Back in 2011, The Lincoln Lawyer opened to $13 million on its way to a $58 million total. That seems like a best case scenario if the stars align for The Infiltrator. A more likely scenario might be one like Runner Runner, which opened to $7 million on its way to a $19 million total.

July 22nd - 24th-

Regardless of how well The Ghostbusters does in it's first weekend, it's likely to take a shot to the chin in it's second weekend as this fourth weekend of July sees Star Trek Beyond arrive in theaters. Star Trek has been one of the most popular franchises for quite a long time starting with it's formation in the 1960's. It's had an up and down history both on TV and on film, but in 2009, J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in a huge way after it had been going through an especially hard time. The 2009 reboot created a new generation of fans and ended up being the highest grossing Star Trek movie ever, even when you adjust for ticket price inflation. Old time Star Trek fans were a little more on the fence with this reboot, but they especially lashed out against its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, ranking it as the worst Star Trek movie ever made at the Star Trek convention in 2013. Enter Star Trek Beyond. With J.J. having gone over to Star Wars, Justin Lin from the Fast and Furious franchise has taken the helm for this third movie and he has a lot of fans nervous. Star Trek Into Darkness was still well-received by casual fans and critics and was a box office success, but there's a lot of signs that point to this potentially continuing the trend of under-performing sequels this summer.

Speaking of sequels, we have another one this week. This one is the fifth Ice Age movie, Ice Age: Collision Course. If you are wondering why in the heck we have five Ice Age movies, look no further than the overseas totals for these movies. Yes, they have been financially consistent here in the U.S., each making between $150 million and $200 million. But the overseas totals tell the whole story. When you look at the overseas chart (not worldwide -- overseas only), the two highest grossing animated movies are Frozen with $875 million and Minions with $823 million. Right behind those two? You guessed it. Ice Age: Continental Drift (the fourth movie) comes in third with $715 million and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (the third movie) come in fourth with $690 million. Yep. Now you know why we are getting a fifth movie. When you make that much money in today's movie business, you find a way to keep going. This might be yet another under-performing sequel here in the U.S., but that doesn't matter. They eat these movies up overseas for some odd reason. And it's not just one country. It's a lot of them combined.

The final movie of this weekend will be the horror movie Lights Out. A couple of years back there was a three-minute short film called Lights Out (that I have linked for you right there) that was created by David Sandberg that preys on people's fear of the dark. It's quite the effective little horror short film that might make you have a hard time sleeping if you watch it at night. After going viral, that little short film has been turned into a feature-length film using the same ideas that is also written and directed by David Sandberg while being produced by horror expert James Wan, director of The Conjuring and Insidious. This is a bit of a risky venture as an 81-minute version of this might not be as effective as the three-minute short, but financially there's practically no risk with these horror films. Most of them cost less than $10 million to make, so all they need is a final total of like $15 million (or even less if it cost less than $5 million) in order to be considered a financial success. That should be a very easy mark for Lights Out to hit. It could get there in its first weekend.

July 29th - 31st-

On our final weekend of July, we have yet another highly anticipated release, that being Jason Bourne. Having Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, and August's Suicide Squad all coming out in consecutive weeks is either going to make for a phenomenal end to the summer or they could all end up self-destructing. Not everyone can afford to go to every movie released. We'll get to Suicide Squad a month from now in my August preview, but out of these three movies that will be finishing off July, Jason Bourne is the most likely to succeed. When you think of the best action stars or characters, Matt Damon's Jason Bourne is probably one of the first that comes to your mind. All three of his Bourne movies were huge financial and critical successes, which peaked with The Bourne Ultimatum making $227 million back in 2007. The fourth movie, The Bourne Legacy, was a failure, but that didn't have Matt Damon or director Paul Greengrass. Now it's been nine years since Ultimatum and Matt Damon is back along with Paul Greengrass and fans are excited. Adjusting for ticket price inflation, Ultimatum's total is equivalent to $283 million. Is it possible for Jason Bourne to get that high? Maybe that's too much to expect, but this should be huge.

Our second raunchy comedy of the month comes in the form of Bad Moms. STX Entertainment is a fairly new production company whose goal is to produce and distribute several medium-budget, star-driven movies each year. They started off with three thrillers, two of which had pretty good success (The Gift and The Boy). Their last couple of movies haven't been quite as successful. The bought and distributed the action movie Hardcore Henry which failed to get to $20 million and then their war movie Free State of Jones was a huge flop this past month considering it's fairly high price tag. Now they're going to try to get back on track with their first raunchy comedy, Bad Moms. This stars Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell as well as Christina Applegate and Jada Pinkett Smith and is about a group of moms that are tired of being over-worked and under-appreciated. Thus they decide that they are going to stop trying to be perfect angels and live the rebellious party life. This is a premise that a lot of ladies can probably relate to. Whether or not they decide to follow these moms' examples is a different story, but this could make for a decent hit.

Our final wide release of the month comes with the mystery/thriller Nerve. If you watch the trailer to this movie, it might seem like you've just watched the whole movie. Without going as far as the trailer, the premise for this thriller follows a high school senior who finds herself immersed in this strange online game where she has to follow a bunch of dares like kiss a random stranger or try on this expensive dress in a store. As a part of this game, there are both watchers and players and thus I don't know why anyone would actually be a part of this super sketchy "game," but I suppose it's not out of the ordinary for high school students to do crazy things without thinking. You can probably guess that this movie will go in a bunch of crazy directions and if you watch the trailer you will learn that you are right, but personally I'll just leave it at that. The directing duo for this movie is the directing duo that did the third and fourth Paranormal Activity movies and the stars are Emma Roberts, the niece of Julia Roberts, and Dave Franco. So there's some recognizable names, but nothing here really screams box office success.

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