Which Movie Will Win the Summer Money Battle? 2 21

the dark knight rises

The summer movie season is well and truly upon us, the time when the studios break out the big guns and hit us with those mega movies that (at least some of the time) expect us to leave our brains at the door. We have some pretty major films being released this summer but which of them will make the most money?

I think we have to start off with The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s third and final part of his Batman trilogy before he sails off and makes other movies. After all, he is one of the best creative forces working in Hollywood right now so it’s only fair, and probably best, that he leave the Batman universe behind and give us something a little different like he did with The Prestige which was squeezed in between the two previous Caped Crusader movies (and of course with Inception post-Dark Knight).

There’s no Joker this time around, after the sad passing of Heath Ledger, but rather the powerful Bane (being played by the sought-after Tom Hardy) and Catwoman (played by Anne Hathaway). The full trailer released for the film – in which we see Bane destroy an entire American football field – was incredible and I think it will be hard to beat in terms of both quality and success at the box office (even without the added price of 3D). $1 billion-plus last time around is nothing to ignore…

However, Batman isn’t the only hero set to appear on our screens this summer. We also have The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony’s reboot to their franchise first started just a decade ago. Many (myself included) say it’s far too soon for another cinematic Spider-Man incarnation (even if it means wiping away the stink left by Spider-Man 3) and that may lead to people being putt off – different director (the appropriately named Marc Webb of 500 Days of Summer fame), different/darker style, different villain (The Lizard instead of the Green Goblin) and most importantly a different actor playing the eponymous hero, with The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield donning the famous red and blue suit instead of Tobey Maguire. Don’t get me wrong, The Amazing Spider-Man will still make  a lot of money but will it reach the mammoth numbers of Sam Raimi’s movies? Unlikely.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Undoubtedly one of the biggies of the summer movie season is The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for us in the UK. Groan…), Marvel’s superhero team-up movie that brings together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow to fight off Thor’s brother Loki and his mysterious army. We’ve had five movies as build up to this mammoth project and I think that will reflect in its overall box office. Somehow even the might of all those movies doesn’t give off the notion that it will come out on top over The Dark Knight Rises but it certainly won’t bomb either. Apparently it’s excellent as well, which is always a bonus though, sadly, never the main issue when it comes to these types of movies and their box office prospects.

Even though the summer is mostly populated by superhero and action movies aimed at comic and movie geeks (I say that, as one myself, in the nicest way possible!) and teenage boys, we mustn’t forget kids make up a big portion of the movie-going audience and you better believe the studios are there to take advantage/accommodate. There are a couple of animated sequels of sequels coming out including Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, which both fit into the “Why are they still making these?” category that can be swiftly answered with “Money, that’s why.” The last Madagascar movie made $603 million, while Ice Age 3 made $886 million. So yes, they are going to make more and more of these. I think we’re looking at less financial success for both franchises with these installments, so they won’t win the battle, but will certainly still make a ton of money.

Of course there’s always Pixar to count on, who do a great job of catering both to children and adults in a way few other (if any) animation studios are able to. There latest is Brave, the studio’s first fairytale story which is set in (my native) Scotland and looks utterly fantastic. Regardless of quality, Pixar’s movies always make money but the great thing is they usually, with the exception of the Cars movies, have the highest of quality to back that up.

June brings us one of the mostly hotly anticipated movies of the year, Prometheus, the is-it-is-it-not Alien prequel which sees the legendary director Ridley Scott return to the sci-fi genre for the first time since Blade Runner 30 years ago (yes it really has been that long). It has arguably the best trailer of the year so far and you can almost feel the anticipation in the air among film fans for this one. Will that enthusiasm transfer to big bucks this summer? I think so, though I can’t see it coming out on top.

Prometheus

We mustn’t forget that we have another Bourne movie coming, entitled The Bourne Legacy. What it lacks in Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass it makes up for in man-of-the-minute Jeremy Renner (don’t worry, he’s playing another agent not replacing Damon in the tital role) and director Tony Gilroy (he co-wrote the previous three movies). The trailer is great, wiping away pretty much any fear people may have add about this franchise carrying on sans the main character, but will that lack of Damon hurt its chances at the box office? It’s entirely possible.

Other major movies that are going to see big returns this summer include GI Joe: Retaliation, the sequel to the stupid but fun film from 2009; The Expendables 2, adding Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme to the cast just when you thought it couldn’t get anymore macho;  Snow White and the Huntsman, the second of this summer’s Snow White movies which appears to be taking a far more serious route than the cheesy Mirror Mirror; Men In Black 3, the third film in the ridiculously successful sci-fi franchise which brings along with it pretty much the only truly bankable A-list actor, Will Smith; and finally Total Recall, the remake of the early 90s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie this time starring Colin Farrell. Directed by Len Wiseman (the Underworld franchise), from the trailer this looks like one of those movies with cool action but not much to back it up.

Of course there are tons more movies to hit our screens this summer (Rock of Ages, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Piranha 3DD, Dark Shadows and so on…) but those are just the major movies that are going to trouble our bank accounts the most. Of course, heavy-hitters like Battleship, The Hunger Games and Wrath of the Titans have already started to make their mark on the box office (Battleship in the UK) so those might be contenders at the end of the day. But looking at what’s to come my money, so to speak, is on The Dark Knight Rises to win the summer movie money battle.

What are you betting on?

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I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2 Comments

  1. I’d wager my money on The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, and probably Brave, in that order. For some reason, I don’t think Prometheus will do THAT well, but I’m really looking forward to it of course.

    1. Yeah, I can see Prometheus making a solid amount but if you asked the average person on the street they probably wouldn’t be too familiar with it. TDK etc have instant recognition going for them.

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 198

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 222

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10