Monday, May 01, 2017

This year's summer blockbusters! (Yawn)

I blame JAWS.

Before JAWS came out in 1975 there was variety in the movies that were released for the summer. Oh sure, you’d get a James Bond flick and a few action movies. But you also got some romantic comedies, some dramas, and even some films worthy of Academy Awards.

And then JAWS came along. And it was this huge blockbuster. And movie studios realized that with kids out of school and available to see movies every night of the week and not just weekends they could make a mint by programming to them. And what did young people want to see? Big exciting action special-effect thrill rides.

Thanks, Steven Spielberg.

(I say that knowing full well it’s not really his fault, and JAWS was a helluva good movie.)

At first studios ventured into the blockbuster market cautiously. One or two a summer. After all, they were expensive to produce with no guarantees. You could lose a shitload of money. Of course you could also make two shitloads of money, have a franchise that would lead to six sequels, merchandising up the wazoo, tie ins with Burger King, and a whole “land” in an amusement park.

So each studio started producing four and then five every summer and then these successful franchises began accumulating until now you look at the summer previews and it is practically ALL superheroes, sequels, prequels, animated sequels, reboots, gore fests, explosion porn. It’s the summer of CGI. Sprinkled in are some raunchy comedies. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn – boy, has America waited breathlessly for THAT pairing! Summer movie making has become very formula.

I used to look forward to summer movies. And a good popcorn yarn is a fun diversion on a hot July night. But leafing through the ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Summer Movie Preview there was little that interested me. THE MUMMY with Tom Cruise? When was the last good PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN? Twelve years ago? There have been so many reboots of SPIDERMAN I don’t know if this one is a sequel or Lester Holt is playing him.

It all just seems like overkill – at least to me.   But then I’m not the target audience. It's all a big money grab.  Who cares if the movie is shit as long as it opens big?  Meanwhile, I have to wait until the end of November when the Meryl Streep/Daniel Day Lewis movies come out.

So my question to you, since I’m sure you read up on all these movie previews – which, if any, of these potential summer blockbusters are you looking forward to and why? And remember, they’ll all be on HBO by Halloween. Thanks.

Who knew that shark from JAWS would still be wreaking havoc 42 years later?

36 comments :

Phil In Phoenix said...

I have been to a movie theatre once since the 1980's. And that was for a free preview about 12 years ago. That should answer the question.

Boomska316 said...

I still like Marvel's offerings because those usually mange to be good movies on top of the comic book stuff. I'm a comic fanboy, but I still need it to have some attempt at quality. Otherwise, I have no interest in most of these blockbusters that come out these days. The last good Pirates movie was the second one IMO.

Anonymous said...

You have moviemakers who don't know how to tell a story making movies for a barely literate audience.
There is a huge emphasis a foreign market that doesn't speak English, and merchandising rights.
Voila.





Paul Gottlieb said...

It's kind of ironic that the very elements that made "Jaws" and "Raiders of the Lost RT" into smash hits: strong storytelling, sharp ,sometimes witty, dialog and a cast full of accomplished actors were the first elements to be jettisoned by the next wave of would-be blockbuster franchises.

Covarr said...

I'm really excited for CARS 3 this summer. I was initially set to ignore it, after the first movie was merely okay and the second was a [note: find substitute for "hot mess" that isn't played out], but now that I've seen the trailers I'm more excited than I thought I'd be. It looks like this one may be on track to be the sort of character-driven heart-filled movie that Pixar excels at.

Besides, I'm certainly not going to waste my money on any superhero movies this summer. Marvel basically keeps making the same movie over and over again, and DC has shown themselves unable to make something remotely good. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING looks like it might have potential to shift a little bit from Marvel's excessively homogenized norm, but not so much that I can't wait for it to come out on DVD later.

Thomas Mossman said...

Other than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Alien Covenant, I can't name a single movie of any kind that's this summer movie season.

And I'm technically still in that target demographic.

Justin Russo said...

Honestly, I love most of Goldie Hawn's movies (except 'Town & Country' - yuck!) and Amy Schumer is one of the funniest comedians with a knack for being of the zeitgeist. Other than that, I will see the new Pixar--and that's it until October. I'd rather see the Fathom Events screenings of classics ANY day!

VP81955 said...

I made a comment on Facebook that judging from the posters for "Snatched," Goldie Hawn at 71 still has more sex appeal than Amy Schumer. (To be fair, both probably were considerably airbrushed.) Boy, was I blasted for saying that, though it was more of a compliment to Goldie -- making her first feature film in 15 years -- than a putdown of Amy. Has Schumer become impossible to criticize, a la Beyonce?

blinky said...

Regular screen beats big screen. All the good stuff is on some kind of TV or stream. I gave up on super hero movies with Deadpool. Not because it was bad but it made fun of the genre and was a nice way to stop. Now if they reboot Spiderman as a black lesbian I may come back to the multiplex.

Daniel said...

I think super-hero films get a bad rap. I haven't researched this but I'd be willing to wager that there are significantly fewer super-hero films released every year (about a half dozen or so, give or take a couple) than there were westerns released in any given year in the 1940s and '50s (dozens per year). Why the genre bias?

tavm said...

I'm more interested in the Wonder Woman one than any of the Marvel movies since it has a female superhero and it's a chance to improve on the Lynda Carter TV show. I do wonder if viewers will be confused when the new Captain Marvel one stars a woman as that and not a kid as Billy Batson who when his shouts "SHAZAM!" turns into someone looking like Fred MacMurray...

Peter said...

Come on, Ken, you know you'll be first in line to see Jewish babe Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman!

As I posted the other day, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which has opened in the UK, is a treat.

I'm looking forward to Spider-Man Homecoming mainly because it's got the awesome Michael Keaton as the villain.

Alien Covenant looks good.

And the trailer for the new Transformers shows that Michael Bay is still the best at blowing shit up really pretty.

WOKcreativeWritings said...

Just surprised at the number of remakes and doing them all as darker versions of the originals. Hard to go to theaters anymore with so many rude people. I save my money and wait for TV/stream/DVD...

Roger Owen Green said...

I love the Oscar season. Seldom do the summer movies qualify.

Johnny Walker said...

I'm interested in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (I enjoyed the first one, and Chris Pratt is just as likeable today as he was then). Spider-Man (because this is the first time Marvel have had complete control of the character and it's NOT an origin story).

Outside of that, Rotten Tomatoes will be helping me decide which other blockbusters I watch (sorry Brett Ratner, you need to make a good movie. I know, I know. It's difficult).

Patrick said...

I burned out on superhero movies a year or two ago, not to mention the other explosion oriented type movies (fast and furious part whatever). They all started to seem the same. The only blockbuster type movie I might go see if reviews are favorable is the Alien movie.

A. L. Crivaro said...

The Captain America movies have been good enough to keep me on the Marvel train (not to mention how good I think the new Thor trailer looks). But the one I'm really excited for this summer is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Luc Besson + vague similarities to The Fifth Element = me handing over my money.

ScottyB said...

I'm not quite so sure 'Jaws' is a #1 suspect. That movie was predated by massive-budget screamers like Airport (1970), The Towering Inferno (1974), and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Maybe they weren't summer releases, but they did something to where the bar was being set.

ScottyB said...

It occurs to me that what accounts for today's shitty summer movies wouldn't be quite so shitty if there were still drive-ins all over the landscape. Back in the day, you almost *expected* summer movies at the drive-in to be shitty -- and there was a certain goodness and contentment in that. Is it any wonder why people walk around bitching that America needs to be great again?

Ben K. said...

The studios often don't seem to realize that no matter how great the special effects are, big summer blockbusters still won't be any good without decent writing. The best superhero movie I've seen in years was a relatively low-budget, low-key film called "Chronicle," about what would happen if some regular teenage boys happened to develop superpowers. (They'd screw things up, naturally.) Then the same director was hired for "Fantastic 4," which had a lousy script and was terrible.

The blockbusters we really remember -- say, "Jaws," "Terminator 2," "ET," "Star Wars," "Jurassic Park," "Iron Man," etc. -- are really well-written in addition to being well-executed. Even the "Fast and the Furious" movies are engaging in their own dopey way, and they're still successful after a zillion sequels. But by the same token, movies with great potential and built-in fan bases -- like, say, "Batman v Superman" or "Suicide Squad" -- have been virtually ruined by lousy writing.

I don't know what the upshot is, other than that studios shoud value writing more highly -- but I'm guessing I'm preaching to the choir here on that topic.

Peter said...

Here in the UK, Sky News had a report on the writers' strike earlier today. And who was interviewed but none other than Ken!

You've got a cool office, Ken. Very spacious.

McAlvie said...

I'm looking forward to Guardians. Good playlist and wisecracking aliens, what's not to like? But otherwise ...

wait, Tom Cruz doing Mummy? he must be desperate. Well, it will either reboot his career, if he can pull it off, or kill it once and for all. I just don't see him stepping into Frazier's shoes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

You are so "on" with this. Today at The Ringer they had an article that relates to this: How do you measure a movies' success. Bringing up Get Out, John Wick, Logan, Beauty & the Beast, Boss Baby & Fast 8. It seems lately that February/Valentines Day weekend has major releases; then the usual Summer big budget popcorn/CGI/superhero/sequel/remake/reboot garbage.
You have to wait until post Labor Day for any Oscar type stuff. That's 7 months. This year I hear there's a WW2 movie called Dunkirk that could get consideration. You're right when you say you have to wait until Thanksgiving to go to the movies. This year has a Gary Oldham/Winston Churchill biopic coming out (What can I say-I'm a history nut)

I'll just say what I've said for years: Hollywood has run out of ideas. That's why everything is a franchise, sequel or remake.

--LL

Donald Benson said...

Old enough to recollect when BIG movies came out around Thanksgiving, heralded with merchandise and maybe a float in the Macy's parade. They weren't always good movies, but darn it all, they were BIG. It was the age of huge musicals and extravagant comedies, and often the year's big Disney release (or re-release) when it was a fairly tiny studio in comparison to the other majors.

Souvenir programs on sale in the lobby, orchestral entr'actes as you entered the theater, and gigantic wide screens. And a few still ran a decent cartoon before the main feature.

Peter said...

This year's cultural event isn't a movie, it's the glorious return of Twin Peaks. 18 new episodes of awesomeness by David Lynch. Yes yes yes!!!

Diane D said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I hate not being able to go to a movie theatre. DVDs or streaming don't fulfill that need I have to be in a theatre.

I wonder if the blockbusters are so popular because the other movies that are playing are so awful. I went to see The Lost City of Z. That could have been a wonderful movie considering it is based on a fascinating true story. But to mention just a few flaws (IMHO)--no spoilers--the movie was so dark (in every sense of the word, actually), you could BARELY see the actor's faces. Are we supposed to think that there wasn't a single sunny day in 20 years? Although the dialog was not actually too bad, are we also supposed to believe among these intelligent, educated people, there was scarcely ever a witticism exchanged? The first third of the movie was so slow-moving, I wasn't sure I would be able to wait it out, but it did finally capture my attention and I did enjoy the rest of it, in spite of the gloomy darkness.

I sure miss the days of really good romantic comedies and brilliant screwball comedies.

Ralph C. said...

None. I don't go to theaters much, anymore. I'll just wait to see them, if any, when I can rent it from Amazon or another steaming service. Now, if there was another Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie coming out I'd be a-going to a theater to see it!!

Eric J said...

Won't be seeing any of them. The keyword in "shitload of money" is shit. That's all that's offered most of the summer. There are too many other things I can spend that money on that doesn't involve 100db Dolby sound, sticking my feet to the floor, and...I don't even want to know what that gooey stuff on the armrest was.

Jason Roberts said...

Transformers 5 The Last Knight. Well, because I was one of the AD's on it! :)

VP81955 said...

Is Peter actually David Bianculli under a pseudonym?

I'm hoping "Wonder Woman" delivers the goods. We need a solid female superhero.

Lorimartian said...

"...they'll all be on HBO by Halloween." That genre seems to be all HBO is licensing. I keep looking for the Oscar nominated movies but to no avail. It finally had "Joy" and "Straight Outta Compton" (a year later). It has been running, with the exception of "Hail, Caesar," the same old movies over and over (e.g., "The Big Lebowski" and a bunch of far lesser efforts) for months and months. Right now, I'm just keeping my subscription for Bill Maher, John Oliver, and "Silicon Valley." If the movie selections don't improve, I may rethink the whole thing.

Mike said...

@VP81955: For a long time, I've suspected @Peter of being @Hamid (who fell on the field of battle, like @Joseph Scarborough). I've been waiting for the Oprah Winfrey criticism, which finally arrived.

VP81955 said...

DianeD, the lady in my avatar -- who starred in several of the best of each genre you cited -- feels your pain.

flurb said...

This weekend, despite dire splat warnings on Rotten Tomatoes, our little movie group went to THE CIRCLE, the would-be 1984 of 2017. It couldn't be considered a blockbuster, though it is a bust: Disastrous on every level other than production design, and it's all down to the writing. Entire scenes were just bald exposition spoken by people who had no reason to say it. (And some of the actors apparently had no idea how to say much of anything anyway.) As an antidote, we came home and watched THE APARTMENT, which is perfect on every level. Its scenes lead you somewhere - you don't leave each with just new information, but with new understanding.

Not many of the summer offerings interest us. If we thought one of them really could be as good as JAWS, we'd go, but we've given up hope for that. We've sworn off the costume crusaders, as a few good wisecracks are not enough for us to sit through even one more epic reboot in one or another universe. We might try MY COUSIN RACHEL, because the du Maurier story is terrific, and if Rachel Weiss isn't quite Olivia de Havilland, she's at least an intelligent actor who picks interesting projects.

Klee said...

Absolutely NONE, every time I head there's a new character from Marvel or DC headlining a movie, I head for the hills. I'm absolutely sick of all these comic heroes turned into superhero movies. I only wish they'd CGI Chris Reeves into all these movies, he at least was the most charismatic and some of the story lines were so over-the-top besides CGI was in its infancy then. Every time time I see a Spider Man flying through those fake buildings I get ill. All I care about Summer is that's over soon so we can watch the new Stranger Things season.

Diane D said...

VP81955
I know. She is before my time so I never had the pleasure of seeing her on the big screen, but I've seen her on TV. The AMC theatre chain shows an old classic movie in one of their theatres every 2 or 3 months (in my area), I keep hoping one of hers will show up. They showed Singing in the Rain the weekend after I saw La La Land with it's mediocre singing and dancing---what a shock to see the difference in quality!!