Thursday, August 22, 2013

Riske Business: The Summer Movie Stock Market

Who had a good summer at the movies? Who hit the skids? What trends are on the rise? Which are sucking wind? I sat down with Jaden Smith and, using multidimensional mathematics, we found the special equation to get our summer movie answers. It was tough. We had to develop a whole new set of mathematics to get to these equations because our mathematics hasn’t evolved enough yet. Anyways, it was a really fun sleepover party. Brody Jenner was there. Bai Ling. Cash bar! Patterns, boom.

DOWN – Adam Sandler/Happy Madison: Grown Ups 2 made money, but I think even Sandler defenders are done with him. I have no idea who is still seeing his movies. I really don’t. Going to them is like licking the floor at a flea market.

DOWN – Anyone associated with The Lone Ranger (i.e. Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer, Disney):  I am a fan of The Lone Ranger but let’s face it – almost everyone hates it. Johnny Depp is now seen by most as lazy and uncool. Armie Hammer has "failed movie star" stamped on his head and Gore Verbinski & Jerry Bruckheimer are losing their autonomy. Expect Disney to take even less risks going forward, if that’s even possible.
UP – The Avengers & Robert Downey Jr.:  Iron Man 3 performed like a sequel to The Avengers more than the follow-up to Iron Man 2, which cements The Avengers as the brand that will never die. Looking more closely, all of the biggest movies in this series have been the ones where Robert Downey Jr. is involved. This guy has somehow become the most bankable actor in Hollywood – but only in the part of Tony Stark/Iron Man. An actor I can’t stand playing an obnoxious character is the most powerful property in Hollywood. Awesome!

UP – Brad Pitt & Zombies: The success of World War Z shows that leading man Brad Pitt can open just about anything these days. What Hollywood will learn from World War Z is to make as many zombie movies as possible so long as it doesn’t seem too much like a horror movie. They might also learn that shaky-cam action is back in fashion. Fuck my life.

DOWN – Bruce Willis:
What a difference a year makes. Bruce Willis was in two of my favorite 2012 movies -- Moonrise Kingdom & Looper -- and he seemed awake in both. This year, he had Red 2 (that awful junket interview that went viral didn’t help) and got ousted by Sly Stallone from The Expendables 3 for being greedy and lazy.
DOWN – Channing Tatum: This one makes me sad a little bit. White House Down was supposed to be Channing Tatum’s Die Hard and vault him into an actor that could open action movies by his name alone. It didn’t happen, though it was not his fault. The movie was shit and lost a bunch of money. Too bad, but I see Tatum as more of a Patrick Swayze than a Bruce Willis anyways. There’s nothing wrong with that.

DOWN – Comedy Sequels: THEY NEVER WORK! This summer, we got Grown Ups 2, Red 2 and The Hangover Part III. To those of you who have high hopes for the Anchorman sequel, I suggest you lower your expectations.

UP – Emma Watson: The Bling Ring and This is the End on top of The Perks of Being a Wallflower proves Emma Watson won’t be typecast as Hermione.
UP – Ensemble Casts: Why cast Will Smith in your movie when you can gross more with an ensemble cast? Look at Now You See Me or This is the End as examples. Most of the actors in those movies have had trouble opening a movie on their own, but when you lump a bunch of them together it becomes more high-concept and marketable.

UP – Ethan Hawke: Ethan Hawke has quietly become a reliable lead for horror/thrillers like Sinister and The Purge while still mixing in passion projects like Before Midnight. The dude has the world on a string wrapped around his finger.

UP – The Fast and Furious franchise: The "We Are the World" of big-budget franchises. Next time you see one, take a look at the audience – Young/Old, Men/Women, Asian/Black/European/Hispanic/White. Even flamingos like Dom & Brian.
DOWN – Guillermo del Toro: Imagination only gets you so far, Guillermo. Pacific Rim was a disappointment financially and a bit critically (because it was supposed to save summer blockbusters). What this means is that del Toro will have to make movies for less money which I think is the best route for him.

DOWN – Harrison Ford: Holy shit, dude. What is going on with late-career Harrison Ford? Paranoia, casting in The Expendables 3 (can’t wait to see him fall on people and pretend that he’s fighting) and his comatose narration through the Enders Game trailer... this run reminds me of the late-career slides of Orson Welles, Martin Balsam or Joseph Cotton.

DOWN – Indie Breakouts: In past summers, we had The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom and Midnight in Paris, but this summer nothing really crossed-over into mainstream success. Before Midnight, The Way, Way Back and Fruitvale Station seemed to disappear once they hit the megaplexes. The Kevin Hart concert movie fared the best. Quality-wise, there were some strong indies like Drinking Buddies, The Bling Ring, Blue Jasmine and The Spectacular Now (the latter two are still expanding, so we’ll see how they do). The momentum seems to be turning away from having indies go to the major theater chains and more towards video on-demand, which I am totally in favor of.
UP – James Wan: The Conjuring coming after the success of Insidious makes James Wan the king of mainstream horror right now. His movies are low-budgeted, make money and are of high quality. This is good news.

UP – Jason Sudeikis: Small doses is how I prefer my Jason Smugdeikis. He reminds me of Chevy Chase. But We’re the Millers proves that the U.S. wants him as a leading man. Sigh.

UP – Jennifer Aniston: People love desperate hot, I guess. First there was Horrible Bosses, where Jennifer Aniston got all sorts of praise for saying dirty words, and now We’re the Millers where half of the marketing campaign is to see “good girl” Aniston strip. I find it odd that Rachel is basically on the Mount Rushmore of women since she seems to be just trying to repeat Christina Aguilera’s "Dirty" phase. Anyways, We’re the Millers is a hit, so she’ll be in at least another decade of shitty comedies.
UP – Kevin Hart & Stand-Up Comedy: Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain became the highest grossing stand-up comedy movie since 2000’s The Original Kings of Comedy (which featured four comedians). Hart’s success is closer to that of the stand-up movies of Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. This is good news because 1) Hart is very funny and 2) I would love to see a comeback for the stand-up comedy movie.

UP – Leonardo DiCaprio & Baz Luhrmann: The success of The Great Gatsby was somewhat of a surprise but shows that audiences like Leonardo DiCaprio as a romantic lead, which is something he’s gone away from in recent years. More troubling is that Gatsby was the biggest hit of Baz Luhrmann’s career. Beware, take care.

UP – Mainstream Horror/Thrillers: The Purge and The Conjuring cost very little and made a lot of money. Hopefully, You’re Next sees the same success, as it’s very deserving. Mainstream (and indie) horror is in a great spot right now. I’m interested to see where the trend will go, but one thing I’m noticing is that mainstream horror is more akin to thrillers than horror.
UP – Minions: These things are so fucking popular. I will make a gentleman’s bet with anyone that their stand-alone movie will gross over a billion dollars worldwide. All of this for things that look like they came from a claw machine.

DOWN – Neill Blomkamp:
Elysium is making most people wonder if District 9 was a fluke. Are you a visionary director or not, Neill Blomkamp?

DOWN – Nicolas Winding Refn: Only God Forgives was so bad it’s making people question if Drive was really that good.
UP – Oprah Winfrey: Lee Daniels’ The Butler opened big this weekend and was met with strong reviews. I’m happy for Daniels, but honestly I think Oprah had a lot to do with the movie’s success. There’s a huge fan base that will give an Oprah project a chance sight un-seen.

? – Pixar: As I mentioned in my review, I liked Monsters University more than I thought I would. However, the sequel is on pace to make less money than Monsters Inc. domestically (but more worldwide) and the reviews for the sequel were not as flattering. Then Disney greedily opted to open the sort-of Pixar Planes in theaters, which seems to me like it cheapens the Pixar brand overall. The main reason for Pixar being a question mark, though, is that they used to rule the CG animation roost and now the field is more spread out – Universal’s Despicable Me 2 is the second highest-grossing movie of the year so far and Dreamworks Animation has outgrossed Pixar collectively by almost double since the beginning of 2011.

UP – R-Rated Comedies: This summer was big for comedy: The Heat, This is the End and We’re the Millers were financially successful and all rated R. On the other hand, The Internship (rated PG-13) tanked.
DOWN – Ryan Reynolds: He’s bringing his own nails to the coffin party. Go back to independent movies and comedies, please. You’re talented but you’re not the action hero of the future.

DOWN – Straight-Up Action Movies: This makes me sadder than almost anything else. With White House Down tanking and 2 Guns failing to live up to expectations, we are going to see even fewer action movies that don’t have anything to do with superheroes or an established property.

UP – Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy:
Further reinforces that Bullock and McCarthy can open a movie. I hope they pair up again. I just hope it’s for a funnier movie than The Heat.
? – Star Trek:  Although I still found it entertaining, the general consensus seems to be that Star Trek Into Darkness was a failure. Creatively, it was a sequel of diminishing returns, opting to become a greatest hits fan reel instead of its own thing like the 2009 Star Trek (even Karl Urban said so).  Financially, the sequel made less money domestically than the reboot but more worldwide. So, get ready for more action, less dialogue when the next Star Trek opens in a few years.

DOWN – Superman: Even though Man of Steel is the third highest-grossing movie of the year and far out-grossed Superman Returns worldwide, many people thought it was a disappointment creatively. Warner Bros. seems to believe this too, because they are plopping Batman into the Superman sequel. They don’t seem to have much faith in Supes as a character that can drive his own movie. Also, question for the Comic-Con crowd: why the hell are you excited about a Batman and Superman movie directed by the SAME GUY who directed the Superman movie most of you don’t like?

DOWN – Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson: The world has spoken. You’re not funny anymore and your act has worn thin. Go away, please. The Internship was painful. I once described it as like watching your grandpa dance at a wedding to the song "Blurred Lines" and then shitting his pants before the song ends. It’s embarrassing for everyone.
DOWN – Will & Jaden Smith:  It was a bad summer for the Smith’s. After Earth (it’s FINE!) was a disaster for them and confirmed that Will Smith is not the mega-star he once was. Will Smith has become so protective of his brand that he seems to have missed that his fanbase has grown up and he should have grown up with them. As for Jaden, After Earth is the kind of movie that’s going to put him in movie jail for a while.

UP – Woody Allen:
Blue Jasmine is good! Now everyone will forget that To Rome with Love is the worst. So it goes for the career of Woody Allen.

DOWN – X-Men: While almost anything Marvel-related is making crazy bank, the X-Men franchise is progressively making less money. The Wolverine is going to make less money than any other X-Men movie. This means that there will never be another stand-alone X-Men character movie. Too bad, because I much prefer X-Men movies to the Avengers movie and its spinoffs.

Who/What do you think had their stock rise or fall this summer?


  1. Geez Adam, I don't think you left anything out. Very comprehensive coverage of the summer season. I've got nothing to add, but I will comment on some of what I'm surprised at:

    1. Brad Pitt & Zombie Movies UP? I thought World War Z was widely considered somewhat of a neutered bore (and Brad's hair? PUH-lease), but I guess you can't argue with the dollars.

    2. Leo D-Cap and Baz UP? Huh - I also thought this was pretty much a critical flop but shit, again Boxofficemojo says otherwise. It's all about the money I guess.

    3. X-Men DOWN - Dammit I thought The Wolverine was pretty good and though you're right about it not making AS MUCH as previous entries, it's doing just as good as Gatsby money-wise, so I'm going to argue that X-Men are FLAT not DOWN.

    1. I put WWZ as up because it did so much better financially than was expected. That movie is total ass though.

      You're probably right about X-Men being flat, not down. On second thought, they'll probably do more stand-alone X-Men movies just so 20th Century Fox doesn't lose the rights. This is fine for me. I only see the X-Men movies once or twice but I am entertained when I am watching them.

  2. Here are some of my picks for the summer stock market.

    DOWN - The Smurfs 2: This unnecessary sequel to the adaptation of the popular 80s cartoon is bringing in less money domestically, but still killing it overseas like the first one did. Let's pray that the total numbers won't be enough to justify a third film as they had announced it before that even got to theaters.

    DOWN - Young Adult Adaptations: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is also not doing well in the US like The Smurfs 2 but will also make up for it worldwide. And now that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is just out to critical backlash and will most likely do weak box office here, I don't think this will spawn a franchise that the studio will hope for.

    DOWN - Kick-Ass 2: With dismal reviews compared to its predecessor and a disappointing opening weekend, this proves that the movie wasn't the awesome sequel that audiences and critics were hoping for.

    1. Funny you mention The Lovely Bones City of Instruments. I just saw a commercial and they were promoting what bands were on the soundtrack. Pretty MUNDANE marketing if you ask me.

  3. Hey, I'm the comic-con crowd! I think the idea of dropping Batman into the next Superman movie is the worst idea that Warner Brothers has had in years and years. Love it or hate it, Marvel/Disney has done right by their characters by slowly putting together their franchise piece by piece and building upward over a period of many films. Each one of those Marvel movies before The Avengers was modestly budgeted (for these days) and had mid-to-low level stars in them. Before Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr was a punchline, not a leading man. Chris Hemsworth was a newbie and Chris Evans was the guy from Not Another Teen Movie and The Human Torch from the two Fantastic Four movies. None of those guys were leading men (as far as the mainstream movie audience was concerned). What's more, those Marvel movies are character-based and have very low stakes. Each one reads like a collected edition of a comic book. Entertaining and full of action, but still within limits.

    DC/Warner Brothers seems to have NO IDEA what made those Marvel movies so successful because they throw everything and the kitchen sink into their movies, but they leave out the most important part: getting the character right. Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern? Do what now? And Superman as a mopey, emo dude? The first episode of Smallville got Clark Kent right more than the entire Snyder-directed movie.

    And as much as I love Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan has ruined Warner Brothers movies. He grounded them in the real world, but that's not where these movies need to be. Marvel doesn't ground their movies in the real world because that takes all the fun out of it. You can't have your Superman movie exist in the real world and then level an entire city and expect that to be fun. The consequences of Nolan's involvement in these movies has made DC's film universe a lot darker and a lot less fun and accessible. Adding Batman to Superman is not going to bring people in, it's going to turn them away. They will THINK that they want to see that, but it will leave most people cold because it won't feel true to the character. When we go see these comic book movies, we want to enjoy ourselves and see characters we grew up with be awesome, not get re-tooled and re-booted into new, gritty versions of those characters. Even if they can get Christian Bale to return (which I doubt will happen), the first Superman movie was a failure with fans because it doesn't feel true to what we all want Superman to be. It's too dark and not indicative of the character nicknamed "the big blue boyscout."

    It's so sad, too, because DC has existed a lot longer than the Marvel Universe and they have so many epic stories and ideas that they could mine and use as jumping-off points for their films. They seem intent on giving us new versions of these characters, though, not the ones that have endured for 70 years.

    Wow. I didn't know I had all that in me.

    1. I just thought of one more thing. My 7 year old has seen ALL of the Marvel movies up to this point. She hasn't seen any of the DC movies, though. Not that she doesn't want to (though she's never asked) but because there's no way I want her to see all the things that happen in those movies. For all the destruction that takes place in The Avengers, Nolan's Batman movies, Green Lantern and Man Of Steel are too heavy for a family audience. In my opinion, that's a big problem. If I were going to get a Batman/Superman movie, I'd want it to be fun and full of humor, like The Odd Couple with capes. That's NOT what I expect us to get.

    2. While I'll go to bat for Nolan and liked "Man of Steel", I agree that DC/Warners Brothers are shitting the bed that "The Dark Knight" made perfectly.


    How can a movie that has received excellent reviews by a majority of critics(87% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 72 on Metacritic) be considered the worst film of a franchise(Even worst than NEMISIS? NEMISIS?!)? I know it was a big story that Trekkers at a convention supposedly considered this to be the worst Trek film, so it's gospel?! I have a feeling that this is a case of a loud minority getting all the press.

    1. I agree about the loud minority but sometimes they're onto something (though I disagree about STID). For example, Indy 4 got a 78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

  5. According to this Box Office Mojo article, The Wolverine will be the X-series' highest-grossing movie to date globally, though its domestic ticket sales are indeed the series' weakest. So given the fact that this movie had to contend with lingering dissatisfaction over Origins, I'd say it's done just fine.

    1. Cool. I'm glad to see it's doing well. Thanks for the link and keeping me honest :-)

  6. Time for the resident raving Pacific Rim fanboy to point out that, when foreign gross is taken into account, the movie was not a financial flop.

    And no, I will never stop going to bat for that movie. Battle axes at dawn, Riske. There can be only one.

    1. Haha. Bring it Jaeger!

      Best wishes,
      Kai-Jew (I was Bar-Mitzvah'd)

    2. It'll be part of our Kol Nidre festivities, to give us something extra special to atone for the following day.


      Maccabee Alpha

  7. Between Pacific Rim and Elysium, one other DOWN might have to be big-budget original sci-fi... well... ok, considering neither of those movies is particularly original, let's say big-budget sci-fi that's not a licensed property.

    It's says something when the two best science fiction movies of the year, Europa Report and Upstream Color, were made for a fraction of the cost as del Toro and Blomkamp's films.

  8. Sorry I'm not replying to posts... my work computer doesn't seem to like doing that.

    @Heath Holland: YES on the Smallville pilot being better than any of the theatrical Superman movies! I know you didn't quite say that, but it's totally true, and it's not even the best ep of that season, either. BTW, those early years of extensive and very impressive rural location shooting, before the budgets were slashed and cheap matte effects had to stand in for Metropolis, totally deserve blu-ray releases.

    @Shannon Briggs: No, Trekkies did not vote "Into Darkness" as the worst Trek film; it only got the fewest votes for their favorite one, and some otherwise reputable sites like IGN deliberately conflated those two very different concepts.

    @Adam Riske: Agreed, UGH on WWZ and its shaky-cam. One of my housemates was watching Skyfall the other night (ugh), and I'd totally forgotten that Bond's big confrontation with M in her house was shakin' like a samba dancer. Entirely ruined the scene.

    Also, I gotta give a big ol' huge DOWN to WB for casting Affleck as the new Batman. Seriously?! Nothing against him as a director, but I can't imagine him not looking like a mere human weakling alongside Cavill's Kryptonian man-god - to say nothing of his rather limited range. So much fail.

  9. @El Gaith - I have the same computer thing going on so no worries.

    As for Affleck, I am more unhappy for him. I hope he's getting a good payday but this seems so unworthy of his talent. I would much rather see him direct another movie (even this Superman-Batman movie) than star in it as Batman.

    This might be an unpopular opinion but Bruce Wayne is not a very interesting character (I'm not a comic reader so I'm basing this comment on the movie portrayals of Wayne). Henry Cavill could play Bruce Wayne/Batman. I think for an actor playing Wayne/Batman it's more important to be 'not bad' as opposed to 'good'. I could care less about WB because the decision to make this movie is about the most calculated, cynical thing they could have possibly done. I'll wait to see the movie before I have a real opinion on it but I can't help but feel the whole thing is unnecessary.