This Summer's Winners and Losers
The King of the Summer, Downey Jr. became a matinee idol in Iron Man and showed his comedic range in Tropic Thunder. Yeah, so the latter film is still a way's from making back it's production budget but the reviews were good and people embraced RDJ in a very precarious role. If "The Soloist" can make some solid scratch, Downey Jr. might finally find himself where people expected him to be a long time ago: The A-List.
I know they aren't a real studio anymore but things are terrible over there right now. How bad? Well, one of the main ads on their website (which looks like a site from the late 90's) is trumpeting the release of a new version of the infamous flop of all flops, "Heaven's Gate". And what's the new cut? The Studio Cut! Yeah, like a lot of people have been waiting for that one.
MGM's major summer release was "College", a film that absolutely tanked. Although the strange thing about this summer is how MGM released its three films on three consecutive weekends. You think you'd spread out your films a bit but MGM decided to release Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Longshots, and College back-to-back-to-back. And they are going to repeat this strategy in November when they release Crossing Over, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and Soul Men on three consecutive weekends. And you'll never guess where they moved the release of Quantum of Solace? Yep, the week after Soul Men.
In the end, all you really need to know is that the top movie MGM's released all year is Superhero Movie which made 25 million at the box office.
Superheroes of all shapes and sizes held their own this summer. The Dark Knight proved gritty could sell and Iron Man proved that lesser known heroes could build an audience. Even the superhero satire Hancock scared up 200 million. The anti-superheroes of Wanted also brought in a nice haul despite the film being terrible. Ironically, the superhero that didn't bring in the green was the green one himself, The Hulk but hey, even superheroes can't be perfect.
However the key to this summer wasn't just the money but the quality. After the horrific trio of X3, Spiderman 3, and Fantastic Four last year, it was good to be reminded that superhero films can actually be quality.
Loser: Saturday Night Live
Will Ferrell was really the only one to come out unscathed but even he is wearing his schtick a little thin right now. Adam Sandler's Don't Mess with the Zohan cost 90 million and is barely going to creep past 100 million in domestic box office, making it his worst return in a broad comedy since Little Nicky. The Love Guru not only tanked but it gave Mike Myers's many critics a reason to unsheath their pens and go after him. Meet Dave destroyed any momentum Eddie Murphy might have had.
Winner: Movie Stars
I've often argued against the importance of movie stars but this summer helped earn some people some paychecks. Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher took what could have been a straight-to-DVD film and brought home 80 million dollars. Angelina Jolie's box office credential had been spotty at best but "Wanted" helps solidify her a bit as an action draw. Will Smith overcame bad reviews to bring in another 200 million dollars. And, again, Robert Downey Jr. finally became the star people expected him to be.
Loser: The Next Generation of Movie Stars
For starters, the new generation was just absent. At best you could argue James McAvoy but I thought he was barely memorable and the parts I did remember were when he was being annoying. The Narnia film was a bit of a bust and nobody has really emerged from that film series. James Franco reminded people he could be funny but it's not like The Pineapple Express was a Knocked Up level hit. Shia's role in Indiana Jones didn't exactly win him any new fans and Emile Hirsch's first real shot at the mainstream, Speed Racer, flopped. Anna Faris cemented herself as a mid-level comedienne with The House Bunny (ditto for Patrick Dempsey in Made of Honor) which is more than anyone can say for Rainn Wilson of The Rocker.
The A-List is becoming the Gray List and there really aren't many new faces looking capable of carrying a film to blockbuster status.
All in all, it was a solid summer, arguably the second best (in terms of quality) this decade.