The summer movie season of 2014 is nigh; on Labor Day Weekend the box office books for the sweltering months of the year will close and we’ll take stock of all we’ve seen. But what will we have learned from the past few months’ spate of flicks? Behold:
5. It IS possible to reboot the impossible. See: Godzilla. With all that America loves in its smash-em-up blockbusters — giant monsters, mass destruction, recognizable landmarks crumbling to the ground — the Godzilla universe would seem like number-one on the list of franchises to bring back. Unfortunately, in 1998 Roland Emmerich failed so miserably to do so (baby Godzillas running amuck in Madison Square Garden, anyone?) that no one would dare even touch it again until 16 years later. But this time it worked. Sure, the new Godzilla reboot didn’t have much of a sense of humor about itself, but what it lacked in levity it more than made up for in hot, monster-on-monster action. One gigantic, well-designed Godzilla plus two “Mutos” — huge, bug-type antagonists — equalled an impressive new take on the age-old Japanese franchise and will likely spawn a sequel or three.
4. It doesn’t matter how much we all hate Michael Bay; he’s still winning. Hipsters and movie nerds, face it — your reviling of the action director is in a vacuum. America doesn’t hear it, and they’re just going to continue giving him money no matter what he does. Exhibit A? How about a nearly three-hour Transformers sequel which the Chicago Reader called “impossible to take seriously,” garnered an 18% positive on Rotten Tomatoes and featured Stanley Tucci as the Steve Jobs of space robots? It’s already netted $243 million and is still going. U-S-A! U-S-A! Or, if you’d rather, how about a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remix that not only gave the pizza-loving sewer dwellers nostrils (oh, those nostrils!) but also deigned to pass Megan Fox off as respected journalist April O’Neil and Tony Shaloub as Splinter? No? Too bad; it’s setting record box office earnings in only its first two weeks in theaters. All that means is that you can laugh at Bay’s meltdown after his autocue notes break down at a Samsung press conference all you want. His pool is still bigger and better than your no pool at all.
3. The exorcism-film trend is officially dead (and not in a possessed-by-the dead-way; just dead). The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Deliver Us from Evil was the first technical big-opening horror-exorcism flick to be passed off as a big summer movie in quite some time (generally these movies slip out quietly in October for Halloween or are burned off in January when nobody’s paying attention) and nobody went to see it. Actually, that’s not true — I saw it and my friend Craig saw it, but we are the only two people I know who did. Apparently some other folks did too, but not enough to elevate it past a paltry $30.6 million with a July 4 weekend debut, notoriously a great weekend for opening movies. In its defense, I will say that while I fully expected it to be 100% terrible, it was only 55% terrible as far as demonic-possession-police-procedurals go, and it did boast one of the most impressive final exorcism sequences I’ve seen in any of these 10 billion exorcism movies over the past four years. But still, the numbers don’t lie, and it would seem that possession movies are passÃ©. Now if only zombie movies could be shot in the head the same way…
2. America isn’t ready for a feel-good cricket movie. I’m sorry, it just isn’t. I love you Bill Simmons — and you too, Jon Hamm, but we’re only really still starting to get everyone on board for soccer. Why don’t we hold off on cricket for a little while? Too much. It’s just too much.
1. America’s comedy standards are, thankfully, rising. By my count, six studio-blessed summer comedy jams came out in the past four months for America’s consideration: Blended, Think Like a Man Too, Tammy, Sex Tape, 22 Jump Street and Let’s Be Cops. Of these, only one — 22 Jump Street — not only gained critical favor but made money. Of the other five, Tammy topped the charts with $83 million; Jump Street raked in $189 million and is still kicking internationally. Great job, America! Also, for what it’s worth, even though I know they were both terrible you should all be commended for giving Melissa McCarthy (Tammy) more money than Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man Too). He has enough money already. I’m proud of you guys and I think we’ve all grown a little bit this summer as a comedy-consuming people. Let’s keep this positive thing going, guys. It’s better for all of us.