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Lebeau and Daffy on Summer Movies 2016

Summer movies

The kids are back in school which is a sure sign that the Summer Movie Season has drawn to an end. Traditionally, this is when the Hollywood studios release their big budget crowd pleasers. It’s the season of popcorn movies. It’s also a make or break period for the studios who are betting big on their summer releases. As this summer movie season comes to an end, I thought I’d check in with Daffy Stardust for a recap.

Lebeau: Neither one of us wrote a single movie review this summer which is somewhat unusual. The last time we did one of these conversation pieces, it was to discuss Captain America: Civil War which kicked off the season. Since then, we have both been quiet on the new releases. I actually ended up seeing quite a few movies this summer. But none of them made enough of an impression on me to do a write-up. Daffy, I know your summer is often taken up with community theater. Were you too busy to go to the movies or did you share my ambivalence about what you saw?

Daffy: Well, it was a little bit of both, I guess. Like you say, I was pretty busy with my theatre company this summer and I got a chance to act this time around instead of directing. It was the lead, which meant that the time away from rehearsal that is usually one advantage of acting over directing did not apply as much and my line memorization time was pretty heavy, too. For a good month, any time that I was home and not working on lines was a time I was felling a twinge of guilt. Obviously the stuff I did see didn’t motivate me to log in here at LeBlog to share my thoughts.

But I want to mention a couple of other factors which impacted the summer movie scene to my mind. First of all, well, there just weren’t that many movies out there that I couldn’t wait to see. On those occasions when I did search out the list of flicks that were playing at the theater what I found never made me stand up and run out the door. Part of this is because over the last decade the movie studios have steadily expanded what the “summer movie season” means. Maybe this is because they think they can expand it to get us there more often or because they’re afraid of the competition, but we’re getting big time movies that seem like summer fare released in springtime.

The Jungle Book

You mentioned Civil War which was released in April. Well, just three days later Disney released another of its four blockbusters this year, The Jungle Book (to be fair that movie could have been significantly less successful than it was, so I’m not calling for it to have been a summer release). The X-Men movie, The Nice Guys, and even Warcraft were all either released in May or in early June before most kids are actually out of school. This made Finding Dory the first real summer movie of the year and it spent a few weeks absolutely wiping the floor with stuff like the Independence Day sequel, The BFG, and The Legend of Tarzan. Only The Secret Life of Pets made any real inroads at the box office and that came out a few weeks later after everyone had already seen Finding Dory and they were looking for something else to take their kids to.

I also want to nominate home streaming as one of the reasons the summer movie season has gone out with a whimper. I personally spent a lot of time looking at stuff at home this summer. The Netflix original series Stranger Things has been all over my Facebook feed and as soon as I started watching it I was hooked and finished it within just three days. I haven’t noticed anything that came out on the big screen that created that kind of buzz this summer. Personally, I have also been doing those weekly articles on classic films and so I’ve been spending some of my movie watching time on those, often renting them on my Apple TV device. Obviously these aren’t brand new movies, but it’s also much cheaper to rent them than it is to go to the movie theater.

L: There’s no avoiding the Summer Movie Season creep. I hate to be the cranky old guy, but when we were kids the Summer Movies were released in the summer. Now, there’s a pretty steady stream of popcorn fare. It feels like that’s all the studios know how to make any more. There was a movie in which Batman and Superman punched each other and it was released in March! Granted, there was some release date turf war going on with Marvel, but that’s how crazy the summer movie season has gotten. It’s very difficult to tell when it officially starts anymore.

Speaking of Facebook feeds, one day this summer a FB friend of mine posted a series of mini-rants on the subject of remakes. This person, who shall remain nameless for the time being, made several posts illustrating that not all remakes are inherently bad. This summer saw remakes of Ghostbusters, The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon. One of those movies in particular inspired a lot of belly aching about remake fatigue and ruined childhoods. Not that I don’t already know your stance on this subject, but are you sick of all the remakes?

Ghostbusters 2016

D: Ha! Obviously you know my opinion because that ranter was yours truly. Clearly the complaining about remakes is more odious than the remakes themselves. There seemed to me to be a strain of thought among many internet commenters and even writers that remakes are inherently bad and that’s just a ludicrously idiotic point of view. Hollywood has always made lots of remakes and yes, some of them are better than the originals. If a remake looks like it is going to be bad, well…don’t go see it. That’s a problem with a solution, isn’t it?

I had some very specific criticisms of The Jungle Book remake, for example, but I’d say at least 90% of what they did with that movie was really good and interesting during the moments when it was allowed to stake out its own territory in telling the Rudyard Kipling story. But of course that’s not really a summer movie, is it? The Ghostbusters remake was the big target of dainty little fanboys with easily hurt feelings and we covered that controversy a little here at LeBlog.

I didn’t go to see that movie, but I’ll probably check it out when it hits cable and although I have fond memories of seeing the original when it was first released in theaters, no matter how good or bad this new all-female version is, it won’t affect my feelings about the original in any way. We all agree that the original is fun, but kind of overrated, right? 😉

L: You might want to go into hiding for a bit after calling Ghostbusters “overrated”. Fortunately, I think Le Blog is a safe place in the sense that the internet crazies are unlikely to read this far into our conversation, so you should be all right.

Of all the summer movies, the Ghostbusters remake was the one I came closest to writing about. I had an article which wasn’t quite a review that was about 85% written, but ultimately I deleted it because I was just sick of talking about Ghostbusters. (I also deleted a review from KevtheWriter for similar reasons. Sorry about that, Kev.) At the end of the day, the Ghostbusters controversy was a lot of meaningless noise from a few immature and self-entitled people who ended up making fools of themselves. I’d like to think they learned a lesson, but I know better. They are still out there aggressively insisting that the movie was a flop.

Ghostbusters

I could have easily skipped Ghostbusters 2016. The trailer certainly didn’t do the movie any favors. But after it got decent reviews and my oldest announced she wanted to see it, I decided to take her to check it out. It turned out to be an okay movie that probably would have been considered a pleasant surprise if it had been called anything but Ghostbusters. It wasn’t as funny as the original movie, but few special effects-heavy comedies are. These kinds of movies are tricky to pull off.  Even the makers of the original Ghostbusters struggled to duplicate its success. Feig’s remake was definitely an improvement over Ghostbusters 2 or Ivan Reitman’s Evolution.

The problem with the remake is that it makes a trade-off. It’s not as funny as it could have been. Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy have had a lot of success making bawdy R-rated comedies. Last summer, we both enjoyed their spoof, Spy. But the Ghostbusters remake was made for a specific audience. It’s a movie made for families. Specifically, it was made with little girls like my daughter in mind. That meant the comedy had to be restrained. Feig couldn’t just set McCarthy loose. They sacrifice some laughs as a result.

But what you get in return is a fun movie in which little girls are given some pretty cool role models. How often do young girls get to see women on the big screen who can be funny and kick ass? As the father of two daughters, I can tell you that is a rarity. Even in animated movies where this is a bit more common, the female character is usually a supporting player. To have four interesting female protagonists getting to do things male characters take for granted was its own reward. The movie may not be as funny as it could have been, but I think it accomplishes some things more movies should try to do.

Josie liked the movie enough to want to see the original. She and I watched classic Ghostbusters on basic cable where anything remotely objectionable was cut out. One noticeable exception to that statement was when Bill Murray referred to the female antagonist as a “prehistoric bitch”. The censors wouldn’t allow him to say that William Atherton had no dick or that Mr. Staypuft needed to get laid, but calling a woman a bitch was a-okay. Maybe we needed female Ghostbusters more than we thought we did.

Anyway, Josie really liked the original movie. We both agreed it was better than the remake. I will say the thing she was most taken with was the old school practical effects. She said “They are obviously fake, but they look so cool.” I was pretty proud of her for that.

Petes-Dragon

Of the summer remakes, the one I thought looked the least promising was Pete’s Dragon. But to my surprise, the reviews were really solid. I tried to encourage the girls to go see it during our end-of-summer staycation, but they rejected the movie as “too sad” based on the commercials. After Inside Out proved to be more traumatic than fun last summer, I decided not to push the issue. They are very sensitive movie viewers just like their mother who still fast forwards through the beginning of Finding Nemo every time she watches it.

Which I guess brings us to Finding Dory. Did you watch it or any of the other animated offerings this summer?

D: Yes, when I went up to Virginia to see my Mom earlier this summer she asked if I wanted to see a movie and I thought that would be a good one for us to see together. It was fun and I liked revisiting those characters, but the film had some weak points that put it in danger of wandering into Dreamworks territory. We both were entertained and felt like our dollars had been well spent, but I don’t think Finding Dory belongs in the elite of Pixar flicks. Neither of us noticed the presence of a lesbian couple that was apparently making some people on the internet lose their minds. My Mom was surprised because she had been given the impression that it was going to be some sort of plot point. Well, that’s the internet for you, isn’t it?

Finding Dory

L: I agree with you about Finding Dory. It was an adequate but completely unnecessary follow-up that relied heavily on the first movie. I put this in the Monsters University category of Pixar sequels that didn’t embarrass themselves. I’d really prefer a world in which Pixar stuck to original films, but seeing as how Finding Dory broke box office records I think you can expect a lot more sequels.

D: More recently a couple of friends invited me to go see the very adult animated feature Sausage Party. I really do hope parents make use of their literacy and listening skills and don’t take their kids to see this raunchy comedy. If they do, they will be the only ones to blame and should feel badly about themselves. On the other hand, as a grown ass man, I found Sausage Party to be good tasteless fun, kind of in the tradition of a classic like Blazing Saddles. I’m not saying Sausage Party was as good as that Mel Brooks great, but that the kind of comedy it is doing is in the same ballpark. The movie not only elicits gasps and guffaws but also has some sneaky things to say about religion, sex, and getting along with other people. It’s a funny flick that I’m glad I saw, but I don’t anticipate it becoming something I’ll return to much in the future.

Is there anything you saw this summer that surprised you in a positive or negative way?

L: There really weren’t any surprises this summer. The movies you expected to be bad (Warcraft, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Angry Birds) were bad. The ones you hoped would be good were generally adequate at best.

I suppose Suicide Squad was the biggest disappointment of the summer for me. The trailer kind of gave you hope that Warner Brothers would redeem themselves for Batman V Superman. But the final product was just as big of a mess as the last DC movie. I’ll be interested to see if at some point, audiences revolt. I’m a little concerned that after having been stung twice, some movie goers will decide to skip Wonder Woman and its failure will be taken as confirmation that female superheroes don’t work. However, Suicide Squad is doing reasonably well despite the negative reviews largely on the appeal of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. So hopefully the studio guys are taking note of that.

Suicide Squad

D: Based entirely on the one trailer I’ve seen, I’m guessing that I’m much more likely to see the Wonder Woman movie than any of the other recent DC films. It looks like they’re at least trying to be relatively true to the origins and surrounding cast of the classic Wonder Woman stories that I’ve got a passing familiarity with. The period piece element to it seems promising. Maybe they learned something from watching Captain America: First Avenger?

L: One can certainly hope.  As far as pleasant surprises go, there were a couple of movies that marginally met that criteria.

I went into The Secret Life of Pets with low expectations based on other Illumination animated features like last summer’s uninspired Minions. I don’t want to oversell my endorsement, but I’d say that Pets was moderately better than I expected it to be. The kids loved it.

D: The Secret Life of Pets is something I will likely be checking out on cable once it shows up there. I initially had high hopes for it based on the first teaser and the fact that it looked like it was going to focus on a character voiced by Louis C.K., but once the trailers and TV ads started focusing on the psychotic rabbit voiced by Kevin Hart my enthusiasm faded because the movie started to look pretty cookie cutter and scattered in its focus. I’ll look at it eventually. Hey, it made out pretty well at the box office, so the marketing campaign clearly worked for them.

Star Trek Beyond†(2016) Left to right: Sofia Boutella (plays Jaylah) and Simon Pegg (plays Scotty)

L: Similarly, I went into Star Trek Beyond with a lot of trepidation because I disliked Star Trek Into Darkness intensely. The latest Star Trek movie turned out to be a lot of fun and it brought back some of the optimism that the series is known for. The characters felt more true to their previous incarnations and Karl Urban was given more to do which is a good thing because of all the new cast, his Dr. McCoy is the best. But while I liked the movie, there was no getting around the fact that it was as disposable as any of the Fast and Furious movies Justin Lin has directed. By the time the credits roll, you’re not left with all that much.

D: If we’re counting May as summer, the only movie I saw that we haven’t covered yet was the Ryan Gosling/Russell Crowe 1970s private eye flick The Nice Guys. I had maybe set my expectations too high based on the trailer, but it was a very mild disappointment for me. I would give it an only slight recommendation because I felt like they went over the top in too many moments without nearly enough real consequences even though they had indicated that they weren’t afraid to deliver some. I predict that The Nice Guys will become a late night favorite for college aged guys when they’re back home from a night out and the drinking is starting to slow down.

If I was a movie studio executive I would be very worried about how this summer looked. Disney has the four top earners of the year so far and three of those had a footprint in or slightly prior to summer. Nobody else appears to have a good plan. The fact that they can shrug off a huge disappointment like The BFG just shows how dominant they’ve been.

L: And let’s not forget Disney also stubbed its toe on that Alice sequel no one asked for. I think Disney’s handling of The BFG says a lot about what is wrong with the way the studios are doing things. The BFG was one of the few summer movies critics actually liked. It was adapted from a beloved children’s novel by one of the few directors working today whose name actually sells tickets. And as you say, Disney just shrugged it off. Who makes a family film with Steven Spielberg and then doesn’t support it? Disney, that’s who. Given some nurturing from Disney marketing, that movie could have been a hit, but Disney dumped it unceremoniously.

D: While I agree that The BFG could have gotten a much better release date, I’m surprised to see the suggestion that it wasn’t marketed appropriately. I feel like I was very aware that it was coming out. I saw lots of TV ads during shows I was actually watching on live television and I knew who the director and star were based on those ads.

I love a lot of what special effects have allowed filmmakers to do, but it does seem like some of them are leaning on those rather than placing any value on their scripts and dialogue and performances. I go to movies to see those last three things. If awesome special effects come in the package too, then great, but without real human interactions on screen I will walk out feeling like the film was so much bubble gum: tasty for a short time, but never ingested. Instead, it is spat out and forgotten.

X-Men Apocalypse

L: A few years ago, Spielberg and his buddy George Lucas made headlines for predicting that the studio system that concentrates only on big budget tentpole movies was doomed to implode. I think we might be seeing the beginnings of that. If not a full on implosion, then at least the cracks are starting to show. Back in the days before CGI made spectacle cheap, we used to get a few big movies a year. And since they were rare, audiences would be more forgiving of the faults of a movie like Independence Day. But in the 21st century, there is at least one big budget special-effects movie every weekend. Audiences have become more selective which means there aren’t enough viewers to support every $200 million dollar movie.

The risk-averse studios have responded by doubling down on “sure things”; sequels and remakes with built-in brand recognition. But audiences are catching on to that too. As much as there is an appetite for super hero movies, they don’t necessarily need to see the latest X-Men movie in theaters. If it turns out to be a retread of the last one, they can wait for it to come to home video or streaming. Matt Damon initially resisted returning to the Bourne franchise because he thought the character’s story had been completed. This summer, the much-hyped Jason Bourne proved his initial instincts were correct.

Another contributing factor is that most of these movies have release dates set in stone before the script is even written. X-Men: Apocalypse was scheduled before Days of Future Past was released. That’s madness. What happens is that these movies face a mad scramble to get made in time for their release date which cannot be moved for fear of bad press. And the fact that they are really in trouble just makes the threat of bad press just that much more frightening. What they need to do is to make the movie after the script is ready and then find the best release date. But instead, they are putting the cart before the horse because they are afraid that Disney will fill all the best release dates with Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars movies. Which they are going to do anyway, so you might as well take your time and come up with a good movie that can compete with those tent poles.

D: I do completely agree that the studios appear to be squeezing their own creative process unnecessarily. While live theatre has to establish its running dates well in advance because everybody involved has to be there each night to make it happen, filmmaking should have the advantage of being able to get a piece just right before displaying it, sort of like a painter working on a still life or portrait. If it’s not ready for people to see, well don’t hang it on the wall yet. I appreciate that the studio needs a release date at some point in order to advertise appropriately, but their current approach appears to be cutting off their nose to spite their faces. Long term sales of movies and streaming rights or however we get our movies in the future will show them that they rushed some projects and were left with something nobody is in a hurry to see twenty or thirty years later.

L: Part of the problem is that these movies cost too much. Every weekend, there’s a movie with a $150-200 million dollar production budget.  Then they add in distribution and marketing costs. Movies like Batman V Superman can gross over $800 million dollars and still not break even. That’s madness! Since every movie is a high stakes gamble, the studios can’t afford to take chances. They need to play it safe which they do by essentially making the same movie over and over again. Even the movies that aren’t sequels or remakes feel like they might as well be.

What I would like to see is a return of the mid-budget movie. A movie that doesn’t have the fate of the studio riding on it can take a few more chances. Those were the movies that became sleeper hits every summer when we were growing up. But the studios don’t have any interest in making movies that can be base hits at the box office. Everything has to be a grand slam. If only they would let us run things, Daffy. We’d make much better summer movies.

D: If there’s a better conclusion to this article I can’t think of it.

So there you have it folks, based on very sophisticated research and reasoning most of the major movie studios need to put Lebeau and Daffy in charge. Except maybe Disney/Marvel. They appear to be doing pretty well for themselves.

 

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Posted on August 26, 2016, in Daffy and Lebeau, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. CIVIL WAR was released on May 6th. THE JUNGLE BOOK came out on April 15th.

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  2. In retrospect I’m surprised at how few movies I’ve seen this summer: back in May I went to see Captain America and X-Men, and I haven’t seen another film since. Captain America was very good, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best Marvel films to date, but X-Men was just ok. it pales in comparison to the much richer and more enjoyable First Class and Days of Future Past. I walked out of those two anticipating the next entry, but this new film was so disposable that I don’t really care when the next one releases.

    I can’t get over the fact that I’ve only seen two movies all summer long. I’m shaking my head over that one.

    But I blame the lack of worthwhile movies from Hollywood. As you guys discussed, Hollywood is leaning so heavily on sequels reboots and remakes that an unintended byproduct of all this is that nothing seems fresh anymore. Nothing has the chance to become buzzworthy and catch audiences by suprise, because to some extent we’ve seen it all before.

    You know what I miss? Standalone original movies. I was just watching the film Predator recently on Blu-Ray. Schwarzenegger and the Predator fight each other, Arnie is victorious, satisfying conclusion. The end. Awesome movie. You don’t see standalone big budget movies much anymore, now everything (like Marvel, BVS, X-Men,etc.) has to end with a lead-in to the next movie. When intergrated cinematic universes started to become a big thing about a decade ago it felt like a breath of fresh air. Now I’m tired of everything being a commercial for the next sequel.

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    • It’s funny to me that your example of a stand-alone movie is Predator since it has had sequels, reboots, etc. But your point is still valid I think. If all Hollywood does is keep remaking, rebooting and sequelizing (if it’s not a word, it is now) hits from the past, there won’t be any new movies to reboot, remake and make sequels too. If everyone is trying to find a way to reboot Predator, no one is making the next original Predator.

      Over the summer, I watched the original Footloose which was an okay coming-of-age movies with all the 80’s cliches that come with it. My favorite being the kids who turn into professional dancers over night despite the fact dancing has been illegal in this sleepy little town. Whatever. The cast was attractive and the soundtrack was awesome, so we could forgive a lot. Footloose was the kind of mid-budget movie they don’t make anymore. Which got me to thinking, where are the coming-of-age dramas for Millennials? Where are the John Hughes movies? Is this generation only going to have super hero movies and sequels to hits from the 80’s and 90’s. Heck, when they remake a movie like Footloose, they strip it of whatever grit the original had. (Rewatch Footloose. It’s a lot darker than you remember.)

      When we were kids, I went into the summer looking forward to the big sequels like everyone else. But every summer there was some movie that wasn’t on my radar that ended up being my favorite. Something like a Back to the Future or Karate Kid. Those kinds of movies aren’t being made today. Even the remakes of things like Karate Kid aren’t sleepers. They are full blown tent poles. The current studio mindset of only making tent poles makes all movies feel exactly alike. And when that happens, you end up having movie fans who skip most of the summer movies.

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      • I think you just about said it right there; potential audiences today are afforded less of an opportunity to be surprised by something, and in its place is material that just goes back to the well for the most part. i guess the whole thing is kind of a Hollywood Ponzi Scheme, in that eventually there won’t be a well to go back to, since the idea’s been done, then done again, with nothing new to build on.

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      • I should have articulated myself better here, while Predator did have multiple sequels and spin-offs over the years the film was never conceived to be a franchise. It was just a sci-fi action flick that told a self-contained story with no thoughts of a sequel during development. Predator turned out to be a big smash hit and then they went to the sequel well. Kind of like Karate Kid, Back To The Future, Die Hard and Beverly Hills Cop, to name a couple other well-received 80’s hits that had sequels after the fact. None of them were conceived to be franchises until they turned out to be tremendously successful crowd pleasers. Funnily enough, writer/director Shane Black is planning to shoot a Predator reboot soon and sure enough he’s talking up a potential trilogy, proving my point that nothing can be a standalone film anymore, nowadays you have to walk into the theatre ready to make a multi-year investment with all these big-budget tentpole pictures.

        Looking back at the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s, sequels happened in reaction to a positive response to an original hit movie. Hey, people loved Back To The Future, maybe we can tell another story with those characters! Now it feels like the tail wags the dog so to speak, trilogies and franchises are planned with release dates announced before the first film even hits theatres. Remember The Amazing Spiderman from a few years ago? When the reboot launched in 2012 Sony already were publicly announcing the release dates for parts 2, 3 and 4 – two, four and six years down the road. The tail wagging the dog.

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        • It used to be that most movies were made to stand on their own. If they made a lot of money, a sequel was made. But most movies were never expected to have follow-ups. In the days before home video, a lot of sequels were carbon copies of the first movie. But you hadn’t seen the first movie in years, so that was acceptable. Sequels were expected to gross less than the previous movie, so most franchises (James Bond excepted) had a shelf-life. As costs went up and grosses went down, eventually the math wouldn’t support any more sequels.

          Today, every movie is constructed as part of a larger franchise. Sometimes, there is so much world building going on, movies feel less like stand-alone stories than coming attractions for the next movies in the series.

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        • That could make a pretty interesting future article: how sequels have transformed over the years. Because they have. Sequels used to be episodic in nature (much like tv shows used to be) and even from the 70’s into the 90’s you could walk into Friday The 13th part 7, Police Academy 6, James Bond 5, Dirty Harry 4, Lethal Weapon 3 or Jaws 2 without any recollection of what happened in the previous films…. and it didn’t matter. James Bond is probably one of the few modern day franchises that largely still adheres to that concept of a solitary self-contained adventure. Maybe Die Hard and Indiana Jones too, although they are on their last legs as franchises.

          As far as modern day sequels go, I think Godfather II might be the first to build off of the first film and have a continuity; to some extent you needed to have seen the first film to understand and appreciate what was happening in the sequel. And although there were any number of sequels in the mid to late 70’s to successful films (Death Wish, Dirty Harry, Jaws, American Graffiti, Airport, Exorcist, etc.) it probably wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 that you had another sequel that expected you to have seen the last film to follow what was happening.

          Contrast that to today, where almost every major film franchise has continuity and is interconnected. 10 or 15 years ago it felt like a breath of fresh air. Now, isn’t it just occasionally a bit exasperating at times?

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        • That is so true how the style of sequels has absolutly been redefined over the years. I also wonder if the Back to the Future franchise, if released today as fresh as it was in 1985, would film its sequels one year after the other instead of how it actually played out back in the 1980’s.

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        • Back to the Future was a unique case in that Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis viewed the movie as a stand-alone from the beginning. They had no intention of making a sequel and thought it was obvious that the “To be continued” at the end was a joke. But when the movie was a hit, they were faced with a decision. Sequels were being made. They could either oversee them or watch as their creation was ruined by someone else. Obviously, they opted for making the sequels themselves. So they made a compromise. They agreed to do two sequels back-to-back in order to accommodate Michael J. Fox’s schedule, and then that was it. No more BttF.

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        • I didn’t know “To Be Continued…” caption at the end a joke (guess my pants ain’t so smarty). But now i think about it, the sequels didn’t happen right away. I like knowing this!

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        • LOL. Most viewers just assumed the tag meant sequels were underway, but in fact Gale and Zemeckis didn’t want sequels made at all. They only signed up to make them out of fear someone else would give Back to the Future the Teen Wolf 2 treatment. For years, whenever he was asked about BttF 4, Michael J. Fox would respond “I hope Jason Bateman has fun making it.”

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        • Funny quote by Michael J. Fox. Well, guess I wasn’t the only one who thought sequels were intended (it makes me feel better about the ending of the first film now knowing it was a joke). Honestly, I have some issues with part II (love the self-lacing sneakers though), but I really enjoyed part III.

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        • Back to the Future 2 is problematic. It’s a bit overstuffed. One of the main problems they faced is that the first movie ended with Marty and his girlfriend going to the future. But they didn’t have anything in mind for what happens next and they couldn’t think of anything for Marty’s girlfriend to do in the story. So they just kept knocking her out. Traveling to the future, an alternate 1985 and back to 1955 was probably one stop too many.

          In the end, it feels like a lot of decent ideas mixed with a lot of ideas that probably should have been cut. Remember, the first movie took so long to make that Bob Gale ended up spending years honing the script to perfection. That obviously didn’t happen with the sequels.

          III is okay as an affectionate Western spoof. It’s more cohesive than II by nature of taking place largely in one timeline. But it feels inconsequential. It’s basically Zemeckis using the popularity of BttF to allow himself to make a Western. I don’t mind the sequels, but the first one is the only one I consider essential.

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        • Agreed on the first BACK TO THE FUTURE being the only essential one.

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        • I agree with both Lebeau & you that neither sequel is essential viewing; I actually didn’t view part II until about ten years ago (viewed part III in a small local theater).

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  3. That’s a bad sign when films have a release date set before there is even a script; horror franchises in the 1980’s used to do that, and I don’t think that’s a template that should be followed, especially with the financial stakes so high.

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    • The odds of making a good movie that way are really slim. A little more time and care would result in better movies which is what a successful franchise should be based on. The reason Marvel and Pixar are dominant is because they consistently turn out solid movies.

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  4. the article mentioned nice guy i wanted to watch the movie never got chance too. I think it failed because of bad release date . the movie would done better in the fall less popcorn flicks to compete with, It had way too much competion like angry birds xmen and others

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  5. I didn’t have a chance to get out to see any movies in theaters this summer; it’s sounding as though I didn’t really miss anything that I couldn’t just wait to see on DVD or Blu-Ray or whatever. The only one that I’m feeling even a little regret at missing is The Nice Guys. And that’s pretty much my feeling about the year before as well. The only movie of the past two summers which I really, really regret not seeing on a big screen is Fury Road.

    I think that the two of you have made a lot of good points about the problems with the current approach the studios are taking—putting all their eggs into the “tentpole movie” basket, relying too much on spfx, etc.

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    • Fury Road was a treat on the big screen. I watched and enjoyed it on video, but it’s one of the few movies you really need to see at the theater. Not to rub salt in the wound or anything. 😉 When I reviewed it last summer, I said not only was it the best action movie of the year, there wouldn’t be a better action movie next year (2016) either. So far, my prediction is holding up nicely. There probably won’t be a better action movie next year either. That’s because Miller is an expert craftsman who wasn’t racing to meet some arbitrary release date.

      I don’t think this summer had a must-see movie. There were some solid pieces of entertainment like Cap: CW and Finding Dory. But they weren’t bringing much of anything new to the table. I’d have liked to have seen The Nice Guys at the theater, but it feels like the kind of movie that will play equally well (maybe even better) in my living room.

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    • There are good, small movies being released to theaters, but people don’t go see them. This is also part of the problem. Just this year on the big screen I have seen THE VVITCH, SWISS ARMY MAN, GREEN ROOM, THE LOBSTER, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP, THE SHALLOWS, HAIL, CAESAR!, EYE IN THE SKY, RACE, EDDIE THE EAGLE, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS, HELL OR HIGH WATER, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, SING STREET, ELVIS & NIXON, and those are just the ones I’ve seen. I’ve missed some too. With the exception of EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, all of those movies played in chain theaters in my area. The studios keep making tent-pole movies because those are the movies people will go see. Despite having access to all sorts of ways to find out about movies thanks to the web and TV, people still only go to tent-pole movies (for the most part). Word of mouth spreads much faster with Facebook, Twitter and so on if a small movie is good, but it doesn’t seem to be enough these days. If it’s not a big action extravaganza, people feel they can wait until it comes out on DVD or to Netflix, or they do the unthinkable and commit piracy and theft to see it..

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      • Most of the movies you named are indies. I’m talking about mid-budget movies. The kind that play in the multiplexes but don’t need to gross a billion dollars (or even half that) to be profitable. Some of the movies you named had a screen in a multiplex for a week in the greater Cincy area. But a lot of them didn’t even play here. I certainly wish those movies had greater distribution, but at least they are getting made. What you don’t see much of any more are sleeper movies. Something like Pitch Perfect which cost $17 million to make and grossed over $100 million. Those kinds of movies used to be extremely common. Now, they are an endangered species.

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        • Remember when those little indies PULP FICTION, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY broke $100 million? More successful indies could also lead to more mid-level budget films. People are only seeing movies that cost a lot to make. There are the few exceptions, such as BRIDESMAIDS, HORRIBLE BOSSES, and PITCH PERFECT 2, but those come along maybe once every year or so.

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        • Yeah, I definitely remember when indie movies could be hits. But two of the movies you named are horror movies. I think that sort of thing is more common and still sometimes happens with horror. The indie scene could be stronger than it is. I miss the days of the 90’s when the indie movement was almost mainstream. But overall, I think indies are doing okay comparatively speaking.

          You’re probably right to put a share of the blame on audiences. But I think audiences have been conditioned by studios to react this way. I remember watching it happen when I was working in movie theaters. Every movie had to have a record-breaking opening, so they started showing movies in as many screens as possible. This also front-loaded ticket sales which was good for the studio and bad for the distributor. The idea was to get movies in and out of theaters as quickly as possible and then turn around and sell the movie on home video. If this all happened fast enough, the marketing for the theatrical release would still be effective on home video sales.

          Since the window for home video release kept getting shorter and shorter, audiences decided they could be selective about what movies they saw in theaters. And because the theatrical runs were so short, if you missed a movie opening weekend there was almost no point going to see it. There would be a new big budget movie you could go see instead. There was no time for a movie to be discovered in theaters any more. That’s what cable and home video was for.

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        • It like how it’s been discussed on this site how technological advancements in the many ways films can be viewed has forever changed the landscape of the cineplex. Everything just happens so quickly now.

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        • Some things remain the same. I don’t think the core of the moviegoing experience will change. Audiences will always assemble in a darkened room to watch prerecorded entertainment as an audience. But outside of that, everything is fair game. The movie theater closest to home is part of the Regal chain. This summer, they replaced all of their seats with these giant Lazy Boy style recliners. They are extremely comfortable, but it cut their seating capacity by at least 50%. As a result, every show is now a sell-out so they have had to switch to reserved seating. I was there the weekend they implemented that policy and I felt bad for the staff and management. It was a logistical nightmare. Hopefully they have worked out the bugs.

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  6. It feels to me like the major Hollywood studios are painting themselves into a corner with their “go-big-or-go-home” mentality. Most studios now make fewer films than they used to; if you look at the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s the major studios would have a solid number of mid-budget films that should each become respectable hits – usually a couple of them will overperform – and then they would really shell out the dough for a couple of big-budget tentpole pictures for the summertime, and maybe a big-budget popcorn movie for Christmastime. But mid-budget films were arguably more their bread and butter from year to year for a very long time.

    Somewhere along the line, studio heads would look at how big-budget blockbusters like Star Wars, Independence Day or Batman would overperform and make boatloads of money and they started thinking, why can’t all of our films perform like that? Then they thought, “MAYBE WE CAN!” There were certain patterns you could decipher from the huge blockbusters: #1 being, you need lots of special effects and lots of spectacle. That costs money. But they can also make an ungodly amount of money.

    The problem with studios eliminating mid-budget films and making only big tentpole films with huge $200M+ budgets is that each film they release must overperform at the box office. But the problem with that is, by nature not every single film released can be a blockbuster, right? When some of these films tank (which is inevitable) then you need the hits to be even bigger hits than they should be to recoup the losses of the flops and bombs. I can’t even imagine what pressure these studio execs must live under, knowing that any one of these flops could end their career overnight. So it makes sense for execs to greenlight more sequels, reboots and known properties. If a film misses the mark ,they have an excuse that it seemed like a safe bet and it isn’t their fault. It’s marketing’s fault, or the filmmakers. Disney is going to take a huge 70 Million+ loss on Alice Through The Looking Glass, but I’m sure that no one is going to lose their jobs over it because it was a sequel to the 2nd biggest movie of 2010. On paper it looked like a safe bet.

    Under these conditions, no wonder execs almost never greenlight original scripts anymore. The risk is too high. A big-budget sequel or reboot flops, the exec has a cushion. The problem that Hollywood is creating though, I suspect, is that like Lebeau said earlier by everthing being a sequel, reboot or adapation of an existing property is that we’re largely only getting one kind of movie, the big-budget special effects spectacle, and it’s not just during the summertime anymore like it used to be, it’s now all year long, so nothing really looks original anymore, it’s all just wall-to-wall noise every week. I think there may be a point in the future where this structure that Hollywood created starts to collapse in on itself. I’m not saying it will be tomorrow, but possibly in the next 10 years or so. I don’t think this structure can sustain itself indefinately. Any thoughts?

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    • No, I don’t think the system can sustain itself in the long run, that’s why I compare the current setup to a Ponzi Scheme, because you can only borrow to keep pace for so long. Maybe the studios should start by thinking smaller and try not to oversell too many properties, because I think that turns some audiences off.

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    • This is basically the argument Spielberg and Lucas made a few years ago. They predicted that a chain of several high profile flops would sink the studios. I don’t expect the fallout to be so severe, but I agree the current mentality can’t be sustained in the long run. The problem is, the studio guys don’t have much incentive to go for midrange movies any more. Like robbushblog said, more often than not audiences will stay home and catch them on video. You have this chicken-and-the-egg thing going on. Little by little, the studios changed the public’s movie-going behavior to the point where it now shapes their decisions. Also, I think ego is a factor. These guys are alpha dogs and they want to go big or go home. That works if you can afford to buy sure things like Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars. It would work for WB is they could figure out how to make a decent super hero movie out of their DC library. For everyone else, it’s a problem.

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    • It’s worth adding that these tendencies are not exclusive to movies. In musical theater—which I pay a little bit of attention to—you can see similar trends. Everyone wants to put on the next Phantom of the Opera or Wicked. This has led to the same issue of escalating budgets, as the creators try to incorporate more elaborate effects into the show to rival Phantom’s chandelier or Miss Saigon’s infamous helicopter, or incredibly ornate costumes like The Lion King’s, or all the factors that made Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark a record-shattering musical in the worst way: an incredibly high budget of a reported $75-80 million, and an incredible financial loss despite running on Broadway for over 1000 performances. I am coming across some suggestions that the Spiderman disaster is making some Broadway producers start thinking in terms of retrenching, but I also am still coming across stories like the one I recently saw about a production of Miss Saigon that is using an actual, functioning Huey for the helicopter scene.

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      • Oh lord…Broadway should just go back to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro and build from that.

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      • I read some excerpts on the new Spider-man musical tell-all. I need to track that down at some point.

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        • Even as someone who has never attended a muscial, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is a tremendously notorious flop. Entertainment Weekly, of all magazines, even covered it as it bled money. Bono and The Edge from U2 were even brought on board to create some music for it.

          Now that I’m thinking about it, I think there were even some pretty serious injuries involved in the pre-production of the show. Yeah, definately worthy of a second look here.

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        • Oh yeah. One of the performers – I assume he was the main Spiderman – could have been killed.

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