A summer 2010 summary piece by Lewis Beale had been locked behind a pay wall, and now it’s free: “As far as the film industry was concerned, summer 2010 was seriously bipolar,” it begins. “The first half looked like the biz was on its last legs, at least creatively. Sure, there were some hits, but almost everyone agreed that Iron Man 2 wasn’t as good as Iron Man, Robin Hood wasn’t even close to being a great Robin Hood, and Shrek Forever After was possibly the lamest entry in the series.
“All these films (and several others) were not exactly original concepts, which seemed to confirm the notion that Hollywood was devoid of new ideas.
“Then came Inception, and all of a sudden, things changed. Love it or hate it, Christopher Nolan‘s jigsaw puzzle of a film was certainly something new, which audiences, and most critics, responded to — it has grossed over $260 million. And it was complemented by other solid entries like Despicable Me and Salt, which put a new spin on old genres, and The Expendables, an ’80s muscles and mayhem concept so old that it seemed new again.
“So, heading into the fall season, the business isn’t as bad as it looked back in early June. And as always, there were plenty of winners and losers emerging from the summer season.”
LOSERS [Note: to hell with quotation marks from here on]
1. Tom Cruise — Knight and Day opened to generally meh reviews — 55% positive on the Rottentomatoes.com scale of critical rankings — and blah business. Cruise’s last film, Valkyrie, also under-performed, which means that
until Mission: Impossible IV comes out — supposedly at the end of next year – Cruise’s once blazing hot career has cooled down to a slow burning ember. And the star’s stated intention to make a movie based around Les Grossman, the film executive character he played in Tropic Thunder, sounds like an act of desperation. How many movies based on what are essentially comedy sketches have been any good?
2. Chick Flicks — Both Eat Pray Love and Sex and the City 2 were trashed by the critics (38% and 16% positive, respectively, on the Rottentomatoes scale) and neither managed to recoup their inflated budgets at the domestic box office. The narcissism and rampant consumerism of both films turned plenty of people off, and in this era of economic downturn and joblessness, the single-minded entitlement of both films’ protagonists was like a poke in the eye with a stick. Not what folks want to see at the multiplex.
3. M. Night Shyamalan — The Last Airbender received an 8% positive on the Rotten Tomatoes scale, one of the worst ratings ever, and even though the film has grossed over $130 million (on a $150 million budget), the days when M.
Knight was considered a real talent are over, over, over. After a string of bombs including The Village, Lady In the Water and The Happening, he’s permanently joined the ranks of big budget hacks. And Hollywood already has plenty of those.
4. Jerry Bruckheimer — The mega-producer didn’t exactly have a mega-box office summer — Prince of Persia and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice underwhelmed critically and commercially. But shed no tears for Mr. Bruckheimer: a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie is in the works.
5. 3D — Avatar in 3D was great. Cats and Dogs in 3D? Who cares? Fact is, filmgoers have become more and more disenchanted with the 3D format, and are ever more reluctant to pay the extra ticket cost,
especially when, as in the case of a film like Clash of the Titans, a late switch from 2D to 3D produces lousy effects. Nearly 80% of filmgoers saw Avatar in 3D, but only 45% of the gross for the hit animated film Despicable Me came from that format. Hollywood loves to beat a trend to death: there are nearly 60 3D films due out in the next two years. How many will audiences actually shell out the extra bucks
6. Jennifer Aniston — Girl can’t seem to catch a break. She’s been starring in a string of lousy movies, like The Bounty Hunter and Love Happens, both of which received Rottentomatoes ratings under 20%. Her latest, The Switch, which earned an improved, but still lousy, ranking of 52% positive, took in a pathetic $8 million on its opening weekend. And after a slew of bad love affairs, she’s even relinquished the crown of America’s Most Sympathetic Dumped-On Movie Star to Sandra Bullock. Jen needs to get into career rehab, pronto.
1. Adam Sandler — Grown Ups received a putrid 10% positive rating on Rottentomatoes – one critic called it “puerile and aggressively stupid” — but that didn’t seem to matter to Sandler’s fans, who turned out in droves. The film has grossed over $150 million, confirming its star’s status as easily the most critic-proof actor in the
2. Stieg Larsson — He’s the Swedish author of the unstoppable Millenium Trilogy juggernaut. Not only have the three books become Godzilla-like international bestsellers, but the films based on them have hit a home run. The first, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, grossed $12 million in this country, a monster figure for a foreign-language feature. The second, The Girl Who Played With Fire, has taken in over $6 million to date. The third film, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, is due out in October. And with an English-language version of the first book, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara and directed by David Fincher (Zodiac) in the works, this unstoppable force will keep on keepin’ on. Too bad Larsson died in 2004, before he could enjoy this financial bounty.
3. Pixar — Toy Story 3 got rave reviews, humongous box office. What else is new? This animation house can do no wrong.
4. Christopher Nolan — First The Dark Knight. Then Inception. Writer-director Nolan makes brainy popcorn pictures that are hailed by critics and make tons of money. Right now, he’s the hottest talent in Hollywood.
5. Indie Pix — Buoyed by good reviews and the general absence of quality flicks released by the major studios, a number of independent films scored with audiences. The Kids Are All Right, Cyrus, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Winter’s Bone, I Am Love and several other films helped reverse a long downturn in the sophisticated film market.
6. Vampires — The latest entry in the Twilight series, Eclipse, grossed nearly $300 million. A low-budget spoof, Vampires Suck, recouped its entire production budget in its first week of release. Coupled with the monster success of HBO’s vampire series True Blood, this means our national obsession with sexy bloodsuckers is either a really cool trend, or The End of Civilization As We Know It.
7. Sylvester Stallone — Sly has been recycling his greatest hits for several years now, with varying degrees of success: Rocky Balboa (2006) was a hit, Rambo (2008) wasn’t. But who would have predicted that the ’80s throwback action flick The Expendables, with its AARP-eligible cast (average age: 51.5), would open at number one, with a healthy $35 million gross? And that nearly 40% of the opening weekend audience would be composed of women? Why? Probably because filmgoers are nostalgic for the macho casts of the past, and are tired of CGI explosions, films filled with high-tech babble and male stars who look like nerdy teens (i.e., Michael Cera). No matter what, Sly sure figured out what audiences wanted with his latest production. At 64, he’s a superstar all over again.