In the past, I had a strong batting average of picking the summer movies that would go over big with audiences. Taking quality out of the equation, I’d make my annual predictions of which movies would become summer season blockbusters and this year, I published my picks. To quote a would-be catch phrase uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was a “big mistake.” I’ve never been more wrong about which movies would hit or flop, and was off from the very beginning. In fact, my top choice, Solo: A Star Wars Story, flopped right out of the gate, becoming the first Star Wars movie to ever fail. I love that movie and have yet to meet anyone who wasn’t a fan but, for a number of reasons, it didn’t connect with most audiences. Here is the current summer movie top ten with their as-of-press-time grosses, next to the failed list I made back in April.
Box Office Reality (as of press time)
1. The Incredibles II – $600m
2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – $410m
3. Deadpool 2 – $318m
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story – $213m
5. Ant-Man and the Wasp – $203m
6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – $200m
7. Hotel Transylvania 3 – $163m
8. Ocean’s 8 – $138m
9. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – $103m
10. The Equalizer 2 – $93m
My Pre-Summer Picks
1. Solo: A Star Wars Story
2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
3. The Incredibles II
4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
5. The MEG
7. Ocean’s 8
8. Deadpool 2
9. Ant-Man and the Wasp
10. Sicario: Day of the Soldado
In my defense, it was a crazy summer. Who would’ve thought that Crazy Rich Asians would open bigger than Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper? Or that Hereditary would be a bigger hit than Slenderman? Or that there was even an audience for Hotel Transylvania 3? Now, taking monetary success out of the picture, here’s my look back at the best and the bottom of the barrel in theaters during this summer.
My two favorites, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Sicario: Day of the Soldado, surpassed expectations and left me salivating for follow-ups I’ll probably never get. The Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, wasn’t just a great bio but a timely plea for empathy and compassion. There was lots of mileage left in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which piled on serious thrills for the sixth installment. I wasn’t expecting Deadpool 2 to be better than the original, but it was and might even be the funnier movie. Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman brought the brilliant filmmaker back into the spotlight with an unsettling but spellbinding true-life story. Although Ant-Man and the Wasp was strained, too cute, and forced at times, the third act and that killer post-credits scene salvaged it. Finally, I’d call The MEG a guilty pleasure, except I feel no guilt whatsoever regarding how much I enjoyed it.
The final five minutes of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gave me a glimpse of the movie I wanted to see… and it’s a set-up for another sequel. Nothing in the latest Chris Pratt-led adventure felt fresh. Likewise, even with a great ensemble cast, Ocean’s 8 was shallow and underwhelming. A slightly better option for the female demographic was the perky but ridiculous Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!, in which Cher and Meryl Streep were wasted. You know it’s a bad summer for women when the main choices are a Clooney- and Pitt-free Ocean’s caper or a sequel to an ABBA musical.
Despite those awesome scenes of Dwayne Johnson scaling a 103-story building, bare handed, Skyscraper falls apart long before the building does. Instead of reinvigorating a potent franchise, the Superfly remake proved to be forgettable: neither super, nor fly. Then there was Charlize Theron’s Tully, with a terrific first act that got tripped up by an awkward twist ending. Finally, despite the Oscar-worthy performance by Toni Collette, the much heralded Hereditary was hardly scary but completely unpleasant and derivative. If this is what art house horror looks like, I’ll take my jump scares and scantily clad babysitters, thank you very much.
Bottom of the Barrel
The cool-looking trailers for Upgrade promised a hip, sci-fi take on a revenge thriller, not the grungy, action-lite, and charisma-free waste of time that it ultimately is. Last and certainly least, The Spy Who Dumped Me aimed to be the late summer, high concept action/farce that The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a year ago. Instead, it pulled off the unique feat of stranding the delightful Mila Kunis, making Kate McKinnon insufferable, and getting worse and worse for every agonizing moment of its 120-minute running time. I like Kunis and McKinnon, but knowing there will never be a sequel to The Spy Who Dumped Me gives me hope. It’s the only positive thing it left me with.
Photo courtesy of IMDB