It’s been nearly eight years since James Cameron’s Avatar took the global box office by storm, and while it’s become très chic for some corners of the internet to endlessly bash Avatar, I still maintain my stubborn affection for Cameron’s movie. Very few filmmakers can create action-driven science-fiction that operates at Cameron’s level; just look at how many times people have messed up Cameron’s Terminator franchise, a near-flawless formula for blockbuster movies that studios have nevertheless run directly into the ground. We may laugh at Cameron’s planned sequels, but they are both original (technically!) and creator-driven movies. Isn’t that what we claim to want from Hollywood?
When word got out that Emily Blunt had been cast as the title character in Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, the overwhelming response from most people was, “Well, sure.” Blunt has proven herself to be genre agnostic over the years, as likely to wow audiences in a science-fiction or action film as she is in a light-hearted comedy. That alone would make her an ideal candidate for Mary Poppins — as the rare actress capable of convincing audiences that she’d do justice to an iconic character — but she also bears a physical resemblance to Julie Andrews to boot. You couldn’t ask for better casting.
In a parallel universe where Paramount Pictures doesn’t alienate its fanbase, we might be talking about Ghost in the Shell as the big winner of this weekend and the de facto start of a new wave of Japanese Hollywood adaptations. Instead, DreamWorks Animation and The Boss Baby blew up the box office, no doubt delighting a handful of DreamWorks executives who watched the Ghost in the Shell controversy unfold with glasses of champagne in hand. After all, nobody’s going to boycott a movie about a baby who wears a suit.
Every year, it seems like someone makes an argument that horror films are better than they’ve ever been in the past. And while the incredible success of Get Out means that 2017 is off to a great start for horror movies, the truth is, horror movies have been pretty darn great for a while now. The last decade has seen innovative filmmakers — even filmmakers not known for horror movies — use the genre to make inexpensive films with a few buckets of blood and something smart to say. Why waste time trying to figure out which individual year was the best when we could just watch some movies?
Popular culture travels in waves. A decade or so ago, when every studio was trying to copy The Matrix and start their own action franchises dripping with self-serious stylization and slow-motion fights, I would’ve killed for a summer movie that took a grounded approach to heroes and villains. Now, after several years of Marvel movies and grimdark blockbusters, the pendulum has swung back the other way. It’s not that Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword looks like a good movie, per se. It’s just that I’m in a place where I can really appreciate its goofiness.
After several weeks of limited movement, a handful of new releases prompted a pretty thorough shakeup of the Box Office Top 10. While Beauty and the Beast continued its unstoppable assault on the domestic box office, we also said hello this weekend to three new movies and goodbye to a handful of old favorites from the first few months of the year. Let’s start with the estimated numbers as of Sunday afternoon.
It might be a tale as old as time, but audiences have proven there’s still a few petals left on that old flower. Despite being projected to open at somewhere between $214–245 million worldwide, Beauty and the Beast knocked the pants off those projections, eclipsing $350 million at the international box office and setting a March record for domestic releases along the way. Let’s take a look at how things shook out this past weekend with some of the expected grosses.
Gather around, children, and let me tell you the story of Film Twitter and Jupiter Ascending. While the most recent movie by the Wachowski Sisters was a flop with audiences and critic alike — it barely made back its budget internationally and holds down a whopping 26% at RottenTomatoes — there are those who found the film’s endearingly choppy characters and bright special effects to be part of one of the best science-fiction films of the decade. For you see, children, not every futuristic film needs to be about space marines and monsters. There are plenty of science-fiction fans who love them some goofy mumbo-jumbo as well.
For franchise movie fans, nothing grates on the nerves quite like the lull between the day production wraps on a new movie and the day the first teaser drops. Production has been finished on Star Wars: The Last Jedi for a few months now, and since we’re not quite sure when Disney will be releasing the first trailer for the film, we’re latching onto any piece of information we can get about the new film or any new Star Wars content, period. In short, we’re in the business of reading too much into Mark Hamill’s Twitter account.
If the first batch of trailers and clips have shown us anything, it’s that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is going to be Drax show. Dave Bautista famously cried when he was told that he would be playing Drax in Marvel’s new franchise; the direct-to-video market is littered with the work of former professional wrestlers who tried their hand at becoming action stars, and playing Drax meant that Bautista would escape the same outcome of some of his peers. As a result, Bautista poured his heart and soul into this character. It definitely shows.
It’s probably time to admit that we take Ridley Scott’s films more seriously than Scott himself. While we argue over cinematic universes, director’s cuts, and unnecessary sequels, Scott is out there having a good time making whatever movies pop into his mind at any given moment. Sometimes that means promising another half-dozen Alien movies before his newest one has even been released. Sometimes that means producing a Blade Runner sequel that few people wanted. And sometimes, just sometimes, it means bringing back a Roman warrior from the literal dead.
While the giant ape in Kong: Skull Island may not climb any New York skyscrapers this time around, he certainly did climb the box office charts. The latest Warner Bros. monster movie shot all the way to the top spot in its opening weekend, with Logan and the surprising hit Get Out both shifting one spot down to accommodate him.
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