Opening June 29th: Where Is This Week’s “Tent Pole” Movie?

Summer Movie Season, A Time Of Big Stars, Big Franchises, Big Movies…  Well, Maybe The Last Weekend Of June Doesn’t Count As Part Of The Summer Movie Season.

When you glance at any given summer each weekend looks to be the week of something. Take this summer, we have had, in order:
Does This Seem Like A Summer “Tent Pole”
Movie To You? 
Quit Snickering!
  • The Week of The Avengers
  • The Week of Dark Shadows
  • The Week of Battleship and The Dictator
  • The Week of MIB3
  • The Week of Snow White and the Huntsman
  • The Week of Madagascar 3 and Prometheus
  • The Week of Rock of Ages
  • The Week of Brave

Did all of those movies work? Of course not, but they were all big and had big stars, they all felt like SUMMER Movies. You know what a summer movie is, it is a “swing for the fences”, a summer movie is putting all your chips on one number, knowing if you’re right it will pay 40 to 1. That is summer, “go big or go home”. Most of the rest of the year hollywood hedges their bets. They release films that they hope will do well, but if they don’t it doesn’t really hurt the studio, they release films that don’t need to get to $150+ million to be considered a success, they release films like Magic Mike or a Madea movie or a Mark Wahlberg comedy. If I didn’t know the date and you showed me this weeks scheduled releases I would assume it was April or October, not so bad as to be September or January but not good enough to be December, I may be able to talk myself into the first week of November, but Summer? No way. And yet, here we are. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying these movies are bad or that this weekend is worse than the rest of this summer’s weekends (they aren’t and it isn’t), its just this isn’t what hollywood normally does on the last week of June.

Madea’s Witness Protection
Interest Level: 0
Does Tyler Perry Care: Nope
It has been a decade since Madea first showed up in Diary of a Mad Black Woman and I Can Do Bad All By Myself and I can say without any pride or embarrassment that I have yet to see any of these movies. And you know what, Tyler Perry doesn’t care. He doesn’t care because he has been too busy proving that there is a market for African-American movies. He doesn’t care because he has been cranking out content that his core audience loves at a rate that I don’t recall ever having seen before — since 2002 he has been the director of 27 projects, the writer of 28 and an actor in 24 different projects, that is just nuts. Having said all of that this year is kind of an interesting one for Tyler Perry. All of that success has happened in February or April, when competition is weaker, now he is going out in the heat of summer, with Spider-Man a week away and The Dark Knight Rises not far behind that and he still has to compete with the summer slate that is already in theaters to boot. Many are saying it doesn’t matter, that his fans will follow, but they aren’t noticing that the last Madea outing was his least successful Madea outing, it may be that the character has run her course. Of course maybe that is why Tyler Perry will be going out side his fiefdom for a shot at mainstream success with Alex Cross later this year, maybe he can see the end of Madea too. And if it is over, well I doubt he will care much about that either, he can always make another Why Did I Get Married movie.
Magic Mike
Interest Level: 4
If Steven Soderberg Hadn’t Directed It What Would Your Interest Level Be: 0
This movie has been getting three kinds of reviews. The first kind can be summed up by this:

“Females rejoice! Your Avengers is here.”
Kristian Harloff – Schmoes Knows

The second kind look like this:
“A Weirdly Guilty Pleasure”
Steven Rea – Philadelphia Enquirer

And the final kind looks like this:

“If filmmaker Soderbergh had paid as much attention to relationship dynamics as he does to dance number mechanics, this film would have gotten closer to living up to the magic in its name.”
Kenneth Turan – LA Times

So people are either liking it for the same reasons 50 Shades of Grey has become the book of the year, or they are shocked it is good, or they simply see it for what it is, a sometimes fun, but ultimately flawed movie. Having said that it would be remiss of me to not point out that I have enjoyed several films that were flawed because of the actresses and what the actresses weren’t wearing, so straight women and gay men have at it, we straight men will hang back with the gay women and promise not to judge you in any way.

Interest Level: 6 or 8, still not entirely decided
Odds of it living up to what I want it to be: 50/50

If you have a certain kind of sense of humor these trailers have looked great. Silly, raunchy, stupid, but still pretty great. Mark Wahlberg does comedy much better than he is sometimes given credit for and Mila Kunis is a pro at playing off of childish men (that is pretty much all she did on The 70’s Show). There are concerns, like can a talking teddy bear really hold up for a whole movie and will the whole thing feel too much like a long Family Guy episode. The reviews have been pretty solid and I want to give this a chance, I really do.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Interest Level: 8
Don’t you have one of your stupid follow-up questions: Nope
Anyone who follows the Sundance Film Festival heard about this movie. This is a stirring and fantastical journey being seen through a child’s eyes that mixes magic and life, hope and heart break and everything in between. Many people are already calling this the movie of the year. Just watch the trailer and I will guarantee you will want to go see this movie.
Does that kid not just grab your attention. Whatever IT is she definitely has it.
Take This Waltz
Interest Level: 2
Does that mean you think it is a bad movie: Nope, in fact I am sure it is quite good
If you reference my little legend of what my Interest Level’s mean you will see that two means I know I will hate this movie. I know I will hate Take This Waltz. Why? Because if there is one human foible that irks me it is people that cheat in relationships. If you want to see other people get a divorce, they aren’t that hard to get. If you don’t want a divorce don’t flirt with guys and go hang out with them without your husband knowing under the guise of “what if he’s really the one” or “I just don’t want to go through life thinking I might have missed something”. I find it, above everything else, stupid. So a whole movie about that, put a bullet in my head. Having said all of that, if you love Michelle Williams in an indie dramedy where she plays the dissatisfied woman trying to find happiness (she makes about one of these a year, so she certainly has developed fans for this kind of flick) than this will be a really good movie. Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman (who I love) are both supposed to be great and Michelle Williams is predictably good at playing this role (like I said, one a year).
People Like Us
Interest Level: 6
Can you believe the guys who write Fringe and the last Star Trek movie wrote this: Barely
Sam is a salesman who is at a professional and financial crossroads when his father dies and leaves him a shaving kit full of cash that he is supposed to give to the son of his sister, a sister he never knew he had. You can see where the plot will go from there (although with these writers it will likely take a twist here or there that is outside of the norm), but this kind of movie is never really about plot, its about acting and dialogue and connections. This is another opportunity for Chris Pine to show that he is more than just good looking, and by all accounts he does just that. Michelle Pfeifer is always great, Elizabeth Banks has never been bad in anything and Olivia Wilde is really good looking. The movie sounds trite and predictable, but it looks good.
Neil Young Journeys
Interest Level: 5
Do you have to be a Neil Young fan to like it: Absolutely
Jonathan Demme follows Neil Young as he performs in the town where he grew up. This is as much concert movie as documentary. It is not like Marley from earlier this year, a film full of lost recordings and things we haven’t seen. This is for those who love (not like, LOVE) Neil Young and want to see what he is up to now. If that describes you then you already knew about this and have already made plans to see it. If you didn’t know about this and have not made plans to see it than this probably isn’t for you.
This weekend slate comes out in April and I am going on and on about what a deep weekend we have. It is still deep, maybe the deepest weekend of the summer thus far, but it feels lacking somehow without a tent pole.
But hey, what do I know, I’m fat.