11 August 2009

The full summer 2009 round-up - well nearly.....

The summer is now into its final weeks and the autumn movie season beckons with a few interesting prospects, though the immediate September slate is as barren as ever. I’m looking forward to “Jennifer’s Body” but overall the 9th month of the year is usually its weakest, this annum content to hold that pattern. However of more interest is the passing of the film industries most profitable few months, now well into the second week of August it’s safe to say the blockbuster season has come and gone. There where surprises of a pleasant (“Star Trek”, “The Hangover”) and more unpleasant (“Transformers 2”, The Ugly Truth”) nature, whilst several films soared to unexpected financial heights whilst other supposed certainties flopped against all odds. As a commentator on film no section of the calendar leaves more to talk about than the summer. I’ve neglected to name my top 5 and bottom 5 film’s of the season until August properly finishes, though I fear that will be more beneficial to the latter list.

The first big film was “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” an amiable if underwhelming opener. The movie was riddled with flaws but managed to provide enough fun for a minor recommendation, though fans of the franchise where as equally disheartened here as they where in 2006 after “X-Men: The Last Stand”. I enjoyed this movie more than that one, though a repeat visit will be required to fully form my feelings concerning “Wolverine”. I would be interested in a Director’s Cut (apparently Fox where interfering during aspects of the theatrical version) though I doubt that would solve enough to take “Wolverine” to the heights of “X2”. The Box-Office was initially strong but dropped off faster than Fox had hoped, leading to the film being profitable but ultimately coming under pre-summer expectations. A sequel (and other character spin offs) have been green lit, though viewers and Fox accountants might be hoping for a crisper performance on all bases from part 2.

“Star Trek” flew high and mighty a matter of days later to become one of the season’s bigger hits, whilst the less heavily advertised “Angels & Demons” also did good business despite soggy reviews. I missed “Angels & Demons” but thought “Trek” to be one of the summer’s finest confections, a delightful way to spend an evening at the movies. I myself am far from a devotee to all things Enterprise but it’s hard to overlook the pioneering job that was done with this stellar reboot. All things considered it’s a contender for the end of year top 10 and a certainty for the top 5 at August’s conclusion.

“Terminator Salvation” arrived to mixed reviews and tepid box-office, again like “Wolverine” it wasn’t a flop in the strict sense but fired under analysts predictions. I liked the movie, certainly it was far preferable to Michael Bay’s robotic counterpart “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. This noxious bundle of drivel was amongst my most anticipated summer films for the year, after all the 2007 original was a sweet embodiment of the summer season itself. Bay’s sequel however was unbearable, and in a slightly depressing note it’s currently the year’s highest grossing movie.....figures.

“Up” Pixar’s latest scored great reviews and outstanding box-office, though given the studios superb record in both fields that hardly comes as a surprise. More astonishing was the similar critical love and box-office kerching for R-rated comedy “The Hangover” an outstandingly raucous and infectious comedic party. The film surprised all by entering at no.1 back in early June and only in the last week finally dropped out of the US top ten. That’s good going. The seasons biggest flop is probably Will Ferrell’s “Land of the Lost” taking in only half it’s production budget during US release. The movie wasn’t bad and actually provided a solid if frivolously entertaining 100 minutes, though in fairness I was amongst the very few who thought so, the movie’s 28% on Rotten Tomatoes indicating a general dislike for the feature from critics.

The summer’s best film was “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” a perfect blend of blockbusting gusto and artistic magic. I’ve seen the movie twice and on both occasions it held up beautifully, a rip roaring and dramatically engaging adaptation. The box-office has been grand as well, though anyone who predicted anything less than mammoth numbers must be living under a very large rock...or other immovable object.

The rom-com enjoyed a decent summer at the box-office, early effort “Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past” did soundly whilst later offerings “The Proposal” and “The Ugly Truth” have scored well, despite questionable quality. Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno” underperformed at the box-office and with critics (albeit the general consensus was disappointing though undeniably funny) whilst Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” gave horror fans something to cheer about during the brighter months. The movie didn’t rack up massive numbers (the PG-13 rating ironically a deterrent rather than a pro here) but was provided with one of the larger critical applauses of the season. I know I had a good time with it.

The “Ice Age” gang remained financial gangbusters despite ever waning love from the critics on their third outing, ditto for “Night at the Museum 2”. Michael Mann was on good form and earned well with “Public Enemies” one of the summers best movies, though there was some critical division on the subject of the film. Last weekend “G.I: Joe” netted a hefty $56 million opening despite bad buzz, though a rumoured $170 million production cost will be hard to recoup.

The projects left on the horizon that look to be worth a damn are few and far between, “Inglorious Bastards” is a must and I intend to seek out “Funny People” but at this juncture I feel I’ve seen the high majority of the season’s offerings. Looking at that roster summer 2009 is perhaps a little less eventful than a few of its recent counterparts and definitely leaner, though not necessarily any worse. The final verdict on summer 09 is still a fortnight away (hopefully a long and sunny one at that) though as of the minute despite it’s smaller stature it looks as patchy as any other year of popcorn and blockbuster. Hopefully we’re in for a trend bucking final few weeks, though looking at the current roster I wouldn’t bet on it.

I’ll provide further summer musings when the top and bottom 5 lists go online in a fortnight or so.


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