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Cookie's Wins and Fails (and Disappointments) of 2016 [Down to #8]

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Let me start this by saying that, yes, I did not finish last year's list, but it was kinda screwy anyway since I decided to do it right after the summer season as opposed to the end of the year, right when I was starting college, so maybe doing this over the holidays not only allows me to do this at a decent pace, but also give me a better picture of the box office year as a whole.

 

For last year's (partially completed) list, here's a link:

 

2016 has been... interesting. With the big tentpole releases there really didn't seem to be a middle ground. When they hit, they hit big. When they failed, they failed spectacularly. A fourth-wall breaking chimichanga-loving anti-hero who was seen as a fanboy niche made bigger dough at the domestic box office than the long-awaited team-up of two of the most recognizable superheroes on the planet. A sequel to one of the highest grossing films of the last century was one of the biggest failures of the summer. An animation studio believed to be on life-support this time a decade ago delivered a billion-dollar grosser with a surprisingly poignant and relevant message to it. It's been crazy.

 

Last year it was easy for me to make a top ten list of failures with only one film per entry (with one exception). And for those who are wondering, this is how last year's fail list would have gone:

 

10. Paper Towns

 


9. Aloha

8. Chappie

7. Ted 2

6. Pixels

5. The Dumps of 2015

4. Terminator Genisys

3. Tomorrowland

2. Jupiter Ascending

1. Fantastic Four

 

This year had way too many failures to count. Therefore I decided to do two things:

1. Split it up into two categories: the fails and the disappointments. I'll elaborate a bit below.

2. Do more multi-film entries. The "dump" list will return, and I will break last year's rule by including an entire studio's performance in one entry (I'll leave it up to you to guess which it is).

 

Here are the three categories I decided to go with this year:

 

WIN Self-explanatory. Big and/or surprising box office is the main qualifier, but strong critical reception adds merit.

 

FAIL - Also self-explanatory. Commercial and often critical failures that turned out to be costly for their respective studios. Some of these entries were self-financed by the production companies or through selling international rights so the studios distributing them didn't have to bear the majority of the production cost, but when marketing costs and expectations are factored in, they still negatively affected the bottom line.

 

DISAPPOINTMENT - The entries in this list are likely going to be controversial, but these are big tentpoles that I feel didn't meet the expectations warranted to make them wins, but didn't prove to be big enough of a failure to make them fails. Some of these likely made their respective studios a lot of money, but there can be no denying that the studio, as well as box office analysts and the general public, expected a lot more from them, both commercially and at times critically. At least one entry on this list was even well-received, but the box office did not prove to be up to par.

 

Lets lay some ground rules before we begin:

- Films that just now are seeing limited releases and will be seeing wide releases after 2016 (La La Land and Patriot's Day for example) will not be covered during this list. They may break out big with audiences once they go wide, but I'm not going to wait for them to do that.

- Some films like Rogue One, Sing, Assassin's Creed, Passengers etc. are very early into their respective runs so it's perhaps difficult to make a good call, but I feel with the pace I'm expected to take on this list I will have a much better understanding of where they land once I get to them (or not depending on where they land).

- All these entries are based on my personal opinion only. You are free to make your own list if you want, and if there's a strong argument to be made whether or not a film should or shouldn't be on the win/fail/disappointment lists, I may reconsider, but that is in extreme cases only.

- I will NOT start off with honorable mentions this time since I want to get to the meat of it, instead they'll be scattered about throughout the thread.

- The order I intend to do these entries is FAIL - DISAPPOINTMENT - WIN with one entry per category at a time.

 

So without further ado, let's start this. First entry will be in the next post.

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#10 FAIL - INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

 

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"We had twenty years to prepare". Couldn't have said it better myself.

 

In 1996, Roland Emmerich's Independence Day (or as some bafflingly call it, ID4) hit the scene. It had been a few years since computer-generated effects hit mainstream popularity but it was still fresh enough that Independence Day could do something unprecedented, a massive alien invasion epic that showcased destruction on a ginormous scale. Combine it with a star-turning performance by a certain Willard Carroll Smith Jr. (yeah that's his full name, bet you didn't know that), the film became a massive success, grossing $306 million domestically and at the time being the sixth-highest grossing film ever. Now some will debate whether or not this film still holds up - or if it ever held up at all - and while I agree that it's definitely super corny at times there is a certain charm and dare I even say magic to it that can't be replicated.

 

Instead of churning out a sequel right away director Roland Emmerich went on to direct other projects, primarily more disaster pictures, and discussions of a sequel did not spring up until the mid-2000s were Emmerich, having his reputation beaten down a bit by underperformers like Godzilla, apparently expressed interest in another Independence Day. It wasn't until the new decade came around that development started ramping up though, and 20th Century Fox only gave it the green light first in 2014.

 

So you had twenty years to do a sequel to a film that today adjusts to almost $600 million, the 20th anniversary of said film coming up and another nostalgic 90's property named Jurassic Park delivering an earth-shattering hit the year prior with Jurassic World. So let me ask 20th Century Fox, Centropolis Entertainment, Roland Emmerich and others this:

 

 

Not including Will Smith was a good starting point. Apparently Fox didn't want to pay Smith the $50 million he asked for, and to be fair Smith hasn't been the draw he used to be (last week's Collateral Beauty opened to a paltry $7.1 million, but in Will's defense I don't think anyone could have saved that dreck). According to reports Fox and the producers made two scripts: one with Will Smith and one without him, and they went with the latter. His replacement was Jessie T. Usher and to some extent Liam Hemsworth, both showing little charisma in the final product. Jeff Goldblum did return for the sequel, but that didn't seem to help much.

 

It's easy to argue that a lot of this could have been avoided if the studio didn't seemingly rush the project to meet the 20th anniversary deadline, which is a bit baffling in of itself. While the film forwarded the story in some areas - the film takes place twenty years after the first where humanity has been able to develop the leftovers of the alien technology from the last invasion to their own benefit - it felt like a retread at the same time, which wouldn't have been that big of an issue if it also didn't feel so lazily put together. This is just my opinion, but there are more interesting possibilities from the briefly mentioned events in between Resurgence and its predecessor than there are from the entire running time of Resurgence itself.

 

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Like this army guy's backstory for example. No joke, it sounds far more interesting than whatever goes on in the rest of this mess.

 

Despite the initial teaser receiving plenty of attention, it became clear as opening day fast approached that Fox was losing faith in the film. Marketing never really seemed to kick into full gear, and in a spectacularly lousy move critic's screenings were withheld to 7 P.M the day of release. Not embargoes, screenings. It would have been better if no screenings were held at all! It's almost fascinating to see what was once thought to be a sure-fire hit crash and burn so spectacularly.

 

Needless to say, the film wasn't a hit. The movie opened to $41 million, which isn't that far off from the original's $50.2 million, until you remember that it was in 1996 and part of a larger five-day opening that translated to $96 million. For Resurgence to open less than the original's Friday-Saturday-Sunday in 2016 with the added benefit of inflation, 3D and IMAX is just plain embarrassing. It also came in second to Finding Dory, which was still a big player with $73 million.

 

The final gross landed at $103 million domestically, which for a $165 million production (although it was reportedly $200 million before release) is not good. It played better overseas ($286 million) for a worldwide total of almost $390 million, a far cry from the original's $817 million, and let me reiterate - that was in 1996! Without expanded markets, without China, without 3D! How can anyone look at Resurgence's final total and find that an acceptable result?

 

There were two more films planned to follow Resurgence, but not a peep's been heard since it came out, and maybe that's for the better. The first Independence Day was sort of a one-and-done deal of its time, and as I said before, it likely can't be replicated. But for the sequel to fall that much short of even its unadjusted gross, even with all the benefits of being a big CGI tentpole in 2016, is remarkable, and the fact that it likely didn't even break even is why it lands on the fail list.

 

 

 

 

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Forgot to mention this earlier but the "disappointments" won't be ranked, instead I'll just list whichever I feel like writing about at the time.

 

DISAPPOINTMENT #1 - Jason Bourne

 

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"You know his name". Yes, and?

 

In the early-to-mid 2000s, the Bourne franchise was a box office powerhouse. They were intense, gritty Bond movies when we hadn't had a good Bond in years. They solidified Matt Damon as a bankable action star, and each succeeding film earned more and more money, culminating with Bourne Ultimatum's $227.5 million domestic gross. The films were critical darlings as well, with the last film in the trilogy being nominated for and winning several Oscars (true, two of them were in the sound categories, but winning Best Editing without even being nominated for Best Picture was and still is pretty impressive).

 

So after Ultimatum wrapped, Universal naturally wanted to go ahead on a fourth one (even though some may feel that Ultimatum closed the book nicely), but Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass (director of Supremacy and Ultimatum) were skeptical. Greengrass dropped out, and Damon wasn't willing to make more Bourne films without him so he followed suit. Tony Gilroy, co-writer of the original trilogy, stepped in to direct the fourth film on the condition that the character of Jason Bourne would not return, and the film would take place in a different setting entirely. That became The Bourne Legacy, starring then fresh off The Avengers Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a chemically enhanced black ops operative who has to run for his life after Bourne's actions in the previous films exposes the entire operation.

 

The immediate response to Legacy was mixed, with many saying you just can't do a Bourne movie without Matt Damon, and despite it being an earnest attempt to soft-reboot the franchise, it was a bit of a non-starter at the box office. Universal did press on and try to launch a sequel directed by Justin Lin, but in 2014 it was announced that the Aaron Cross saga would end prematurely and instead Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass would be brought back for the fifth film in the franchise.

 

Now that was a reason to be excited, wasn't it? Paul Greengrass had hit it big with 2013's Captain Phillips, which got nominated for Best Picture, and Matt Damon was fresh off The Martian, which earned $630 million worldwide. Jeremy Renner, bless him, just wasn't up to par with the man himself. Universal didn't wait on capitalizing on the hype, debuting an explosive 60-second teaser during the Super Bowl, which ended with a scene where Bourne knocks a guy out with one punch.

 

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LET'S GET READY TO RUMBL- Oh ok.

 

That said there maybe were some warning signs. None of the writers from the previous Bourne films returned to this one, instead Greengrass himself and his editor Christopher Rouse are the ones credited. The title itself is really odd and generic too. I guess it kinda makes sense when paired with the tagline, but on its own it doesn't really add up. Whatever happened to The Bourne something? A title is just a title and should have no bearing on quality, but I still find it really strange.

 

The film came out and the overwhelming response was... "eh". The reviews were the literal definition of middle-of-the-road (56% on Rotten Tomatoes which ironically is the same score as Legacy) and the audience reception felt the same. The film opened to $59.2 million, lower than Ultimatum but far better than Legacy. Its $162 million domestic gross places it right in the middle of the franchise (albeit adjusted it's the lowest of the Matt Damon films), and the $415 million worldwide gross is the second highest (but still lower than Ultimatum's $442 million gross nine years prior).

 

But here's the thing: This is a Jason Bourne movie. The previous three Damon films were all very well received (on Rotten Tomatoes they were rated 81, 83 and 93 percent respectively) and even if Legacy wasn't that great the franchise was still held in high esteem, especially when the two biggest names of the series were coming back. It's one thing when a beloved franchise produces a bad entry, it can be even worse when it just ends up being mediocre.

 

Going by the reviews it just doesn't seem like all that much energy and passion was put into this film. Damon looks kinda bored, the story is thin and while Greengrass' directing looks competent as ever, it apparently doesn't save the film. It feels like a paycheck-job, but its not like either Damon or Greengrass would need it so why do it then if you're not going to put effort into it? This is not something that could have been a lot better, it should have been a lot better, and for that it earns a spot on this list.

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#10 WIN - Summer Horror in 2016

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The first entry in the win list this year is a quintuple feature. If you were a horror movie released in the summer this year, you weren't only a commercial success, but also well received on top of that.

 

Now, given the way horrors are made nowadays the genre is probably the safest bet in Hollywood, and previous summers have had its fair share of lazy cash-grabs that were only succesful because they were so cheap they were profitable before they even hit theaters. 2016, however, turned out to be different. Not only were the horror films one of the few genres this year that were commercially reliable, but also one of the few that saw consistent critical and audience praise. Just the fact that all of these films turned out to be crowdpleasers in their own way is kinda staggering when you consider how cheap and bad they could've been.

 

Let's go through them chronologically: first up is The Conjuring 2, the sequel to, well, The Conjuring, a surprise hit that grossed $137 million domestically back in 2013. Now some would wonder why a sequel that made less than its predecessor would make the win list, and you're right. Conjuring 2 only made $102 million by comparison, and had this been the only successful horror movie this year it wouldn't have made an appearance at all, but because the rest of the lot was also so successful, its difficult to ignore it. Conjuring 2 also made more overseas than the last film ($218 million versus $180 million) so it evens out.

 

The Shallows wasn't exactly a groundbreaking concept. A woman gets stranded away from shore and has to fend off a very persistent shark. That's about it, and that seems to have been all that was needed. Reviews were overall positive, praising star Blake Lively's performance and the solid execution of an admittedly simple concept. Audiences felt the same, and the movie held very well from its $16.7 million opening, ultimately grossing $55 million domestically and almost $120 million worldwide. Perhaps in a summer with overblown CG fests and endless franchising, a simple but effective shark thriller was just what the doctor ordered.

 

The Purge: Election Year is perhaps the worst-received of the bunch (54% on Rotten Tomatoes), but in relation to its own franchise reviews weren't half bad, and it outgrossed its predecessors as well. For a series, a horror series especially, to continually perform better with every movie is no small feat. I am a bit biased about this one since I simply find the concept inherently unrealistic and silly, and the fact that so many take it so seriously is scary in of itself, but if it works for the audience it wants to attract, who am I to complain?

 

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Sweet dreams (no seriously that mask is terrifying)

 

Lights Out I found was genuinely scary though, although I say this as one who actually hasn't seen the full movie but just trailers and clips of it. I'm a grown man and I'm still terrified of the dark and whatever horror that lurks in there, and any movie that exploits that is bound to get under my skin. A lot of people seem to feel the same way, as Lights Out was a hit with both critics and audiences, grossing $67 million domestically and almost $150 million worldwide on a measly $5 million budget. Warner Bros. has had a lot of missteps in recent years (some of which we'll get to later), but you can't deny that when it comes to horror, they know how to sell the shit out of that genre.

 

Lastly there's Don't Breathe. Some would call it more of a thriller than a horror, but the concept is still ingenious. A group of teenagers break into a blind man's house but quickly find they're the mice in a cat-and-mouse game and the blind man is not to be messed around with. The film received very positive reviews (currently sitting at 87% on Rotten Tomatoes) and made $89 million domestically, even more than some of the big "tentpoles" of the summer even! Perhaps what's more surprising is just how good it held; its first Saturday was only down 1.5% from its first Friday, and for a genre that's usually so frontloaded that never happens. Hard to say if they can keep up the concept with the already announced sequel, but given how well-executed the first film was, here's to them giving it their best shot. 

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Jesus Christ Thats Cookie ( Shameless Jason Bourne reference.)

 

Did I miss your thread from last year? I had no idea you were this good of a writer. These write-ups are nothing short legendary. This is probably going to be my favorite thread of the year. Please continue whenever you have time. I can't wait to read the rest of this. If the rest of your write-ups or anywhere as close to as good as your first three This Thread is going to be epic. Thank you for doing this cookie.

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I think I liked every horror film that was released this year especially the shallows. Yes perhaps it was a simple concept but sometimes the most simple Concepts are the ones audiences relate to the most.

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#9 FAIL - Ben-Hur

 

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Now why is this one not higher on the list? The answer is simple: did anyone at any point expect more from this film? The trailers were awful, the release date was awful, the movie was awful... you get the idea. I'd like to reserve the higher spots for films that people actually believed in at one point or another, not an unnecessary remake of an immortal classic that audiences were wise enough to ignore from the get-go. Should I just conclude this entry right now?

 

Okay, I won't, because that wouldn't be fair. This is not the first time Ben-Hur has been remade, in fact the 1959 Charlton Heston classic that won eleven Oscars (a record it holds to this day tied with Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) is a remake in of itself. The very first version is a fifteen-minute long silent film from 1907, which was remade into a feature-length silent epic in 1925, which in turn inspired the Charlton Heston version. Not to mention the whole story was originally from a book called Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace, whose life story is grand enough to be a movie all on its own.

 

Giving the tale a fresh spin may not have been that bad of an idea on paper. With the advancements filmmaking has made since 1959 doing a Ben-Hur in the vein of something like Gladiator may have been just the right way to go. Honing in on the relationship between the title character and his brother Messala (played here by Toby Kebbell) would also have been a smart move, maybe similar to how The Prince of Egypt explored the tragedy behind Moses and Rameses' relationship rather than being a straight remake of The Ten Commandments. So what did Paramount Pictures and the recently risen out of bankruptcy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - often shortened to MGM - have in mind?

 

Apparently none of that. For starters, they hired Timur Bekmambetov to direct. What an odd choice for something like this. I wouldn't call Bekmanbetov necessarily bad, but he's very... hyper-stylized and modern, not my first choice for a period epic. I would have even hired Ridley Scott over him, no matter how bad Exodus: Gods and Kings was. Then came the casting. Jack Huston, despite being the grandson of legendary director, writer and actor John Huston, does not have a commanding screen presence. Sure, he was good on Boardwalk Empire, but he's miscast here. Tony Kebbell as Messalla wasn't a bad choice, I'll give the filmmakers that, but he seems to be overshadowing Jack Huston at every turn, which only further emphasizes why Huston as the titular character doesn't work.

 

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Also Morgan Freeman shows up in Predator dreads for some reason.

 

The film has the odd distinction that it looks expensive but somehow cheap at the same time. Some of the sets and stunts are nice, but the camerawork is so close and the editing is so choppy that it's difficult to tell what's going on half the time. The iconic chariot race is one of the biggest botch jobs I've ever seen, primarily because the camerawork and editing never lets you soak in the event like the 1959 version does. Not that it would have held up regardless, the 1959 version's rendition of that scene was iconic (and deadly) for a reason, but it could've been done a lot better even if you didn't compare it to its predecessor.

 

The film cost $100 million to produce, not a terrible budget for something like this, but it's very noticeable where they cut corners. Despite that the film was still a major money-loser, grossing only $26 million domestically and $94 million worldwide. Paramount attempted to court faith-based audiences with this film, even featuring Jesus prominently in the marketing, but few seemed to bite. The Charlton Heston version today adjusts to almost $850 million, a number the remake was obviously never going to reach, but for it to fall that much short of even the original's unadjusted gross (reportedly $74 million) with fifty-five-plus years of added benefits is really lousy all things considered.

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1 hour ago, Christmas Baumer said:

I still think a film that grossed 160 here and 415 WW is not really disappointing.  

 

You got a good point, Bourne is closer to success than fail imo too, but here's the thing: Bourne Ultimatum made more than this one in 2007 (both DOM and WW), Damon came off of the massive hit that was The Martian, and last year, spy movies were a big fucking deal (except Man From UNCLE, which was still a fun movie). And Bourne, at least DOM, is like the #3 alpha spy franchise, after Bond and maybe Mission Impossible. Its numbers are ultimately underwhelming for what they COULD'VE been.

 

But anyway, great fucking write-ups, dude.

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DISAPPOINTMENT #2 - X-Men: Apocalypse

 

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I'm convinced that the X-Men franchise is cursed.

 

A little history: X-Men, the 2000 original and not the franchise it spawned, is often said to be what kickstarted the golden era of comic book movies which continues to this day. True, 2002's Spider-Man was the first time the genre reached mega-blockbuster status since the 1989 Batman, but you could argue that Spider-Man wouldn't have happened without X-Men laying the groundwork. Today the film isn't seen as all that great, but it was well-received at the time and made almost $300 million worldwide. Then came X2: X-Men United. Despite how wonky that title is, the sequel is often regarded as one of the best comic book movies, and I'd agree on that. It does everything a good sequel should, improving on the foundations of the original while throwing in some interesting twists and turns along the way (plus the mansion fight is amazing). Naturally, it was a lot more successful than its predecessor, grossing $407 million.

 

Then things started to take a wrong turn. I think X-Men: The Last Stand is a bit overhated; there are some good scenes and ideas in there, but I agree that it doesn't really work as a coherent whole, not to mention it botched one of the most iconic storylines from the comic source. It was still the highest-grossing of the franchise as of yet, but the improvement was marginal compared to the jump between its predecessors, grossing $459 million. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was when shit really hit the fan. It's a terrible film whichever way you look at it. The direction, the writing, the special effects, the fact that they sewed Deadpool's mouth shut and turned him into Baraka from Mortal Kombat... it's a godawful mess.

 

While the Wolverine saga stomped on with 2013's The Wolverine, Fox decided to do a soft reboot of the main X-Men series, starting with 2011's X-Men: First Class, a prequel to the previous films with an all new cast (and Hugh Jackman's Wolverine making a cameo). Despite a very rushed production the film ended up being well-received, even if it wasn't much of a commercial success, only grossing $146 million domestic - then the lowest of the franchise - and $353 million worldwide on a $160 million production budget. The strong reception was enough for Fox to greenlight a sequel, but it came with the condition that the original cast of the last trilogy and director Bryan Singer were to return. That turned out to be a wise move, as X-Men: Days of Future Past can be considered to be the Dark Knight of the franchise, commercially if not critically, grossing $748 million worldwide, far beyond what any previous X-Men film had accomplished.

 

Before Days of Future Past even came out, Bryan Singer and the main cast of First Class were already signed on to do X-Men: Apocalypse. The titular villain (played by Force Awakens breakout star Oscar Isaac) was teased in a post-credits scene in Future Past, and the stage was set to conclude the First Class trilogy on a high note. With Deadpool being a smash hit earlier in the same year, Fox was confident enough that reviews for Apocalypse were released well over two weeks before the film's domestic release, not dissimilar to how Marvel Studios often allows review embargoes to be lifted early. That turned out to be a mistake.

 

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The face that launched a thousand memes (at least on Box Office Theory)

 

There were warning signs from way back. The marketing never really seemed to click, and the titular antagonist's appearance was criticized from the get-go, often being compared to a Power Rangers villain (can't wait to put that incoming trainwreck on the list next year). Fox made several changes to Apocalypse's appearance as well as his voice from trailer to trailer, to the point that it started getting silly. He sounded one way in one trailer, and then in the very next he spoke the same line very differently, not to mention it was very apparent that the voice was tricked with in post. It was crazy.

 

The reviews ended up being mixed, bordering on negative. The film currently holds a 48% score on Rotten Tomatoes, a far cry from its two predecessors (87 and 91 percent respectively) and even lower than the much-maligned Last Stand (58%). Much of the criticisms focused on the overload of action over story and character, and the clichéd nature of the villain. Making Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique the main protagonist I think was a mistake as well. Not to knock on Lawrence, she does good work elsewhere, but she's always been one of the weaker elements of the previous films, and she just looks completely disinterested here. Even widely-praised elements like Evan Peter's Quicksilver from Future Past seemed lost and lacking the same spark in this new installment.

 

Because the reviews were given out so early, fans and the general audience quickly caught on to how underwhelming Apocalypse was, and the box office ended up reflecting that. The film opened to $65 million, ways off from Future Past's $90 million. Granted, Apocalypse's reported $178 million production cost was less than Future Past's $200 million - though I find that very suspicious as Apocalypse was reported to be $200 million and above before release - but the $155 million domestic total is a downer whichever way you look at it. Overseas grosses were a bit better, mainly thanks to a strong performance in China, but the $544 million worldwide total is still well below Future Past's $748 million.

 

Just the fact that this is the second time a third entry in an X-Men trilogy has been a big disappointment is staggering on its own. It's an unwritten rule with few exceptions in Hollywood that the third film is a letdown, but for it to happen twice to same franchise makes me want to believe the whole enterprise is cursed. The upcoming Logan, no matter how good it looks, should tread carefully. Granted the previous two Wolverine films ranged from awful to mostly decent, so maybe it'll buck the trend. If it doesn't, we're in trouble.

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Lack of updates have been due to Christmas. I've put up a schedule until New Year's:

 

26th - Win #9, Fail/Dis/Win #8

27th - Honorable mentions

28th - Fail/Dis/Win #7

29th - Fail/Dis/Win #6

30th - More honorable mentions

 

And the top/bottom five will be after the holidays.:)

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#9 WIN - Doctor Strange

 

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In a year filled with chaotic developments otherwise, there's a few things one can always rely on; the sun will rise at dawn, the internet will be squabbling over something and Marvel Studios will deliver another hit.

 

All that Doctor Strange's success really tells us is that the Hollywood titan is seemingly unstoppable. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, often shortened to MCU, has churned out fourteen films in the span of eight years, all rated fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and with the exception of The Incredible Hulk, an early entry that could be chalked up to trial-and-error, all have been commercially successful. Box office wise Doctor Strange lands right in the middle of the Marvel spectrum, but with fourteen films in a $656 million grosser as of this writing not being in the upper echelon of that spectrum is a testament to the continued strength of this franchise.

 

So why does the Marvel Studios formula work so well, because its not like it's without its detractors. The execution isn't always brilliant (a continued complaint being lackluster antagonists among other things) but it's difficult to deny that when it comes to bringing a titular character to the screen, Marvel is almost unparalleled in that department. Benedict Cumberbatch proves to be a fitting choice for Doctor Strange, even if it is admittedly one of the safer choices the studio's done. A wash-up like Robert Downey Jr. or a near-unknown like Chris Hemsworth were big risks when they were first cast, Cumberbatch was far more recognizable and successful when he was approached by Marvel, fresh off his roles in The HobbitStar Trek Into Darkness and his Oscar-nominated performance in The Imitation Game. Safe doesn't equal bad though, at least in this instance, and it's apparent that Marvel wants an actor to headline the universe after the main Avengers cast presumably hang up their mantles after phrase three concludes with the yet-untitled Avengers film in 2019. Cumberbatch, at least for my money, delivers on his part.

 

Benedict-Wong-Interview-Doctor-Strange.j

Even he can't hold a candle to franchise MVP Wong though

 

Marvel Studios' continuing hit streak is especially impressive when you compare them to their decreasing number of competitors; 20th Century Fox's efforts are very hit-and-miss, Sony has conceded and shares custody of Spider-Man with Marvel, and while DC's films have made a lot money, they haven't been critically successful in over four years. Marvel Studios has built up the level of goodwill at this point that even if they do deliver a miss one day (and with so many films coming out so fast, not everything can be a winner) they can simply move on to the next one and it wouldn't affect the overall plan. No other studio in this climate has that kind of advantage. Maybe Lucasfilm does, but we're still only two movies in on that front.

 

So Doctor Strange is a win, but at this point with Marvel Studios, it's basically to be expected. It's perhaps more fun to talk about a movie failing or exceeding expectations, but few realize that consistent success is a greater achievement than anything else. There's been so many points where Marvel Studios could have floundered (Ant-Man's troubled development especially sparked concerns, but that turned out well in the end) and yet they come out strong every time. True, few are singing praises for Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, but in my opinion they're not terrible, they just could have been better, plus they still made a lot of money. Luckily Strange doesn't fall in line with those movies, instead it received strong reviews, currently sitting at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, with praise going to Cumberbatch, the side characters and especially the outstanding special effects, effectively translating the comic source's out-there visuals to the screen.

 

Now where does Marvel Studios go from here? Cumberbatch is set to appear in Thor: Ragnarok as well as the upcoming Avengers sequels, and as said earlier it's apparent that Marvel is planning to keep him around longer than that. No sequel has been announced yet, but given how stacked Marvel Studios' schedule is, it'll be a few years before that comes out anyway. There's a whooping nine films coming out in between that, and anything can happen, but if there's anything the studio has proved at this point, is that you shouldn't count them out.

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