Bro-Reviews: 2017 Summer Box Office Winners and Losers

Whether you’re a winner or a loser, box office revenue is down significantly compared to last summer.

The Summer movie season is officially over, after 4 long months, it’s finally over. While this summer had it fair share of winners that won the box office, their were plenty of losers, and boy did they lose. It’s now time to asses the winners and losers of the 2017 Summer box office.

Winner: Wonder Woman

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The highest grossing film of the summer by a significant margin, Wonder Woman was a much needed win for the DC extended universe and showed girl power is alive and well in Hollywood. The film saw unprecedented holds from weekend to weekend over the summer, playing similarly to 2002’s Spider-Man en route to $406.8 million domestically, making it the 7th highest grossing super-hero film of all time and the highest grossing film ever directed by a woman.

Loser: Valerian and the City of A thousand Planets

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Valerian is a prime example of what happens when you let directors go into a CGI candy shop and allow them to lose their minds on screen. While visually striking, Valerian lacked star power and chose style over substance in this over-long, over-budgeted Star Wars wannabe. The film’s box office receipts didn’t help matters either, as it grossed a puny $39.8 million at the North American box office compared to its $172.2 million budget. A bomb indeed.

Winner: Marvel Studios

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At this point, Marvel Studios has perfected the blockbuster formula. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 grossed $389.4 million in May, showing that Star Lord and the gang won’t be going away anytime soon. Marvel Studios was also able to reap the rewards of re-booting the Spider-Man franchise with Spider-Man: Homecoming in July, grossing an impressive $321.2 million during its theatrical run.

Loser: Former Franchise Tent-Poles

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Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Cars 3, Transformers: The Last Night. What do they all have in common? They are all franchises that at one point were box-office giants who presided as the kings of the summer movie season but have now all but exhausted ideas to the point that audiences have grown tired of them. While the international box office receipts helped prevent them from flat-out bombing and in some cases made them profitable, it’s time for studios to re-think their strategies in regards to tent-pole franchises.

Winner: War for the Planet of the Apes

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A stunning achievement in motion capture and special effects, War for the Planet of the Apes is nothing short of technically brilliant. Add in the emotional component most summer box office films are missing along with enthralling action, and War For the Planet of the Apes proves you don’t have to be brainless to be a successful summer blockbuster.

Loser: Baywatch

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On paper, Baywatch seemed to be a no-brainer. A summer comedy filled with beaches, bikinis, and the Rock would surely breed box office success, right? Unfortunately, incompetent direction, lazy joke writing, and exploitation of female bodies made Baywatch unwatchable, making it one of the biggest duds of the summer movie season.

Winner: Rotten Tomatoes

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If there were ever a time where the influence of the review aggregate site flexed its muscles, it was this summer. Films that boasted overwhelmingly positive reviews such as Dunkirk ($175.5 million) and Baby Driver ($104.3 million) enjoyed box office success and long theatrical runs. Maligned films such as The Mummy ($80.1) and The Dark Tower ($46.1 million) on the other hand saw their hopes and dreams of launching franchises either stall or end due to dog piling bad reviews.

Loser: The Summer Box Office

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For every financially and critically successful film released this summer, there was an even more financially and critically disastrous film released. Add in an August with very few appealing films, and the summer box office is down nearly 16% compared to last year and movie going attendance is the worst it has been in 25 years. One can only hope the looming Fall movie season can pick up the slack, but the 2017 box office appears to be experiencing diminishing returns.

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Bro-Reviews: Dunkirk

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Christopher Nolan is undoubtedly one of the most masterful directors working today, but the case could also be made he’s one of the greatest directors of all time. From small budgeted independent films like Memento, to original triumphs like Inception, all the way to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has proven himself to be a true auteur. However, many would agree Nolan may have lost a step with the release of the bloated and cheesy Interstellar in 2014, a major disappointment in the eyes of many. Three years later, Nolan has created another epic film being hailed as a masterpiece based on the true story of the Battle of Dunkirk during the half of World War II America always ignores, Dunkirk.

In Dunkirk, the Nazi Germany army has surrounded the British and French armies, forcing them to retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk. It is there where the soldiers await and pray for the arrival of help whilst being under constant attack by the Nazis. We follow a couple of foot soldiers attempting to escape Dunkirk within a span of a week, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles), a father (Mark Rylance) and son (Tom Glynn-Carney) sailing to Dunkirk to rescue the stranded soldiers in a span of a day, and Royal Air Force Pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) fighting off Nazi bomber planes in the span of an hour.

As I stated earlier, Nolan has full control of the films he makes at this point in his career. Dunkirk is another example of Nolan’s stranglehold on his projects, as the film is beautifully shot while retaining an apocalyptic, doomed atmosphere much like the battle itself. On top of that, the battle sequences put you in the middle of the action, making you jump at every sound of a gun shot to the point that you too want to spring from your seat in the theater and run for cover. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk might be Christopher Nolan’s most masterful work yet.

However, what prevents Dunkirk from rising to being a great film and one of the most powerful war films ever is the utter lack of characterization in the film. To put it bluntly, Dunkirk doesn’t have characters, it has people. Even though I listed the characters’ names in the synopsis, you cannot recall their names without looking at a cast of “characters” list, that’s how expendable and unmemorable they are. Sure, the whole feeling of dread and wanting to escape is present, but other than wanting to survive/ make it home, we don’t empathize with these people. As an audience member, I wanted to know what specifically these people would miss out on should they perish. Are they trying to escape because they have families back home? Are they sailing to danger because they have an overwhelming feeling of nationalism and want to serve their country? Heck, we don’t even get the cliche’ of a solider pulling out a picture of his girlfriend and saying he can’t wait to see her again.

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As I stated earlier, Nolan more than likely has final cut and other overreaching decision making powers whenever he wants to make a project. It’s important to point this out, as Nolan not only directed this film, he also wrote it. This is nothing new as it pertains to Nolan, as he has a writing credit for every single film he’s made with the exception of being uncredited as a writer for 2002’s Insomnia. One of the major criticisms of Interstellar was the writing in the film, and Dunkirk marks Nolan’s second straight misfire in the writing department. A writer’s job is to make the audience empathize and feel for the protagonists, to make them want to get up and cheer once they have accomplished their goal. To make the people that appear on screen human. That feeling never arises in Dunkirk. Sure, there are moments when the performers on screen are in peril or dire circumstances, but the only investment you have in these situations is the uncertainty of what is going to happen. You couldn’t care less whether or not these “characters” survive, and that fault should be placed squarely on the shoulders of Nolan.

With such underwritten characters present and lack of dialogue in the film, it’s hard to judge the performances Dunkirk. Every teenybopper’s dream boat of the moment and One Direction member Harry Styles makes his much anticipated acting debut in the film, but one can hardly judge his acting capabilities since he gets lost in the shuffle of all of the indispensable soldiers in the film. At this point, it seems like Christopher Nolan is determined to turn Tom Hardy into Batman supervillain Bane, as he is muffled by a plane mask throughout the film, a total waste of Mr. Hardy’s many talents. Veteran actors Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance (who might as well be wearing a tee shirt with the inscription I AM THE SPIRIT OF THE FILM) come across as the best performers, but with such minimal dialogue, Dunkirk might have been the easiest acting job they’ve had in their lengthy careers.

With all of the power Nolan has over his projects now, it’s as if no one bothers to give him notes, or as if he believes he is above them. Someone should’ve met with Nolan and said while his behind the camera craftsmanship is tremendous, the people in his movie are lifeless, inconsequential pawns lacking humanity. Had this occurred, there’s the possibility Nolan would’ve gone back to the drawing board and fleshed these people out further other than bunching them all into the theme of survival. However, maybe Nolan rules with an iron fist and no longer listens to such constructive criticism, opting to instead make his films his way. One can hardly blame him due to his impeccable resume, but one can only live off of their reputation for so long.

Do not make the mistake of thinking Dunkirk is a bad movie. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk is nothing short of masterful. From a writing and emotional investment perspective, Dunkirk is one of the most underwritten films in a long time. While I’m sure everyone will ridicule me and say “You just don’t get it.”, and maybe I truly don’t, I will not allow a great filmmaker such as Nolan off the hook for woefully underwriting the people in this film. Someone needs to stand up to him and tell him his writing abilities have woefully diminished over his last two films, but maybe I’ll be the only one to do so. Dunkirk is nothing to marvel at and laud, if anything, don’t believe the hype.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.