Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

Navigating Movie Website Ratings to Select More Enjoyable Movies

Archive for the category “Movie Calendar”

What Is the Best Month for New Movie Releases? You Might Be Surprised.

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that we were experiencing an unusual run of good July movies. Well…maybe it’s not so unusual.

After I made that comment, I made a mental note to myself to check and see how accurate my impressions were. I would have preferred to wait for this study until I had a large enough sample in the Objective Database I’m developing. An assessment based on say IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes ratings would probably be a lot more meaningful to you. But, that database isn’t large enough yet and my curiosity got the better of me. So, I took a peek at my own ratings and I was mildly surprised.

Based on the 2,016 movies I’ve seen in the last fifteen years, July releases had the highest percentage of “really like” movies for me. Here’s my ranking:

Really Liked Didn’t Really Like Total % “Really Like”
 All             878            610           1,488 59.0%
 Jul                96               52              148 64.9%
 Dec             147               86              233 63.1%
 Nov             107               63              170 62.9%
 May                86               57              143 60.1%
 Jan                93               68              161 57.8%
 Feb                78               58              136 57.4%
 Aug                85               69              154 55.2%
 Oct             109               91              200 54.5%
 Mar                77               66              143 53.8%
 Sep                85               74              159 53.5%
 Apr                79               69              148 53.4%
 Jun                83               99              182 45.6%

I had assumed that December and November movies would top the list with their appeal to Oscar voters and the holiday movie crowd. But, on the surface, it looks like it is the lazy summer days of July that have the highest likelihood of a “really like” trip to the Cineplex.

While the rankings by month displayed above aren’t illogical, they do suggest the need for a more objective foundation. Consider that I’ve watched 233 December releases compared to only 148 July releases. Does that suggest that I’m more susceptible to the Oscar bait of December? Or, that I’m more selective in which July movies I see? For now, let’s just say that the data is suggestive and interesting, but not definitive. Just be careful what you see at the theater between now and November.

***

My rule of thumb for August releases is to avoid big budget movies and seek out a solid, small budget independent release. For those of you, like my wife, who have been waiting for The Glass Castle, the early reviews are not great. So far, it is 42% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. That rating, though, is based on only 24 critic reviews and so you can still hope. I just wouldn’t run out and see it right away.

The better bets are a couple of smaller movies. Wind River, which I commented on last week, went into limited release last weekend and goes into wide release this weekend. So far it has a 7.6 average rating on IMDB and is 87% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Also, you might check out Ingrid Goes West which premiered at Sundance in January but goes into wide release this weekend. The movie’s leads, Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, have been getting strong early reviews for their performances. Interestingly, Olsen has one of the leads in Wind River as well.

 

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If You’re Going to the Movies in January, Look for December’s Leftovers.

January isn’t a bad month for the movie industry. Box Office receipts for January are close to the monthly average for the last five years. The problem is that movies that are released for the first time in January don’t do very well. It is the movies that go into limited release in December to become award eligible but wait until January for wide release that do well in January. Typically they outperform the pure January releases at the box office by over 50%. January wide release movies are usually Oscar caliber movies that may be a little too artistic for broad general appeal. The movies released for the first time in January are usually movies that didn’t make the award-quality cut and are dumped in January hoping to find any audience. There is a 56% chance that I will “really like”a movie released in January that is nominated for an Academy Award for the previous year. On the other hand, a new January release has only a 47% chance that I will “really like” it.

So, if you’re looking for a January release with the best odds of being a “really like” movie look for those wide releases still receiving some Oscar buzz. Here are my five candidates:

Silence.    Wide Release Date: Jan 6       “Really Like” Probability:  55%

Awards Circuit, as of 12/28/2016, projects Silence to earn five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Martin Scorsese explores the topic of faith through two 17th century Catholic missionaries (Andrew Garfield & Adam Driver) in Japan. It is already 90% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Hidden Figures.   Wide Release Date: Jan 6       “Really Like” Probability:  65%

Nominated for two Golden Globes, including Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures could be a January crowd pleaser. The true story of three brilliant black women who were instrumental in the launch of John Glenn into space in the 1960’s is set against a period of gender and racial bias. It’s the kind of underdog movie that is very watchable for most audiences.

Live by Night.   Wide Release Date: Jan 13       “Really Like” Probability: 45%

Awards Circuit lists Live by Night 20th on its Best Picture contenders. It received no Golden Globe nominations. It is borderline Oscar-worthy. I’m including it on my list this month because it’s based on a book by Dennis Lehane, one of my favorite authors. It’s not just because I like his books but it’s that his writing (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island) has translated so well to the big screen. Early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are not favorable but I remain optimistic that audience feedback will be positive.

Patriots Day.   Wide Release Date: Jan 13       “Really Like” Probability:  50%

This is another borderline Oscar movie but with a subject matter that should draw in a broad audience. We are almost four years removed from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing but this dramatization will refresh our memory. It has received favorable reviews so far, 80% Certified Fresh. Those closest to the events of the day have been somewhat critical of some of the liberties the movie takes but my sense is that it gets the broad strokes right.

Gold.   Wide Release Date: Jan 27       “Really Like” Probability:  45%

This movie goes into limited release today and wide release at the end of January. As a result I have very little actual data with which to recommend this movie. It has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Song, not exactly a strong movie quality leading indicator. But the producers felt it had some Oscar potential when they released it in 2016 and the storyline is intriguing. It is an adventure crime caper involving a false gold deposit claim in Indonesia, and it stars Matthew McConaughey. Before buying a ticket for this one, I’d recommend checking back on Jan. 27th when I update my probabilities on this movie.

Well, those are my leftover December Oscar hopefuls. And, because most of us don’t get a chance to see them until January, they qualify for my January picks. Enjoy.

 

December Brings Oscar Joy and Holiday Family Fun at the Movies

Our family is spread all over the USA. But, during Christmas week, our family is drawn  home like a magnet to reconnect, laugh, and cherish each other’s company. One of our traditional Christmas activities is a trip to the local movieplex for our Christmas family movie. We aren’t unique. This is a scene that plays out amongst families all over the globe. The challenge is to select a movie that everyone in the family will enjoy. Movie producers understand this and will generally release a high quality, hyper promoted escapist flick right around Christmas. Last year it was Star Wars: the Force Awakens, which was our family’s choice in 2015. Producers will also release Oscar bait that is accessible to a broad spectrum of movie tastes. For example, Titanic, the 1997 box office champion and Academy Award winner, was released on December 19th.

Here are my candidates for December visits to the movie theater. If your family, like ours, doesn’t include children, all five of these might make your list for family movie night options.

Jackie      Release Date: December 2             “Really Like” Probability: 55%

John F. Kennedy had an average approval rating of 70.1% during his Presidency, the highest post-World War II Presidential approval rating in history. When he was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the nation mourned the death, not only of their youthful President, but also of their innocence as a nation. It was the death of Camelot. This movie allows us to mourn again through the eyes of John Kennedy’s wife Jackie. The movie is on most Best Picture lists and Natalie Portman is considered a front-runner for Best Actress for her portrayal of the title character.

La La Land     Release Date: December 16             “Really Like” Probability: 70%

This is the movie I can’t wait to see. It has a good chance of being our Christmas family movie this year. It is listed on AwardCircuit as the number one Best Picture contender. It is a musical romance starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Wait, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can sing? Yes they can. Emma Stone got her first TV role in 2004 as Laurie Partridge in MTV’s show In Search of the Partridge Family. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Partridge Family, they were a fictional family musical group from a 1970’s TV show called The Partridge Family that actually produced a hit single. Ryan Gosling got his break in 1993 when he won an audition to be on the The New Mickey Mouse Club. During the two years he was on the show he lived with Justin Timberlake and his family.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story    Release Date: December 16     “Really Like” Probability: 65%

This will be the box office winner in December. When tickets became available for pre-sale this past Monday, the movie ticket purchasing website, Fandango, crashed because of demand for tickets. This is the movie that will be on almost everyone’s family movie night list and, yes, it will be on our family’s list as well. It is the story of how the plans to the Death Star that play such a prominent role in the original Star Wars, made their way into the hands of the rebels. It is a stand-alone movie. There will be no sequel, according to Lucasfilm President, Kathleen Kennedy. And, yes, Darth Vader does make an appearance.

Passengers      Release Date: December 21           “Really Like” Probability: 60%

It’s always tricky to recommend a movie that no one, not even critics, has seen. I’m looking forward to this movie because I’m a fan of both Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. It is their first movie together and I’m curious whether these two attractive young stars will have chemistry or not. I’m a fan of good Sci Fi and the premise is intriguing; two space traveling passengers, who are part of a crew of thousands, wake up 90 years early. Both the director and the screenwriter have limited resumes but have created some interesting movies including The Imitation Game ( Director Morten Tyldum) and the recently released Doctor Strange (Screenwriter Jon Spaihts). The producers are opening this movie just before Christmas, which suggests that they believe this is a movie that people will want to see. I hope they are right because I’m one of them.

Fences        Release Date: December 25           “Really Like” Probability: 60%

The revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1983 play Fences opened on Broadway April 26, 2010. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning three, Best Revival and, Best Actor and Actress for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. On Christmas Day, this play, with most of its Broadway cast intact makes the leap to the big screen. I expect that when Academy Awards nominations are announced in January, this movie will have its name called often. Awards Circuit  has it ranked second on its Best Picture list and predicts an additional seven nominations.It is a movie about race relations in the 1950’s told through the experience of a black family living in Pittsburgh. In addition to playing the lead, Denzel Washington will be behind the camera as well as Director. The buzz is that he will be a double nominee for both roles. This is the type of socially significant movie that Oscar voters love. I think I’ll love it as well.

As a familiar Christmas carol sings out, “It’s the most wonderful (movie) time of the year.”

 

Was October 2016 Really a Dud for New Movies? It Was and It Wasn’t Even (Horror)ible.

October traditionally kicks off of the Oscar season at the movies. In my last post I called this October a dud. Was it really? Or, did I overestimate the quality of movies that typically come out in October. Being the data geek that I am, I decided to test my gut reaction to last month’s movies. I looked at the top ten October movies at the box office for the ten year period 2006 to 2015 and compared them to last month. I looked at the number of Oscar nominations. audience feedback (IMDB), and critical feedback (Rotten Tomatoes).

The first thing I discovered that I hadn’t thought of last week was that October is not only the kick off to Oscar season, but it is also Halloween month. Twenty seven of the hundred movies in my sample were horror movies, and many of them were pretty bad horror movies.

 2006 to 2015 # of Oscar Nominations Avg. IMDB Rating Avg. Rotten Tomatoes Rating
Oct. Horror Movies 0 6.3 45% Rotten

In terms of box office, Horror movies are on average 24% of October ticket sales. This percentage would be even higher if I included Halloween themed family movies such as Frankenweenie.

So what do October movies look like if you exclude the Horror movies. Here is an average of the ten years excluding the 27 Horror movies:

 2006 to 2015 Avg. # of Oscar Nominations Avg. IMDB Rating Avg. Rotten Tomatoes Rating
All Other Oct. Movies 8 7.4 66% Fresh

For the typical October, the 7.3 movies in the top ten that aren’t Horror movies earn an average of 8 Oscar nominations. Last year there were 18 nominations  for 6 non-Horror movies. 2009 was the only year that there were no Oscar nominated movies in the October top ten. Based on the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes results audiences and critics typically like October movies.

Which brings us back to the month just past. Here are the October 2016 box office rankings so far. Here are the qualitative results for the top ten:

# of Projected Oscar Nominations Avg. IMDB Rating Avg. Rotten Tomatoes Rating
Oct. 2016 Horror Movies 0 6.7 82% Certified Fresh
All Other Oct. 2016 Movies 0 6.7 44% Rotten

Despite the fact that there was only one Horror movie in the top ten, none of the remaining nine top ten October movies is presently expected to earn an Oscar nomination. I base this on the up to date projections provided by Awards Circuit. The only movie the critics gave a Certified Fresh score to was the Horror Movie, Ouija: Origin of Evil. The average Rotten Tomatoes Rating of 44% Rotten for non-Horror movies is worse than any of the ten years in the sample. The average IMDB rating of 6.7 ties 2008, 2009, and 2011 for the lowest ratings in the sample.

So, when I suggested that October 2016 was a dud for new movies, it was probably an understatement. October 2016 may actually be the worst October in the last eleven years. It wasn’t (horror)ible. It was horrible.

October Kicks Off the Oscar Season, the Time of Year When It’s Safe for Adults to Go to the Movies.

Last year two Best Picture nominated movies, The Martian and Bridge of Spies, went into wide release in October. Another nominated movie, Room, went into limited release in October to help build some buzz around the movie before releasing it to a wide audience in January. This year, according to awardscircuit.com, two October releases, The Birth of a Nation and The Girl on the Train, are top tier Best Picture contenders. October is a better than average month for the wide release of Best Picture nominees. In the last 25 years, 16 movies have gone into wide release in October that were nominated for Best Picture. Another 7 nominated movies went into limited release. That’s 14.6% of all Best Picture nominated movies over the last quarter century went into wide or limited release in October.

With this kind of track record you would expect that October is a great month for “really like” movies. This is not necessarily so. The “really like” probability for a movie that goes into wide release in October is 40.7%. This is better than September’s 38.3% but not much better. Part of the reason is that October is not a great box office month. Without a heavy dose of young moviegoers, October’s box office sales are about 37% less than the average monthly box office for the year. The Oscar contenders that open in October may not have the full confidence of the studios. The studios believe they are award worthy but aren’t confident enough in them to compete for box office sales with the movies slated to open around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. By opening in October, studios may believe that they are providing these movies with some time to build buzz and an audience without competing with some higher profile contenders. That being said, my five October picks below have my interest.

The Girl on the Train. Release date: October 7   “Really Like” Probability Forecast:50%

This movie has the feel of another October release from two years ago, Gone Girl. Based on a very popular book, The Girl on the Train is another thriller involving a missing person. The Director, Tate Taylor, has successfully directed the adaptation of another best seller, The Help, into a very successful movie. Can he do it again? I loved Gone Girl and I loved The Help. I’m betting that I will love The Girl on the Train as well.

The Birth of a Nation. Release date: October 7   “Really Like” Probability Forecast:45%

There is a lot of positive buzz about this movie and a lot of negative buzz about this movie’s director, Nate Parker, resulting from a 17 year old rape case. The “really like” probability has much to do with the former and not much to do with the latter, and so I will focus on the movie. At Sundance, the movie won both the Grand Jury award and Audience award. Fox Searchlight won the rights to the movie, with a record-breaking bid of $17.5 million, after a bidding war with Amazon and Netflix. The movie was shown on opening night at the Toronto Film Festival last month and received a standing ovation. This movie’s buzz is generated from people who have seen the movie. It is also the kind of historically based movie I enjoy.

The Accountant. Release date: October 14   “Really Like” Probability Forecast:40%

This movie looks like good escapist fun. How often do you see a math whiz as an action hero? This movie has an appealing cast, headed by Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick. The director, Gavin O’Connor, directed two movies I loved, Warrior and Miracle. And, the screenwriter for the movie, Bill Dubuque, also wrote the critically underrated 2014 film The Judge. I’m intrigued.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Release date: October 21   “Really Like” Probability Forecast:40%

I watched the first movie in this franchise, Jack Reacher, in 2015. While not quite a “really like” movie, I did enjoy it. So why is this movie on my prospect list? It is because Edward Zwick is directing it. Edward Zwick has directed five movies that I absolutely love, Glory, Courage Under Fire, Blood Diamond, Legends of the Fall, and The Last Samurai. I’m betting he will upgrade this second movie in the franchise to a “really like” movie.

Inferno. Release date: October 28   “Really Like” Probability Forecast:35%

Readers of this blog are aware that I am an admirer of the work of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. This is their third collaboration involving author Dan Brown’s character, Robert Langdon. I’ve read the first two books and I am on the last 150 pages of Inferno. I’ve seen the first two movies in the series, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. They both were “like”/”really like” movies. Inferno is on this list because I can’t help myself. I’m addicted.

These five selections are typical for October, a couple of Oscar contenders and a few crowd pleasers. There’s no guarantee I’ll “really like” any of them, but I want to. October is the beginning of the season for movies targeted at adults and I want to see more of them.

September, When the Movies You Expect to be Good Are Bad and Vice Versa

Picking “really like” movie prospects for September is a tricky game. The movies that sound good probably aren’t and the movies that don’t sound good may be alright. As I mentioned in my last post, there is a 38.3% chance that I will “really like” a movie released in September. That means that, if I pick five movies as “really like” September prospects, I could randomly pick five and stand a good chance that two of them will be “really like” movies. Right? Theoretically, that’s true. But, I’m not picking randomly, I’m trying to pick movies I’d like which may work against me.

For example, my first movie is:

Sully. Release Date: September 9, 2016       “Really Like” Probability: 40%

This movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Tom Hanks. In the last 15 years I’ve seen 15 movies directed by Clint Eastwood and “really liked” 12 of them. Over the same time frame I’ve watched 25 movies that Tom Hanks starred in and 20 of those I “really liked”. So, I “really liked” 80% of the movies I’ve seen for both the Director and the Actor. Here’s something else those 40 movies have in common. None of them were released in September. If a movie that involves the pedigree of Eastwood and Hanks is released in September, should we be skeptical? Yes, but because of the pedigree, I have to put the movie on the prospect list.

Similarly, my second prospect:

The Magnificent Seven . Release Date: September 23, 2016  “Really Like” Probability: 35%

This movie also stars a very bankable actor, Denzel Washington, and a new star, Chris Pratt. I’ve seen 23 Denzel Washington movies and “really liked” 17 of them. The movie is also in one of my favorite genres, the Western. But, guess what, none of those 23 movies was released in September. Again, this is a movie I want to see but the release date makes me skeptical.

Which brings me to three movies that don’t jump out and say “watch me” but are intriguing nonetheless. The first is:

The Light Between Oceans. Release Date:September 2, 2016 “Really Like” Probability: 35%

This movie stars two big name actors, Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, who happen to be in a relationship in their private lives. Does the off-screen chemistry translate on-screen a la Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy? We’ll have to wait and see if this melodrama rises above September expectations.

The next movie may be September-proof:

Queen of Katwe.  Release Date: September 30, 2016    “Really Like” Probability: 45%

Walt Disney Pictures over the last couple of decades has developed  a sub-genre specialty in their efforts  to produce family oriented entertainment, the “true underdog ” Sports Movie. While on occasion they’ve taken liberty with the facts, as in the 2015 McFarland, USA, their product has been consistently entertaining.This year’s underdog competitor is a young girl from a Ugandan village who trains to be a world chess champion. I believe that this movie is the most promising of the month.

For my final choice, I’m going with a selection from the odd filmography of Tim Burton:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Release Date: September 30, 2016         “Really Like” Probability: 35%

Why did I pick this movie? Maybe it’s because it has a little bit of a Harry Potter feel to it. The clincher though is that Samuel L. Jackson is in the movie. There are five actors who I’ve seen in at least 25 movies over the past 15 years. Samuel L. Jackson is one of the five. And, he ranks only behind Tom Hanks in the average rating I’ve given those movies.

That’s all I’ve got. After all it is September movies we’re talking about.

 

 

 

When Might We See the Next Perfect Netflix-DVD Movie?

Last Thursday I posted a list of 51 movies that received a Netflix-DVD perfect score of 4.9. For anyone who has experienced the joy of seeing a movie that they absolutely love, you know that those couple of hours of cinema nirvana don’t happen every day. If I’m lucky enough to run across a movie with a Netflix-DVD Best Guess of 4.9, that I haven’t seen, I know that there is a high probability that movie heaven has arrived. So the question is, “When am I likely to discover another Netflix-DVD movie with a 4.9 rating?”

Well, of the 51 perfect score movies out there today, here is the breakdown by month of how many 4.9 movies have gone into wide release for a given month:

Dec 14
Jun 7
Oct 7
May 6
Remaining Months < 5

It is not surprising that December is far and away the most represented month. Producers that are most confident in a particular movie’s chances of winning Oscar gold, release those movies in December. If we consolidate this list down to the three movie seasons, we see that Netflix perfection isn’t limited to Awards Season.

 # of  Movies # of movies per Month
Awards Season 25 8.3
Blockbuster Season 21 4.2
Dump Season 5 1.3

While it might appear that a perfect score movie is almost as likely to be released during Blockbuster Season as Awards Season, you need to keep in mind that Awards Season (Oct – Dec) is three months long while Blockbuster Season (Mar – Jul) is five months long. Based on the monthly average a perfect Netflix movie is almost twice as likely to be released during Awards Season as opposed to Blockbuster Season. Rarely is a perfect movie released in Dump Season. One of the five movies, Million Dollar Baby, went into limited release in December to be eligible for that year’s Awards Season before going into wide release in January. It was therefore released only technically during Dump Season.

So, now we know that the most likely time of the year for a new perfect score movie to be released is during Awards Season, particularly in December. Are we likely to see one released this year? Here’s where it gets tricky. From 1992 to 2010, at least one perfect score movie was released every year. Since 2010, we’ve had three released in 2012 and one released last year. Here’s the breakdown by decade:

2010’s 6
2000’s 15
1990’s 14
1980’s 7
1970’6 5
1960’s 2
1950’s 0
1940’s 2

Does this mean that movie heaven begins and ends between 1990 and 2009? No, the answer is more mundane. The answer lies in the statistical concept of the law of large numbers. Netflix needs a large statistical base of ratings for a particular movie before its model will assign it a 4.9. It is only with those large numbers will the Netflix model be able to confidently predict that you will love a particular movie. Of the 51 perfect score movies on my list, only four have fewer than 1,000,000 ratings – the relatively recent movies, The Martian, Argo, Lincoln, and the 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. The preponderance of perfect score movies between 1990 and 2009 has more to do with the fact that they are the most seen movies by Netflix raters.

To the question, “When will the next perfect Netflix-DVD movie come along?”, the answer is that it probably already has come along and it’s just waiting for enough Netflix ratings. Based on the results from 1992 to 2010, there is likely to be a perfect score movie this year, although it probably hasn’t been released yet (the one already released movie with a shot is Captain America: Civil War). In the mean time, watch those perfect Netflix movies from my last post that may have slipped by you. Experience a little bit of movie heaven while we wait for th next perfect movie to reveal itself.

Going to August Movies This Year May Be Suicide, but Some “Really Like” Prospects Come in Small Packages

As I mentioned in my last post, August is a below average month for ticket sales at the box office. Accordingly, August is one of the months that movie distributors use to dump movies that they don’t expect to do well. The historical exception to this is promising small movies with modest budgets. It is possible that there is a second exception.Two years ago we saw the successful launch of Guardians of the Galaxy on the first weekend in August. The gamble was that the first weekend in August was more like July, the blockbuster mecca, than the rest of August.

In selecting my August “really like” prospects, the trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff. I need to find the movies that fit the exceptions noted above and avoid the dumps. With that in mind, consider the following five movies:

Suicide Squad  Release Date: August 5, 2016  “Really Like Probability” 45%

One of the classic movies released in the 1960’s was The Dirty Dozen, in which twelve criminals with special skills were recruited for a black-ops mission during World War II. The success of The Dirty Dozen hinged on humanizing these “bad men” so that the audience would root for them. The movie succeeded in doing this by infusing a liberal dose of humor. Suicide Squad is a comic book version of the same story. Coming out of last week’s Comic-Con in San Diego, the movie is riding a positive buzz. I’m betting on the buzz being because the movie is good and not just hype. Because nobody has seen this movie so far, the probability reflects a little better than average probability for an August movie. As we get closer to opening weekend we’ll gain a better handle on whether this movie earns the buzz.

Hell or High Water  Release Date: August 12, 2016   “Really Like” Probability: 45%

This western, which premiered at Cannes this year, is very promising. Director David MacKenzie was nominated at Cannes for his work on the film. The screenplay was written by Taylor Sheridan, who made an impressive screenwriting debut last year for the hit Sicario. And, Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers who rob banks to save their farm while trying to avoid the dogged pursuit of a Texas Ranger, played by Jeff Bridges. Based on 15 reviews, Hell or High Water is already 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. With 200 votes on IMDB, it has an early average rating of 7.6.

Florence Foster Jenkins  Release Date: August 12, 2016  “Really Like” Probability: 40%

Meryl Streep is renowned for her ability to assume the accents of the many characters she has played in her distinguished career. In Florence Foster Jenkins, Streep, an accomplished singer, has to assume the singing voice of a woman who can’t sing a lick. This movie has already been released internationally and so we already have more feedback on it than is typical before a U.S. release. With 49 reviews in, it is 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s average rating on IMDB is a 7.1, but is 7.4 for voters over 45. Even without the positive feedback, though, any movie with Meryl Streep qualifies as a prospect. You can throw in Hugh Grant as the husband of Florence Foster Jenkins if you need more convincing.

Southside with You  Release Date: August 26, 2016  “Really Like” Probability: 35%

I’m a big fan of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy. The dialogue driven movies have an authenticity that are unusual in the Romance genre. Director and screenwriter Richard Tanne modeled his approach to the romance portrayed in Southside with You on Linklater’s work. That has me intrigued. The fact that the movie portrays the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama is an added dimension. Because this movie has taken the movie festival route including an opening at Sundance, there has been some feedback from critics, receiving an 88% fresh so far from 24 critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Given that we are in the middle of a heated political season, don’t be surprised if some political passions seep into the IMDB voting.

Little Men  Release Date: August 5, 2016     “Really Like” Probability” 30%

This is not  an adaptation of the Luisa May Alcott novel, but it is similar in its coming of age themes. Two young men, growing up in Brooklyn, develop a friendship while their parents feud. I’m kind of a sucker for good coming of age flix. This one opened in January at Sundance and has been shown domestically and internationally at a number of additional festivals since then. It has been favorably reviewed so far. Rotten Tomatoes is at 94% fresh based on 16 reviews. It is the kind of small movie that can do well in August.

For a month that isn’t favorable for good movies, there seems to be enough “really like” movies to look forward to if you stick mainly to small packages.

 

 

After the First Weekend, Think Small For August “Really Like” Movies

Easily the most anticipated movie release this August is the DC Comics movie Suicide Squad. Tracking numbers suggest that this could be the first August release to ever do $100,000,000+ at the box office in its opening weekend. The key piece of information in the last sentence isn’t that this high budget blockbuster movie is expected to do well. The key piece of information is that it could be the “first” August release to be a $100 million movie on opening weekend. August hasn’t historically been a good movie box office month. From 2011 to 2015, monthly box office sales averaged about $890 million a month. Over the same time frame, the August average box office was around $767 million, a below average month. It hasn’t typically been a month that is kind to blockbusters. In 2014, Disney struck gold with the August 1 release of the Marvel product, Guardians of the Galaxy  with a total gross sales of over $333 million against a $170 million budget. The following year Twentieth Century Fox tried to copy Guardians’ success by releasing the reboot of the Marvel comic creation Fantastic Four. It bombed, taking in a little over $56 million in total box office against a $120 million budget. Suicide Squad may very well determine the future of the first weekend in August as a launching pad for blockbusters.

You can find “really like” movies in every month. August is no different. Here are my top “really like” movies released in August:

Budget
Rear Window  $           1,000,000
In the Heat of the Night  $           2,000,000
Fugitive, The  $         44,000,000
Searching for Bobby Fischer  Not available
Sixth Sense, The  $         40,000,000

While all of these movies are excellent movies, August hasn’t been a particularly good month for “really like” movies. There is only a 41.9% probability that a movie released in August will be a “really like” movie for me.

Of the top 100 movies on IMDB’s Top Rated Movies list, only 4 were released in August, and all 4 were released over 35 years ago. Since the year 2000, there have been 106 Best Picture nominees. Only 4 were released in August:

Budget
The Help  $         25,000,000
District 9  $         30,000,000
Inglorious Basterds  $         75,000,000
Boyhood  $           4,000,000

The movies of quality released in August, prior to Guardians of the Galaxy, were typically low to modestly high budget movies. This makes sense when the month averages a below average box office.

Last year’s top August movies in terms of box office were:

Gross (000000) Budget (000000)
Straight Outta Compton $161.20  $                     28.00
War Room $67.80  $                       3.00
Fantastic Four $56.10  $                   120.00
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. $45.40  $                     75.00
The Gift $43.80  $                       5.00

The high budget movies bombed. The low budget movies succeeded.

You’ll need to come back on Thursday to see whether I think the Suicide Squad gamble will produce a “really like” movie. Beyond that I’ll be looking for modestly budgeted movies for my potential “really like” gems.

Will We Find Something Special in the July Movie Releases?

As I look ahead to July, the peak month of the blockbuster season, my challenge is to find five potential movie gems that I will “really like”. I’m not looking for the top five possible winners at the box office, though some of my choices will be on that list. I might even watch one of the July releases and walk away feeling that the movie is special. In the last five years there have only been a handful of movies released in July that have approached this level. In July 2012, there were two. One was a blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises, while the other was a low budget documentary that went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Searching For Sugar Man. The five movies that follow are those five that I think have the best possibility of being special.

Jason Bourne. Release Date: July 29, 2016    “Really Like” Probability: 62.5

This is the third collaboration in the series between director, Paul Greengrass, and actor, Matt Damon. Putting aside The Bourne Legacy, which you can almost consider as a stand alone movie since it didn’t involve Greengrass or Damon, each movie in the series was a “really like” movie. The last movie in their collaboration, The Bourne Ultimatum, is, arguably, the best in the series. The word from producer Frank Marshall is that this movie features a chase scene along the Las Vegas strip that is the best chase scene in the series.

Captain Fantastic. Release Date: July 8, 2016    “Really Like” Probability: 44.3

This movie is in the early discussion for Oscar consideration, having won Best Film at the Seattle International Film Festival and garnered Director Awards for Matt Ross at Cannes and Palm Springs. It’s about a father, played by Viggo Mortensen, who raises his six children off the grid in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the challenges they face when they are forced to return to the “civilized” world to address an emergency.

Star Trek Beyond. Release Date: July 22, 2016    “Really Like” Probability: 32.1

J. J. Abrams directed the first two movies in this Star Trek series reincarnation and I rated both of them as “really like” movies. Justin Lin, who directed four of the Fast and Furious franchise movies, takes over for Abrams in the Director’s chair for this film. I have never seen a Justin Lin directed movie which makes me a little hesitant with this one. But, with Abrams overseeing as Producer and Idris Elba playing the villain, Krall, I am ready for another trip on the Enterprise.

The BFG. Release Date: July 1, 2016    “Really Like” Probability: 32.1

I’ll finalize my probability for this movie tomorrow. I don’t believe it will be a special movie, but I do believe it can be a “really like” movie. Raold Dahl, Steven Spielberg, and last year’s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor, Mark Rylance, are a promising combination. Early reviews are mixed but audiences have yet to weigh in. This is one that you may want to wait on until after opening weekend.

Café Society.  Release Date: July 15 (limited) July 29 (Wide)    “Really Like” Probability: 23.0

The low probability on this one is deceptive. I actually feel that, while not on the same level as Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, this latest film from Woody Allen may be in the ball park. Based on buzz from the Cannes and Seattle festivals, it has made some early lists for Oscar contenders. Allen, who has a knack for attracting top talent, recently lined up Kate Winslet for his next movie. For this comedy, set in the 1930’s, he has another ensemble of “A’ list talent including Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Blake Lively.

One of the joys of looking ahead at the movies being released in the next month is the hope that one or two of them will be magical. July, historically, has been a month that produces its fair share of these special movies. Maybe one of these five movies will be one of those iconic movies that earn the sobriquet “classic”.

 

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