10 things we learned from the summer blockbusters
"TRANSFORMERS: Age of Extinction" marks the zenith of the summer season, so now's a good time to consider the top 10 things we've learned so far.
1. Kevin Hart rules. The classic Hollywood definition of "star" is someone who can bring an audience to a mediocre movie. We give you "Think Like A Man Too," which opened last week at No. 1 - the fourth week that Hart has spent this year in the top spot. Three of those weeks were thanks to "Ride Along." And he just missed with "About Last Night," which opened at No. 2.
2. Seth Rogen also rules, though often as part of a comedy junta. Rogen's "Neighbors" (with Rose Byrne and Zac Efron) is one of the the summer's top word-of-mouth hits. Rogen plays a devoted husband and father so amiably that it seems safe to say that . . .
3. Seth Rogen movies do not cause weirdos to go on shooting rampages. After a lunatic in California went on an armed killing spree in Isla Vista in May, leaving behind a manifesto with misogynist content, one critic described Rogen movies like "Neighbors" as a scummy petri dish that helps a lack of respect for women to fester. Couple of things: Rogen almost always plays a slobby underachiever who realizes he has to shape up in order to be worthy of a good woman - the butt of most of his jokes is himself. Not that Hollywood's completely off the hook here. The kook's manifesto also showed signs for nihilism, consumerism and narcissism, which Hollywood enthusiastically peddles every week, although . . .
4. The really creepy stuff is at the art house. Lars von Trier's porn extravaganza "Nymphomaniac" probably was misogynist (a woman asks to be beaten because she purportedly likes it). There was some creepy-good stuff at the art house as well: the Coens-meets-Carpenter violence of "Cold in July," or the escalating violence of "Blue Ruin."
5. Comedy is Hollywood's most profitable product. "Neighbors" cost $18 million, and returned $150 million. "22 Jump Street" cost $50 million and has doubled the studio's money already. "X-Men United" has made $216 million, but it cost $200 million. "Godzilla" made $190 million, but cost $160 million.
6. Comedy is profitable, but it has to be reasonably smart comedy. No one will mistake "Neighbors" and "Jump Street" for Noel Coward, but they contain some inventive and clever bits (Channing Tatum: "I thought we had Cate Blanchett." I'm still laughing at that). Seth MacFarlane, by contrast, thought it would be funny to have Neil Patrick Harris poop in his hat for five minutes. So, "A Million Ways to Die in the West" cost $40 million (that's a lot of stunt hats) and made only $40 million.
7. If it weren't for YA novels and comic books, Hollywood would be in deep poop. "Captain America," et al., keep the machinery running in Hollywood, and book-driven titles like "Divergent" and "The Fault in Our Stars" now open reliably at the top. More evidence that . . .
8. Movie audiences are increasingly female. When Tom Cruise's new action movie "Edge of Tomorrow" opened - and, by the way, it isn't half bad - it finished third, behind "The Fault in Our Stars" and week two of "Maleficent." Angelina Jolie's movie was unenthusiastically reviewed but is still making gobs of money. And by the way, pairing Cruise with Emily Blunt wasn't the worst idea in the world. Just as "Captain America" got a lot better when Chris Evans was paired with Scarlett Johansson.
9. Probably everything is better when paired with Scarlett Johansson. She turned up alongside Jon Favreau in "Chef," a nice summer movie for grown-ups. Not many ventured into the art house, though, to see her freaky Lynchian alien stalker movie "Under the Skin."
10. Somebody needs to come up with better titles. "Edge of Tomorrow"? "Days of Future Past"? Those sound like soap operas canceled due to lack of interest. We also need better character names. No one is named Ford Brody or Cade Yaeger except in "Godzilla" or "Transformer" movies.
And if your name really is Ford Brody, or Cade Yaeger, or Ford Jaeger, or Cade Brody, or Ford Brody-Yaeger, please don't email me.