Saturday, June 21, 2014

It's Movie Season!

Summer is synonymous with big-budget, fast paced, spectacle driven, “popcorn” movies. In the same way that much of the Academy fare clusters towards the end of the year, the great majority of grand action epics and large scale family films come out in summer, which is natural enough considering that the kids are out of school and the parents are looking for a way to get out of the house, beat the heat, and catch a break. The summer blockbuster season runs from May-August, and trips to the cinema to see the next big feature are becoming as much of a summer tradition as barbecue, baseball, and playing in the pool.
In film the term “blockbuster” is a denotation of a movie’s budget and marketing effort but it has practically come to be a genre of its own. Blockbusters are aimed at mass markets all around the globe, have gigantic production budgets (always north of $150 million), and colossal marketing efforts that permeate everything from restaurant promotions and billboards to secondary markets like toys and video games. Studios depend on these mega-franchise tent poles to prop up the rest of the year’s efforts which may not always live up to expectations. A blockbuster is a “happy meal franchise” that can always be depended on to bring in big money, shore up excitement, and have mass appeal.
The Summer Blockbuster display has been one of the most popular front door exhibits at the library for two years straight. All of the biggest blockbusters, from Ice Age to X-Men, are spotlighted for your convenience – and usually just in time for you to catch up before the next installment hits the theater. Come in to the library today to get your stay-at-home blockbuster movie night started!
Here is just a snippet of the selection available in the building:
The Avengers
Two years ago The Avengers smashed records all around the world and went on to become the third highest grossing movie of all time. While it can’t properly be labeled a sequel, The Avengers was built up to for years by summer homeruns like Iron Man and Captain America. The Avengers success breathed new life in to the already decade old run of comic book movies and has guaranteed studios will keep churning out the exploits of masked crusaders for years to come.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy started off relatively modestly with 2005’s Batman Begins but 2008’s The Dark Knight blew away audiences and obliterated the box office with a near perfect blend of summer thrills and a deeper, more complex movie magic led by Heath Ledger’s masterful performance as The Joker. The Dark Knight Rises was never going to live up to the precedent and hype in 2012 but nonetheless performed solidly enough to cement the franchise as a summer champion for the record books.
 Pirates of the Caribbean
The Pirates of the Caribbean series is one of the most successful summer franchises because it so effectively balances its appeal between children and adults. While kids love the swashbuckling, wise cracking heroics of Captain Jack Sparrow, parents can sink their teeth in to a classic adventure tale with solid acting, surprising depths, and plenty of winks and nods to the adults in the audience.
The first Shrek was a surprise hit in May of 2001 and when the sequel absolutely demolished expectations three years later a franchise was born. The next two films burnt off a little steam but still performed well enough to spawn a spin-off series for the lovable Puss in Boots. The success of Shrek paved the way for the modern trend of animated summer blockbusters geared aggressively at the younger crowd including hits like Despicable Me, Madagascar, and How To Train Your Dragon.
The Lone Ranger
Not every batter who comes to the plate is going to hit the ball and 2013’s The Lone Ranger struck out swinging in embarrassing fashion. What was undoubtedly intended to be the start of a franchise crashed more horrendously than one of the ill-fated trains in the film. Part of the problem was the movie’s bloated budget of $215 million which it pretty clearly was never going to make back. Still, what could have been counted as an investment turned in to nothing more than a disaster for Disney when the films paltry $89 million domestic gross and awful critical reception doomed any hope for future installments.
Michael Bay is simultaneously one of the most revered and ridiculed names in all of Hollywood. Bay is the butt of endless jokes on the internet and has been attacked countless times on television in shows like South Park, Family Guys, and The Simpsons. Still, the director seems to have the pulse of summer as his mindless, fast paced, explosion-centric films seem to be exactly what audiences crave this time of year. The Transformers films are some of the most profitable ever made and are the cinematic equivalent of fireworks and hot dogs – they are loud, fun, shallow, and meant to be enjoyed as a silly, indulgent guilty pleasure. Michael Bay’s films aren’t ever going to win any (significant) awards but they are a perfectly fine way to spend a scorching summer day.
With gratuitous violence and a suspense driven narrative Jaws certainly doesn’t fit the mold of today’s summer blockbusters. Nonetheless, it is widely considered to be the one that started it all back in the summer of 1975. There has been array of books, essays, and articles discussing Jaws’ impact on the film industry with Wikipedia referring to it as “a watershed moment in motion picture history”. The film’s wide release and concentrated marketing effort was unlike anything that came before it and set the standard for the Hollywood business model that has come to produce heavyweight franchises like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Spider-Man.
This is just the tip of the sand castle for summer blockbusters available at the library. Come in and take some home today!
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk