About that “Endgame” Box Office

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Wow. There’s really no other word for it.

Apologies in advance – this won’t just become a Marvel blog – but this past weekend’s box office performance warrants discussion.

In my lifetime, I remember when opening weekend box office became a big deal: 1997, when “The Lost World” played on basically every movie screen available. It made $74 million in 1997, a huge jump from the previous record-holder, “Batman Forever” ($52 million in 1995). Then, my freshman year of college, the record was reset twice: first, by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which made $90 million in 2001, and second by “Spider-Man,” which, by making $114 million in 2002, was the first movie to ever make nine figures in a weekend. The “Spider-Man” record was destined to stand for a long time…until “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” made $135 million in 2006. Then “Spider-Man 3” took back Spidey’s crown, earning a shocking $151 million in 2007 – I say shocking because, remember, five years earlier no movie had ever crossed $100 million, let alone $150. The numbers were starting to be unfathomable, but still, the pace was growing at a relatively reasonable rate.

Opening weekends were and have since become a much bigger part of the overall box office equation – a movie’s “legs” are important, sure, but that opening weekend determines “bomb” or “hit” in a much more blatant way than, say, 20 years ago. Meanwhile, “The Dark Knight” earned $158 million in 2008, the last “Harry Potter” movie earned $169 in 2011, and we were primed for a movie to maybe, possibly, finally hit $200 million in a weekend. And “The Avengers” did it – $207 million in its opening weekend, to be precise. That had to be it – no way were other movies going to hit $200 million again regularly. Again, this was a decade after a movie finally hit $100 million – $200 million had to be considered rarefied air. And so of course the “Avengers” record stood the test of time…all the way until 2015, when “Jurassic World” opened with $208 million. But that record fell pretty quickly, because “The Force Awakens” came out in 2015 and absolutely crushed all previous records – $247 million its opening weekend, and a lifetime total of $936 million (domestic). So, that had to be it, right? In 20 years we went from $52 million to $247 million – certainly well above mere inflation over the same two-decade period. Well, no, there was still seemingly a little more wiggle room: “Infinity War” upped the ante by opening with $257 million in 2018. You can see there have been big jumps – from $114 to $135 to $158 to $169. Even going from “Jurassic World’s” $208 to “Force Awakens” $247 was understandable, given the pent-up demand for “Star Wars” content and the fact that it was essentially a sequel to “Return of the Jedi.”

But, of course, you can see where I’m going with this: even if “Endgame,” the newly-released Avengers movie, was going to break records, you’d have maybe expected $280. Maybe $290. If you were being generous, maybe it would be the first franchise to break an honestly-unthinkable $300 million. But it didn’t do that. No – it made $350 million, shattering the previous record by almost $100 million. Think about that. Just about 18 years ago, people were floored that a movie could make $90 million in a weekend. Now “Avengers” made $96 million…on a Friday. It made $60 million just in Thursday previews. It made $109 million on Saturday, and a not-too-shabby $84 million on Sunday.

It’s mind-boggling, and unfathomable, and – yet – I’d be a fool to say, “well, this is the record that can’t be broken.” Every time I’ve thought that in the past (see above), I’ve been proven wrong. But this is leaps and bounds above normal expectations. A cursory Google search tells me the fastest mile ever ran was 3 minutes, 43 seconds. For a long period of time, a 4-minute mile was unheard of, but clearly we live in an era where sub-4 is now attainable. You’d imagine that the next best times would be something like 3 minutes and 41 seconds, maybe 3 minutes and 39 seconds – once you’re getting to such an elite level, it’s going to be hard to shave off even fractions of a second. What “Endgame” did, and what you have to appreciate in terms of how much modern cinema and movie-going has changed, is akin to running a sub 3-minute mile.

I don’t know what would be next to break “Endgame”‘s record: maybe “Rise of Skywalker,” which is for all intents and purposes the last “Star Wars” movie. But honestly – “Endgame” may be a once-in-a-lifetime event for people of my generation, where the entire pop culture landscape was dominated by just one thing. For so long, we’ve heard about the fracturing of pop culture: from three broadcast networks to four, to the rise of cable, to the rise of premium cable, to Netflix and Hulu, etc. There’s not going to be a “MASH” finale-level event where all of our TVs are dialed in on the same channel – even the Superbowl at best draws 100-something million viewers, not the majority of the country. But “Endgame” seems to be that rare movie that cracked through and created, for a weekend, a monoculture.

I have no dog in this fight – I mean, I suppose full disclosure, I own one lone share of Disney stock that was given to me well before Disney ever acquired Pixar and Lucasfilm and Marvel – but I’m just astounded. The sheer tonnage of box office receipts for this movie has made me a temporary box office pundits. (Don’t worry – in the future, I’ll leave it to the professionals.)

Spoilers for those who haven’t seen it, but honestly, the truest words Thanos may have said the whole movie can really be summed up by the crazy box office weekend we just got: “I am inevitable.”

Note: All figures cited courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo.com

Top MCU Moments

In just six days, we’ll really be in the endgame. After over 20 movies, I thought I’d pick my favorite moments from the previous Marvel movies. You’ll notice I’ve omitted scenes from any Thor movie, whose trilogy I find the weakest of the “main” Avengers; scenes with Hawkeye and Black Widow, who have not had their own solo movies; scenes featuring Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel, whose solo movies were fine but didn’t have stand-out moments; and anything from the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie. I enjoy the Marvel humor more than the action or the interconnected nature of the movies, which is certainly reflected below, and why I feel most drawn to Peter Parker, Tony Stark, and Peter Quill. Tell me in the comments what scenes or moments you think I should have included! And, of course, spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen each and every one of the MCU movies.

10. Tony quips to Harley (Iron Man 3, 2013)

9. Dance Off to Save the Universe (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014)

8. The Best Possible Use of Jeff Bridges (Iron Man, 2008)

I’m not a fan of Jeff Bridges, but this is the best way to use him in a movie – as a power-hungry boss whose voice sounds like he’s swallowing his own throat.

7. Luis Riffs (Ant-Man, 2015)

6. The Death of Killmonger (Black Panther, 2018)

Wakanda Forever

5. “I am Groot.” “I am Steve Rogers.” (Avengers: Infinity War, 2018)

The funniest moment in an otherwise quite serious movie (when half the world disappears, I’d say that qualifies as “serious”).

4. Elevator Fight! (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014)

3. The Battle of New York (Avengers, 2012)

“And Hulk? Smash.”

2. “We are Groot.” (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014)


  1. “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” (Avengers: Infinity War, 2018)

Best of 2017

During Thanksgiving weekend, my nephew wanted my family to play a game. It was pretty simple, actually: name your favorite thing, from categories he chose. Name your favorite TV show. Name your favorite movie. Name your favorite video game. Etc. As simple as the concept of the game is, however, it was wholly impossible for me to answer his questions. Having to choose my favorite movie would be like having to choose which is the favorite hair on my head. The idea of even trying to narrow down to just a handful, let alone one, was way too complicated. While I was happy to rattle off all-time favorites (“Back to the Future,” “A Few Good Men,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” all of the “Star Wars” movies, etc.) there was no way to pick just one.

So why am I bringing this up now? Because, as in years past, I’m not going to blog about my “ten favorite shows” or “eight favorite films.” I’m not bound by space or word limit. These are just the things that I either loved or thought about critically in the world of entertainment in 2017. Even though it’s been a dumpster fire of a year politically,  a lot of the below shows and movies allowed me some form of escape, at least temporarily. Here now is my list of the best of 2017, broken down by category. If you are able to narrow down your list(s), please feel free to provide it in the comments section below.

TV/Streaming

Love (Season 2)

Season 1 ended on a pretty good cliffhanger (Gus and Mickey kissing at the gas station seconds after Mickey has told Gus she needs to be alone for a year), and Season 2 really delved into the question of whether or not 1) these people actually like each other 2) these people are capable of love and 3) these people should be dating each other, either now or ever. Funny, and the show just feels…real. Special shout-out to Claudia O’Doherty’s Bertie, who cracks me up at least once an episode. Here’s hoping that the newly-announced Season 3 (the final season) sticks the landing.

Master of None (Season 2)

Man, this show. Season 1 was pretty great, and then Season 2 just upped the ante. From the premiere episode, filmed on location in Italy in black and white, to the incredible Thanksgiving episode (which rightly won an Emmy for comedic writing), to the doorman/cab driver/hearing impaired woman episode, to the episode at Storm King and ending with the helicopter ride, Season 2 was just incredible. I know Ansari is on record as saying he needs to live more before he can do a third season, and I don’t blame him. If we can get a third season as rich as this one was, I’ll happily wait a few years.

The Good Place (spoiler alert in the clip below)

Holy. Forking. Shirt. I thought The Good Place’s first season was pretty good, and it was a show that, like The Office and Parks and Rec before it, would get its sea legs in the second season. But that twist at the end of Season 1 was genius, and I did not see it coming. Special shout-out to Manny Jacinto, who has made Jason into the show’s MVP.

Superstore

When I was growing up, NBC’s Thursday night line-up (aka “Must-See TV”) was the place for comedy. Cheers and Seinfeld and Friends are all sitcom legend, and some shows (Caroline in the City, The Single Guy, Boston Common) brought some laughs, despite lackluster ratings and having to be compared to those mentioned above. What does any of that have to do with Superstore? Superstore ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s a funny workplace ensemble that really feels like a spiritual heir to The Office (without the awkwardness and the talking heads), and feels like it is of a place where it could have fit very easily into the Must-See TV schedule. It’s not the kind of show that will win accolades or awards (except from this blog, I guess), but it is consistent week-to-week, and its episode about health insurance was the best primer on the subject (in a funny way) that I’ve ever seen. Humor + distillation of timely political facts = a win in 2017.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 3)
Full disclosure: I thought this season felt a little muddled. Kimmy goes to college! Kimmy struggles in college! Kimmy leaves college! That’s a huge arc, and it was done in about 3 weeks of the show’s timeline. This season did great some great mileage out of guest stars like Laura Dern and Daveed Diggs, which I think bumped it up a notch for me.

Saturday Night Live

“Now I’d like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you, to me, for how you have treated me these last two weeks. And that apology is not accepted!”

While some may argue that Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin overshadowed the regular SNL players, SNL is clearly having a renaissance. Also, “Woke Jeans” is the sketch of the year for me, in a walk.

Billy on the Street

In a year when a lot of us wanted to just yell and scream out our frustration, Billy Eichner was our avatar.

The Leftovers (Season 3)

This show just got better and better. The final season didn’t waste time, even as the characters moved from Texas to Australia. Unlike a certain other Damon Lindeolf show, this one stuck the landing in the end. And Carrie Coon – just wow. What an all-time performance as Nora Durst.

Veep (Season 6)

The first season with Selina out of power entirely (and without Sue – who I really missed), the show smartly pivoted into a few funny story lines, most notably three terrifying words: Congressman Jonah Ryan.

Silicon Valley (Season 4)

The other half of HBO’s spring comedy duo, Silicon Valley took a few characters in new directions this year. Big Head taught at Stanford, Gavin Bellson became something approaching relatable, and poor Erlich is now stranded off in an opium den.

The 2017 Academy Awards

Well, the ending, anyway. I don’t think we’ll ever see another moment like that again, especially for presentation of best picture.

 

The Challenge: Dirty 30

Didn’t necessarily end the way I’d like, and there was a lot of drama from some random people (Nelson, I’m looking at you) and way too much (racist) Camila. That said, what a stacked cast. Wish they could just run it back.

GLOW (Season 1)

GLOW makes the brave choice of (spoiler alert) having the main character (Alison Brie) sleep with her best friend’s husband in episode 1. The show concentrates so much of its time on good guys and bad guys (or “heels” in wrestling parlance) both in and out of the ring. Like my friend Mags, I found myself compelled to root for the bad guys. Bonus points to Marc Maron for killing it as the show’s director and as a surrogate father figure to all of the GLOW ladies.

New Girl

Mostly because we finally got this moment:

 

Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

When I first saw Wet Hot American Summer, and it had the joke about meeting up ten years later, I never thought I’d be watching a whole TV season of the counselors’ lives. Of course, I also didn’t know what “streaming” or “Netflix” was, but that’s another matter. This whole series is insane, but in the best way possible.

Late Night Shows

John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and even Jimmy Kimmel really stepped up to the plate this year and delivered scorching, heart-felt, and/or impassioned monologues and comedy bits about everything from health care to net neutrality.

My friend winning Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

When I was growing up, I used to ride the bus (and later gave rides home to) a kid named Buzzy (whose dad, fun fact, sold me my Bar Mitzvah suit). Really exciting to watch him win the whole Tournament of Champions. (And let’s be honest, Austin was really fun to watch, too.)

 

Other shows I enjoyed: The resurgent third season of Mr. Robot (especially the one-take/”oner” episode), When We Rise, Handmaids Tale, The Young Pope, Future Man, This is Us, and Big Little Lies.

People

James Franco

The Disaster Artist was great, full stop, and his performance on The Deuce was what brought that show from “huh, interesting idea” to fully watchable.

Laura Dern

Between Big Little Lies, her role as Jon Hamm’s new wife on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and, of course, as Admiral Holdo, Laura Dern had an amazing 2017.

Comic Book Movies

Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, and especially Spider-Man Homecoming were all solid popcorn movies. (Of course, Justice League was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but that was the exception, not the rule.) Bonus points to the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War for looking amazing.

Star Wars

While The Last Jedi isn’t my favorite Star Wars movie, at the end of the day it was a lot of fun, and years from now I’ll still be thinking about that scene of R2 playing Luke Leia’s original “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” recording. #DroidGuiltTrip

Other Movies

The Big Sick was the best movie of the year, and I’ll be quite upset if it doesn’t get nominated for several Oscars. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote a tremendous screenplay, Zoe Kazan does great character work in what amounts to not a lot of screen time, and Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are both incredible.

War for the Planet of the Apes

I’ll admit it: I love this new “Apes” trilogy. I love the original, Charlton Heston-led Planet of the Apes (and its goofy sequels), but the serious tone of this new trilogy (especially the last two) is really enjoyable.

Stronger

Gyllenhaal is on such a weird streak of choosing interesting, good roles, some of which really pay off (Stronger, Nightcrawler), some of which are disappointing (Demolition, Life), but all of which are captivating on the big screen. I wish this movie had gotten more awards-season recognition, but c’est la vie.

Other enjoyable movies: Get Out, I, Tonya, The Post, Call Me By Your Name, The Meyerowitz Stories, Lady Bird, and the movie I’d vote for Best Picture, The Disaster Artist.

 

Music

Um, did both Gallagher brothers release new CDs this year? And did the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” become the unofficial rallying cry of the city of Manchester? Yeah, no matter what Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift tried to do, it was a good year for music in 2017.

Good Riddance

To the men who committed horrific acts (Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose) and to those who covered up or abetted their behavior, don’t let the door hit you.

RIP

Always tough to lose people who meant so much to the entertainment world, and I obviously cannot touch on everyone. But 2017 will be remembered for the losses of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Bill Paxton, Mary Tyler Moore, Miguel Ferrer, Erin Moran, Martin Landau, Powers Boothe, Don Rickles and, of course, Tom Petty.

Anything I missed? What did others enjoy in 2017? For what will you remember this year? Let me know in the comments.

In Praise of Marisa Tomei

I recently saw “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and while a lot of the movie is very good, my first comment walking out of the theater was, “Man, I wish Aunt May [Marisa Tomei] was in it more.” And it’s not the only time that Tomei has had a (small) part in a movie, done a lot with it, and left the audience wanting more. In fact, let’s take a look at her IMDB page. You may be like me and forget in just how many roles she’s been really excellent.

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Spider-Man falls into Marvel’s Web of Heroes

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I was really excited at the news that Captain America 3 was going to be loosely based on the Civil War storyline, given that I like the idea of these larger-than-life superheroes getting into conflict. I thought Captain America 2 was fantastic, especially for its ability to be a taut spy thriller. (It’s the most “Three Days of the Condor” of a movie that Marvel has ever made.) The idea that Captain America 3 will involve Iron Man and Captain America disagreeing about domestic registration of superheroes (and potentially come to blows over this disagreement) makes me psyched – it’s the friction of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but with stakes other than “We have to save the world by capturing this MacGuffin.”

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So today’s news, that Spider-Man is officially joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, warms my heart. I love Spidey. Even the terrible movies (Sam Raimi’s third, the second Marc Webb effort from last summer) have always had some redeeming qualities (Topher Grace’s Venom or Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, for instance). And the good one’s (especially 2004’s “Spider-Man 2”) transitioned the character from the comics to the screen in a way I didn’t think would be possible. So I am thrilled at the chance for Spidey to rub shoulders with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and maybe even Groot.

I’m also very happy that this means Sony may abandon plans for the Sinister Six movies they had discussed. We didn’t need six stand-alone movies about Spider-Man taking on various villians. We didn’t need an Aunt May spin-off. We didn’t need any more than the five Spider-Man movies that we’ve already gotten. And we certainly don’t need to see Peter witness Uncle Ben’s death for a third time (on screen). No, a Spider-Man who’s been doing his job (fighting crime, swinging on webs, doing whatever a spider can, etc.) rather than another iteration of the petulant and angst-ridden Peter Parker would be a nice change of a pace: a fully-formed, adult Spider-Man, capable of trading barbs with the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While I do feel bad for Andrew Garfield (I think he did an admirable job given the sub-par scripts he was handed), some fresh blood in a franchise that, as of last summer, had lost serious momentum is a cause for celebration. Although, Marvel, I do hope that you heed the words of Uncle Ben: with great power comes great responsibility. You have stoked fans’ hopes: please don’t disappoint.

Now if only Marvel could also get back the rights to Wolverine…

The Winter of My Content

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Just over two months ago, I lamented the fact that 2014 was shaping up to be a poor year for movie quality. In fact, 2014 was churning out much stronger drama on television than at the movies. But, as Rustin Cohle noted, without time, nothing grows, nothing changes.

And time changed the entertainment landscape. Gone were “True Detective,” “Masters of Sex,” “The Leftovers,” and “Mad Men.” In their place? “Saved by the Bell: The Unauthorized Story” and a plethora of fall TV offerings that looked mediocre at best. And the best drama? Back to where we expected it: the big screen. Continue reading

Summer Movies I Want to See

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In exactly eight days, I’ll be sitting in a movie theater watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier. With that, it’ll in (in my mind) officially be summer movie season. (Not sure the weather in NYC will agree with my categorization of “summer,” but that’s a discussion for a different blog). You’ll note this is pretty sequel-heavy, but that’s the industry today.

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