Wrapping up the year at the box office
Cinematically, 2015 brought a refreshing, less franchise-dominated slate of wide marketing triumphs, allowing filmmakers to shoot for blockbuster and tent pole contenders with an accent on characters whose names we never heard previously.
Superheroes saw only three endeavors, “Avengers Age of Ultron,” the introduction of “Ant-Man,” and another reboot of “Fantastic Four.” Overwhelmed by ‘bots, the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man generated action and excitement from “flame on,” but unfortunately, the newest attempt to integrate the “Fantastic Four” into the Marvel Universe established likable characters, but the Baxter Building conflicts (it appears) with Tony Stark’s skyscraper. In short, Thing, Torch and Invisible Girl again do not carve a strong niche, which is ironic: The Fantastic Four launched the Marvel brand.
Summer held a pleasing, improbable “Jurassic World,” as the dinos scored up close and begging a tiny amount of dental floss. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) pulls off a gender equality coup as the park’s operations manager, blending a few vulnerable Fay Wray of “King Kong” qualities and a strong show-no-emotion leadership cotillion, best equated by a proclamation, “I can do anything a man can do better and in a dress and high heels.”
Tom Hanks’ “Bridge of Spies” recalled Cold War diplomacy and all the bomb implications through the senses of a little known insurance defense attorney who believes that a fair trial for the enemy means one that sustains constitutional scrutiny.
Counter intelligence spying delivered for thrill seekers, predominately with Tom Cruise’s impossible “Rogue Nation,” 007’s captivating “Spectre,” and a grueling, insightful odyssey of one “American Sniper.”
“The Duff” recreated the spirit of John Hughes with a female challenging the traditional teen expectations , and “The Gallows” (along with “Crimson Peak” offered restructured looks on horror. “Gallows” took the simplicity of a stage prop and turned it ghastly, while “Peak” stuck with an old fashioned gothic ghost story (sans extra blood or dismembering ).
Personal dramas discovered the “Christian” perspective. “Do You Believe,” “Heaven is for Real” and “War Room” delivered traditional and prayerful beliefs into the mainstream matrix. Humor, decisions, and relationships mend mostly without a loud preachy sermon.
“Tomorrowland” may have flopped at the box office, but it had undoctored visionary dreams, just as the animated “Inside Out” dashed past extraordinary imagination to mix the effects of juggling emotions. “Paper Towns,” in a year of few romantic comedies, echoed the physical and intellectual ‘games’ that occasionally bring two soul mates into each others lives, even if no commitment is desired.
Because of the publication deadline, this assessment did not allow for the inclusion of two 2015 blockbusters … “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 2” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” as well as glimpses at potential artistic successes like “Concussion” (exploring the NFL health cover up) and “Trumbo” (the Red Scare persecution of a top 40s screenwriter).
It’s impossible to revisit the 110th floor of the World Trade Center, whether for a bottom to top kiss or dangling on a wire between the twins. “The Walk” took the obsession of a wire walker and turned the true story into a comedic heist in which the audience solidly favors the trespassers. Just wish the structures still stood.
2016 will pit “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “X-Men Apocalypse,” and “Doctor Strange” on the costumed hero battlefields. “Batman & Superman” face-off in May, Cap and X-Men take mid-summer and Doc Strange comes in late fall.
Science fiction beams “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and “Star Trek Beyond” with captivated eyes and brains asking, will departing from prior conceptions prove popular?
Curious titles, too – “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” “Snowden,” and “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” blend pop feel good psychology with two intriguing thrillers based in part on factual international legacies, and the much awaited July 15 “Ghostbusters,” which introduces females to the team.
Bible-inspired period dramas unfold with a big budget “Ben Hur” and “Young Messiah,” both of which may not surpass the modern settings and more personal intimacy of “Miracles from Heaven” and “I Saw the Light”
The year will bring more apocalyptic visions… aliens return in “Independence Day Resurgence,” there’s another “Purge,” “London Falls” to zombies, and a young woman named “Valencia,” survives a chemical attack on the homeland.
Thinking very family-friendly? “Finding Dory” in mid-summer releases the next installment in the “Finding Nemo” franchise along with a new “Ice Age,” “Pete’s Dragon” and “The Jungle Book.”
Best Title Conceptions: “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” and “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.”