Sun’s out, flops out: what’s the worst movie summer ever?

After a string of disappointments, analysts are calling 2019s summer season one of the most disastrous on record but there have been far, far worse

This summer might have started with a bang, thanks to the Avengers finally reaching their Endgame, but its set to go out with more of a shrug, thanks to pretty much everything thats come since. Godzilla: King of Monsters; X-Men: Dark Phoenix; Men in Black: International, Shaft, The Hustle all loathed by critics and shunned by audiences. Animated sequels Toy Story 4 and The Secret Life of Pets 2 are far from flops but theyre both performing way below expectations. Aladdin might be a hit but its the second Disney live-action remake to have scored rotten reviews this year. Its the summer that Hollywood cant seem to figure out and its already had many calling it one of the worst on record.

But its a precarious claim given the seasons tendency to disappoint and looking back to years prior, it looks like 2019 is far from the coldest summer on record.

2001

Ben
Ben Affleck failed to charm audiences in Pearl Harbor. Photograph: Allstar/BUENA VISTA/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

The rotten eggs: Pearl Harbor, The Mummy Returns, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Jurassic Park III, Planet of the Apes, Evolution, Atlantis The Lost Empire, Swordfish, Rush Hour 2

There was so much that was wrong with 2001s crop of summer hopefuls and in so many different ways that its almost hard to know where to start. But easily the seasons biggest misjudgment was Michael Bay trying to retell the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor through the lens of someone whod seen Titanic multiple times. The disastrous romantic disaster movie did solid, if un-Cameron level, box office but was critically reviled, deservedly picking up six Razzie nominations thanks to its banal love triangle between the pretty yet pretty unengaged trio of Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale as well as a questionable grasp of history. It was the worst kind of blockbuster in that it was staggeringly useless trash that thought it was necessary art but there were no such pretensions with the other missteps of the season. When it came to sequels, no one expected much from The Mummy Returns or Rush Hour 2 but there was hope attached to Jurassic Park III, hope that soon faded when the film crash-landed onto screens cursed with a quickie script assembled just five weeks before production began. The summer also saw Tim Burton return to the summer scramble for the first time since Batman Returns with the utterly atrocious Planet of the Apes remake (his first of many shambolic event movies to come), a forgettable stumble from Ivan Reitman who failed to conjure any Ghostbusters magic in the sci-fi comedy Evolution, Disney lose to Dreamworks as Shrek received all of the acclaim and box office that their charmless Atlantis The Lost Empire lost out on and Oscar winners Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie coasting in Swordfish and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

2009

Angels
Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer, was the clunky follow-up to The Da Vinci Code. Photograph: c.Sony Pics/Everett / Rex Featur

The rotten eggs: Angels and Demons, Year One, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Terminator: Salvation

In the time between summers, franchise fever had changed the season for the worse with less gambles being taken yet more films being released. They werent all bad this year (JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot and the sixth Harry Potter adventure were notable exceptions) but they were mostly bad, a clunking collection of studio products, with colon-heavy titles, ringing in a new era of dull, risk-averse film-making. Critics loathed The Da Vinci Code and Transformers but audiences turned up regardless, leading to sequels for both but ones that appeared to have learned nothing from their predecessors mistakes with Angels and Demons and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen managing to be lesser follow-ups in every way imaginable. There was also an attempt to refresh the X-Men franchise, after 2006s execrable Last Stand, with prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine which again was even worse than what came before (it would take another attempt, 2011s First Class, to get the series back on track) as well as McGs rubbishy robot reboot Terminator: Salvation, only worth remembering for star Christian Bales sweary on-set rant. Elsewhere, an unwanted new franchise was born in the shape of GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra while another descended further into the trash with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

2010

Jake
Jake Gyllenhaal realised he might not be an action hero after all in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Photograph: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP/Publicity image from film company

The rotten eggs: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Iron Man 2, Robin Hood, The A-Team, Knight and Day, Shrek Forever After, Sex and the City 2, Jonah Hex, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Last Airbender, The Sorcerers Apprentice

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the multiplex, 2010 drunkenly barreled into view, spewing up arguably the worst line-up summer audiences had ever endured, a crop so crappy that it made 2009s warmer months look like awards season. It was the year that saw Jake Gyllenhaal realise that he might not be an action hero after all, lost as the miscast lead of bland video game adaptation Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. On the adaptation front though, it was a masterpiece compared to the Razzie-nominated comic book mess Jonah Hex or M Night Shyamalans Razzie-winning The Last Airbender, based on an animated series, the fans of which gave the film an enthusiastic middle finger. There was also a rare stumble from Marvel with the flabby, unexciting Iron Man 2, a film that still sits at the bottom of ranked lists of their cinematic universe offerings but it was by no means the summers worst sequel, a title bestowed on Sex and the City 2, a film so aggressively, punishingly awful that it made even the most hardened fan wonder what they saw in the show in the first place. Elsewhere, Ridley Scott discovered that audiences had no interest in another Robin Hood retelling, Fox found out that there was a reason it had taken so long to bring The A-Team to the big screen, the combined star power of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz couldnt make Knight and Day seem worthwhile and another Twilight sequel was released or something.

2017

No
No one cared about Tom Cruise in The Mummy, unless he had been performing death-defying stunts. Photograph: Allstar/UNIVERSAL PICTURES

The rotten eggs: The Mummy, Baywatch, Despicable Me 3, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Dark Tower, The Emoji Movie, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Hitmans Bodyguard, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Anyone claiming that film fans are suffering this summer need only think back just two short years to remember a season packed with even more brazen emptiness. It was another bad summer for Tom Cruise, whose latter day box office has shown that the only thing people now want from him is to see films where he performs stunts so dangerous that he might conceivably die on screen. No one cared about The Mummy and in turn, Universals shameless attempt to start a Dark Universe of interconnected monster movies. There was similar disinterest across the board with audiences and critics showing apathy for Guy Ritchies lads on tour take on King Arthur, a dumb-but-not-in-a-fun-way reboot of Baywatch and a long-gestating adaptation of The Dark Tower, a proposed franchise-starter than was a resounding franchise-killer instead. There were also commercially successful, yet critically disliked, sequels to Transformers, Despicable Me and Pirates of the Caribbean as well as Luc Bessons wild and wildly misjudged Valerian, a film that performed so badly it led to huge staff layoffs at production company EuropaCorp.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/jun/27/suns-out-flops-out-whats-the-worst-movie-summer-ever

The Comedian With the Best Trump Impression? None of Them

Turn on late-night TV on almost any night of the week and you'll find one: a President Trump impression. Seth Meyers does one on Late Night, so does Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. Saturday Night Live has had a rotating door of comedians impersonating the president. But which one is the best? Which one nails it?

Alec Baldwin’s Trump Impression Is a Technical Marvel

  • Jennifer Lawrence's Russian Accent in Red Sparrow Wasn't Great

  • Batman Is Only Kinda Good at Crime Scene Investigation

  • Actually, maybe none of them.

    In the latest episode of WIRED's Technique Critique series, dialect coach Erik Singer analyzed a series of actors portraying US presidents and zeroed in on three comedians—Jimmy Fallon, Taran Killam, and Darrell Hammond— who have taken on Trump. His final word? "For a subtler, more multidimensional, more accurate, integrated, and authentic version of Trump the human being, I think we may have to wait a while." Welp, there you have it. (It's worth noting, though, Singer does think Alec Baldwin's Trump impression on SNL is pretty spot-on.)

    Trump, however, is still a relatively new president, and one that—so far—only comedians have really dug into. Movie and TV actors, on the other hand, have spent years portraying US presidents with much better results. And among those, Singer has found some gems, including Dennis Quaid's Bill Clinton impression in The Special Relationship, Josh Brolin's George W. Bush in W., and Greg Kinnear's John F. Kennedy in The Kennedys miniseries.

    Want more? Watch Singer's full analysis in the video above. For more Technique Critique, go to WIRED's new streaming channel on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, or Amazon Fire TV.


    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/technique-critique-american-presidents/

    Triple Frontier review military vets steal big in solid Netflix action thriller

    Machismo and money intersect in a glossy, mostly compelling film about a high-stakes heist in South America, starring Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac

    At this stage, given their ever-increasing prolificacy, the very definition of what a Netflix original movie is has become a bit foggy. Unlike a smaller independent, whose library of titles might share surface-level similarities, the streaming giant has morphed into a bigger studio, churning out films across all genres, trying to do it all and sometimes, just sometimes, actually succeeding.

    Its latest, and one of its biggest to date, is Triple Frontier, an action thriller that feels very much like a glossy theatrical release, and one whose messy route through development hell reveals that for a long time, it was intended as such. Originally primed as a Paramount picture, to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow and with a rotating cast that has at times included Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Mark Wahlberg, Channing Tatum and Mahershala Ali, its a project that has been a hot property since 2010. In its small-screen incarnation (it will receive a small one-week theatrical window), its easy to see the appeal although even easier to see why it has ended up on Netflix.

    Pope (Oscar Isaac) is a special forces operative whos spent the last three years trying to catch a powerful drug lord close to the Triple Frontier, the border zone between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. When an informant reveals not only his whereabouts but that his house is where he keeps his many millions, Pope hatches a plan. Rather than do it by the book, he will corral his old colleagues, now back in the US trying to lead so-called normal lives, into helping him plan heist. While there are echoes of a greater good, the men are mostly driven by greed and as the plan unfolds, their loyalties to one another become tested.

    Rather like the characters themselves, the film-makers motivations are similarly straightforward. Directed by JC Chandor, whose work includes financial crash drama Margin Call and 80s crime saga A Most Violent Year, from a script he wrote with Mark Boal, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Hurt Locker, one might assume from their prior credits that theyve tasked themselves with adding some weight to the films muscular framework. While there are throwaway references to PTSD and how poorly military veterans are treated by the US government, Triple Frontier is mostly concerned with providing unambiguous entertainment, an easily consumed adventure for a broad, undemanding Netflix viewership.

    Taken on these terms, its an enjoyable enough way to spend two hours but without any commentary or real depth, its in need of a bit more suspense or conflict to really oil the wheels, the film too often ambling along when it should be racing. The buildup to the heist is admirably detailed on the logistics but less so on characterisation, the men mostly interchangeable. They might not be quite as high-wattage as some of the names once attached, but Chandor has assembled a solid ensemble with Isaac surrounded by Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal. While Hunnam strains to make his American accent believable once again and Affleck is stuck delivering lines in his comically over-egged Batman voice, the remaining team members help to fill in the many gaps left by the script while also making some of the clunkier, on-the-nose lines work (Its like they take the best 20 years of your life and then spit you out).

    Pedro
    Pedro Pascal (Catfish), Garrett Hedlund (Ben), Charlie Hunnam (Ironhead) and Ben Affleck (Redfly). Photograph: Netflix/Courtesy of Netflix

    Interestingly, the film is less focused on the heist itself and more on just how to transport so much money out of the middle of the jungle, which does lend a certain unpredictability to the unfolding drama. The titular location also provides Chandor and cinematographer Roman Yasyanov plentiful opportunities to contrast a number of stunning vistas, the film possessing a sleek and expensive, if somewhat anonymous, aesthetic. But as the men traverse from one locale to the next, the script isnt always able to keep up, the film in need of a few more setpieces or at least some juicier interpersonal conflict to make it roar.

    Its tough to imagine the majority of viewers who stumble upon Triple Frontier not gaining some enjoyment from what they experience, a slick, starry drama found by accident, devoured from the comfort of a living room. But its also harder to imagine it lingering in the memory for particularly long and ultimately, maybe thats what truly defines the majority of Netflixs original movies: easy to watch, hard to remember.

    • Triple Frontier is now on limited release in the US and will be available on Netflix on 13 March

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/mar/06/triple-frontier-review-netflix-ben-affleck-oscar-isaac

    Henry Cavill Flying Away Is an Opportunity for DC to Start Over

    The latest death of Superman is upon us: Henry Cavill, the English-born actor who’s played the Man of Steel in three movies, is reportedly leaving the DC Universe. What Warner Bros. will do going forward is unclear, but the studio did release a statement today saying "we have made no current decisions regarding upcoming Superman films." And with that, for the first time in years, the onscreen fate of one of DC's most critically and commercially bulletproof characters is up, up in the air. And maybe it should stay that way.

    Ever since 2013's Man of Steel, Warner Bros. has been attempting to replicate the shared-storyline success of Marvel's decade-old mega-franchise. It could have worked. Warners had plenty going for it: A galaxy-sized archive of DC Comics characters and narratives; access to major stars like Ben Affleck (Batman) and Will Smith (Deadshot); and a hit-making architect in writer-director Zack Snyder. But whereas the Marvel films balanced gravitas with humor and comaradery, Snyder’s brooding vision was full of aggro heroes and city-leveling catastrophes. The resulting movies were bombastic, baffling, and unaware of their own joylessness (not to mention expensive). By the time of 2017's failed Justice League—the equivalent of a two-hour screen-saver, full of unhappy performers and unconvincing CGI—it was clear the studio's unification plan would need to be rethought.

    Now, DC's big-screen interconnected universe may be dead for good; at the very least, it's on ice. Deadline notes that Affleck—who has portrayed Batman in a trio of Warner Bros. films—likely won’t be returning to the cowl-and-growl role that resulted in one of the more depressing memes of all time. And a long-ago-promised sequel to Justice League will likely slip off IMDb at some point soon, much to the chagrin of no one, save for Jason Momoa's abs sommelier, who was looking forward to that bonus.

    Instead, Warner Bros. is focusing on stand-alone stories featuring characters like Wonder Woman, Shazam, The Joker, and Batgirl. Wonder Woman 1984 will take place in a Supes-free past, while the recent Aquaman trailer was almost exclusively about Aquaman, with no winking big-star cameos. Even the in-the-works The Batman looks to remain grounded in Gotham.

    These are characters who are creeping toward their 100th birthdays, yet have remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. Both are due for some sort of radical re-thinking.

    For those who've endured the studio's labored, Martha-lovin’ attempts to bring their heroes to the multiplex, the new DC Existential Unilateralism (or DCEU) feels like the only sane approach. Characters like Batman and Superman were never intended to play well with others: They’re outsiders—one a billionaire loner, the other an awkward alien—whose social skills and inflexible ideology all but demand they work in fortresses of solitude. One of the more inspired elements of the Tim Burton-directed Batman was to play up the fact that Bruce Wayne wasn't particularly suave or assured; instead, he was a night-crawling nut who barely felt at home in his own mansion. The idea of Burton's Batman having a sustained conversation with another hero, much less teaming up with one of them, was unthinkable.

    That first modern Batman movie turns 30 next year—which points to another reason for Warner Bros. to pull the limelight from some of its better-known in-house heroes: There’s very little left to say about them. The last four decades have seen eight live-action movies with Superman, and ten featuring Batman. Villains have been recycled, costumes have been refurbished, origin stories have been reiterated. These are characters who are creeping toward their 100th birthdays, yet have remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. Both are due for some sort of radical re-thinking.

    But first, they need to disappear for a while. It took almost two decades for the camp-Batman of the '60s to transform into the noir-weirdo Batman of the '80s. The same amount of time passed before audiences were willing to let go of the square, small-screen Superman of TV, and embrace Christopher Reeve's winking, more emo Man of Feels. Those sort of changes require a prolonged absence—one that allows characters, and viewers, to evolve at the same rate. If you want moviegoers to believe a man can fly, it helps to ground him for a while.

    Plus, the more DC moves away from its flagship capers, the better their chances of finding weirdness in the margins. A few years ago, Marvel’s Ant-Man—a character whose exploits were were relegated to the three-for-a-dollar discount-boxes—became a household name. And the Guardians of the Galaxy were essentially cult heroes until the 2014 hit movie bearing their name. Similarly, DC's television efforts have found ways to make mainstream heroes out of lesser-known properties like Black Lightning, Firestorm, and Hawkgirl.

    There are several other potentially compelling—possibly even fun?—DC characters that could work in movies (the Wachowskis were angling to make a Plastic Man film as far back as the mid-'90s). But for now, the strategy of an Aquaman here and a Supergirl there is far more sensible given the glut of superhero headlining acts that have put DC's characters in such dire straits (both on and off screen). Batman and Superman can afford to take some time off. There's plenty more to marvel at.


    More Great WIRED Stories

    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/henry-cavill-superman-dc-future/

    Crazy Rich Asians Changes Nothing About Rom-Coms, and Everything About Movies

    Rachel Chu and Nick Young are like most millennial couples in New York City—at least millennial couples in which one is a brilliant economics professor and the other is heir to a real estate empire in Singapore. There’s a problem, though: Nick (Henry Golding) has kept Rachel (Constance Wu) in the dark about his circumstances back home. His plan to invite her to Singapore for the wedding of his best friend and to meet his family, he hopes, will remedy this. So begins director Jon M. Chu’s posh extravaganza, Crazy Rich Asians, a movie of necessary firsts and communal heart.

    What Rachel doesn’t realize when she accepts Nick’s invitation is that he isn’t just from any family, but Singapore’s wealthiest and most influential (a fact that has lended him celebrity-bachelor status among locals). It doesn’t take long for the drama of home to reveal its sneer. Rachel—who is Chinese-American and thus considered an outsider—finds herself in an obstacle course for acceptance. The first series of hurdles are relatively painless. Nick’s cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) is harboring secrets of her own; she’s discovered her husband is cheating and finds an unlikely confidant in Rachel. Next are Nick’s aunties and a former flame. With help from her college BFF Peik Lin (a rowdy and riotous Awkwafina) and cousin Oliver (Nico Santos), Rachel proves a resilient spark against their torrent of social exile.

    The final hurdle turns out to be Nick’s mother, the matriarch of the clan. Deeply protective, Eleanor Sung-Young (a steely Michelle Yeoh) is a woman of familial duty and respect, and believes Rachel is the wrong woman for Nick. And so the women come to represent dueling ideals of tradition and freedom. Eleanor wants Nick to take control of the family business, but he’s become enthralled with the idea of carving out a life with Rachel, even if that happens to be in America. A mother’s wrath, though, is unforgiving and its reach endless. Eleanor’s last-ditch effort to torpedo the couple’s relationship—by exposing a long-buried secret about Rachel’s father—triggers the film’s most high-stakes moment.

    Crazy Rich Asians culminates like a Singaporean Cinderella, illustrating the extent each character will go to for the people they love. It’s a film of big ambitions that doesn’t entirely upend the rom-com format, but instead infuses the genre with a tint of hope. And so, we are left with a movie about sprawl—and the lengths people travel to connect with others, to greet them where they are, to find peace on common ground. Between mother and son. Between partners and friends. Between America and Singapore. Between the known and the unknown. Between truth and fiction.

    Based on the 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan, the film does vital work in demolishing certain Asian stereotypes that have found an unlikely lifeforce in American pop culture. Early on, Peik Lin’s father (a predictably bonkers Ken Jeong) instructs his two youngest children to finish their dinner; “Think of all the starving children in America,” he says. Other chasms the film attempts to cross prove less fruitful. Unfolding at a blistering pace, it never quite comes up for air to allow for enough nuance around characters that demand it. Astrid and Eleanor’s backstories, while convenient, feel microwaved and could have ultimately benefited from more substance and time.

    These are important stories to tell. And we need to witness them on screen. But danger lurks in the collective narrative.

    The marrow of the film, and its most crucial lesson, deals with the politics of comfort: how those on screen navigate the trappings of high society, and how we, the viewers, are cushioned into a specific characterization of Asian identity. The movie is full of humor and pluck, but nothing emotionally gut-wrenching. And deservedly so. It is a rom-com after all. But one gets the impression that Hollywood would have been less eager to greenlight a $30 million film that more closely resembled 1993’s The Joy Luck Club, which chronicled four struggling immigrant families in San Francisco. It was the last studio-backed feature to enlist a majority Asian and Asian-American cast until Crazy Rich Asians (which includes actors that span the diaspora—China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines).

    The comfort nourishes us, but is it what we need? We only ever witness the splendor of Singapore, touring its most elite enclaves and never once getting a peek into its other, less affluent regions. Not that the film, its writers or director, have that particular obligation. But it does raise the question—who is this movie speaking for and speaking to? That is not to take away from its historic achievements. But a movie of such cultural immensity is bound to be viewed as representing for the whole, whether it intends to or not—a weight shouldered earlier this year by Black Panther.

    These are important stories to tell. And we need to witness them on screen. But danger lurks in the collective narrative. It’s an onus routinely projected onto major films (or books, or TV shows, or even politicians): The first Asian this. The first black that. But no one movie can speak for the whole. Not entirely. The fault is ours, really. We are a culture that, in 2018, still revels in “firsts.” A culture that happily celebrates victories we so desperately need, but rarely investigates why it took us so long to get here.


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    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/crazy-rich-asians-review/

    10 high schoolers who had cardboard cutout prom dates

    Happy prom season to people everywhere and inanimate objects that look like people! 

    Taking a date to prom isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, your date bails last minute. Sometimes, over the top promposals just aren’t for you. And sometimes, your celebrity crush/unrequited love stays unrequited. 

    But no worries! If you’re stressing about not having a (human) date for prom this year, here are 10 people who found love in the form of a cardboard cutout.

    1. The girl determined to meet Killmonger

    Twitter user @uhdeevuh brought a cardboard cutout of Michael B. Jordan to prom this year after she couldn’t get a date. 

    “Now I need to MEET my man,” she tweeted, with photos of a friend crouched behind the cutout to hold it up. 

    We hope she finds him!

    2. The junior who coordinated outfits with Justin Bieber 

    Poor @lowhangingfruit couldn’t find a date to prom, but she was determined to not attend the dance alone.

    She decided to bring a cardboard cutout of young Justin Bieber — bowl cut and everything — and even coordinated her dress with her date’s bright red pants. 

    3. The kid who took his pre-prom photos with Michelle Obama

    Shafe Selvidge loves the former first lady. He has a cardboard cutout of Mrs. Obama and he’s even taken Christmas photos with it. In January, Selvidge wished Michelle Obama happy birthday with a prom photo.

    “I would love to get a picture with the real you someday,” he tweeted. 

    4. The high schooler whose date ditched her for golfing

    When @carrrieplain’s prom date ditched her to go golfing, she decided that taking photos alone just wasn’t for her. Instead of photos with her date, she took her prom photos with a cardboard cutout of Cody Simpson. 

    5. The student who thinks her (lack of) romantic life was because of Nick Jonas

    Twitter user @shannon__fields posted two photos from her high school prom, captioning it, “Do you think me going to prom with a cardboard cutout of @nickjonas had anything to do with why boys never liked me?” She even had the classic foot-popping kiss with her paper date.

    6. The girl who brought Danny DeVito to prom

    Good thing there’s no troll toll for high school. Hannah Gladwell brought a cardboard cutout of Danny DeVito — who was at least wearing a blazer — to her prom. 

    7. The senior who went to prom with Batman

    “Incase you’re having a bad day,” @Asivrs tweeted, “Remember that I went to prom with a cardboard cutout.” She even matched her superhero date, accessorizing her dress with a Batman belt, fingerless gloves, and a bat mask. It’s a lot.

    8. The girl whose date got hit by a car

    When Avinnash was hit by a car, he couldn’t make it to his senior prom. Instead of going to prom with him, Amanda brought a cardboard cutout of his face and had someone stand in as Avinnash for her prom photos. 

    According to their friend Zahra, Avinnash was OK, even if he was left for a cardboard version of himself. 

    9. The high schooler who brought tech daddy Elon Musk

    Elon Musk: billionaire, innovator, and most recently, prom date. @thesmelloftea brought a cutout of the Tesla CEO as her date.

    “I’m sorry Elon I just really look up to you and watching the falcon heavy launch in person made me tear up,” she tweeted, “Honestly I only think it’s fair that Elon gets a cardboard cutout of ME.”

    10. The young voter who felt the Bern at prom

    On the cusp of graduation, @chloxraynaud took a political stance at prom and brought a cardboard cutout of then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. She captioned her prom photos with #Bernie2016 and #FeelTheBern, posing with her democratic socialist date. Even if Bernie didn’t win the primary, @chloxraynaud definitely won prom. 

    If you’re dateless for prom this year, just know that there are a lot of options out there.

    WATCH: Here are 5 more truly original movies

    Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/04/18/cardboard-cutout-prom-dates/

    Ripe for a kicking: Hollywoods love-hate relationship with Rotten Tomatoes

    Twenty years after its launch, the movie-review aggregators verdict is now seen as vital to a films success or failure. Is the site too influential for its own good?

    Twenty years ago, the internet was a very different place. Google was a fresh rival to Alta Vista and Lycos. Apple computers looked like boiled sweets, and we dialled up to surf the net, having installed the software via CD-Rom. The movie world of 1998 was also somewhat different: the box office was ruled by meteorite movies and Adam Sandler; Harvey Weinstein was an Oscar winner; and The Avengers was a lame, retro spy comedy with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman. It was into this climate that Senh Duong launched Rotten Tomatoes known in the business as RT a site that has transformed both worlds, although nobody seems quite sure if it has done so for better or worse.

    Duongs idea was simple to compile movie reviews and it still drives Rotten Tomatoes. He was inspired by his love of Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies and would scour the internet looking for reviews of them. So why not put them in one place? Duong already had a full-time job, he says. Rotten Tomatoes was a side project I worked on in the evenings. He single-handedly designed and coded the site in just two weeks. It was very laborious. Every page was manually assembled using HTML. Every review was manually searched for, read and quoted.

    In the same way that, say, lastminute.com and Expedia compare plane ticket prices, Rotten Tomatoes review aggregation has turned out to be super-useful, particularly as it boils all those reviews down to a single, convenient percentage score. It then boils down that score even further, to a simple graphic of a tomato. In the same way that Siskel and Ebert gave a thumbs up or a thumbs down, or the man from Del Monte tasted a pineapple and said yes or no, so Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer separates movies into fresh or rotten. If at least 60% of a movies reviews are positive, it is graded fresh, signified by a ripe, red tomato. Less than 60% and it is rotten, signified by a green splat. Over 75% gets you a certified fresh logo, like a sticker on a quality piece of fruit. (The 1998 Avengers movie, if you were wondering, scored a supremely rotten 5%.)

    Lady
    Lady Bird a hit with critics and Rotten Tomatoes. Photograph: Allstar/A24

    Today, movies supposedly live or die by the ripeness of that virtual fruit. Rotten Tomatoes has become the one movie site to aggregate them all. The Tomatometer appears not only on Rotten Tomatoes site but also on ticketing sites such as AMC cinemas and Fandango (which has owned Rotten Tomatoes since 2016). It comes up on Google searches, iTunes, SoundCloud, in Twitter and chatroom discussions and (as long as the rating is fresh) in movie studios marketing campaigns. It is a news item when a movie achieves a 100% fresh rating, as recently happened with Paddington 2 and, before that, Greta Gerwigs Lady Bird.

    With its dominance and prominence, Rotten Tomatoes is becoming the story and not always in a good way. After Lady Bird got its 100% score, for example, one critic opted to lob a green splat into the mix, not because he hated the movie, but because everyone else liked it so much. I had to consider whether to cast Lady Bird as fresh or rotten in the context of a perfect score that people were using to trumpet Lady Bird as the all-time best-reviewed movie on RT, Cole Smithey tweeted. In other words, Rotten Tomatoes status as a neutral measure of critics opinions comes into question when it starts to influence those opinions.

    The possible gaming of Rotten Tomatoes scores has taken on more sinister aspects lately. Earlier this month, Facebook announced it had taken down the page of a group called Down With Disneys Treatment of Franchises and Its Fanboys, which was attempting to orchestrate a mass troll assault on the Rotten Tomatoes score of the superhero movie Black Panther. Alongside the critic-designated Tomatometer score, Rotten Tomatoes also gives each movie an audience score, determined by registered users and represented by a popcorn bucket: red and full for positive; green and tipped-over for negative. The anti-Black Panther group sought to lower the movies audience score by bombarding the site with negative reviews. It claimed to have programmed bots to create fake user accounts. It also said it was acting in the name of DC comics, the main rival to Black Panthers (Disney-owned) Marvel, but suspicions of far-right motivations persist, particularly because the same group had previously targeted Star Wars: The Last Jedi (also Disney-owned) on account of its supposed social justice warrior concepts.

    Rotten Tomatoes has denied the attacks succeeded, but at present The Last Jedis Tomatometer score is 91% (a critical Yay!) while its audience score is 48% (a public Meh). Was this discrepancy the result of far-right bots or genuine audience division? Either way, it didnt matter much: The Last Jedi is now the ninth-highest-grossing movie in history. Black Panther is likely to be a billion-dollar movie, too.

    Paddington
    Paddington 2 perfect score.

    When movies bomb, however, the studios have been quick to blame Rotten Tomatoes. Last summer, Hollywood resorted to tomato-shaming to spare its own blushes over colossal failures such as Baywatch (Tomatometer score: 18%), The Mummy (16%), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (29%) and Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (30%). The critic aggregation site increasingly is slowing down the potential business of popcorn movies, complained the website Deadline. Director Brett Ratner called Rotten Tomatoes the worst thing we have in todays movie culture and the destruction of our business. He may have been stung by the fate of Warner Bros blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which Ratners company co-produced; it earned a malodorous 27%.

    The situation came to the boil with Batman v Supermans 2017 follow-up: Justice League. For Warner Bros, the movie was a big deal: a superhero team-up with an estimated $300m budget. So, eyebrows were raised when Justice Leagues Rotten Tomatoes score did not appear on the site as expected, once an embargo on critics reviews lifted. Even when those reviews were available on other sites and the movie was previewing in cinemas, Rotten Tomatoes webpage for Justice League was blank. Instead, the excuse ran, Justice Leagues score was to be announced on Rotten Tomatoes new web show, See It Or Skip It, in which presenters provide context and conversation around the movie of the week before revealing its all-important Tomatometer score. For Justice League, that score was a decidedly unripe 43%. By the time it appeared on the website, it had dropped to 40%.

    Some observers smelled a conspiracy, since Warner Bros holds a 30% stake in Rotten Tomatoes parent company, Fandango (Universal owns the other 70%). Rotten Tomatoes, however, denied Warner Bros had anything to do with the decision: We are absolutely autonomous, like any news organisation, it said. There is no outside influence on anything we put on the site. If the studio was secretly trying to bury bad news, it didnt work. The incident ultimately generated negative publicity for Justice League, Warner Bros and Rotten Tomatoes.

    Duong left Rotten Tomatoes in 2007 to pursue other digital media projects. When I started it, he recalls, I was only thinking of its positive impact that it could be really useful to film fans. And to studios: they could use the Tomatometer to promote their good films. I wasnt thinking at all about how they would react to the poorly reviewed ones. He notes that Warner Bros didnt complain about Wonder Womans 92% rating, which it used in its own promotion.

    Star
    Star Wars: The Last Jedi targeted. Photograph: Allstar/Lucasfilm

    Often, though, studios find subtle ways to control Rotten Tomatoes message, or, if necessary, stop it getting through at all. They may screen a movie before its release to a receptive crowd a fan-filled festival screening, say, or a cherrypicked selection of sympathetic critics to get a decent Tomatometer score on the board early and hopefully set the tone.

    The biggest blockbusters are withheld from critics, or their reviews are embargoed, until very close to the movies release date. Occasionally (when the studio knows its got a real stinker on its hands) they are not screened for critics at all. As a result, no Tomatometer score appears until the very last minute. Last summer, for example, Sony embargoed reviews of The Emoji Movie in the US until just a few hours before its release. Critics gave the movie an RT score of just 6%, but it achieved a healthy opening weekend of $24.5m (17.5m) in the US. Family movies are generally less susceptible to the power of the tomato, anyway: few parents ever dissuaded an eager six-year-old by arguing the data.

    Can Rotten Tomatoes really make or break a movie? It definitely has an impact, says Ethan Titelman, a senior vice-president at the Hollywood market research firm National Research Group (NRG). According to NRGs annual survey, 50% of regular moviegoers frequently check the site, often immediately before buying their cinema tickets. And 82% are more interested in seeing a movie if it has a high Tomatometer score, while two-thirds are deterred by a low score. Furthermore, Titelman adds, its influence is growing and broadening out. Once it would have been for your tech-savvy early adopters, but it has actually doubled its influence over moviegoers aged over 45 in the last couple of years alone.

    Then again, a study by University of Southern Californias Entertainment Technology Center crunched the data on box office returns v Tomatometer scores for the biggest 150 movies of 2017 and found the correlation to be pretty much zero meaning that, in general, Rotten Tomatoes doesnt affect movies positively or negatively. Despite anomalies such as The Last Jedi, it also found a high correlation between critics scores and audience scores, which suggests that everyone tends to agree when a movie sucks. When Hollywood executives complain about Rotten Tomatoes scores, the researcher concluded, theyre really complaining about their audiences tastes because its basically the same thing.

    Steven Gaydos, the executive editor of Variety, dismisses the studios complaints out of hand: Its really a case of shoot the messenger, he says. If Rotten Tomatoes reflects the consensus of opinion on a movie and the movie is bad and therefore doesnt do well, what part of that is Rotten Tomatoes doing something nefarious or terrible? Studios today bank on fewer, bigger movies, each of which can represent an investment of half a billion dollars in production and marketing costs, Gaydos points out. Also, a movies opening weekend typically accounts for one-third of its total box office. So, you can imagine how much pressure there is to get an opening weekend that has not been damaged or diminished by a bad Rotten Tomatoes score. Everything is at stake.

    Rotten Tomatoes may not be killing movies, but it could well be killing movie criticism. Not only by attempting to bypass professionals and build buzz with the fans, but also by its inherent premise. Rotten Tomatoes only registers if each review is positive or negative (its rival Metacritic, by contrast, assigns a percentage score to each individual review, then calculates the average). A movie that everyone agrees is simply quite good could therefore be 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, while movies that are more challenging, controversial or experimental are more likely to divide critics and get a lower score. The system favours safety and consensus. As well as movies, Rotten Tomatoes is grading the critics: if a reviewer goes against the grain, the Tomatometer score is proof that they are wrong.

    Its self-censorship, says Varietys Gaydos. Critics have trained themselves to [pretend to] take seriously movies that they dont take seriously because the danger is not having a job and not being relevant, being aged out of the discussion. The numbers bear out this trend. The median Tomatometer score for movies grossing more than $2m was 51% during the 2000s and 53% during the 2010s. In 2017, though, the year of crashes such as Baywatch and Pirates of the Caribbean 5, the median was 71%. Either critics are enjoying movies more or movies are better than ever.

    Warner
    Warner Bros didnt complain about Wonder Womans 92% rating, says RTs founder. Photograph: Clay Enos/AP

    Gaydoss fear is that Rotten Tomatoes is replacing nuanced, thoughtful film writing. We used to read Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael arguing, and now were looking at a picture of a green tomato or a red tomato. We have to see what weve lost here, people!

    Film-makers have expressed similar sentiments. Martin Scorsese complained that sites such as Rotten Tomatoes have absolutely nothing to do with real film criticism. They rate a picture the way youd rate a household appliance in Consumer Reports The film-maker is reduced to a content manufacturer and the viewer to an unadventurous consumer.

    Others disagree. The New Yorker critic Richard Brody argued that Rotten Tomatoes has the merit of putting reviews by critics who write for smaller outlets alongside those who write for more prominent ones, which is all to the good. Duong also defends his brainchild: In regards to this fear that people would only look at the score and not read the reviews, its not supported by data. When I was there, 85% to 90% of users who went to a movie page on Rotten Tomatoes clicked on a review and left the site. Its not surprising when you think about it: its a page full of links with enticing quotes.

    When Duong created Rotten Tomatoes in 1998, Hollywood released many more titles than it does now, and they were reviewed by a handful of significant critics: major newspapers and magazines, syndicated critics such as Siskel and Ebert. The media elite, you could say. Today, the situation has flipped. Hollywood releases fewer movies and they are reviewed by hundreds, possibly thousands, of critics. You could see this as democratisation and diversity of the media, or the emergence of a cacophony of critical voices. However, the proliferation created an opportunity at the top to simplify and aggregate the multitude into one overarching meta-entity: essentially, a new media elite. Depending on how you look at it, Rotten Tomatoes either showcases organic, heirloom varieties like an upmarket grocery store, or it blends all difference into one homogeneous, easily digestible puree. The fruit is either half-ripe or half-rotten; its all a matter of taste.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/feb/26/rotten-tomatoes-hollywood-love-hate-relationship

    And the Oscar goes to … Wonder Woman! Can a superhero film take home best picture?

    Patty Jenkins blockbuster torpedoed sexist stereotypes and triumphed at the box office. Now it faces its biggest challenge: winning over Academy voters

    Dickenss line, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times seems strangely appropriate to the world of comic-book movies in 2017. Over the past couple of years weve seen some of the worst superhero films ever committed to celluloid , among them Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Yet weve also been treated to more glowingly reviewed comic-book films than ever before.

    Rotten Tomatoes rates X-Men spin-off Logan, Marvels Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Lego Batman Movie all among the years best-reviewed films. And thats to not mention Marvels new effort, Thor: Ragnarok (amazingly at 98% at the time of writing) and Patty Jenkins groundbreaking Wonder Woman (92%).

    Indeed, Warner Bros is so delighted with the excellent response to Jenkins movie that it is prepping Princess Diana of Themyscira for a full Oscars run, perhaps hopeful that the Academys recent injection of more younger voters and more female voters might help catapult the superhero epic to a best picture nomination at the very least. It seems a fair shout: Warners The Dark Knight remains the only superhero movie ever to win an Oscar in the major categories (posthumously for Heath Ledgers spiky turn as The Joker, which won him the best supporting actor gong in 2009), while Jenkins previous film Monster saw Charlize Theron win the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of the serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

    Its hard to imagine future superhero movies carrying such cultural weight as Wonder Woman. Not only was it the best movie about a DC superhero since The Dark Knight, it also registered way beyond its core audience of geeks, winning praise for Jenkins deft use of warmth and humour to torpedo sexist narratives. It became so much a part of the 2017 conversation that the film-maker found herself caught up in a row with James Cameron over what a strong, powerful female hero should look like.

    Still, if 2017 really is to be the year in which the genre movie finally takes over the Oscars, there may be better candidates than Wonder Woman. For big ideas and visual panache, Denis Villeneuves Blade Runner 2049 ticks all the existential boxes, and there have been few more impressive films than Matt Reeves War for the Planet of the Apes, with its brooding, dystopian vision and gasp-worthy technical audacity. Some might argue that Wonder Woman is not even the best superhero movie of 2017, an honour that could be handed to James Mangolds mesmerisingly dark and brutal Logan.

    Patty
    Patty Jenkins. Photograph: Lower/SilverHub/Rex/ Shutterstock

    And yet Oscars often go to the most Oscarly movies, rather than the best ones. The question for Academy voters might be whether Jenkins big-hearted superhero epic suits the moment better than any of the alternatives. Its more than possible to make a case for Wonder Woman to defeat the odds and emerge triumphant, even if we dont know what the competition will be.

    Film historians might look back on 2017 and note that this was the year in which certain previously untouchable Hollywood moguls found themselves publicly excoriated, leading to a change in attitudes towards the treatment of women by men in positions of power. What better way to honour that profound societal shift than to celebrate a totem of strong feminity, a superhero who refuses to be kept in the box that society has placed her in; who is comfortable with her own strength but avoids the puffed-up boastfulness of her male counterparts? It would be a triumph against the odds, but this is a well-reviewed movie that has struck a tone with many, and stranger things have happened.

    In the unlikely event that Gadot finds herself on stage at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles celebrating a best-picture win for Wonder Woman, there will be many who take that as a sign that these are not the worst of times after all.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/oct/24/wonder-woman-superhero-movie-oscar-best-picture-gal-gadot

    All by myself: how the greatest solo film performances worked their magic

    With Anne Hathaway set to star in a film that she will carry on her own, we ask: what can she learn from previous high points of single-actor shows

    In Les Miserables, Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for crying but how is she with cryo? Shes just signed up for O2, a race-against-time movie centred on a woman who wakes up trapped in one of those sci-fi hypersleep pods so beloved of the Alien franchise. It sounds like a juicy premise for a tense thriller O2s amnesiac protagonist must escape before her air supply runs out but it will also see Hathaway join a cinematic club currently dominated by men: movies that are solo showcases for one actor. What could Hathaway learn from other recent examples?

    Buried (2010)

    This claustrophobic horror combines two of human beings greatest fears: being buried alive and having no access to a phone charger. Entombed in a crude coffin somewhere in the Iraqi desert, Ryan Reynolds has to try and extricate himself with only an ailing Blackberry to hand. Will he make the right call? Reynolds dials down his usual glibness in favour of escalating panic, but much of Burieds power comes from director Rodrigo Cortss decision to stay right there in the box with him. There are no cutaways to the surface, no tension-relieving flashbacks, no whiff of fresh air or escape. It is a nightmare-inducing tactic, and perhaps one Hathaways as-yet-unconfirmed O2 director should adopt.

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    Tight spot Ryan Reynolds in Buried.

    Locke (2013)

    There arent many laughs in Dunkirk but some wags have pointed out that, with his shearling-trimmed jacket and face-obscuring mask, Tom Hardy seems to be secretly reprising his role as Batman baddie Bane. In fact, his Spitfire captain arguably has more in common with Welsh cement wizard Ivan Locke, another pro stolidly piloting a vehicle south, uncertain about what awaits him. Writer-director Steven Knights completely BMW-set chamber piece turns a series of hands-free phone conversations during a late-night motorway haul into a surprisingly affecting thriller. Lockes hands may be glued to the steering wheel, but Hardys agitated eyes suggest a man achingly adrift. When it comes to acting solo, the eyes have it.

    Cast Away (2000)

    After some scene-setting preamble and a jolting plane crash, Robert Zemeckiss desert island survival tale zeroes in on Tom Hanks for two whole hours. Perhaps because of the affection with which the Forrest Gump star is held by audiences, this Crusoe karaoke made over $400m worldwide. Crucially, Cast Away hinges on a four-year time jump and Zemeckis paused production for an entire year so Hanks could downsize himself from doughy FedEx drone to gaunt, loincloth-wearing crusty. That might be beyond Hathaways more modestly-budgeted $10m effort, but perhaps she could befriend a rolling cryo-maintenance droid called W1L5ON?

    All Is Lost (2013)

    More trouble at sea, with Robert Redfords yacht abruptly holed by a rogue shipping container somewhere in the Indian Ocean. With his technical equipment totally banjaxed, the 77-year-old unnamed sailor is totally becalmed but carries on, even as things inexorably get worse. With no radio, phone or even volleyball to talk to, it is an unusually taciturn performance from Redford, but the old hand is terrific at physically communicating his mariners various thought processes as he furrows his brow to improvise solutions to a cascade of life-or-death problems. Fewer lines can mean more impact, so maybe Hathaway should buy a red pen now.

     robert redford in all is lost
    Sinking feeling Robert Redford in All Is Lost. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

    Gravity (2011)

    Alfonso Cuarns Oscar-winning orbital rollercoaster technically starred two headline actors: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. But after a space disaster, were soon down to just Bullock, a biomedical expert with minimal astronaut training who must suddenly engineer a safe return to Earth. Despite the nominally realistic setting, writer-director Cuarn adds dreamlike touches his camera floats through Bullocks polycarbonate visor; a key character unexpectedly returns and he really nails the ending. Having making us fear for Bullock as she spins through space as an insignificant speck, the final, Imax-ready shot renders her 50ft tall. Hathaway should insist on a similarly epic finale.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/jul/24/actors-solo-anne-hathaway-02

    Spider-Man: Homecoming at last a superhero film for millennials

    With an authentically awkward star turn from Tom Holland, the latest outing for Marvels web-slinger is perfectly tuned for a teenage audience

    Comic books arent for children any more, and neither are comic-book films. Yes, you can take the kids to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the parents next to me, who had brought their five-year-old along, should start setting aside some cash for therapy. The Marvel cinematic universe has a lighter tone, but in the past decade big-screen superheroes have been aimed more at eternal adolescents rather than actual ones the people who can now afford the toys their parents never bought them, who lived to see the secret passions of their youth become studio tentpoles and newspaper thinkpieces.

    This is a big part of the reason why Spider-Man: Homecoming, despite being the sixth Spider-Man film in 15 years, feels so fresh and lively. Its the first costumed caper in what feels like forever to be aimed squarely at the high-school crowd it so vividly portrays, replete with an actor who was actually a teenager when he pulled on the tights. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Millennial Spider-Man.

    The quiet genius of Jon Watts film is the way it casts Marvels cinematic cash cow, the Avengers, as uncool grownups who just dont get what the kids are up to. Robert Downey Jrs Tony Stark can break the sound barrier in his Iron Man suit, but cant avoid or understand the daddy issues that come into sharp focus around Peter Parker. Chris Evans Captain America makes an appearance, hilariously memefied into a public service announcement in which he tells kids to keep fit and stay in school precisely the sort of paternalistic patter regarded as white noise by anyone under 18.

    As Spider-Man, however, Tom Holland feels far closer to the average teenager, smartyet insecure, and with a mouth that just wont stop. Yes, hes as awkward in the suit as he is out of it, but Spider-Man: Homecoming never sets up a hackneyed nerds-v-jocks scenario. Instead, it depicts high school in a way that most people in their teens would see as being perfectly normal.

    Its not Peters playing in a band or other school activities that make him uncool, its his decision to quit them. His longtime nemesis Flash is part of the same academic decathlon team as Peter, but hes also the go-to DJ at parties. The characters diversity is presented casually and without comment, and is certainly closer to real-life New York than the monochrome casting of previous Spider-Man outings. The film even opens with an extended nod to teen YouTube culture something that may well seem alien to the sort of people (like me) who are surprised to learn that the scene-stealing Zendaya has 8 million Twitter followers.

    Spider-Man: Homecoming is a superhero film for a generation that isnt mine, and that is what makes it special. Yes, it is also a cash grab by a studio keen on milking as many demographics as it can, but there is something joyful in seeing a baton passed as nimbly as this, in seeing the characters and archetypes that mean so much to me take on a new lease of life. Its a film that is funny but never ironic, as sweet as it is silly, with characters who can shrug off injury but cannot avoid heartache. I cant wait to see it again.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/jul/10/spider-man-homecoming-tom-holland-superhero-film-millennials