No movie fan can deny that this summer blockbuster season has kind of sucked. From big films that didn't even scrape their expectations to an endless amount of sequels, people were pretty disappointed with what we received considering 2016 was perceived to be a spectacular year for movies.
On the other hand, the year of 2016 isn't a total disaster yet. The holiday season has become a home to some of the best movies of the year over the past couple of years, especially in 2015 which included successful blockbuster movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Hateful Eight as well as amazing Oscar-nominated films such as Spotlight, The Martian, and The Revenant.
Even the summer blockbuster season had some great films. While we have the obvious successful films such as Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory, there were some big surprises over the course of the summer season that exceeded expectations critically and at the box office that are worth mentioning.
Hell Or High Water
- Release Date: August 12th
- Director: David Mackenzie
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster
- Production Budget: $12 million
- Box Office: $20.8 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 99%
Starting off this list is easily one of my personal favorite films of the summer, Hell or High Water. This independent film had a $12 million budget and ended up making over $20 million at the box office. The movie stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as brothers who plan a series of bank heists against a bank that is attempting to close their family ranch. Pine's character, Toby, will do anything to protect his ranch and make a better life for his son, even if that requires enlisting his ex-convict brother Tanner (Foster), who dons a short temper and rebellious personality.
The movie was extremely well received by critics and movie-goers. Given that, why is this movie's success a surprise to me? It's not because it's an independent film but because of many other reasons. When I first viewed the trailer, it seemed very boring to me. Sure, the movie had a stellar cast and all but I didn't think that a western action drama like this could work out in 2016, yet I was so wrong.
I have no hesitations stating that this movie showcased both Chris Pine's and Ben Foster's best performances yet. Pine's character was originally viewed as a low-life criminal in the beginning of the movie and towards the end, we find out that he is not selfish and everything he has done has been for his family. Foster's craziness in this movie was spot-on as he is the opposite of his brother as has no remorse for his actions as he goes around on shooting sprees.
Also, this is easily one of Jeff Bridges better movies in a long time — and that's saying something! Specifically, the last scene of the movie with his character and Chris Pine's has to be one of the best scenes in the entire film and you can tell Bridge's was born to star in a Western.
The plot was very well put together as it had a lot of twists and turns and kept the viewer invested in the movie. Along with that, the character arcs were very well thought out and how the characters changed throughout the movie was very well done. It really wiped that bad taste out of my mouth from Suicide Squad — which didn't have a good plot or character arcs.
The action was realistic and looked really good. However, the best part of this movie would certainly have to be its cinematography. Hell or High Water is one of the most beautiful-looking films that I've seen in a long time. Therefore, don't be surprised if this movie wins best cinematography this year at the Oscars.
Read more on Hell or High Water:
- Hell Or High Water Is Masterful Filmmaking, Elevated By Truly Awe-Inspiring Cinematography
- Review: Hell Or High Water Gets Everything Right
- Release Date: June 17th
- Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
- Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Danielle Nicollete
- Production Budget: $50 million
- Box Office: $215.2 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 69%
Central Intelligence hit theaters on June 17th and in general, expectations were pretty low. While the trailers looked somewhat amusing, the movie just seemed like it was going to be another poor buddy-cop movie starring the Rock with dry humor and action resulting in a poor reception from critics. However, this was not the case.
This movie managed to turn out pretty good. While a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes seems mediocre, it is really good for a comedy nowadays. Surprisingly, the movie had a good story and there were some plot twists all along the way. This film unlike most comedy movie nowadays had a strong plot with very important themes threaded into the movie.
There were a lot of funny movies this year such as Deadpool and Sausage Party yet Central Intelligence is one of the funniest movies of the year. The action is actually pretty good for a buddy-cop movie. For instance, the Rock instantly wows the audience in the bar scene towards the beginning of the movie. I would have to say that the best part of the movie has to be the chemistry between the Rock and Kevin Hart. Overall, I was surprised and pleased with Central Intelligence.
Read up on the failure of the summer blockbuster season:
- The Box Office Bombs Of 2016: An Analysis Of What Went Wrong
- Has 2016 Been The Worst Summer For Blockbuster Films?
- Release Date: August 12th
- Director: Conrad Vernon
- Cast: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Kristen Wiig, Micheal Cera
- Production Budget: $19 million
- Box Office: $114.5 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
Deadpool wasn't the only comedy this year that went way too far in an awesome way. Sausage Party is a movie that was 10 years in the making as Seth Rogen brought his movie to countless movie studios but they all denied the movie as on paper, it sounds like a horrible idea and a bad investment. Sony Pictures eventually picked up the movie and now, I don't think they regret their decision one tiny bit.
The trailers for Sausage Party looked very funny and I was hoping that this movie was going to be hilarious. At the same time, I worried that all the good jokes were in the trailer and the movie itself would turn out to be an incoherent mess. Then one bright, sunny morning, I checked my phone to see that Sausage Party was doing very well on Rotten Tomatoes. Later on, I went to check out the film for myself and it may have been one of the raunchiest, funniest movies I've ever seen in theaters. This movie was over-the-top funny as they made jokes that no other movies would ever do and it was laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Even though this movie's success surprised me, the reason that makes Sausage Party such a surprise is how far the movie went. You thought Deadpool went way over the line, but Sausage Party created a whole new line and then crossed the hell out of it. From the constant cursing to racist yet hilarious comments and jokes, all the way to the massive orgy scene at the end of the movie, this movie completely blew away its audience. I came out of the theater absolutely shocked at how this movie managed to even be considered to enter theaters, which easily gives it a spot on this list.
The Angry Birds Movie
- Release Date: May 20th
- Director: Fergal Reilly
- Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph
- Production Budget: $73 million
- Box Office: $346.4 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%
This one may be a surprise to you, but should it be? The trailers for The Angry Birds Movie looked fantastic as the plot looked interesting, they cracked some good jokes, and the movie looked entertaining overall. People were naming this one of their most anticipated films of the summer. Then, the movie received a rotten 43 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and we were told that it wasn't good. There were no strong reasons why critics didn't enjoy the movie, they just said it wasn't a good movie. Just read the Rotten Tomatoes description, which praises the movie and then low-key calls it bad without any reason:
Critics Consensus: The Angry Birds Movie is substantially more entertaining than any film adapted from an app has any right to be — which may or may not be much of an endorsement.
After its negative rating on Rotten Tomatoes, movie fans moved on to talk about other movies and a lot of people didn't even bother to go out and see the film, including myself. Eventually, I checked this film out much later one night out of pure curiosity and as the title implies, I was thoroughly surprised. Red, who is the main character of the film, has a very interesting personality as he very angry and sarcastic and his character was the highlight of the film.
Also, all the voice actors did a very good job, the animation looked pretty great, and yes, there was a lot of humor in the movie. Since this is a kids movie, there were a lot of jokes targeted towards them and then the older audience would get their own jokes sprinkled in. The main fear that I had about this movie is that there wouldn't be a strong plot because the game doesn't really have much of a plot besides the pigs stealing the birds eggs and the birds are trying to steal them back. Ironically, it was the thing I became most invested in.
You actually cared about the characters rather than viewing them as annoying, angry birds. You felt sympathy for Red's character as you saw him being treated badly his whole life, which explains why he acts the way he does towards other birds. All in all, is The Angry Birds Movie the best animated film of the year? Probably not, but it was actually quite good and it's worth checking out.
Kubo And The Two Strings
- Release Date: August 19th
- Director: Travis Knight
- Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson
- Production Budget: $60 million
- Box Office: $50.6 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
Kubo and the Two Strings is for sure one of the most underrated movies to come out this summer. The movie scored a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and was praised by critics — at least the ones who saw it. The fact that this movie turned out to be awesome or that it was well received by critics is not what makes this movie so surprising. It's the fact that no one paid attention to the movie and bothered to go out to see it despite it having a tremendous cast including A-list actor Matthew McConaughey, really amazing trailers, and fantastic word of mouth.
The movie had a $60 million budget and only managed to just pull in $50 million (so far). If this summer blockbuster season wasn't filled with other under-performing films and huge flops, this would be one of the biggest flops of the year. It's really bewildering that this film lost money at the box office with such a good word of mouth. One of the only logical reasons I can come up with is that Kubo and the Two Strings came out in late August and by then, movie fans and the general audience were sick of paying for and seeing bad movies.
Along with Kubo and the Two Strings, Pete's Dragon and The BFG are both in the same boat. Both movies scored very high on Rotten Tomatoes but managed to not gain a lot of praise or attention from the general movie audience. Even though they didn't lose money, they still under-performed at the box office. It seems to be all the bad summer movies did well at the box office and all the good ones are underperforming. Logic, right?
Read more about Kubo and the Two Strings:
- Release Date: July 29th
- Director: Jon Lucas
- Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith
- Production Budget: $20 million
- Box Office: $153.4 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 60%
This Jon Lucas-directed movie was actually a pretty entertaining film. The first two trailers actually caught a lot of people's attention as they were very funny. However, the one thing that many people questioned is whether or not the film would actually be good or not. Again, this movie gave off the vibe that this was going to be another bad comedy to come out of Hollywood. However, the movie managed to score a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes and earned over $150 million at the worldwide box office.
I decided to watch the movie a few nights ago and I actually really enjoyed it. The cast was stupendous as Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn played very convincing roles as mothers with very hard lives and successfully delivered the message that being a house wive isn't as easy as it sounds. Also, there were a lot of funny and relatable jokes sprinkled throughout the movie. The concept of the movie is genius and I think the way the movie presented the concept was pretty good for the most part.
- Release Date: May 27th
- Director: Bryan Singer
- Cast: James McAvoy, Micheal Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner
- Production Budget: $178 million
- Box Office: $543.5 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 48%
Putting X-Men Apocalypse on this list may be a controversial move. However, I cannot deny that this superhero movie didn't disappoint me but instead surprised me. A lot of this has to do with where my expectations stood. When it was first announced that Apocalypse was going to be the main villain of the next X-Men movie, I was extremely excited — and it all went down hill from there.
We were told that they were rebooting the X-Men and that we were getting an all-new, young cast. After that, we had our first look at Apocalypse and he looked like he came straight out of a Power Rangers movie. The first trailer didn't make me feel any better as it seemed like a boring movie crammed with awful CGI fight scenes.
At that point, I wasn't even looking forward to the movie anymore. The film was being bashed by critics. I decided to enter the movie theater with a fresh mind leaving behind all the negativity the film has been receiving, but my expectations were still very low. However, I left the movie theater and I was thoroughly surprised.
The movie showcased some very good performances, specifically from Fassbender and McAvoy as they actually compete with McKellen's and Stewart's original and iconic performances. The scene where Magneto's family is murdered is probably one of the most emotional and well-done scenes in the X-Men franchise. McAvoy did something with the Professor X character that Patrick Stewart never did —gave him some emotion and character development. In this movie, you see Charles actually caring for people, getting stressed out at certain times, and going through a huge character arc where he stands up as a leader of the X-Men.
Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse is an entertaining movie as it had a lot of cool comic book moments and action scenes throughout the duration of the film such as the Quiksilver montage or the Jean Grey/Phoenix scene. While it was not as "good" as its previous installments X-Men: First Class or X-Men: Days of Future Past, this movie was actually pretty good despite its problems.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
- Release Date: May 20th
- Director: Nicholas Stoller
- Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Effron, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Selena Gomez
- Production Budget: $35 million
- Box Office: $107.8 million
- Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%
When the sequel was announced to Neighbors, I was a bit frightened that the film would follow the trend of most Hollywood comedy sequels and was being made just to fill the pockets of the ones who worked on the first movie. The first few trailers dropped and while they were entertaining, the film felt destined to be another Hangover: Part 2 as it would repeat the plot of the first one but with college girls replacing guys.
I felt so strong that this movie was going to be a flop that I even included it in my Top 5 Movies Destined To Flop In 2016 article back in February (a rather controversial article at the time) along with X-Men: Apocalypse and Neighbors 2 got the most amount of votes in a poll at the end of the article asking which movie would be the worst.
In the end, it turned out that I actually really enjoyed Neighbors 2 as the sequel replays the dynamic and tone of the first installment yet manages to keep the concept fresh and in some aspects, the sequel does it better. Therefore, this movie was more like 22 Jump Street because it kept the concept fresh and lived up to the first one, unlike The Hangover: Part 2.
Not only was the flick as funny as its first installment but it actually had a solid plot very similar to the first one but was handled in a different and actually better way while it moved the characters in a fresh and new direction, which was absolutely surprising yet amazing to see. Neighbors was an incredibly funny movie and if you enjoyed it, you should definitely check out this movie as it is as great if not better than the first one.
Read more about how Neighbors 2 was a great comedy sequel:
Which movie surprised you the most this summer?
What do you guys think the most surprising movie of the summer was? Let me know below!