SUMMER MOVIE MADNESS: Part Two
Welcome to the epic conclusion of SUMMER MOVIE MADNESS 2015! If you missed Part One, click here. Let’s jump right into the mayhem and take a crack at who’s going to win this thing! In case you forgot where we last left our bracket, here's where how the Sweet 16 played out:
And now, on to...
THE ELITE EIGHT
Revenge of the 90s
(4) Mad Max: Fury Road vs. (3) Jurassic World
Here’s something George Miller said about Mad Max: Fury Road
“Yeah, Mad Max is not a superhero. We don’t defy the laws of physics, it’s not a fantasy film. It’s basically a western on wheels. And I think if people see, I know when I see too much CG, that sort of takes me out of the experience…So we decided to literally do every car that’s smashed is smashed, every stunt is a real human being, even the actors do a lot of their own stunts, and so on.”
Go back and watch the trailer for Fury Road again. What?! Do you see what I see? I would count how many cars were smashed, but I don’t know how to count past infinity. I can really get behind this idea of old school blockbuster effects, where flipping some cars and blowing stuff up was enough to send chills down your spine. It’s an affinity for practical effects that has endeared Christopher Nolan to so many people, and if your film can find a way to bring up comparisons to Christopher Nolan, in any capacity, then your chances of succeeding in this bracket are high.
In contrast, Jurassic World will look to live and breathe off of CG. Half the characters in the film will be entirely made by computers. The thrills and chills department is going to have to find a way to make this spectacle of monsters different from other similar spectacles we’ve seen recently (like Pacific Rim and Godzilla). I think World looks better than both of those film, but if you have Joss Whedon dogging you for sexism (in a delightful bit of summer movie trash talk. No one is safe from the Madness!) then you’re not making your road to victory easy.
I’ve yet to find a reason to doubt what Mad Max is throwing at me and for that the Road Warrior moves on.
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
(1) Avengers: Age of Ultron vs. (2) Fantastic Four
Since this competition finds its roots in March Madness, let’s just explore a hypothetical here. What if we took both of these superhero teams, put them on a basketball court and told them play for who gets to move on to the next round. Since both of these films feel like two scoops of the same ice cream to me, this is the route I will go.
Avengers Starting Five: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Scarlet Johansson
Fantastic Four Starting Five, um, Four: Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing
Alright, so off the bat the Avengers have the advantage in that they have both a full starting five AND a full bench of players. Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision are all fighting for minutes as well. BUT, I’m going to say that this wealth of players causes a lot of locker room strife and on-the-court unhappiness. You just know Captain America would bump chests with Tony Stark at the half, being all like “Why’d you jack that corner three when we were down by 1 and Hawkeye was standing alone right under the rim because EVERYBODY forgets about Hawkeye!” And you know Hulk is the Westbrook of the team, in that he’s a monster on the floor but afterwards he becomes Bruce Banner and just meanmugs the media, saying as little as possible so as to not get too angry.
The Fantastic Four have a lot to overcome here. But people doubt that Mr. Fantastic’s powers of stretchiness are eerily similar to Michael Jordan’s elongated arm maneuver from the 30 for 30 documentary Space Jam. Also, the inherent puniness of calling heat checks on the Human Torch is almost too good to pass up. Invisible Woman’s seeming advantage of sneaking around defenses would be marred by the fact that she is also invisible to her own teammates, so I foresee a lot of air ball passes that either go straight out of bounds or right into the Avengers hands.
The deciding factor would have to be that the Fantastic Four are starting a bunch of rookies while the Spurs-esque Avengers are stacked with league veterans. I see the Thing getting into foul trouble and The Human Torch trying to win the whole thing on his own instead of relying on his teammates. Plus, lest we forget, the Avengers also have the advantage of the fact the Captain America use to play for the Fantastic Four! He knows the organization and their style of play. Don’t think he wasn’t coaching the team on how to guard against Mr. Fantastic’s limbs or reviewing the five best ways to recognize someone who is invisible. The Avengers just have too many advantages, so, in a game that was probably close until the fourth quarter, I say the Avengers walk off the court winners.
WINNER: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Women See Movies Too!
(3) Trainwreck vs. (4) Inside Out
Both of these films are all about promise. They will either soar like eagles or flame out like a car in Mad Max: Fury Road. Trainwreck’s high ceiling is based off the fact that Amy Schumer is an untested presence in the feature film landscape. Inside Out can succeed purely on the fact that it was made by the same guys who gave us Doug the talking Dog and Mike Wazowski. So the question becomes, whose ceiling is higher?
If Schumer pulls off her film, we could witness the beginning of the next great comedy star. If Inside Out works, then we can all celebrate a return to excellence from our favorite animation studio. Maybe we should ask who has the most to lose? If Trainwreck washes out, Schumer can just go back to her already successful TV show. If Inside Out bombs (and I’m talking critically because, as the only major animation offering this summer, the film is going to undoubtedly make tons of money) then Pixar enters a creative crisis mode. Keep in mind, last year was the first time ever that a whole year went by without a Pixar film. The studio took 2014 off to, I assume, right-the-ship and give themselves triple time to ensure that Inside Out was up to snuff.
I totally agree with that approach, but, in what has been the hardest matchup for me to pick thus far, I’m going to go with Schumer’s potential over Inside Out’s. Sometimes playing with pressure causes you to make mistakes and Inside Out’s high concept will either totally work or totally not translate. I’m absolutely down to find out, but my skepticism developed from the last three Pixar films cannot be washed away with two wonderful trailers. Please prove me wrong, Inside Out. Please!
(2) Entourage vs. (4) Tomorrowland
How many times do I have to say this? Vinny. Chase. Is. A. Winner. Did you see the title of this region? I dare you name a more definitive example of a bro then Vincent Chase. George Clooney? Well…maybe.
But Clooney has been relegated to the sidelines here, playing Gandalf to Brit Robertson’s Frodo. In contrast, did you hear that my boy Vinny is directing now! He’s $15 million overbudget, but he doesn’t care! Because he’s Vincent Chase! It’s gonna work out because it always does!
Vinny Chase doesn’t need this bracket, but this bracket needs him. Tomorrowland may have tomorrow, but Vincent Chase has TODAY.
THE FINAL FOUR
REVENGE OF THE 90s CHAMPION: Mad Max: Fury Road
TIGHTS REQUIRED CHAMPION: Avengers: Age of Ultron
I tried to think of reasons in my mind for how Avengers could possibly lose this bracket. Could another film overpower it? Could it be crushed under the weight of its own expectations? Could it, in some crazy twist of events, bomb at the box office?
I answered “No” to all of those questions, but then I realized that what if that was a problem. We expect Avengers to dominate everything because so much of the film industry revolves around it. It set a standard that Warner Bros./DC and 20th Century Fox are bending over backwards to match. We as filmgoers know that twice a year we’ll get fed by the Marvel machine and that every so often one of those meals will be a feast with five courses instead of just one. Is it possible, then, that we could start to take these films for granted? That, in the cultural landscape, we just assume it’s going to be big and, when it inevitably is, we shrug and turn our eyes to the next one. Suddenly I realized that the worse thing that could happen to Age of Ultron would not be that it falls below expectations, but that it simply meets them. It will be consumed, digested, and in two months we’ll be hungry for whatever is next from the machine. The excitement is there, but it’s capped off by the knowledge that three years from now there will be another Avengers meal waiting for me eat. You know how in sports when a team keeps consistently winning eventually you start to look for other storylines just because you want to talk about something different? It’s not that the winning team starts to lose; you’re just looking for something new to debate with your friends.
Enter Mad Max. The buzz around this film is palpable. People watch the trailer and, even if they have no idea what the hell is going on, they get into it. It’s a type of excitement that only comes from something that feels fresh. Kids under 20 may have never seen one of the original Mad Max films, but I guarantee they’re stoked for Fury Road purely because they don’t know what to expect. Avengers will deliver on all of its promises, I’m sure, but sometimes your heart yearns for a little risk, a little adrenaline, a little danger. A dad’s worst nightmare is that his daughter will ride off with a dangerous dude on a motorcycle instead of settling down with a steady, well-off guy. This summer we all will face a similar choice and I think I hear the motorcycle coming down the street. Your heart is racing, isn’t it?
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
WOMEN SEE MOVIES TOO! CHAMPION: Trainwreck
BROS NIGHT CHAMPION: Entourage
Vinny Chase is not the kind of guy to settle down (do we really think him and Sophia are actually still together? C’mon), so I’m sure that he would intrigued by the central question poised in Trainwreck. Is monogamy realistic? Perhaps, but he’s too busy to think of an answer. He has to be on set early tomorrow and did we mention he’s directing now?
What we have here is a great battle of the sexes. Amy Schumer versus the collective bro-fest that is Entourage. It would appear that the odds are evenly split until we remember one key thing that I have purposefully not brought up until this very moment. Watch the Trainwreck trailer again. Did you notice something? Or should I say someone? Is that a certain four-time NBA MVP and two-time NBA Champion playing the role of witty sidekick to Bill Hader’s sport surgeon?
That’s right. Lebron Effing James is in Trainwreck and it looks like he’s making more than just a cameo. Entourage might have all the cameos in the world, but I doubt they add up to King James gossiping about sexual intercourse over lunch.
Vinny Chase is a winner, but he doesn’t need to win this bracket to know that. He’s going to bow out gracefully now and let Amy have this moment. Ari and the boys might be pissed that’s he’s passing it up, but Vincent Chase knows what he’s doing. He’s got ideas! He’s a director now! And he’s thinking his next film’s going to be a comedy and he knows Amy will be perfect for it. He’ll call her about it in a few days. Maybe they’ll get drinks. But he’s in no hurry. He’s Vincent Chase.
Mad Max: Fury Road
We all know that Amy Schumer is starring in Trainwreck, but did you realize that she is the sole writer on the project as well? It’s a wonder she didn’t just direct the film. The fact that she got comedy boss Judd Apatow to helm the picture says a lot. I mean, if not her, wouldn’t he be near the top of your list to do it instead?
I think Amy could become a star with this movie and build on the good work that she’s doing with her show. In the past week alone, I’ve seen two sketches from her new season litter my News Feed multiple times. Right now, forecasts for her future are only sunny. But remember way back at the start of this exercise when I said that the summer movie season is all about block busting. We come to the summer looking for movies that will take our senses of sight and sound to new places. Summer is all about spectacle and in this matchup, there is only one true capital S Summer Movie.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the perfect movie to take this summer by storm. It probably won’t make half of the money that films like Avengers or even Mission: Impossible will, but this is the movie people will be talking about all the way until next summer. I can’t believe I’ve made it this far without even having to mention the cast. Tom Hardy appears to be a more-than-suitable replacement for Mel Gibson and Charlize Theron looks like a total badass. The film just has such an air of vision about it, from the vibrant colors of the film’s aesthetic to the elaborate and detailed production design. This is clearly not a film made in a test tube and that, on its own, is really refreshing and exciting.
Who knows if it’ll all come together, but I don’t see George Miller returning to the franchise that launched his career just to make a few bucks. I see a point-of-view being brought to life in gloriously stylized action. And more than anything, I think those who do see Mad Max: Fury Road will realize that style, vision, and point-of-view are things they’ve been unknowingly craving from their summer movies for a long time. The machine has been steadily feeding us, yes, but too much processed food will kill you. Sometimes you need to eat something organic.