We still feel the need for speed.
Audiences had to wait, and wait, for Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick” to hit theaters. Once the pandemic delays lifted, the ’80s sequel soared higher than anyone expected.
Take that, unnamed American enemy featured in the film.
Even Quentin Tarantino shared his “Maverick” love, saying the film was a “true cinematic spectacle.”
The pandemic shut down cineplexes along with restaurants, churches and more. Audiences saw new releases at home like never before, and it seemed like that behavioral switch might be permanent.
Would movie houses go the way of the drive-in theater, throwbacks to an analog age?
“Maverick” helped change that, but it’s hardly the only film to draw a sizable crowd. The marketplace may never be quite the same post-COVID-19, but enough movie lovers returned to theaters to assuage studios … for now.
“Minions: The Rise of Gru”
Audiences can’t get enough of these marble-mouthed critters, no matter how mediocre the story is around them. “Rise,” the fifth film in the series, opened with an absurdly large $108 million during its first three days in release.
The franchise has legs, meaning we haven’t seen the last of Steve Carell’s lovable supervillain (or his wacky cohorts).
He left the building, and this mortal coil, in 1977. Audiences still crave those gyrating hips and timeless tunes, as shown by the film’s impressive box office haul.
The pandemic kept many adults away from theaters, but the film’s $130 million haul showed they’d happily return under the right circumstances.
“The Black Phone”
Horror doesn’t need A-list stars or IP-friendly titles. This smart shocker proved it, banking on a killer premise to lure in audiences. A sequel seems inevitable, but we’ll always have Ethan Hawke’s bravura turn as a serial killer with a penchant for young victims.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
This year’s sleeper smash is still writing its success story. The film’s critical raves were matched by strong, steady support from audiences. The film kept going, and going, at the box office, shouldering past other indie releases in the process.
Bank on some Oscar nominations come early next year.
It’s one of the most original, and frightening, horror films in recent memory. The title, and feminist trappings, may have kept some inquisitive audiences away.
Disney made two critical errors prior to the film’s release. It jettisoned the original Buzz Lightyear’s voice, Tim Allen, suggesting the star’s politics weren’t welcome for this “Toy Story” spin-off.
The other miscue? Forcing a same-sex moment into the film. The sequence in question is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair, but the news cycle surrounding it carried more weight than usual.
Team Disney is all-in on indoctrinating children with sexual messaging, both benign and more adult in nature. A brief buss between two women isn’t offensive on paper, but given the larger narrative surrounding the Mouse House, it became part of the raging culture wars.
Plus, the film couldn’t match the luster of the four “Toy Story” entries.
“Thor: Love and Thunder”
The Asgardian hero had some help this time around, courtesy of Natalie Portman’s hammer-wielding heroine. The box office results look strong on paper, but the fourth film in the MCU franchise will make roughly $100 million less than “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” from earlier this year.
That isn’t the only troubling news.
The film earned a tepid 65 percent “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, signifying critics weren’t sold on director Taika Waititi’s latest MCU venture. They had a point.
The film’s first weekend numbers suggests audiences are done with dopey summer blockbusters. Or, the adventure’s over-the-top antics aren’t catnip to mainstream audiences.
Either way, this original isn’t a flop, but if it doesn’t have box office legs it could easily slip into the Losers category.
A genre movie hitting the $100 million mark deserves a “winner” label under most conditions. This thriller, a sci-fi spectacle with a dash of the macabre, isn’t any typical release.
It’s the third film from Jordan Peele of “Get Out” fame. And we’re seeing his films drop drastically at the box office. “Nope” will make roughly $75 million less than 2019’s “Us,” which means his brand is in serious decline.
It doesn’t help that “Nope” is a creative misfire, a dull affair with a dispiriting third act.