June 2020 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
June 13, 2020
This June, American cinemas pass through their third and perhaps last full month of lockdown, as the world around them strains to become just a little less apocalypt-y looking. No films are scheduled for wide release, however, not until Russell Crowe returns to menace us on July 1st (I think he has a new movie out, as well). The July releases will be bringing in what I assume are grosses in the hundreds of millions, as well as a box office forecast that will return to my traditional format of 6,000+ words that everyone loves so much.
In the meantime, drive-ins are enjoying a resurrection, with much of the scant reported big-screen movie income coming forth from their loins, and unabashedly B-movie titles such as Becky (Kevin James being shot in the face by a teenage girl) and The Wretched (a demonic she-woman being shot in the chest by a teenage boy) happily double-billing each other across America (and Canada, of course). That sounds like fun! The American frontier of brilliant, low-grade exploitation cinema is back, the kind of movies I would have gone to see at a drive-in in the 1980s, had I spent more than a few years there. Indeed, so thrilled is everyone at this retro resurgence that The Wretched has already grossed 1.1 million dollars (yes, Dr. Evil, one million!) while playing in increasing expansion - 12 locations its first weekend, 19 in its second, and by now, its sixth, in 99. That's also six consecutive weekends at #1 at the box office, a record no puny superhero film could ever hope to muster. Marvel, you're just not Wretched enough.
Now, two of the multitudinous films coming to streaming services this June are ones that would have previously been in theatres everywhere this summer - following in the noble tradition of Trolls World Tour, The Lovebirds, and Scoob! (Scoobert Scooby Doo), three films their studios streamed instead of pushing back because they simply had to share them as soon as possible.
Both of these titles, indeed, are debuting this weekend. The first (1), of course, is The King of Staten Island, which is directed by Judd Apatow and thus follows his remarkably consistent formula (some may add, "devilishly consistent"). It involves, 1., a comic actor in need for a big screen breakout role, 2., a plotline that follows an immature, emotionally malnourished, bleery-eyed manchild (or, in one of his films, womenchild), often partial to the pleasures of marijuana, who must accept the responsibilities of adult life and pursue all the etc. that such lifestyle apparently entails (so, mostly just less weed?), and 3. a running time well over 130 minutes. In particular, number three is not negotiable.
The plotline is made much absurd in this case because the star is one Pete Davidson, who in our off-screen world somehow found himself right there in front of the cameras on Saturday Night Live at the age of 20 years old (Davidson, Eddie Murphy, and Anthony Michael Hall are among the show's youngest ever victims); and therefore has had to have his autobiographical story retcon his very self, spitting him out into cinema as a 25 year-old slacker who never quite got that SNL callback, still idling the days in seclusion over on Staten Island, separated away from the unreachable magical land that is the rest of New York City by what seems like one very long swim. Marisa Tomei and Steve Buscemi co-star, imparting life lessons, valuably.
My favourite Apatow film, This Is 40, abandoned the "Mr. comedian, please grow up" plotline alltogether for some domestic wrangling between a long-married couple (I'm just that suburban). But between Trainwreck and the King, Apatow's back to basics, and indeed Davidson is an actor who probably would have had a big film such as this coming around one way or another, whether we like it or not (his other early 2020 title, Big Time Adolescence, co-starring the brilliantly alliterate Griffin Gluck, got some good reviews). In yet some other alternate 2020, without quarantines and societal breakdowns and other minor inconveniences, would Staten Island's King have grossed $100m on this here June 12, which is also its original theatre date? I would say, no, and I won't be disproven.
Another summer film that likely would not have cleared 1-0-0 is this month's second (2) big exile, Artemis Fowl, which Disney moved from a promised theatre run right into the TV screen and onto its streaming service. Artemis is one of those franchise names you may have heard of here or there over the years without ever quite mustering up the willpower to google and find out what the hell is going on - like "Cirque du Freak" or "Warcraft," both of which were also made into films, a fact that still didn't help in explaining what the titles meant.
Ferdia Shaw is our 12 year-old Artemis, who lives on the Irish coast in a magical post-Harry Potter world (the Artemis Fowl books debuted in 2001, four years after Ms. Rowling unleashed her spawn). He manages to distract himself from the stunning Irish scenery long enough to end up involved in the fracas created after the theft of a magical artifact, a particular criminal situation that will be resolved only after the involvement of any number of supernatural beings, quirky and putatively entertaining - Josh Gad, adorned by bush beard and science goggles, which make him look remarkably unlike Rubeus Hagrid (man, so 2001-era), Judi Dench, bless her heart, with elfine ears, razor-sharp and protruding up, and Colin Farrell... in a suit (that will have to be enough magic). For directing duties, Disney kidnapped and drove to the set one Kenneth Branagh, who has already helmed any number of adaptations of William Shakespeare's works, and even one of Stan Lee's, and so was free to move on to YA. His given budget for this film was a meager $125m, mostly spent on catering and Judi Dench, I'm sure.
Branagh, indeed, has transitioned from reasonably non-supernatural fare in the 1990s to dormancy in the 2000s to, in the most recent decade, launching franchises as easily as if they were tiny sailboats - Thor, of course, helped the MCU live and breathe; his Murder on the Orient Express is getting a sequel, with Branagh again both in front and behind the camera; and Artemis Fowl, which had originally been set for August 2019 and then May 29, 2020, could very well inspire yet another Disney Plus film, at the least.
Oh, and reviews for one of these films are not as kind as they are for the other. I wouldn't dream of revealing which.