It used to be that Hollywood, like the rest of us, believed that summer started around Memorial Day. For decades, that three-day weekend was critical to the movie studios. They would unveil their biggest summer popcorn titles, including huge sequels like "Return of the Jedi," “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Mission: Impossible 2."
But then, in 2002, Sony effectively altered the Hollywood calendar when it released the first “Spider-Man” movie on May 3. That Tobey Maguire Spidey went on to gross more than $800 million worldwide.
Ever since, studios unveil more of their biggest blockbusters well before the end of May. This year, Disney opened “Avengers: Age of Ultron” on May 1 and Universal released “Furious 7” April 3 — almost two months earlier than the last “Fast and Furious” movie. So now, Memorial Day is more of an afterthought than a launching pad.
This holiday weekend, two movies, “Tomorrowland” and a remake of “Poltergeist,” will premiere, and neither is wowing critics. Grae Drake, the senior editor at Rotten Tomatoes, talks with the Frame about these two critical duds and how it marks a change in the summer movie season.
What is the general critical response to the movies coming out this weekend, specifically Disney's "Tomorrowland" and the horror-remake "Poltergeist"?
It's been lukewarm at best for both of these films, because people don't really seem to go to the movies on Memorial Day weekend unless there's a huge tentpole movie. So both of the critical receptions for both of the films are decidedly 'ehhh.'
How will this critical reaction affect "Tomorrowland," which has an estimated budget of $190 million?
I think that the promotional campaign has mostly just confused audiences, and nobody knows who it's for, and they look more towards the critics to see what in the heck it's even about. The answer is, 'I don't know if this one is worth skipping the BBQ.'
Why have critics been complaining about that movie?
It's mostly the script. The film was directed by Brad Bird, who has directed so many wonderful and really heart-wrenching pieces like 'Iron Giant' and then 'The Incredibles,' and then really fun movies like 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol' that work on a popcorn level. So the script that he was using for this film is a little bit muddled at best. You have critics like Josh Spiegel from Movie Mezzanine saying that, so many of the disparate elements of 'Tomorrowland' work that it's kind of heartbreaking to see it saddled with an inconsistent script.
The reviews haven't been any better for the "Poltergeist" remake.
This is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, as far as the original goes. So when they decided to remake it with Sam Rockwell and Jared Harris, these are great actors, and it's a wonderful idea and concept, but the critics are not in love with it, mostly because it doesn't do anything new for the franchise itself.