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Superhero flicks aren't the only movies out there; it just seems like it

Posted June 6

Jeremy Irons, left, and Dev Patel star in "The Man Who Knew Infinity," a true biographical film now playing in local theaters, and a nice alternative to superhero flicks and cartoons. (Deseret Photo)

Some friends claim to be so weary of comic books, young adult novels, fantasies and cartoons taking over the world’s multiplexes that they are going to boycott Marvel, DC, YA and ’toons.

In other words, they are going to boycott movie theaters.

Or so it seems.

In the past couple of weeks, and to no one’s surprise, Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” leapt over “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Zootopia,” “The Jungle Book” and “Deadpool” to land in the No. 1 spot on the year’s list of box-office hits.

The rest of the top 10 includes “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “Ride Along 2,” “10 Cloverfield Lane,” “The Angry Birds Movie” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

So, as you read this, the genres listed above now hold nine of the top 10 slots for 2016’s biggest moneymaking movies.

Only “Ride Along 2” falls outside those categories, though it does fit the silly summer template, especially since it is both a sequel and a broad action-farce. (Yes, I’m counting “The Jungle Book” as a cartoon.)

But you know what? It’s only the first Friday in June. We’re not even halfway through the year yet, so anything can happen.

But with DC Comics’ “Suicide Squad” coming Aug. 5 and yet another Marvel film, “Doctor Strange,” due in November, along with uncountable cartoons, sequels, action films, fantasies, etc., it’s likely that at the end of the year the box-office top 10 will overflow with these movies.

Maybe the top 20.

Or 30.

Not that top-10 fantasies are new. It’s just their domination that’s new.

Forty years ago, the 1976 top 10 included the horror-fantasy “The Omen” and the first remake of “King Kong.” But the No. 1 movie on that rarefied list was Sylvester Stallone’s boxing classic “Rocky.” In addition, there was the true story of how the Watergate scandal broke, “All the President’s Men”; the Barbra Streisand remake of “A Star is Born”; an all-star World War II drama, “Midway”; and “The Enforcer,” the second sequel to “Dirty Harry.”

In other words, 40 years ago, serious dramas were still box-office gold.

Even the next year, when “Star Wars” topped the 1977 chart and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was close behind, such artful Oscar bait as “The Goodbye Girl,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Annie Hall” were in the top 10.

A couple of years later, in 1979, when “Star Trek — The Motion Picture” and “Alien” were part of the year-end top 10, the No. 1 film of the year was “Kramer vs. Kramer”!

The point is that even though fantasies were hugely popular and making inroads to legitimize pop culture all those years ago, there was still plenty of room for movies about people and regular life and nonmutants, whether it was in a comedy or a musical or a dramatic exploration of fatherhood.

And sometimes those films were the year’s biggest hits.

Those kinds of movies still play in theaters today, but they don’t usually come from the major studios, and they hardly ever wind up in the top 10 at the end of the year.

Still, it’s worth noting that local theaters right now are showing “Love & Friendship,” “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” “The Meddler,” “Pele: Birth of a Legend,” “Sing Street,” “Mother’s Day,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” and perhaps others that I’ve overlooked.

But you have to make an effort to find them.

Those giant franchise “tentpole” pictures — the Marvel and DC superheroes, the young adult dystopian tales, the Disney cartoons — that flood the marketplace, playing in several auditoriums of each and every multiplex, are handed to you on a platter.

You can’t remain totally unaware of those movies even if you try, thanks to the infusion of big bucks from major studios to publicize them on everything from your smartphones to buses to billboards.

But the smaller movies? I’m guessing you’ve never heard of some of these titles.

Not that they’re all bona fide winners. But some are.

And if you look them up, read a bit about them and find the storylines appealing, you may be surprised how entertained you can be by a movie that depicts people walking or driving or riding a train or taking the bus instead of flying around without the benefit of a plane.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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