Back to the Sequel

Sequels are so often made hastily and poorly. They are made to capitalize on of the success of the original and cash in once more by recycling jokes, storylines and characters that audiences recognize. It is so rare that sequels are made well that it becomes noteworthy when a sequel actually turns out to be decent.

Let’s take a minute to acknowledge some of the best sequels. There’s the few that are undoubtedly better than the original: The Dark Knight, Empire Strikes Back, X2: X-Men United, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Bourne Supremacy. Another few are arguably as good if not better: Aliens, Godfather Part II, Spiderman II, Die Hard With A Vengeance (yes.) There’s more to mention but in this discussion of great sequels one always seems absent. What better day to bring this seeming injustice to light than October 21st, 2015: The day that Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future Part II.

Back to the Future Part II is bigger in scope: alternate realities, a dystopian 1985 where the world is turned into a ZZ Top music video with Biff as the star and a lot more time travel than the original. There are plenty of references to the original without it being the same movie over again. The way they re-do the Hill Valley skateboard chase scene but with hover boards is a great homage to the original. Marty then goes back to 1955 and the original movie to literally replay some of the most memorable scenes from a different point and voice and as background music to the current movie at hand If you are still with me after that sentence, you have to agree that’s pretty awesome.

This is all not to say that the original Back to the Future is in any way worse or less influential than its first sequel. However, Back to the Future Part II deserves its place on the Mount Rushmore of Movie Sequels. Okay, it probably wouldn’t make the Mount Rushmore of Movie Sequels but like at least the Hall of Fame. Any way, there wouldn’t be a #BackToTheFutureDay without the sequel and it should get its due, without it we would instead have to acknowledge that October 21st is Kim Kardashian’s birthday. Damn, I guess I just did.

Some ending Back to the Future thoughts:

-Elizabeth Shue as Jennifer in the Part II makes you forget that someone else played Jennifer in the first one.

-Billy Zane is in Back to the Future I and II and Zoolander I and II. He’s a cool dude.

-Michael J. Fox plays Marty, Old Marty, Marty Jr. and Marlene McFly in Part II. The only comparable acting performance is Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.

Jaws 19 looks better than Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, Jaws: The Revenge and all of the Snarknado movies.

-Look where putting money on the Cubbies has you now! Let’s Go Mets. Sorry, had to do it.

-I still kind of wish my senior yearbook quote was: Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

-Finally, on the actual October 21st, 2015 still not sure how or why Doc Brown, an aging, disgraced nuclear physicist and Marty a high school ‘slacker’ are friends, but do we care?

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What party is we goin’ to on Oscar day? ‘Specially if she can’t get that dress from Oscar de

Its Oscar Sunday. The biggest night in entertainment hands down. Sure the Globes are a little rowdier, but they still do not compare to the Academy Awards no matter what Buzzfeed or anyone else tells you.

Having just screened Nebraska and 12 Years a Slave earlier today I have seen all of the Best Picture nominees except for one. So I could give you a breakdown who I think should win or what will win blah blah blah but that sounds about as boring as Philomena looks (that’s the one I didn’t see). Also if you do want that follow me on twitter, I’ll be posting my picks. Instead I’m going to do what I usually do: talk about exactly what I want to talk about. Sound good? Good.

“Now the tuxedos seem kinda fucked up…”

Seth Rogen’s classic line from Step Brothers can be directly applied to some of the Oscar choices in recent memory. At the time they seemed fine, but as time has passed it becomes more clear that the Academy simply got it wrong. Examples? I thought you’d never ask:

Crash. 2005 Best Picture

There’s a reason why Jack Nicholson was so shocked when he read the winner for Best Picture. Crash is a fine movie albeit a bit cliched that does not hold up too well in multiple viewings. The cast and crew weren’t even expecting to win, Ryan Flippee looked happier than he ever looked when he was with Reese Witherspoon (I guess that makes sense). All of the other nominees Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich are more memorable and impactful films looking back. So why did the Academy go with Crash? I really can’t even think of a real reason, maybe they just hate gay cowboys.

Jennifer Lawrence. 2013 Best Actress

I talk about this one all the time. I met Jessica Chastain while working a press junket for Zero Dark Thirty and she couldn’t have been more of a genuine, down to earth and remarkably lovely person. So sure, that makes me a little bit biased. But in this case its America’s bias towards Jennifer Lawrence that swung this award. We all know she’s one of the coolest and attractive celebrities on the planet right now and that came to the general public’s attention at the perfect time. Don’t get me wrong I really like Silver Linings Playbook but there is nothing outwardly remarkable about her performance. Jessica Chastain performance carries Zero Dark Thirty, it’s as simple as that. Plenty of talented actresses could have played the Jennifer Lawrence role and the movie wouldn’t have suffered that much. I don’t think you can say the same about Zero Dark Thirty without Chastain. The worst part? It might happen again tonight. The unilateral love for Lawrence might be enough to push her past 12 Years’ Lupita Nyong’o. Back to back Oscars for her would be about as ridiculous as the idea of Steve Nash winning back to back NBA MVPs while playing in the same era as an in their primes Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. Where’s Bill Simmons at?

The King’s Speech. 2011 Best Picture

At the time I was completely on the King’s Speech over The Social Network train. However, I recently rewatched both and can’t believe I ever felt that way. The Social Network is much more of a cinematic masterpiece than it gets credit for, and I don’t think that’s a stretch at all. The King’s Speech is just another Oscar bait movie that got overrated at the right time (like Shakespeare in Love, Driving Miss Daisy or Ordinary People to name a few), its no coincidence that Harvey Weinstein was involved. The Academy was too stuffy to give a movie about TheFacebook its biggest award and so they gave it Best Original Screenplay, which I guess is some consolation.

Well that’s all I got for now. A few passing thoughts I have going into tonight:

1. I have a sneaking suspicion that Gravity will wind up being the Best Picture even though most indications point to 12 Years a Slave. Just a feeling.

2. Do you think Jonah Hill ever thought he’d be a multiple time Academy Award nominated actor when he was filming that period blood scene in Superbad? (“Fuck me, right?”) Speaking of which does Michael Cera ever wonder where his career went so wrong in comparison? Youth in Revolt maybe?

3. A Matthew McConaughey win tonight will prove once again that a great performance can make people forget about countless bad ones. Even though Stewie Griffin wouldn’t agree.

4. How great will that McConaughey acceptance speech be?

5. Seriously. It’s going to be great, let me tell you this the older you do get the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.

L-I-V-I-N.


Is Johnny Depp still a movie star?

Yes. Johnny Depp still stars in movies, but a true movie star is able to pull audiences into the theater no matter what the subject matter of their movie is. Melissa McCarthy has propelled herself from supporting actor (Bridesmaids) to movie star this year because she helped make both The Heat (not surprising) and Identity Thief (very surprising) huge box office hits. Meanwhile, actors like Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise have seen their once infallible stardom fade right before their eyes. Can we officially add Depp to that list? I say yes.

Let’s start with this past weekend. Is anyone surprised that The Lone Ranger bombed? Put your hand down, Jerry Bruckheimer. It grossed less than $50 million domestically and will probably have a sharp drop in its second week because of bad reviews word of mouth. Its monstrous $215 million production budget is also unlikely to be recouped. This shouldn’t be surprising because Depp fails the stardom test (that I made up).

The stardom test is a simple way to check how a movie star’s career is trending. It entails looking at their last five films with them as the star and seeing how they did. In this test we’re looking at quality and gross. Let’s look at Depp’s: The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and The Tourist (I didn’t include Rango because it’s animated). Are any of those good movies? Did any of them gross their budget domestically? The answer to both questions is no.

Johnny Depp used to do movies that showcased his acting, not ones that were supposed to be box office tent poles, that’s what made him a star. He used to play characters that were real and had depth, now he plays quirky characters who wear makeup and speak in funny accents. Look at his successful movies from 1990-2002 (before the original Pirates): Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Sleepy Hollow, Chooclat and Blow. No studio was banking on any of those films to make or break their year, but they were all successful in their own right. From 2003-present? Four Pirates movies, five Tim Burton collaborations (anyone else tired of those?), Public Enemies, The Rum Diary, The Tourist (all disappointments) with two 1990-2002 style Depp movies sprinkled in with Secret Window and Finding Neverland, which both came out in 2004 (nine years ago). He doesn’t do “quality” movies anymore, he does movies that are supposed to make money, and domestically they don’t.

The silver lining in Depp’s fading stardom is that his movies still make plenty of money outside of the American box office. I was flabbergasted to learn that The Tourist made $210 million overseas (Not a typo). However, this is the case with almost every movie/movie star. On the list of the 50 highest combined (domestic and overseas) highest grossing movies of all time, guess how many had a higher domestic gross than overseas? Three. (They’re The Dark Knight, ET and Star Wars for reference). My point? There’s so many people outside of the US that go to the movies (without worrying about quality) that Depp’s high overseas grosses do not mean that he’s still a bona fide movie star, because he only gets overseas audiences to see his movies. Gone are the days where he could do no wrong and turn a less than stellar movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest into domestic box office successes and with them is Depp’s former super-stardom.


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For pushed back…again

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, the sequel to Robert Rodriguez’ 2005 Sin City, was originally scheduled to be released in 2007, the same year that the original iPhone was released. It is now 2013, and the release of the sequel to the adaptation of Frank Miller’s neo-noir graphic novels has been pushed back…again.

After years of being in development, Sin City 2 was set to start production in 2012 with a release date of October 4th, 2013 attached. However, the release date has now been pushed back to August 22nd, 2014. That means it will be just under nine years after the first film was released, and that’s if (a huge if) it is actually released on the new date. Rodriguez’s other sequel, Machete Kills is already coming out on September 13th this year, and he made the original just three years ago.

This happens way too often, audiences miss out on the sequels they actually want for the sequels that are easier for studios to make. Machete was an exciting and fun mainstream B-movie, but can the fun continue for a whole second movie without becoming stale? I’m more than skeptical. Meanwhile, Sin City has an expansive universe with an abundant amount of story lines to tackle, they could easily make it a franchise.

Think about all the sequels that we have gotten and all the ones we have been deprived of. They decided not to do sequels to Todd Phillips’ hits like Old School or Wedding Crashers, but gave us two pretty bad (I’m kinder than most) sequels to The Hangover. Hollywood can’t seem to get planned sequels that audiences want to Zombieland, The Italian Job or Ghostbusters off the ground, but can put out Son of the Mask, Blues Brothers 2000, Babe: Pig in the City, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and Basic Instinct 2. Just reading the names of all those sequels makes me cringe.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For will hopefully hit theaters on August 22nd, 2014, but will the nine year gap between movies affect it? It almost has to. However, if the sequel is finally released as planned and lives up to expectations, Sin City could easily be turned into the franchise it was supposed to be all along.


We’ve seen this before

Remember in 2011 when we all got irked at Hollywood for releasing two nearly identical movies in the same year? In fact those two movies (No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits) even had the same IMDb description for a while until someone noticed and it went viral. And that’s not even close to the first time this has happened. Hollywood has pulled this on us many times specifically in 1996 (Twister/Tornado), 1998 (Armageddon/Deep Impact), 2006 (The Illusionist/The Prestige), and its happening again this year.

Let’s go back to February this year: the Oscars have just wrapped up, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx are on Jimmy Kimmel’s live after show to promote their upcoming movie, White House Down. The movie’s premise: a terrorist attack on the White House leaves an unlikely but capable “civilian” in charge of protecting and saving the President of the United States. Now wait a minute, isn’t this movie coming out in a few weeks? Nope. That’s Olympus Has Fallen, a film about an unlikely but capable civilian who helps to save the president after a terrorist attack. Only that one is the one with Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman. Wait, so Hollywood is releasing two of basically the same movie in the same year…again?! Yes, and not only that, the two titles are two ways of saying the exact same thing.

Olympus Has Fallen was released on March 22nd of this year (this guy’s birthday), towards the end of the worst movie season of the year: The Post Oscar-Pre Summer Season, which generally runs from January to mid-the end of April, depending on when the first summer blockbuster is released. It is the lowest grossing time of the year as average to below average movies are generally released during this time because they cannot compete at the box office in the more crowded and quality seasons (Oscar and Summer). Think about the movies that were released from January-April this year. The highest grossing was Identity Thief. This is not all to hate on Olympus Has Fallen, which actually did pretty well grossing close to $100 million domestically, it is just a fact. No Strings Attached was released on January 21st and Friends with Benefits was released on July 22nd. Guess which one was better?

Sure, its difficult to say with complete conviction that White House Down will be automatically better than Olympus Has Fallen just because it is being released in June, but the signs are all there. When Friends with Benefits trailers started popping up more than a few people quickly dismissed it as the “other” movie where friends try to have casual sex resulting in inevitable complications. But a deeper look at the two films would tell you different. Right off the bat for a romantic comedy which combination would you rather see? Ashton Kutcher, who mostly just does commercials for cameras and Natalie Portman who usually does dramatic roles OR Justin Timberlake who is generally hilarious and Mila Kunis who does mostly comedic roles? I’ll take the latter anytime. Whose movie would you rather see Ivan Reitman, whose last comedic hit was legitimately Kindergarten Cop OR Will Gluck fresh off of directing Easy A? See what I’m getting at. Add better supporting cast and a slightly larger budget to the comparison and Friends with Benefits is a much more appealing movie, before you even see either and thus became the more successful of the two.

White House Down stars Channing Tatum, who is one of the biggest stars in the world right now and Jamie Foxx coming off of Django Unchained is a better one two punch of front line stars than Gerard Butler, who is still living off of 300 and Aaron Eckhart, who I generally don’t believe in unless he’s Harvey Dent (had to). Does anyone have more experience destroying the home of the President than White House Down director Roland Emmerich? Antonie Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen’s director) certainly does not, especially considering his only above average film, Training Day, came out in 2001. White House Down also has a much bigger budget and a marginally better supporting cast.

The situation is nearly identical to what happened with No Strings Attached/Friends with Benefits. White House Down is destined to be the better and higher grossing film, barring the Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted implosion of the film industry happening much sooner than they anticipated. We have seen this situation before from Hollywood and we’ll see it again. It’s on us to decipher which of the two movies will be the one worth seeing.


Even Will Smith can’t save M. Night

The new Will Smith movie that stars him and his  genetically replicated clone son, After Earth premiered in theaters Friday. What’s more interesting than the movie itself (currently a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes) is that even without M. Night Shyamalan’s name in the trailer the great Will Smith could not remove the stigma associated with the once promising director’s name.

After Earth’s budget is estimated at $130 million, which is not surprising considering its an action adventure film and has Will Smith’s paycheck of $20-30 million to deal with. However, after coming in third this past weekend at the box office with a disappointing $27ish million intake its already looking like a disaster. Especially when you consider that it lost out to Fast Six in its second week (despite its sharp -63.9% drop from last weeks intake) and to the more modestly budgeted magician movie Now You See Me. My point: it didn’t lose out to a big time Superhero movie, it got beat by two movies it was expected to beat. I don’t know why it failed, I really don’t need to know why it failed. Think about it like this: even John Carter, which was a historic flop out grossed it by about $3 million on its opening weekend. The difference: Will Smith should be able to out gross any Tim Riggins movie considering the fact that Taylor Kitsch went from budding star to praying that they make a new Friday Night Lights movie within the last year. So why didn’t it?  As I said before, even Will Smith, the man who turned Hancock, a below average film (at best) into a $624 million grossing movie with just his name and a decent trailer, cannot save M. Night Shyamalan’s career.

Will Smith is unflopable, I would argue that he has never even had one a single flop as the lead actor of a film, until now. Shyamalan is on the other end of the spectrum, this can no longer be categorized as a slump, the guy just can’t hack it. Has a director ever started with this much success and had this much of a decline into nothingness? Find me one. Shyamalan’s first four films: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village all grossed in the $250-$670 million range, hell even The Happening somehow grossed $163 million (for some reason a lot of people outside the US saw it) to which my natural response is:

Even as those films made money Shyamalan began to wear out his welcome with audiences as his movies became predictable and stupid with their twists. But now  its gotten to a point where Sony purposely left name out of the trailers and advertisements for fear that the audiences stay away (their fears came true anyway). This comes after The Last Airbender was suppose to be three films until Paramount cancelled it after the first one underwhelmed mightily and when his name was openly booed/mocked in theaters when the Devil trailer premiered before Inception. And now having his biggest star he’s ever worked with and safest box office bet in Will Smith he has again failed to captivate audiences. I see dead a career and I’m not talking about Haley Joel Osment’s.


The What If saga continues!

My original “What if” article was far and away my most popular post, thanks in large part to WordPress choosing it for their Freshly Pressed page (shameless shout out in the hopes that they’ll do it again). So why not go back to the well and tackle another exciting “what if” in movie making history: In honor of the release of The Great Gatsby let’s look at how Leonardo DiCaprio’s decision to pass on a role completely changed Christian Bale’s career.

Quick note: I decided to just keep it to one “What if” per post, as opposed to the three in the original and will be posting more soon.

What if Leonardo DiCaprio played Patrick Bateman in American Psycho?

Brent Easton Ellis’ famous novel’s film adaptation took a while to get off the ground. It was originally optioned in 1991 with Johnny Depp set to star as Patrick Batemen, which quickly fell through. At one point David Cronenberg (The Fly) was set to direct with Brad Pitt as the star. However, after a several years Mary Harron was chosen to write and direct.

Harron pushed for Lions Gate to accept her (at the time strange) choice of Christian Bale to play Bateman. The studio only let Harron cast Bale on the condition that she would also cast two big name actors in supporting roles, which she did with Willem Dafoe and Reese Witherspoon (funny considering Bale is a bigger star than both now). However, the studio was still not satisfied and offered the part to a younger, bigger star in Leonardo DiCaprio, causing Harron to leave the project. Oliver Stone was hired to replace her, but when DiCaprio dropped out of the project to do Danny Boyle’s The Beach (a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes) the Wall Street director followed. Harron was rehired with Bale attached and the rest is history.

But what if Leo and Oliver Stone had stayed and made American Psycho their own way? The film would have been completely different, but not necessarily bad. Stone was still a solid director back in 1999-2000 (seriously when’s the last time he made a good movie?) and Leonardo DiCaprio was already on his way to superstardom thanks to all the screaming teenage girls who saw Titanic twenty-seven times each. Would the film have been as good with Leo as the lead? Probably not; Bale’s performance brings the film to a new level. However, American Psycho would have instantly turned Leo from talented teen heartthrob to a legitimate and respected actor who can play a dark character such as Bateman. The female youth of America would be screaming and crying in a very different way at the sight of Jack Dawson chopping up the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars. What does this mean? Leo doesn’t do The Beach (a good thing) and gets more offers to do serious Oscar level roles earlier than 2002 when he and Scorsese collaborated for the first time with Gangs of New York. DiCaprio squeezes in an extra Oscar nomination from the Academy for American Psycho or another role right after, and maybe, just maybe, they see fit to give him the gold statue one of the four times he’s nominated.

Meanwhile, Bale misses out on his breakout role and never gets to be the star he is today. He never gets the chance to drop the “E” in Bateman and become…well you see where I’m going. He doesn’t get cast in Batman Begins, The Prestige or even The New World (fun fact: Bale is in Pocahontas and The New World, two VERY different films based on the same story) and never gets his supporting role Oscar for The Fighter. This affects Christopher Nolan’s career as well. Without Bale even as a consideration for Bruce Wayne, Nolan is stuck choosing between Joshua Jackson (Charlie Conway), Eion Bailey (who?), Hugh Dancy (WHO?!)  Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Henry Cavill (the new Man of Steel) and Jake Gyllenhaal (prettier than his sister) all of whom auditioned but did not get the part because of Bale. None of these actors would have worked out as Bruce Wayne, especially not in the way Bale did. Nolan’s Batman series never takes off and maybe he never gets the opportunity or the budget to do Inception. However, one thing is for certain, Christian Bale should be a huge fan of both Danny Boyle and The Beach for stealing Leo away from American Psycho. In fact, he should have thanked Boyle and Leo first in his Oscar acceptance speech, because he probably does not even get an invite to the ceremony without their “help” and definitely would not be able to get a reservation at Dorsia.