Monday, February 25, 2013

Most Anticipated Of 2013

These are some of my most anticipated movies for the coming year. I am placing them in order of release date, except for the movie I am anticipating the most, at least right now.

“Oblivion” April 19th

Tom Cruise, Sci-Fi, Joseph Kosinski, the director of “Tron Legacy”, and an original story. Not a sequel, reboot or re imagining. Since this is a rarity in Hollywood these days, how could you not want to see this? “Tron Legacy” got a very mixed reaction, some loved it, some hated it, some were indifferent. Count me as one of those who loved it.  I really liked the visual style of the movie, and I feel like Kosinski will deliver a solid sci fi movie with Cruise on board. Both of Cruise's sci fi outings, "Minority Report" and "War Of The Worlds", were great movies, so it seems he has an eye for good sci fi.

“Iron Man 3” May 3rd

Director Jon Favreau is out, director Shane Black is in for the third installment of the Iron Man series. Expect a darker, grittier edge this time around. The trailers give a sense of real danger, as if everything in Tony Stark's world is about to come crashing down around him. After the enormous success of “The Avengers”, Marvel studios knows they have to up their game with the moves that will lead to the next Avengers movie. I am expecting all of Marvel's upcoming movies to up the stakes, but this one needs to set the bar for the other movies that follow.

“Star Trek:Into Darkness” May 17th

JJ Abrams and the crew of the Enterprise are back from the 2009 reboot for a new, and from the looks of it, darker adventure. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the mysterious villain, on a quest for some kind of revenge. Ok, so Nero from the first movie was after revenge as well, but as long as there is no time travel involved, i'm ok with the whole revenge angle again. The  trailers look great, so I am expecting another great outing from JJ & Co. I am hoping that this one has a different feel from the last one, Star Trek has always been about different tones....dark, lighthearted, comical, emotional, and I hope that we see a different tone this time, and so far it seems there will be.

“Fast And Furious Six” May 24th

This series is a that has gotten BETTER with each new installment. I did not see the second movie, “2 Fast 2 Furious”, and i'm sure i'll get around to it, but as far as i'm concerned, the only ones that really count are the one's with Vin Diesel's Dominic Torreto in them. So that would be the first, fourth, and fifth movies. Like I said, each movie has been better than the last. Fast Five being probably the best one so far. The presence of Dwayne Johnson really gave the movie a great presence, and seeing him back for the sixth movie is very exciting. This new movie looks to be even crazier with the car action than the last one, These movies are adrenaline fueled, balls to the wall action, and nobody does it better.

“Man Of Steel” June 14th

Superman has had one heck of a bumpy ride. Some good movies, some so so, and one god awful abomination (“Superman IV:The Quest For Peace” for those fortunate enough not to have seen it). Although the last movie, Bryan Singer's “Superman Returns” did decent box office (approx $200 mil domestic) it wasn't the return to glory Warner Brothers was hoping for. So they went and hired the stylized director Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”, “300”) to give the son of Jor El a much needed restart. A new cast, including English actor Henry Cavill, who plays Superman/Clark Kent, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Russell Crowe as Jor El, Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White, and Michael Shannon as General Zod. Batman master Christopher Nolan as Producer, and hopefully mentor to Snyder. All those add up to a lot of promise.The trailers are very cool, and it looks like Superman may finally return to his former glory.

“Despicable Me 2” July 3rd

“Despicable Me” really took me by surprise when it was released in 2010, an it was one of my favorite movies of the year. Of course, those little yellow minions stole the show, but the entire movie was great. Great characters, great voice acting, and a sweet, emotional heart among the laughs and silliness. It was nice to see Dreamworks getting away from “Shrek” and making something different and very entertaining. I hope they don't go too over the top with the sequel, strike the same balance that the first movie had, and you got a winner on your hands. They don't need to top the first movie, just equal its humor and sweetness.

My most anticipated movie of 2013 is....

“Pacific Rim” July 12th

Director Guillermo DelToro, monsters, giant robots fighting the monsters. That's a formula for a great movie. DelToro directed “Mimic”, “Blade 2” (the best of that series) and both “Hellboy” movies, 4 movies I really enjoyed. I have yet to see another highly praised film of his, “Pan's Labyrinth”, but I have heard nothing but good things about it. The trailer for “Pacific Rim” looks awesome, and it's refreshing to see a big summer blockbuster that is an original idea, not a sequel, or reboot. I guess you could say this is a decent year for those kind of movies, with “Oblivion” being the other one. I just hope that audiences embrace these movies. “Pacific Rim” has all the elements of a big summer movie, and a great director at the helm, Unlike the “Transformers” movies, which while entertaining, were devoid of any kind of substance,  DelToro should bring some.

Check the trailer out....

Along with the movies I just talked about, some others I will be seeing are: “Kick Ass 2” June 28th, “The Wolverine” July 26th, “Riddick 3” Sept 6th, “Thor:The Dark World” Nov 8th, “Ender's Game” Nov 1st, “Catching Fire” (the second “Hunger Games” movie) Nov 22nd, “Anchorman The Legend Continues” Dec 20th, “The Hobbit:The Desolation Of Smaug” Dec 13th. I am sure there are more that will come along, or have just slipped my mind. But so far, there's a lot I am looking forward to at the movies this year.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dead On Arrival

This is basically one long rant, so if it doesn't make a lot of sense, forgive me.

This past Thursday, “A Good Day To Die Hard” was released, the fifth installment in the Die Hard movie series. Initially I was excited to see a new Die Hard movie, after the lackluster “Live Free Or Die Hard”.  Now, I have not seen the new movie, and unfortunately I won't be seeing it until it is released on video.

I normally do not go by what critics say about movies, a topic I'll cover another time. But the one time I put any merit onto what critics say is when they almost all say a movie is terrible. Currently “A Good Day To Die Hard” sits at 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. I also know people who have seen it and said it was, in a word...awful. Needless to say, that is extremely disappointing, as I am a huge fan of the first three Die Hard movies.

Part of Die Hard's appeal, is the character of John McClane,  a normal guy always being thrown into extreme situations, he doesn't always have the answers, and sometimes barely escapes being killed. But he's resourceful and clever, and that's what gets him through. Also, he's not indestructible. At least he didn't used to be. He used to walk away from things battered, cut, bruised and bloodied.

In “Live Free Or Die Hard” he never really seemed to be in a lot of danger, even when he was in dangerous situations, he was turning into a super hero. That's not what John McClane is.

Well, it seems as if the new movie is keeping the same idea, that he is a super hero, that has to vanquish the bad guys at all costs....even when he has no stake in the events, and can just walk away.

This is just another example of Hollywood coasting on name recognition. Seriously, the director of the new movie has the classic “Max Payne” and the needless remake of “The Omen” on his resume. So I guess that Die Hard is now gonna be played out like a video game. What's next? Are they gonna remake the first Die Hard with Zac Efron in the lead role? From what I understand, they couldn't get any worse at this point.

Word is that Die Hard 6 is already being planned. I don't know if that's good or bad. On one hand, hearing how bad the new movie is, you'd think they could only improve with the next one. But never underestimate Hollywood, cause just when you think it can't get worse, it does,

Here's an idea...keep it simple. The First movie was a guy, terrorists, hostages, and bad guys in a building. The second was an airport. OK the third was in New York City, but it still worked because of the strong cast and competent direction. They need to get back to the simplicity of the Die Hard formula. I guess they figured having McClane running around NYC in “Die Hard With A Vengeance”, worked, so they went with that free roaming in “Live Free Or Die Hard”. Keep the story contained, give McClane an honest reason to be involved, and put the guy in some real danger. Even though we know the hero always gets away, at least make us FEEL like there's a chance he may not.

Why does Hollywood always do this? Take something that was so good and make it....not good. This is my fear with Star Wars, I really hope they don't run it into the ground like they seem to have done with Die Hard. That's the problem, Hollywood doesn't know when to quit. Granted, with Star Wars, there are many more story possibilities, and what happens with that remains to be seen.

I get so frustrated with Hollywood sometimes. There are times when I think that they may actually be coming out of the lazy funk they seem to have been in for so long, and sometimes, for a short time, they do. But then they go right back into that creative black hole that always seems to suck them in. 2012 was actually a pretty good year for movies, something I will cover in another post. But with “A Good Day To Die Hard” 2013 isn't starting out too well, I just hope this isn't a sign of what's coming this year. The movie fanatic in me is hopeful that it isn't.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Star Wars Is Back For More

Anyone who knows me knows how dear the Star Wars franchise is to me. Since I first saw “Star Wars” in 1977 at age 11 (17 times in the theaters), it's been my favorite movie, and I have seen it literally over 100 times. The movies that followed subsequently became my favorites as well. In the years since, they became a world wide phenomenon, and grew into an industry. Movies, books, video games, TV shows, toys, role playing games, you name it. In 1999, Lucas released a new Star Wars movie (something I thought would never happen), the first in a Prequel trilogy. It's well known that I liked those movies more than most. Yea, I am very forgiving of George Lucas.

In 2012, George Lucas did something I never thought he would do. He sold his company, Lucasfilm and all his other companies to Disney, thus giving Disney complete control over all Lucas properties. George had come to the conclusion that Star Wars should continue, but under the care of someone else. Disney immediately announced that “Star Wars:Episode VII” was planned for release in 2015, with episode VIII and IX to follow. As much as I thought “Return Of The Jedi” would be the last Star Wars movie, and was surprised by the prequel trilogy, I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that a sequel trilogy would see the big screen.

So now comes the task of actually making these movies. Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3”, “Little Miss Sunshine”) is writing the script. This is a screenwriter who gives lectures on the art of storytelling, and particularly why Star Wars works so well. So that instills me with a lot of confidence that Disney is taking this new venture very seriously. Then today I hear that director JJ Abrams will be in the chair for Episode VII. At the time of this writing, that has yet to be confirmed by Lucasfilm and Disney, but it's looking like it is going to happen.

NOTE:It has been confirmed that JJ Abram is indeed directing Star Wars Episode VII

Now, finally onto the point of this article...the future of Star Wars.

While it seems like for the time being, Star Wars is in good hands, I do have concerns. Disney has announced their intentions to release a new Star Wars movie every 2-3 yeas, and possibly even every year at times. On one hand, it is a Star Wars lovers dream, I know I can and never will get enough Star Wars (precisely why I hang my head in shame that I haven't really watched much of the animated Clone Wars series). But that also concerns me, and not in a totally positive way.

That much planned output could be a recipe for disaster.  As much as I would love to see a Star Wars movie every year, or every other year, I want quality movies. I don't want something rushed out with the Star Wars brand slapped on it. Now I would think that Disney would not allow that to happen. They have acquired two movie making giants in the past few years (Pixar and Marvel) and both studios have produced quality work, without interference from Disney. I hope that trend continues with Lucasfilm. As long as the movies are of top quality, keep making them I say. There seems to be no doubt that the new trilogy is being handled with great care, but is that just to pull us in? Again, I would hope that isn't the case, but with so much planned, it could be very easy for quality to suffer. Of course, if the movies fail to turn a profit, as unlikely as that seems, it could spell trouble.

I think the focus should be on quality, NOT quantity. As much as I'd love to see a Star Wars movie released every year, I’d rather wait a little bit longer and get a better movie in return. One of the big complaints about the Prequels was the writing, which honestly, was at times good, but most of the time, not so much. The stories are the heart and soul of these movies, and to me, that should be one of the top priorities with the new movies. Also, top directors need to be doing these movies as well. JJ Abrams is a good start.

Now, beyond the new trilogy, what does the future hold for Star Wars? In a word....anything. There are so many stories in the comics and books in the extended universe, that take place at so many different times in Star Wars history. Personally, I would love to see a series of movies based in the Old Republic, taking place decades before the events in all the movies. As much as I love the established characters of the Star Wars universe, I would love to see an entirely new set of characters. The rise of the Jedi, the Sith wars, the early Jedi masters and Sith lords, the possibilities are endless.

There are also a lot of great stories that take place after the events of the original trilogy, and I am interested in seeing what will be done for the new trilogy. It's been said they they will try to get the core three from the Original trilogy...Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher to reprise their roles. That's both good, and not so much bad, but not great either.

Harrison Ford is 71 years old, and while he is still making movies, it is doubtful he would be on board for three more movies, despite his saying he is open to the idea of playing Han Solo again. I can only realistically see him doing one movie.  Mark Hamill and Carrie fisher are not much younger, but I think they could make three films if they so choose to. But I really think as much as I wanna see them reprise their roles, maybe they shouldn't be the stars. Maybe the focus should be on new characters. Perhaps their children. Both Luke and his wife Mara Jade (from the Zahn trilogy of books) have a kid, Ben, and Han and Leia also have Jedi twins Jacen and Jaina. Of course those are characters from the books, and we don't yet know if they will be including characters from the extended universe.

Episode VII could be used to introduce new characters that would be the main focus of episodes VIII and IX. Like I said, the possibilities are pretty much endless.

There has also been talk of stand alone movies being made, movies that would be just one story told in one movie. That also could be very interesting, there are a lot of characters in the Star Wars universe that could easily carry an entire movie. Boba Fett....Darth Maul...heck even a movie about Chewbacca's days before he met Han Solo could be cool, I would love to see a movie take place on his home wold of Kasshyyk.

As of this writing, it has indeed been confirmed that in between the films of the new sequel trilogy, Lucasfilm will release stand alone movies. So far, they have a Han Solo story in mind (centered around a young Solo, and possibly a young Lando Calrissian taking place between Revenge Of The Sith and Star Wars) as well as a Yoda movie.

Now as good as all of this sounds, I am a bit worried that they could possibly end up diluting the brand. A Star Wars movie every year? Sure, I would love that. But sometimes anticipation is better than being given a constant flow of new movies. Obviously, I am very conflicted on this.

Part of the whole Star Wars experience is the waiting in between movies. The first two trilogies had a 3 year break between movies. Now I don't know how much of a gap there will be between Episode VII and Episode VIII, but there should be at least a two year gap. These stand alone movies will be filling that gap in between episode installments. I am worried that people may tire of Star Wars movies. It sounds incredible to say such a thing, but too much of even a good thing can be bad.

The James Bond movies have been a popular series since it started back in 1966. 23 movies over a 46 year period. That averages a movie every two years. Some didn't do as well as others, but they always did well enough to allow them to keep being made. That could work for Star Wars, but if they release a movie every year? They run the risk of overkill.

This of course, is all speculation. The prequel trilogy, as much as they were not nearly as good as the original 3, still made a ton of money. So if movies are released that are clearly better, there is no reason to think that they wouldn't do well.

All I know is that as a Star Wars fan, this is more than I could have ever asked for. Even if they only released the sequel trilogy, I’d be thrilled. But the ideas that they are throwing around are very exciting, and I really hope that Lucasfilm does the fans proud, and gives us top notch movies.

Star Wars is very dear to me, please Lucasfilm, don't let me down.