Friday, April 28, 2017

The Powers of Home Video Has Faded

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery has turned 20 years old and is one of the most successful comedy franchises. Over at Hollywood Reporter, they have an oral history piece with over 12 cast and crewmembers detailing their memories and the major events surrounding the surprise hit. I love these oral history type pieces as you always get interesting pieces of trivia and backstage nuggets over the creation process of the movie. I always find the journey towards creating a work some of the most fascinating parts and I love learning how they navigated different ideas to arrive to the final product. It is a really interesting read about a pretty significant and influential comedy.

The thing that really stood out to me was that the original movie that became a franchise launcher was not a huge box office hit. It had a modest domestic theatrical run of $53.9 million from a $16.5 million budget. It was enough money to make back budget and make a tidy sum, but definitely not the box office hit that most probably assumed. Yet Austin Powers was a major hit and a huge grosser, but it was the home video market where it was a home run.

Scott and I have talked in the past how things in the movie industry have changed like movie stars not necessarily being draws on their own anymore. Another huge change that has happened over the last decade is that a movie no longer can become a hit on home video. There is still the ability to rent a movie on iTunes or On-Demand services, but you never hear a box office flop making back a huge amount of money on rentals anymore.

There was a time when movies were made with the hope that they would make back their budget and more once they were plopped into the home video market. Austin Powers likely became a big hit on the video market due to some repeat rentals but definitely by a solid word of mouth. This change is why studios are now so obsessed with opening weekends, where you need to make significant money then or be a bomb. Word of mouth has lost some of it power now, because people are quick to move on to something new.

Back in the 1990s, home video was a powerhouse money earner for certain movies. Showgirls and Basic Instinct became decent hits thanks to home video, and you can probably figure out why they did better in that market. Today, it is all about making something that can draw in the shortest amount of time possible.

If Austin Powers was released today and had the same kind of box office success, it would have been a flick the studio would have quickly forgotten. Its best scenario would be to land a nice deal with Netflix, become an extremely popular movie there so that the service would be interested in striking an Adam Sandler deal.

Elizabeth Shaw Is Alive. . . At Least Before the Movie Starts

I've been a huge fan of the Alien: Covenant marketing campaign that along with a few trailers has been using short films to promote the feature. This is a much more effective way in building hype than dropping 10 trailers that spoil various scenes or 10 trailers that are just the same scenes with different music. The first short film was Alien Covenant Prologue: Last Supper and was directed by Ridley Scott's son, Luke Scott. This second one called Alien Covenant Prologue: The Crossing doesn't have a director attached to it, but I have my suspicious that this was initially in the movie but now has been cut to create a short movie. Check it out (warning, this will contain some spoilers and stop you from going into Alien: Covenant cold), then read some of my thoughts on it below.

The Last Supper was pure character development and I assume was showing us what the crew did right before we jump into the movie. It did not contain any plot or really even reveal what to expect. On the other hand, The Crossing has some huge storyline developments and answers some questions that have been lingering since the movie was announced. The big thing is we finally get to see Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw, whose absence from the movie marketing was the biggest question mark. The short thankfully still does not spell out her fate or why Noomi only has an uncredited role in the movie. It gives me hope that she will still be alive at the start of the movie or at least it shows David probably was not directly responsible for her death (if she indeed does die, which I think everyone at this point assumes).

We now know that David and Elizabeth get along at some level. David is touched by her willingness to repair him, or at least as much as an android can be moved emotionally. We also know that they did reach their goal of making it to the planet of the Engineers. Elizabeth also seems optimistic that the meeting with the Engineers could be a positive one, despite all that happen in the last movie. Not sure how she can cling to that hope, since the last Engineer tried to kill her, but points for a positive attitude.

The real big story development and what can only be seen as a spoiler, is that David exacts revenge for his decapitation by unleashing the alien pathogens on the entire planet. We don't see it, but the Engineers are probably wiped out or at least most will get a nasty face sucking. Now, we know why the crew comes upon an uninhabited planet and that David was responsible for the horror that bestows the unlucky crew. Watching it does make me think this had to be scene that was cut out of the movie.

Even if it isn't, I can't shake the feeling that I witnessed what would be the mid movie twist. It has to be revealed to the crew at some point that David did this, unless the short film is building right into the introduction of the movie where we see David unleash his plague. Even though I get a sense we got some answers here, it does leave a lot of lot questions.

Shaw isn't there when the crew arrives, so what does happen to her? Why doesn't David do his nasty deed then fly out of there? What purpose does he have staying on the planet? How long ago was this act to when the crew arrive to the planet? Why don't more movies do these awesome short films that get the viewer asking way more questions than a traditional trailer?

My sense is this setting up not only the xenomorphs but David as the antagonist in the movie. I'm intrigued to see if this was really an act of vengeance or still part of David's initial programming that cause him in Prometheus to infect crew members as well. I look forward to seeing how they incorporate these revelations into the main movie, and I have a lot of confidence we may have the first great Alien movie since 1986.

Will 'The Circle" Draw in Those Who Don't Want to Be Fast or Furious Anymore?

Scott is back with his weekly box office predictions on his blog. This week he goes in-depth in analyzing how The Circle will do this weekend. He looks at several factors on why he feels it may not be a break-out hit including the state of stars as draws and how the movie is currently trending. I think, David Egger is a fantastic author and The Circle was an interesting exploration into the state of social media and privacy. The novel works because of Eggers unique prose, which obviously can't be implemented in a movie despite him having a hand in the screenplay. Director James Ponsoldt helmed two great character-driven movies about alcoholism in The Spectacular Now and Smashed that handled a serious issue without being didactic and filled with heart and humour. This trailer shows a movie that handles its issues with a sledgehammer. I may be wrong and my review should be saved for when I actually see it. The marketing gives that perception, which I think will harm the gross. But go click the link above to read Scott's in-depth thoughts on it.

Not Quite the Place That I Want It to Be But It Will Do for Now

I probably have about eight or nine ideas for a blog post on a daily basis, and on a real good day, I could ramp that up to double. This doesn't include all the movie news and trailers that come out through the day, which is the stuff that I end up writing on here. Half of those initial idea usually have nothing to do with movies but usually are either personal anecdotes or something to do with the non-movie news or some creative concept that I want to play around with on the site. My goal is to try to diversify my writing outside of analyzing the latest piece of movie casting or marketing material. I would like to write on more substantial topics or probe some major social issues. On top of that I have some creative writing that I'd like to showcase on here as well. Essentially, I want to try to get this blog closer to resembling the diverse writing that I had on here in 2010 to 2013. The challenge is that my movie writing is also attracting a pretty big crowd of new readers. The Movie Breakdown brings in a significant part of my readership, and to achieve some long term career goals, it serves me for movie writing to be the focus on here. What usually happen is I start on what is to be a quick few minute riff then it either morphs into a New York chomping monster approaching a thousand words, or I get distracted by my daughter using lip balm as hair gel or giving the table a flying head butt (true stories). Next thing I know, it is just movie news on here again as the day gets late and the other sea of ideas get pushed aside to another day. This still isn't the big paying part of my writing career, so that is the game that has to be constantly played for now as time is still needed to appease the clients.

Time to Move Another Unexpected Movie to the Anticipated List

World War Z was one of those infamous movies that had production issues and a parade of new screenwriters in for rewrites and what is believed to be a significant amount of studio interference. It kept on getting shoved around on the release calendar with those dreaded words of "reshoot" being spouted out. The end product shows the hot potato of screenwriters with a choppy narrative and some drastic tonal shifts. I wasn't a big fan of the movie but I admit it could have been a bigger disaster considering all the drama. Despite those issues, it turned out to be a decent little box office success, so there was always a chance a sequel would come about. I enjoy most of Marc Foster's filmography and I was willing to blame the creative failures of the movie on the various production issues and the pasted together screenplay. It looks like I won't get to see Foster's take on World War Z 2 and that is actually great news.

One of the greatest visual and atmospheric directors around, according to Variety David Fincher is very close to being the director for the sequel. This is great news because Fincher has made some of the best movies in the last three decades in Zodiac, Panic Room, Gone Girl, Seven, Fight Club, The Social Network, and I really cold just list all his movies not named Alien 3. The other exciting aspect is that while Fincher has done a lot of dark thrillers, he has stayed away from straight horror and never done a creature feature. Fincher is great at setting up dark and disturbing worlds, and I'd love to see his take on the zombie movie. Fincher makes great thrillers that aren't your typical mainstream fare, and he would bring something completely original to the sub-genre (a sub-genre that is beginning to rot and decay in its derivativeness).

World War Z 2 was a flick high on my list of movies that I couldn't shake up an ounce of interest in seeing or reviewing. Fincher is the type of director that I am excited over anything he will craft. The reason he has a great track record is he known for being very picky on the projects that he chooses and is willing to back out the moment he feels it is no longer fitting his vision. He isn't the type of director that will give in to studio demands or steer away from the story he wants to tell. Most of his movies (other than Alien 3 that he did at the start of his career and there are talks about the massive studio interference), are his creations and are full of his unstifled voice. Good or bad, I have confidence World War Z 2 will be a director driven movie, which is something we rarely see now in any big budget features.

It isn't a secret that Fincher is this way. The fact the producers and Paramount has been luring Fincher makes me believe they want this to have his unique style and touches. They want a Fincher zombie movie, and I am sure many can get excited about that. This does seem to be becoming a very great trend where studios are trying to get top notch and independent (meaning stubborn directors that do their thing rather than directors of independent movies) to infuse their unique voice into a big franchise picture. In a landscape that is cluttered with big name movies, quality is starting to become a very important thing again and studios may be realizing they need to have fresh and unique movies to stand out (unless your Transformers and you just get louder and make lots of money).

Even if I'm completely wrong about this trend or that Paramount is delusional about their ability to control Fincher, the fact Brad Pitt is starring and producing is a reason to keep excited. Pitt has a history for backing up Fincher and standing up for him against the studios. When Fincher wanted Kevin Spacey as the villain in Seven but studios balked at the price tag, Pitt helped push them to seeing the light. Can you imagine anyone else playing John Doe? It looks like there are a lot of reasons to move this sequel on to the anticipated list.

No, This Won't Kill My Childhood But My Future Could be in Trouble

I remember rushing home from school, so that I could catch the 3:30pm airing of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe every day. I probably owned close to a hundred Masters of the Universe action figures and had three different castles sets. I had a shoebox full of View-Master disks with images from various episodes. I bought (or got my mom to buy) the official He-Man and Masters of the Universe magazine. I was also a part of the official He-Man Fan Club where I'd get monthly letters from the beefy hunk in the bear skin underwear.  My point is that I was a rather huge fan of He-Man, with Star Wars being the only thing that usurped it (but Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, so as the years went on there was less new Star Wars stuff to gobble up).

Even the young enthusiastic He-Man fan Christopher thought the 1987 live-action feature, Masters of the Universe was a giant fart in the face. I'm talking about eating five burritos, all-you-can-east Indian buffet, and a tall glass of Sriracha type fart. It was putrid. Now, my reasons for hating it then would likely be different for reasons that I wouldn't like it now. I was bummed that the characters didn't look like they did in the cartoon or toy. I didn't believe the man out to crush Rocky was now someone I should cheer (though as an avid reader of the magazine, I had several months to come to terms with that). I didn't like the fact they spent most of the movie on Earth rather than Eternia where there would have been cool monsters. I think even then I sort of figured the acting wasn't very good, the special effects were cut-rate, and story was rather derivative. The big thing for me as a kid was they just needed more of the characters that I watched on TV or played with in my backyard.

Since 1987, I've stood by the idea that a live-action Master of the Universe movie was a bad idea. It was better for that series to live in the 1980s. Of course, part of that energetic Power-of-Grayskull child lives on in me and keeps whispering that maybe they could do that story right. Maybe they would get a big enough budget and a charismatic enough star and stay the hell out of Earth to make a proper Masters of the Universe. The older and more cynical majority of me just wants to shove a package of Bonkers in that kid's hands and tell him to go play with his Simon electronic game. Masters of the Universe just screams something of its time and a new movie even done right may expose that the memories aren't of something that was really all that amazing anyway.

No matter how I feel, the franchise starved Sony Pictures is going forward with a December 18 2019 release date. I have a sneaking suspiscion it isn't a coincidence the move came the same week it was announced Star Wars: Episode IX has moved to the summer and now, Sony has dreams of being that year's Christmas blockbuster (just like when Battlefield Earth was summer of 2000's Star Wars).. While I don't know if the world will finally get a CGIed Orko or if they will give us an updated version of that killer "He-Man, dooto dooto do do do" theme song, but I do know the movie actually has a fighting chance now.

The screenplay is going to be written (at least initially, because in the modern age there are always fifty billion people to rewrite it) by the man who gave the scripts to movies like Batman Begins, Blade, Dark City, and Man of Steel. Okay, just ignore the Man of Steel. But my point is David S. Goyer can write fun, pulpy, character-driven event movies. He has some pedigree in the big event realm, and so his name means something for Masters of the Universe, Plus my guess is he is a bit of a geek and probably played with He-Man action figure; sure he was almost in his 20s when that toy line came out but I'm confident he knows more about He-Man than the crew that gave us the 1987 disaster.

Now, you may shout out to the heavens that He-Man doesn't have a director. But I argue no director is better than the movie being helmed by the guy behind This Means War, Terminator Salvation and Charlie's Angels. But what do I know, I like The Lone Ranger remake, so everyone's tastes can vary. Now that we live in a world where the live-action Masters of the Universe is McG-less, the great debate is who will direct it. If I had to wager, Sony will grab some male filmmaker who directed one decently reviewed indy and hope he can handle the CGI and follow studio demands well. Or if that fails, there is always Stephen Sommers.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jonathan Demme was a Filmmaker That Almost Did It All

A few months ago if you asked an average movie fan who directed 1991's Best Picture winner The Silence of the Lambs then you'd probably get quite a few convinced it was Brian De Palma. If the movie was made in 1998, then you'd likely have some answering David Fincher, The dark tone, the steely visual aesthetic, the cold chill that is ever present on the spine and the strong sexual undertones in several scenes make it feel like a masterpiece worthy of either of those director's filmography. Instead, it was the talented Jonathan Demme who won a Best Director Oscar for it.

I think most movie fans would admit they know Demme has the skill and visual style to make The Silence of the Lambs, but it speaks more to the diversity of Demme's filmography that you wouldn't automatically connect him with the movie. The direction feels like it comes from a seasoned thriller helmer who knows how to hit all the beats and shocks but also skilled enough to delve deep into the characters while not messing with the pacing. Before this movie, Demme did not do any stand-out thrillers, but again it speaks to his amazing skill and ability to craft a wide range of different movies from multiple genres.

Like many talented directors, he got his start with the king of B-movies Roger Corman, who no matter what you say about his pictures, he at least has a great eye for talent. Demme's directorial debut was a pure exploitation picture with the 1974 women in prison movie, Caged Heat (also two decades later became the name for a tag team in David McLane's schlocky women wrestling promotion, WOW). Finding out Demme churned out exploitation pictures is more shocking than being the man behind a dark and unforgettable thriller. Demme always seemed to be a gentle and compassionate man along with being someone who brought a high-art to his productions, and definitely not my first pick for a women on women violence campfest.

Demme also had a huge love for music, which was prevalent in his choices throughout his career. He shares Best Music Video Grammy nomination for "Sun City: Artists United Against the Apartheid" and helmed two Bruce Springsteen videos "Streets of Philadelphia" (co-directed) and "Murder Incorporated." That passion spurred him on to directing several concert movies and documentaries, including what turned out to be his career break-out in the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. 

To continue the narrative of the amazing diversity and skill set of Demme, in the area of documentaries he did more than just concert movies and musician documentaries (though it should be noted he made three impressive films on Neil Young), with his two most significant ones being Swimming in Cambodia, a documentary on Spalding Gray's one man show and a documentary on the after effects of Hurricane Katrina, I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad, and the Beautiful.

The Hurricane Katrina documentary is a stellar example of what connects many of Demme's works. Yes he was diverse and he was great at both documentaries and scripted movies, but a huge amount of his work tackled challenging and tough themes. He often wanted to make movies about characters that mattered and showed real growth in someone's life. He helmed the movie that turned Tom Hanks from comedian to serious actor with Philadelphia. While Philadelphia is considered a classic today, the decision to make a movie that explored HIV during a time when there was a lot of fear and unknown surrounding it made studios and producers nervous. Plus it was a movie where the lead and sympathetic figure was a homosexual, which is something that even today is not a frequent occurrence.

He made several movies with strong and nuanced female characters. Obviously, there is Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, but there is also a movie that was a big dramatic break for Anne Hathaway in the critically acclaimed Rachel Getting Married. As an aside, further proof Demme did not go typical but rather wanted to challenge, the wedding in that movie was between a mixed couple, which is another thing that still does not happen often enough in movies (they happen in real life a lot, I'm in one and so are all my brother and sister in-laws). To further my aside, his last scripted feature had both strong female characters and a mixed marriage in Ricki and the Flash (plus lots of music).

In the 1980s, he got to direct some of the hottest female stars. His first real big studio movie was the romantic drama, Swing Shift, which starred one of the biggest stars of the 1980s, Goldie Hawn. After Melanie Griffith had her star-making performance in the sexy thriller Body Double (this one was directed by Brian De Palma), her status as one of the it women of 80s was cemented in a very memorable performance in action comedy Something Wild. It was definitely the movie that proved Griffith had comic chops and helped land her some of her biggest comedy roles like Working Girl. He also directed Michelle Pfeiffer in what I feel is one of the most quintessential 1980s flicks, Married to the Mob. 

Demme was able to tackle such a wide variety of movies because he was such a confident and bold filmmaker. He also truly loved the form, and his passion allowed him to follow the story rather than stick with what made him comfortable. This is why he could adapt a literary work from Toni Morrison about a slave being visited by her deceased daughter in Beloved but he was just as comfortable and bold in his directions of a remake of a thriller classic in The Manchurian Candidate. Candidate was a movie that I did not recommend when The Breakdown reviewed it, but the great pacing and terrific fluid style by Demme elevated the movie past its troubled script (I'm also willing to revisit it and admit that I was wrong).

This is the big thing about Demme, he was the elite type of director that could elevate any material he was handed, because he believed in it and immersed himself into it. This was really clear in one of his last works in the concert movie Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids. It was Demme who brought the energy and spirit of the movie, and crafted a feature that really transported you into Timberlake's world and made him someone we instantly connected. It was more than just a concert but an emotional experience that at time felt spiritual. Demme knew how to make something more out of a concert movie and use every shot to meticulously convey its message. He made Timberlake someone who could resonate with even non-fans.

Demme is an all-time great that may be remembered for The Silence of the Lambs, but has many great films to his credit. Not only does he have movies in different genres but the style, shots, and visuals are drastically different. The defining element of his movies is his confidence and passion. The stories are about digging deeper into our society and embracing progress. He was still going strong even at 73 and battling esophageal cancer.

Demme will be missed. I wish Netflix had way more of his movie so that I could review a few. His legacy will definitely endure. We will be talking about him some more on this Monday's podcast and you can read an outline of his career over at Hollywood Reporter right here.

RIP Jonathan Demme 1944 to 2017

Should Have Kept Him Buried

Matthew Vaughn is a director that makes crowd pleasers and box office hits that also have a subversive edge and a bubbly spirit. Kick-Ass remains one of the best comic book movies because not only did it successfully achieve the heart and energy of the genre but also teased around with the tropes and clichés to become an R-Rated edgy criticism of the formula (but maintain ample amounts of affection). Kingsman: The Secret Service was a spy thriller version of Kick-Ass where it showed what James Bond would look like if it shed the innuendos for actual sexual language and revealed the graphic reality of the violence. It also revelled in it over-the-top extravagant violent action sequences to the point of being running gags and dark jokes (the church scene is still burned into my brain). It also had one of the best villains with a very atypical Samuel L. Jackson performance of the geeky Valentine.

The first trailer for Kingman: The Golden Circle shows what we all expected, Vaughn isn't coasting off the success of the sequel. The flair and energy and gorgeous set pieces are still ass intact. It looks like we have a fresh story rather than just the original redone. This time the headquarters have been blown up and now Eggsy heads to the States to get help from the American version of the secret service, The Statesman, Of course, they are cowboys, which means one them has to be Jeff Bridges, while we also get Channing Tatum and Halle Berry. The new trend for "irreverent movie" is to have trailers with jarring music like how Deadpool, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy has classic rock, and this follows that trend (by using a different music genre) with "My Way" by Frank Sinatra, Except it works even better here and there is a poetry in the action coinciding with the beats of the song.

This hints at a pretty solid follow-up with most of the plot hidden and even the main baddie disguised, or at least I assume the guy with the iron yo-yo fist is a henchmen. There is one nagging problem and that is Colin Firth.

He was spectacular in the original and an obvious crowd favourite. Anyone who loved the movie was going to be a huge fan of his character. I realize most really hoped that he wasn't actually dead. But one of the things that I really loved about the original was how it was bold enough to kill off a crucial character and do it in such an out of the blue way. Nobody was expecting it, and it took a few scenes for it sink in, but when it was clear he was dead, it added huge dramatic depth to the movie and helped to further develop the character of Eggsy.

It took guts to kill off a popular lead character and helped make the movie stand out against Marvel franchises that just like to tease a death every movie. Now, that is all erased, because Firth has to be back now for the sequel. Maybe they will have a good explanation for his return, but for me, the movie loses some of it appeal by pulling a Nick Fury.  Stick to your guns, keep crucial characters dead so that in future movies we really believe the stakes and think something bad can really happen to a pivotal character. Force Awakens did it, and now I don't think any character is safe for Last Jedi. Action sequences need to be more than just bang and booms, and a good story must always have consequences. That said, Firth will be awesome.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Year of Free Hype and Ballyhoo

The Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige is one smooth fellow that knows how to play a marketing game that won't cost him a penny. In two recent interviews, he has casually dropped two little info nuggets that have and will continue to inspire extensive thinkpieces from various movie news sites and keep social media blazing with rampant speculation. In an interview with Collider, Feige's elicited the buzzing and salivating by mention that he did not think there would be a Phase 4 but rather something entirely new instead. The phases are what the studio calls the stages of Marvel movies usually with a big event movie in May capping it off (the first phase climaxed with The Avengers). It really is just semantics over what you call the movie groupings, it can be called Phase 4 or Potato Salad, but Feige is implying that significant change is on the horizon. Does this mean that much like the comic books that a major event will occur that causes a reboot, which then ushers in new versions of the current major characters? Or does it mean all these characters stories will be done and a new slew of heroes will be given movies?

The buzz then electrified when he was asked why Marvel still hasn't given a catchy title to Avengers 4 (because you can't just do numbers anymore). The heads of every Marvel fan almost did a Scanner's head explosion when Feige said the reason for the delay was that the title for that movie will be a big giant spoiler for next summer's Avengers: Infinity War. Now, Feige was being very strategic by mentioning this and knows that saying such things has made the next Avengers into the biggest motion picture event yet. The plan is for it to be Marvel's highest grossing movie and become a massive smash hit, and it had a chance without Feige's revelation, but now we have a year's worth of salivating anticipation.

Feige and Marvel have been masters of the hype machine, because they know how to get people revved up but they also realize the suspense needs a worthwhile payoff. I don't see them pulling a No Good Deed where the studio said critics screening were cancelled because they didn't want them to spoil the major twist. Of course, the big twist was the movie found a way to make Idris Elba and Taraji Henson uninteresting. I don't see the title ending up being Avengers: Thanos' Revenge, with the big spoiler being the Avengers stopped him from destroying the world and now he wants to get payback. The bad guy losing in the end isn't much of a spoiler and even Avengers taking a hit to set up a sequel isn't, so I don't expect it to be Avengeance: Avengers Strike Back.

After the hype that has now being stirred up, something huge needs to go down next summer. Last year's Captain America: Civil War felt like it ended with real consequences and changes to the universe. The Avengers were now torn apart and scattered with relationships that had serious damage. It now looks like Marvel is going for changes with even more far-reaching implications, and something so big that no title or maybe even a trailer can spoil.

I believed it before Civil War and stand by it now, either a main character or one of the major supporting characters needs to die. If the death is title worthy, then my thinking is it is a character being played by someone whose contract is coming to an end like a Captain America or Iron Man. It would shake up the cinematic universe and force the series to have some heavy dramatic moments as the heroes need to deal with such a massive blow. I also think killing off a character allows for some real stakes and make the audience realize anyone could be in trouble and make the wars have a strong emotional impact as it could be the end of a beloved hero.

It also could be a betrayal or a major change in character such as Steve Rogers revealing he has been working with Hydra all along, which would coincide with a comic book storyline but make no sense based off things that happened in Captain America: Winter Soldier. It would shake up the universe and help freshen up some stories.

The other little nugget Feige revealed in the most recent interview was that there was a chance Thanos would not be in Avengers 4. Now, he didn't outright say that, but it was implied by answering "It is a whole new movie" when questioned if Thanos was in both. It would make next summer's movie a pretty major event if they blow off the biggest of big bads that they have been building up since the first Avengers. This also means they need to come up with an even bigger threat for the follow-up, which again could mean some kind of betrayal or unearthing of an unholy entity that is unlocked by the Infinity Gauntlet. Or this is the time for the massive crossover with 1980s iconic characters, the Snorks.

Feige has been successful in sparking the excitement and ensuring we talk about next summer's movie for the next year, and I'm sure there will be plenty to keep stoking those flames. The key now is for the pay off to be something gigantic and force some major changes. Otherwise, there probably will be a feeling of letdown or being mislead.

The other reality is that while Marvel Studios still produces some of the very best tentpoles of the past decade, the cracks and rust is beginning to show. Avengers: Age of Ultron was a step below the previous movie. Civil War wasn't quite at the caliber of Winter Soldier, despite it being sold as a major event movie. Ant-Man had a feeling of being different but it was a movie that was easier to forget than previous Marvel productions. Plus at this point the formula is beginning to show and while they're all very good movies, you can predict most of the beats and turns. With plans for three movies a year for several more years (or eternity if they can keep it going), the franchise needs to get back to high speed and feel like major events again. This year may do a lot to help a bit of the fatigue with Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok attempting to add some twists to the formula and having some distinct style and personality. Next summer's Avenger: Infinity War will likely set the tone and lay out the stories for several years.

I'm just hoping it then isn't revealed to be Avengers: Mac is Back.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Breakdown of 'Sand Castle', 'Tramps' and the Summer Box Office Challenge Draft

It is finally here. This week is the annual Summer Breakdown Box Office Challenge, and Christopher and Scott each pick the 10 movies they think will give them victory. The winner this year gets to pick three movies that the loser will have to watch and review, I don't suspect the choice to be the original Star Wars trilogy. As well, we review two Netflix originals this week in the Nicholas Hoult starring war drama, Sand Castle and the down-on-their-luck romantic drama, Tramps. As well we analyze the massive success of Disney's live-action remakes, and we introduce a new segment where we both reveal our Top 5 Favourite Fictional Cities. As always, if you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie lovers.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Breakdown Outline:

4:04 Sand Castle review
15:47 Tramps review
28:07 What has made Disney live-action remakes big critical and financial hits?
44:18 Top 5 Ficitonal Cities
1:06:08 Box Office Challenge Draft
1:25:39 Trailer Reviews: The Beguiled, American Assassin, Wakefield, The Little Hours
1:35:43 Box Office Analysis
1:44:23 Review Rundown

Rating Rundown:

Sand Castle ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Tramps *** (CS) & **½ (SM)

Summer Box Office Challenge:

Christopher's Picks:

1. Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. Wonder Woman
4. Transformers: The First Knight
5. War of the Planet of the Apes  
6. Baywatch
7. The Mummy
8. The House
9. Atomic Blonde
10. Captain Underpants

Scott's Picks:

1. The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
2. Despicable Me 3
3. Alien: Covenant
4. Cars 3
5. Dunkirk
6. Annabelle: Creation
7. Snatched
8. All Eyez on Me
9. The Emoji Movie
10. The Hitman's Bodyguard

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Actually, Katherine Heigl, the Box Office this Weekend is Pretty Unmemorable

It is a slow weekend at the movie theatres, with four rather small new releases in soapy thriller Unforgettable, the feature length shoot-out Free Fire, the Armenian Genocide drama The Promise, the latest Disneynature documentary Born in China, and the found footage teenagers-get-lost horror (hi 1999!) Phoenix Forgotten. And all of them will get squashed by The Fate of the Furious in the box office, and will likely not even beat out Beauty and the Beast and The Boss Baby. In other words, a typical two weekends before the big Summer Blockbuster Season with the studios saving their big tentpoles for the next three months. Despite it not being much to write about, Scott has an entire prediction piece for you to enjoy where he highlights two of the news release, Unforgettable and The Promise.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Movie Being Delayed Rule Doesn't Always Apply

A movie being pushed out of its release date is almost never a good sign. At first glance, a horror picture being shoved out of October, one of the months where movie-goers have a hunger for the macabre and frightening seems to be even worse. Then it isn't as straight-forward as appearances when that horror movie is slotted in January, which is the one other month that horror movies tend to thrive. January comes along right after the studios stuffed the cinemas with high-end prestige fare, so the tastes start leaning towards something a bit more salty.

Insidious Chapter Four moving away from Halloween may not spell doom for the franchise. It actually may have a chance for more success being a recognizable film series to kick-off the new year. It now holds the January 5th slot, and if it turns out like most years, it will likely be the lone 2018 release that weekend. A horror picture is usually the movie that starts off the years, and it is a tradition that turns out to be pretty successful for the studio that slots it. Now, the rule has typically been that horror movie also sucks, but after the really solid Insidious Chapter 3, I have higher hopes for this one.

I also think that one of the other reasons for the move is that they haven't even started production on it. No one has stated that it is true, but there hasn't been any news on things like casting or shooting. Or maybe I just missed it. A horror movie like Insidious is probably something they can get shot and produced within a few months.

The shift is actually a really solid strategy as it means the October 20 slot is now inhabited by the small and unknown Blumhouse horror, Half to Death. It has one of those premises that is both smart but also feels well-worn, with a woman reliving the day she is murdered until she discovers the identity of her killer (the slashers of Groundhog Day). A movie like that can benefit from being slotted in the month that that synonymous with horror, with people being more willing to take chance on it due to the fact it is horror.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The James Bond Sweepstakes

In a time where several studios salivate over the prospect of a Robin Hood shared universe because they are so obsessed with franchises, a legitimate proven box office juggernaut in the James Bond series is up for sale. EON and MGM own the rights to 007, but they aren't distributors so they have to enter a relationship with another studio to ensure their movie gets released. Since 2006. Sony Pictures owned the rights to distribute until now, and they are one of five studios in the heat of a bidding war. The other studios are Universal, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and newcomer Annapurna.

Right off the bat, the interesting things is the studios that are not competing for the rights. Paramount is out of the game due to being in a tough financial spot and still regrouping after a hiring a new chairman. Despite being out of the hunt, it isn't like Paramount is devoid of any franchises as they have Flashy Bang Boom Robots  and Mission Impossible. Lionsgate is in desperate need of a franchise after the end of Hunger Games and Twilight while Divergent failed to take its place and movies like Gods of Egypt were massive flops. It is those massive flops that have probably kept then from going after what will be an expensive franchise. The most obvious studio absent is Disney, who is so deep and rich in big money garnering franchise like Avengers, Star Wars, Live-Action remakes, animate features, and Pirates that they probably just chuckled at the prospect while throwing cash into the air.

As for the players in the game. Sony Picture is the one that needs it the most, There is no evidence that anyone wants to see a cinematic universe full of Spider-Man leftovers or that there is any life left in 21 Jump Street (especially considering the second did all it could in killing the notion of endless sequels). Sony needs something secure, and while James Bond isn't the powerhouse that it once would have been, it is still a major recognizable global brand. Though the kicker is that MGM and EON are only offering a single movie deal, but since they have already played ball with Sony, they may be more willing to extend things (unless they aren't happy with Sony).

Universal is the studio that a few years back everyone said was in trouble because it lacked big franchises, but then in 2015 had one of the biggest box office years ever thanks to Furious 7 and Jurassic World. Fast and Furious has proven to still be a powerhouse, but I'm not sure how much legs the Jurassic Park franchise has after the next movie. The monster universe will probably prove to be a non-starter after The Mummy is released this summer. On the positive side, they also have the very successful Despicable Me franchise, and two franchises that are very strong with females in Fifty Shades and Pitch Perfect. I think, this studio is much healthier than pundits believed a few years ago, and outside of Disney, may have one of the stronger franchise slates. I could see them making a big play for James Bond to cement themselves as a strong number two box office getter (no one is catching Disney any time soon).

Warner Brothers' biggest guns are DC Comics and LEGO. The DC Comics franchise may have been a critical disappointment and didn't make as much as they hoped, but it still had two of the top grossers last year. I don't see LEGO being the type of franchise that endures, but right now, it is safe because their first two movies were of top notch quality. There is also their big monster universe they want to launch with King Kong and Godzilla, but I see audiences wearing thin on this before they can get several movies deep. They have several other potential franchises in the making with Blade Runner, Mad Max, Tomb Raider, and Ocean's. My feeling would be Warner Brothers has enough big players and universes to focus on that they can let James Bond go.

Much like Sony, 20th Century Fox is another that looks pretty thin on massive mountain of money earning tentpoles. They have Deadpool and the X-Men, which are both solid, Then it gets a little shakier, with Alien potentially going either way in its ability to draw (Prometheus had a poor audience reception, but Alien: Covenant seems to be trending well). Planet of the Apes may be coming to an end, and Kingsman's original was a hit, but who knows how long its style can keep going. My guess is Fox really would like to have another reliable franchise.

Annapurna is a pretty new distributor and for the most part has been releasing smaller prestige movies and doesn't have any big franchises. My guess is they like having a high quality independent cinema reputation where they focus on releasing award contenders like Detroit, Downsizing and Paul Thomas Anderson's upcoming project. They are probably going to stay small but that doesn't mean they wouldn't at least like one really big establishing franchise. It would make them look like a player to land James Bond, and they could still round out the rest of the year with the prestige fare. But the big question is does MGM and EON trust such a new and unproven distributor? This is where the one movie deal could benefit them, as Annapurna has a chance to prove they are good partners and if it works, it will be extended.

I don't see James Bond being any kind of game changer for a studio, but it is a nice fairly consistent draw. It will mean more if they can get Daniel Craig for a final movie to wrap up current storylines. I also believe MGM and EON will want someone that has a solid track record and proven to market hits. On the other side, I believe it will go to the studio that believes it really needs another franchise. Sony is probably that studio, but if MGM and EON was interested in them, I think they wouldn't have put this one movie deal in place. So, my prediction is in the next few days we will be reading the news that Fox will be distributing the next James Bond picture.

Some Slow Moving Ketchup for the Blog

Things have been rocking and rolling on here in regards to getting things posted, but I still feel there are pop culture issues or interesting ideas for articles that fly past me. As much as this site is really vital to my career, it still can only take up so much time in between preventing children flying off roofs and providing writing for clients who pay. Depending how things roll over the next few weeks, I may either end up more active on here or have to resort to it being just a house for links to my other work. But over the last few months and even years, there have been some significant events and talking points that I'd still like to DeLorean my way back. The big thing is writing up some tributes to significant celebrity figures that have sadly passed away. Over the next little bit, I hope to try to write something that still have some relevance and value even if the person being written about has been gone for years.  I'm also sticking the antenna up and hoping to write a bit more on major news issues that don't pertain to movie. Two nights ago, I read an article that got me motivated to write something on Bill O'Reilly and as it was formulating in my head, I started having visions of far right slobbering trolls coming at me with their clubs. Lately, I've been on the downside of my emotional life coaster and realize I just didn't have the energy to defend myself, so potential controversy was delayed for another day. I really do want this site to end up being more than just my thoughts on the latest Marvel trailer.

Would Passengers Be Better With a Creepier Chris Pratt?

Warning this piece contains major spoilers to the movie Passengers.

I was a much bigger fan of 2016's Passengers than most. Director Morten Tyldum demonstrates a great sense of visuals in crafting a fantastic and stunning spaceship with a bunch of fun rooms and technologies; it also pays homage to many classic set pieces, scenes and shots of classic movies. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence have a hot chemistry and you buy they'd go from strangers to lovers (though they have the advantage of each other being the only option for the rest of their lives). It also has the benefit of being one of the few sweeping romances and original sci-fi movies that have got wide released with a big budget in recent years. But it is hard to shake that there are some major plot structure flaws, plus some major ethical issues over trying to make Pratt sympathetic and as well, it does follow a very predictable path including a contrived big action finale.

Youtuber Nerd Writer's latest weekly video explores if Passengers would be a much better movie if the story was told from the perspective of Lawrence's character and begins with her waking up (you can check the video out at the bottom of this article). This would mean that the audience would be rocked along with Lawrence when it is revealed that Pratt woke her up instead of what she believed was a pod malfunction . As the video details, it allows for there to be some added tension and mystery as we try to solve what has happened to several sections of the ship and as well, try to figure out why Pratt's character is behaving in an odd fashion at times. Maybe screenwriter Jon Spaihts feared the mystery would be too easy to solve and this is why he went with the route of Pratt as the lead, but it also means the ending is largely predictable along with the troubelsome issue that the movie needs to keep Pratt sympathetic and relatable as the protagonist. With Lawrence as the one the audience sees the events through, it is less clear if Pratt is ever one we should trust and it makes it less certain if they end up together. This would allow for large swaths of the film where Pratt could play an antagonist role after his selfish misdeed is revealed.

If the tension relies more on Lawrence being trapped and isolated on a ship with a guy she can't trust then there is less need to rely on some other contrivances to keep the narrative churning into the final act. The malfunctioning ship is by far the weakest element of the story as it plunges the narrative into the pit of derivative storytelling. The more interesting stuff is focusing on the forced relationship that now is hampered by one man's selfish act and big lie.  Of course, this could also fall into cliché stalker thriller territory, but I'm not saying change the Pratt character but rather how the audience perceives him for a large portion of the story. This new perspective could also still work even with the doomed ship storyline.

It is interesting how a story can be made much better with a small tweak or change of perspective. There were several issues with Transcendence but it would have been far stronger and had more tension if it didn't open with a desolated world. Michael Bay needed to realize he didn't have the chops to pull off a Fargo-like crime caper and leave out the 'humour' that bogged down Pain & Gain. Last year's Blair Witch would have been way stronger if they avoided it being found footage, and I stand by the same with Chronicle (though I like that movie). Black Mass needed to wipe out the interrogation scenes that put focus on henchmen who didn't really drive the narrative, Actually, Black Mass would have been a much stronger picture if it did something daring like show it from the perspective of Whitey Bulger's (Johnny Depp) wife, Lindsey Cyr (Dakota Johnson). It would have made it feel less like a low-grade Goodfellas or countless other gangster flicks. Of course, that would also not be a small tweak but make it a completely different movie.

What movies do you think would have been much stronger with a few tweaks or even a major alteration?

Please Sir, Promote Another (Podcast)

By now, you have probably run through the entirety of Scott's Mind Matters and Our Ignorance is Bliss podcast. So, you need another podcast series to quench that thirst, and I've got the perfect one for you, Today's Tea with Kenny P. It is a podcast hosted by a man named Kenny P, who just happens to have a different tea that he drinks each episode. But oh, it is so much more. It is the more that is a bit harder to describe, because there really isn't anything else like this show. It is probably best described as Stuart McLean blended with the cast of The Kids in the Hall by a radar gun shot from Flash Gordon as played by Sam J. Jones. Yes, I'm sorry many of those references just flew over the head of my younger readers or really even readers not so young, but Kenny P would know. The point is that the show is bizarre yet sweet with a wit and sense of humour, I would say it isn't for everyone but is there really anything that is literally for everyone? I know, people who don't eat pizza or never watched an episode Modern Family. It is a wacky world we live in, but just the type that deserves Today's Tea with Kenny P, so give it a listen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Do You Need More of Scott's Dulcet Tones?

I think we can all agree that my Breakdown co-host Scott Martin is awesome. I'm sure you eagerly look forward to his calm and soothing voice giving you his movie thoughts every week. The thrilling and exciting news is you don't need to wait every Monday to get your Scott podcasting desire fulfilled. Get ready for it, Scott actually hosts two other podcasts. I've promoted his other shows on the Breakdown before, but I don't think that I've written about them here,

One of the shows that he does is co-hosted with his friend Deane Proctor and is about dealing with mental illness in the church, which is called Mind Matters. You can check out that bi-weekly show at their Facebook page here (or search for it rather easily on iTunes). The third show he does can also be found on iTunes and is called Our Ignorance is Bliss. He hosts it with our good friend and former roommate Cameron "The Puppy" Mitchell, who is also the man responsible for an amazing deck on a home that my family used to live in but now someone else enjoys.

OIB, as the cool kids call it, is exactly like The Breakdown except they don't talk about or review movies, they don't follow an outline, and has a preamble that typically runs for 60% of the show. Or maybe a better description would be to call it Morning Talk Radio that is typically recorded at night mixed with just two buddies having a lot of fun.

No matter how you want to describe those shows, you should give them a chance. Because the world always needs to hear more Scott Martin.

If Only 'Sandy Wexler' was as Good as its Songs

Sandy Wexler, as expected, was not a very good movie. It did turn out to be many times better than almost anything Adam Sandler has starred in the past decade. A huge part of that was a great presence and performance by the talented and gorgeous Jennifer Hudson. You believed she would capture the imagination of America and become an instant hot star, though it was a bit harder to take that she had any kind of feelings for Wexler. There seemed to be real work taken to make Hudson's Courtney Clark into a believable pop star. This included making songs that felt like they would have been hits in the 1990s but also were really catchy songs that could endure. As much as I never want to watch Sandy Wexler again, I do find myself already humming to "Mr. DJ", which I think has a chance to far outlast the actual movie that it was created to be in.

An Article About the Social Importance of Movies

Collider is a mainstream movie and film news site that like most of its type is crammed with trailers and casting rumours and essentially, free publicity for the big studios. But unlike many similar sites, it often houses some really powerful and well-written articles that probe deeper than just revealing who will be the villain in Justice League (apparently, it is Steppenwolf because he is born to be wild). Today, Chris Cabin wrote a piece about the importance of watching movies depicting the immigrant experience. He mentions and details several really significant movies like James Gray's The Immigrant, Gregory Nava's El Norte, and Ramin Bahrani's Chop Shop. The article is a great read because it will likely open your eyes to movies you have never heard about but really should watch due to their artistry and importance. His piece also really highlights how important art is at exploring the social climate and giving a voice to major issues. Movies definitely have a unique way of crafting and shaping that message that makes it accessible to more people. Plus he mentions how Roger Ebert helped so many of those movies to get seen, and any time Ebert is praised is a good thing to me. Please check out the article, because I think it is really worthwhile.

'American Assassin' Trailer: Just in Case Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, Jack Ryan, and Jack Reacher Weren't Enough

Lionsgate is hoping that your globe-trotting, kick-ass spy franchise hunger hasn't been satiated yet, as the already crammed genre that sort of exists to appease those who want a bit more adult geared action has a new entry in American Assassin. The movie is an adaptation of a popular Vincent Flynn novel that just happens to be part of 15 and going novel series about CIA black-ops recruit, Mitch Rapp (Flynn passed away in 2013 but author Kyle Mills is continuing the series). Obviously, the studio is hoping an already established fanbase will help launch this into a powerhouse franchise, but it is pretty clear by now that a popular book series isn't enough for a box office gold churning franchise. You need to have a movie that stands out and appeals to those that have never heard about the book while also keeping the loyal reader happy enough to shell out for a ticket too.

The first trailer doesn't really have anything that makes it stand out from your routine agent with an agenda off to make the bad guys pay type. I do like Dylan O'Brien getting another chance at a lead role, and he was perfectly fine in the uneven Maze Runner franchise (that one day will have a third movie that I can happily ignore). Michael Keaton is taking on the Kevin Costner type role of the wise and tough ass division head. Sanaa Lathan is always someone who I thought was far better than the material that she is in. Taylor Kitsch never became the star he was destined but stuff like The Grand Seduction and Lone Survivor proves he deserve better. Despite me rooting for the cast, there isn't anything here that looks like it is attempting to shake up a genre. Instead it leans heavy on tropes like the hero losing a loved one to terrorists, a father figure that he has to prove his worth, and lots of typical action sequences like jumping on the moving boat and kicking down that door.

Worst of all, this looks to be an origin story, which I really think studios just need to jettison off to space. But maybe the whole training and finding his way can be solved in 20 minutes, and there is a fresh story that is being hidden from this trailer. I expect Rapp to succeed in his mission and then stand on top of a tall building while narration tells us he is here to keep our world safe, then a stinger where Mads Mikkelsen kicks the President's puppy.

Even 'Fast' Die Hards are Furious on 'Fate" Finale

Spoiler warning for those who are actually left that want to see The Fate of the Furious.

The congregation of Fast and Furious is even grumbling over some of the plot issues in The Fate of the Furious. Haliegh Foutch, writer of Collider and clearly a bigger Fast and Furious fan than me, writes a solid piece exploring some of the major plot problems and analyzing how they can be fixed in the two upcoming movies (along with other hypothesizing about the future of the franchise). One of my big issues that got addressed in this article is how Jason Statham's Deckard is paling around with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Dom (Vin Diesel) with no problems after he had murdered "family member" Han (Sung Kang). The movie was trying to soften up Deckard so he could be Superhero Statham after he was a murderous and heartless supervillain in the previous movie. Foutch believes we may be in store for more redemption of Deckard as it could possibly be revealed that Han isn't dead and potentially pulling a Brian by enjoying Coronas on the beach with the other presumed dead "family member", Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot). That would help make Deckard more believable on the side of good, though it doesn't really explain why he is accepted now without that revelation.

Han and Yashar returning isn't far-fetched when you consider resurrection seems to be a Furious and Chris Morgan writing staple. Probably even more likely if Wonder Woman is a huge hit, which means the franchise will be more open to using some of Gadot's new star power. The series has already seen Letty (Michelle Rogriguez) miraculously come back from the dead, and I'm glad that a fan like Foutch even recognized it was odd that the once presumed dead then upgraded to vegetable Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) was bouncing around with life now. This habit of going full of soap opera and just bringing people back at the film's convenience is part of the reason this franchise just feels to be lacking any stakes or gravitas. The Han death does really need to be addressed considering the scene of his demise has gone down in three movies now (thanks to Furious' scattered timeline where Han's death initially happened all the way back in Tokyo Drift). If he does return, it is hard to escape yet another eyeball-rolling moment in a series full of contrived plot turns.

Also I like Foutch's observation that Charlize Theron's Cipher is this series' Thanos where it has been revealed she has had a hand in all the villainy that has been going down since at least Fast Five (maybe sooner? My attentiveness in this series is not strong). Cipher was a huge bright spot in the cartoon cavalcade that was the movie, but I think she is better served if she isn't the key villain in the two follow-ups in order to avoid going full on Cobra Commander retreat every time. This could be where the revival of Owen pays off, as it can be revealed he is still in cahoots with her or gets persuaded back to the dark side. This would allow for the family theme to continue with a brother vs. brother storyline and also gives a reason for more Helen Mirren screen time than the one scene cameo. It could also give Deckard some depth as he has to battle with either going against his brother or betraying his brand new "family."

The other final interesting thing about this franchise going forward is where Dwayne Johnson is going to sit. His Hobb's character turned down getting back his badge in exchange for staying at home with his daughter, which felt a bit like a quiet send off for his character. The biggest news surrounding this franchise has been that Diesel and Johnson do not like each other, and Diesel seems to be the one that has some creative power for the series. Though at this point, I'd say Johnson is far more valuable to the movies than Diesel, but it is also clear that Johnson needs it far less than Diesel. If this was the farewell to Hobbs, it gives me even less reason to continue on with this franchise.

I admit over and over that I've just never connected with The Fast and the Furious movies, so my opinion probably matters very little in regarding what they should do. I also recognize it is a pretty big deal in our film culture, which is why I just spent several hundred words analyzing it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Breakdown of 'The Fate of the Furious', 'Sandy Wexler', 'Slam' and 'Before I Wake'

One of the biggest movies of the year has finally arrived, and The Breakdown has you covered. We review the eighth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise in The Fate of the Furious. I'll admit that I haven't been a fan of this series, so find out if the cartoony actioner has finally won me over. Speaking of movies that have to fight for a recommendation, we're reviewing the latest Adam Sandler movie in the 90s set Sandy Wexler. We are also bringing back the Breakdown Trivia Showdown, with the prize this week being first pick in next week's Breakdown Summer Box Office Challenge draft. As well, the trailer for the most anticipated movie of the year was dropped this weekend, so we also talk Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As always, if you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie fans.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Breakdown Outline:

1:14 The Fate of the Furious review
19:11 Sandy Wexler review
38:59 Slam review
51:18 Before I Wake review
1:05:24 The Breakdown Trivia Showdown
1:21:30 Box Office Analysis
1:28:04 Trailer Reviews: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, Detroit, Baby Driver, Atomic Blonde, The Hitman's Bodyguard
1:41:58 Review Rundown

Rating Rundown:
The Fate of the Furious ** (CS)
Sandy Wexler ** (CS) & ½* (SM)
Slam **½ (CS) & *** (SM)
Before I Wake **½ (CS & SM)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Riff Raff

A writer's goal is to write better than those that write faster than you and write faster than those that writer better than you. But the goal should be to always strive to get better at both, or at least, speed matters if your goal for writing is to actually make money. This past week I've been trying to get better as riffing. I've been trying to master the art of writing a few hundred word pieces that I get published in fifteen to thirty minutes in between stopping Danika from riding the laundry hamper down the stairs or getting work done for clients. The real challenge though is motoring through a short piece of movie news analysis while trying to craft something that is original, insightful, entertaining and valuable. I'm not really fully confident in my ability to do quick but worthwhile, but hoping if I stick to this strategy that gems will be uncovered.

Of course, I still find a lot of value in long form, and I hope along with my movie news bits that I'll still regale you the adventures of parenthood and get back into some political pieces too. Though to be honest, writing about the political leaders on both side of the border nowadays is energy draining. I also want to just be better at riffing on whatever comes to my mind, but also be open for those times when something more complex is necessary.

The big thing for me is realizing length has nothing to do with value. It is having the instincts of knowing when something needs to be short and when something warrants several thousand words. It is also something I still wrestle with on movie reviews that tend to lean on the long side of things. A good writer knows when it is time to riff and when it is time to take the reader on a journey. Both styles of writing can have equal standards of quality

While I have your attention, a few months back I talked about wanting to try out serialized fiction on here. This is still a goal. I just want to make sure that I have a solid balance of putting out content on here while managing my pay copy first. And also actually need to stick with my promise of having written reviews of new releases posted. Remember that?

No More CGI Leia

On last weekend's Breakdown, Scott and I discussed the implications of Carrie Fisher appearing in Star Wars Episode IX after her brother Todd Fisher gave his approval for her to appear. The intriguing part was that in order to quell potential fan protest, Lucasfilm had gone on record that they wouldn't CGI General Leia, but we didn't know how that would be possible if she was set to be in Episode IX, which I believe has not started filming. Well, the answer was given today when Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy revealed that while Fisher will have a significant role on the upcoming The Last Jedi, she actually won't be appearing in Episode IX.

While I wasn't really sure where I stood with a CGI General Leia as a significant character in Episode IX, I now am struck with sadness over the realization that this December's picture will be the last time Leia and Carrie Fisher will be on the big screen. Obviously, that was to come very soon anyway and no matter what it would have been the last time the actual Carrie Fisher was on the screen, but it does given an added emotional importance to the upcoming movie.

It adds some intrigue on how they handle her exit. There is a chance that the story for Leia always ended in the upcoming movie, but my sense was that she was to be a major player for the next two movies. This leads me to believe that there would have been things set up for her to continue to do in the proceeding movie. Even if there isn't, it was filmed when they still thought Fisher would be alive for the next movie and so unless the character is written out, it will be kind of odd not having Leia on the screen for the ninth movie. It would be like the awkward The Huntsman: Winter's War situation where Snow White gets name dropped throughout the movie but never seen.

Of course, I don't know where the story is headed or what the fate is for the Resistance, so any concerns may not be valid or an issue. The declaration by Kennedy is an interesting one and goes against a lot of what has been previously assumed (that they need Leia for the story to continue). We will have a better idea come December, and before then it is just farting to make noise. This also makes me realize that a more in-depth tribute piece to Carrie Fisher and what she meant to my childhood and as well, as a writer who struggles with emotional issues is very overdue.

Friday, April 14, 2017

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Trailer: Okay, I Am Ready for December Now, Please

Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed the top spot for my favourite movie of 2015. At the time, I admitted that part of that was fuelled by nostalgia and being overjoyed that the follow-up to a trilogy that was a defining part of my childhood turned out to deliver much closer to my hopes than the prequels. I am aware of the criticism that Force Awakens leans heavy on the nostalgia and in many ways turned out to be less a sequel and more a remake of the original. I can see the argument and the movie is full of call-backs, but I stand by my belief that J.J. Abrams masterfully played with the classic elements of the Star Wars franchise while weaving a new and interesting story. Besides, Rey is way less whiney and more bad-ass then Luke Skywalker was in the start of the series.

Even those that weren't as enthusiastic for The Force Awakens as me at least agreed it was good enough to restore some faith and foster some excitement for the sequels that they hoped would go in some fresh story directions. Besides thinking Episode XI was awesome, another reason for me to really anticipate Star Wars Episode XII: The Last Jedi was that it would be helmed by Rian Johnson. He directed the fantastic sci-fi thriller Looper and has proven to have a very unique and confident way of telling his stories. I am very intrigued to see what his voice will bring to this universe and what he can do with the massive budget that is provided to him. He is one of the most exciting directors today and I think he has the skills to make one of the best Star Wars movies ever. Yes, hyperbole, but the type that I actually believe.

This all leads to the very first peak into what is easily the most anticipated movie of the entire year, and probably the most anticipated since. . .well, The Force Awakens. The Star Wars Celebration has been wowing fans this week in Orlando, and as was expected the first trailer has been revealed. Just like the first teaser for The Force Awakens, it has a lot of pleasing and spectacular scenes without spoiling any of the actual plot. This is exactly what I expect out of a good trailer, which is something that is a crowd pleaser but leaves the storytelling for the actual movie. Of course, we have many months to go with trailers that could show way too much, but the last two Star Wars marketing campaigns have been pretty good at hiding away the juicy bits.

I really dug the opening bit that looks like the classic intro into the galaxy, but then turns into being a rock on the planet that Luke was been hermitting. Luke is playing Yoda now and trying to get Rey to harness the force. At least from the trailer, it seems to answer that he isn't Rey's father, which was a direction I suspected after seeing the last one. He at least seems cool with a perfect stranger showing up with his old light saber and willing to show her a few cool tricks with her powers.

The big question is what does Luke mean by it being time to end the Jedi? Obviously, that was going to be a major story point considering the title of this movie. He doesn't seem like he is totally abandoning the Force since he is willing to train Rey to some extent. He also seems to be bitter and jaded towards the religion he has followed for so long. I am wondering if it means he believes it is time to do away with some of the old Jedi traditions and for a new faction to arise that practice the force. Or is he trying to destroy the whole practice of using the Force? Or is Luke being enticed by the Dark Side again? It seems obvious that Luke will be a complicated figure.

I also assume that it is Luke who is in the robe and hood, because it is R2-D2 beside him. That scene appears to be him confronting Kylo Ren, who would be his previous student and (SPOILER!!!!) murderer of one of his best friends. Considering there is wreckage and flames all about, I am guessing they aren't just going to talk it out over with a coffee and donut.

Finn looks to still be recovering from his injuries from the previous movie. That is all we get from him, but I'd wager he will have a big role in this movie and not just be sleeping during the entire run time. Poe has a pretty cool scene of him racing towards an X-Wing and then it almost exploding in his face. The First Order is definitely on the offensive this time, and looks like the good guys will be taking some major hits. Not sure if it will go full on Empire Strikes Back, but I am predicting this movie doesn't have a super happy ending, but rather a dark cliffhanger with a little hope speckled in.

The Millennium Falcon is back, and I wonder if it is Rey who is piloting it. I had hope for maybe it being Lando Calrissian, but a quick Google seems to poo all over that dream. He remains the biggest of the original trilogy characters to be left out. It would have been fun for him to have one final hurrah.

We got to see the back of General Leia, but it looks like for now, they will try to downplay her in the marketing. Her passing is still pretty fresh, so I'd go with saving that big cathartic moment for the actual movie. It may be hard, since I've heard that she is a central character this time.

The battle sequences look amazing again. We got a few little peaks at some cool worlds and new vehicles. The special effects are pretty awe-inspiring even just watching them on my laptop. This is still with several months left for post-production work, which makes me feel less lenient towards the awful looking Cyborg in the Justice League trailer.

The other really big talk-worthy moments from the trailer is what I assume is the shattered helmet of Darth Vader. Ren had been keeping it as a trophy before and seemed to revere his grandfather, at least his Sith persona. What caused it to be destroyed even more? Did Ren have another juvenile temper tantrum or is there deeper symbolism here? Does this mark a shift in the Ren character? He is definitely one of the more fascinating characters since he isn't just straight forward evil and seems to really be wrestling with his place.

I also just realized we didn't see anything from Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux or Captain Phasma (who is supposed to be far more significant in this movie -- which wouldn't be hard). Gleeson was so great as the frothing at the mouth psychopathic General, and it was so impressive because he usually plays much lighter and even knell types. I look forward to seeing what he does this time and also if Phasma turns out to be as cool as has been hinted.

Consider me thrilled. This easily remains the movie that I am the most pumped to see this year, but everyone already expected to read that.

Will 'The Fate of the Furious' Continue the Franchise's Box Office Surge?

Scott is back with his predictions on the box office chances of the new releases this weekend. Though this weekend the only wide release is the latest in the never ending franchise, The Fate of the Furious. Scott makes the bold prediction that it is going to make a lot of money. He also believes it won't have as great an opening weekend as Furious 7. The Fast and the Furious franchise is one of the rare series where its box office power has grown. Scott believe that will end here and he has a few theories on why he expects a drop. As always he provides some interesting insight, so check it out on his site.

Time for Bright and Peppy Nightmares for Our Children

The David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly starring Labyrinth was definitely a children's movie, but also one that I am sure gave many young kids nightmares. There was always a darkness and unsettling nature to the world of the Goblin King and his Labyrinth. I loved it as a kid (still do), but I sure wasn't watching it with the lights off. But saying that, it was directed by the Muppet King, Jim Henson who made his name on making family-friendly entertainment. He was never afraid to be bizarre or go into eccentric worlds (The Dark Crystal is awesome too), but his message was always warm and kind-hearted. At the core it was feel-good family adventures.

So, it wouldn't have been my first choice to have Fede Alvarez as the director and co-writer of the upcoming Labyrinth sequel. Alvarez does have a fantastic visual sense and his shorts show a man with a vivid imagination, but his biggest claim to fame are the horror pictures Evil Dead and Don't Breathe, which are the opposite of kid friendly.

I am wondering if this is supposed to be a movie that appeals to grown up fans of the original Labyrinth that delves into the darker and more disturbing parts of the world. A bold attempt to make a nightmarish version of what was once a children's story (though admittedly a dark one). Or could this be Alvarez trying to challenge himself and stretch out into other genres. His move to prove he can do more than just horror, Sort of like how the man who gave us Jaws also helmed E.T.

Even though Alvarez is firmly established as a horror and thriller director, I always did get the sense he wanted to be like Sam Raimi as a director who proved his skill with a variety of stories. This could be a solid step for him as it still will likely have a dark tone but can also show his softer and gentler side. He showed an ability to add sympathy and warmth in his depiction of Jane Levy's Rocky having a tender relationship with her young sister in Don't Breathe. It also will be his biggest test of how he handles lots of special effects and big set pieces, because that is a must for Labyrinth to work at all. I also wonder if he will try puppets, because his past works show he has a clear affection towards practical effects over CGI.

I rewatched Labyrinth last year, and one thing that was clear was that movies that were considered family movies in the 1980s would not get the exact same distinction today. Labyrinth has lots of heart and a very bouncy energy, but it is also way darker and more disturbing than anything being marketed as family entertainment in 2017. If you look at the 1980s with movies like Gremlins, The Goonies, The Black Cauldron and The Monster Squad, you can see that parents back then were way more down with giving their kids nightmares. For it to work today, Labyrinth actually may have to be a tad softer and gentler, but still capture lots of the energy and imagination.

Now that Alvarez is attached to this project, I look forward to the news that Jane Levy is signed on to star, because we always need more Levy in movies.