In the Far off Year of 2014…

All You Need... is Kill

Looking ahead now, I notice that next year has a bevy of exciting-looking genre films, most of them franchise-based but, whatever, so let’s take a look at what could just turn out to be the next 2009. Though I gotta say, this year, with Pacific Rim and Riddick alone, it was a good time to be a nerd.

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter

Right off the bat we get something I would’ve never seen coming. After the abysmal failures of Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas, who’s still trusting the Wachowskis with money? Granted, they get bigger and bigger stars for each movie but — that doesn’t make any sense. This looks to get closer to the ultra-vibrant visual aesthetic of their post-Matrix movies, with the original story of their earlier things, Bound and the Matrix sequels. By this point, the Wachowski name is kind of trash in the sphere of nerdom, because of the Matrix trilogy (which was 100% the whole way through), and because of Speed Racer, cited by some as the best anime adaptation of all time, but by others to be too crazy or dumb. It was more importantly, an anime adaptation, and that’s a land too dangerous to traverse, because fans are vicious, and nobody else cares.

This one looks interesting, if John Carter-y, sans Dominic West. I’ll see it day one just to support these two, because although I haven’t seen Speed Racer, Bound is their worst movie, and it’s still a very solid, very stylish thriller. They know what they’re doing, and they’re always doing something interesting. I’m just glad they get to keep doing it.

Godzilla

Godzirra

The main reason I want Godzilla to make $600 million worldwide is for the purely speculative Godzilla X Pacific Rim movie Guillermo said would be a cool idea. As it stands, I doubt it’s gonna do much business, just because it’s too niche, and not ironic enough, like Transformers was. Yeah, somehow a global cultural icon like Godzilla is too niche — sounds dumb, but I’m sure of it. I’d love to be wrong, but after Pacific Rim, it seems nobody cares about giant monsters. Hearing the rationales for why people wouldn’t see P. Rim was just heartbreaking. The genre clearly hasn’t got much credence in America, even though Cloverfield was a relative hit (maybe that is the reason).

The trailer looks good, but I’m still not sure about Gareth Edwards, who I constantly confuse with the guy who did The Raid: Redemption. Monsters was an alright movie, and seems like the good sort of thing to select a director for Godzilla off of, but it falls in with this whole Jurassic World situation — Edwards might be cashing in early.

Of course, Legendary Pictures has the greatest gift in Godzilla 1998, a film so universally reviled (by all but myself and my old roommate, apparently), they can’t help but use it as a blueprint for what not to do. Solid foundation.

Robocop

Murphy It's You, Murphy It's You

The other big reboot, this new Robocop looks like it might actually fall for the curse of its title — back in 1987 the only thing getting people to see something with as idiotic a title as Robocop is good word-of-mouth — it’s a damn fine movie. But this new one will not be well-received, if the remakes of The Thing and Total Recall are any indication. Both great movies, but the Internet wouldn’t have it. Robocop is in an even tougher position, being more beloved by the nerds than either prior mentioned property. It could fall hard, but hopefully it does well. I’m not so against this recent trend of remaking all my favorite movies from the 80s, so long as get original SF beside it.

Tomorrowland

Disney has been making very interesting choices lately, with the notorious acquisitions of Marvel and Star Wars that don’t seem to dilute the brand. Tomorrowland sounds like they’re trying to repeat the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, and not the success of The Haunted Mansion. It’s certainly an interesting part of the Disney… experience, to adapt, and maybe then we’ll get a Space Mountain movie, a giant mountain floating through space…

Edge of Tomorrow

All You Need is Kill

This one pisses me off. It’s based on a book called All You Need is… Kill, which is one of the best titles for something ever. I guess it isn’t commercial enough, and based on the premise, this new title is a lot more appropriate, but who knows. Maybe at the end Tom Cruise shouts “Now I get it… All you need is… KILL!” That would be no less absurd than screaming “Mission… ACCOMPLISHED!”

Of course, this movie does look absurd. Powered armor is a tradition in science-fiction, but not in film, as was decided once the Starship Troopers movie decided to have the ‘tight black T-shirt’ for its soldiers, rather than Heinlein’s prescient armor. Avatar had some, The Matrix Revolutions did, Elysium, yeah. But these don’t look near as cool as any of those, though Emily Blunt makes it work. As I’ve discovered, I don’t actually dislike Tom Cruise, so I’ll definitely see this one. The trailer is great, despite the hokey-looking armor and the odd music choice. Oh, and that dialogue. Jesus.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Another Marvel one, but without any recognizable name. I’ve never, ever, heard of this, but it does have James Gunn behind the trigger (lol), so I’ll probably see it. I loved both Slither and Super, as did everyone that saw it, so I ought to support this, even though I don’t know which superhero to dress up as when I go.

Transcendence

This is the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, and if Doom is any indication of cameramen to director moves, it should be pretty good, no irony. Doom was awesome. Although I can’t think of any two movies with more opposite titles.

Interstellar

The cast for this movie is insane. Expect this one to blow up late next year — Christopher Nolan is one of the biggest names in modern genre film, achieving such great prestige with the Batman movies, and then proving he can do thoughtful sci-fi with Inception. Interstellar is gonna be like Inception 2, but with the added benefit of being genuine, because Nolan has yet to do sequels for his original films. Strange to say for a science-fiction film, but this one’s gonna make a billion dollars. Of course, it could also be a turning point. We’ll have to see…

Jurassic World

Walrd

Oh boy. So, I never saw Safety Not Guaranteed, mostly because it had Aubrey Plaza. And I like the actress, but everything she’s involved in I’m supposed to hate. I just magically loved Scott Pilgrim by accident, and thought two-ish middle seasons of Parks and Recreation were funny. Gotta love Adam Scott.

It didn’t seem like the kind of movie where I, executive of Hollywood, would think, “Now that’s our Jurassic Park 4 guy.” Because the guy next to me would say, “Jurassic Park 4? Are you kidding?”

It’s the movie that was prophesied at the inception of Jurassic Park III, because once you introduce a numbering convention for sequels, you imply that the number can… change. According to the rules of math. Add a franchise with as little self-respect as Jurassic Park, and you’ve got Jurassic Park IV, better known as Jurassic… World. Is that a bad title? Sure, but it gives us a good indication of precisely what this is.

They want the old franchise’s fanbase (who?), but the license to reboot it for a new generation (who?). Now, I’ll level with you. Jurassic Park is my absolute favorite movie of all time — Terminator 2 rounds in at a solid #2, but it isn’t close. Watching Jurassic Park 3D earlier this year in IMAX was like some kind of religious, ritual journey into manhood, the rounding of my entire life in terms of entertainment. It began with Jurassic Park, and it ended with Jurassic Park. That’s also why I’m dead.

So to introduce this new one is like… no, it’s already over! But I’ve liked both sequels, even though they’re both horrendous, so I’ll be there day one for this one as well.

In Conclude…

So as exciting as a lot of this is, because these are franchise movies and remakes and reboots and weirdnesses like a new Wachowski Sibling attack on the senses, I’ll be there, but not without the grimace of chagrin.

Sounds like another year in genre film.

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The Last of this Zombie Stuff I Can Handle

LastOfUs

Apparently Sony has registered a couple of domain names that might suggest a Last of Us adaptation is on the books. Just as everything is. This should come as no surprise — Frank Darabont shared an interesting anecdote in a Hollywood Reporter interview, where he read L.A. Noir (the book that he’d adapt into Mob City), and phoned around, found it was optioned already, and the guy was just sitting on it. So he developed it with him.

The film business is strange, especially the writing part. If you’ve seen Tales from the Script, with David Hayter and others, you know that a writer can make a career off of selling scripts that just get sat on. One poor mf had like thirty scripts sold, maybe two produced.

But now I’m starting to sound like every niche fan — people can be super against adaptations of all their favorite things into film, mostly because a lot of other people really want it to happen, and neither party has a great argument. Ultimately it wouldn’t matter if Akira was made into a U.S. feature — it wouldn’t make us resent the original or think less of it, it would just be a good movie, if done right. Nobody would care.

The Last of Us presents additional challenges, however, being already very cinematic, as some video-game fans tend to rail against. It is certainly the most profound video-game narrative I’ve experienced, and if it isn’t GOTY, then I really need to play Grand Theft Auto V. There isn’t much to revise or do differently, and so an adaptation might not come from a pure, artistic source.

To my mind, the only construction that’d come from a The Last of Us movie is, if financially successful, we’ll get another trend, and that’d be video-game adaptations. Not only will we see Halo, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Uncharted, Gears of War, God of War, and Metal Gear Solid as possible contenders (all on the books), but other, current trends, will be pushed out — namely superhero and YA. Let’s get some interesting stuff onto the silver screen. Maybe The Last of Us? Who knows.

In the end though, obviously you’d get Huge Jackedman to play Joel. You saw Prisoners

So Jacked

And if you make a Mass Effect movie please for GOD’s sake, make it FemShep. The people have spoken. Time and time again.

From South Central to Miami

BoyzNtheHood

I’ll be honest — I’m not really in it for me. This blog is driven by an interest in entertainment news because that’s what I like. There’s a lot I find that appeals to me as a blogger here. After a time, I guess I didn’t expect something to really appeal to me as someone who enjoys television and movies. This coincides with recent news from Deadline, and a thought I had just days ago — I remember the trailers for Abduction two years ago, but where the hell has John Singleton gone?

I couldn’t have asked for a better answer. He’s partnering with Russell Simmons to executive produce, write, and direct an in-development HBO series, Club Life: Miami, which sounds more akin to Singleton’s early work than his later traverses into commercial Hollywood.

There isn’t a great deal of information as of yet, so let’s for now look back on Singleton, staging this show as a return to form (which it may or may not pan out to be).

In the 90s, Singleton was one of the trailblazing independent filmmakers, along with Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith. He had a screenplay coming out of college, and made the risky move to step up and direct it. For his transgressions at an early age he was rewarded with Academy Award nominations in both counts. Today, Boyz N the Hood is remembered as the film that sparked an outpouring of ‘hood’ films in the 90s, among the most prominent being Juice and Menace II Society.

But the debut (right up there with District 9 and The Shawshank Redemption as stellar first-time movies) also demonstrates the filmmaker’s gift for cultivating powerful performances out of actors — working with many first-time actors over his career. Boyz was not only Ice Cube’s first (best, and last) screen performance, but Cuba Gooding Jr.’s. Baby Boy introduced to the cinema Fast and Furious regular Tyrese Gibson.

And speaking of Fast and Furious, following the critical and financial disappointments of dramas like Poetic Justice (one in the preciously small Tupac acting canon) and Higher Learning, Singleton seemed to turn to more mainstream titles like 2 Fast 2 Furious and a reimagining of Shaft (with Christian Bale as the villain).

My recollection of 2 Fast tells me it was an alright movie (greatest title ever), but it’s a disappointing moment for two reasons — the three films opening Singleton’s career, and then Baby Boy in 2001, are clearly very personal stories tackling life in urban America, racism, and coming-of-age (Boyz N the Hood is like — imagine Rebel without a Cause, and now give James Dean an actual reason to be angsty… Having a cop threaten you with a gun and call you a punk for being out at night is a good one).

And of course, Abduction, which was just so random. It was like that time in Alex Proyas’s promising career when he went from I, Robot, a minor but significant departure from the amazing Dark City, to Knowing, a minor and insignificant entry in the Cage Rage canon. Two years isn’t a bad time for turnaround on directors making new movies, but those were two tense years.

If Club Life: Miami, despite its weird VH1/video-game-ish title, manages to bring Singleton back into the spotlight, it’ll prove television as the great refuse for feature filmmakers and stars. It may also be a stepping stone for the great director to pursue more personal projects, and that would be the return of a profound, unique voice.

Flagship’s Maiden Voyage: Mob City on TNT

BlobCity

There’s just something so damn intriguing about an upcoming TV ‘event series’ with a cool cast, terrible title, great subject matter, bad trailers, slick visuals, and Frank Darabont. Now, Mr. Darabont (The Walking Dead) is placed thusly in the patterned list because while his three Hollywood Stephen King movies have all been great (The Mist being a standout horror film from the last decade), his recent incursion onto television has been less than Sterling.

But Mob City is intriguing. Watch the trailers with the sound off. It’s hard to make period gangsters look bad, and Darabont and company have definitely nailed the style. Comparisons of course will be drawn to Boardwalk Empire, possibly the best-looking TV show currently on air. Like Boardwalk Empire, Mob City promises for its viewers violence and grittiness. And maybe some histrionic dialogue.

But what about for TNT? In recent years the Turner station has been difficult to parse from USA and TBS, homes to original programming as unique as White Collar, Major Crimes, Suits, Covert Affairs, Rizzoli & Isles, Franklin & Bash, Royal Pains, and, strangely, Falling Skies. These are, at least for TNT, shows with specific agendas, every bit as specific as shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men for AMC. The goal is to entertain a mass audience, rather than super-entertain a smaller audience. There does exist a demo for this sort of programming, and somebody has to fill that niche (but does it have to be everybody?).

Here’s a great, brief, article that asks the critical question, and might offer an answer. It is sort of paradoxical — if Mob City is HBO-ish in content, it’s not really TNT. And if it’s TNT-ish in content, nobody will stick around for parts two through six. As TNT programming chief Michael Wright said, “an audience is coming to this with a vocabulary,” and again, Boardwalk is entered into our minds, being a contemporary. There is a standard to live up to, if only in violence and sex.

Which is ludicrous. That’s not the sort of talk that oughtta pervade shows in this new golden age, in which Homeland’s flatlining at maybe a solid C+ is no longer acceptable, and Dexter’s finale feels horribly outdated and lame, particularly in anticipation of what many call the greatest TV finale ever just a week or two later. Even Boardwalk Empire, which met with critical acclaim in its season 4 finale, has always been a backburner drama for many, a frustrating and slow-paced show that may feature The Wire alums, but doesn’t match its wit or depth.

But it is the sort of talk that one might need to engage in before entering the ring with heavy-hitters like HBO, AMC, and hell, even Netflix, whose content restrictions only exist as ornamental (bleeping swears in Arrested Development was tradition). Get this violence right first, TNT, and then I’ll feel more confident.

Maybe the only reason why I’m not confident right now is just that damn title. Mob City? Course, it’s not anybody’s fault (but Rockstar Entertainment’s), because the show is based on a book called L.A. Noir, which is a great title, but that’s also the title of a video-game, starring Kenny from Mad Men. It was almost called Lost Angels, but maybe that would’ve been too… vocabulary.

Miike the Killer

Hara-kiri

He’s probably the most infamous Japanese filmmaker of all time, the man who regularly trades in screen rape, ultraviolence, and mutilation/torture. But he is also undoubtedly very interesting, a man interested in genres — he beat Tarantino to the post-modern Django film, but as consolation, he gave Tarantino a cameo.

His upcoming film, As God Says, is apparently another splatter movie, and it’s based on a comic book. This sort of runs opposite to how I view the Genre Filmmaker coming-of-age — take David Cronenberg for example. Existenz was his last traversal into the world of Cronenbergundian body horror. Ever since, he’s done Cronenbergundian dramas like Spider, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method. As good as those movies can be, I’d be lucky to ever see another Scanners, or Rabid (as bad as those two movies were).

Recently, two of Miike’s movies felt like prestige pieces — 13 Assassins and Hara-Kiri, the former being an ultraviolent take on the chambara tradition of having a numbered group of fighters, and the latter a remake of a very good 50s Japanese classic.

But I have to keep in mind that Miike directs two to five movies a year, and the same year he did 13 Assassins there came forth a little number called Zebraman 2. The same year he did an anti-bullying picture he adapted the popular handheld video-game Phoenix Wright.

I may not have a taste for his movies overall, but he’s an extremely intriguing filmmaker, one to watch. I’d be further interested to see if his filmography takes on any sense of direction or theme, consistent with other auteurs.

Korean New Wave on U.S. Shores: The Impact of Fandom?

Olduboi

Specifically let’s discuss the new Oldboy, which unfortunately is doing pretty poorly at the box office. Variety reports that it made an exciting $2 million, opening in a whopping 583 locations. See, I planned on seeing it this weekend but I don’t want to go into Boston. Or New York. Or LA.

It might just be the zero marketing campaign, the bad buzz, or the release following the year’s two biggest blockbusters — but let’s roll with a hypothetical. And in doing so, let’s identify a potentially massive impact on financial performance, one that if proven to be real, should be taken even more into consideration than it already… should be.

Fanboys and fangirls might be loud on the Internet, but as the underperformances of Serenity and Arrested Development Season 4 show us — even the loudest fans don’t mean great box office dividends. But of course, the fans will be bitchin’, and a terribly bitchy variety of fan is that of the foreign film. Everybody knows Oldboy because for one it’s an excellent movie, but also because it’s like The Wire — a very widely available thing that snobs will not shut up about.

There needs to be a proper metric by which to measure the impact of fans on the returns of a film — it vacillates wildly between successful and failuriffic movies. The best method is to just do whatever, just make the most fast-food YA novel franchise pictures appealing to the widest audiences you can imagine. Just do it. I’ve given up. Tomorrow — we’ll continue this Asiany discussion with the news of Takashi Miike’s new movie, and a lookback/bitchiness-session of his truly awful filmography.

Olduboi2

I think the hammer is a pretty good visual metaphor for the power of the original. Let’s see how Spike Lee’s remake measures up

Marvel vs. DC: Where We’re At

Avengerinos

Could it be… The End of an Era?

No.

But I’d wager that 2012 is gonna turn out to be the turning point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where Agents of SHIELD is mostly doing nothing for nobody, and the law of diminishing returns is scheduled to arrive. But will the torch pass on to DC? If the “Justice League” movie ever happens, it could be, but for my money–

No.

There is some news in that department, that DC is attempting to compete with Marvel in this way, with the big movie franchise, but they’ll have to do a lot of image consulting to make up for the mistakes they’ve made along the way — the one positive being Nolan’s Batman Thrillogy, which is more critically approved than anything Marvel’s done since Spider-Man 2.

Marvel has just completely had it together for a long time, scrambling after Iron Man to do something very big and very risky. If I were an executive at Paramount at the time I’da gotten pretty fired for being like, this is too creative, get out of my awe-fice.

Getting fan-favorite, genre filmmakers — real, filmmakers — like Joss Whedon (Serenity was great), James Gunn (his superhero connection being the ultraviolent Super), Edgar Wright (everyone’s favorite ‘underdog’ with Scott Pilgrim), not to mention Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet). This runs perfectly opposite to how a studio would typically run this type of game, either with a singular player being the creative mastermind, because they can be trusted — Michael Bay with Transformers, Nolan with Batman — or with a cycle of directors, as unimportant as they are on television.

Only, the directors of TV dramas understand their supporting duties to the showrunner, and the script, the solid foundations of creativity that elevate shows like Breaking Bad and… last year’s Homeland. The directors of Harry Potter understand their supporting duties to the source material, and to the franchise. Moneymaking is king there, and moneymaking for Marvel almost seems accidental.

That’s how brilliant it is. I think the bridge between fans and creators is getting smaller on the Internet, and while this can be a bad thing, it can also work toward that elusive agreement, that if the movies are good, the audience will respond.

Which is not a guaranteed thing (Pacific Rim), but it’s a better gamble than Transformers, which was made for the same reason John Carter was — because it had to be. That movie worked because the fanbase was huge (the 80s kids were all grown up) and the irony factor was also huge, appealing to hipsters at the advent of hipsterdom.

You put a creative director with talent on your franchise movie, you’ll get Iron Man 1, you’ll get The Avengers. These guys have built-in fanbases themselves, so you’re even bridging that gap as well — I personally won’t see another Marvel movie but I will be there day one for something by the guy who did Slither, and similarly for the guy who did Scott Pilgrim and Shaun of the Dead.

DC’s strategy has been much more difficult to parse, and praise, so we’ll have to see. What do you think? Should they take the same route as Marvel, or would that cheapen what is such a beautiful thing? Add corporate cynicism to this celebration of creativity, who knows what you’ll get…

And in time, those Warner Bros. Executives will be watching Interstellar and being like… We should’ve offered him all the money we had for “The Boy Wonder.”