The Movies of Fall 2015

theater seating

What a difference a year makes.  In the summer of 2014, Hollywood took a milder approach to their tent-pole releases; relying less on big gambles like The Lone Ranger (2013) and Battleship (2012) and instead focusing on reliable entries like franchise sequels and genre fare.  And with the milder budgeted movies came milder box office, with only Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) exceeding expectations.  No phenomenons, but no catastrophic failures either.  That trend proved to be short lived as the summer of 2015 was a monumental season for Hollywood.  Not only did we have two record breaking box office hits this year with Jurassic World  and Avengers: Age of Ultron (both earning their way into the Top 10 box office hits of all time club), but on the opposite end of the spectrum we saw two monumental flops this season as well (Tomorrowland and Fantastic Four).  Even despite the season’s big failures, there was still a lot for the Hollywood community to be proud of.  The overall box office numbers for the season have been the highest it’s gotten in a long time; maybe even the best season ever.  Universal came out the big winners, led by the record-breaking Jurassic World, and supported by other mega-hits like Furious 7, Minions, and the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck.  We also saw the triumphant return of Pixar with their smash hit Inside Out, which is already high on my best of the year list.  There were also solid efforts from tried and true franchises like this year’s critically praised Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  But what I’m sure Hollywood is most excited about is that this summer proved that people are heading back to the theaters again in huge numbers, helping to drive up these huge box office returns and give the studios confidence as they move forward with what’s next.

Speaking of which, the Fall season of 2015 will be no less ambitious as Hollywood gears up for the Holiday and Awards seasons.  While most of the movies in the next few months will be of the smaller, awards bait variety, there are certainly some big budget contenders that Hollywood is gearing audiences up for; including one that is not only the most anticipated movie of the year, but probably one of the most anticipated of all time (Star Wars: The Force Awakens).   But this season doesn’t just belong to Star Wars alone, though it will be tough to beat once it’s in theaters.  We’re also seeing the conclusion of the mega-popular Hunger Games franchise, as well the continuation and possible redefining entries in long standing franchises like the new James Bond film Spectre and the new Rocky movie Creed.  There are also ambitious new movies coming from some of Hollywood’s greatest current directors, like Guillermo del Toro, Robert Zemekis, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, David O. Russell, and Quentin Tarantino.  With this article, like in years past, I will be highlighting some of the most anticipated movies of this upcoming season and tell you which ones I believe will be the must sees, the ones that have me worried, and the ones that I believe are worth skipping.  Keep in mind, these are just my early predictions based solely on how I’ve responded to the hype and publicity surrounding them so far.  I have been wrong about some predictions before; in fact, one of my movies to skip last year ended up on my best of the year list (Edge of Tomorrow).  Still, I think that some of these choices are pretty obvious and it’ll be an interesting experience no matter what seeing where all the movies fall into place by season’s end.  So, let’s begin.



What else was I going to start this article with?  Yes, there are going to be many excellent movies worth seeing this fall season, some of which might even be better than this.  But no other movie this season is going to have the same hype around it.  This is the big ticket movie of Fall 2015, and possibly of the entire year, whether it delivers or not.  So far though, it has led us to believe that director J.J. Abrams is indeed delivering the goods.  The above trailer is a masterwork of marketing, hitting all the right notes and it does an excellent job of convincing us that yes, Star Wars is back.  The thing that I’m most looking forward to, however, is the fact that for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi, we are going to be seeing the Star Wars franchise move forward and not backwards, at least in terms of story.  George Lucas’ flawed prequel trilogy gave us stories that we already knew and in the end never really needed to be shown.  Here, we are getting to finally see the further adventures of the iconic characters from the original trilogy, as well as see the aftermath of the fall of the Empire.  What I also like is that Abrams clearly wants us to know that his Star Wars is hearkening back to the style of the originals, with more practical effects and on-location shooting.  Thus far, all the advertisements have convinced audiences that this movie is going to do right by the name Star Wars and that it will help reinvigorate the legendary franchise.  You know anticipation for this movie is big when the trailer alone has made grown men cry.  And I don’t blame them.  This is going to be a massive hit no matter what, and my hope is that the promise of these trailers comes to fruition.  Just please don’t suck.


Quentin Tarantino has reached that rarefied air of prestige to where every time he releases a new film, it becomes an event.  And the miraculous thing about his new project is that it almost didn’t become a reality.  In late 2013, someone had leaked Taratino’s script online, which promptly led to his decision to shelve the project.  Thankfully, an outcry of fans convinced Tarantino to go ahead with filming anyway despite the leak, and I’m so grateful that he did.  I for one am eagerly anticipating this movie.  Tarantino’s last film Django Unchained topped my list of the Best Movies of 2012, and my hope is that he continues his winning streak with this one too.  Surprisingly, the versatile director has decided to stay within the Western genre, only this time sticking much closer to the genre norms than the more revisionist Django.  But, there’s no worries there since the movie looks to have the same trademark style of all of Tarantino’s movies that he’s made his own.  The movie also looks to have been made up of an ensemble cast of Tarantino all-stars, including regular players like Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, and Bruce Dern.  All that’s missing is Christoph Waltz; we would’ve had the full set with him in the picture.  But, at the same time, it looks like Taratino’s cast is pretty well rounded without him.  And, to show his support for tradition film photography, Tarantino is not only shooting this movie in 70mm, but he’s also doing it in the Ultra Panavision process, which hasn’t been used in nearly 50 years.  It all makes this an absolute must see for both Taratino fans as well as for fans of cinema of all kinds.


Maybe not as hotly anticipated as the next Star Wars, but this is another franchise entry that still has a lot of people excited.  The Bond franchise is riding high after the success of Skyfall in 2012, and thankfully the same team behind that film (which includes director Sam Mendes and screenwriter John Logan) has returned to create this follow up.  This new Bond movie will also mark Daniel Craig’s fourth turn as 007, helping to cement his status as one of the all time greats in the role.  Few of the other actors who have played James Bond over the years other than Sean Connery can claim to have made more than one great film in the franchise.  Craig already has two (Skyfall and Casino Royale), and hopefully Spectre can live up to that level.  The movie already looks very slick and typically stylish for the franchise.  But, what has me excited about this film is the fact that it marks the full blown return of Bond’s arch nemesis to the franchise; the secret organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the title’s namesake.  And while the cast list doesn’t name the organization’s legendary leader (Blofeld) specifically, having Christoph Waltz fill the role seems only natural.  This probably explains why he’s not in The Hateful Eight, which is completely understandable.  My hope is that the promise of James Bond once again going head to head with his greatest enemy lives up to it’s potential.  Regardless, the Bond franchise has been one of the most resilient in the history of Hollywood, and the same great blend of action, suspense and humor that the Bond franchise has been known for should still make this movie a fun time for all.


This year Pixar is doing something they’ve never done before, and that’s release two films within the same calendar year.  It may seem ambitious of them, but this sort of scheduling happened more out of circumstance rather that pre-planning.  While Inside Out moved forward without delay towards it’s Summer 2015 release date, The Good Dinosaur stalled in development, which led to a complete overhaul with a change in direction and story.  Originally set for release in the fall of last year, The Good Dinosaur was held back a year and will now get it’s release over Thanksgiving weekend.  With a troubled production like this, you would think that The Good Dinosaur is destined to struggle at the box office, but I don’t think that will be the case here.  From the look of the trailer, this movie appears to stand up to the very high Pixar standards, and could very well be one of their most visually impressive films to date.  But, the question is, did they fix the story problems that plagued it before.  Well, while attending the D23 Expo a couple weeks ago, I did manage to get a glimpse at 10 or so minutes of the movie that they screened for us.  It may not of told me what the entire movie might be like, but what I saw did engage me for the most part, and it made me eagerly anticipate seeing what else the film had in store.  I can tell already that this is going to be a visual feast, and hopefully all the story issues have been worked out, helping to make this another worthy entry in the Pixar canon.  Regardless, this movie still has the benefit of riding on all the goodwill generated by the success of Inside Out, and I’m sure it will not spoil that good run either.


Here we have your typical award season fare.  And there are many reasons why I’m excited about this movie.  One, the director Alejandro G. Inarritu made my favorite film from last year, Birdman, so I’m eager to see how he follows that up.  And sure enough, he’s defying expectations by taking on a wholly unexpected and different kind of genre from what he did last.  The current Oscar champ is not wasting any time showing us his versatility as a director as he follows up his dramedy about life on the Broadway stage with a dark and foreboding thriller about survival in the American frontier.  Like Birdman, this film will of course feature some stunning cinematography, and it will be interesting to see if this movie will be stylistically a big departure from what Inarritu has done in the past.  Regardless, the trailer alone makes this one of the more interesting films being lined up for Oscar season.  I don’t know yet if this will be enough to help Inarritu win back to back Oscars come awards time, but even still it’s a movie that I still want to watch and experience.  One thing I hope is that it gives star Leonardo DiCaprio another shot at winning an Oscar.  His performance from the trailer already looks intense and it proves once again why he’s one of the greatest and most versatile actors of his generation.  Seeing him work under the direction of Alejandro G. Inarritu should be interesting, especially when he also gets to act opposite Tom Hardy in the film, which alone could provide a lot of good drama in the movie.  It may be too dark for some audiences to take, but for the rest of us, it’s exactly what we’re looking for this awards season.



On it’s own, The Martian does have a very promising premise.  Depicting the scenario of a lone astronaut left stranded on the planet Mars after he’s left for dead by his fellow astronauts and needing to find a way to survive for years on an inhospitable terrain, this movie has the potential to be a very tense big screen experience.  But, there are a couple red flags that have me worried about it falling short of that promise.  For one thing, this is yet another space themed movie released very close in proximity to other like-minded movies like Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014).  In fact, some have noticed that this new film shares more than a couple similarities with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, including some of the same cast, making it more difficult for this movie to distinguish itself from the others.  Matt Damon, in particular, looks like he just stepped out of that movie and into this one, only this time playing a much more likable character.  In addition, director Ridley Scott’s recent track record has been shaky as of late.  While not terrible, his directing style seems to be lacking some of the edge and originality of his earlier films, and The Martian unfortunately has to follow-up the crushing bore that was Exodus: God and Kings (2014).  That being said, the movie still looks interesting, and hopefully Ridley Scott brings his A-game to this one.  I already like the tone given off from this trailer, especially the line, “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”  Here’s hoping that this will be more than just another addition to a growing trend.


Once again, we have a film here that looks great on the surface, but has raised some doubts, only this time it’s by circumstance.  This sea-based adventure film was originally slated to premiere back in March but was pushed back to December instead.  Some saw this as a good sign for the movie as it was believed that the film could potentially be good enough for awards contention and the Holiday season release would keep the movie fresh in people’s minds.  Unfortunately, it seems that in the intervening time the movie has largely been forgotten.  No new trailers have been made and you rarely see any trade ads or movie posters highlighting the upcoming release in the same way that you did earlier this year when the movie was coming out in the spring.  This leads one to wonder if delaying the movie was really such a good move after all and that maybe the move had less to do with how good it is than if it was to get the movie into a more profitable time period.  And even that might not pay off either, because it only gets a week long window before Star Wars is released.  Even still, Ron Howard’s epic still looks interesting and hopefully the shuffling around is not a sign that the movie is in trouble.  Detailing the true life story that inspired the classic novel Moby Dick could be a chilling and edge of your seat film experience, and Howard has proved to be such a versatile director that I have no doubt he can pull a film like this off with ease.  In addition, the cast is also very capable of bringing this story to life, led by current Marvel superhero stars like Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Tom Holland (the new Spiderman).  In any case, I’m just hoping that it will be worth the extra long wait.


This one is troubling on all sorts of levels.  For one thing, it’s another revisionist interpretation of a classic fairy tale (in this case, the story of Peter Pan) that we’ve seen overdone to diminishing returns recently at the box office; Disney’s recent Cinderella being the one exception.  In addition, I don’t see the need for a prequel to the classic J.M. Barrie story.  We don’t need to know about how Peter got to Neverland.  Part of the wonder of the original tale was the mystery behind the boy who could fly.  And thirdly, this looks like another CGI effects laden spectacle that appears to favor style over substance.  It’s pretty to look at, but the story and lines of dialogue seem far too generic.  Not to mention all the performances seem to be all over the place here, and the casting is very iffy as well.  What worries me is the fact that the boy playing Peter Pan is giving a very understated performance (based on the trailer), while all the adults playing the various Neverland characters are all hamming it up; especially Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard.  And really? Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily?  The one thing that works in the film’s favor is that it has a very good director behind it.  Joe Wright hasn’t worked on a film of this scale before, nor has he worked in the fantasy genre either, but he has proven time and again before that he is a capable and really inventive filmmaker.  I especially like the way he incorporates long tracking shots into each of his movies, like the breathtaking ones seen in Atonement (2007) and Hanna (2011).  It’ll be interesting to see if he incorporates one into Pan too, which could help to make this a more interesting film experience as a result.


Biopics are hard films to pull off.  How does one encapsulate a real life person’s story into a cohesive 2 hour film.  Last year proved the different degrees that it can be pulled off; either very well (The Imitation Game) or very poorly (The Theory of Everything).  The pressure to get the story right is increased ten fold whenever your subject is a world famous and instantly recognizable cultural icon like Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and that’s the challenge with this particular film.  On the one hand, the role of the iconic tycoon has been given to Michael Fassbender, who is more than capable of doing justice to the character.  But, Hollywood has already attempted to depict the life of Steve Jobs on the big screen before, and the end result was the disastrous Ashton Kutcher vehicle Jobs (2013).  This version unfortunately has to follow in the wake of that misfire, and it’s very much an uphill climb, with a lot of people holding up this glossier biopic to higher scrutiny.  Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle is creative enough stylistically to make this visually interesting, but it’s still uncertain whether he is the right fit for this material.  One thing for sure is that the movie is right in the wheelhouse of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who has proved mastery over adapting recent history true life stories and making them captivating on the big screen, as evidenced with The Social Network (2010) and Moneyball (2011).  Hopefully the same can happen with the story of Steve Jobs, otherwise the late icon will be saddled with two lackluster movies based on his life.



I’ve already stated my displeasure with Hollywood’s increasing reliance on rebooting and remaking classic films from the past in a previous article.  Most of the time, they are remaking movies that I didn’t care much for to begin with, and then there are remakes like this one that is not only needless, but seems to be disregarding everything that made the first movie a classic in the first place, purely just to capitalize on name recognition alone.  The original, directed by future Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, was by no means a masterpiece, but it was still a better than average action thriller of it’s time that had surprising depth of character and a complex message at it’s center about the morals of law and order.  At it’s heart, it was a story about whether or not the bad guys are truly evil in nature and if they’ve just been led to taking drastic and immoral steps as a response to an increasingly cutthroat society; essentially a dichotomy of whether freedom or order is what makes us a good person.  It was also a film that helped turn Keanu Reeves into a star, and gave Patrick Swayze one of his best roles ever.  This film looks to have none of that.  It’s like the filmmakers only wanted to replicate the amazing stunts of the original with updated modern technology and completely ignore the underlying message of the story.  It’s a showcase for extreme sports and nothing else, completely trashing the potential of the story.  That’s the feeling I’m getting from this trailer, with it’s D-list actors giving lifeless performances and it’s generic looking cinematography that instills no style whatsoever.  Please leave the classics alone.


Speaking of another movie that completely misses the mark of what it’s trying to remake, the cult animated series from the 80’s Jem and the Holograms is making it to the big screen already under a cloud of bad buzz.  While this one doesn’t anger me as much as the Point Break remake, because I’ve never had any interest in the original cartoon, I can still understand the hatred that is being aimed at this movie adaptation.  The original series was tailor made for the medium of animation, utilizing sci-fi elements and magic as a part of the show and with the personal journey of the character Jem herself.  None of this has translated over into this movie, which from what I’ve seen in the trailer, looks just like every other cliched rise of a pop band story-line that we’ve already seen done million times before.  It’s almost like the only thing they took from the show was just the title; this could’ve been called anything else, and it would have been exactly the movie.  Putting the Jem name on this only seems like a desperate ploy to just capitalize on name recognition alone.  Because of that, the movie has already received a backlash from fans of the original series, who see this as a shameful exploitation of their beloved show.  And I don’t blame them for feeling that way either.  If one of my favorite shows from my youth was misappropriated into something that doesn’t resemble the original in any way in both style and story, I’d be super pissed too.  It’s a clear example of Hollywood ignoring what fans want and instead giving them what they think they want, which could lead to a very disastrous outcome in the end.


Yeah, I know it’s pointless to complain about a movie that’s clearly aimed at little kids, but do we really need anymore of these?  The first Alvin and the Chipmunks was a pointless adaptation in the first place, so why did we need four in total.  Yeah, the first one made a lot of money, but the nostalgia for this kind of thing had clearly worn off by the time the third movie came around.  Was there anything of value left in this franchise that warranted another sequel?  Suffice to say, I’m not going to be watching this one; ever.  Not on a movie screen nor when it shows up on Netflix.  It just has no value anymore in my eyes.  Maybe some parents will find it as an acceptable diversion to keep their children entertained for an hour and a half, but there are so many other worthwhile films aimed at all audiences that would be better worth their time in the months ahead, like The Good Dinosaur, or the new Peanuts movie which looks surprisingly good despite a lot of people’s worries early on.  Hopefully, this movie marks the end of Alvin and the Chipmunks run, which has contributed very little to both the quality of cinema and also little to the legacy of it’s own brand.  The Road Chip will be nothing more than a waste of time this holiday season and will hopefully be short lived in the theaters.

So, that’s my outlook on the fall movie season, at least with regards to some of the more notable films out there.  There are many more coming out in the months ahead that I did not cover, and I’m sure that there will be quite a few that will be worth your time; or could be forgettable and disappointing.  The great thing about this season is the fact that Hollywood uses it to deliver the stuff that they know will be quality entertainment, helping to keep them fresh in our minds as the year comes to an end and the awards start to be handed out.  But, even some of the movies not up for awards will prove to be big entertainment for all.  Certainly the launch of the new Star Wars will be an event unto itself, awards or no, and plenty more blockbusters will likewise prove to be worthwhile during this season.  What interests me the most are the surprises; the little films that come out of nowhere and surprise us by not only becoming sleeper hits, but also by making their case for end of the year awards and knocking out some of the likelier contenders.  I certainly didn’t have a movie like Whiplash on my radar last year, and yet, it proved to be an end of the year treat that I was delighted to have discovered.  The fall season always has a surprise or two like that and my hope is that 2015 has some as well.  I will be reviewing some of the big films of the season in the months ahead, and it’ll be interesting to see how my end of the year list shapes up.  Regardless, I hope that my preview here has been helpful in guiding your outlook on the upcoming Fall season, and let’s hope that we all have a good time at the movies during the holidays.

What the Hell Was That? – Space Jam (1996)

space jam

So, let’s talk about bad movies for a moment.  The strange thing is that when we talk about bad, it can fall into several different categories.  There are movies that are so bad that they become entertaining as a goof (like The Room or Battlefield Earth), which I talked about before in another article.  Then we’ve got those movies that are bad and forgettable, barely leaving an impression on the viewer long after it’s seen.  And then there are those movies that are so unbelievably bad that they not only create a bad viewing experience, but they leave a bad taste in your mouth long after you’ve seen them.  These are the worst kinds of movies, the ones that you wish you could un-see, but can never seem to shake off, and they just linger there in the back of your mind making you hate them even more.  Everyone remembers those kinds of movies, and whenever someone points out what is the worst film they’ve ever seen, they’ll usually have an answer ready to go depending on how many movies they’ve seen.  I for one have seen my fair share of flicks and there are quite a few that stick out in my mind as being some of the worst cinematic experiences that I’ve ever had.  These movies have left such a distinct impression on me that I felt I should devote an entire series of articles to explain just exactly why I hate these movies so much.  In these articles, I plan to highlight each particular cinematic tumor that I’ve come across and pick apart exactly why these movies have drawn my ire.  Just remember that these are my own personal reactions to these films; sometimes I’ll be touching on a movie that some of you may actually like or love, and I don’t hold that against any of you.  I only want to use this series to explain the reasons why I believe these movies affected me in the wrong way, and hopefully some of you out there will understand my way of thinking, and may even agree with some of it.

So, what horrible movie should I take apart to kick off this series.  Well, I figure I should go with the movie that for the longest time I referred to as my least favorite and most hated film; 1996’s Space Jam.  This movie was a unexplainable disaster on all fronts for me, and the first movie that I can remember feeling genuine hatred for when I was growing up.  The movie dropped into theaters just at about the same time I was entering high school and was also starting to gain a strong interest in film and film-making.  Had I been a bit younger, I may have had a different reaction, seeing as Space Jam was marketed to a younger demographic, but even still, I think the younger version of me might have cried bullshit on this movie as well.  So, why do I hate this film so much?  There’s too many things to pinpoint; the horribly unfunny screenplay, the meandering and pointless story, the one note performances (especially from it’s headlining star), the crass commercialism, the shameless hero worship, the lackluster animation, and probably most egregiously it cinematicly ruined three things that I genuinely love in this world: Looney Tunes, Nike Shoes, and Bill Murray.  To put it into simpler terms, this did not feel like a movie to me.  Instead it was something designed from the very beginning to capitalize on name brands in the guise of a compelling story.  This was the first movie that I recognized as a kid as being purely a marketing scheme and nothing else.  It may not have been the first movie to be purely made for that purpose, nor the last (Transformers), but it’s the first one that really opened my eyes to the whole idea that some movies had no interest in telling a story at all but rather were more interested in selling us on a brand, or in this case, multiple brands.  But, then again, what else would you expect from a movie based on a commercial.

Space Jam holds that dubious distinction of being the only movie in history spawned off of a television commercial.  The Nike corporation in the early 90’s wanted to highlight the launch of their of their Air Jordan sneakers with an ambitious ad campaign starring their namesake, NBA Icon Michael Jordan.  Jordan proved to be the right spokesperson for the time,  undoubtedly being the most popular athlete in the world during the 90’s.  Jordan’s clout as a basketball superstar needed to have an out-sized ad campaign that could live up to it, so Nike called upon the Warner Brothers Animation Studio to help out.  Utilizing the massive stable of characters from Warner’s Looney Tunes series, both Nike and the Animation giant created one of the most ambitious TV ads ever made up until that point.  Starring Michael Jordan and WB mascot Bugs Bunny, the 90 second ad premiered in 1993 and was highly praised by both sports and animation fans alike.  I liked the ad quite a lot myself, and still do this day.  It does everything that it needs to do, and with a clever sense of humor befitting the legacy of the Looney Tunes cartoons.  The ad features Bugs and Jordan fighting Marvin the Martian and his team of giant alien birds on a space set basketball court in order to retrieve a large collection of stolen Air Jordans.  It’s a simple, charming premise that’s executed perfectly.  Not only does it make Jordan and his shoes look good, but it also shows a surprisingly funny side to the NBA star that we hadn’t seen before.  Amazingly, he holds his own opposite his animated counterparts too.  Naturally, the campaign was a huge hit, making Michael Jordan a strong pitchman for his brand as well as turning Nike into a marketing juggernaut.  But, there were some at Warner’s that felt that more could be explored with this premise and thus, a full length feature was put into prodution.

Now, what works in a 90 second ad doesn’t translate well into 90 minute movie, and Space Jam is proof positive that it should never be done.  The premise is stretched so thin here, that there is scarcely anything of substance left.  The story of Space Jam is painfully generic, and basically just comes down to praising it’s star and showing how amazing he can be without ever earning the right to do that.  We find Michael Jordan in the middle of his real life mid-career retirement from basketball being pulled into the world of the Looney Tunes.  The Tune,s it turns out, have been invaded by an alien race who have challenged them to a basketball game in order to force them into enslavement at their overlord’s amusement park.  Bugs calls upon Michael to help them train so that they have a chance against the mutated aliens.  And that’s pretty much the story right there, all within the first 20 minutes.  The movie is all one convoluted excuse to get us to a big game showdown where Michael Jordan will undoubtedly save the day.  Nothing else of interest happens.  There’s even a pointless 10 minute scene in the movie where Bugs and Daffy Duck must break into Jordan’s home and steal back his Air Jordans.  Why?  Couldn’t Michael have gone there himself?  Why does he have to stay in Toontown while Bugs and Daffy can cross between worlds effortlessly?  It’s just many scenes of pointless filler in this movie leading up to a game that no one cares about by the end.  And thus, we see one of the many problems with the movie; the horrible story.  Here we have a film that’s trying to fill the gaps of a stretched out premise by falling back on easy laughs and cliched setups.  The original ad had a premise that was quick and tight for what it needed to be.  When you add nothing to that for a full-length running time, all you’re going to do is highlight the gaps inbetween.

And the stretched out premise also highlights the other big flaw of the movie, and that ‘s Michael Jordan himself.  Jordan, I’m sad to say, doesn’t have it in him to carry a movie.  His performance in the film is wooden and devoid of charisma, which is extremely confusing given that he’s basically playing himself here.  Perhaps he didn’t get any acting lessons during the film’s production, because he just seems lost here.  From stilted and monotone line readings to almost seeming like he’s devoid of emotion throughout the entire movie, Jordan clearly proves that he cannot act.  Some of that is the fault of the lackluster screenplay, which gives his on screen character almost no development, but you should expect Jordan to show at least a little enthusiasm.  Jordan’s stilted performance feels especially out of place alongside his cartoon co-stars, who are almost too wacky for their own good here.  And it also feels out of sync with the basic underlying message of the movie, which is to show how amazing a person Michael Jordan is.  Jordan never earns the right in the movie to be called amazing, other than what he shows on the court.  We learn nothing about his character; what makes him an interesting human being, nor what appeals to his heart.  He’s just good at basketball; that’s all this movie tells us and somehow that’s supposed to mean that he’s the greatest person ever by the end.  At least the Nike ad campaign showed a lighter, playful side to Michael Jordan.  Why is that missing here?  I think the movie might have worked just a little better if someone else with a little personality stepped in and filled Michael Jordan’s shoes instead.  For one thing, I would have rather have seen someone like Charles Barkley in the lead role instead (he does appear in the film in a minor role).  Barkley is not much of an actor himself either, but his natural personality would have at least been a better fit for this film’s tone, considering that Barkley is a bit of a cartoon character himself both off and on the court.

But, it’s not just Jordan that sunk this movie; it’s the quality of the production as well.  The movie just looks poorly made to begin with.  It’s devoid of style, particularly in the live action sequences, and both those and the animated sequences clash in some very jarring ways.  Another big problem is the fact that the animation used for the Looney Tunes here is just not very good; but not in the way you’d expect.  The reason it looks bad is because the animation looks too polished; too Disney-like.  What set the Looney Tunes apart was the fact that they weren’t like Disney, and that their cartoons had a slight edge to them, not putting too much emphasis on detail and fluidity but instead emphasizing the effectiveness of the gags.  It’s a formula that has worked for them since the days when Friz Feling and Chuck Jones were directing the shorts, and it worked brilliantly for them.  But, in the 90’s, when Disney saw a resurgence with the likes of The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991), animation standards seemed to be raised and Warner Brothers felt that they needed to follow Disney’s example.  The problem is, it doesn’t work with the Looney Tunes.  The gags and very exaggerated expressions that worked for them before fall flat in the fluid Disney style, and it makes the Looney Tunes feel out of character for the most part.  Bugs and Daffy aren’t nearly as zany as they’ve been before and they feel almost neutered by the new animation standards.  Not only that, but the new alien characters are also ugly and uninteresting in design.  The Alien Overlord (voiced by Danny DeVito) is about as generic as you can get as stock villains go, complete with an ever present cigar in his hands throughout the movie.  What was wrong with Marvin the Martian from the commercial?  We can at least laugh at him.  One only has to look at another Animation/ Live Action hybrid called Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) to see how to to make this kind of movie in a stylish and inventive way, and that was almost a decade before this.  Why, even the Nike commercial had better animation, because it maintained the edginess of the past Looney Tunes shorts.  It’s a clear example that crisper animation doesn’t always make for a better movie.

But, there’s also the crime of wasting so many talented people in such a crash, commercial exploit that really angers me about this film.  It’s more than just the waste of good animators working out of their element.  Warner Brothers and Nike clearly dug deep to fill their movie with top tier names, all seemingly put here to reinforce the majesty of Michael Jordan.  Beyond the presence of the Looney Tunes, we get more NBA All-Stars in the movie like Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues, all of whom have to rely on Michael Jordan to get their talent back from the aliens who stole them.  If stealing talent was so important, then why didn’t Michael have his stolen as well?  Either way, it’s weird in the movie seeing these talented players reduced to victims while Michael is spared to save the day; although they do get the one gag in the movie that does work (when walking down a hallway at a hospital where they’re recuperating, all the 6’5″-plus players bang their heads on a low hanging door frame, except the 5′ 4″ Bouges who walks on without noticing).  But, most egregiously, the movie spoils the cinematic talent of Bill Murray; one of the funniest actors ever.  Murray clearly is in this movie purely because of his huge Chicago Bulls fandom, but there’s nothing for him to do.  Not only that, he shows up to participate in the movie’s climatic basketball game without any explanation and contributes absolutely nothing to the scene.  It’s a huge wasted opportunity and shame on you Space Jam for making Bill Murray not funny.  That’s a crime against humanity in my opinion.  The only person in the movie that seems like he’s actually trying to do something worthwhile is actor Wayne Knight, here cast as Jordan’s personal assistant.  He’s basically cast as the cliched, overweight comic relief (as if we needed it in a movie with cartoon characters), but damn it, Knight tries his hardest to give some semblance of character in this movie that’s devoid of it.  Again so much talent wasted to create a self-aggrandizing movie for it’s star who doesn’t feel comfortable being there in the first place.  It all makes the end result pointless in the end.

As you can see, I have a lot of issues with this movie.  And the sad thing is that there could have been a lot of potential here if the people who worked on it actually gave a damn in terms of story and character.  Instead, we get a movie that feels more like a blatant commercial than the actual commercial that it was based on.  I still resent this movie today, mainly because of how it wasted every bit of goodwill that it potentially could have had and ruined some of the cherished things of mine on the big screen.  Truth be told, it didn’t ruin them for long; both Bill Murray and the Looney Tunes have made comebacks over the years in some very good projects since, and of course I still will buy Nike shoes over all other competitors.  But, what still troubles me is that there’s still a strong following for this movie that continues to this day; so much so that plans for a sequel are underway with LeBron James taking over the lead role.  I don’t know why the movie still continues to have a legion of fans; they may geniunely like the movie or they fell hook, line and sinker for the film’s blantant commercialism.  I myself did not buy into it for a second.  It’s still one of the most crass and disingenuous movies I have ever seen, and I’ve also learned that I’m not the only one who has felt that way about the movie.  Chuck Jones himself was highly critical of the film, saying that he felt that the Looney Tunes characters strayed too much from their original versions and that some of their one-liners were too inappropriate and out of character as well.  Needless to say, it’s a movie that I needed to vent on about in this blog, and hence, that’s why I created this new series.  The only sensible reaction that I can sum up for a movie like Space Jam is to say “What the Hell Was That?” and that’s why I’m making that the title of the series.  I will be covering more movies like this in the future, including some controversial picks, and hopefully I lay out my list of grievances in an impactful and persuasive way.  In the meantime, go watch a good sports movie instead or even a live game, and stay far away from Space Jam.

D23 Expo 2015 – Film Exhibition Report

The Walt Disney Company has amassed so many great properties over the years, both through their own in house production studios and also from their multiple acquisitions over the years. And within the last couple years, their massive family has expanded to include the likes of Marvel Comics and Star Wars. With these fan favorite properties, the Disney company has in turn become the most wide reaching media company in the world, and with an audience as vast as the one they have now, there naturally needs to be a place for them to gather and celebrate.  So, started in 2009, the Disney Company has made the destination for all their many fans at the spacious Anaheim Convention Center with the D23 Expo.  Now in it’s fourth biannual presentation, the D23 Expo has become just as big as any major media convention like Comic Con, and with properties like the ones I mentioned, it is just as much a haven for nerds all across the world.  You, my readers will remember that I covered the 2013 Expo in my previous article from the convention floor. And in that previous trip, I learned that a lot of pre-planning was required in order to see the really cool stuff; namely the big media presentations. Well, this year I got myself a three day pass and made sure to find out exactly where to queue up for the big shows, so that this year I will be able to deliver the full experience to all of you from my first hand accounts. So, for the rest of this article, I will give you my day by day experiences at the D23 Expo and help to bring you up to date with all the special experiences and surprises that the Disney company will have in store for everyone here.

DAY 1 (AUGUST 14, 2015)

pizza planet truck

Walking right up to the front gate already gives one a sense of excitement because up front is Buzz Lightyear looming over the main entrance.  It’s the very same balloon recreation of the space ranger that Disney had flown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Of course, past the wingspan of the famed Pixar creation is the entry into the massive Anaheim Convention Center.  The place was already filled up by the time I made it through the line, which snaked endlessly in the baking California heat.  I walked around the floor and already I saw many of the same wonderful highlights that were present at the last convention, plus a few extra new treats in store.  One new addition I noticed was the inclusion of special photo op areas scattered throughout the floor.  Many of them were standalone figures of some popular characters like Olaf from Frozen (2013) or R2-D2 from Star Wars (1977).  But, there were others that were especially unique like the pizza planet truck, as seen above; fully recreated by a team of expert auto body shop workers.  Naturally something like this caught many people’s eye and plenty of photos were taken throughout.  Beyond that, exhibits were set up to showcase both the old and new treasures of the Disney company.  Some of the new items on Display were costumes and even a few set and prop features from many of the upcoming Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars films.  The old was highlighted in the Archive exhibit, which this year focuses on the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland.  I have yet to set foot into this exhibit, but will do so in the days ahead.  The Collector’s Forum also returned with a lot of specialty booths set up by company’s that either are loosely connected to Disney, or are run by Disney Fan Sites or Marketplaces.  I visited a special exhibit there that highlighted the current restoration effort to preserve Walt Disney’s childhood home in Chicago, which is a very worthy effort.

shanghai disneyland 1

But the biggest exhibit that I visited on my first day belonged to Walt Disney Imagineering.  There were two particularly significant presentations here related to their biggest current projects.  One of them is the massive Shanghai Disneyland project, currently slated to open in Spring 2016.  Shanghai Disneyland received a big chunk of space at the exhibit, with displays highlighting all of the upcoming rides and attractions in the park.  Like most other Disneylands around the world, Shanghai Disneyland will feature sections like Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Adventureland. But, what is interesting is that none of these lands are going to be complete knocks of all the others.  Each land is going to be massive in size and completely encompassing in theme, with rides and structures that will dwarf all other counterparts.  For example, the centerpiece Castle will be the biggest one that Disney has ever created, with a restaurant, store, and ride all within it’s structure.  The Tomorrowland will be themed closer to the popular movie Tron (1982) than the nostalgia influenced ones we find elsewhere in the world.  Pirates of the Caribbean will not only get a swanky new upgrade, themed around the popular movies, but it will also have an entire land devoted to it.

shanghai disneyland 2

shanghai disneyland 3

shanghai disneyland 4

The other section of the Imagineering exhibit was devoted to the upcoming Avatar (2009) themed land going into Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.  There wasn’t much shown here other than a massive scale model of the land.  In it’s center there will be recreations of the famed floating mountains seen in the movie.  There will also be a river themed ride going through a large section of land, plus a whole lot more amazing and high tech attractions.  Outside, there was a mock up of the main character from the movie itself (the character played by Zoe Saldana), which of course was set up for picture opportunities.  I was impressed with what was shown here, namely all the many exhibits for Shanghai Disneyland.  I talked with many of the staff on hand that were there to talk about the different projects, and like the last Expo I attended, most of them come directly from Imagineering itself, which is very cool.  I talked to one guy in particular, who was very informative, and tried to prod him for anything else that might be coming to the parks.  Of course he was tight lipped, but he indicated that they are always working on cool things for the future.

avatar land

disney animation pavillion

But, what took up most of my day was waiting in line for one of the main presentations; the ones where they show exclusive stuff that won’t be public for months and in some cases years.  This was the kind of show that I just had to see.  Luckily I made it into a big one, which was the Disney Animation and Pixar Studios Presentation.  Here, the studio highlighted the upcoming animated films coming from both studios in the next couple years, and even announce a few that haven’t been made public yet.  The show was hosted by the head of Disney Animation, and former Pixar chief, John Lasseter, who his usual playful and enthusiastic self.  He was introduced to the audience with a playful joke about all the different shirts he wears; all of which are themed to the movies released by the studio.  Those same shirts were also put on display outside for guests to see on the floor.  After making reference to his shirt, Lasseter showed off his brand new design that he was wearing, and offered free samples to the audience.  But, because this was a playful show, he brought out the T-Shirt girls from nearby Angels Stadium to shoot out the shirts from one of their T-Shirt cannons.  It turned out to be a playful start to an exciting show.

lasseter shirts

First up was the Disney Animation presentation.  We were treated to exclusively premiered scenes from the upcoming film Zootopia, which releases in March of next year.  They did a good job of highlighting the film’s sense of humor, particularly with a scene showing literal sloths working at a DMV.  Next up was the presentation of a newly announced Disney film called Gigantic.  This will be Disney’s own full-length feature take on the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”  Nothing has been animated yet on the film, but preliminary artwork was shown, and the whole thing looks beautiful at this early stage.  The filmmakers did reveal that the character Jack’s place of origin will be Spain, and that one of the characters he will encounter in the Land of the Giants will be a spunky young giant girl who treats Jack like a toy, before becoming his friend.  The team also broke the news that the songs in the movie will be written by the same songwriters of Winnie the Pooh (2011) and Frozen; the Oscar-winning husband and wife team, Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.  The Lopez’s also performed a song from the film, with storyboards from that particular scene in the movie.  Afterwards, the presentation presented us with our first look at animation from the highly anticipated Moana, set for release on Thanksgiving 2016.  It’s a Southern Pacific Island set story about a Samoan princess who sets out into the wide open Pacific Ocean to explore new land.  Along the way, she encounters a demi-God named Maui who guides her on the journey.  Some beautiful animated scenes were presented, including one that introduced Maui and Moana themselves.  Afterwards, we were greeted with an appearance by Maui’s voice actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  He seemed genuinely happy to be a part of this project and help to welcome a closing act of an authentic Polynesian rock band, who sang a song from the movie.  I was a beautifully done presentation for a film that holds a lot of promise.

d23 line

Lastly, there was the Pixar presentation, which kicked off with a celebration of the new hit film Inside Out.  John Lasseter welcomed the director Pete Doctor, who introduced a new animated short that would be accompanying the movie on it’s upcoming home video release.  We got the see the short in question called Riley’s First Date, and it is a fitting follow-up to the movie, depicting exactly what you’d expect.  Next was the presentation of the upcoming Pixar movie, The Good Dinosaur, coming this Thanksgiving weekend.  The Good Dinosaur director Peter Sohn presented many clips from the movie (which looks beautiful) and detailed the overarching story.  He also shared a heartwarming story about how his mother helped to instill in him an interest in movies and animation, which he helped to tell with some charmingly drawn storyboards.  After that came the presentation of Finding Dory (Summer 2016) which is the long awaited sequel to the hit film Finding Nemo (2003).  After a brief scene setting up the premise (shown first here) we were greeted by the film’s star, actress and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.  She was her usual playful self, and got some good laughs from the crowd, but she stressed how happy she was that this long awaited sequel was finally happening.  Along with the film’s director Andrew Stanton (who also made the original) they introduced the new cast members which included Modern Family’s Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson.  After this, we got our first look at two films in development, which included a film about the Mexican holiday called Dia de los Muertos titled Coco.  The presentation reel for this one was especially beautiful.  And lastly, we got an announcement for the upcoming Toy Story 4, which will mark the return of Bo Peep to the series as it turns out in what John Lasseter calls “Pixar’s first love story.”  He also revealed that he himself would be directing and that Randy Newman would be returning to do the music.  Newman himself closed the program with a live performance of You’ve Got a Friend in Me which closed the show on a perfect note.  So, there you go, Day One complete.  So, now I’m going to get in a guick sleep so that I’ll be ready for the big live action panel tomorrow.  Fingers crossed that I can get in.  Because we all know what’s coming next on the live action front.


DAY 2 (AUGUST 15, 2015)

disney studios marqee

So, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t take any pictures within the big presentations during this Expo.  Well that is because all audience members had to check all their electronics at the door so that no pictures of any kind could be taken.  Each panel was meant to show exclusive footage and behind the scene material that the Disney Studios doesn’t want to make public just yet, so all of us who managed to make it into the massive Hall D23 would have the honor of getting the first public viewing and spread the word out thereafter.  I already lucked out in making it into the first big presentation regarding the Animation department at Disney, but my chances for getting into the live action presentation were much slimmer.  When I arrived this morning, the queue line was already packed, and I was sure that I wouldn’t make it in.  To my surprise, there turned out to be plenty of room.  Albeit, I wasn’t as close to the center of the room like I was at the show the previous day, but I made it nonetheless.  And what a show it was.  First up was Marvel Studio’s presentation.  To begin, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige introduced a video message from Benedict Cumberbatch, who was unfortunately busy in London and could not be there, who told the crowd how grateful he was to join the Marvel Universe as the mystical Doctor Strange.  The movie of the same name has yet to start filming, but Kevin Feige shared with us a sizzle reel of artwork to give us a sense of what the film will look like.  Next up was the hotly anticipated Captain America: Civil War.  Anthony Mackie (The Falcon) was introduced and he soon welcomed Captain America himself to the stage, Chris Evans.  Evans seemed particularly enthused to be there and to show us what appeared to be the first trailer, which won’t premiere for a few months.  And, holy crap does the movie look amazing.  So many Marvel characters, you could even consider it another Avengers movie.

Next up was Walt Disney Pictures.  Their presentation began with the winter release, The Finest Hours, which stars actor Chris Pine, who was there in attendance to talk about the movie and his experience shooting it (which involved having endless rounds of cold water splashing over his head).  Next was the upcoming live action remake of The Jungle Book.  To talk about the movie, director Jon Favreau was welcomed on stage and with him were three of the movie’s co-stars: the young actor playing Mowgli named Neel Sethi (who really charmed the crowd), as well as Oscar-winners Lupita Nyong’o and Ben Kingsley.  All of them told us how wonderful they feel having been apart of the movie and they two were treated like the rest of us in the audience to a first look premiere of footage from the movie.  Let me tell you, what we saw took everyone’s breath away.  It is a gorgeous looking movie and it was also a treat to finally see how the animals would look in the movie, including Baloo with the voice of Bill Murray (yeah!!) and King Louis, voiced by Christopher Walken.  Afterwards, we got our first look at the Pete’s Dragon remake, with star Bryce Dallas Howard there to speak about it.  Then we got an intro to the Beauty and the Beast remake as well.  No cast or crew were present, but the star of the film Emma Watson (Belle) did record a greeting.  And then finally, a presentation on the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.  This fifth installment in the franchise didn’t have any footage to show, but a special guest did make an appearance.  Out walked Johnny Depp, not as himself, but fully in character as Jack Sparrow, munching on grapes.  After throwing some of his grapes into the very pleased audience, Jack Sparrow promised to sing for us, which was promptly interrupted by the end of the segment.  It was a remarkable and very unexpected surprise for the audience and I was glad to witness it.

star wars 2

star wars 1

But, we weren’t through just yet.  Of course the finish to the presentation had to be the much anticipated Star Wars films.  One big announcement to come from this panel was that Jurassic World  director Colin Treverrow is now confirmed to be the director of Star Wars Episode 9, which won’t release until 2019.  The Star Wars spin-off movies were also highlighted, which includes one that goes into Han Solo’s backstory, as well as another standalone feature called Star Wars: Rouge One.  Rogue One is currently filming now, under the direction of Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), and we were treated with the first ever image of the full cast.  But, of course, the big highlight was when they talked about the upcoming film Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.  A very tired looking J.J. Abrams was introduced and with him he brought three of the new castmembers: Oscar Issac, Lupita Nyong’o, and Daisy Ridley.  There was no new footage to show, but they did reveal a very cool looking poster made by Drew Struzen that everyone in the audience was going to receive a copy of.  On the poster, we saw the presence of Han Solo, which got a good reaction from the crowd.  But they weren’t done there.  All of a sudden, J.J. Abrams welcomed the stage Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford.  It was a huge surprise the brought the roof down in the auditorium.  Harrison may have had a brief showing there, but wow, what a great surprise.  But, even that was the end.  After that, Disney CEO Bob Iger walked onto stage and broke the news that Disney Imagineering was currently working on a Star Wars themed land for both Disneyland and Disney World.  It was yet another amazing surprise that completely floored the audience.  I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have witnessed all that in person, as this has easily been the highlight of my Expo experience so far.

toy story 1

toy story 2

After the show, I walked around the show floor to take in all the different experiences available.  Nothing new had been added overnight, but I was finally able to spend a little more time on the floor to see stuff I’ve been missing.  I did wait in line for nearly two hours for the Disney Infinity exhibit an my reward was a green screen picture with The Hulk and a complimentary figure from the game itself, which hasn’t yet reached retail outlets; so there’s a nice score.  After these couple of hours wandering around, I decided to complete my day with one of the smaller panels; one in which I did get to keep my camera.  It was a panel celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the release of Toy Story.  John Lasseter was on hand and as he put it, this was the presentation that was going to make him and all his fellow panelists feel old.  The other panelists included Lasseter’s fellow filmmakers, who themselves have gone on to make award winning films themselves; Andrew Stanton (Finding NemoWall-E) Pete Doctor (UpInside Out) and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3).  Each of them shared a lot of fascinating stories about how they went about making what would be the first computer animated movie ever made.  The discussed the evolution of the story as well as how the characters evolved over time (Woody was apparently much larger than Buzz Lightyear in the early phases of development).  Lasseter also pointed out how Mattel passed on making Toy Story character toys for the films original release; something that he continually likes to remind them about to this day.  It was a very introspective presentation and it was great to hear these old time collaborators and friends reminisce about making history.  Overall, my second day at the Expo proved to be an eventful one and I can’t wait to be back tomorrow morning to get in my one last taste of this amazing convention.  It’s going to be tough to top today’s events, but you never know what kinds of surprises D23 might have in store.

D23 emporium

DAY 3 (AUGUST 16, 2015)

disney interactive

Well, it’s been a long couple of days, but the many sights and sounds have made all the tiring hours worth it.  On this day, I once again arrived super early to get into the final big media presentation of the Expo.  This morning show was set aside to highlight Disney Interactive, the video game publishing wing of the company.  Though not as hard to get into as the live action presentation, there was still a healthy helping of hardcore gaming fans who were eager to see what new surprises the Disney company had to share about their upcoming games; especially with two in particular.  First up, news was shared about the Kingdom Hearts 3 game that is still in development.  Game manufacturer Square Enix has collaborated with Disney on this series since it’s inception, and members of the game’s production team were present to announce that the hit movie Big Hero 6 would be used as a level in the game, much to the crowds’ approval.  Next up was news of upcoming mobile games, as well as an interactive play game called Disney’s Playmation, which involves online connectivity with action figures.  Next, a whole bunch of Star Wars game news, including the reveal of a brand new arcade console called Star Wars Battle Pod, which looked really interesting and immersive.  Star Wars Battlefront from Electronic Arts was also highlighted in anticipation for it’s fall release and Sony PlayStation spokesman Adam Boyes was on hand to reveal a new limited edition Darth Vader PlayStation 4 console that will hit the market during the holidays.  Yet another reason for me to get a PS4.  But, the part that I was most excited for was saved for last when Disney Interactive detailed what was in store for their blockbuster game Disney Infinity.  I’m an avid player of this game, and I was happy to see all the new surprises that they had in store for the game, including new characters.  Not only that, but everyone in the crowd walked away from the show with a free Mickey Mouse figure that’s playable in the game, as well as a limited edition game power disc that you could only get at that conference.  I think I may have found an exclusive prize even more valuable than my Star Wars poster.

yoda disney infinity

disneyland exhibit

With my last show out of the way (there was a Frozen fan celebration in the Hall D23 afterwards, but I wasn’t interested enough to attend) I was able to use my last few hours at D23 Expo to do all the things that I hadn’t done in the last couple days.  Chief among them was finally making a visit to the Disney Archives exhibit on the show floor.  A couple years ago at the last Expo, I reported that the Archives exhibit was dedicated to the film Mary Poppins (1964), highlighting it’s then 50th Anniversary.  This year, the exhibit was devoted entirely to celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the park right across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center; Disneyland.  In all the 60 years that Disneyland has operated, it has amassed a great many attractions, some of which have been cleared out to make way for the new.  In this exhibit, the Disney Archives laid out on display some of the more notable artifacts from the park’s long history.  Up front, you will find many articles of material related to the creation of the park, including land markers and survey equipment.  The next section is dedicated to the park’s opening, and there I saw the very first Disneyland ticket sold (bought by Walt’s brother Roy, for a $1) along with a copy of Walt’s opening day speech.  Beyond his for the rest of the exhibit were displays devoted to pieces of the park removed over the years to make way for something new.  Some of the most interesting artifacts seen here were old animatronic figures, like the recently removed Abominable Snowman from the Matterhorn attraction, figures from defunct shows like Country Bears Jamboree and America Sings, as well as the old dragon’s head from the popular Fantasmic show (the single largest artifact in the exhibit).  It was especially neat to get an up-close look at all these pieces of history collected by the Disney Archives, especially the ones from attractions that are long gone.  It really gives you a sense of the passage of time in the parks history, celebrating it’s timelessness while also appealing greatly to our sense of nostalgia.  It certainly makes me excited to see what new exhibit will be there at the next Expo, and what will be on display then.

disneyland exhibit matterhorn

disneyland exhibit mouseketeers

disneyland exhibit fantasmic

With the hours running down, I tried to take it in as much as I could, because even with three days, it’s still difficult to take part in every experience.  This year’s Expo worked really well for me thanks to better planning and giving myself more than one day to experience it.  Had I just done the one day like I had at the previous Expo, I wouldn’t have truly experienced much at all, because this year Disney made it a much bigger and better experience than before.  The last Expo utilized only about 2/3 of the total floor space at the Anaheim Convention Center.  This year, it nearly took up the entire ground floor, with only a little room to spare.  It makes me wonder if the Expo might outgrow even the immense acreage that the ACC occupies, which I’m sure is being taken into account because the Convention Center is currently under renovation in it’s north wing and inside the domed arena.  I’m just happy that Disney is putting more and more effort into this Expo the more popular it becomes.  It’s only fitting that the world’s largest media company would go to great lengths to entertain and please their fans in the best way possible.  As a lifelong Disney fan now in adulthood, this D23 Expo appeals both to the grown up part of me that is fascinated with all the behind the scenes workings of the company, as well as the inner child who still enjoys playing with the characters, singing the songs, and getting excited about what’s coming next.  But, what I especially like about this Expo is the sense of community that comes out of it; something that is true for most other conventions as well.  It’s a place where you can meet a complete stranger, strike up a conversation and bond over the same common thing, that being a love for all things Disney.  I met a lot of nice interesting people at the Expo this year, and part of the fun was just sharing our different experiences there as well as discuss our connections to the Disney fandom that we all share.  Disney’s marketing slogan this whole year has been “show your Disney side,” and there has been no better place to see that in full bloom than at the D23 Expo.  I look forward to what is coming next in 2017, but until then, I will have fond memories of my 3 days at this hot spot of Disney fandom.

d23 front entrance

Fantastic Four (2015) – Review

fantastic four 2015

Where did it all go wrong for the Fantastic Four?  Without a doubt, one of the marquee titles in the Marvel Comics catalog, the dynamic quartet of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, the Human Torch and The Thing have struggled greatly to transition to the big screen, with very little success.  Roger Corman produced a low budget version of the comic series in 1994, and it was deemed so bad that it never was given an official release.  In 2005, Fox and Marvel jointly produced a big budget adaptation that while a mild success at the box office nevertheless received an indifferent response from audiences.  A sequel to that film in 2007 re-teamed the same crew and cast (which included future “Captain America” Chris Evans) but ended up loosing more of it’s audience with another sub-par effort and tepid box office.  Keep in mind, these films were made at a time before Marvel formed it’s own studio and had more control over it’s own characters.  Sadly, the lackluster efforts by these previous iterations of the Fantastic Four have done a big disservice to the characters; so much so that there is virtually no audience interest left in them anymore, and the continuation of the series is purely just so big studios like Fox can keep the rights away from Marvel; hence the existence of this recent reboot.  The Fantastic Four have unfortunately become the abused and forgotten foster child of the comic book world, kept in the loop purely for exploitation and shut away from it’s rightful home of Marvel Studios where it would be cared and nurtured for in the right way.  With a reboot, many hoped that new life could come back to this struggling franchise, but unfortunately for the Fantastic Four, they are still a long way from home.

The new Fantastic Four arrives with a new cast headed by Miles Teller (Whiplash) as Reed Richards/ Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara (House of Cards) as Sue Storm/ Invisible Girl, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) as Johnny Storm/ The Human Torch and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as Ben Grimm/ The Thing; a new vision guided by director Josh Trank (Chronicle); and an entirely different tone than we’ve seen from it before.  And overall, these are all promising ingredients that could have made this Fantastic Four really shine and live up to the title’s potential.  Sadly, the end result is not at all, shall I say, fantastic.  It’s really the exact opposite.  Rarely do I see so many talented people make something as bad as this movie.  Of course, it’s following in the footsteps of some already really bad films, but this reboot is really where the franchise has hit rock bottom.  And never have I seen such an ambitious outing get released dead on arrival either.  Even the director of the film is already disowning it; taking to Twitter this week to trash the movie (albeit he later deleted his tweet and apologized).  I tried to keep an open mind while I watched the movie, but almost from the opening moments I could tell that something was not right about this movie and that all the bad buzz was confirmed.  There is plenty wrong here, from the out-of-place somber tone, to the terrible and lazy CGI, to the pathetic writing, and to the, sad to say, lackluster direction (you can complain all you want Mr. Trank, but you were part of the problem too).  But the overall lingering problem with the Fantastic Four that this movie clearly underlines is that the characters are just being used and not embraced by their filmmakers, and that it’s clearly time for them to go home.  Otherwise, we get a studio driven face-plant such as this mess.

What should never be a problem with superhero movies is the set-up, and yet Fantastic Four takes an excruciatingly long time to set up it’s story and characters and set into motion all the events that will make them who they are.  The story follows Reed Richards as he develops the key to inter-dimensional travel through his scientific experimentation alongside his childhood friend, Ben Grimm.  He is soon brought into contact with Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) who offers to bring Richard’s experiments to their full potential in his high tech laboratory within the Baxter Building in New York City.  There he meets Dr. Storm’s equally brilliant children Sue and Johnny, along with the nihilistic and rebellious young physicist Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell).  They successfully finish the project, but instead of handing off the glory of the first test run over to corporate interests, Reed and his team decide to secretly make the journey themselves.  Once the portal opens for them, they arrive on the mysterious Planet Zero which contains an unknown power source in the form of a green liquid.  The liquid quickly shows that it has a mind of it’s own and starts attacking the explorers, consuming Doom as it’s first victim.  As the team tries to return to their home world, they are exposed to the energy source and are physically mutated in the process.  Reed develops the ability to stretch his body beyond it’s natural limits; Sue gains the ability to turn herself invisible and create force fields; Johnny can command and shroud his body in fire; and Ben transforms into a super strong being made of pure rock.  Jealousy and contempt for their situation keeps the team from becoming a cohesive unit at first, made even more complicated when Government interests start to interfere, but their allegiances are put to the test once Victor von Doom returns, with dangerous powers of his own.

The worst part of trying to get a reboot to work is that the film must retread old ground in order to establish itself anew and wipe away the old version of the story we already know.  Remarkably, the movie does a poor job of doing both.  Not only does it fail at establishing this new version of the characters, adding nothing new or getting things entirely wrong, but it also takes way too long to get itself going.  That summary of the plot that I just gave you is 75% of the movie; that’s how long it took for the film to set itself up.  The same plot elements that took up the majority of this film’s run-time made up only the first act of the 2005 version.  In that film, the Fantastic Four had their powers by the 30-minute mark of that movie, which allowed for the rest of the flick to focus on things like team building and character development, albeit not all of that time was used well.  Here, it’s all set-up, which would have been fine if there was some depth to it and a little more intrigue.  But no.  We are asked to accept a lot of this movie at face value with no real insight into these characters’ feelings or their motivations.  I was especially baffled at how little development there was in showing how the characters deal with their new found powers.  The movie actually cuts ahead a year in time showing the heroes already having mastered their powers.  I’m sorry, but that’s a big problem when you just gloss over a big part of these characters’ development like that.  As flawed as the 2005 version was, at least it devoted time to showing how the Fantastic Four adapted to their new powers; especially when it came to the frustration shown by Ben Grimm (played in that version by actor Michael Chiklis) as he was unable to blend in to the rest of society like the others given his appearance.  You take away that growth of character and what you end up with is a very shallow and empty movie.

These story issues really stem from a poor screenwriting effort by writer/producer Simon Kinberg and director Josh Trank.  Revisions to the origins of the characters and their story arc are fine if done in an interesting way; but here almost no effort was put in to making it at all distinctive.  The whole project comes off as being made by committee, with everything dictated by a checklist of what multiple people believe should be necessary in a Fantastic Four movie.  This leads to a lot of the familiar elements of the comic series being shoehorned in; sometimes in horribly inappropriate ways.  For example, you learn that the origins of The Thing’s famous catchphrase, “It’s Clobbering Time,” came out of what Ben Grimm’s older brother would used to say to him whenever he beat him up as a child.  Kinda takes the fun out of that phrase, doesn’t it?  There’s plenty of other grown-inducing references thrown around throughout the movie and instead of appealing to some of the audiences’ nostalgia for the comics, it instead infuriates die hard fans who are watching their beloved characters turn into something they’re not.  But, it’s not like the Fantastic Four has ever been free of bad screenwriting before; it’s just that up to now the series was seen as dumb rather than insulting.  And a large reason why this script does worse by the characters is because it injects the wrong sort of tone to the story.  This movie is unfortunately part of the tale-end of a recent trend in Hollywood reboots where filmmakers mistakenly believe that making something gritty automatically makes it good.  What worked for Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy doesn’t necessarily work for stuff like The Amazing Spiderman, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and especially not Fantastic Four.  And this is where part of the blame falls on Josh Trank, because even though he believes studio tampering ruined his project, he’s still the one responsible for setting the movie’s aesthetic and tone  in the first place.

The movie’s tone and gritty visual aesthetic just feel’s so out of place in a series that should be lighthearted and filled with visual wonder.  It leads me to wonder if Josh Trank was the right choice to lead this reboot in the first place.  His debut film Chronicle (2012) was a great visual experiment, putting a superhero story within the confines of the found footage sub-genre and making it work. But Chronicle’s harrowing story-line lent itself well to a grittier tone and style.  In Fantastic Four, the bleakness is just a wrong fit.  When it came to the comics, the focus of the Fantastic Four series was always about family and the wonders of science.  In this film, you get arguments between the heroes and a villain who likes to make peoples’ heads explode; and this is what the movie considers drama.  Trank may have a point about too many outside influences spoiling what could have been a cohesive narrative, but his style also contributed to the ruin of this movie.  The movie is bleak, devoid of color, and features a lot of lackluster digital enhancement.  The 2005 version might have been dumb, but at least it was colorful and tried to keep the tone light, which made it more tolerable to look at.  I never thought it was possible to make a Fantastic Four movie look ugly, but this movie managed to do it.  Even the way that Josh Trank composes the shots feels wrong.  There’s no visual flair here like we’ve seen from better super hero movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or even in the recent X-Men movies.  Even Zack Snyder’s much maligned Man of Steel (2013) had a visual aesthetic that couldn’t be easily dismissed as amateur.  With Fantastic Four, we get what is probably the most unappealing and flat visual presentation of a super hero movie that we’ve had in many many years, and maybe probably ever.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of all is the characters themselves.  The sad thing is that all of them are played by actors that I know can do better and have proven it in years past.  Here, every single one of them is wasted with underdeveloped characterizations and painfully on-the-nose dialogue.  Much of the focus is put on the relationship between Reed and Ben, and the actors playing them have some semblance of chemistry, but the movie’s direction and script gives them nothing to chew on in their performances, leading to a lot of unintentionally awkward interactions.  Ben Grimm is especially mismanaged in this movie, becoming more brooding and pessimistic here compared with other versions.  In the past, The Thing was often the team’s moral center and heart, and the one who often lightened up the mood with his positive outlook on life despite his appearance.  This version of the Thing does none of that, and is completely out of character with his moody personality.  The added complication of having the character visualized purely through CGI animation also adds another layer of disconnect between the character and the audience, which I don’t particularly blame actor Jamie Bell for, since he doesn’t have a say over how the character will look in the final film.  The remaining cast is also wasted throughout.  Kate Mara is given almost nothing to work with and is mostly forgotten; sadly because she’s the girl character in a film that mostly caters to a male audience.  And Michael B. Jordan’s Johnny Storm is portrayed as such a volatile hot head that the movie comes dangerously close to making his character a racial stereotype.  The only character that’s slightly improved upon from past versions is the villainous Doom; albeit in his final form.  Past versions of this character have been so lame, especially the version played by actor Julian McMahon in the 2005 version.  This version of Dr. Doom is at least intimidating.  Unfortunately, even here they get the character mostly wrong, especially in his world-destroying master plan.  Doom in the comics doesn’t want to destroy the world; he wants to conquer it.  There’s a difference.  Not only that, but his presence in the movie is so minimal (eight minutes of screen-time in a very rushed climax) that even here his potential is wasted.

Overall, this is not just a failed reboot of a series that still has a lot of potential, but it also squashes any credibility that the Fantastic Four may still have left as a viable franchise.  It more than anything proves that Fox should no longer be the rights holders for these characters and that they should be in their rightful place alongside the other Marvel characters at their home studio.  Sadly, Fox may continue to press on with more Fantastic Four movies in the future, purely as a way to keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel; that is unless this movie flops so badly that Fox will have no choice but to give it up.  I rarely want to root for a movie to fail, considering that some good people have played a part in it’s making, but this is one of those cases where I am actively hoping for a flop.  The Fantastic Four characters deserve a lot better and Marvel should be the ones who can help bring them back to their rightful place in the pantheon of heroes.  Josh Trank may have been a little rash and lacking in self-awareness when he accused Fox of ruining his film, but he’s not entirely without reason to be upset.  Fox has tried way too hard to build the Fantastic Four franchise into their own baby, and it’s backfiring on them.  They wanted it to be a franchise rebirth, but instead we’ve got another possible franchise killer like Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin (1997) or Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-man 2 (2014); movies so bad that it forced their franchise characters into a long hibernation.  And probably the greatest sin of all is the wasted potential.  A promising director with a capable cast and a franchise in desperate need of a fresh new look should have made this Fantastic Four a home run.  Instead, it’s turned into a miserable failure.  The only good thing that may come out of it is that the characters may be closer now to returning home than ever before.  It’s your move now Fox.  In the end, Fantastic Four doesn’t live up to it’s potential nor it’s namesake, unless you can consider it a double F.  And in my mind, I think even a four would be too generous for this failure of a movie.

Rating: 3/10

Scraping the Bottom – Has Hollywood Truly Run Out of New Ideas?


Check your local theater listings and see if you can spot any movie on there that sounds wholly original and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.  That’s becoming a rarer sight nowadays.  Sure, you’ll see something at your local art house cinema that’s certainly different and groundbreaking, but independent cinema runs by a different and less risky set of standards than the big studios.  Hollywood seems caught in an endless loop of recycling everything that has worked in the past.  Sometimes it has worked out to feed upon an audiences’ sense of nostalgia; just look how well it worked for Jurassic World (2015) this year.  But for every sequel, remake and reboot that does hit it’s mark, there are a hundred or more that don’t.  A lot of factors can play into that; either Hollywood is just cashing in on a name brand and nothing else, or an experimental re-imagining goes horribly wrong and stains a franchise, or the product being remade just doesn’t have any relevance left to ever be taken seriously again.  And yet, with all the failed attempts to capitalize on old ideas, Hollywood is still very eager to invest in them anyway.  All this has led many to speculate whether Hollywood has truly, unequivocally run out of ideas.  While this complaint has been made for years about Hollywood, even through some really trans-formative and ground-breaking periods, it actually feels more and more like the case.  We are now in a period where Hollywood has become, for better or worse, “nostalgia” crazy, with remakes and reboots being favored for production over new and bold ideas.  As a result, Hollywood is able to capitalize on the reliability of a built in audience, while at the same time stalling any chance that their yearly products will ever have any impact outside of their era.

One thing that Hollywood is missing out on right now is the chance to make movies that can define an era and redefine the rules of cinema.  Every decade or so, we’ve seen trends and cultural movements reflected back in the movies made within the same time period.  This has helped every decade feel unique, whether it is the classiness of the 50’s, the psychedelia of the 60’s, the grittiness of the 70’s, the excess of the 80’s, or the digital revolution of the 90’s.  But, with the advent of the internet age in the 2000’s, and the increased accessibility to media from all eras, entertainment suddenly has become less grounded within it’s own era, and instead began to focus more on the nostalgia of past trends.  With online social networking becoming an increasing reliable way to gauge the likes and dislikes of an audience, Hollywood picked up on the fact that nostalgia played a significant part in determining what people choose to watch in the theater or on TV.  As a result, long dormant franchises suddenly were revitalized in order to capitalize on audiences’ awareness and their long held attachments to them.  Sometimes a revitalized franchise is welcome, especially if there is new territory waiting to be uncovered in it’s cinematic world (Star Wars Episode 7, being a prime example).  But, when Hollywood decides to capitalize on a brand name without exploring new ground, it ends up being rejected by fans of the old while loosing any chance of gaining any new audiences.  This has unfortunately happened to too many beloved franchise and singular films that have succumbed to the “reboot” bug in Hollywood, and this over reliance on nostalgia has unfortunately made the last decade or so become a characterless era in film-making.

This year, in particular, has been flooded with remakes, reboots, and sequels.  In fact, the three highest grossing movies of the year are from already established franchises (Jurassic WorldAvengers: Age of Ultron, and Furious 7).  But, sequels have the advantage of continuing an on-going story, which makes their presence far more expected.  But, even with these successful films, I don’t think anyone would consider them ground-breaking either, especially when compared to their predecessors.  Of all the big studio tentpoles released this summer, only one could be considered an original idea (Inside Out).  In most cases, animated films seem to be the only venue open to new ideas in Hollywood, and even here we find an increasing trend of sequel-itis.  Overall, the danger of relying too heavily on established brands is that it creates a less diverse output.  That’s why if you are only in the business of marketing around a singular intellectual property, you will also be subjected to the pitfalls of that same property once it’s relevance has run out.  Hollywood needs to continually replenish itself with new ideas in order to keep audiences interested long term, but sadly new ideas in Hollywood can be viewed as not worth the risk.  That’s why we see more original ideas develop in the independent market, because Hollywood would rather work with what they know than what they don’t know.  And thus, if you’re filmmaker with a vision, you’d better find an investor outside of the studio system, because Hollywood is looking for more Transformers and less Ex Machina‘s.

Very little of this reliance on nostalgia has actually helped Hollywood either.  Most of the time, audiences whole-heartedly reject remakes.  I think that there’s a misconception in Hollywood that remaking a past film and updating it to our time period is going to make it relevant once again.  But, as is almost always the case, updating a beloved classic will strip away part of it’s original charm.  A dated film has it’s own kind of entertainment value, ad the reason we love some of these movies is because they are so steeped in their time period.  A perfect example of this is the 1990 Paul Verhoeven sci-fi classic Total Recall.  Despite being set in the future, Recall is an undeniably late-80’s early-90’s film based on the styles of the era and the limitations of the visual effects.  And you know what; it’s what audiences embrace about the movie.  In fact, Total Recall has aged quite well over the years as an entertaining time capsule of it’s era while simultaneously looking absurdly out of date.  The reputation of the movie remained strong over the years, leading it’s distributor (Sony/ Columbia/ Tristar) to believe that there was potential in the name itself that could be exploited with our improved technology and revised visions of the future.  Thus, we got the 2012 remake starring Colin Farrell in the place of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The remake sticks more closely to the source novel by Philip K. Dick and features the latest in CGI visual effects, but you know what it lacked; entertainment value.  Gone was the goofy charm of Verhoeven’s original in favor of a sluggish, more serious tone that completely drains it’s story of any charm whatsoever.  As is with the case of many pointless remakes, newer doesn’t always mean better, and some classic movies are better left untouched, even if they look cheesy and dated.

But remakes are one thing when they can be easily dismissed and forgotten about in favor of the original.  Reboots on the other hand can run the more dangerous road of ruining the legacy of a beloved franchise.  Now, if done well, some reboots are welcome.  The recent resurgence of Planet of the Apes for example has proved to be successful, because it honors the roots of where it began while at the same time doing something new and different with the franchise.  But, there are other examples where Hollywood tries to squeeze every last ounce out of a series that should have been laid to rest years ago with a pointless reboot, meant to restart a new chapter that doesn’t need to be explored.  A perfect example of this is the recently released Vacation (2015).  The Vacation series started off with the 1983 original from National Lampoon, starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, which followed the Griswold family on a road trip across America to a popular California amusement park named Wally World, complete with hilarious mishaps along the way.  An excellent stand alone comedy on it’s own, National Lampoon’s Vacation spawned 3 sequels; one a genuine classic (Christmas Vacation) and two that were bland and forgettable (European Vacation and Vegas Vacation).  Now, long after the series has run out of steam, the Vacation franchise is being rebooted as a starring vehicle with Ed Helms, here in the role of Griswold son, Rusty.  While 2/3 of the Vacation sequels were not very good, they at least tried to take the series in different directions.  This reboot on the other hand just rehashes the plot of the original, minus the originality and the charm.  I just know that this reboot will fail, because you can’t replace the brilliant writing of John Hughes and the peerless direction of Harold Ramis with gross out humor we’ve seen a million times before.  But, Hollywood seems to still believe that name recognition is worthy enough of investment, and that’s why they want reboots to take hold and extend franchise out longer than they need to.  I really hope that this doesn’t happen with this Vacation reboot, because a Christmas Vacation remake would absolutely destroy me.

But, the primary reason why sequels, reboots and remakes continue to dominate the Hollywood landscape today is because of one simple fact; movies are expensive to make and established brands are more reliable investments.  Any studio can put it’s money behind a huge, epic scale production that’s based off of an original idea, but whether or not it makes them any money is determined solely by us, the audience.  Sometimes we forget that Hollywood is a profit based industry that must continually produce hits in order to survive and not a artfully driven enterprise; so, it’s not all that strange to see so many of them turn away from newer ideas.  Movies are million dollar investments, and the safest bet will usually be the best bet.  But, Hollywood’s reliance on safe bets must also have to contend with changing trends in the markets.  Sometimes, what proved to be a profitable franchise one year will suddenly be old news in the next.  Not only that but production turnaround is notoriously sluggish, especially on big tentpoles, so if audiences have lost interest in your film by the time it’s released, you’re completely out of luck.  Movie audiences have a much more diverse and evolving taste for movies than many might realize and those unpredictable swings in audience preference can have unexpected effects on the industry.   Disney capitalized on it’s audience’s sense of nostalgia when it turned one of their theme park rides into a profitable franchise with Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), but several sequels later, the novelty wore off and audiences were no longer interested in seeing theme park ride-inspired movies anymore, shown clearly with the box-office failure of the ambitious Tomorrowland (2015) this year.  And it’s the wearing off of novelty that really shows the negative effects of continually trying to recycle ideas over time.

What really worries me about Hollywood’s play-it-safe attitude and their absence of originality is that it’s making this millennial era we’re living in devoid of character.  Say what you will about how dated some of the movies made in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s looked today; at least their time period helps to define them long after they were made.  When you look at movies like Back to the Future (1985), or Saturday Night Fever (1977), you can’t help but see the markings of their era in full display, and that’s what has helped them endure all these years later.  Today’s movies don’t reflect our contemporary society as much anymore, because it seems that many of them are trying too hard to avoid the stigma of becoming dated.  But, the unfortunate by product of this is that those movies will neither age well nor will they leave an impact on the era they exist in.  Honestly, the only movies that I can think of today that could actually be fondly remembered decades from now are the ones that touch upon contemporary issues or trends; like a movie that addresses the social ramifications of online networking or the advancements in LGBT rights here in America.  Sure, years from now, we may look at social and political movements of today as quaint and ridiculous compared to the issues of the future, but movies would provide a great cultural touchstone for what this era of time was like for us, as it has in so many decades before.  Rehashing old ideas just wipes away any defining cultural touchstone that we might have.  Of course, the other major way to bring originality back to Hollywood is to have producers willing to stick their necks out for something bold and new.  Every now and then we get a visionary director who manages to build up enough good will in the industry to make their dream projects a reality, with a budget substantial enough to make it work; like when Christopher Nolan was allowed to make Inception (2010) for Warner Brothers.  Hollywood needs to be in a groundbreaking mindset, much like how they were in the 70’s with the rise of New Hollywood.  But, of course, it involves taking risks and in that era too you needed to go through a couple of movies like Heaven’s Gate (1980) before an Apocalypse Now (1979) could emerge.

So, is Hollywood completely out of ideas.  If their current trend of appealing to audiences’ nostalgia continues, than it might actually be the case.  There are only so many ideas that can be done over and over again before audience grow bored with it, and new ideas are absolutely necessary to keep the business alive.  Unfortunately, studios aren’t looking towards long lasting impacts that their movies could hold; they just want to maximize what they already have because it’s the less risky option.  And sadly, the upcoming slate of movies in the near future looks more and more like everything we’ve seen before.  Superheros are less likely to be reborn so much as recast; franchises will continue to rehash the same plot points as opposed to extending off in a new direction; and beloved movies of the past will be given watered-down updates that remove all the charm that the originals had.  I am seriously dreading that Point Break remake, as I’m sure that many more of you are as well.  It’s really up to us, the audience, in the end to determine the direction of this trend in Hollywood.  Ideas are out there, they are just not getting championed highly enough to get the attention of the people at the top of the industry.  If audiences reject half-assed attempts to appeal to our sense of nostalgia by exploiting established brands, then the industry will start looking for other properties they can use to base movie productions around, and that may even lead some of them to take risks once in a while.  Sometimes it can result in failure at first, but even failures can turn into successes in the long run; look at Blade Runner (1982), or The Iron Giant (1999), or Fight Club (1999), all box office failures that are now considered masterpieces.  So, for your own survival Hollywood, you need to procure those rising visionary filmmakers, skim through that list of “black list” screenplays, and find the next great big idea that could extend your impact on the industry and leave a cultural impact for future generations to come.