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A big lover of all types of media, from Movies to Video Games, Books to Music, Television to Stage.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Movies 2011, Part Two - The Harvest Continues

Back with the second instalment of my list for, in my opinion, the watchable movies of the present year, and when I shall be watching them.  Hope you have enjoyed the previous instalment; here we go with round two:

"Thor" - Release date May 6th.  Here comes the first of the 'tent-pole' movies, those flicks which prop up the studios for the summer, the big releases that garner tons of buzz and help the studios (they hope) stay in the black.  The trailers look semi-promising, but the real reason I'm watching this one is that it is leading up to "The Avengers," releasing on May 4th, 2012.  Given that this is a big comic book movie, it behooves me to see it in theatres.

"Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" - Release date May 20th.  This will be the fourth adventure for 'Capt. Jack Sparrow,' and the first without Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley.  Johnny Depp is still going strong, though the addition of Penelope Cruz leaves a lot to be desired for me.  Still, big action flick, requires a theatre to enjoy properly.

"The Hangover Part II" - Release date May 27th.  As if the first one needed a sequel...regardless, same kind of humour, this time in Thailand.  It's a comedy, and I waited until the first one was on TMN, so this one will wait until then as well.

"Kung Fu Panda 2" - Release date May 27th.  For everyone who finds the previous entry too polarizing (read that as raunchy), here is the sequel to one of the more amusing non-CGI animated features or recent years.  Dreamworks has a good thing going here, let's hope they don't overdo it.  Waiting for a TMN/disc release.

"Super 8" - Release date June 10th.  Excellent pedigree with this one folks, with J.J. Abrams directing and Steven Spielberg producing.  Oddly, the second movie of the year with an alien escaping from Area 51, this is the serious monster flick to the comedy provided by "Paul" earlier.  Filmed as a viral movie, look for this to be the next "Cloverfield."  Must see at home, TMN/disc due to herky-jerky camerawork.

"Green Lantern" - Release date June 17th.  The next on the year's comic book movie adaptations worth watching, with Ryan Reynolds playing the titular hero.  So good on pre-buzz that the sequel is already fired up and ready to go, just awaiting the box office receipts.  Must see in theatres.

"Cars 2" - Release date June 24th.  The other really anticipated animated film of the year, this one from Pixar via Disney.  Not much to say, except this will wait for a TMN/disc release.

"Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" - Release date July 1st.  And here we go.  The summer blockbuster season really lights up with this movie, the second of the year highlighting the moon landings of the 60s.  Aside from the (thankful) dumping of Megan Fox as the girlfriend, the plot alone has me quite interested in where this one will go.  Definitely defines a theatre-worthy movie.

"Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part II" - Release date July 15th.  I could devote an entire post to this title, and chances are that closer to July I'll do just that, more than once.  I can easily summarize the plot for you in four words: The Battle For Hogwarts.  Needless to say, this is one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the year, and even if it wasn't a tradition I'm carrying on in memory of my late father, this is a must-see in theatres.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" - Release date July 22nd.  This is the last of the 'prequel' set-up movies before "The Avengers" brings all these heroes together in 2012.  Taking place during World War II, and fighting everyone's favourite villains, the Nazis, this is probably the most interesting creation storylines next to "Iron Man" (sorry "Thor").  Theatre worthy.

"Friends With Benefits" - Release date July 22nd.  This is another one of the casual 'relationship without depth' movies coming out this year.  Again, good cast, but not worth a movie ticket.  TMN/disc release for me.

"Cowboys And Aliens" - Release date July 29th.  Because, after all, who doesn't want to see what happens if you pit cowboys against aliens?  Here's hoping Jon Favreau does as good a job here as he has with the last two "Iron Man" movies.  Whether I see it in theatres or not depends greatly on what buzz there is about it between now and release.

I know we've only gone as far as the end of July here, but I'm looking over August and months afterwards, and I just don't see anything that stands out.  There are a few titles that show some promise, and a couple of requisite sequels, but nothing that really screams "Don't forget me!!!"  I even feel that it is too early to mention "Paranormal Activity 3," since other than the title and the release date - October 21st. - not much is known about it, and I am a HUGE fan of this particular franchise.  Thusly, I'm going to stop here with this post, and promise that as the summer nears the halfway point I shall, if I haven't by then, finish the year with Part The Third of this gripping saga.

For now, keep that popcorn warm for me!

Movies 2011, Part One - Bumper Crop Or Empty Fields?

Getting up this early in the morning when you have no good reason to do so should be outlawed.  Somebody get on that, would you?  Today I thought I'd take a look at the titles being released in the upcoming year.  I'm going to stick to movies that have studio release dates already planned, though be aware that some release dates may change.  As of this writing, however, all dates are accurate, and all are North American dates, what with me blogging from Canada and all.

Also, so that people aren't reading this all day long, I'm going to try and keep it to the bigger titles and ones I personally am more likely to view, whether in theatres or on disc/TMN (The Movie Network, Canada's Eastern equivalent of Superchannel, and our counterpart to all the channels HBO and others provide in the States).  Yeah, that biases things quite a bit, but it is my blog, and therefore my opinion.  Those wishing to argue the merits of my choices can do so below in the comment box, and I welcome the discussion.

Finally, the list is freaking huge, even pared down to what I personally want to see, and as a result I am breaking this down into multiple posts.  The first one covers to April, with more on the way.  Now, with no more further ado, my choices for 2011 and why:

"The Green Hornet" - Released January 14th, I'm looking forward to see how this one turns out.  Obviously the choice of Seth Rogan for the lead is going to be a hit-miss proposition, but from what I have heard, simply dismissing it due to his portraying the lead role would be a disservice to what is apparently a hilarious action adventure.  Needless to say, with my car still unavailable to me, this will end up being a disc/TMN viewing, and my personal review will have to await that date.

"No Strings Attached" - Release date January 21st.  Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman doing the casual sex with no relationship thing, which from personal experience either gets old fast, or becomes too involved for one of the individuals and therefore falls apart.  Kind of hoping it resembles another movie of the same sort from last year, "Love And Other Drugs," which I also have yet to see.  Good premise, good cast, not worth a large screen for the type of movie it is, awaiting TMN/disc release.

"Unknown" - Release date February 18th.  Liam Neeson did a wonderful job in "Taken," and this is looking to be on the same level as that title.  After being in a coma, he wakes to discover that someone has taken over his life, and not even his wife believes he is who he says he is.  Intriguing plot, good cast, looking forward to this one.  If the car is up and running by this point in time (I can't start looking for insurance solidly until February starts) I could be seeing this in theatres.

"Vanishing On 7th Street" - Release date February 18th, though only a limited release is scheduled at the moment, meaning if you are in a big city you might get lucky.  Not sure about the premise: Massive blackout causes population of city to vanish, except a chosen few.  Was more intrigued when the trailers suggested it was the population of the world that went missing, but by localizing it, it becomes more of a schlock horror flick in my eyes.  We'll know more as release date approaches, but I'm already assuming a TMN/disc release even if Toronto is one of the 'lucky' cities.

"Battle: Los Angeles" - Release date March 11th.  Destruction of a city by invading alien forces...aren't they ever going to make "Independence Day II?"  Popcorn flick, for obvious reasons, but I'm all for destruction, violence and mayhem, so bring it on.  Probable theatre viewing, since big explosions deserve a big screen.

"Red Riding Hood" - Release date March 11th.  Might have to make this day a double-bill.  Would be nice to see Amanda Seyfried in a movie she's not singing or naked in.  What am I saying, let the poor girl be naked, I'll watch!  Gothic horror done with a central love triangle, we'll see how it plays out.

"Limitless" - Release date March 18th.  Bradley Cooper gets hooked on a drug that enhances intellect and alters his life, but finds that people are trying to kill him for it.  Could end up being an adventure-based "Flowers For Algernon," and we know how THAT ended.  Not certain about seeing it in theatres, I'll be keeping my eye on this one.

"Paul" - Release date March 18th.  Love the duo at the centre of this flick, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, best known for their previous movies together, "Hot Fuzz" and "Shaun Of The Dead."  Pegg of course has a much wider audience in Britain, and a huge global following due to his role as 'Scotty' in the 2009 "Star Trek" movie, sequel announced for release 2012.  These two stumbling upon an alien having escaped from Area 51, and this becomes a must-see, though given the fact that it is a comedy, I will more than likely await the TMN/disc release.

"Sucker Punch" - Release date March 25th.  Girl thrown into an institution by her evil stepfather, she envisions an alternate reality which aids her in formulating an escape plan.  Emily Browning in the lead role is an inspired choice, as a lot of people still think of her as the cute little Australian girl who played 'Violet' in "Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events."  This might make her the woman on screen she needs to be to start competing with Dakota Fanning for some choice roles, once audiences see her as more of a grown-up for a change.  Likely a theatre-worthy flick.

"Arthur" - Release date April 8th.  Keeping in mind that this is a remake of the movie that made Dudley Moore a top name in North America, Russell Brand being cast in the titular role seems almost inspired.  Let's see if he can actually act, or if he is just a stand-up comic tripping into lucky casting.  TMN/disc release for this one, with a nice cuppa while I'm watching.

"Scream 4" - Release date April 15th.  Well I had to mention it, didn't I?  Personally, I'm not so much interested in the movie as I am in discerning what exactly the plot will be after all this time.  That, and watching Courtney Cox and David Arquette acting together for what may be the very last time, and I'll sit through it.  Not in theatres though; Even though I am a huge fan of big horror needing an audience to increase my enjoyment, watching the last "Scream" flick I actually fell asleep while in the movie house.  TMN/disc for this one.

"Apollo 18" - Release date April 22nd.  Found footage shows that when the moon landings occurred in the 60s, they filmed proof of alien lifeforms.  Shot in the viral form, this strangely echoes part of the plot for one of this year's major tent-pole pictures, though it will be nothing like it beyond the moon landings being a source of alien dread.  Herky-jerky motion of the camera relegates this to TMN/disc, just like "Cloverfield" before it..

"Fast Five" - Release date April 29th.  Even though it arrives the day after my birthday (take notice of that, would you all please?), I will be relegating this one to TMN/disc as well, as I've yet to have the slightest inclination to see any of this series on the big screen.  That being said, the movies have been somewhat enjoyable, so a free spin on TMN won't be out of the question.  No disc possibilities, unless this happens to turn out to be this generation's answer to "Bullitt," and I just don't see that happening.  Ever.

Okay folks, that's the end of Part The First.  I'll be back in a little while with Part The Second, by tomorrow at the latest.  The release dates get flimsy after the month of September, so it is possible that Part II will be the end of things until later in the year.  See you after the cigarette burn!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Director's Cuts

Simple enough title, right?  Not so simple topic though, but I will try and be brief.  Then again, maybe I'll just give you the extended version of this entry, for $10 extra...

Yes, it is indeed time to discuss studio double-dipping, and whether there is reason to shell out more than once for any specific title.  I personally always buy the loaded-to-the-gills edition of any movie that gives me the option to do so.  Often it doesn't matter what exactly the loaded edition carries with it over the bare-bones edition, I just feel that if I'm willing to spend money to add a title to my collection, then I might as well blow the extra couple of dollars and get everything I can for my money, that's just me.  There have been some REALLY worthwhile purchases that I have done this for, and there have been some purchases that have wasted my time, but overall I have been quite satisfied with what I buy when a title first releases.

Mind you, I'm only talking specifically when a title first releases.  I am not a subscriber to re-releases that are there simply to get people to reach for their wallets a second time.  That, I believe, is mostly studio greed, though in some instances there is in fact a valid and reasonable explanation for said double-dip attempt.  Today, I'd like to discuss titles that I've bought special editions for, whether immediate day and date or delayed double-dip attempts, and also the biggest double-dip globally and how I've managed to resist buying it more than once.

First, the good stuff.  I have some special editions that cost me a pretty penny, but I feel that the purchases have been justified.  However, nothing beats getting more story-line or footage that adds to atmosphere or character development, and though I'm positive that this title is not everyone's cup of tea, the one movie I can highly recommend searching out the special edition for is "Stay Alive."  I have this as a solid opinion, and will give you solid reasons for it.  First of all though, a bit of plot for you to see where I'm coming from.  The movie melds my other favourite time waster, videogaming, and is most simply put about a videogame that kills you in real life if your character dies within the game.  Simple horror story, easy to understand plot, yes?  It gets more complex, as it turns out the game is based on a real-life (in the movie) urban legend, and in fact the spirit of this ghost the legend is about has somehow been infused into the game.  Additionally, the player's souls are linked to the game via the need to recite a spell before playing as a way to start the playthrough.  A group of people who played it together (never mind how they got the disc, not important) try to stop themselves from dying, and thwart the actual ghost in the actual places depicted in the game.  There is some well thought out action sequences, and ultimately our protagonists save the day, only to find the game being released nation-wide later on.

Now, that's fine, and the movie was good in theatres, but when I found a special edition, I grabbed that instead, and was excited to learn about the length of the movie being extended.  Great!  More scares?  More game playing?  No, actually, instead of more frightening stuff being added, stuff that might have been cut in order to lower the harshness of an American 'R' rating, I found that an entire side-story had been removed for time's sake!  And this side-story answered so many questions about how the game got created, because the side-story also had the creator of the game in it, who was totally cut from the theatrical release of the film!  I told Scott (if you are unfamiliar with my reference to a friend of mine, check out this post on my blog Crap I Think About) about this, but he has yet to see the extended version.  He has however seen the theatrical release, and when he sees the difference he'll be shocked.

The same exact thing occurred with another series of titles, which may be overlooked by casual moviewatchers.  That would be the "Highlander" movie series.  I can't really explain the differences between the movies, except to state that the first movie rocks in either version.  I want to be clear on this, the first movie is not, was not, and never will be the problem with this series.  No, it is movies 2 and 3 that were the problems.  Scott and I saw "Highlander 2" in theatres.  What a piece of crap.  It was so bad, that we never even bothered with "Highlander 3."  When they came out on DVD, I grabbed the special edition, and that was fine - but then I heard people saying that the second and third movies were spectacular on DVD.  What?  Are you freaking kidding me?  Well, I heard this from so many sources that against my better judgment I went and purchased the director's cuts of both two and three, and guess what?  They were good.  I mean, really good!  The director's cuts had taken what were originally completely unwatchable crap and turned them into worthwhile entertainment!  They did the same for "Alien 3" as well!  Saw that in theatres, huge disappointment, got it in the "Alien Quadrilogy" set, loved the movie because the extra stuff reinserted made the film make sense!  Incidentally, get the "Alien Anthology," if you need to choose between the two, it actually has even more stuff loaded into it than the original DVD only version.

So, based on the last two examples above, it can be seen that when studios tinker with a movie against the director's intent, the movie can be a huge box-office disappointment.  When the director is allowed final cut, there are obviously times when he/she is SO right that it makes you wonder who is making these horrible decisions at the studio level.  Regardless, there are times when a director cuts a movie back himself in order to make a deliberate attempt to thwart the studio from interfering, and thereby creating the need for a double-dip that is actually justified.  Though there may be multiple examples of this out there, I am speaking of Peter Jackson and the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a masterpiece of storytelling, one that had never been done properly in the years between the writing and the Jackson film versions, simply because technology had yet to make the vision truly come to life until then.  However, what Tolkien failed to do is make his work accessible to everyone, ie. women.  It may come as a surprise to some that the entire love story between Arwen and Aragorn contained within the movies is in fact not in the books beyond minor references.  Jackson and his writers added this to give the bones more meat for the female set, and it worked itself into the story seamlessly, improving it wonderfully.  He also purposefully removed scenes from the book, and one character (Tom Bombadil, anyone?) which slowed things down.  The movies were epic, but the length was getting to be a problem, and thusly he determined that there would have to be two home releases, one of the theatrical experience, and one which was the entire directorial and author experience.  He knew it going in, and the majority of film-goers were aware of it when anticipating the DVD release.  Jackson was posting video blogs of the progress of the production, and mentioned it multiple times that there were going to be two releases, and therefore people who were interested could avoid the double-dip and simply await the extended versions.  Having done so myself (what a surprise, I'm sure) I found that the movies were even more endearing with the added footage.  There were no major plot changes as a result of the footage being removed for theatrical release, but the footage that was restored added to character development, patched some minor holes here and there as far as plot development (in the sense that we knew something had occurred, but now we can actually see it occur), and basically enriched the experience.  Here truly were cuts made solely for time's sake, because today's audiences can't seem to keep their butts in seats for more than three hours without getting antsy.

Now that you've heard about the good, we must finally come to the bad.  The worst, if you will.  the biggest case of greed ever to come out of a studio, multiple times.  The case of an ego trip surpassing common sense, and the grossest injustice in DVD so far.  I talk of the "Star Wars" trilogy on DVD.

You'll no doubt notice that I am including the link to the original Blu-Ray box set only to the left there.  I am doing so for a good reason.  First of all, I don't think anyone will be shocked to learn that I thought the prequel trilogy was a total piece of shit.  That's right, I said it, and as family-oriented as this blog has been up until now, there is simply no other way to describe it.  That being said, I must also add that I feel that the changes that George Lucas made to the original trilogy to update them via CGI are for the most part also total pieces of shit.  There is a reason why there was a campaign online titled "Han Shot First."  If you know the series, you know exactly what I'm on about.  No, I'm linking this particular version of the original trilogy because the original movies as people who grew up with them saw them no longer exist, and if you are going to spend money on this series to own it for the most recent technology, then spend this and no more, ever.  See, Lucas has made so many versions of these films on VHS, DVD, and now Blu-Ray that it is possible, and I kid you not with this comment, it is possible to own no fewer than seven different versions of the original series, and I might be missing a few.  There's the original VHS release, the VHS boxed set, the Special Edition VHS boxed set, the original DVD release, the Special Edition DVD boxed set, the special Anniversary DVD release boxed set, the Blu-Ray boxed set...and don't forget that they are being changed to 3-D for re-release in theatres, which will require yet another release on DVD and Blu-Ray.  This isn't double-dipping, this is greed in its most obvious and outrageous incarnation.  So don't get suckered in, get them once and once only, or at least sell a previous version towards getting the newer one - don't pay full price to upgrade, whatever you do.  That is feeding the beast, and it's too hungry as it is.

Well, there you have it, movies worthy of special editions, and those not.  There are tons more examples on both sides of that particular fence, but let's not have you reading for hours, okay?  If you want to know my opinions on titles I did not mention, leave a comment and I will respond directly or in a special post addressing them.  Otherwise, keep the popcorn warm for next time!

Monday, January 10, 2011

What Determines A Sequel?

I've been sitting here, wracking my brain for the last little while, trying to determine what makes a movie worthy of a sequel.  The reason I have this topic on my mind is that there are movies out there that never get a second go-round, when many people feel they really deserve one.  There is also the matter of movies whose sequels surpass them utterly, and those whose sequels actually kill a once promising franchise.  Why don't we take a trip down Past Movies Lane, and maybe take a peek down Wishing Thinking Street, and see what we unearth?

If we want to talk about movie sequels, we have to dismiss at first the notion of ongoing horror series.  These don't count so much as sequels as much as they do as a reason to have studios keep their bottom lines intact.  Make a movie for $200,000, let it make only $800,000, studio stays in the black, no harm no foul.  So, when it comes to flicks like "Saw VI," or "Friday The 13th: A New Beginning," I am choosing to ignore the multiple titles and just consider them a necessary evil in the day-to-day running of a successful studio, financially speaking.  These flicks turn a profit for the company making them, and as far as I can tell that is all they are meant to do.  There are two glaring exceptions to this rule, a sequel so horribly bad that I will need to mention it later, and one that in many people's opinions outshines the first title, but otherwise I'm ignoring the horror genre for the purposes of this discussion.

No, when I'm thinking sequels, I'm thinking movies that stand out, either as part of an ongoing storyline, or as a stand-alone title that grabbed so much attention that studio heads rightly decided that a second dip from the same well would be a good thing.  Whether they are right or wrong about that, we will determine that ourselves.  Let's take some grand titles from the past, some rare exceptions when the sequel demanded by the studio/audience/storyline actually surpassed the original movie of the franchise.  There are only really two titles where the direct sequel was leaps and bounds ahead of the original, and those would arguably be "The Godfather Part II" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

Both of these titles are part of a saga that extends beyond them; in the case of "The Godfather," there were more books in the series, though they were released long after the original two movies, and before the third (only the original book was written by Mario Puzo, though he was heavily involved in writing the script for Part II).  In the case of "The Empire Strikes Back," George Lucas always conceived the series as a nine movie journey, though with the critical drubbing the prequel trilogy has rightfully gotten, there is little doubt that the final three movies will ever be made.  In both cases, the movies that followed were considered 'lesser' films than the immediate sequels themselves (speaking directly to the prequels in the "Star Wars" saga; it is universally accepted that "Return Of the Jedi" was a fitting ending to the original trilogy).  Of all of the "Godfather" books and films, past, present and future (that's right folks, more are on their way), "The Godfather Part II" stands out starkly against the rest, due mainly to the fact that it is in fact the equivalent of two movies tied into one masterpiece.  Of all the movies in the "Star Wars" universe, "Empire" stands out starkly due to the darkness which takes hold of the entire film, giving it a dramatic tension not found in any of the other films that comprise this series.  Given the original audience reactions to both of these series first titles, the idea that the following movies would NOT be made was dismissed rapidly.  "The Godfather" received Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay, which made the move to do a second movie a no-brainer.  "Star Wars," due to its ground-breaking use of editing, special effects and storytelling, is considered one of the most influential movies of all time.  Again, making the second movie was never in doubt.

There are other sequels that, while not surpassing the originals, certainly made for worthwhile continuations of the story the first movie set out.  "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" certainly falls in this category, especially when the original movie was such a crapfest.  "Terminator II: Judgment Day" was excellent, and though some would consider this a title which surpassed the original, I consider it personally to just be the logical extension of the first movie, though I know I'll probably hear form someone over this.  Another film that comes to mind is "Aliens," though it is so different in tone than the first one that it almost seems that it stands alone. Other titles, whether made for amusement, studio bucks, or actually for an audience to watch enthralled, include "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," "Desperado," and "Beverly Hills Cop 2," another franchise beaten to an early death by a horrible third movie.  There are a few other titles, but some of the ones I want to talk about fall under a different rule, so I'll get to them in a bit.

These examples, however, are very much exceptions to the rule.  While it is true that the first two "Godfather" movies are considered to be two of the greatest movies ever made (regularly being found in the AFI top film lists), the third is also known as being of the greatest cinematic disappointments on film (though personally I enjoy the entire trilogy myself).  And, while the original "Star Wars" trilogy is loving referenced frequently in books, games, movies and television, the newer prequel trilogy is largely regarded as a waste of celluloid.  The third "Godfather" film, as with the entire "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, prove to be departures enough fromthe films that preceded them that audiences found themselves unsatisfied, and in the case of the "Star Wars" movies downright hostile in regards to what had been done to the series that had inspired and defined a generation of movie watchers and creators.

While it can be seen that within these franchises, the second movies were arguably the best, there are hundreds of examples of sequels that only further an idea, or fail at doing so.  One of the biggest sequel flops that I can relate to as far as destroying a franchise utterly for many a year is "Ghostbusters II."  You'll notice on the left side there that the link is for only the first movie.  Why yes, it certainly is, because I wouldn't want to subject anyone to the second film, and thusly did not allow an image of the DVD double feature set to be viewable.  If you really want to get it, go to the link I just provided, but we'll leave the box image for the good film visible.  This sequel fell apart because of the notion that 'more of the same' should be followed to the point that 'it is the same movie, only depressing' became the blueprint.  Harold Ramis has gone so far as to apologize for the second film, citing that the third movie (oh, yes, they are reviving the franchise after all this time) will occur as though the second movie never happened.  Which brings me to the horror sequel that fits this bill: "A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge."  What a horrible piece of schlock this film is.  It is so bad that it is a wonder the third movie ever got made (though, as stated above, it is more than likely that the franchise was considered more of a way of the studio to stay in the black while it developed 'real' films).  Many fans of the series ignore that the second title exists, and I personally would be much happier if the collection you can see over there on the left shipped missing that second disc.  However, it'll be in there, I'm sorry to say.

Then, there are movie sequels and franchises that arguably get better and better the more of them that are made.  Whether following a story written out before the first movie even gets a green light, or being created on the go as the movies get audience acceptance, there can be no denying that some of these movies improve greatly as the number after the title climbs higher.  The four franchises I'll mention here today are the "Austin Powers" movies, the "Toy Story" movies, the "Harry Potter" films, and of course, the "Back To The Future" trilogy.  In each of these instances, not only did the movies get more complex, the storylines got audiences more engaged with the characters, and the obstacles the protagonists had to surmount grew larger and more interesting with each new incarnation.  Even in the case of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," a book which has purposefully been split into two movies to ensure that everything from the pages gets up on that screen, the final movie is expected to prove to be the crowning achievement of the franchise.  "Back To The Future" is, simply put, a perfect trilogy.  I'm not only writing as someone who loves the films, I'm looknig at it from a writer's standpoint.  The series has a clear beginning, an almost hopelessly challenging middle, a firm and definitive end, the characters grow and mature (yes, even Doc Brown has at least one epiphany throughout the course of the series), the plot never gets lost, and while it ends on a very satisfying note it still leaves the audience wanting more.  What more can people want from movies?

Well, how about a sequel which is deserved and never comes?  While it can be argued that there are many movies undeserving of sequels, and sequels of sequels, it can also be argued that there are movies that earn the expectation of a sequel and the studios simply don't deliver.  One of the most obvious titles that meets this particular criteria is "Innerspace," a film from 1987 which was kind of a comedic version of "Fantastic Voyage."  If ever there was a sequel expected for a movie, this was it.  They purposefully left the movie on a cliffhanger, there was indeed a script for a sequel, and everything looked good...it even won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.  The movie, however, was not a box office success, and this is what doomed the sequel.  If you ever do watch it, you'll see a cute, middle of the road film, fun, funny, and if you invest in the characters you'll agree that a sequel was really called for here.  Other movies that I have heard people discuss, whether box office failures or not, include "Jumper," "The Goonies," "Cloverfield," "Kick-Ass," "Forrest Gump," and "The Incredibles."  Some of the above are planned, some are yet to be green-lit, and some will simply never happen.

And that's the problem.  Too often, studios are driven by what the audiences votes for with their dollars, rather than what would make good storytelling.  Wouldn't it be nice if, in the future, a person who liked a movie - even if they were the only one who did - could choose from a kind of menu what they would like to see in a sequel, and by digitally manipulating the actors a studio create a private movie just for them?  Imagine ten "Toy Story" films, or making the "Star Wars" movies stretch to nine using the plot laid out by some of the incredible books that have been written in that direction!  That would be a way to satisfy the entire audience, and studios could do it at a fraction of the cost.  Actors might have to dub lines, but since the images of the actors are already recorded, all it would take is CGI manipulation and an imagination.  Unfortunately, imagination is the one thing it often seems Hollywood is lacking in these days.

Oh, and that other horror movie, the one that I feel is better than it's already excellent first title?  That would be "Paranormal Activity 2."  Keep your eyes open, the third is on it's way this October.  Until next time, keep that popcorn warm for me!