Wednesday, July 29, 2015

1982 – The Sci-Fi Battle of the Box Office

In 1982, seven major science fiction films were released in the month and a half span stretching from May 21 through July 9. These seven movies were The Road Warrior, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Poltergeist, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Thing, Blade Runner, and Tron. While each have earned their own unique places in the hearts of sci-fi fans and in the pantheon of film, it’s astounding to think of the insanity that was this short span of movie-packed madness. Thrown together, there were enormous winners and devastating losers when it came to the sci-fi battle of the box office.

Although today’s summer movie season sees major film coming out at least every other week, the box office was far different in the ‘80s. Movies lasted for far longer in the theater and there were far fewer films released in total and per week at the cinema. So to have so many now-classic movies of the same genre all packed into one brief span of time is mind boggling. What made the winners into winners? How did perceived losses impact the creators and studios behind films that would be passionately loved in the long run? And why are so many of these movies being remade or sequelized in recent years?

While these seven films all have their devoted followers, the battle of science fiction films is truly the story of how E.T. destroyed the competition and altered the sci-fi landscape. With some help from Box Office Mojo, here's how it all went down.

Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Hilariously Egregious Product Placements in Film

Sometimes, daddy’s gotta pay the bills. And sometimes, daddy is a movie studio that wants more money for their latest blockbuster movie. So here come the product placements! While businesses have spent decades paying for their products to be featured in films, these forms of product placement have ranged from being small bottles on shelves in the background to humongous billboards shoved in the faces of viewers around the world.

While it’s understandable that some films simply cannot be made without making deals with outside sources, product placement in film has resulted in some of the most insulting and money hungry developments ever seen in mass media. While smart advertisement like the Reese’s Pieces scene in E.T. shows the perfect balance that can be struck in these developments, the truth is that most product placement noticed by audiences is most often due to its insulting nature.

The following 10 instances of movie product placement are the film equivalent of a corporation hiring someone to step in front of you while you’re at a museum and slap you in the face. Of course, an enormous list could be filled with only Michael Bay movies. So I’ll keep try to keep this balanced.

I Love the Power Glove – The Wizard

Centering around two friends, one of whom is a traumatized video game savant, The Wizard follows kids on their way to a video game tournament. If that isn’t an invitation for copious product placement, I don’t know what is. Being that this film was released in 1989, Nintendo is the true star of the story, with many Nintendo products being shoved in the faces of viewers. Most notably, The Wizard introduced North American audiences to Super Mario Bros. 3, which had not been released stateside yet. It’s also remembered for containing the line, “I love the Power Glove, it’s so bad.” Indeed it is.

Your Favorite Heroes Love Domino's Pizza – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It’s well known that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles love pizza. But it’s also quite convenient that they most love pizza from massive chains. So when the turtles got their own movie in 1990, it featured a lengthy scene where the heroes order Domino’s Pizza from their manhole. Hey, Turtles, you live in New York! Why are you ordering Domino’s? Interestingly, Pizza Hut would be the object of the heroes on a half shell’s obsession 24 years later in the reboot film. It’s just as bad and has its own scene as well, but the Domino’s placement set the precedent.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Problems With Sequel-Focused Moviemaking

Universe building is constantly on the minds of studios and audiences members when it comes to movies these days. While Marvel Studios’ rampant success with the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has spurred on more studios than ever to create multi-film spanning fictional worlds, sequels have long been the staple of Hollywood. After all, banking on audiences coming to see the return of characters and worlds they love provides a much greater chance of major profits. If you can propel every film you make by tying it into something else, it’s clear that studios are going to want a piece of the action.

While I have previously written about what it takes to make a great sequel and why third films are so difficult, there is a third piece of this puzzle that is becoming more prevalent than ever – creating a first film with an entire series in mind before it even hits theaters.

This is different than filming an entire series at once, like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, or simply having hopes that there will be more movies to come, like the James Bond Franchise. Rather, this type of moviemaking has so many pieces in place for the second, third, fourth, and countless spinoff films that the original film is immediately under the gun to check countless boxes during the creation process. While the endless possibilities postulated by a film that promises a massive universe that will be explored, it is often dead-eyed money-making plans that take precedence over the wonder of artistic exploration and creativity in a massive world.

That’s a problem.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Big Thrills and Small Shortcomings in “Ant-Man”

A man who shrinks and talks to bugs is the star of Marvel Studios’ latest adventure. But a great cast and amazing visuals show why Ant-Man has been a superhero staple of Marvel Comics for more than 50 years.

Marvel’s Ant-Man follows the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a burglar looking to set his life straight after getting out of prison. But his struggles lead to him meeting legendary inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who requires Scott to become the new Ant-Man and stop tech genius Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from harnessing Pym’s shrinking power to create a world-destroying army of miniature soldiers. Teamed with Pym’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and looking to win his way back into the life of his young daughter, Scott fights huge battles on the smallest scale imaginable.

It’s been made very public that work on bringing Ant-Man to the big screen has been a long and tumultuous process. Writer and director Edgar Wright was hired by Marvel Studios to create the film back in 2006, but while then-in development movies like Iron Man were created and went on to birth the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man stalled. After numerous rewrites and delays, Wright left the production just before it was set to film. In his place was director Peyton Reed and writer Adam McKay, who teamed with star Rudd to rewrite the script developed by Wright and Joe Cornish. With the movie in turmoil, it was clear that Marvel had to overcome more challenges than typical to finally bring one of their longest lasting heroes to the screen.

Thankfully, Ant-Man is a thoroughly enjoyable superhero film filled with laughs, action, and solid chemistry between its lead actors. It’s also a welcome change of pace from many of the films coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe lately. Rather than focus on some massive global catastrophe or set up the next piece of its giant film-spanning saga, Ant-Man is a self-contained and simple story. After all, how could a story about a family man who shrinks and teams up with ants be anything but small?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10 Lesser Known Superheroes Ready for Mainsteam

Superhero movies are being pumped out by Hollywood at a faster rate than ever. While that may have both its advantages and disadvantages, it means that more heroes than ever have a chance for mainstream success and widespread recognition. The wildest dreams of longtime comic book fans are finally coming true with the likes of Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice coming to the big screen soon.

But it’s not just heroes with instant name recognition that deserve a shot at movies any more. While there are countless heroes that are adored by the comic book community, many long-loved heroes are virtually unknown in the mainstream world. Remember, even a hero like Iron Man who is known around the planet today was incredibly obscure outside of comic books when he was first brought to life by Robert Downey, Jr. With Ant-Man about to hit screens, it’s time to take a look at other lesser known superheroes that not only deserve a chance at stardom, but have what it takes to succeed.

The following 10 heroes or hero groups may have a long history in comics, but they are not nearly as well known outside of their current comic-reading fans. As a rule, the following characters have neither been featured in a movie or TV show and do not have one currently in development. So characters like Captain Marvel and Sandman are not featured, although they would most certainly have made the list if these projects were not in development. Thankfully, they are.

Ms. Marvel

Who Is She? Kamala Khan is a teenage Muslim girl growing up in New Jersey and idolizing Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. But when she is exposed to the Inhumans’ Terrigen Mist Bomb bomb, she is granted morphogenetic powers. Now, she’s Ms. Marvel – protector of New Jersey!

What Makes Her Special? Kamala is the newest character on the list by many years, but her quickly rising star proves there is a depth and quality to her character already in place. Not only does her Muslim heritage represent a vastly untapped group of fans, but her relatability and believability make her the Peter Parker of the modern generation. Plus, the Inhumans and Captain Marvel are already on their way, meaning that the setup for Ms. Marvel is perfectly in place! Kamala Khan will explode in the mainstream whenever she is announced. It's just a matter of time.

Moon Knight

Who Is He? Marc Spector was a mercenary for hire with little conscience. But when he was gunned down by fellow mercs when he protected civilians in Egypt, he was brought back by the God of Vengeance – Khonshu. He now brutalizes criminals as Moon Knight while also coping with dissociative identity disorder, with his personalities taking the form of different crime fighting aspects.

What Makes Him Special? Moon Knight has everything that Batman fans connect with but with enough twists and unique perspective to make him his own brilliant character. His insanity and mystical connections can make audiences constantly guess what is true and what is delusion. Mixed with hardcore action, he can connect with countless fans with an itch to scratch in the form of a brutal and vibrant vigilante. With Marvel's street level heroes taking off on Netflix, Moon Knight is the perfect addition.

Monday, July 13, 2015

10 Great Traumatizing Moments in Kids Movies

Sometimes, it’s good to scare the crap out of kids. While children should know that the films they watch will be appropriate for them, there is a lengthy history of kids’ movies that feature plenty of screwed up scenes.

The following 10 movie scenes are some of the most memorable and traumatizing in kids’ movie history. But they are also incredibly well done. They aren’t cheap shots and they aren’t the result of ignorant filmmaking. Have your own scarring childhood movie experiences? Let me know in the comments section below!

Judge Doom Revealed – Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

While there may be murder and madness throughout Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it’s mostly a lighthearted and fun time throughout, until the end. That’s when the creepy Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) reveals his true nature – a psychotic toon in the form of a man with insane cartoon eyes and a helium-filled voice. The blend of cartoon and real person results in an absolutely terrifying character that springs around, survives a steamroller flattening, and is generally murderous beyond belief. What kid could see this and not practically lose his or her mind out of existential fear?

The Wheelers Attack – Return to Oz

The original Wizard of Oz has some scary moments, but they’re balanced out by the wonder and brightness of much of the classic film. Return to Oz is nightmare fuel. Out of young Dorothy’s many frightening encounters, it’s the Wheelers who are easily the most traumatizing. Relentless and purely evil, these deformed humans have wheels for hands and feet and enjoy terrifying Dorothy and the other protagonists. Body horror in a kids’ film? That’s one surefire way to scare the hell out of anyone thinking they were going to the movies to have a nice fun time.