If movies had understudies…

My daughter totally could’ve nailed the Miles Teller part in Whiplash

(FYI: You’ll want to stay tuned for at least 15 seconds. Trust me.)

Film Review: DON OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Don of the Planet of the Apes

No matter how much he begs you, do NOT take your helper monkey to see this movie.

Studio:  20th Century Fox
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback, based on characters by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Matthew Weiner

As both a follow-up to 2011’s Rise of Planet of the Apes and spin-off of AMC’s Mad Men, this hybrid sequel/prequel/reboot/off-shoot is as loud as it is contemplative.  Initial fears of Apes franchise fans (“Apies” as they like to be called) that the inclusion of Don Draper was nothing more than a crass attempt by cynical Hollywood execs to appeal to the Asian youth market prove to be unfounded.  The story of a group of primates who team up with a legendary ad man to subjugate the remnants of humanity is a universal tale that, much like the titular Don, transcends time and space.  Director Reeves deftly melds the two juggernaut franchises into a singular epic so seamless, you will shit your pants.  Domestic returns should be strong and Jon Hamm’s immense popularity among North Korean adolescents should only bolster the film’s international box office to boot.

Continue reading

There. I fixed it.

WookieMistakeAll around L.A. are billboards and posters for the new Ice Cube/Kevin Hart movie “Ride Along.” It looks like it could be pretty funny, but I just can’t get past the tagline the marketers chose: “Propose to this cop’s sister? Rookie mistake.”

Henceforth, I vow that whenever I see a movie poster with the word “rookie” on it, I’ll change it to wookie and alter the cast accordingly.

Searching for John Connor…

80sCharacters

Marty McFly. John McClane. Sarah Connor. Axel Foley. Riggs & Murtaugh. All are 80s movie characters that quickly became household names. Rambo and Indiana Jones became so iconic so fast, the sequels to First Blood and Raiders of the Lost Ark bore their names. Even 80s movies that weren’t box office champs produced characters with names still recognizable today. Snake Plissken. Lloyd Dobbler. Spicoli.

Plenty iconic character names from the 90s jump off the top of my head, too. Neo. Tyler Durden. Hannibal Lector. Keyser Soze. Sidney Prescott. Ethan Hunt.*

But from after 2000? I’m drawing a blank.

Continue reading

No More Origin Stories

Henceforth, the following well-established characters no longer need to be shown how they become who they are:

  • Spider-Man
  • Batman
  • Superman
  • Green Lantern
  • Green Arrow
  • The Fantastic Four
  • All the X-Men
  • The Lone Ranger
  • The Phantom
  • Captain America
  • Thor
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Giant
  • Luke Skywalker
  • Anakin Skywalker
  • James T. Kirk
  • Spock
  • Willy Wonka
  • Indiana Jones
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Babe Ruth
  • Charles Foster Kane
  • Bane 
  • Harvey Dent
  • Catwoman
  • Pretty Woman
  • Jack Ryan
  • The Hulk
  • Hulk Hogan
  • Rocky
  • Rambo
  • Bambi
  • Godzilla
  • Scooby Doo
  • Yogi Bear
  • Bruce Lee
  • Bruce Almighty
  • Evan Almighty
  • The 40 Year Old Virgin
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Bill
  • Ted
  • Steve Jobs
  • JFK
  • RFK
  • FDR
  • ALF
  • Hal 9000
  • The Watchmen
  • The Wedding Crashers
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Hobbit
  • Hitler
  • Black Hitler
  • Madea
  • Big Momma
  • Freddy Krueger
  • Jason
  • Michael Myers
  • Austin Powers
  • Dorothy
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The inmates of Oz
  • Franklin
  • Bash
  • James Bond
  • Jaws
  • Jesus
  • Underdog
  • Dog the Bounty Hunter
  • Boba Fett
  • Willy Wonka
  • Sarah Palin
  • Any fictional president who’s really just a veiled take on Bill Clinton
  • That guy who sawed off his own arm
  • The Punisher
  • The Terminator
  • John Connor
  • Sarah Connor
  • The Transformers
  • Mad Max
  • Maxwell Smart
  • E.T.
  • Nemo (the fish)
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Oskar Schindler
  • Helen Keller
  • Mr. Magoo
  • The Alien from Alien
  • The Aliens from Aliens
  • Ellen Ripley
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Jason Bourne
  • Ethan Hunt
  • Rain Man
  • The Graduate
  • The Godfather
  • Robin Hood
  • King Arthur
  • Merlin
  • Houdini
  • Harry Potter
  • Burt Wonderstone
  • Snow White
  • The Fly
  • Marty McFly
  • Stuart Little
  • Robocop
  • Axel Foley
  • The Ghostbusters
  • Neo
  • Mulder
  • Scully
  • Josh Baskin
  • The Rocketeer
  • The family from Parenthood (the movie and both television shows)
  • The Odd Couple
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • The Mob Doctor
  • Darkman
  • Donnie Darko
  • William Shakespeare
  • Mozart
  • Beethoven (the dog)
  • Richard Nixon
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Blade
  • Dracula
  • Frankenstein
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Ben Stein
  • Bella
  • Edward
  • Jacob
  • Derek Zoolander
  • Paul Blart
  • Gumby
  • Judge Dredd
  • Swamp Thing
  • Tomb Raider
  • Sgt. Bilko
  • The A-Team
  • Katniss Everdeen
  • Frank Abagnale, Jr.
  • The guy from the The Terminal
  • Anyone from G.I. Joe
  • Norman Bates
  • Dexter
  • Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Scrooge McDuck
  • Howard the Duck
  • Howard Hughes
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Supergirl
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Liberace
  • Mark Zuckerberg

The following characters haven’t really had their origins explored on screen yet… but that’s okay.  Embrace the mystery.  Skip the origin story for them, too:

  • Han Solo
  • Hugh Hefner
  • Jack Bauer
  • John McClane
  • John McCain
  • Propeller guy from Titanic
  • The Fonz
  • The Golden Girls
  • Rapping Granny
  • Captain Hook
  • Grumpy Smurf
  • MacGuyver
  • Mary Poppins

The following is the entire list of pre-existing characters for whom it’s completely okay to retell their origin story:

  • Mighty Mouse

People who say “Hollywood has run out of ideas” aren’t being very original

Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 12.12.03 PM

Just a typical day in the comment section of almost any film-centric website…

I always cringe a little when I hear people say anything to effect of “Hollywood has run out of ideas” or “there’s no originality in Hollywood anymore.”  Not just because they’re lazy criticisms typically uttered with disdain, detachment, and smugness (and by someone who acts like they’re the first person to say it), but because it’s not even true.  The film industry has never been about original ideas, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The main formula of “Hollywood” has always been 4 parts something familiar plus 1 part something different (to give you a reason to pay for it again).  That’s the way it’s been for over a century.

Case in point:  1939

When I first started writing this blog post, I wanted to examine “the greatest year in the history of American cinema.”  Two years kept coming up over and over again in my searches.  The first is 1939, because a startling number of films produced that year have truly stood the test of time.  Here are the ten movies nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards that year:  Gone with the Wind – Stagecoach – Wuthering Heights – Dark Victory – Love Affair – Goodbye, Mr. Chips – Ninotchka – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Of Mice and Men – and The Wizard of Oz.

Though Dark Victory (with Bette Davis, Bogart, and Reagan) and Ninotchka (a Lubitsch/Billy Wilder collaboration) have failed to leave an indilible mark on the cinematic consciousness of America, the others easily rank amongst all-time classics — movies that are constantly referenced as high points of their genre.

Now, you might say: “Exactly, Hollywood has tried to imitate those eight other films to death!  So I’m right. Hollywood is unoriginal.”

Except, of course, for the fact there’s a stunning dearth of “originality” on that list.

1. Gone with the Wind – based on a novel.

2. Stagecoach – Both a genre film and an adaptation of a short story “The Stage to Lordsburg”

3. Wuthering Heights – Novel.

4. Dark Victory – Based on a play.

5.  Love Affair – Look, an original story for the screen!

6. Goodbye, Mr. Chips – Novel (though it should be noted this movie wasn’t made by “Hollywood” — it’s British)

7. Ninotchka – An original screen story.

8.  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Based on an unpublished story.

9. Of Mice and Men – Novel.

10. The Wizard of Oz – Novel.

So of the best picture nominees from one of the most historical years in movies, 8 were adaptions of preexisting material.  But you know what?  I’ll knock it down to 7,  since the original story for Mr. Smith was never published.  So there you go.  7 out of 10, and no one has ever called Gone With The Wind or The Wizard of Oz unnecessary adaptations.  And as for Love Affair… It may be a classic, and it may be original, but you know what’s considered even more of a classic?  The 1957 remake:  An Affair to Remember.

Also noteworthy about Love Affair, its success led to two more films starring the same leads (Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer) being produced soon thereafter.  Hollywood did that a lot in the pre-home video era.  To satisfy the audience’s desire to see certain actors together again, when they couldn’t make a sequel they’d just pair them up again and again in other (very similar) films.  In other words, the golden age of movies was filled with a lot more You’ve Got Mail’s than Sleepless in Seattle‘s.

If Hollywood had as much of a habit of doing that today as they did back then, what would the internet call them?  Faux-quels?

Continue reading