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What I’ve Seen Lately – August 2016

Starting with what I’ve seen in theaters:

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‘Star Trek Beyond’

The third installment in the new ‘Kelvin Timeline’ series of Star Trek movies might have been the closest to the original television show we’ve gotten yet. In 2009, I fell in love with the first film that J.J. Abrams directed. I was never really into the franchise before then, but that movie did it. I remember going back to all the old movies that summer and giving them a watch, and every once and awhile, I’ll give the original 60’s show a watch too. ‘Into Darkness’ was a very well done sequel, even if it did rip-off ‘Wrath of Khan’ a bit.

I think that ‘Star Trek Beyond’ was the most fun of the three. The first two films focused heavily on the relationship between Kirk and Spock. This one put the focus on the rest of the crew, and I loved this. Everyone was split off into groups or pairs for a good chunk of this movie, and it was a wise move. We got to see Spock and Bones in the way the original series always touched on. Their banter was excellent. And I also loved the chemistry between Scotty and newcomer alien Jaylah. Can never complain about more Simon Pegg!

Speaking of Simon Pegg: he was one of the writers of this movie and that was another big plus. The script was tight, and everything felt very well written.

There was some room for improvement though. The villain was a bit weak sauce, especially for Idris Elba being in the role. The plot itself was also a little basic as far as what some other Trek movies have done in the past. Then again, there have been multiple that feel weaker than the average television episode too. I’m looking at you ‘Star Trek Insurrection’! But you can tell they were trying to focus on getting other areas right. So these things were not that big a deal.

Being that this came out during Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable Star Trek movie. There were a lot of great, subtle nods to the franchise history, and heart-warming tributes to Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy, and the rest of the original cast who are either still with us or passed long ago.

I actually urge everyone to go see it. It’s under-performing to an extent I couldn’t even fathom and it’s a HUGE shame. Go see it! Support Star Trek! These are actually great movies, and you don’t have to know everything about the franchise to enjoy these new ones. I’d love to see more of these made so please, go out and see this!

Recommended? Yes. Go!

 

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‘JASON BOURNE’

Honestly, if you liked the first three, you’ll like this one too. It does have this “greatest hits” type of feeling to it, and is basically the same movie as ‘The Bourne Supremacy’, but it was just so cool seeing Bourne back after the disappointing ‘Legacy’ with Jeremy Renner.

This got more mixed reviews, but rightfully so. It’s not exactly a necessary sequel. The story still should have ended with ‘Ultimatum’, but if their goal is to keep making these, or to at least make a few more, this was a good movie to bring it back from a 9-year absence.

Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons was horrendous though. She was perfectly fine in the other movies, but here… I have never seen such horrible line delivery in my life.

Thankfully, I felt that everything else was great. Classic Bourne action, cool supporting characters, and of course “Extreme Ways” by Moby. The action is very shaky, but that’s expected with a Bourne movie. And to be honest, I think director Paul Greengrass uses it quit effectively.

I wanna see more, but I do think it’s time to move the story forward, and not continue to retread everything that’s come before. I would like them to actually tie ‘Legacy’ into everything. The only reason that movie wasn’t that great was because of how irrelevant it was. It’d be sweet to have Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner team up.

Recommended? If you’re a fan of the original trilogy, yes. If shaky-cam bothers you or you never really got into this series in the first place, probably not.

 

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‘Suicide Squad’

Yup, here we go. When I saw how divisive this movie was, I was instantly disappointed before even seeing it. As I said in my Revisiting ‘Batman v Superman’ post, I mentioned that DC really needs to chill, and not try so damn hard to catch up with Marvel.

I still stand by that statement after seeing this movie. Now to be fair, ‘Suicide Squad’ was in the same development time frame as BvS, so it only makes sense that if one movie had studio related issues, the other one probably would as well.

The movie is a HUGE mess. The plot makes zero sense, and the villain… oh man. Enchantress might be one of the worst villains I’ve ever seen put to screen. That’s not an exaggeration.

However- the characters are phenomenal and their interactions throughout the film is immensely entertaining. Will Smith and Margot Robbie were fantastic as Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and I’d love to see more of them in future DC movies. The action itself was also very fun.

All in all, I think it’s a perfectly fine movie. But DC does need to step their game up with ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Justice League’ if they plan on their universe having longevity.

Recommended? Sure, but I think DC made this movie too soon. They’re trying to build a universe, and jumping right to this more obscure type of movie ended up being a poor decision.

 

what I've streamed

             What I’ve Streamed/Rented

 

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‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’

This was actually pretty decent. A great mix of laughter and seriousness, and even though I found the plot to be lacking, the movie itself was interesting and kind of educational.

Tina Fey is pretty good as usual, and this featured a nice cast all around which I was not expecting.

Recommended? Sure!

 

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‘Vacation’

I suppose this was about as good as ‘European Vacation’, and funnier than ‘Vegas Vacation’, if I’m to make comparisons. Still though, this could have been a fantastic comedy, but you could tell they were trying too hard.

The original Vacation movies are all ludicrous. Let’s not fool ourselves. But they get a pass for all the ridiculous stuff because they’re 80’s movies.

When this movie wasn’t trying too hard to be an outlandish 80’s comedy, it actually worked. But there were so many times where the humor in this felt way too forced.

Overall, I must admit that a good junk of this movie was pretty funny. However, there were still so many moments that didn’t work at all. Not every line of dialogue in a comedy has to be funny. If you can’t come up with something that will make the audience laugh, leave it be and let that particular line just be a normal traditional line of dialogue. Don’t force it.

Recommended? As a turn your brain off comedy, perhaps. It has its moments. If you’ve never been a fan of the Vacation movies though… stay away.

 

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‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

Okay I have a confession. I actually dig the first three Transformers movies. The first one is actually pretty sweet. The second, not so much. It’s a terrible movie actually, but the action makes up for it, at least for me. The third was a step in a better direction, and almost came close to the enjoyment level I had with the first.

I avoided this 4th one (until recently) because I had heard it was just more of the same and was more like the quality of the 2nd movie. So I streamed it on Hulu recently and…yeah, I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it in theaters or anything.

It actually took me two separate days to watch this whole thing. How sad is that? I expected the plot to be dumb, and it was. But unlike the 2nd one, the action didn’t even make up for anything else. This was just all around dumb, and I had negative amounts of fun with this.

I shouldn’t even be talking about it anymore.

Recommended? Nah dude.

 

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‘Begin Again’

Alright this was one of those movies where it’s your girlfriend’s turn to pick the movie of the night and you just kinda sit there and go with it.

But in all honesty, this was a delight. I really dug this. Both Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo were awesome and it’s just one of those movies that’s there to make you feel good.

The characters and their decisions were all very realistic, which can be rare for a film like this. And I actually really liked the narrative structure this movie went with. It’s a small movie, but it’s really well-done.

Recommended? Surprisingly, yeah!

 

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‘Edge of Tomorrow’

I saved the best for last. I’m kicking myself for not seeing this movie sooner.

To everyone that complains that we don’t get anything original anymore and you haven’t seen this, you are a part of the problem. I don’t even have that complaint, but I’m still mad at myself for letting this one sit on my watch list for two whole years.

This movie is straight-up AWESOME. Think of ‘Groundhogs Day’ but on steroids with a military fighting aliens plot.

Recommended? I can’t recommend it enough!!!
Please check it out as soon as you get the chance. It’s REALLY REALLY GOOD!

 

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Revisiting ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’- The Ultimate Edition

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Now I’ve already reviewed this movie, so I don’t plan on getting into my overall thoughts again in this post. If you read my original review of BvS, you might remember that I didn’t hate or love the movie. I thought it was heavily flawed, but still really enjoyable.

Word came out about a Director’s Cut for this film right at the time it was released in theaters. It was said it would be a 3-hour, R-rated cut of the movie. This was honestly one of the first signs of what mediocrity the studio was about to put into the cinema.

Most problems that many people had with the theatrical cut of this movie, I felt were pretty minuscule, or even stupid. I don’t care that Batman killed. They at least gave reason for it, and I’m sure it’ll be explored more in future films. Besides, he killed in the older movies too and people didn’t bitch about it then! If you don’t believe me, then here. I also didn’t care that Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex was weird and not like the comics. Who cares? It’s the portrayal they chose, and just a new version to add to the lore.

What I did have a major problem with though was the editing and pacing, especially during the first hour or so. It was a gigantic mess.

The reason I’m writing this is because I now truly believe that thanks to this Ultimate Edition, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ has gone from an okay movie, to a pretty GREAT one.

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One of the first things I’d like to point out in this version is: MORE CLARK KENT!

The theatrical cut felt like a Batman movie that was trying really hard to be a Superman movie, but just couldn’t quite get there. The “Ultimate Edition” spends a lot more time with Clark, investigating Batman, and this was needed. It was like Warner Bros. was afraid of putting in too much Superman/Clark because they’ve had more success with Batman. Yeah, that’s true, but don’t diminish the role if it hurts the overall story!

Seeing Clark Kent trying to unravel information on the Batman, as the reporter he is, was a joy to watch. These added/extended scenes improved on two huge things:

  1. The character of Superman/Clark Kent is far more fleshed out. Superman uses his journalist alter-ego to benefit his responsibilities as a hero. It’s not just a day job that pays his bills.
  2. You see a tremendous impression of fear that the Batman gives to Gotham. He’s almost mythical, and he basically runs the city because of how much people fear him.batman-v-superman-ultimate-edition-image-3

Next up: The Africa sub-plot

Why was this shortened? Or better yet, why was it even there in the first place if they were just going to glaze over the actual points?

The entire point of this Africa scene at the start of the movie left me completely lost for the first hour or so with the theatrical version. It just felt like a random scene that served no purpose. But as the movie kept going, I kept having this feeling that I missed some kind of major detail. Turns out, it’s because every scene with Lois Lane, every scene with Lex Luthor, and every scene with the Senate- drew from this event in Africa.

Restoring this full scene showed me that there definitely was something missing. Why was there a group of people that were so against Superman? Oh, because he was actually framed for MURDER. But you wouldn’t have known that if you weren’t watching this Ultimate Edition.

What does this one, simple thing do for the movie? Well, I just mentioned one thing. It gave reason for people across the globe to be skeptical of Superman. But more importantly, this event was staged. There is a false hate on the character and now he has to carry on living with the consequences of something he didn’t even do. Furthermore, this added a lot to the motivations of Lex Luthor, which I thought were very underdeveloped in the theatrical cut. Here, you see what he’s doing.

I still didn’t understand WHY Lex was doing what he was doing. It may have been for financial gain, or trying to prove some other thing, I really don’t know. That is one flaw in the movie that still wasn’t fixed by this edition. BUT, his character can be written off as just simply crazy, so it doesn’t bother me all that much.

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To shorten things up, I’ll just say that the rest of this version outside of the first hour is pretty much the same as it was in the theatrical, but it extended a few other scenes to help strengthen certain reasoning. An extension off the Africa subplot sees Lois Lane taking a bullet to S.T.A.R. Labs, justifying that the whole thing in Africa was in fact overseen by LexCorp. It gave Lois’s role more reason story-wise, instead of just “being there” like she was in the original cut. Just certain little tid-bits like this that made other elements make more sense.

Then there are some extended action moments, extra lines of dialogue, stuff like that… Nothing that made it better or worse, but just added more that was still nice to see. Like at the end there’s a scene where Batman tells Luthor he’s going to be placed in Arkham Asylum. It doesn’t add much, but it’s just a cool bit of fan service that didn’t need to be cut if it was already in the original script.

One other quick thing I’d like to add that I didn’t mention in my previous review either, is how amazing the dialogue actually is in this movie. I probably didn’t notice it as much the first time given that the context of certain lines probably didn’t make that much sense in the original cut… But here, I felt that the dialogue really shinned because the placement of certain lines were now in the better areas where they belonged.

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It’s really apparent that this was the cut they wanted to release in theaters but then got scared of the 3 hour run time. So then they quickly trimmed off whatever fat they possibly could. Unfortunately a lot of the finished edit didn’t make a lot of sense in the first hour, and it effected the rest of the movie. I really think that’s a major reason it got such bad reviews. Fixing the first hour of this movie made all the difference in the world in my opinion.

There are still a couple of gripes I have with the movie itself that the Ultimate Edition didn’t fix. I still felt like the whole fight with Batman and Superman ended weird. It was totally sweet to watch and I love the fight itself, but how they just made up really quickly after Clark saying “Save Martha!” was unbelievable. I don’t mind that it was the shared name that turned Bruce away from killing him, it was more of just how they handled it afterwards. He was literally about to murder him and then they acted like they were old friends about to go for a beer. I would have liked to see some continued tension between the two of them right up until the moment Superman actually died.

My last issue is something that was just never going to change. While I like the movie overall, it just did too damn much, even in the 3 hours it had. It was a Man of Steel sequel, an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, a Justice League set-up, and an adaptation of The Death of Superman- all in one movie. I just can’t help but feel that DC rushed this universe. Plain and simple. Hopefully things will feel a little less crammed now that this movie is out of the way, and we have a standalone Wonder Woman movie before Justice League. Warner Bros. just needs to breathe. Marvel is already WAY ahead of them anyways. There’s just no reason for them to rush anything. Just focus on making good, uncluttered movies.

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With all of that said- THIS IS THE VERSION OF BVS TO WATCH!!! I will never go back and watch the theatrical cut again. This is the definitive version, and I’m sure it will be for a lot of people. It’s a shame that Warner Bros. didn’t do a better job editing together something a little more cohesive in the first place, but I’m glad we have this now. I urge everyone to check this out as soon as you get the chance.

I gave the theatrical version of this movie a B-. This version fixed a huge reason I bumped it down almost an entire letter grade in the first place. It was just the horrendous editing and pacing of the first act. ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is actually pretty awesome for what it tried to do and what it did end up accomplishing. Even if it was a weird decision to jump into this territory so quickly.

 

Rating: B+

 

 

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‘Rogue One’ Trailer Thoughts

 

I love the look of the movie, and how it seems like a small story in a large landscape. It’s going to be a good film, there’s no doubt in my mind. Also, speaking of landscapes and overall looks: this is hands down the best cinematography in any Star Wars movie to date. Holy Kenobi this movie looks beautiful! We’re really going to feel the large scale of these cruisers, planets, and most importantly, the Death Star. I can’t wait to see all of this on the big screen.

With all of that said, the trailer itself didn’t do much for me as far as making me MORE excited like the previous one did, as well as all of the Force Awakens trailers. I don’t need to see more necessarily, but this to me just felt like an extended tv spot of things we’ve seen before than it did an actual new trailer. There were lots of new shots, but they just didn’t feel new for some reason. The editing of it felt like it was just mimicking the style of the 3rd Force Awakens trailer too. It was like a fan made remix where they take footage of another movie and place it in the same style of the most current trailer. It didn’t feel like its own thing to me, and even though I liked what I saw, I can’t say I liked HOW I saw it. It just felt too…plain.

The Vader shot felt like it was only there to let casual movie-goers know what timeline this is in. I think it would have been nice to either hear him speak one line of dialogue or slaughter a Rebel with his saber to give more of a “Chewie we’re home” moment. I was expecting to feel like “Oh damn it’s Darth Fricken Vader”! But instead it was like “hey there’s Vader, he’s in this”. I’m hoping further marketing gives us just a little taste of what he might do.

I just worry that the movie might end up being all action and style over substance and feel a little vanilla. I can’t explain why, but I get the sense of ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ after watching this trailer. ‘Order of the Phoenix’ is a movie (to me) that’s not bad, but not anything great either. It’s just there. You watch it, it’s done, and you realize that even though it was a decent flick, it didn’t really add to much of the story before or after. I never dread watching it again when I have my annual Harry Potter marathon, but I also would be fine napping through it. Another quick reason this trailer gave me that sense is because it’s directed by Gareth Edwards. I enjoyed his ‘Godzilla’ reboot… it was cool. But it also felt like it could have been so much more. I’m still looking forward to more Godzilla movies, I just felt like the first one did the bare minimum to get a new franchise going. I’m not saying ‘Rogue One’ will be totally vanilla, but this one trailer reflected that for me and that’s just how I currently feel.

I’m still heavily looking forward to this movie. And even if it does turn out to be just “okay” story-wise, that’s totally fine. It’s a one-off, and it can’t possibly be as bad as Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. I understand I’m being a little harsh, it’s just one trailer that left me with the same excitement level I had before watching it. That’s all I’m really trying to get at. It should still be a very good movie, I would just like for the first anthology movie to be GREAT so that they have more of a reason to keep making them. I just wasn’t all that into this particular footage outside of the glamorous shots. But then again, it’s not trying to be sold to me. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd and will be seeing this opening night no matter what.

I’m hoping that this excited casual fans who were more or less unaware of this movie and/or where it falls in the timeline. I think it’s important that people know what’s going on with this series so they don’t walk into a movie confused as hell about why they don’t see Rey, Finn, BB-8, or Kylo. So in that regard, I think this trailer did do it’s job trying to market it correctly.

 

125 days until ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ as of writing this!

 

 

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The Wrath of the Liebster Award Nominations

Proud to be nominated again for another Liebster Award by Reel Red Reviews!

 

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Reel Red Reviews’ Questions: 

 

1 – What’s the best movie you’ve seen in this year (so far)?

I will have to go with Captain America Civil War. It’s the only Marvel movie so far that has come close to giving me the same adrenaline rush I had with the first Avengers, and it just did so much right. Spider-Man’s introduction to the MCU was more perfect than I imagined, and Black Panther was a huge surprise.

I also really loved Deadpool, but Civil War wins overall.

2 – What’s the worst movie you’ve seen in this year (so far), and what made it so awful?

Probably ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’. I’m sure I’ll see something worse later this year, but this was just dumb. It shouldn’t have been hard to make a sequel to a movie that was already just a simple popcorn movie. I really believe if Will Smith agreed to do it, we would have had a completely different movie. I think he was what made the first movie work. And when you look at Roland Emmerich’s work post-ID4, he really hasn’t made a decent movie since then. ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ might be the only exception.

3 – What’s the worst remake you’ve ever seen?

Speaking of Roland Emmerich! The 1998 (American) Godzilla. I remember loving it as a kid, but I think I revisited it when I was about 11 or 12 and realized it was just terrible. The newest 2014 reboot was much better as far as quality. I still didn’t love that movie, but it at least gave me a large sense of excitement for sequels. I really want to see what happens in the follow-ups.

I HATE HATE HATE Tim Burton’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. Same can be said about his ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie too, although I vaguely even remember that.

I tend to avoid remakes honestly, unless I hear a lot of positive feedback behind one.

4 – Which actor/actress could you see yourself being best friends with?

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Donald Glover and Danny Pudi. Both of them.

5 – Pick a director to helm a movie about your life.

Speilberg.

6 – What’s your favorite iconic movie line?

“May the Force Be With You”

7 – If you were to work on a movie, which role do you see yourself best performing (i.e. writer, director, producer, actor, or…)?

I could see myself as an editor. I pay attention to a lot of detail, and I think it would be fun to be in an editing room, figuring out what various takes flow better, or don’t flow at all. Directing would be too much pressure. I’d be afraid of not being able to shoot anything that works, thus making the editor’s job a living hell.

8 – Who would win in a fight – Voldemort or Kylo Ren?

Kylo Ren. Voldemort is a chump. The only real reason he was even a challenge to beat was because he split his soul into pieces that were very difficult to come by. Then he relied on a wand that ended up not working for him. His whole plan for becoming the most powerful wizard was constructed by a series of weird loopholes. Kylo comes off as weak, but his one real goal is to just be evil, and he succeeded in just one movie so far. He killed his own father and led the First Order to destroy several systems at once. Luke saved Vader from 30 of Dark Side consumption and he couldn’t save Kylo from even before he started to fall? That’s gotta say something…

Voldemort was stopped by a damn baby when he was in his prime. His failures just made him a sore-loser.

9 – Do you believe in aliens, ghosts, and/or the Loch Ness Monster?

Yes, yes, and maybe.

Aliens gotta be out there in this infinite universe. We have to accept that in our lifetime, there is a pretty decent possibility we might get to learn some truth to this. I don’t believe that we’re the only living things in this entire universe.

Ghosts are crazy. There’s no real way of knowing, but I’ve heard enough stories and I believe they’re true.

I used to believe in Nessie, but I think they would have found him by now. At least a skeleton.

10 – In how many years do you predict that they’ll start working on a film about Brexit?

2 years for the crappy version that doesn’t get a lot of key information right, and 4 years for the one that’s accurate and Oscar-worthy. That’s usually how these things work.

11 – What’s the best vacation you’ve ever had?

Probably when I went to Germany in 2008. Two full weeks, learned a lot, had my first beer(s), saw a lot of cool history, ate lots of sausage and Nutella. I’d love to go to Europe again!

 

 

 

Thank you so much for the nomination and the great questions!

I will now nominate Starloggers and vinnieh!

Your questions are:

  1. What’s your favorite movie vehicle?
  2. What are your Top 3 2017 movies that you’re most looking forward to?
  3. What’s a biopic you’re absolutely dying to see made?
  4. Name a film that deserves a spin-off. Not a sequel, prequel, or reboot of the same story. But just a new movie, in that same world- following new characters/objectives. For example; mine would be Inception.
  5.  What’s your favorite remake?
  6. Many film series are often criticized for disappointing third chapters. What are a few of your favorite “3rd films” in a series? LotR: Return of the King doesn’t count.
  7. Best and Worst Star Trek movies?
  8. Best and Worst James Bond movies?
  9. Favorite film composer outside of John Williams?
  10. Name a trailer that’s better than the movie it’s promoting.
  11. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
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‘Ghostbusters’ Review

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I’ve never seen such controversy for a movie in my life. There are so many people out there who have been pre-hating this since it was announced, and are still sticking by their hatred without giving this a chance at all. I was actually moderately excited for it, but must admit that with every piece of marketing ‘Ghostbusters’ put out, I got less and less excited.

So finally, I got to see it for myself and…

I liked it a lot! It’s definitely way better than the trailers made it seem, which I kind of expected honestly. I’ve noticed that in general, it’s pretty difficult to craft a good trailer for a comedy. So much of the humor in this movie only works because of its context. When taken out, the jokes wouldn’t work.

Thankfully, that’s all I was really looking for in this movie. “Was it funny”?

It absolutely was. The humor in this is nearly as good as it is in the original movie, and I actually think I laughed more with this than I did with ‘Ghostbusters II’. If you’re a fan of Paul Feig’s movies, or even the episodes of ‘The Office’ that he’s directed, you’ll get a lot of good laughs with this.

This movie does have one major issue though. Much of the disappointment I had with this was already present before sitting down in the theater, even though I’ve tried very hard to come to terms with this issue.

I’ve wanted a ‘Ghostbusters 3’ my whole life, and when this movie was announced, I was very sad to learn that it was a reboot, and not a continuation of the original two movies. It’s worked so well, even recently with movies like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘Jurassic World’, and ‘The Force Awakens’. All of these being reboots but with loose connections to what came before.

I still must stand by that this is the films’ biggest flaw. The movie doesn’t go 15 minutes without making a reference, or showing a cameo from the original movie. These references and cameos were funny, but it was distracting due to what they could have been. Why make constant references, and why bring back nearly every surviving cast member, and NOT allow them to be the same characters they were before??? It couldn’t have been that difficult.

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HOWEVER! What we got overall was still very good. Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth absolutely stole the show, and were easily the funniest parts of this. Even Leslie Jones, (who I predicted would be a very annoying character) ended up being terrific. The overall dynamic and chemistry between these leading ladies was fantastic. And I honestly don’t think they could have done a better job matching these dynamics to that of the original cast than what was done here. If this went south, the movie would have sucked completely.

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The original will always be the best, but again- the original being totally separate from this is part of the only reason I give this real criticism at all. The movie constantly tries to remind the viewer that this is based off of a classic that will be loved for generations. It felt very off-putting that they were trying to both distance itself from the original, yet always try and refer to it. If it was a sequel, this wouldn’t have been a problem.

But if you pretend that this is just some weird- parallel dimension sequel that takes place in an alternate reality where the original Ghostbusters live different lives and ghosts didn’t begin to make their occurrence until 2016, this movie works way better. And hey, that’s not too far fetched when Ray Stantz brings up parallel dimensions to Gozer in the original film. That’s just my franchise OCD talking though, and my overall disappointment that a third movie was never made with the original cast.

With all of that said though, this is actually a very good Ghostbusters movie that can be watched right alongside the original two films…even if they aren’t really connected.

It definitely had the right feel when it came to the horror/comedy elements. This- mixed with the great cast, and very funny moments made this reboot at least better than ‘Ghostbusters II’, and a worthy entry to the Ghostbusters franchise.

Rating: B

 

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What I’ve Seen Lately – July 2016

Aside from my opinion pieces that I intend on being my main effort, I still want to go through some of the movies that I’ve seen lately, and basically just give short reviews on them.

I watch a lot of movies, between actually going to the theater, watching something via streaming, or even viewing newer releases with Netflix’s mail service. So there’s really not enough time for me to write full reviews on each individual thing I see. My hope is that I’m still able to offer my thoughts and opinions on any movie I see, but just in a more condensed way. I intend to start doing this at least once a month!

We’ll start with what I’ve seen in theaters over the last couple of months.

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‘X-Men: Apocalypse’

I thought about writing a full review on this, like I do with most comic book movies. But I think I can say what I need right here.

I liked it a lot. I know there are a lot of people out there that thought it was pretty mediocre, but this was honestly more of a real team-based X-men movie than anything we’ve gotten before, and because of that- I really really liked it. It showcased some of my favorite X-men as their younger selves, with Cyclops finally given some real screen time for once. The Quicksilver scene was phenomenal, and probably even funnier than the one in ‘Days of Future Past’.

I loved the newly (re)introduced characters so much and I really hope to see more of them in future movies. I’m waiting quite anxiously for the announcement of the next film in the mainline X-men series.

I do have some minor complaints about the story of the movie. It was basically ‘X2’ again, and Wolverine’s cameo felt a little forced, even though the sequence itself was very cool. I’m kind of done seeing these characters age by 10 years and not showing it. It’s weird. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but ‘Days of Future Past’ was supposed to fix the continuity of this series. They’re still making decisions like this that are making me truly believe Fox doesn’t give the slightest crap about any continuity whatsoever.

But all in all, I thought this was a very solid entry. It served as a good finale to what began with ‘First Class’, and even made me more excited for whatever is to come next. I just hope they stray away from the formula, and continue to tell great stories with the characters we see in the final shots of ‘Apocalypse’. That’s the roster I’ve been dying to see more of.

Recommended? Absolutely. But if you’ve never been an X-Men fan in the first place, this won’t be the one to win you over.

 

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‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’

Definitely can’t say much here. I like TMNT. I grew up watching all the cartoons, and the original live-action movies are big guilty pleasures of mine. I even found solid enjoyment out of the first movie in this reboot series.

Is this 2nd movie any good? Eh.

If you grew up with the Turtles, you’ll dig it. It’s a big giant homage to the original series. We had Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Casey Jones, and Baxter Stockman here, which was pretty cool.

It was fun, at least for me… but it’s not a good movie. It’s a good TMNT movie I guess, but if this has never been your thing, then it’s as simple as that. This was truly made for the kids that are under the age of 11 that watch the new show, and their parents that could watch this and reminisce over the original show.

Recommended? No. But if you’re a fan of the Turtles, check it out. It’s dumb fun.

 

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‘Finding Dory’

I almost forgot this Pixar sequel was a thing until the week this came out. I LOVE ‘Finding Nemo’, however I never really thought it needed a sequel. And I was afraid that this would be very underwhelming, so I kept my expectations low.

But this was very enjoyable. I didn’t think it was as good as ‘Nemo’, but the movie at least did something different. The first 10 minutes I was scared that the movie was going to follow the same beats as the first movie, but then it really started to stand on its own quite well.

It’s no ‘Inside Out’, and even as far as Pixar sequels go, I’d say it’s a little more ‘Monsters U’ than it is ‘Toy Story 2’. But I liked ‘Monsters University’.

‘Finding Dory’ is another solid entry in the Pixar catalog.

Recommended? Yes.

 

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‘The Legend of Tarzan’

I fell asleep. It was boring.

Recommended? No. But I also don’t know for sure. So don’t take my word for it.

 

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‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

Look, the first Independence Day is by no means a “good” movie. But it’s FUN! What made it that way? The characters. All of them having charisma. Will Smith was just having fun being a bad-ass, and Jeff Goldblum was being Jeff Goldblum. And it was such a delight watching them together kicking alien ass and smoking stogies. And never forget Bill Pullman’s awesome Presidential speech. Never.

So take Will Smith out and replace him with two lame actors, get Bill Pullman’s character to act like a total Looney Tune, and get Jeff Goldblum to not be all that Jeff Goldblum… what do you get?

Just a plain, un-charismatic, shit-movie.

Recommended? No.

 

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            What I’ve Streamed/Rented:

 

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‘The Walk’

Really really entertaining movie. If you like Robert Zemekis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Cast Away), this shouldn’t be any different.

Although I might suggest that if you take medication for anxiety- you might wanna pop that pill before the final act of this movie.

Recommended? Yes.

 

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‘Now You See Me’

Entertaining. But not for me. I found the story to be pretty uninteresting, and the twists were pretending to be more clever than they really were. I watched it because the sequel was coming out, and needless to say, I didn’t see the sequel and I probably never will.

Recommended? Not really. But there is some fun to be had. It’s not exactly a waste of time, but there are better things to see.

 

 

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‘Steve Jobs’

Writer Aaron Sorkin is a name worth mentioning when talking about some of the best screenwriters of our time. While I like him, I do find his writing to be a little inconsistent. For the most part, it’s great. But sometimes he will write dialogue for characters that is either unrealistic, unnecessary, or just straight up pretentious. This can be found in his HBO show ‘The Newsroom’, as some episodes are pure excellence, while some fall totally flat for me.

I have loved Sorkin’s work for both ‘Moneyball’, and ‘The Social Network’. However, much like ‘The Newsroom’, this movie fell flat in a few areas, but was ultimately pretty good.

‘Steve Jobs’ is definitely more of a character piece than it is about the products that made him famous. Knowing that going in might be a healthier approach in regards to whatever expectations you might have. His work plays a big role, but it’s more about how Jobs was as a person. When the script actually focuses on that, the movie is excellent. But when it delves into other areas, it lingers. And it’s easy to see that there were elements of Sorkin’s more pretentious writing that took over certain scenes.

The performances are great though, even when certain scenes feel a bit strange. Michael Fassbender killed it.

Recommended? Yes. But it depends on who you are. If you’re familiar with the “walk and talk” style that Aaron Sorkin is notorious for, and you’re not a fan- it’s not for you. If you do like this style, it’s worth checking out, but don’t expect too much of a great thing.

 

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‘Daddy’s Home’

I like both Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, especially when they’re together. ‘The Other Guys’ is probably my favorite buddy-cop movie that wasn’t made in the 80’s.

When I watch a comedy, all I expect it to do is make me laugh. This movie looked horrendous, but it was surprisingly very entertaining, and I got many good laughs out of it.

Recommended? Sure.

 

 

 

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The Effect of the Shared Universe Model

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So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have noticed that sequels/spin-offs/reboots/prequels/requels/whatever else have been coming out at an insanely rapid pace over the last few years. Due to this, geeks around the globe rejoice because of how much content we get to enjoy. Then there are others who aren’t entirely happy about it, but honestly find all the wrong reasons to complain.

These are the two things that people complain about that I am so sick and tired of hearing:

  1. Franchise fatigue
  2. Hollywood doesn’t make anything “original” anymore

    So my goal of this is to talk about film franchises and shared universes, and how they’re actually evolving the film industry, and not setting anything back. Even though the shared universe model is newer to us and has been a great success for the most part, I still see numerous people out there who don’t seem to understand what the ultimate goal of it is. 

The shared universe model truly began in 2008, with the release of ‘Iron Man’. To avoid a full history lesson, we’ll just say that in the years following, ‘Iron Man’ not only spun-off its own series, but an entire series of interconnected films. Franchises within franchises. A Franchise-ception, if you will. After the massive success of ‘The Avengers’, many other film studios have started the process of building their own universes, in order to develop the same success story the Marvel Cinematic Universe has.

Before 2008, we had to wait years for a sequel to our favorite movies. The wait for each Star Wars prequel nearly killed me as a kid, and I’m sure people growing up in the 80’s felt the same way with the originals. Even Harry Potter, which at the time produced its films at a pretty quick pace, felt like forever compared to how long we wait for certain movies now. Of course, there are still many big-budget franchises where we still have this kind of wait. But it seems like there are so many others that hold us over in the process. So much so, that even one series on its own has movies to hold us over from within. The wait for ‘Star Wars Episode VIII’ feels a lot less painful knowing we’ll have ‘Rogue One’ in the meantime.

This is what the shared universe meant to me for awhile. I saw ‘The Avengers’ in 2012 and knew that I wouldn’t be getting another Avengers movie for another three years. But to hold me over, there would be a third Iron Man movie, a second Thor, and a second Captain America. The truth is, I didn’t even look forward to these movies that much, because I thought it was so much better to see these characters all together. I almost felt that stand-alone movies would be a step backwards after seeing ‘The Avengers’.

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Then I actually saw ‘Iron Man 3’ and was surprised by how much fun I had with it. Say what you want on the movie, but in my opinion, it gave a far better character study to Tony Stark than any team up movie would have, and was a much more enjoyable experience than ‘Iron Man 2’.

‘Thor: The Dark World’ was okay. This was definitely an example of a Marvel movie that was made to hold the fans over while waiting for something better. But at the time, I still thought that the “something better” meant ‘Age of Ultron’.

I was proven wrong of course in 2014 with the release of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’. This movie actually had an even BETTER story than ‘The Avengers’, and ended up changing so many things that we had been used to. Turns out, when watching the movies that followed- this movie in particular could not be missed. It basically restructured SHIELD, and changed Steve Rogers’ viewpoints on the world.

One of the great things about the movies leading up to ‘The Avengers’ was that you didn’t necessarily have to see all the movies that came before it. Sure, it made for a great experience if you did, but it wasn’t a prerequisite. You didn’t have to see ‘Iron Man 2’ to understand what was going on in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, or ‘Thor’. They were separate franchises, until the time came where they’d crossover.

However as time goes on, it’s beginning to look like this is all about to change, and I think people need to be well aware of this. I just recently wrote my review on ‘Civil War’, and I stated that this was the first time I truly felt with a Marvel movie that the viewer actually needed to see a select few movies beforehand in order to understand and feel what was going on.

‘Civil War’ not only tells a Captain America story, where you need to see the first two to really get it, but it also offers so much more. It’s Iron 3.5, it’s Avengers 2.5, it’s an introduction mini-movie for Black Panther and Spider-Man! It’s actually INSANE how many of these things are tackled in the movie, and at the end of it all, it was still just a Captain America movie at its center core.

So you might be thinking, “Wow, this is just way too much for people to keep track of now”. And sure, I can understand that. But is that what you say when you’re watching a television show? If you miss an episode of any show that follows an on-going story-arch, you will feel confused. If you miss multiple episodes, you’ll just be completely lost. The MCU is no longer a traditional film series. It’s a big-budget television show, where you just have to wait a few months between episodes.

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It’s not James Bond, where you can pick up anywhere and get the gist of things. And if you’re looking for a TV comparison, it’s not NCIS. I honestly predict that ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ will be required viewing for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.

I’ve even heard many complaints that they are starting to feel fatigued from all of these movies. If that’s you, it simply means you’re probably just not invested in it that much. But the money is speaking, and the MCU just made its 10 billionth dollar. There were numerous people who saw trailers for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Ant-Man’, who truly believed Marvel was scraping the bottom of the barrel and decided to not see those movies because they thought the train was starting to slow down. Us real Marvel fans laugh in the faces of those people now because those two movies I just mentioned were massive successes both financially and critically. ‘Ant-Man’ was among my Top Five movies of 2015 and I liked it even more than ‘Age of Ultron’- a movie I was anticipating for three years! I was one of these people who wanted to push the standalone movies aside and just get the big team ups, and then look what happened. Most of those standalones ended up being more enjoyable. ‘Age of Ultron’ ended up being a weaker episode to an otherwise excellent season of Marvel movies.

Even outside of all of this, we have the Netflix Marvel shows that differ greatly from the movies! Yeah, they’re connected to a degree… but they don’t focus much on trying to make references to them, and that’s why these shows (on their own) work insanely well. Daredevil and Jessica Jones are both very adult and dark, which added even more freshness to the MCU as a whole. Daredevil feels a bit familiar as it draws a lot from Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. However, there is enough there to differentiate it, and really makes for its own thing. Jessica Jones on the other hand was not only one of the best things I’ve seen come out of the MCU, but one of the most original/intriguing things I’ve seen in general. Sure, it’s still a comic book adaptation, but it was unlike anything I’ve seen before. And it was easily one of the best things I saw this year, accounting for both television and film.

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Marvel structures and groups their films in “Phases” and these phases play out just like seasons of a television show. Or- you could even say like a traditional three-act structure that a movie, book, or play abides by. Phase 1 is where we are introduced to all of the characters. You get an understanding of who they are, where they come from, and what drives them. Phase 2 is there to further the story. This is where we see things shifting gear, or things hitting rock bottom before they’re able to get back up. ‘Winter Soldier’ saw the fall of SHIELD and the resurgence of HYDRA. The second Thor film and Guardians introduced us to an important plot device that sets up the final phase. Phase 3 will be the culmination of everything we’ve seen before. But already, I have burning questions. What will get Tony to fight alongside Steve Rogers again? Where are Thor and Hulk? What will happen in the Black Panther movie, and will Captain America and/or Bucky be a part of it like it was teased? How will Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Drax end up fighting alongside Ant-Man, Spider-Man, and literally everyone else?

It’s already been confirmed that Robert Downy Jr. will be a part of ‘Spider-Man Homecoming’. Since this is the case, it’s very obvious that the relationship we saw between Tony and Peter in ‘Civil War’ was essential, and that even the events of that movie will play a key role to the events of this Spider-Man flick.

I truly believe that this sense of “fatigue” is only being mentioned by those that just simply don’t have enough interest to keep going with something. And I also really believe it is their lack of understanding that Hollywood is trying to approach their films with more of a television model now.

Let’s compare the MCU, DC Extended Universe, and Star Wars to the most popular show that is currently on television, ‘Game of Thrones’. We’re currently on our 6th season of GoT, and there are 10 episodes in a season, and each episode is nearly a full hour long- give or take a couple of minutes.

This means that so far, since 2011- we are approaching 60 hours of GoT. That’s 10 hours a year on 1 story vs. 2-4 hours a year in either the Star Wars, DC or Marvel universes.

And there are people saying that Star Wars/Marvel/DC might feel over-saturated???!!!

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One particular issue that many might bring up, at least in regards to Star Wars is: Each movie tends to repeat a formula, while each episode of GoT might actually feel quite fresh story-wise. This is just using GoT as an example though. Let’s not forget about network shows that actually do have the same formula each episode (NCIS, Law & Order,etc…). People love GoT, Breaking Bad, and House of Cards since they stray away from these formulas, and because they know people will get bored of that when they binge-watch. But television has the ability to expand their stories. So much so, that there is far more set-up, than actual pay-off. I didn’t feel pay-off for the television show LOST, until pretty much the final moments of that show.

But a formula is just the structure of a movie. Period. It’s actually needed so that there’s just the need to watch the movie, and go home, and not think “Oh, I gotta binge watch 5 more movies to see what happens next!” People want a sense of finality or closure when their movie ends, and in order to get to that, you have to use a three-act structure/formula. Some movies might end on a cliffhanger, but the viewer should still feel satisfied with a certain pay-off the story gives first, before teasing where the story will go next. ‘The Force Awakens’ did this perfectly. It felt like a complete journey, with a beginning, middle, and end. But then the ending also left you wanting to see where the journey would go next.

A studio should never feel the need to make a movie that is all set-up and no pay-off. There are exceptions, such as when a studio decides to adapt a book and split it into parts. (i.e. Harry Potter, Hunger Games, The Hobbit, etc…) Funny enough, people have taken issue on those movies. Specifically for the reason that one movie was all set-up, while the other was all pay-off. And how are they supposed to feel that pay-off emotionally if they watched the set-up a full year beforehand? They’ve forgotten why they should be emotionally invested in these characters and the events that transpire. So with all of that said, when studios have an idea for any movie, the goal should be to make that one movie good, and then they can see how the story can continue later, after they have seen how receptive the audience was.

This is a huge reason the latest Terminator movie failed. They went into it with the plan of it being a trilogy, and their movie ended up being a confusing mess that spat on the face of the first two films. Most importantly, there was simply no interest from the audience to have it continue. Had the movie been good, and then also set up the possibilities for more movies, fans would have been far more open to that. Whereas, with ‘The Force Awakens’: They brought a franchise that was more or less “done” back from the dead, gave us a good movie first and foremost, and then gave us the bits that would lend to the story continuing.

Maybe Marvel plays certain movies safe. And by that I mean, not all of them are AMAZING, but none of them are piss poor either. I think most of us can agree that ‘Thor: The Dark World’ is not the greatest installment of the MCU. But it was at least good enough for the audience to say “hey, I still like Thor and can’t wait to see what’s next for him”! ‘Terminator: Genisys’ on the other hand had people walking out saying the same thing they’ve been saying since 2003. “They should have left it at T2”. Fun fact– both of these movies I just mentioned were directed by the same person. A director who has also been behind the camera for a few episodes of Game of Thrones too. So if that isn’t proof that the studios are more in control of a final product when we’re dealing with a big-budget movie, I don’t know what is.

And that leads me to my next point. This is all a part of a studios’ plan! Much like how it’s HBO’s plan to tell their Game of Thrones story, it is Disney’s plan to keep Marvel Studios and LucasFilm active, to generate successful story-telling. If you watch GoT, or literally any show at all that produces 10+ episodes a year, you should not be complaining that LucasFilm is putting out 1 Star Wars movie a year, or that Marvel and DC put out 2 movies a year. This is intentional for the story they’re trying to tell. They want it to feel like a big-budget television show. If you don’t like it, that does not mean that everyone else will share that opinion. It means that you simply aren’t invested enough in the stories that they are telling. It’s no different than the reason I STOPPED watching ‘The Walking Dead’. I just didn’t like the show. Others do, and that’s fine. That’s why it keeps going. And that’s why anything keeps going. It has interest, and ratings/money reflect that.

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Now sure, there is the issue of the movie ticket. It’s not cheap. And this is something I think is a really huge issue. This is a big reason many people only go to the movies so often. That could be a whole different discussion. However I do believe we’re starting to see the evolution of the cinema just by the content that is being put out and what we choose to see.

Take a movie like ‘The Nice Guys’, that just bombed at the box office, even though it had extremely high praise. What does this say about the movie-going public? From my eyes, it looks as though people are starting to be content with their smaller, low budget stuff being available to them at home, and seeing the bigger/louder stuff at the theater.

I’m totally one of these people! I really wanted to see ‘The Nice Guys’, but I also wasn’t dying to check it out right away at the theater to be painfully honest. I had an X-Men movie I wanted to get to first, because I knew that watching a movie like X-Men at home would not be the same experience. So I pushed the Shane Black movie to the side for a later weekend… and what happened? It was no longer playing at the theaters near me because it wasn’t making money. The theater chains started to pull it in favor of adding more showings for ‘Civil War’ and ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’…ya know, movies that would draw in more business. Yeah that’s kind of my own fault, but I’m also not that sad about it, because I know that in a short few months, I will have the opportunity to see it by renting it.

To those with the complaint that movies aren’t original anymore- you’re wrong. This is an example of what happens to the original movies that are released. They are there. You’re just not seeing them. Why? Because you’d rather spend your buck on the bigger mass-marketed movies that are an adaptation/sequel/reboot of something else that already exists. That also shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing either. I think it’s all a part of the evolution for film and television.

If you don’t believe me, then here- take this link. This is the “coming soon” list from IMDB that has every movie that is being released in the not too distant future. Now I just went through it and counted for June, July, and August of 2016 for my sample. These 3 months are huge for sequels/reboots/remakes, and this is where their numbers would be highest. I counted 16 movies between June 3rd and the end of August that would fall under the category of sequels/reboots/remakes. How many original movies? 50.

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We’re also now living in a world where some of the best original content is sitting right in your streaming services. So you have all of that stuff to account for too! If Adam Sandler can translate his box office failures to some kind of success on Netflix, you can expect a lot more original movies and shows to debut on these streaming services in the future, while the cinema will be reserved for the “event” films.

I realize a lot of what I’ve said in this post might be completely obvious to many of you reading this. But believe me, there are so many people out there that don’t understand this. There are people that feel that an annual Star Wars movie will end up being a bad thing. There are people that think that having ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and ‘Doctor Strange’ (two completely different films tonally) being released in the same year will create mass exhaustion.

If you do start to feel that way, that’s fine. But just because it happens to you doesn’t mean it will happen to a billion other people in the world. Just like any TV show, if you don’t like it anymore, just stop watching it. Maybe superheroes or Star Wars just isn’t your thing, the same reason zombies aren’t my thing. But someday, I’m sure there will be a cinematic universe that will appeal to you, if there isn’t one already. We’ve got Universal working on a Monsters Universe, which could be a fun return to old-school horror adventure, and we’ve got Legendary Entertainment working on crossovers with Godzilla, King Kong, and all of those other giants. That sounds super entertaining! We even have a Transformers universe in the works… though I’m not sure who that’s really for honestly.

My point in all of this?

The shared universe model is just another piece of cinema evolution.

So next time you come across someone that brings up “franchise fatigue”, or “nothing is original anymore”- show them this post. It might actually shut them up.

Corey Posnanski

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