Robots, Strippers and the Best of 2015 (So Far)

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The idea that Hollywood is reliant on sequels and franchises is nothing new. If anything has changed, it’s that the films no longer have any real interest in working on their own terms. Call it the Marvel Effect if you wish, but the first priority of so many blockbusters these days seems to be the life of the franchise rather than the story they are attempting to tell in the moment. This is certainly the case with Terminator Genisys, which refurbishes the universe of James Cameron’s creation for the modern cinematic age. Of all the ways to make a new Terminator film, the method chosen by the filmmakers is truly one of the weirdest—it is at once a slave to the franchise’s past and a clear attempt at creating something new. It does neither job well, and ultimately betrays the best aspects of the franchise it is trying so hard to revitalize. Continue reading

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Nothing More Than Feelings

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Pixar was in an interesting position entering 2015, and for the first time there was a real sense that audiences and critics were starting to lose interest. The company that once dominated the theatrical animation market no longer seemed to be at the top of the mountain. 2014 was the first year without a new Pixar film since 2005, and its three latest releases (Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University) failed to live up to the studio’s usually high standards. It may be unfair to expect a classic year in and year out from anybody, but for years Pixar made it seem possible. However, the best way to end the talk of a creative decline is to unleash a film like Inside Out on the world, which stands among the best things the studio has ever done. Continue reading

Vanity Fare

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More so than ever, we seem to live in a cultural world unable to let things die. Every time a television series is canceled, or ends its run voluntarily, there are immediate calls for it to be resurrected elsewhere in TV or movie form. The former makes a bit of sense, but the idea of making a feature film as a sequel to any series has never added up for me. For one, most television shows are television shows for a reason, making their formulas particularly ill fitting for feature length. This is especially true of Entourage, a 30-minute HBO show that has been blown up to 100 minutes and given a wide theatrical release. Its formula is so low-stakes, so predictable, and, frankly, so uninteresting that attempting to turn it into a worthy cinematic event seems inherently like a fool’s errand. Continue reading

Optimism, Destroyed by Earthquake

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.28.17 PMThis post vaguely discusses the end of Tomorrowland

There’s a scene toward the end of Tomorrowland, the latest blockbuster Disney adventure directed by Brad Bird, where we are presented with a long monologue about how humans have made no effort to avoid the apocalypse—in fact, we have embraced it, particularly in our media and entertainment. Not 24 hours after I sat through this sermon, I decided to take in San Andreas, the smash Dwayne Johnson vehicle that depicts the obliteration of California by earthquake. It was difficult not to constantly think back to the Disney film’s words about how we view the apocalypse while sitting through all the CGI mayhem, and it seems the more movies I watch the less patience I generally have for the use of mass disaster as a means of entertainment. Millions may die and cities may be leveled, but who cares as long as Johnson gets back to his family? Continue reading

Assembled Again, With Extra Parts

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On Avengers: Age of Ultron and the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

In the three years since its release, it has become increasingly clear that The Avengers is one of the most significant movies ever released. Its impact on the modern film landscape has been massive, and what began as a nifty experiment by Marvel Studios eventually became a behemoth that caused every other studio in town to come up with their own “shared universe” properties. The most direct competition will come from DC Comics and Warner Bros., who jump headfirst into the game next year with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. There have also been attempts from Sony and 20th Century Fox, and there’s even been talk of a new Universal Monsters franchise. But try as they might, thus far, no one has come close to matching Marvel’s dominance. Continue reading

Every Best Picture Winner Since 2000, Ranked

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.48.18 PMSo here is a dumb little exercise I decided to tackle for no reason. Following the end of the Oscars on Sunday, I started to look back on the Best Picture winners of recent years. And, honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. As much as we like to complain about the movies that win Academy Awards, the truth is that the winners are rarely genuinely bad. If anything, we get angry because they choose the wrong kind of good movie, consistently showing affection for solid, inoffensive, B-plus material while passing by more ambitious, bolder fare. Anyway, for kicks and giggles, I decided to rank every Best Picture winner since the turn of the century, explain my verdict, and then provide my choice for the nominee that should have won that year. I’ve also decided to divide the winners into three tiers: the years when the Academy chose well, the years when the Academy chose a good movie instead of a great one, and the years where they just plain blew it. Now, let’s get started. Continue reading