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Monday, October 6, 2014

Is 'Interstellar' The Next Big Discovery?

     Recently, astronomers and scientists have discovered an asteroid with rings, new moons orbiting Pluto, extrasolar planets, a star that is 13.6 billion years old, and the God particle. But there's another potential discovery that could be bigger than all: Interstellar. 
     As important as directors are, most are still unknown to the general public. Spielberg, Tarantino, Bay, Emmerich, Zemeckis, and Burton arguably help form the league of A-list directors, but one visionary has skyrocketed into a household name in recent years as well: Christopher Nolan. Thanks to the massively successful Dark Knight trilogy, and Inception, Christopher Nolan is now a huge deal. Not only are his movies success stories, they're also good. No movie he has directed has received a "rotten" tag on Rotten Tomatoes, and The Dark Knight is considered one of the best superhero movies of all time, and was the highest grossing for 4 years. But this isn't about Christopher Nolan, it's about his new project, and why it could be the next big thing in cinema, astrophysics, and life.
     Interstellar has been in development since 2006, and it's so ambitious that Paramount, Warner Bros, Legendary, and Synocopy have teamed up to finance and distribute it. Interstellar tells the simple story of a widow living on a dying Earth, who partners with a team of scientists to find new habitable worlds after they discover a wormhole. There's a couple reasons why that simple story could be the years biggest.
     In Interstellar, the Earth has been depleted of natural resources and agriculture. Mainly corn. No more corn means no more gas, cosmetics, hand soap, tires, Windex, toothpaste, aspirin, spark plugs, plastics, diapers, and corn chips ala Doritos, Cheetos, and Fritos. How can we survive on Earth without any of these products? Especially the Doritos? Can you really imagine traveling to Walmart, Target, Kmart, CVS, Publix, Kroger, and every vending machine in the world and not being able to find a single bag of Doritos? You'd die. In Interstellar, they don't want that to happen so they have to find alternatives, and thanks to the wormhole discovery, they're able to transcend space in a fraction of the time it would take without it. Matter of fact, without the wormhole, they would die before they got out of our solar system. Fascinating!
     Plenty of innovative movies have been set in space such as Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Gravity, and even though they provide inspiration, Interstellar is something not yet seen. Gravity was innovative in letting audiences feel what its like to orbit the Earth (minus the G's), but didn't go any further into space, 2001 was made before modern CG technology, and Star Wars and Trek are space operas. Interstellar is using real space travel, physics, and reality concepts, and with todays CG technology, Interstellar should be unlike anything we've seen. Gravity stayed contained with Earth's orbit, yet looked breath-takingly real; imagine Interstellar, that's going even further into the cosmos. We've seen time and time before that audiences love innovation and originality. In a sea of sequels, reboots, and remakes, original movies are a gasp of fresh air. If Interstellar's marketing can distinguish itself as that, it'll have no problem bringing in audiences. Much of movie was also filmed in IMAX, so that just adds to experience.
     The cast is also an A. Matthew McConaughey headlines, and he's hot off winning his first Oscar, and has lately been delivering acclaimed role after acclaimed role. Interstellar also stars Anne Hathaway, who won an Oscar a few years ago and is a household name, Jessica Chastain, whos been nominated 2 times since 2011, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Matt Damon, and the legendary Michael Caine, among others. All you're missing is Morgan Freeman and Marion Cotillard. Now a star-studded, Oscar-heavy cast doesn't always guarantee butts in the seats, see: The Counselor, but it doesn't help if your movie is also ebola of cinema. When you combine a good movie with a good cast, great things usually happen. See: American Hustle. Expect it here as well. 
     The fact that this is a Christopher Nolan movie also raises potential - and expectations. Because of Nolan's recent success, high-quality product is expected of him, and fanboys worry if this ambitious product could be an ambitious bust. But by what I've seen and heard so far of Interstellar, I think there's a better chance of Chipotle switching to an all-seafood menu, than Interstellar being a  fail.  Inception opened in 2010, featured an all-star cast, and an innovative concept, and went on to shock everyone and gross $825 million worldwide. A similar situation could be in store for Interstellar, but Nolan's name alone won't get it there. Warner and Paramount have to hook audiences with their marketing. Highlight the emotion, but dazzle us with shots of sexy Saturn. But, at the same time, Nolan's name will produce an awareness boost that a typical director doesn't have the luxury of.
      Marketing so far has been hot. TV spots have been airing since September, trailers have been well viewed online and in theaters, IMAX is being highlighted, and they're letting audiences know this is sort of Gravity Plus. Awarness is high, tracking is solid, and they show Saturn in every clip. All these factors can only help.
     Interstellar also has a prime release date: holiday season and Oscar season. It will have the Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, and Christmas season to buoy the gross. Interstellar will have to deal with the typical adult-targeting Oscar-hopeful competition, and there looks to be some good ones this year, but Interstellar still can set itself apart from the rest thanks to its concept.
    For it's budget, Interstellar is also putting emotion alongside spectacle, instead of giving it the backseat, which blockbusters typically tend to do. It's not just females that like emotion, we all do, since emotions is something we all feel every day. Having to leave your family behind to go transcend space? Having to deal with elements and worlds never before set foot on? Having to deal with the possible ending of the world? A world without Doritos? Yeah, this movie is gonna be hard-hitting. Even though it's a movie with wormholes and dried-up crops, it still has a human element, which is key.
    Early buzz has been good for Interstellar. Some critics and early viewers have gone as far as saying this movie will be one remembered for generations, like Jurassic Park, Jaws, and Forrest Gump. That's likely hyperbole, it's still pretty early, but the stars are still aligning for this to be a critical darling. Interstellar, though a blockbuster tentpole, will still rely on word-of-mouth to get the audiences coming. There's some big name stars and a big name director, but it's still not based on existing material, and the concept is still not a normal one. I personally believe Interstellar will open 60 million, but I think it's legs will chug on into the holidays. IMAX will be Interstellar's top hook to keep people coming through the fall.
    Interstellar may not be the "generational" event that some are hyping, but it should still be nothing short of (inter) stellar. Pun intended. Much of the movie was filmed with real IMAX cameras, and Warner Brothers has secured an exclusive IMAX deal, so that'll hopefully loft grosses for the studio, and put the audience in an immersive experience we may have never seen before on screen in modern times. It's still hard to predict this movie. It could finish with $250 million domestic and $800 million worldwide, or $150 million domestic and $400 million worldwide, or $400 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide, we just don't know.
    Either way, Interstellar looks to be shaping up to be a big discovery: a discovery for moviegoers and cinema. A reason why we go to the movies. Hollywood is not a fan of taking risks, but they took one here, and it as of now looks very well looks to be paying off. Let's see if it can be sustained. Interstellar starts next month. Order your tickets and stockpile your Doritos. Stay tuned to the news, because a new big discovery may have been made, and you don't want to miss it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How 'Guardians' and 'Turtles' Have Changed Us

      On August 1, we were introduced to Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. On August 1, we were also introduced to a new way the Hollywood scheduling game will be played. Before the release, even days before, people were skeptical of Guardians' potential. "Marvel's first flop?" "Will audiences connect with the characters?" "Will Guardians damage the Marvel brand?" "Are the characters too silly?" All these and more were asked until Guardians' midnight numbers rolled in. Groot and co. ended up grossing $94.3 million over the weekend: beating the undoubtedly more popular Spiderman and X-Men and falling only $1 million behind Captain America, which already opened to a surprising high. Yeah, so what, right? Plenty of movies have already opened to $94 million or higher: 31 to be exact, so why is Guardians so special? Well because Guardians, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have changed the game for the future.
     What makes Guardians' $94 million opening so impressive, other than it was it an original and unknown franchise, was that it did it in August. August in the past has mainly been seen as a dumping ground for Hollywood movies that were too good for September, but not sexy enough for the prime out-of-school days. Before Guardians, the highest opening for August was Bourne Ultimatum with $69 million. Even with inflation, it falls short of Guardians. Next up was 2001's Rush Hour 2 with $67 million. In terms of attendance, Rush Hour 2 still holds the crown. But that doesn't diminish Guardians' success. What's even more impressive is that a little, already hated by the internet movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was able to post the 4th best August opening of all time with $65.5 million the next weekend. Back-to-back weekends of over $170 million from the top 12 movies. No one saw it coming. This August is the first to gross $1 billion in sales, and saved summer 2014 from being a complete disaster. It was still a disaster, but not complete! This is also the first time in the modern era that August has beaten July, and that an August movie has finished #1 for the summer. 
     Guardians and Turtles have shown that you can still have a blockbuster opening in August; and not only opening, but also legs. Guardians, Turtles, Let's Be Cops, and other releases last month have been legging it out better than most of the bulimic May-July releases. Guardians is already the highest grossing movie of the year and will eventually reach $300 million. Turtles still has a shot at $200 million, and Let's Be Cops had a soft opening, but will finish higher than other higher-profile summer comedies Sex Tape, A Million Ways to Die, Blended, and Think Like A Man 2. Already, studios are starting to flood August 2015, '16, '17 and beyond will higher profile movies. The previous problem has been studios trying to cram everything in May-July, mainly May, but thanks to the success of Guardians and Turtles, August has been given new hope.
     Guardians' success also means more assemble movies, and Turtles' means more 80 and 90's nostalgia. Guardians gave Marvel new confidence, and now they have announced Inhumans. Sony has now put Sinister Six back on track, and Fox has something up their sleeve with their Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises. Warner may also be exploring the possibilities of assembles outside of Justice League. Del Toro's dreamed Justice League Dark could also possibly get off the ground. Turtles, that Saved By the Bell special, a Full House revival: the 80's and 90's is about to take back over, and deservedly so. But thanks the success of Turtles, one 90's franchise has just struck a July 2016 date: Power Rangers. That's right, they're bringing back Power Rangers. The possible reboot had been announced before Turtles was released, but after Hollywood saw decades-old Turtles shocking success, Lionsgate quickly found a date. With so many great things to come out of the 90's, don't be surprised to soon hear more announcements. Animaniacs? Doug? Seinfeld: The S#8t They Didn't Show? We'll see.
     October and April have also been seeing massive success lately, and March is now a certified powerhouse month, so hopefully this will lead to movies being more spread out in the future. One of the most shocking date announcements is Batman vs Superman being released in March, instead of the traditional summer. This movie is arguably the most anticipated of 2016, and is with Avengers 2  for near future movies, but it just screamed summer. But, this is a good thing. Warner Brothers has confidence that people will still see the two most popular heros, no matter the month, and they're correct. Does this mean the end of the summer season and beginning of the spread out 12-month fiscal year? No. Summer's still crammed, and for the most part, any movie with a budget of $150 million or higher is still finding home there, but it does mean that thanks to some newfound confidence, and breakout movies, these films will have more room to breathe. What if Guardians had underperformed, or even performed at expectations? What if Turtles had flopped like the internet was waiting for, or what if it had a modest, typical opening of $30-40 million? Hollywood still hasn't completely learned their lesson, and August may still stay 2nd-tier for a while, but Guardians and Turtles have broken some stigmas and given the studios confidence, showing they had a bigger impact other than their numbers on the 2014 box office calendar.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why 'Frozen' Has Put Us In A New Ice Age

     Are you tired of "Let it Go"? Too bad. You haven't seen Frozen yet? You live under a rock. What is your girlfriend, kid, and maybe even boyfriend going to dress as for Halloween? Elsa. Frozen and its associates have taken the world by storm. If you tell someone that Frozen is the biggest animated phenomenon since 2004, they may laugh at you, but it's true.
     What was that 2004 phenom? Shrek 2. Even ten years later, Shrek 2 remains the highest grossing animated film domestically at $441 million. Adjusted, Shrek 2 raked in $565 million - without 3D, making Shrek 2 likely the 2nd or 3rd biggest film of the 2000's decade. Ten years later, it's Frozen's turn. Frozen is the biggest animated movie since 2010's Toy Story 3. Frozen won't pass the domestic gross of TS3, but it doesn't need to to solidify its cultural status.
     While Toy Story 3 was the biggest animated movie in six years, it didn't have the impact that Frozen has had. Toy Story 3 had the luxury of 1 and 2 and was mainly huge in theaters, video, and merchandising. Frozen is not a sequel with 15 years of built-up goodwill, and has a few more categories that it gets to claim. From its stratospheric box office gross to its two Oscar wins to its staggering Youtube views, you just can't stop the Elsa blizzard. Looks like you just gotta freeze.
     Soundtrack. Frozen's soundtrack is pulling an Adele. It is the longest running #1 animated soundtrack in history and has been #1 on the Billboard 200 for 10 non-consecutive weeks, and shows no signs of slowing down soon. "Let it Go" has also peaked at #5 on the Billboard 100. Youtube. Frozen is a viral sensation. Firefighters, little girls, college students, violinists, soccer moms, African tribes, choirs, parody makers, celebrities, news anchors, and maybe even prisoners have been caught singing "Let It Go" and have made covers. The official "Let It Go" video has nearly 200 million views, the sing-a-long adds another 50 million, and the Demi Lovato version nets 137 million. Altogether, videos about "Let it Go" alone have generated over 500 million views. Just "Let it Go". Still not on the level of "Gangnam Style", but what other movie has pulled 500 million views and hundreds of covers for one song? None. Just Frozen.
     Home video. Frozen sold 3.2 million DVD's and Blu-rays in its first day of release; something that hasn't been done in a decade. For comparison, Toy Story 3 sold 3.8 million in its first week. The digital download is also the fastest selling of all time. Merchandise. Frozen's merchandising potential is seemingly unlimited. Who does synergy better than Disney? Furniture, plush toys, dolls, apparel, school supplies, snacks, Frozen on Ice, Frozen on Broadway, Lego Frozen, Disney Channel and ABC, Disney World and Disneyland appearances, games and apps, soundtracks, animated shorts, Olaf Christmas specials, costumes, it just doesn't end. The Anna and Elsa costumes will undoubtedly be the #1 costumes this upcoming Halloween, whether you're 6 or 26. There have also been reports of parents shelling out hundreds on Ebay for sold-out Frozen dolls to give to their daughters. Disney is trying it's best to keep Disney Stores stocked. Frozen merchandise sales are poised to surpass ticket sales (if it hasn't already).
     Even cosplay, fan-fiction, and conspiracy theories are becoming Frozen obsessive. If you didn't know, children don't really participate in those, so this shows how teens, young adults, and adults are embracing it as well. Was Olaf responsible for Stonehenge? Is Anna rigging the NBA? Is Elsa melting glaciers? Somewhere, someone thinks so.
     Lastly, the box office. Back in October, the average prediction for Frozen was $200 million domestic and $400 million overseas. Turns out...everyone was wrong. Frozen is now the highest grossing animated movie of all time worldwide and #6 overall. It is currently sitting at $1.2 billion, with Asia being a huge surprise contributor. South Korea, China, and Japan all gave Frozen a surprisingly warm welcome (no pun intended). Any day now, Frozen will cross $400 million domestic, becoming the 19th overall and 4th animated movie ever to do so. Frozen is also the 2nd biggest PG-rated movie ever, the 7th biggest overall of this decade so far, and the 2nd biggest animated of the 2010's so far, in North America. No one saw this coming, and the way Frozen was able to survive in mainstream theaters for five months (in dollar theaters now) shows how amazing of a reception the movie has received. 
     When I saw Frozen in theaters, a little girl walked in wearing Elsa's snow dress. I have never seen someone dress up to a movie before (I don't do midnights) and it was very aww-ing. That same girl also sang along. This has to have happened all across the country. I've overheard many people talking about Frozen in conversations and friends have asked me about it.
     If you think Frozen's pop-cultural impact is overrated, you're in a small, small, small minority. From 6 year old girls to 50 year old male news anchors, people just can't let go of Frozen. We haven't seen an animated movie phenomenon like this in a decade and Frozen deserves it all. There have even been reports that Anna and Elsa are soon going to be inducted into the Disney Princesses. Is there a Frozen 2 on the horizon? Many fans actually don't want a sequel because they don't want the charm of the original to be ruined, but when Frozen 2 is announced, it will be welcomed with open arms anyway. If it is not released in 2016, which is pretty likely it's not, don't expect it before 2018 based on Disney's current schedule. No telling when the Frozen train will slow down, but it's good to see the world coming together for something like this. Like Shrek, Pixar, and Despicable Me, Frozen had the perfect formula to make it happen. Now let's make like Olaf and bring back Summer, because the cold weather has to go.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Game of Hollywood Chicken 2

    I didn't think I'd have to write another one of these for a while, but here I am, writing another. And who better it involve than Warner Bros and Disney? It's not often that you see films targeting the same demographics open on the same day, but it does happen. Last year we had Furious 6 and Hangover 3. One prevailed, while the other obviously suffered. Now that that battle is over, another "foot" measuring contest has begun in Hollywood. Captain America 3 and Batman vs Superman (neither titles are official) are currently both set to bow on May 6, 2016. No, don't reach for your glasses, and no don't refresh the page, you read correct. Two superhero movies are currently playing chicken. They're not a week apart, even 2 days apart, no they're on the same damn day.
      In my opinion, both studios have a right to claim this spot, but then again they don't. "Marvel untitled film" was put in the spot last year, but Warner Brothers put an actual movie there first. So who stays? Currently, both studios say they're not backing down. The Marvelites argue that Cap should get the rightful spot because "Marvel was there first", but why didn't they just announce a movie there to begin with? This eeny-meeny-miny-moe culture with studios and dates is ridiculous. There's an "untitled Fox/Dreamworks/Blue Sky animation" set for December 21, 2018. WHY? Release dates are competitive, but you can't just slap your untitled and unconfirmed movie anywhere and call it your weekend. No. But at the same time, why is Warner Bros even making this a thing? A Marvel film has opened the first weekend of May every year since 2002, excluding '04-'06 . Warner has never released a DC Comics film in May, so why start now? June and July have been goldmines for WB and DC. To movie buffs, the 3rd Friday in July is "WB day", as they always release a tent-pole on that weekend. So why choose May? Why choose "Marvel day"?
     This date war is pretty amusing, considering both studios have so much to lose. Neither film is invincible. While Winter Soldier and Avengers 2 will propel Cap's popularity even further by the time Cap 3 comes around, Batman vs Superman seems like more of the event film. Fans have been waiting for these two heroes to share screen time since the invention of the wheel. Batman vs Superman will also include Wonder Woman for the first time, and will serve as the precursor to Justice League. The potential here is huge, maybe $400+ million domestic huge, and Cap's goodwill shouldn't be able to match it. At the same time, even though it may not be as big as BvS's, Cap 3 will have an audience. If these films stay in the same date, Cap 3 will put a dent in Batman vs Superman. Man of Steel was a mixed bag in reception and BvS will have to deal with a rebooted Batman universe, while Winter Soldier's word-of-mouth and reviews have been stellar. If Avengers 2 lives up to the hype, and "Avengers effect" keeps growing, then Cap 3 could cause even more damage than BvS would cause.
     Hardcore fans have also seemed to be pleased with most everything Marvel has been doing so far with Cap, Avengers and the MCU, while Man of Steel and BvS got and have been getting mixed receptions with the castings of Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, director Zack Snyder, and how WB has been handling their DC properties lately. (You watch the CW, right? Just check your TV guide, it's there somewhere.)
     WB has found success in mid-summer and Winter Soldier proved that Marvel can open big in April or anywhere (and no, April is not "summer" now, please stop with this). What if Warner gave the spot up to Disney, but then opened Batman vs Superman a week after Cap 3? What if Cap 3 just took April again? What if both left May? What if both just leave 2016 and never come out? Eh, okay.
     I'm personally excited for both movies and I think both have potential for $300 million or more domestic and $800 million worldwide, so what's the best solution? Initially, I felt that Warner should just give the date up and move to July 22, 2016, but they have now scheduled King Arthur for that date. The King is no match for the Bat, but I don't see WB shifting that unless production problems arise. No, DC-ers, I don't want BvS to move because Cap 3 will be "better" or "more hyped" or whatever, but because that date was wide open, and it's successful for WB. That July date would've provided BvS with less competition as late-July and August are weaker than May and early-June, so putting unknown King Arthur there instead is a dumb move, in my opinion. The first Captain America opened in July, so it's possible that Cap 3 just goes there as well and lets BvS take on that (eventually) crowded May schedule, but another, surprise surprise, "Marvel untitled" is currently sitting at July 8. That could be moved, but chances again are low. Spring could really work for Cap 3, which would make Cap 3 the event movie of the Spring, and allow Disney a head start on the Superman/Batman, Spiderman, and X-Men competition. November 2016 is also a possibility for either film, but December is not. A long, and I mean long, awaited film called Avatar 2 will be hitting a theater near you. Even though the Holiday season can provide great legs, the likelihood of either movie opening that far out is very slim. 12 months in the year is just not enough apparently.
     Ironically, this same thing is happening with How to Train Your Dragon 3 and Finding Dory for June 17, 2016, but we'll save that for another day. So, is it likely that Cap and Supes will still be opening on May 6, 2016 come May 5, 2016? No, very unlikely, but stranger things have happened and studios can be stubborn, and I'd imagine Disney and Warner will keep on driving towards each other for as long as possible until one finally takes that swerve of faith, which may be next week, or next year, or maybe never. No matter what happens, just make sure you have no plans for May 6, 2016. You will see what Clark did, you will join them in the Sun, or you will "hail Hydra!"

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why The 'Winter Soldier' Makes Marvel A Winner

      Let me start by saying Captain America: The First Avenger sucks. I didn't like it. I don't know why; it seemed like it had heart, but I just loathe it. I was not sold on the character of Captain America, though I do like Chris Evans in the role. Marvel's Avengers brought Cap back, and though I thought he was solid in it and brought team unity, he was nowhere as exciting as Iron Man and Hulk. Here comes Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it didn't look like Captain America 2, it looked like SHIELD: The Captain America Story. This concerned me. SHIELD was the least exciting thing about Avengers, they have a show on ABC that I don't watch, and I just didn't care to see them yet again so prominently. Well, I'll say again,  I did not enjoy the first Captain America. As it turns out, that was not same for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Honestly, it didn't even come close.
     Winter Soldier follows the life and times of Captain America/Steve Rogers, Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, Nick Fury/Nick Fury, and ya boy SHIELD after the attack on New York. Steve is doing fine, Natasha is doing fine, Nick is doing fine, and SHIELD is kicking tail better than ever. Steve has also made a new friend - Sam Wilson aka Falcon. After a mission on an oil tanker (like Captain Phillips with high tech weapons), it is revealed that SHIELD has been compromised. Steve and Natasha get framed and have to go on the run. When they figure out who is really controlling SHIELD and what their plans are, Steve, Natasha, Sam, and a couple other "trustworthies" must try to stop them. Oh, and there's also another small obstacle getting in their way - Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier. Bucky is a longtime friend of Steve, but parishes in the first Captain America. When Steve was recovered by SHIELD, it turns out Bucky was recovered by another significant group of people. He's been brainwashed and altered, and the only thing that goes through his brain is "kill my target". Steve and Bucky run into each other, and not in a normal way, and what follows is great characterization and stylized knife fights.
     I loved most aspects of Winter Soldier, so I'll start by saying the few things I didn't. The early parts of the movie, even though it does a good job at establishing characters, is still pretty slow. The first action sequence on the ship felt like a low-rent episode of 24. The Falcon didn't add much to the movie. This bothered me the most, considering I was really anticipating him. It was good to finally see another super-suited minority hero in the MCU (after War Machine/Rhodey), but he was severely underused. I liked Sam; he was funny and he fit in well with the already established team, but honestly if you cut out all of his scenes, it wouldn't have changed the movie one bit. It felt like once he would get in, he would get right back out. His screen time just flew by (pun intended). Bucky as Winter Soldier provided plenty of outstanding action, but a little more Bucky as Bucky would've been nice as well.
     There was also a lack of danger at times. I had this problem with Avengers too. The characters were hit with the elements: explosions, bullets, falls, punches, and even electrocution, but for the most part, they seemed to walk away unscathed. This makes what they're trying to accomplish feel too easy, especially for Black Widow. Yes shes the best at what she does, but will she ever get a noticeable cut? Falling off your bike in the park does more damage than hurdling through a window? Also, Steve and Natasha were confronted with a flash drive with precious data that they needed to extract. Like most movies, they got through the complex computer security, extracted the complex data, and found where they needed to go pretty easily. Can this plot point ever become a challenge? Also the score was forgettable, considering I've already forgotten it. The last problem I had was that damn shaky cam. It was headache by the first 15 minutes. It became less noticeable as the film went on, but I still wish it wasn't included at all.
     These sound like major complaints that would put the film in the C-range, but it's not like that. My overall feeling on Winter Soldier was that it was well executed. For someone that thinks the first movie is complete doo doo, they really made it easy to enjoy this one. Winter Soldier had a lot more wit than I thought it would, with all the major characters contributing. And speaking of characters, other than than Falcon, they all have great development, especially Steve. Every new complex thing tossed at him brings out a new dimension in his character. The chemistry between the characters, Falcon included, was also very strong. The action scenes and combat were well executed, and you could feel the drama during the fights, giving the action another dimension. The acting was great - Chris Evans is Captain America, the story was coherent, and the effects for the most part looked top notch. Winter Soldier was a lot more enjoyable than Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, which is ironic considering of phase one, First Avenger was the only one I didn't like. Winter Soldier has also done the best job in establishing a base and creating anticipation for Avengers 2. The filmmakers wanted to deliver, and they did, shattering my mid-range expectations. It's hard to call this one out and fault it after being such a big improvement. Here's hoping Captain America 3 is...well you already know - Winter Soldier 2 and not First Avenger 2.

A- -.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Year Of The SciFi

   2014 came up on us fast. We waved 2013 goodbye and brought in the big 1-4. 2014 is bringing an interesting huddle of movies to the screen. A big player of original movies is sci-fi movies. 2013 wasn't a disaster year for sci-fi, but it damaged its bankability. In my first sci-fi article, I discussed how After Earf, Oblivion, Star Trek Into Darkness, Pacific Rim, and The Host didn't put up the grosses studios and fans were hoping for. It was up to Elysium, Gravity, Ender's Game, and Thor 2 to turn things around. Well Ender came and went quietly, Thor's and Elysium's numbers were respectable, and Gravity was sensational - becoming the highest grossing October movie of all time, by far. All this still wasn't enough to redeem 2013's sci-fi slate.
     There's no point in crying over spilled milk. 2013 is done. 2014 has a fresh upcoming slate of sci-fi adaptions that could turn things around. Robocop, Transendence, Dawn of the Apes, Interstellar, Godzilla, Jupiter Ascending, Divergent, X-Men: Days of Future's Past, Edge of Tomorrow, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lucy, The Giver, Resident Evil 6, The Maze Runner, and Mockingjay Part 1 are the listed sci-fi classified movies set for release this year. Geez, that's a lot. See, Hollywood isn't being too skeptical.
     X-Men, Transformers, Apes, and Mockingjay will obviously make money, but there still risk in all of these projects. Guardians is a strange concept and it has yet to be seen if it will connect with mainstream audiences, but with the backing of Marvel, an all star cast, and good early reactions, Guardians could be a summer surprise. Half of the internet is still waiting on a trailer, but when it debuts expect a lot of talk, whether good or bad.
     Divergent will be trying to capitalize off of The Hunger Games success, kind of like the annoying little sister that wants to be just like the older sister, so she mimics everything she does. Last year was not a good one for young adult adaptions, but Divergent seems to have more going for it than those movies did. Divergent won't be the new Hunger Games, but it should be able to break out enough to gain it's own identity. Maze Runner is in the same boat, though this movie is the bigger risk. Since Maze Runner was pushed back to the Fall, not much has been seen from it so it's hard to gauge anything about it yet.
     Robocop has a lot of work to do. Not only is the title simply ridiculous for 2014, but 80's remakes haven't fared too well lately. Total Recall seems to be right up Robocop's alley; compare the trailers and they'll look exactly alike. There's nothing special about the reboot and Joel Kinneman isn't exactly a household name - even though Gary Oldman and Samuel L Jackson are. Robocop will likely have trouble making noise for the box office. There isn't much reason to be optimistic that Robocop will pass Recall's $58 million haul. Seriously, just title it Iphone-Cop already. Godzilla on the other hand has been making a tidal wave of noise online and so far Gareth Edwards and Warner/Legendary have done a fantastic job of differentiating this from the dreadful 1998 version. It's still a while until May, but Godzilla looks to be tracking to be a sleeper hit of summer.
     Jupiter Ascending includes Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, two big A-listers, but Kunis' Friends With Benefits and Tatum's White House Down showed that drooling women and men aren't going to automatically show up for them. JA is a strange concept and Warner's marketing will need to go all out to explain to audiences why JA is the event movie it's budget makes it out to be. Warner is risking with JA, and it's up to them if it'll pay off. I'll get more into Interstellar, Guardians, The Giver, and others as the year progresses.
     Science fiction is a genre you can't live without. 2014 has plenty of it and these movies have potential to do things 2013 couldn't. We'll see how the year and these sci-fi movies progress, but so far things look good.