Movies

Nothing says redundant, unnecessary, and unneeded like a beat-for-beat, (nearly) shot-for-shot remake of a beloved animated classic like the faux-live-action (re) iteration of Disney’s beloved, 1994 animated classic, The Lion King. Since its premiere twenty-five years ago, The Lion King has become a permanent pop-culture fixture, passed on from generation to generation as one of – if not, the – highlights of Disney’s animation renaissance. Like practically ever Disney film-turned –classic, it’s become a self-perpetuating brand of its own, expanding to straight-to-video sequels, animated TV series, and a Broadway musical that’s become the highest grossing musical of all time. In short, we didn’t need a faux-live-action remake of a classic, maybe just a re-release or even a big-screen, old school animated sequel. For the Disney Industrial Complex eager to exploit its back catalog of animated classics, a live-action (or faux-live-action) version of The Lion King was all but inevitable. Just because you can, though, doesn’t mean you should. The bland, dull, ultimately soporific result, however, suggests that for once, the Disney Industrial Complex erred badly. (more…)

The new Mulan trailer has dropped and I, for one, am hype. A culturally adept film with an all Asian cast about a Chinese badass warrior woman? Sign me the heck up.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. 

In the comments of the new trailer, on YouTube and Facebook, most people voiced lukewarm feelings or outright distaste for the film’s changes. After all, unlike most of the Disney remakes, the movie plans to change quite a bit. Mulan will be more culturally accurate, will not be a musical, and will not have the talking animal characters it once had. People seem to be really up in arms about no “Girl Worth Fighting For” or Mushu. 

Recently, there has also been a big internet hullabaloo about Disney executives picking a black actor to play Ariel. There is a fair amount of speculation if a lot of that uproar was manufactured for free press. Either way, there is a big controversy around the upcoming The Little Mermaid film now instead of excited buzz. 

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The 2019 Popcorn Frights Film Festival hits Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on August 8th-16th and writer and director Brian Rosenthal will be in attendance! You might recognize Rosenthal from films such as Marvel Zombies vs. Army of DarknessAsh vs. Lobo and the DC Deadand the concept trailer for his sure-to-be cult classic, The Last Blockbuster.  Join Rosenthal and others on Saturday the 10th as they show off their hard work! With more than a week of incredible horror movies there’s sure to be something for every kind of horror fan!

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Horror traditionally unfolds in the dark, exploiting our most primal, lizard-brain fears: What we can’t see can – and often does – kill us (it did where our first, bipedal ancestors were concerned), but horror can happen anywhere, not just in the dark. It can happen in a calm, quiet, idyllic settings, like a suburban or rural home. It can happen also under the glaring, never-ending glare of the midnight sun, as perpetually grinning, muslin-clad, pagan cultists invite you and yours to participate in their unique celebration of the summer solstice. And if you’re the typical “ugly American,” entitled, white (or white-adjacent), and privileged, you won’t live to see the end of summer. Part homage to the folk-horror of The Wicker Man, the rural terror of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Americans abroad sub-genre typified by Hostel, and part relationship melodrama, Ari Aster’s (Hereditary) second film, Midsommar, confirms his status as a one-of-a-kind generational talent. (more…)

Spider-Man: Far From Home arrives in multiplexes as the third entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in five months (the 23rd overall in only 11 years), as an epilogue/coda to Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame and Phase 3, and finally, as a semi-anticipated sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s also an exercise in brute-force brand maintenance, primed to sell Avengers and Spider-Man-related merchandise, including, of course, Spider-Man action figures (Spider-Man wears four superhero suits in the new film, from the Iron Spider suit introduced in Avengers: Infinity War, his first, Tony Stark-given tech suit originally seen in Captain America: Civil War, an all-black stealth suit, and a new hybrid suit that swaps out the familiar blue with black, but otherwise keeps Steve Ditko’s design aesthetic). But branding saturation or superhero fatigue isn’t the most significant problem with the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel: It’s both the not unexpected over-reliance on the late Tony Stark’s long shadow as a central plot driver and yet another weak, underwritten, ultimately underutilized supervillain (minus the “super” part). (more…)

A semi-sequel to the Conjuring films and a direct sequel to Annabelle – in the head-scratching, over-convoluted chronology of the James Wan-produced Conjuring universe, Annabelle appeared up in movie theaters before Annabelle: Creation (even evil dolls deserve origin stories, apparently) –  Annabelle: Creation covered related key, mythology-expanding events that unfolded before Annabelle (making it a prequel to a prequel). Annabelle Comes Home finds the super-creepy doll (and demonic conduit) with the rictus smile and unblinking blue eyes front-and-center again, this time terrorizing Ed and Lorraine Warren’s (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) preteen daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace), her ultra-competent babysitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and Mary Ellen’s oddly death-obsessed best friend (forever), Daniela Rios (Katie Sarife) over the course of a single, inexplicably foggy night. Annabelle Comes Home delivers everything audiences loyal to the Conjuring universe have come to expect, up to and including the obligatory slow-build, slow-burn scenes punctuated by the appearance of a ghostly apparition, occasional jump scares (earned and unearned), and the periodic injection of cathartic humor to offset the potential grimness of the proceedings. (more…)

If nothing else, we can thank Tim Burton‘s 1989 film for the explosion of the Bat-franchise. Even if you hate the flick (and I understand there are some that do), we all owe it something. Without it, we don’t get the brilliant animated series that kept much of its tone (and Danny Elfman‘s glorious score), we don’t get nearly as many Batman action figures and t-shirts. Sure, someone would have made a Batman film eventually, even if this one never got off the ground. But it did, and thus it’s the launch pad not just for the Batman franchise, but for the modern age of superhero cinema.

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As a fictionally famous scientist once said, more as a warning than a promise, “Life finds a way.” The same or similar idea applies to Disney-Pixar and the relentless desire and/or drive to leave no piece of intellectual property, even one as beloved by multiple generations as the Toy Story series, unexploited, regardless of the risks involved. The potential billion-dollar upside was simply too much for any profit-oriented movie studio to pass up. At least that’s what the average cynic would say, especially given the toyetic nature of the Toy Story series and a third, presumably final chapter, Toy Story 3, that seemed to end the series on the highest of high notes. Luckily, any fears or concerns about a potentially disappointing fourth entry don’t apply to Toy Story 4, an unreserved, unqualified triumph of story, character, and animation. It’s an all-ages appeal with more than simple, surface-deep pleasures but a film that will join the Pixar pantheon as both a series and a studio best.  (more…)

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is changing, and many fans believe those changes are for the better. In recent years, we’ve seen more diversity with on-screen superheroes than ever before. That trend will continue well into the future, at least according to Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige.

Feige, who is credited as the groundbreaking Black Panther‘s producer, recently told The Wrap that diversity and representation are the future of the MCU: “This is the way the world is, and the way, certainly, our studio’s going to be run going forward, because it brings about better stories,” the director said. “The more diverse the group of people making the movie is, the better the stories.”

One only has to watch the final minutes of Avengers: Endgame (spoilers ahead!) to see just how committed the studio is to creating a more diverse MCU. In a poignant scene after living a full life in the past, an elderly Captain America hands his shield over to Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. The scene indicates that forthcoming Captain America films will, like Black Panther, have a strong African-American superhero at the helm. With the power superhero films have right now, a more inclusive MCU could help break down social barriers in our increasingly diverse world.

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No Will Smith; no (major) problem.

With Will Smith completely uninterested in returning to the 22-year-old Men in Black franchise (once upon a time, Smith made it look good) and otherwise busy with other commercial pursuits (playing a blue-skinned, top-knotted, magical genie in the recent live-action Aladdin adaptation), Tommy Lee Jones all-but-retired from performing, Sony Pictures unsurprisingly turned to one of the MCU’s MVPs, Chris Hemsworth, and Hemsworth’s Thor: Ragnarok co-star, Tessa Thompson, to restart and/or soft reboot a series that last saw the darkened interior of an air-conditioned movie theater seven years ago (given the rapidity in which pop-culture favorites turn into yesterday’s disposable detritus, zero guarantee moviegoers will respond with more than just passing nostalgia). It was still a gamble. Hemsworth has yet to carry a film outside the MCU. Thompson has yet to topline a major studio film. On individual charisma and collective chemistry alone, Hemsworth and Thompson prove themselves more than worthy of headlining a big-budget, spectacle-driven franchise entry of their own, the F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton, The Negotiator, Friday) directed Men in Black: International. (more…)