After a terribly disappointing fourth installment in the popular teen death series, New Line does the unthinkable by not only making a fifth “Final Destination” but, horrors (see what we did there?), casting old people as the leads. You know, people who are, like, 30, and even some born in the ’70s, ewww. Who wants to see old people die?
As it turns out, it was a very savvy move. “The Final Destination” was in a tough position in that its predecessor ramped up the death scenes’ difficulty factor (Rube Goldberg would have been proud, then probably ashamed) while maintaining self-awareness. “FD4” tried to maintain the planned chaos, but it was undone by bad dialogue, poor acting, and too much foreshadowing. From the very beginning, “Final Destination 5” does two things to separate itself from the previous movie: it casts grown-ups in the lead roles (David Koechner and Courtney B. Vance, holler) and gets serious in a hurry after a premonition on a suspension bridge leads a group of white collar drones to hop off the bus, Gus. Also, there are no bad last lines like “I’ve got my eye on you” (poor, poor Krista Allen), and while a death may be triggered by a chain reaction, the cause of death itself is often something normal (fall, fire). Don’t think they didn’t get creative, though; one of the women suffers a particularly gruesome accident that is impossible not to react to.
They’ve also changed the rules – which is ironic, but for reasons we cannot divulge – when coroner William Blodworth (Tony “Candyman” Todd, returning for a third tour of duty, fourth if you include his voice work in “FD3”) suggests that the survivors can cheat death by killing someone else, a la “The Ring.” It adds an interesting wrinkle, since you get a glimpse of what people are willing to do in order to stay alive. Do not under any circumstances watch the bonus features if you haven’t yet seen the movie, otherwise the big surprise, which is a good one, will be spoiled. Definitely check them out afterwards, though, as you’ll get a glimpse of Koechner adding some of his natural comic flair. A welcome return to form for what was presumed to be a, um, dead franchise.
In the 14 years between 1995’s “Toy Story” and 2009’s
“Up,” exactly four men had sat in a Pixar director’s chair. Starting with
2010’s “Toy Story 3,” there was a concerted effort to spread the wealth, and
founding fathers John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter, along with
unofficial Pixar brother Brad Bird, only directed one film each over the next
decade, while seven others helmed the rest.
This is where a rather disturbing pattern emerges. Of those new directors, the only one to make films on par with Pixar’s best work was Lee Unkrich, who directed “Toy Story 3” and “Coco” (and won Oscars for both) after serving as co-director for Lasseter, Stanton, and Docter, and clearly learning a few things along the way. Remove the films made by Unkrich and the founding fathers, and you’re left with “Brave,” “Monsters University,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Cars 3,” and “Toy Story 4.” That’s the Pixar movie marathon that runs nonstop on TV in the Medium Place.
This is the first time I have put a year-end list
together since (checks notes) 2015. It seems longer than that – I was convinced
I hadn’t done one of these since 2011. Some of that has to do with the fact
that I’m no longer doing the writing thing on a full-time basis. Some of that
is because it’s been several years since there was a batch of movies that got
me truly excited. That 2015 piece that I wrote? That was not a great batch of
flicks. Good, but not great.
That the makers of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” could
find time in their schedules to write and shoot a sequel, with all eight of the
principle characters, two years after the original, is simply unthinkable in
this day and age. It took Disney six years to follow up “Frozen,” and it took
Sony a decade before “Zombieland: Double Tap” happened. They must have had a
can’t-miss idea ready to throw at audiences, right?
Disney has a ridiculous amount of power at the moment. In
addition to owning Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, they also purchased Twentieth
Century Fox’s film catalog, which terrified “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fans in
particular, who were concerned that the Mouse House would no longer allow
late-night screenings of the film. (So far, it appears that Disney will allow
business as usual on that front, as they should.) They’re also pulling a lot of
their content from streaming sources in order to consolidate their properties
at Disney+. They’re basically one or two more moves away from becoming a Bond
There are few, if any, franchises that have ridden off
into the sunset quite like the “Toy Story” films did. “Toy Story 3” has a
pitch-perfect, if gut-wrenching, ending, and the characters were the frequent
subject of Pixar’s short films, which seemed like an ideal post script. Why
would any studio risk, um, sullying that? The cynical response is money (it’s
always money), but it’s hard to dismiss Pixar founding father Andrew Stanton’s
rationale: “Toy Story 3” was a perfect ending for the audience, but for the
toys that Bonnie inherited from Andy, their story was starting all over again,
and it is through that lens that Pixar would like us to view “Toy Story 4.” That’s
nice, but it’s of small comfort when the feeling of familiarity (toy in
distress, Woody to the rescue) quickly consumes everything. This is basically
“Toy Story 2” in reverse, with more moving parts.
“Men in Black: International” makes so much sense from a marketing standpoint that it’s tempting to dismiss the film as the cynical global box office cash grab that, let’s face it, it probably is. The previous three films took place almost exclusively in or immediately outside of New York City, and that, um, ‘America first’ approach just doesn’t fly in an era where overseas box office is usually two-thirds to three-fourths of the overall box office. It makes perfect sense that there would be MIB field offices all over the world, and considering the fact that Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson’s dance cards have opened up considerably since the end of shooting Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in addition to showcasing great on-screen chemistry in “Thor: Ragnarok,” casting them as the leads is a no-brainer on a number of levels.
When Disney announced that it would be releasing live action
remakes of three of the studio’s most loved animated films, all within the span
of four months, that seemed, well, foolish. It’s one thing to release three
films that take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in one year; there’s a
thread tying those stories together. There is nothing tying “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,”
and “The Lion King” together.
Tim Burton and Disney have done great things together. Well, perhaps ‘great’ isn’t the right word. Tim Burton and Disney have made boatloads of cash together. Indeed, this whole ‘live action revival’ trend likely never gets off the ground if Burton’s 2010 adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” doesn’t make $1 billion worldwide. Sure, that movie was a hot mess, but $1 billion worldwide! And Johnny Depp at his commercial peak. Ahhhh, simpler times.
Early in the MCU timeline, certain comic book story lines
were completely scrapped for the sake of keeping things grounded. The Mandarin,
for example, was not a drunken actor pretending to be an all-powerful bogeyman,
but an expert martial artist of Chinese and English descent whose power came
from alien technology. This switch is arguably the cleverest thing about Shane
Black’s script for “Iron Man 3.” It was important, as Phase I of the MCU came
to a close, that things didn’t get too ‘out there,’ for lack of a better
expression. The characters, heroes and villains alike, needed to be relatable.
If they had started arming every bad guy with alien hardware early on, people
would have checked out on these movies years ago.