It’s good to know when to walk away. This is not to say that the “How to Train Your Dragon” series has overstayed its welcome – it couldn’t possibly, they have only made two films up to this point, and both were critical and commercial smashes – but rather that it’s commendable that DreamWorks Animation chose to go out on a relatively high note and preserve the legacy of the franchise as a whole, rather than squeezing the cash cow for every penny before leaving it for dead by the side of the road (ahem, “Pirates of the Caribbean”).Continue reading
The first time Phil Lord and Christopher Miller take a whack at a story idea, they tend to knock it out of the park. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street,” “The LEGO Movie,” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (that last one is credited solely to Lord, but Miller executive produced) were all top-notch films, each one funny, heartfelt, clever, and possessing a much larger scale than one would have a right to expect.Continue reading
Let us get one very important thing out of the way, shall we? 1964’s “Mary Poppins” is delightful, and rather ahead of its time in terms of production and art direction, but it’s not a perfect movie. The dancing is largely clumsy, the children who play Jane and Michael are not very good actors, and Dick Van Dyke’s performance, God love him, will likely go down in history as the worst accent ever put to film. So let’s not talk of “Mary Poppins Returns” having an impossible task following up the first film. It doesn’t.
The timing for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” seemed odd on a number of levels. Sony just released a “Spider-Man” film last year (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”), and they’re releasing another one next year (“Spider-Man: Far From Home”). That makes three Spider-Man films in a span of two years, and he played a prominent role in “Avengers: Infinity War.” How is anyone going to miss Peter Parker when he won’t go away?
Disney could not have been happy that Sony beat them to the theaters with an Internet-themed animated film by 15 months. Dueling projects at rival studios is a recurring theme in Hollywood (in the ‘90s, it happened nearly once a year), and the winner is almost always the one to get to the box office first.
The brain trust behind the Harry Potter series knew that they hadn’t put their best foot forward with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Even with five years of distance between “Beasts” and the grim, harrowing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” the whimsical tone of “Beasts” felt wrong, or at the very least unearned. The end of Harry Potter’s story brings with it the end of innocence. “Beasts” protagonist Newt Scamander may still have his innocence (and good for him), but no one watching him does. Cutesy is off the table for now, sorry.
Venom, as a concept, is a good one. It’s the guy who has a devil on one shoulder and no corresponding angel on the other, trying to teach an alien life form the concept of right and wrong. “Venom,” on the other hand, is heartbreaking. The last Marvel-related film that Sony produced, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” is arguably one of the best Marvel films to date, but on the Disney Marvel scale, “Venom” ranks somewhere between “Thor: The Dark World” and “Iron Man 2,” and possibly below both of them. It’s unfortunate, because Venom is the perfect character to open up new doors in the MCU, but from a creative standpoint, it’s woefully lacking.
“The Meg” plays like a film written by someone who just finished watching a three-day Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer marathon, and when you consider that the book on which the film is based was written in 1997, it’s entirely possible that that is exactly what happened. The film languished in development hell for over two decades, and it’s easy to see why; it’s just not as interesting as other works of art, be they books or movies, written around the same time.
It wasn’t until the ‘90s that the studios learned how to cut a decent trailer. Here, look at the trailer for “The Princess Bride.”
When “The Incredibles” hit theaters in 2004, it was arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time (and remains at or near the top of the list to this day). Between the pulse-pounding action sequences and the family story at its core, Brad Bird’s Pixar debut was a game changer on a number of levels. When years had passed without a whisper of talk regarding a follow-up, it made sense. After all, walking in the shadow of that film is a fool’s errand, and yet, everyone still wanted them to try. And here we are.