Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Rise of the "Cinematic Universe"

Hulk meets with an exec from Disney

In 2008, Marvel brought fan-favorite superhero Iron Man to the big screen in a very well done, seemingly stand-alone movie. The credits rolled, and fans were shocked and awed as the "Avengers" were mentioned in the post-credits scene. With this, Marvel broke into a whole new world of film-making: the cinematic universe.

That's not to say that there haven't been movies that don't have links, but this took the concept of "linking" movies to a whole new level. Later that same year, "The Incredible Hulk" was released, offering another glimpse by having Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) appear in Hulk's post-credit scene. This is how Marvel really said they meant business. They didn't wait two years for another movie, they dominated the box office in one summer, and laid the groundwork for something much more than just a movie. Followed up with Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Marvel had effectively buried rival DC Comics into the ground. (Don't get me wrong, DC did a fantastic job with the Dark Knight trilogy, but fell flat on their face in terms of beating Marvel to a Justice League movie)

Then, in 2012 (as we all know), Marvel laid the killing blow with The Avengers, which they had been building up to for the past 5 years. But now that the movie has come and gone, why keep going?

As a comic book fan, it's always really fun to see heroes cross over into each other's worlds. I always give a little squeal if I buy a new issue of Spider-Man and see that Iron Man makes an appearance, and so on. But when done in a big-budget, big-screen appearance, it becomes even more fun. Almost everybody who now goes to see a Marvel movie always stays behind after the credits for that little nugget of their next movie project.

Why is Cap's shield all segmented?? 
This is a very fun and ground-breaking style of cinema magic, but it's also a two edged sword. The dangers of the cinematic universe are many, and can really cripple the continuity of the series, as well as the future. The first hurdle is having different directors/writers, etc. for each movie. This can result in complete changes or left out material from movie to movie. For example: In both Iron Man (2008) and Incredible Hulk (2008) there were mentions of Captain America's existence/fate that had absolutely nothing to do with what actually happens in the Captain America movie. For those of us who really do care about things like that, it looks sloppy and disorganized.

The second danger is what is currently happening ever since Disney bought out Marvel: over-franchising. The idea of a TV show spinning off from The Avengers sounds like a great idea, truly. It takes place in the exact same universe, and covers a lot of topics from the movie. But the danger is that it almost ruins how special the movies are. The reason the movies are so fun is because they don't come out every week, but instead we slobber and drool over images and trailers for several years before they're released. I've also noticed with this particular example that they keep name-dropping people like Cap and Thor, but you will never see them in the show. Its just a constant tease. This strategy obviously isn't working with Marvel, as ratings for the show revealed that 2/3 of the viewership stopped after the first episode. That's terrible.

DC Comics on the other hand, seems to be having great luck with TV shows. "Smallville" was a very successful show, chronicling the beginnings of Superman/Clark Kent, and spanning ten years on television. More recently, "Arrow", the origins and universe of superhero The Green Arrow/Oliver Queen has been very successful, and just began its second season. The Flash, along with several other large-name super heroes will be appearing on "Arrow" this season, and The Flash is even confirmed already for a spin-off TV show as well. They're also getting gutsier in the realm of movies, with the upcoming "Superman vs Batman" movie planned for 2015, and rumored to include Wonder Woman as well.

I could see this guy easily moving from TV to movie.
So what's the difference, and who knows when/where to draw the line?

It's no secret that I'm an Avengers/Marvel Comics junkie, but I've more recently been trying to expand my horizons into the realm of DC Comics as well.

On that note, I have this to say: Marvel, cancel "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and halt all plans for your future TV shows including the (very poor idea for an) Agent Carter spin-off show. Its not what fans want, clearly. You're dangling a steak in front of the viewer, but slipping them a slice of olive loaf. Its not working. And to DC Comics: You're kicking Marvel's ass in television, and building a solid universe with the potential for believable crossover and continuity. But you're too late on the "Origin story movie" train. We all know you're using "Superman Vs Batman" as a test to see if a Justice League movie would be any good. My advice is that you don't make any other movies between the release of "SvB" and "Justice League." Until then, stick with TV shows, you're doing those right.

What do you think? Is the cinematic universe the wave of the future, or is it already dying? Sound off in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2013 Holiday Movie Guide

It's almost the most wonderful time of the year...again! And after we successfully wade through a pile of shitty "horror" movies in mid-late October (along with the one they seemingly always do right around Christmastime for some reason), it'll be time for AWESOME HOLIDAY MOVIES!

Here's a quick guide of my holiday picks for this year:

About Time - The love story of a twenty-something man who finds out he can go back in time and re-live moments of his life, deciding to use this gift only to serve his own "happily ever after."
Ender's Game - The movie adaptation of the famous Orson Scott Card book about a young boy bred to stop an unstoppable war.
Thor: The Dark World - Continuing Thor's journey after The Avengers, a war is brewing on both Earth and in Asgard, and Thor has to stop it.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Second in the Hunger Games series, Katniss and Peta are called back into the perilous Hunger Games, but civil unrest is brewing behind the scenes.
Oldboy - The American rendition of the cult classic Korean film of the same name, a man is inexplicably held captive for two decades, then suddenly let loose to find out who did it, and why.
Frozen - From Disney comes the story about two princesses, and the quest of one to stop the other from creating an eternal winter.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Second in the trilogy of The Hobbit movies. Spiders, dragons, orcs, and more stand between the heroes and their goal.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - The story of Ron Burgandy and the evening news team continues into the 1980's, adding a host of new characters, as they start work for a 24 hour news channel.
47 Ronin - Keannu Reeves directs and stars in a visually stunning retelling of the story of a group of masterless samurai seeking revenge on an evil dictator in ancient Japan.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

World War Z

It has been a while since I've just straight-up reviewed a movie, and luckily I got the chance to check out a recent DVD release, so let's check out World War Z!

World War Z
2013 (PG-13)
Starring: Brad Pitt, and other clearly less important not-Brad Pitt people

Premise: Based on the book (by title only), Brad Pitt plays Gerry, a former United Nations investigator who is tasked with finding the cause of a zombie epidemic.

I like to joke around that if there were a real zombie apocalypse, it'd be over in minutes, because all the college students and rednecks would be out on the streets, guns blazing. If it were anything like the apocalypse in World War Z, we'd be screwed.

This to me is a fresh twist to the zombie genre. The shuffling hordes are fun to watch in the old black and white "Night of the Living Dead" but in real life, they'd stand no chance except maybe against a very slow-paced elderly population. The zombies in this movie honestly scared the crap outta me. When first seen in the beginning, I nearly jumped out of my skin at how hard these things fight for their food. Don't expect any shuffling goons in this movie!

That said, the movie is far from perfect. Any sci-fi/fantasy movie needs a very healthy does of willing suspension of disbelief. However, I still like to keep a tally of "well THAT was convenient" moments within movies as well. In recent memory, "Man of Steel" (2013) stuck out to me, as Lois Lane seemed unkillable, even unwoundable. Pitt's character suffers a similar flaw in this movie. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that, zombies aside, there are only so many times that you can survive such horrid accidents with no medical or advanced military training.

The cast is strong, I honestly didn't see a weak link in the whole bunch, which helped add to the realism. And the non-zombie scenes did very well to staple the movie in reality.

Verdict: 9 brains out of 10
Very believable. If a zombie apocalypse really breaks out, I'd expect it to go something like this movie. Well, for the most part.