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Friday, September 15, 2017

Jamie Lee Curtis Joins the Cast of Halloween (2018)

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One of the curious trends of the 2010s has been the stealth “return” of horror as a dominant force in cinema.  I use air quotes there because horror, as a genre, has never really gone away as it’s fundamental to storytelling as a craft, same as drama or romance.  However, horror has undeniably changed in how it’s perceived and how its made in the 2010s versus previous genres.  

There are a lot of factors to this like the rise of indie art-house horror hits like Babadook, It Follows, and The Witch as well as the return of summer horror blockbusters like The Conjuring and Purge franchises.  The biggest changeup, though, is in the spread of horror influences and how we’re making new films. 

Despite the 2010s as an age of franchises and cinematic universes horror has doggedly rejected those trends, settling more into a ton of very individualistic and different films between one or two actual franchises.  There’s not a lot of common ground between stuff like Lights Out, IT, You’re Next, and Krampus but they were all sizeable horror hits.  

Even among the heavily sequalized horror series like Insidious, they don’t have the same spread and impact as predecessors like Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, or Saw.  Now, in the waning days of the 2010s, that seems like it might be on the road to change with the coming of Danny McBride’s Halloween reboot, which will see the return of series star Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Gina Prince-Bythewood to Direct Silver Sable/Black Cat Film

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As we move into the 2020s one of the significant emerging trends is the way that trends aren’t going away in any meaningful manner.  The decade is beginning to dwindle, and there’s no outward indication that audiences are going to lose interest in the broad multimedia franchises that have managed to stick- most pertinently superheroes.  Despite a thousand and one hit pieces about the impending death of the genre or superhero fatigue, the format has proved itself just too versatile to actually collapse in on itself.  However, just because a thing isn’t going away doesn’t mean it isn’t changing. 

As we begin to cap-off the defining multimedia stories of the 2010s the superhero genre is already evolving in new and different ways like Fox’s non-continuity approach to the X-Men or the CW’s functional TV Multiverse.  One of the biggest changes going forward is the beginnings of a demand for diversity with stuff like Black Panther, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman.  There’s a lot of reasons for this change, and I’ll end up getting into them more as we go, but this week it added another notch to its belt as Sony has tapped director Gina Prince-Bythewood to direct their planned Silver Sable/Black Cat movie as part of their Spider-Verse. 

Game of Thrones S7 Trailer Analysis

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One of the curious things about the new age of perpetual media is the way franchises, and series persist well past their definitive moment in time.  The most obvious example of this is, of course, The Simpsons, a series that passed its moment of genuine relevance decades ago but has continued on as a part of the pop culture oxygen supply regardless.  That’s kind of the place where a lot of big name franchises have ended up in their final installments, like Harry Potter at the 8th film or the last 2 Hobbit movies- they still made money but they didn’t set the trend or a significant impact and mainly existed so that all the confirmed fans could see how things ended. 

That feels like the best description of where Game of Thrones is at this moment in time, a series entering its final cycle well after its days of relevance have waned and basically just throwing all the fireworks on the screen to celebrate actually making it to the finish line.  There’s nothing overtly wrong with that approach, it’s a worthwhile goal, and I’m hard pressed to blame any series for just running out the clock after doing as much as Game of Thrones has.  There are, however, risks about getting too complacent and they shine through a little too clear in this first trailer for the penultimate season of Game of Thrones. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming Final Trailers Breakdown

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With around a month left to go, Spider-Man: Homecoming is revving up to be a superhero film this year.  I’m not trying to denigrate the movie, in fact as we go through this breakdown I hope it shows I’m somewhat excited for the film, I’m just being honest about where it stands.  In many ways, 2017 has been kind of a hard year on Marvel Studios overall.  There are certainly successes, I don’t think anybody thought Agents of SHIELD would pull off a fourth season as well as it has and Thor: Ragnarok has smash hit written all over it.  But during a year when Marvel is facing down Wonder Woman, Logan, and Justice League none of their adaptations really seem to matter as much, and Homecoming is a pretty solid example of this. 

The film will be the second reboot of Spider-Man this decade and the fourth Spider-Man over the past 10 years.  There’s something in that to the fatigue of franchise management and repetition, especially with a character like Spider-Man who tends to revert to the same role of “teen hero” every time his film series reverts back to square one.  However, credit where it’s due that Homecoming looks very good, it just looks a bit like there might’ve been a more important movie lurking in the original script.  What am I talking about, let’s dive into this latest trailer, and I’ll tell you. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Universal Announces Classic Monster Shared Universe

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As a long time fan of shared universes and continuity, there’s a big part of me that wonder show this moment of popularity for those things will look once it’s passed into history.  Obviously, that’s assuming any trend can truly pass away anymore instead of simply going into extended hibernation, but by the same token, the young adult film boom of the mid-2010s seems to have thoroughly wound down, so I guess we’ll see.  

One thing seems fairly sure, most of the shared universes of the day will probably be looked back on with awkward disinterest or surprise, and none among them will garner such a response the same way I suspect the Universal Movie Monster-Verse will. 

In case you hadn’t heard, Universal has decided to revive the brands on their classic monster movies of the ‘30s and ‘40s to act as a new shared universe, which makes sense given the original films also acted as a shared universe.  These new films will be kicked off by this summer’s The Mummy and are being managed by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman- two of the biggest hacks working in Hollywood right now behind such atrocities as Transformers, Amazing Spider-Man 2, and the worst parts of the Star Trek reboot.  

Previously Universal had done a good job keeping this whole idea out of focus but as The Mummy nears and they start worrying about getting the hype machine going they’ve produce a big publicity spread to get people like me talking about it so, yeah; let’s talk about Universal’s Dark Universe.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tom Hardy Cast as Venom

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The age of franchising and shared universe has been one of severe disappointment and frustration among all the good stuff.  As much as I love Marvel Studios, the CW shared superhero universe, or the emerging Kaiju-verse of Godzilla and King Kong those make up the occasional rarities.  For every one of them, it feels like we’re buried in terrible DCEU installments, ill-conceived horror universe, and yet more incompetent misfires from the people at Sony.  

There has truly been no one more knee-capped by the demand for cinematic universes than Sony, mainly because they only have 1 brand under their belt that could be turned into a bigger universe and now that brand is co-owned by Marvel and Disney. 

Obviously, I’m talking about Spider-Man- the franchise that started the modern superhero fixation at the turn of the millennium.  Sony still remembers those days when Spider-Man made them enough money to buy the Rock of Gibraltar and have been trying to recapture that moment ever since, without realizing it’s their corporate meddling that drove the brand into the ground from #3 onwards.  

However, now that Sony has to share the profits of its new Spider-Man film with the folks at Marvel Sony is trying to branch out with unofficial spin-offs.  So far these have all languished in development hell, but now they’ve finally started to get their act together with the first such project: Venom, starring Tom Hardy. 

Tom Holland Cast as Nathan Drake

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We now return to the story of Sony Pictures, the little studio that fought North Korea and lost.   Despite a downward spiral for Sony, they’re expecting big returns from this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, so big they’re already preparing their own solo Spidey spin-off about Venom that they won’t need to share the profits of.  However, that wasn’t quite enough for them as now they’ve decided to scoop up Homecoming star Tom Holland for a multi-picture deal as Nathan Drake, star of the Uncharted video games.  

It’s obvious Sony thinks Holland/Spider-Man is going to be a big deal and wants to lock him into a less financial co-dependent film franchise now before he gets priced out of their range.  At the same time, however, Sony’s in a bit of a pickle because they don’t have a lot of franchises at their disposal, which is why they’ve bent over backward to fit Holland into the awkward shape of Uncharted.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Static Thoughts - Who Shot Mr. Burns Retrospective

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Tonight marks the return of Twin Peaks to our screens.  The original show and its question of “who killed Laura Palmer?” were some of the biggest TV mysteries of all time.  It’s approach to world building and blending high concept mysticism with potboiler mystery is still the gold standard all others strive for today.  Unfortunately, Twin Peaks is also one of those groundbreaking shows that’s already been dissected and explained to death, so instead I'm going to focus on one of its sister mysteries of TV, the Simpsons two-part episode “Who Shot Mister Burns?” 

Produced near the closing of the show’s so-called Golden Age, ‘Who Shot Mister Burns’ may be the largest the show ever loomed in the broad, pop-cultural eye and its approach to audience interaction and mystery has had almost as much impact on TV and movies as Twin Peaks or their shared predecessor Dallas.  I’m not at all kidding when I say ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns’ paved the way for modern cultural darlings like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and new classics of animation like Gravity Falls- let’s dive in. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Star Trek Discovery Trailer Breakdown

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As I write this, it’s been a little over 10 years since Star Trek disappeared from our TV screens.  In that time, the franchise and the cultural landscape it inhabits have undergone a serious change.  The franchise got reinvented as a slick action vehicle 2009, which is only now starting to find a genuine identity in the likes of Star Trek Beyond.  Meanwhile, the TV landscape has been completely transformed by material like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Supergirl, Mad Men, American Horror Story, and countless others. 

Outside the realms of TV, technology is quickly advancing on the heels of Star Trek through VR and 3D printers, while also growing into directions the shows couldn’t have imagined such as social media or streaming video.  Meanwhile, on the political scale, the world is gripped by the tendrils of xenophobia and fascism as the gap between wealthy and poor grows ever wider.  Suffice it to say, it’s a different world now than it was 10 years ago and one that needs a different Star Trek and, this fall, CBS is going to give it to us with Star Trek Discovery. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Extended Toy Box - Aliens (1992-1998)

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It’s become something of a cliché now to point out how, when it premiered, Star Wars changed everything, but it really did.  The ramifications of Star Wars as a film and, more importantly here, a multimedia phenomenon are still being felt today.  One of the biggest changes brought about Star Wars was a complete revamp to the way toys are created and sold.  Before this moment toys tended to exist as unique entities.  There were a handful of tie-in toys but for the most part toy “franchises” stayed confined to the medium of toys.  With the advent of Star Wars, suddenly franchised toys were big business, and Reagan’s deregulation of the FCC’s rules about advertising led to even more through TV shows built as ads for the toys. 

This was the first time something called ‘structured play’ entered the realm of American toy production, where the idea was that toys weren’t just for the imagination, but they were coming with a prebaked story and universe that informed them.  As such, when toy companies in the ‘80s and ‘90s wanted to keep selling new action figures from Terminator or Predator after the original film ended they needed to come up with new stories to base the new toys around.  

This series of events led to a ton of various toy lines at the time acting as the first expanded universe for the various franchise, the first place officially licensed new stories emerged even if it was just in the form of commercials or on the back of the packaging.  In this series, Extended Toy Box, I’m going to take a closer look at these franchises as well as occasionally touching on toys in general.  With all that said, let’s look at one of the best examples of this with Aliens.