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Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Comparison of the Top Grossing Films Throughout History (Part II: Sequels and Remakes)

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the increased prevalence of Science Fiction and Fantasy among the top ten grossing films of each year.  In this installment, I'm going to talk about the often lamented rise in the number of remakes, sequels, and adaptations.

This is a very common criticism of Hollywood, with many saying it is a sign of a lack of creativity. Others reply that the film industry has always used remakes and sequels.

Let's start out way back in the silent film era and check out the top grossing movies from 1919. I usually have been looking at the top ten, but Wikipedia only lists the top 8 for that year so we will stick with that.

As you may expect, none of these films are remakes or sequels. However, they are not necessarily all completely original films. Three of the eight are, which is a much bigger proportion than we will see in later years. The most notable of these original movies from 1919 is D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms.



That leaves five films that were adaptations of some previous work. Two of them were based on novels and one on a series of short stories. There were also two adapted from plays. In the early days of the film industry, taking ideas from theater was a very common occurrence. This makes sense, as the two mediums are similar in many ways.


This trend was still going strong in 1929. Out of the top 9 films in the United States that year, 5 of them were musicals based on preexisting plays. Only 2 of the 9 were not adaptations, with one coming from a story. The last was actually a sequel, surprisingly enough. The movie The Cock-Eyed World was a sequel to a silent film called What Price Glory?. This was one of the earliest examples of  a successful film with a sequel that brought back the main actors as well as the writer and director.

In 1939, however there was only one theater adaptation in the top 10 grossers. There were 2 original films, but 7 of them were translated from books or short stories. The most notable one was based on L. Frank Baum's fantasy novel, The Wizard of Oz.





Going forward another decade to 1949, we see only one film out of the top ten that was based on a play. However, a whopping 5 of them were book adaptations, plus one biblical film. There were 2 original films, but both were inspired by historical events. There was even one sequel, Jolson Sings Again, about the life of Al Jolson. 

Clearly even in the first half of the twentieth century, filmmakers were freely adapting previous works.  However, we really aren't seeing that many sequels or remakes as of yet.


Throughout the 1950s and 1960s we continue to see mostly book and stage adaptations in the top tens of each year, with original movies sprinkled in.

1955's top 12 saw only 2 original movies, with 6 based on books, 3 based on plays, and one on a short story.

In 1959, looking at the top ten, we see four book adaptations. One of them, Ben-Hur, was also a  remake of a silent film. One was adapted from a play, two from short stories, and one from a fairy tale. Only two of them were wholly original.





1962 had a decent amount of original films, three, but also six based on books and one that was originally a stage musical.

In 1965, 5 based were based on novels, with only 3 original screenplays. One of the book adaptations was Thunderball, which was also a sequel, the fourth film in the James Bond franchise.

1967 has a similar proportion with 4 movies not based on anything and 6 taken from books. Again one of the book adaptations was a James Bond film, the fifth movie in the series, You Only Live Twice.




In 1969 only three in the US top ten were originals. There were three based on stage plays and four based on books. This includes, you guessed it, a James Bond film.



However, skipping forward to 1977 we see a slightly different picture. Surprisingly, half of the top ten grossers were original films, with four novel adaptations and one, Saturday Night Fever, based on a magazine article.

1979 is a bit more typical. with only three original films and four based on books. There was a sequel, Rocky II. There was also, in contrast to the previous years we have looked at, two films that started out at TV shows, The Muppet Movie, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. These were some of the earliest movies that came from shows, and appear to be the first ones to place in the top ten money makers of the year.



In 1980, we see a decent amount of original movies in the top ten, four. However, there were also three sequels, The Empire Strikes Back, Any Which Way You Can, and Smokey and the Bandit II. Only 2 that year were based on a novel, and one, The Blues Brothers, based on a Saturday Night Live sketch.

For 1987, we again see half of the top ten being non-derivative films. There were 2 book adaptations and 2 remakes. 



1990 had 4 original films, 2 sequels, 3 novel adaptations, and 1 based on a comic book.

In this time period, we appear to see a slight uptick in original successful films. Many were adapted as well, but we see a greater variety in the source material. In the earlier decades of film, the source material was usually novels and the theater. In the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, films were based on TV shows, earlier films, comic books, and there were plenty of sequels.


In 1996, there were again 5 flicks in the top 10 not based on anything. It also included  two remakes, two novel adaptations and one, Mission: Impossible, taken from a TV series. Most notably, there were zero sequels.





How does this compare to today?


In 2009, a respectable four original films made the top ten, with 4 book adaptations (2 of those also being sequels) , and 4 total sequels. However, this is the last time we would see this many original films in the top 10 of the year.

In 2010, only 2 of them were original scripts, Inception and Despicable Me. A whopping five were sequels, plus two based on books and one based on a fairy tale.




Then there's 2011. Astonishingly not one of the top 10 grossers this year was an original film. Only one was not a sequel, The Smurfs, and that was based on a TV show that was adapted from comics. 




2012's top ten again had no original movies, with 8 of them being sequels. One was based on a book, and one, The Amazing Spider-Man was a reboot of a comic book franchise. 

This trend changed slightly in 2013, as there were two original films in the top ten. One was the animated Frozen, the other the Cuaron film Gravity. 6 others were straight-up sequels. We also have a reboot, Man of Steel, and a prequel, Monsters University.



As we can see, filmmakers have looked elsewhere for inspiration from the beginning. There have always been movies based on books, plays, and other things. However, the number of popular films that are remakes or sequels has clearly been increasing at a rapid rate. Currently, it seems incredibly difficult for a film to gain traction unless it is based on a known quantity. Due to the huge budgets of today's films, studios are understandably reluctant to gamble on original screenplays.





Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Future of Comic Book Movies (Part 3 - 2017 and onward)



After 2016, the future of comic book adaptations gets a bit hazy. There are a few officially announced titles with specific release dates, but there are also a bunch of "Untitled DC Films" or "Untitled Marvel Films."

In 2017. we have 3 officially announced comic book movies.

First, we have the sequel to the 2013 film The Wolverine. Of course, Hugh Jackman will return as the title character. However, no other actors or characters have been announced or even rumored.





The director of the first one, James Mangold, is slated to come back. The screenwriters however, will not return for the second film. Instead David James Kelly will write the script. He doesn't have much experience; his only previous IMDB credit is for directing and writing a short film by the name of Straw Man, He was also supposed to be the screenwriter for the aborted Daredevil film that FOX was going to make.

This film will hit theaters March 3, 2017.




The only officially announced Marvel Studios film is the sequel to the smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy. The sequel was greenlit soon after GOTG was released, due to impressive box office numbers.





Director James Gunn is coming back, and presumably so is the main cast as usually Marvel Studios signs their actors to multiple film deals. 

Gunn stated that he hopes to explore more about Quill's father in the sequel, as well as the characters of Drax, Yondu, and Nebula.

Cosmo the Space Dog was shown in after credits scene, so there's a good chance we might see him pop up as he is a member of the team in the comics. There was also a hint at the character of Adam Warlock; in my opinion he is an absolute must for the sequel. He is a hugely important part of the storyline relating to Thanos.





I also hope to see some sort of crossover between the Guardians and the Avengers. That could happen in many different ways. We could see an Avenger in a Guardians film or vice versa. Or they could all team up in the third Avengers film to take down Thanos. If that happens, we could see an insane amount of characters in Avengers 3. We'd have the original Avengers and the Guardians, with the possibility of also having War Machine, The Falcon, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man and whoever else Marvel Studios introduces in the meantime.



The final confirmed comic book film of 2017 is also a Marvel film, but not produced by Marvel Studios. It's the sequel to Fantastic Four, produced by FOX. 

This is a very interesting case as they announced a release date for this despite the fact the original movie won't even come out until 2015 and its success is far from guaranteed.

 FOX seems to be jumping the gun a bit here. Fantastic Four has an uphill battle to win over the general audience. It will have to shake the stigma of being associated with the first two films. Furthermore, there are no big names, or really even medium-sized names, in the cast. A sequel is far from assured, but it has been announced, so I included it here.






We are also apparently going to see a Marvel based film produced by Sony in 2017. It currently has no title, but it will be set in the Spider-Man universe and  a female will be the main character. The film will also be written by a woman, Lisa Joy Nolan. She has penned scripts for the shows Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies.

This will be the fourth film in this universe, the third being The Sinister Six, coming out in 2016. As for who exactly will be the female leading the film, that's still a mystery. Speculations include characters such as Spider-Woman and Silver Sable, However, I think a much more likely possibility is Black Cat, seeing as her alter ego, Felicia Hardy, was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.







Marvel Studios has 2 other films set for 2017, but they haven't stated any titles or information about what they could be. The release dates are May 5 and November 3. I'll speculate what these could be at the end of the post.

Warner Brothers also has two unknown DC adaptations scheduled for 2017. The dates are June 23 and November 17.





In 2018, we only know of one comic book adaptation with a title, that being The Amazing Spider-Man 3.


Marvel Studios has three untitled films scheduled for 2018, and one for 2019. DC has two in 2018, two in 2019, and even went as far as to announced two films for 2020. There's also an untitled Marvel adaptation being made by FOX.



What is Marvel Studios planning for these currently untitled movies? In a way, the possibilities are almost endless. A very likely possibility would be Black Panther. This would help out in the diversity quotient as currently all the lead characters of Marvel Studios films have been white. He is also a really cool, unique character.




Another likely hero is Ms. Marvel. This might also help Marvel out in the diversity department as they haven't had a film headlined by a female yet. Although they may decide to go with the long rumored Black Widow solo film instead. However, I think Black Widow works better as a supporting character and Ms. Marvel would do better at supporting her own movies. 




Other properties that have been considered are The Runaways and Inhumans. We are also surely going to see a third film in the Thor franchise.

Less certain is a possible Hulk sequel starring Mark Ruffalo. However, given the under-performance of the two previous Hulk films, this might not be high on Marvel's to-do list.





What about DC? All we know for now is they are making Batman v. Superman. Presumably that film is setting up a Justice League proper that may hit theaters in 2017. 

We can also presume there will eventually be a solo Batman film starring Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne.

We know Aquaman and Wonder Woman will be in BvS. If audience respond to these characters, WB will likely give them solo movies. Also, one would assume that Superman will get  his own standalone sequel at some point.

That leaves Green Lantern and Flash as major JL members yet to be accounted for. There have been whispers of a team-up film for the both of them. This might be a good idea, as the general audience may be skeptical of another Green Lantern solo film.




Surprisingly, many of the rumored DC films have been about characters outside of the Justice League. Properties that have been mentioned include Suicide Squad and Sandman.




Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Future of Comic Book Movies (Part 2 - 2016)

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE






DC seems to be taking a very different route to building their cinematic universe than Marvel Studios. Marvel gave the four main Avengers a solo film. Black Widow and Hawkeye had supporting roles/cameos in the films of the other heroes. 

This on the other hand, will be a sequel to Man of Steel and also introduce a brand new Batman in Ben Affleck. This Batman isn't supposed to be the same character as any previous incarnation. Not only that, but Wonder Woman and Aquaman will also be introduced. Presumably if the characters are popular they will then be given solo films or at the very least appearances in a proper Justice League movie.


Only time will tell if this approach ends up being a good one. I. for one prefer the model Marvel used. Some characters, like Black Widow and Hawkeye, don't need that much explanation and therefore don't need a solo film. But people like Thor and Captain America and for DC, Aquaman and Wonder Woman? Audiences are very familiar with Batman and Superman but may be confused when the movie just drops in Aquaman.

In The Avengers, I already cared about the characters because I had experienced a whole film devoted to each of them, and for the most part they were good films. I barely care about Superman after his mediocre film, I doubt I will care that much about a new version of Batman that's thrown in.


The movie is called Batman v, Superman, so presumably the two heroes start off at odds. One can only assume that fight will be a standoff and they will eventually end up teaming up.




Wonder Woman will be played by Gal Gadot. She started out as a model as is currently mostly known for her roles in three of the Fast and Furious movies. A lot of fans complained when her casting was announced, with some saying that she was too skinny to be Wonder Woman.

Aquaman will be played by Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones in season one.



Another major DC character will be reintroduced in this, that of supervillain Lex Luthor, Director Zack Snyder went with another unusual casting choice in Jesse Eisenberg for Luthor. Eisenberg does not fit the usual look of Lex Luthor and is also a younger actor than many were expecting.

It's a bit odd to me that they chose Luthor, considering he has already been used in 4 Superman movies and there are so many classic unused Superman foes. This franchise is trying to distance themselves from the earlier films but so far they have only reused villains from the Christopher Reeve series.





CAPTAIN AMERICA 3


One of the few confirmed films of Phase Three from Marvel Studios is the third Captain America movie. The title has not yet been revealed but we do have a release date of May 6, 2016.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are writing the screenplay. The duo are Marvel Studios veterans having written the first two Captain America films and Thor: The Dark World. They've also written Pain & Gain and three of the Chronicles of Narnia movies,

The Russo Brothers are also coming back to direct. They were rehired before Winter Soldier was even in theaters due to positive test screenings.

Little is known about the plot of this film. Presumably it will deal with the fallout of the events in Winter Solider and Age of Ultron. Captain America, with the possible help of The Falcon, will probably be searching for Bucky and trying to redeem him. Bucky may even be a good guy again by the end of the film.

Hawkeye is strongly rumored to make an appearance due to Jeremy Renner's recent comments. He is a logical fit to be in a Captain America movie.

Filming is scheduled to begin in April 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.





X-MEN: APOCALYPSE







The next film in the X-Men series is coming out May 27, 2016.  The title character is one of Marvel's most popular supervillains.

Apocalypse was created in 1986 by Louise Simonson and Jackson Guice. In the comics, he was born 5000 years ago and is sometimes referred to as the first mutant. The character has appeared in three separate X-Men cartoons and several video games.

He was briefly shown in the after credits scene of X-Men: Days of Future Past, setting this movie up.


It was recently announced that Bryan Singer, director of three previous films in the franchise, will return. Several cast members will return, including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Evan Peters, and Hugh Jackman.


The film will be set in the 1980s, ten years after Days of Future Past. There are strong indications that younger versions of Cyclops, Storm, and Jean Grey will be cast.

Filming is supposed to begin in April 2015, in Montreal, Canada.




Writer Simon Kinberg recently issued a comment clarifying the timeline of the films after the time travel in Days of Future Past.

"We changed the timeline for everything that came after ‘DOFP’ – so ‘X-Men 1’, 2 and 3, even ‘The Wolverine’. So Jean [Grey] was not killed in ‘Last Stand’, nor was Scott, and a whole lot of other things rippled."

He also discussed mutants that were considered for DOFP, most notably Psylocke and Cable, the time traveler.





THE SINISTER SIX





The next film in Sony's Spider-Man universe will not be a Spider-Man film at all, but rather one devoted to the team of villains known as The Sinister Six. Two of the six were introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Green Goblin and Rhino.

The other members will be Doctor Octopus, who was the main baddie in Raimi's Spider-Man 2, The Vulture, Kraven, and Mysterio.

Drew Goddard will be writing the screenplay and handling the directing duties. Goddard's only previous film as director was the excellent horror film Cabin in the Woods, which he also wrote. Other scripts Goddard wrote include Cloverfield and World War Z.

Furthermore, Goddard has written episodes for some huge television shows, like Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Alias. In 2015, he will serve as Executive Producer of the Marvel Studios show Daredevil that will be appearing on Netflix.





DEADPOOL






The other superhero film being made by FOX in 2016 is the solo Deadpool movie. The character previously appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. However, that version was quite terrible and not very true to the comics. So Deadpool fans have understandably been waiting for a more faithful version,

Tim Miller has been hired to direct; this will actually be his first film in that role. He has worked in the visual effects department on X-Men, X-Men 2, and Daredevil, as well as several other blockbuster films. He also made the unique title sequence for David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Ryan Reynolds portrayed the character in X-Men Origins, and expressed interest in returning to the role. Many assume that he will do so, but there has been no official announcement as of yet.



 Plenty of debate has taken place online over what the film will and should be rated. There are rumors that the movie is finally going to happen solely because they figured out how to make a Deadpool movie PG-13.

How much connection this will have to the overall X-Men universe is unclear as well. Potentially this film could be used to set up characters for future films such as the X-Force film that is apparently being made.


The release date is currently February 12, 2016.



DOCTOR STRANGE






One of the coolest Marvel characters yet to get a movie is Doctor Strange. He was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963.

He is the "Sorcerer Supreme" of the Marvel Universe, meaning he has a mastery of the magical arts. Doctor Strange gets his power from a trio of godlike beings call the Vishanti. According to the Marvel wiki, he is capable of telepathy, astral projection, "universal awareness", and is also ageless.

Doctor Strange has appeared in various forms of media going back as far as 1978, when a TV movie based on upon the character was produced. He's been in a few different Marvel cartoons and his own direct-to-DVD movie. This film is called Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme and is currently on Netflix streaming,



Doctor Strange was name-dropped in Captain America: The Winter Solider. SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell mentions a Stephen Strange as being on of the potential threats to HYDRA.

The director was recently confirmed as Scott Derrickson, who is mainly known for his horror films. These include The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, and Deliver us from Evil. These films have occult and supernatural themes, making him a logical choice for Doctor Strange.

The screenplay will be written by Jon Spaihts, co-writer of Prometheus.




The actor who will play Strange has not yet been revealed, but a few names have been thrown out. These include heavyweights like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. However, recently Joaquin Phoenix has been strongly rumored for the part. Many fans were asking for him and he seems to be a good fit for it.

The speculation led to the creation of the following fan art of Phoenix as Strange by "AndrewSS" that has gained popularity on the Internet.




The film will be shot in the United Kingdom.





TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 2








Unfortunately, we are getting a sequel to the 2014 reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of course, Michael Bay will again produce and presumably director Johnathan Liebesman will return as well.

Many of the actors are reportedly signed for three films. Liebesman has stated that we will also see Casey Jones.

The current release date is June 3, 2016.





UNTITLED DC FILM






Warner Brothers has a date reserved for an "Untitled DC Film" in 2016. The indications are very strong that this will be a Shazam movie.

It has recently been announced that Dwayne Johnson will be in this, but not as the title character, as many assumed. Instead he will play the villain/antihero known as Black Adam.

The character of Shazam was originally known as Captain Marvel but now commonly goes by Shazam.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Future of Comic Book Movies (Part 1 - 2015)

THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON





The most exciting comic book movie of 2015 is easily Marvel Studios' The Avengers; Age of Ultron. It will be the 11th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here's what we know about it.

First of all,  the release date is May 1, 2015 and Joss Whedon is back in the director's chair. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye will all return with the same actors as the first film. Other returning characters include Erik Selvig, War Machine, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill.

Baron von Strucker is also set to return from the after credits scene in Captain America: The Winter Solider. Also in the scene were Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch who are supposed to have major roles in this film. 

Quicksilver will be played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Johnson has already starred in two comic book movies, both as the title character in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2. You may have also seen him in the 2014 Godzilla film, Oliver Stone's Savages, or Anna Karenina.



Scarlet Witch will be played by Elizabeth Olsen. the little sister of the Olsen twins. She appeared with Johnson in Godzilla and in the Spike Lee remake of Oldboy. Her character has the ability to warp reality in the comics and is Quicksilver's twin sister.




Another classic Avenger that will be included is Vision. He will be played by Paul Bettany, who voiced the AI program JARVIS in the Iron Man films and the first Avengers, implying a connection between the two. In the comics, Vision was created by the villain Ultron, but turned good and joined the Avengers.



Obviously, as  the title implies, Ultron will be the main villain. In the comics, he was created by Hank Pym, also known as Ant-Man. Despite an Ant-Man film coming out later that year, Whedon has stated that Pym is not responsible for Ultron in this version. Presumably, Tony Stark will be the one who creates Ultron.

Roy Thomas and John Buscema created Ultron in 1968. He has consistently been one of the coolest and most popular Avengers villains since his creation.

Ultron will be played by James Spader. Spader's breakthrough performance was in the 1989 Steven Soderbergh film Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

He's appeared in films such as Less Than Zero, Stargate, and Lincoln and also had significant roles on television including Boston Legal and currently, The Blacklist

Fans thought it was a bit odd to hire such a respected actor to portray the robotic Ultron. Producer Kevin Feige stated they will be "capturing his face and body to create a whole performance... We did not hire James Spader to do a robot voice."

There have also been rumors about the inclusion of the Marvel version of Greek hero Hercules.




ANT-MAN






An Ant-Man film has been in development since even before Iron Man came out. It was originally going to be directed by cult filmmaker Edgar Wright. Wright broke into the mainstream with his 2004 zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead. Since then, he's also made Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and The World's End.

Ant-Man was supposed to be part of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, Wright made Scott Pilgrim in 2010 and Marvel Studios waited for him to be free. In 2012, the film was finally given a release date of November 6, 2015. Many had looking forward to this film for years, mainly because of Wright's reputation.

In May of 2014, Marvel shocked fans by announcing that Edgar Wright would not be the film's director. Apparently they had "differences in their vision of the film." He was replaced by Peyton Reed, director of films such as The Break-Up and Yes Man. Clearly, he doesn't have the pedigree or following of Edgar Wright.


For a long time it was unclear which version of the Ant-Man character would be used. The classic version was scientist Henry Pym, who was created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby in 1962. He was eventually one of the founding Avengers. The Ant-Man name was also later used by Scott Lang and Eric O'Grady.




Eventually it was revealed that both Hank Pym and Scott Lang would appear. Pym is played by Michael Douglas and invented the Ant-Man technology. He is mentoring Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd.

Lost star Evangeline Lilly has also been cast as Hope van Dyne, Pym's daughter. Fans have speculated that she will be the MCU version of The Wasp, who was also a founding Avenger. The Wasp's alter ego is Janet van Dyne in the comics and she is Pym's wife.




The villain in the film will be Darren Cross, AKA Yellowjacket. He is going to be played by Corey Stoll, who was excellent in the role of Congressman Peter Russo in House of Cards.

Rapper T.I. has also been cast in an unknown role.





FANTASTIC FOUR





The Fantastic Four have been absent from film since the two movies starring Jessica Alba and Chris Evans. Those were both pretty awful and unpopular with comic book readers so this isn't surprising.



The film rights to Fantastic Four are owned by FOX, not Marvel. Part of the deal is that to keep the rights, a film with these characters must go into production every so often. Supposedly, the cameras rolled on the reboot with just enough time to keep the Fantastic Four at FOX. 

Many fans have expressed the desire for the team to go back to Marvel Studios so they can be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is partly because of very significant characters such as the Silver Surfer and Galactus that go along with the Fantastic Four.

Instead, FOX could create a Marvel universe of their own given that they own both The Fantastic Four and the X-Men. However, these characters aren't necessarily a natural fit to be in the same universe. There have been rumors about a connection between the two franchises, but nothing has been confirmed so far.



The Fantastic Four reboot is being directed by Josh Trank. This will be his second film as director, the first being the 2012 found footage film. Chronicle. He is also currently slated to direct an untitled Star Wars spin off film that will be released in 2018.

The screenplay is going tobe written by Simon Kinberg (Days of Future Past, Sherlock Holmes) and Jeremy Slater, who has no previous credits according to IMDB.



The main members of the cast have been announced. Kate Mara (House of Cards) will play Sue Storm, also known as Invisible Woman. Some controversy has arisen over the casting of her brother, Johnny Storm. The Human Torch will be played by Michael B. Jordan, who worked with Trank in Chronicle and also appeared in Red Tails and Fruitvale Station

The controversy came up because Jordan is black and Johnny Storm is white in the comics. The producers have yet to explain how a brother and sister could be different races, but presumably one of them will be adopted or something.





Mr. Fantastic will be portrayed by Miles Teller, who you may have seen in Project X, The Spectacular Now, or Divergent.

 Finally, The Thing will be played by Jamie Bell. Bell has worked with directors such as Steven Spielberg in The Adventures of Tintin and Lars von Trier in Nymphomaniac. He's also been in Jumper, King Kong, and Snowpiercer.

The villain Doctor Doom will appear, played by Toby Kebbell. (War Horse, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

In addition, Tim Blake Nelson (O, Brother Where Art Thou?, The Incredible Hulk) has been cast as Harvey Elder.



The film is scheduled to be released August 7, 2015. The release date has actually been pushed back twice now. No official images or footage have come out.





KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE







The Secret Service is the name of a 2012 comic series written by Mark Millar and with art by Dave Gibbons, published by Icon Comics. Gibbons is best known for his work with Alan Moore, like the massively influential graphic novel Watchmen.  

Millar is equally famous. His works have been turned into films before, such as Wanted and Kick-Ass.





The film adaptation is called Kingsman: The Secret Service and was directed by Matthew Vaughn. He's no stranger to comic movies having already directed the Millar adaptation Kick-Ass as well as X-Men: First Class. Like Kick-Ass, the film will reportedly be rated R in the United States.

The cast includes Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Hamill. Hamill is actually a character in the original comic, but he does not appear to be playing himself in the film.

The trailer recently came out and you can view it below. The release date is February 13, 2015.










Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: Part Eighteen (2014)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER





The Marvel Studios money making machine was going strong this year with 2 huge films. The first one up was solo film number two for Captain America. It was a clear improvement over the original, and turned out to be easily one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Marvel Studios did not bring back Joe Johnston as director but instead went with a unexpected choice in the Russo Brothers. Unexpected because their only previous major theatrical credit as directors was the mediocre comedy You, Me, and Dupree. However, they have worked much more extensively in TV.

They directed several episodes of Arrested Development and then served as Executive Producers and directors on Community

The gamble paid off. The box office gross for The Winter Solider ended up reaching $714 million, dwarfing the $170 million dollar budget. Scoring a 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, it was a critical hit as well. Comic book fans were also pleased for the most part.



The origin was out of the way and audiences were familiar with Captain America through two films. So in this we just get to see him being a badass.

Not only that, the film has the guts to drastically change the status quo in the MCU. It is revealed that SHIELD had been infiltrated by HYDRA since its inception and the organization is completely disbanded. This also tied in strongly with the plot of the TV series Agents of SHIELD

Furthermore, the film gave focus to multiple supporting characters. Black Widow was given a very significant role. so much that when asked about a potential Black Widow solo movie, Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige remarked  that audiences already got that in this film.

Nick Fury gets his most significant role yet and is a big part of the plot. We are also treated to the introduction of "The Falcon", played by Anthony Mackie. Unlike his mainstream comic incarnation, he does not have a bright red suit or the ability to communicate with birds. His costume is closer to the "Ultimate" version and the character sports mechanical wings.



This movie related to the greater MCU in many ways. It ties in to the Iron Man films by stating that Tony Stark's parents were killed by HYDRA. In addition, Gary Shandling's character Senator Stern from Iron Man 2 appears and is revealed to be part of HYDRA. It's cool because things like these work even if you haven't seen those films.

The Winter Soldier is also strongly connected to The Avengers, to the extent that some have labeled it The Avengers 1.5. This is partially because of the aforementioned large roles for SHIELD, Black Widow and Nick Fury. They also considered having a small role for Hawkeye but this ended up not happening. Also, the events of The Avengers are used as justification for SHIELD taking a more proactive stance against potential threats.

Then there's the after credit scene that connects to the first and yet to be released second Avengers films. It introduces one of Captain America's most well-known villains, Baron von Strucker. He has possession of Loki's scepter from The Avengers. He is also holding captive Quicksilver and his sister Scarlet Witch, two famous Avengers that will be introduced The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Quicksilver also appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past but was played by a different actor and will likely have a totally different backstory.



A third Captain America film has been confirmed and will be directed by the Russo Brothers again. The release date is currently scheduled at May 6, 2016. It was originally supposed to go against Batman v. Superman, but WB moved that up to March.

Not much about the plot of the third movie is known. It might include some fallout from Age of Ultron. Judging by the after credit scene and ending to The Winter Soldier, the search for and redemption of Bucky will likely be a plot point.


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY





Marvel Studios continued their hot streak with their best film yet, Guardians of the Galaxy. This was the first new franchise in Phase Two of the MCU and their most obscure property to be adapted so far. Iron Man, Captain America, and the others were all heavyweights in the comic book world, but the Guardians of the Galaxy had more of a niche audience. The team was originally created in the 1960s but the version seen in the film is based on the revamped team from 2008.

This team included Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and the lovable duo of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Marvel made some interesting casting choices, most notably Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon. James Gunn (Slither, Super) was chosen to be the director.

GOTG is pure entertainment from start to finish. It doesn't take itself too seriously and there are plenty of jokes. But there are also some genuinely dramatic scenes and moving moments for each member of the team, plus a generous helping of action. The special effects are amazing and the film is a visual treat.



One of the coolest parts is that we finally a  real introduction to Thanos. Created by Jim Starlin in 1973, Thanos has been one of the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe. He was teased in an after credit scene in The Avengers, but didn't have any dialogue. Here is he brilliantly portrayed by Josh Brolin in two scenes.

The movie stays pretty close to the source material, but a few things are changed. One of these is Drax's backstory. As in the comics he is trying to avenge the death of his family. However, the comics portray him as a human named Arthur Douglas who was transformed into Drax after his family was killed by Thanos. There is no mention of this in the film and Drax seems not to be familiar with Earth.



There are also a few references to various Marvel characters. Cosmo the Space Dog is shown in the after credits scene. In the comics, he is capable of speaking and is a member of the Guardians. There is also an easter egg referencing Adam Warlock, who is crucial to the story of Thanos.

And most important of all, the after credits scene shockingly introduces an all-CGI version of Howard the Duck to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, for those of you scoring at home, Howard the Duck has appeared in two theatrical films before DC heavyweights like Wonder Woman or The Flash have even been in one.



Guardians of the Galaxy had a production budget of $170 million. As of September 21, 2014, it has made over $313 million domestically (the most of any superhero film in 2014) and over $632 million worldwide.  The Rotten Tomatoes score is a robust 92 percent.

There is currently a sequel scheduled for 2017. Little is known about it at this time, besides the fact that James Gunn will again write and direct.



X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST






Marvel's hits this year weren't just limited to its own studio. FOX also had a clear success with the seventh movie in the X-Men series. They sort of followed in the footsteps of The Avengers by combining the casts from the original trilogy and First Class. This ended up giving the film an incredibly star-studded cast, including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence (given a bigger role due to her rise in popularity), Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Ellen Page. Plus newcomer Peter Dinklage, who has become hugely popular for his role on Game of Thrones.

Another key piece of the puzzle was Bryan Singer. He directed the first two X-Men films and was supposed to direct the third. However, he left to direct Superman Returns instead. This marks his return to the franchise.

The result was an unqualified hit for FOX. Costing about $200 million to produce, the box office take ended up being over $745 million! Notably the film is also (as of September 22) at number 138 on the IMDB top 250 and has a robust 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is currently the highest RT score for any X-Men film. In my opinion this is warranted; it is most likely the best in the series.


The story takes its title from "Days of Future Past", a two issue storyline in Uncanny X-Men #141-142, published in 1981. It was written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. This story was previously adapted for the 1990s animated X-Men series.



The source material was only 2 issues, so obviously it had to be expanded quite a bit for a feature film. The most significant alteration was changing the time traveler from Kitty Pride to Wolverine.

Many fans saw this a continuation of the trend where Hugh Jackman's character was given all the attention at the expense of others. This was Hugh Jackman's 7th appearance as the Wolverine character, and he has at least one more scheduled in the sequel to The Wolverine.



As a result of time travel, what we once knew about  the X-Men film universe has changed. Wolverine wakes up at the end back in the future and everything is different. Not only is the world not a post apocalyptic wasteland, but character such as Cyclops and Jean Grey have come back to life. Interestingly, James Marsden and Famke Janssen, along with Bryan Singer, all lied about their characters being in the film, presumably to preserve the twist.



As is almost expected now for Marvel based films, there was an after credit scene and set it up the next entry in the series. It was set in Egypt and featured a crowd chanting "En Sabah Nur" the alternate name of Apocalypse, a popular X-Men villain.


X-Men: Apocalypse is scheduled to come out on May 27, 2016. It competition that weekend looks to be Disney's Alice in Wonderland 2.

It will be written by Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer just signed a deal to return as director. Many of the cast will return, including McAvoy, Lawrence, Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Jackman, and Evan Peters as Quicksilver. Kinberg has confirmed that the film will take place 10 years after DOFP in 1983. There are rumors that this will allow them to cast younger versions of Cyclops, Storm, and Jean Grey.



THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2





The most disappointing film at the box office for Marvel this year was the second entry in the rebooted Spider-Man series. It still made over $700 million, but Sony was expecting more.

Director Marc Webb returned as did the main cast.

Several new characters were introduced as well, mainly villains. Jamie Foxx joins the series as Electro and gives a decent performance as well. Chris Cooper appears as Norman Osborne, who dies before long. However, it is worth noting that we never see a body.

His son, Harry Osborne, is played by Dane DeHaan. He becomes the Green Goblin by the end of the film and teams up with Electro. The Green Goblin here seems to be a mix of 616 and Ultimate versions.

Another minor villain is the Rhino, played by Paul Giamatti. He has little screen time in this film but is presumably being set up for future films. We also meet a character named Felicia Hardy. the alter ego of Black Cat.

Mary Jane Watson was supposed to be appear, played by Shailene Woodley. Her scenes were filmed but her character was cut from the final film, which was probably for the best. There were already enough characters.

We also see hints of The Vulture and Doctor Octopus. These characters are likely to appear in the upcoming Sinister Six film that is going to come out in 2016. After that, we won't see the third Amazing Spider-Man entry until 2018.



TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES





A TMNT flick produced by Michael Bay... what could go wrong? This was the first live action movie in this franchise since 1993.

Unfortunately the film ended up being predictably terrible and devoid of soul. It's bad, but not in the "so bad, it's good" kind of way, just bad.

The all-CGI turtles ended up extremely creepy looking in my opinion. And the voice acting doesn't help much in making the audience relate.



It's also kind of weird that movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles makes the main character April and expects Megan Fox to give  us the human persepective. Oddly, the character of Casey Jones is completely absent.

Interestingly, the film almost wasn't called that, but instead simply "Ninja Turtles". Back in 2012, Bay claimed that the Turtles weren't mutants in his movie. They would be from an alien race. This caused somewhat of an uproar in the fan community and the filmmakers gave in.

There's a bit of a sly reference to this situation in the movie when Will Arnett's character asks if the Turtles are aliens. April replies, "That would be stupid."


This film did not do well with critics, hence it's paltry score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes and 31 on Metacritic.


SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR


The long awaited sequel to the 2005 original with a cult following, this one didn't quite have the impact on audience as the first.

A Dame to Kill For offers more of the same and should please fans of the original. But it doesn't really tread any new ground and feels slightly anticlimactic given the 9 year wait.

In the first film, all of the main stories were taken directly from the comics. However in this one, a decent amount of material has been created just for the movie.

The title story was taken from the comics, as was a short section about Marv adapted from a part of "Booze, Broads, and Bullets". The two other main chunks of the movie were written by Miller for the film.



300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

Another Frank Miller sequel came out this year, this time expanding on the story of 300. Unfortunately, this ended up being an unnecessary and disappointing film.

The director of the first film, Zack Snyder, was busy with the DC universe, so he only served as producer this time. Instead, Noam Murro directed, whose only previous credit was the comedy/drama Smart People.

Rise of an Empire takes place before and during the events of original. It is reportedly based on a Frank Miller graphic novel that has yet to be released.



I, FRANKENSTEIN





I, Frankenstein is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Kevin Grevioux. The movie was directed by Stuart Beattie, who wrote Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and  the comic adaptation 30 Days of Night. Aaron Eckhart played by the title character.



BIG HERO 6








Marvel is not quite done for 2014. There is still one film based on their comics to be released, and that's the Disney film Big Hero 6. It's actually going to be the first mainstream animated adaptation of a superhero comic.

Big Hero 6 is a relatively recent creation, first appearing in Alpha Flight #17 in 1998. They were created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau. Two important members of the team, Sunfire and Silver Samurai, are mutants and therefore owned by FOX. They cannot appear in the animated version.

The members of the team that were chosen to be the main characters in the movie are Hiro Takachiho (named Hiro Hamada in the film) and the robot Baymax. Other team members appearing include Honey Lemon and GoGo Tamago.

While the film is made by Disney, who own Marvel Studios, it won't be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can view the trailer below. It comes out November 7.







I've reached the end of my 18 part series on the history of comic book movies... for now. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the future of comic adaptations.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Comparison of the Top Grossing Films Throughout History (Part I:Sci-Fi and Fantasy)

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the top 10 grossing films from various years throughout history and see what trends I could discover. For recent years, I have tried to use worldwide grosses, but only the domestic totals seem to be easily available for earlier years.

One of the most dramatic trends that I noticed was the massive increase in the popularity of science fiction and fantasy films. For example, let's look at 2013. Out of the top ten worldwide grossing movies that year, 8 of them were either SF or fantasy. One of the remaining two is Gravity, which is considered by some to be science fiction, even though it probably shouldn't be, as nothing really happens that is beyond our current level of technology.



The other one is an action film, Fast and Furious 6.

In 2012 we see a similar trend. 7 of the top 10 were speculative fiction. Two others were animated films about talking animals, which I guess are basically fantasy films anyway. The only one left is a James Bond movie, and entries in that series have sometimes skirted the edge of the science fiction genre.



For comparison, take a look at 1987. Out of the top 10 grossers that year, none of them were SF, and only 1, The Witches of Eastwick, fell into the fantasy genre.

Maybe that was just an anomaly. How about 1977, a year often thought of as being a landmark one for SF, mainly due to Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, those were the only two sci-fi flicks in the United States top 10 and there were no fantasy films.

1978 is similar. The only US top ten film that year that would really be considered science fiction is Superman. We do have a zombie flick in Dawn of the Dead and a comedy with a supernatural bent in Heaven Can Wait. But really those two are just a horror film and a comedy.

In 1979, there were actually 3 SF movies in the top ten: Alien, Moonraker, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. We also have a supernatural themed horror film in The Amityville Horror.

Moving on to the next decade... in 1980 there was only one film in the top ten that was speculative fiction, The Empire Strikes Back. Fast forward a few years to 1983 and we see no fantasy films and only two SF. Again one was a Star Wars installment and the other was WarGames. In 1985, there was only one top grossing science fiction movie, Back to the Future. In 1988, the were no SF films and only 2 fantasy films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Beetlejuice.

As we can see the 1970s and 1980s had some iconic science fiction and were the beginning of sci-fi being a mainstream film genre. But it was still in the minority and the top earners often included realistic dramas and comedies, musicals and other genres.




What about the 1990s? Seems like a likely time period for the change to science fiction and fantasy to start.

Let's check out 1990's top films in the United States, There were four that are in the speculative fiction umbrella. We have Total Recall, based off a Philip K. Dick novel, and Back to the Future Part III, which are both firmly in the realm of science fiction. There's also Ghost, which is sort of a fantasy film and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which has to technically be science fiction or fantasy, I'm not really sure which!

1991 had only one science fiction top 10 film in Terminator 2. There were also two fantasy films in Beauty and the Beast and Hook. 1992 had no science fiction films, but some fantastical ones in Aladdin, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Batman Returns. Looks like we are seeing an increase in these type of movies, but still far from the dominance of the current era.




Let's skip forward to 1996. Surprisingly, only one film is either SF or fantasy, the top money maker of the year, Independence Day. 1997 had 3 science fiction films and none in the fantasy genre. 1998 had 2 SF movies, Godzilla and Armageddon, and neither of them are really typical of the genre.

Even in 1999, another landmark year for science fiction, only 2 of the top 10 are SF (The Phantom Menace and The Matrix), in addition to a fantasy film (The Mummy) and a supernatural horror (The Sixth Sense).




2001 was a similarly big year for fantasy. The biggest was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and number two was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The top 4 also included animated fantasy films Monsters, Inc. and Shrek. The Mummy Returns, Jurassic Park III, and Planet of the Apes were in the top ten, bringing the total of speculative fiction films to 7. This appears to be the first year where most of the top grossing movies were either SF or fantasy.

This trend continued in 2002. Out of the top 10, we again see 7 films in these genres, plus one CGI talking animal film. Since 2001, the highest grossing film every year has been sci-fi or fantasy. The only possible exception was 2008's The Dark Knight, but that is a superhero comic book adaptation, so for the purposes of our discussion it is probably close enough.

Clearly, the domination of these types of films at the box office began in the early 2000s and hasn't let up since. This makes sense as the late 1990s saw many huge SF movies, like the previously mentioned The Matrix, Independence Day, and The Phantom Menace. The late 1990s and early 2000s also saw the rise of the superhero genre, largely because of X-Men (2000) and Spiderman (2002).





In case you were wondering, the comparison is even more dramatic when looking at earlier decades. In 1939 there was no science fiction in the top 10 and only one fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz.

In the years 1949 and 1955 there were no top 10 movies in these categories. In 1959, there was Sleeping Beauty, which is a fantasy film and Ben-Hur, the biblical epic, which technically is a fantasy movie, if you think about it.

In the next decade, you can see that 1962, 1965, 1967, and 1969 all contained no fantasy or science fiction in the American top ten grossing movies.

This ended up being a big longer than I expected, so other trends I have discovered will be explored in future blog posts.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review of and videos from Die Antwoord's concert in St. Louis

Last night I had the opportunity to see an act I've been listening to for a long time, South African rap group Die Antwoord. They performed in St. Louis, Missouri at a venue called The Pageant.

Unfortunately, the night started off in a negative way with the opening act of a St. Louis DJ named Billy Brown. The music he was spinning was not particularly offensive, but mediocre. It was really the MC he was with that made it obnoxious. He kept awkwardly dancing around and spouting gibberish that wasn't even entertaining. He seemed to even get angry at the crowd, who likely had no idea who he was, for not  responding to him. I almost felt embarrassed for him; it was hard to watch.

Luckily the main act was much better. It was pretty much everything I wanted out of a Die Antwoord show.

I wasn't that crazy about their most recent album, Donker Mag. However, seeing the songs off this album was pretty fun in a live setting. And they sprinkled in many of their older songs, including "Fatty Boom Boom", "Fok Julle Naaiers", "I Fink U Freaky", and "Evil Boy". Of course, they encored with their first hit. "Enter the Ninja."

You can tell that Ninja and Yolandi don't sound quite as polished live, but I appreciated here a more raw sound.

Below are some of the videos I took using my iPhone 5.














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