The World of Yesterday’s Future
In 2003, Disney struck it big when they turned one of their amusement park attractions, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, into a multi-million dollar movie franchise. If a movie based on a single attraction could be so successful, imagine what a movie based on an entire section of Disneyland might do! That might not have exactly been the thinking that led to the new movie Tomorrowland, but the movie is nevertheless the Disney Company’s newest attempt to turn part of their theme park into a movie franchise. The hope, of course, is that the movie turns out to be more Pirates of the Caribbean and less Haunted Mansion.
Crazy Stunt Show
The newest reboot/follow-up/sequel to come out of Hollywood’s current everything-old-is-new-again trend is Mad Max: Fury Road. It has been thirty years since the character made famous by Mel Gibson has graced the silver screen and although Gibson is absent from the latest version, director George Miller is back in the driver’s seat. With Miller in place and Tom Hardy stepping in for Gibson, the Mad Max franchise is back in a big way.
An Action Extravaganza
Prior to the release of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012, there was some skepticism as to whether a comic book adventure featuring a team up of so many different superheroes could actually work. No one had ever really attempted such a project before and some of the biggest complaints about previous superhero films that failed were that they tried too hard to shoehorn multiple characters into one movie. Just think about Spider-Man 3. Whedon pulled it off, though, and The Avengers became a Hulk-sized smash. As a result, its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, hasn’t faced much skepticism, but it has been challenged with some ridiculously high expectations.
The thing about a fantasy is that it is by definition unreal and fantastic; it doesn’t need to be grounded in reality. The Age of Adaline is a romantic fantasy about a woman who does not age, and the potential is there for it to be a classic movie fantasy—the kind of movie that allows the audience to escape from the restrictions of reality and just get swept away in the story and its characters. Unfortunately, even while providing us with some magical visuals, the creators of the movie keep trying to ground their movie in reality, making it difficult for the audience to willing suspend their disbelief.
Let the Young Ones In
In director Noah Baumbach’s latest, While We’re Young, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a 40-something married couple stuck in something of a rut. After a couple of failed pregnancies, they are both pretty sure that they will be able to be happy without having kids, but this perception gets more and more challenged as their friends start having children and drifting away. Stiller’s Josh is a documentary filmmaker who is currently in his tenth year working on the same project, so he’s also in a professional rut. They need something new injected into their lives. Enter Jamie and Darby.
In 1971, folk singer Steve Tilston gave an interview in which he discussed his fears that wealth and fame might negatively affect his songwriting. The article was read by none other than John Lennon, who was inspired to write a letter to the then 21-year-old singer offering words of advice. In 2010, Tilston finally received the letter. That true story served as the inspiration for the new movie Danny Collins, the directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Fogelman.
Grown-Up Kids with Life-Sized Hot Wheels
The Fast and the Furious franchise has been around since 2001, but it really came into its own with the fourth installment in 2009. For that movie, the filmmakers threw out any attempts to keep the movies grounded in reality and just went for it with ridiculous stunts that defied all physics. The action scenes are so extreme they feel like they were written in the minds of young kids while racing their hot wheels around the house. Each of the two movies released since then have gone out of their way to try and outdo their predecessors and the latest installment, Furious 7, tries to do the same… and in many ways it succeeds.
Bippidy Boppidy Boo
The latest trend in Disney movies is live-action remakes of their animated fairy tale classics. Last year, Sleeping Beauty was remade as Maleficent and next year Beauty and the Beast gets the live-action treatment. This year’s remake is Cinderella, the fairy tale that was originally animated by Disney in 1950. Whereas Maleficent was a major departure from the animated original, Cinderella remains extremely faithful to the original—maybe a little too faithful.
Johnny 22 is Alive!
Director Neill Blomcamp exploded onto the scene in 2009 with the Oscar-nominated hit District 9 and like J.J. Abrams, he has quickly become a key figure in the science fiction genre. His follow-up Elysium had a little more star power thanks to Matt Damon, but it did not quite have the same impact as his first film. The big news now is that Blomcamp will take over the reins of the Alien franchise in 2017, just like Abrams took over the Star Wars franchise. But first, the director presents us with the story of a sentient robot named Chappie.
The Big Con
The con-artist movie has been a popular sub-genre for movie stars to show up in and just be movie stars over the years. From Paul Newman and Robert Redford in 1973’s Oscar-winner The Sting to 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven—a con-artist movie disguised as a heist movie—these movies have been the perfect vehicle for popular and attractive stars to look cool, act cool, and be cool. In the history of movies, few stars have had cooler personas than Will Smith and so it seems inevitable that he should grace the genre in this year’s Focus.
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