Please Pull the Plug on These Movie Franchises Now
Just as the words “Super Bowl” are code for “Good Commercials, Bad Halftime Show and Ugly Football Game,” so it goes with the words “Summer Blockbusters” and “Holiday Movie Season.” A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, that used to mean excitement. Today, they’re slang terms for “sequels, remakes and reboots” (oh, my). It doesn’t take long to weed through the ho-hum list of what’s coming out anymore. But I would like to speculate that these movie “seasons”—and perhaps all of Hollywood altogether—would be better off without these ten movie franchises to kick around…
Director Michael Bay can’t do anything without a heavy hand. His stylized bombast does big box office, but his involvement is box-office poison for anything resembling a plot. Bay hasn’t directed anything memorable since 'Playboy Video Centerfold: Kerri Kendall' in 1990 -- it’s the most human of any film of any he’s attached his name to. Thankfully, there’s no more Megan Fox or Shia LaBeouf to make fun of in this series, but Marky Mark? Also, can someone explain why Optimus Prime can’t transform faster than the rest of the Autobots? Does he have low testosterone? Let’s hope Bay’s upcoming 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' is code for death of franchise. TMNT fanboys are hyperventilating in air sickness bags because they’ve seen what Bay can do. Even George Lucas thinks there’s too much CGI and not enough intrigue here.
Money-grab. 'The Expendables' has all the traits of a popcorn movie: grunting/swearing, teenage boy appeal, an all-star cast of living-legend action heroes from the '80s, gore, explosions, terrible plot ... Wait a second: Did Michael Bay direct these? Nope. Sylvester Stallone helmed the first, and now “oversees” the franchise. And while he has an eye for these sorta flicks, he doesn’t have the authority as a filmmaker to recapture the glory of his own best action work ('Rocky,' 'First Blood', 'Cobra,' 'Cliffhanger'). Stallone is bringing back the cast for 'The Expendables 3,' which isn’t surprising. But the new additions? Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, MMA queen Ronda Rousey, Harrison Ford and, whaaaa?, Kelsey “Frasier” Grammer. These movies are tired like their actors and (wait for it) expendable.
Admit it, there are a few movies out there where the first installment and even the second -- like the 'Alien' movies -- are fantastic. But what continues on afterward undoes all of the thoughtful filmmaking, and, after you watch them, you actually begin to hate the franchise overall. The first two Terminators are like that. The very first was gritty, grimy, dystopian. The second could be appreciated as a more polished, commercialized and technologically advanced completion of the story arc. Then Ah-nald got greedy with a third, Christian Bale anchored a largely forgettable 'Terminator: Salvation' as John Connor and now a fifth movie is in the works. Plot holes abound, storytelling logic is lost ... it’s depressing. Best line of 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day': “I know now why you cry," Schwarzenegger says. No, you don’t. But I think we all know why we do.
Do we even need to explain this one? After the first 'American Pie,' which still has some cringe-worthy and questionable laughs even now, the marketing machine ramped up and drove the jokes (and most of the associated actors) into the ground. We recently spotted a box set of these films called 'American Pie: The Full Reveal' which features seven(!!!) movies that are all part of the 'American Pie' universe. How many times can you make the same flute joke? We’d rather do an apple pie out of someone’s deep freezer then subject ourselves to any more direct-to-video releases that demean the comedic talents of Eugene Levy. Multimillionaire though he may be, we actually feel sorry for him. And in quiet moments, he probably secretly does too.
The Madea Series
We have yet to encounter a living being who thinks Tyler Perry is funny outside of 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman.' Why? Because he peaked too early. Everything that his character Mabel “Madea” Simmons has done since then has been some hackneyed variation on the same shtick, jokes and so on. Yep, she’s a thuggish, ruggish senior citizen you’d rather not play Pinochle with. She’s also a bigger gal, with an imposing persona and vindictive streak. And yes, she might curse you, cut you or worse if you cross her. But really, what else does Perry have to offer with this? Once you get that that “[W]hen you getting’ got, and somebody done got you, and you go get them, when you get em’, then everybody's gonna get got,” you really just needa get gone. One trick pony. One dimensional. Chicken crossing road. Next, please.
There’s only been one truly scary ghost story made in the past 35 years, and that's 'Poltergeist,' a film that Steven Spielberg wrote before he became a self-censoring, self-righteous revisionist with his own movies. Reinventing 'Poltergeist' hasn’t been attempted successfully since. Why? Because trying to approximate what something might look like with CGI has ruined the suspense genre. There have been exceptions, but by and large, 'Paranormal Activity' gives the audience a whole load of effects on top of poorly built suspense, implausible plot holes and characters without common sense who are essentially a struggle to sympathize with. Movies like 'The Sixth Sense' and 'The Blair Witch Project' have it all over 'Paranormal' because the filmmakers built a case of caring for the characters, offered a decent story and only sparingly used special effects to emphasize creeping anxiety and uncertainty. 'Poltergeist' is to 'Paranormal' as 'Jaws' (thankfully retired as a series) is to 'Sharknado.'
Should have been one and done. The very first 'Die Hard' hangs up many movie buffs on late-night cable every time. Back then, having an everyman cop like John McClane endure a terrorist occupation of an office building and save everyone was a unique spin. Bruce Willis was still sorting out his persona: We had 'Moonlighting' and 'The Return of Bruno,' so watching someone flex their acting chops a bit was fun. The original flick was loosely based on writer Roderick Thorp’s Joe Leland character in the novel 'Nothing Lasts Forever,' but the treachery that has taken place since is pretty blatant. McClane needing an excuse to utter “Yippie Ki-Yay, MF-er” every few years really destroyed what the original movie was. And, come on, Alan Rickman? Best baddie ever. Professor Snape can do no wrong … and yes, we will now “turn to page three-hundred and ninety-four …” Meanwhile, sadly, 'Die Hard 6' is in pre-production.
It’s on, it’s off. It’s happening, it’s not. We’re chasing Bill Murray. He doesn’t like the script … In all the static over whether or not a 'Ghostbusters 3' will happen, Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) died, and director Ivan Reitman backed away from the project. We’re warning Hollywood now: Just leave it be. Don’t cross the streams. We don’t want our face burned off with a hackneyed reboot or revision of something that doesn’t need a revisiting. The first, brilliant. The second, a good solid “7.5 out of 10.” Please don’t push some “next generation” of ghost hunters on us. We aren’t interested in Vigo’s little brother wanting revenge with his “puppies of Zuul.” No “epic-sized Marshmallow Peep” product tie-in looking to destroy the city -- or the memory the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. You wouldn’t remake 'Stripes,' 'Caddyshack' or 'Groundhog Day.' Please call it a day already. Anything less will be a disaster of biblical proportions.
'The Fast and Furious'
Another one where the first movie was plenty, but Hollywood can’t help but bleed the public dry. Fast cars, hot chicks, a sorta plot and chiseled leads (Vin Diesel and Paul Walker) plus terribly shot speed-racing scenes. Dialogue that makes the sequels to 'Die Hard' seem like Shakespeare. Stunts and action sequences that are done merely because they can be, and not for any specific plot-worthy purpose. Driving sports cars in a blinding rage for teeth-gnashing revenge. Oh, wait: Time for a steamy scene. Lather, rinse, repeat. After the death of Walker in an auto accident, you'd think t they would stop making these moving violations. Nope. Apparently, they’re cool to not drive 55 for the foreseeable future, and with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in on the series, we’re guaranteed at least one more after 2014's seventh installment. We’ll stick to Motor Trend magazine and chase scenes (and girls) in Daniel Craig's 007 flicks, thanks.
OK, we're saving the tough love for the end. Dear Harrison Ford: Stop it. Please retire. Despite what the box-office receipts might have told you, Indiana Jones was only supposed to be a trilogy. Fanboys aren’t buying the alien thing; most of them (us included) pretend the fourth film doesn’t even exist. And again with this Shia LaBeouf guy? Good thing he’s retired ... or something like that. On the Ford tip, we're hoping J.J. Abrams kills off Han Solo in 'Star Wars: Episode VII.' We get it: You’re an American institution, you do what you want. But when you start dropping hints that you’d like to make a sequel to 'Blade Runner'? That’s when we question whether your picnic is a couple sammies short. To the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Give this man his Lifetime Achievement Award already. L et him give his own “tears in the rain” monologue, and then abduct him before he does any more damage to the rep he’s built.