Say you’re filmmaker Alex Kurtzman. To the outside observer, it would appear you have it all: a multi-picture deal with Universal to spearhead their Dark Universe initiative, more money than God, probably a bunch of boats, Tom Cruise’s cell phone number. And yet you’re driven mad by the one thing you can’t seem to get, which is the respect of the critics. Like pretty much everything you’ve ever done, the reviews have been downright vitriolic (and to make matters worse, your latest film The Mummy has not been the cash factory Universal was hoping for, now poised to lose the studio a cool $95 million even after a handsome global gross), souring your day even as you fail upwards into the next multi-million-dollar project.
Funny how there aren’t any movies about creepy-looking dolls that stay inanimate. The tradition of killer miniatures is a rich and varied one, stretching from smart-mouthed icon Chucky to Twilight Zone resident Talking Tina to the gang of supremely ticked-off slave toys in Tales From the Hood’s third quarter. The unsettling lifelessness of a doll’s visage has made it a reliable source of horror in the past, and the Conjuring franchise struck its own vein of gold with the homicidal, pigtailed Annabelle. The precocious little psychopath got her own starring vehicle in 2014 with the simply-titled spinoff Annabelle, and now we’re taking a step back in time to witness her dark baptism in blood.
The 2014 film Edge of Tomorrow, known to confused home-video purchasers by the title Live. Die. Repeat., ended its MC Escheresque plot structure with one twist more. Our valiant heroes Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt fought through wave after wave of alien invaders, and though they both lost their lives in the process, they bested the final boss. But as Cruise lay dying, the queen’s blood got on him and ported him back in time yet again, this time somehow to a past where the alien menace has already been beaten back. The weird timeline tampering left some viewers scratching their heads, but that film’s writer Christopher McQuarrie has plans for them.
With so many massive studio tentpoles springing up all over, you’d be forgiven for letting the gestating Jumanji remake slip your mind. The rework of the ’90s kid-friendly fantasy film, playing under the somewhat unwieldy title Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (yeah, tack the tagline right onto the title, why not!) will come to theaters December 20, but prying eyes have already ensnared some key details about the film. There was the whole brouhaha surrounding Karen Gillan’s hilariously impractical jungle outfit and her mealy-mouthed explanation as to why her character had to get all hotted up for a nature expedition, a controversy I have dubbed Midriffgate, and now today brings news of another curious detail of story.
Here’s how thoroughly Batman’s influence has permeated the mainstream: he’s claimed tacit ownership of the very notion of shining a light into the sky. The Bat-Signal, introduced in the comics as Gotham City’s method of summoning the Dark Knight, has been endlessly parodied in the annals of pop-culture — just earlier this month, the poster for Captain Underpants paid homage to the iconic (a word I mean here literally, and not in the ‘a photo of the Kardashians’ sense) design of the skyward spotlight. And all too appropriately, the Bat-Signal will now be used to give one former Batman, the dearly departed Adam West, a proper send-off.
With Spider-Man: Homecoming due July 7 and star Tom Holland teasing the possibility of two more sequels for this latest iteration of the web-head, the franchise’s future has become a topic of interest. And no detail fascinates comic book movie fans quite so much as villainous personnel; Spidey’s many disciples will always be curious to learn which face from the hero’s extensive, colorful rogues gallery will get a big-screen treatment. And while today did not bring confirmation of anything that will happen, it did bring confirmation of one thing that definitely won’t.
Remember Flatliners, Joel Schumacher’s 1990 sci-fi/thriller about a group of medical students trying to cross over into the afterlife? They stop one another’s hearts just long enough to enter the great beyond, and then jolt them back into the land of the living before too long. Perhaps you noticed a fleeting reference to the film in last summer’s Popstar, wherein Bill Hader is relieved to learn that he has not pooped himself after a soft-goth Joanna Newsom artificially halts his heartbeat in a hobby he refers to as ‘flatlining.’ Ready or not, here comes a remake!
As we all learned from Sully, planes are not to be trusted. The massive, sophisticated machinery in these multi-million dollar aircrafts can be completely undone by something as small and minor as an errant bird, sending the passengers into a screaming spiral of terror. As pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, Tom Hanks heroically guided an airliner into the Hudson River for a safe crash landing, and Harrison Ford survived a similarly perilous plane crash while giving his amateur pilot’s license a workout not too long ago. Another day, another celebrity-adjacent story pertaining to aircraft engine failure.
In a few short weeks, the general public will get to lay eyes on Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver, which, as has been made clear multiple times elsewhere on this very web site, is absurdly good. Like, unaccountably good. How is the movie so good? Explain yourself, Wright! While he has not yet owned up to whatever dark sorcery made his new film such a blast, Wright has been discussing plenty of other matters as he’s made the rounds on the interview circuit in support of Baby Driver. And the folks at Movie Web wanted the answer to one question in specific: where’s the man stand on sequels?
As we gradually approach a Fahrenheit 451-type juncture in the real world, HBO Films has kindly taken the edge off by announcing their plans to mount a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel. It was surprising but enticing news when it broke a couple of months ago, boasting a flashy pair of headliners in Michael B. Jordan (portraying Guy Montag, an professional book-burner who comes to question the ethics of his work) and Michael Shannon (as Beatty, Guy’s boss and mentor who doesn’t take too kindly to his protege’s radical new thoughts). And today, in an all-too-timely casting notice, a third star has upped the profile of this big-ticket TV movie even further.
Here’s how bubble economics works: when a specific commodity appears to be growing in value, investors funnel more money into it and that artificially inflates the value even further, which cycles back and attracts even more investor money. Eventually, however, the chickens must come home to roost and the actual value of that commodity must be recognized. If the return-on-investment potential fails to live up to the hype created around it, then a lot of people stand to lose a lot of money very quickly. Remember Kazaa, from way back when it looked like it was literally impossible to lose money by investing in online companies? Me neither!
Tom Cruise has made it a professional point of pride that he does all of his own stunts. 54 years old, still ripped, and with nothing to lose, he’s made headlines and earned respect by jumping out of every structure imaginable, developing proficiency with various firearms, and most recently and notably, clinging to the side of a aircraft in active flight like a little gecko with a death wish. It would appear there’s nothing the man won’t do (aside from keep his shirt on for the full duration of a studio film), and a special report from the set of his upcoming thriller American Made has raised the bar even higher.
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