Yesterday saw the release of the next full on "X-Men" movie. This year saw the release of "The Wolverine" which was pretty good, but the end teased with a set up for this movie and gave me goosebumps.
What's great about "Days of Future Past" is that not only is it one of the more famous "X-Men" stories, but after the prequel "X-Men: First Class," the follow up is a double sequel because it features a time travel aspect, so this movie combines the cast of the prequels as well as the original movies. I got so pumped after the trailer, I made a quick poster, which you can see below.
And the trailer:
The most brilliant character actor, Phil Hartman, was recently honored and paid tribute to in this touching video below. Today would've been his 65th birthday.
Today, I re-watch older SNL episodes and see that he's pretty much in all of the skits and nearly steals every one. His character of Bill McNeal on "Newsradio" was one of a kind and I still quote him to this day. He's one of the most brilliant voice actors in history. Every time he voices a character, I can't help but smile. He's forever been an influence on my life and I hope to be as funny and prolific as he was.
With the news breaking of a 'Rocky' spin-off movie with Apollo Creed's grandson being announced. I had to make a poster for it.
Sylvester Stallone has signed on for it. The acting-directing team of the new acclaimed film,"Fruitvale Station" is behind it, so I'm pretty optimistic. Although, my poster is not gritty at all.
It's been 40 years since the Dragon has left this Earth, and yet, his influence lives on in more ways than you may realize.
I fear that Bruce's legacy may only be the 'stereotype' that spawned from imitators trying to copy his success, but the real man was a philosopher and genuinely tried to change the world for the better.
He was proud of his Chinese heritage and though he emphasized teaching people about it, his message was universal and can be applied to just about anyone and anything. Below, is a great tribute video to the man, the myth, the legend.
This post is more for the movie geeks of technical aspects, or for those who are genuinely curious about the history of movies.
We don't think about aspect ratio as in depth as people used to because everything is adapting to widescreen. The most people ever notice are either having black bars on their television screen or not because of how wide the directors of certain movies wanted their screen. However, there is a whole history behind this simple concept, because going to the movies used to be a sense of wonder and excitement. It was almost like virtual reality at the time and filmmakers tried to think of different ways to enhance the audience's enjoyment at the theater. They try to immerse the people as best they can so it's almost like going to an amusement park.
When movies dominated the media, then threatened by the invention of the television, filmmakers and theater houses tried different tactics and gimmicks to keep audiences interested in going to the movies. After all, why go to the movies when you can watch shows at home? The different aspect ratios and IMAX-type technology was brought in to shake things up and give excitement to audiences again. But enough from me, check out the video below!
This is dedicated to the sequels who are too good to have linear numeric value. This list isn't simply a "worst sequel title" list where an entry would be "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo." We aren't looking for the worst sequel subtitle like "Jaws: The Revenge" or "Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan." And something like the James Bond series doesn't apply because they are not direct sequels.
There are established movie franchises that use their base name (i.e. Twilight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones) and simply add on a 'chapter' title for the movie.
Here, I'm talking about a series of sequel titles in a franchise that keep changing the rules of the titles within the series.
Let's say it's several years in the future and generations of new are curious to watch a franchise. They wanna watch 'Back to the Future.' No problem. Part I, Part II, Part III. The 'Rocky' movies? Sure thing! I, II, III, IV, V, Balboa. Things start to get a little complicated with that one, but it's not hard to decipher.
Then, we get into the franchises that are mind-bogglingly random and twisted, future generations who haven't heard too much of these franchises might not know what order to watch them in without doing a little research first!
Well, I present my top 5 strangest franchise sequel titles!
5. Final Destination franchise
This isn't the worst, which is why it's only number 5. But they had to mess it all up with the fourth movie entitled "THE Final Destination" as opposed to "Final Destination 4." It was understandable at the time, because they wanted it to be the last and FINAL one, so it is "THE FINAL Destination" which isn't that good to begin with because some people may already refer to the first one as that. And do you think general movie-going audiences will know the difference? But then, they came out with another one AFTER that! So it's no longer THE FINAL one! Now the franchise goes like this:
Final Destination 2
Final Destination 3(D)
The Final Destination
Final Destination 5
4. alien franchise
This series started as a horror franchise. Then the sequel turned it into an all-out action movie. So, the subtle change was weird, but understandable. There are more than one Alien in the second movie, so it's not just Alien 2. But the third movie brought it back to one Alien. What to call it now? The only solution is to give it a numerical value. It's the third movie, so "Alien 3." Now this is the only one with a number, because the fourth one, for whatever reason, went with the moniker,"Alien Resurrection." It may have multiple meanings, but this time there are more than one alien again. So, now the franchise goes:
3. Die Hard Franchise
I've addressed these titles before in my 'Die Hard Retrospective' but here they are again. This is a special case where the series started out clear cut, but the director of the first movie wanted to make the third movie a true sequel to the first one and so he didn't want to acknowledge it being the actual third movie in the franchise, so they gave it a phrased title. And the sequels just followed suit in weird ways. Now they're puns on sayings. So, now the franchise goes:
Die Hard 2
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Live Free or Die Hard
A Good Day to Die Hard
2. Fast and Furious Franchise
This series is just a mess. They didn't know what they were doing when naming the first sequel, so the next installments had no rules to follow and just called themselves whatever they wanted. The worst offender is the fourth movie. It is practically the title of the first movie without the word "The" and using an ampersand for the word "And." It's the fourth movie and it bares a title way too close to the original. I've actually overheard people at a video store get confused on which movie they were talking about; the first or the fourth one. Then came "Fast Five." I liked it because I'm not a fan of the series and the movie broke out of the mold, so it's almost like a reboot title while acknowledging it's place. Then, the sixth movie came out and all the promotional material say "Fast & Furious 6", which is all well and good until the movie itself showcases the title as simply "Furious 6." I like it. It is a nice companion title to 'Fast Five.' But now, we have a franchise that goes like this:
The Fast and the Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast & Furious
1. Rambo Franchise
It's pretty bad when you refer to the series as the "Rambo" series when the only one with the title "Rambo" is the fourth movie. This series just went through a complete title transition, but remains confusing. The original movie is just "First Blood." It features the character, John Rambo. The sequel demotes "First Blood" to a subtitle. The third movie just doesn't give a shit. They know what movie series this is. It's Rambo's series. But it's the third movie, so just call it "Rambo III." But in a shocking move, the fourth movie comes out and is just named "Rambo." Just "Rambo." So, now, when you talk about the movie "Rambo", you can be referring to any of these movies. The other day, I mentioned the fourth movie "Rambo" to my friend to which he responded,"The first one?"
So, now we have a franchise that goes like this:
Rambo: First Blood Part II
For an '80s kid, seeing the two names in the above banner would've made his head explode!
Stallone brought Schwarzenegger along for a few scenes in the Expendables movies, but here, they are full fledged partners working together and even having a fight! This is something that's been in the making for about 30 years!
The trailer itself left a little to be desired. It wasn't as balls-to-the-wall as I was hoping and the "pay off" action part of the trailer was a little tame. Maybe they're saving the good stuff for the movie. Maybe it's actually more of a thriller than an action movie. That would make more sense since these guys aren't in peak physical condition anymore. But this looks to be interesting that Stallone nor Schwarzenegger aren't playing the usual hero archetypes that they're famous for. Here's hoping the banter doesn't try too hard to be funny. But for now, the trailer can be viewed below. Hopefully, a second one will be released that will rightfully pump me up for this movie.
Behold my new job at the Burger Studio! Which I was promptly fired.
Here is an ad I did a few years ago for the Burger Studio located in the Missouri Western State University student union.
The singing was 100% my own voice. Ironically, the talking was 100% not my voice.
This week, I have had the great opportunity of not only co-hosting a podcast show, but I also had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite television dads, William Russ.
William Russ is best known for his role as Alan Matthews, Cory Matthews' father on "Boy Meets World." He is also a great character actor with great roles in the controversial "American History X" and "Aspen Extreme" with Peter Berg which has been described as 'Top Gun on the ski slopes.'
With the news of a sequel to the beloved family sitcom, "Girl Meets World" about Cory and Topanga's own family, we try to get some inside scoop about his involvement, we ask about his experience on the original show and how it's affected him and how he got his start.
Interviewing Mr. Russ was an amazing experience! He was a class act all the way, gave some great insight and was nice enough to give a friend of mine a shout out! Listen to the podcast below!
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
Hey gang, E.J.’s back with the “Die Hard” retrospective and today, I’ll be talking about the fourth movie in the franchise, “Live Free or Die Hard.”
Let me start off by saying that I never would imagine a new “Die Hard” movie would be made after the first three. A “Die Hard 4” was in the works for years, but nothing came about it and I never took the news seriously. At one point, it was going to be called “Die Hard 4: Die Hardest” with John McClane and his son kidnapped and dropped in the jungle where they’re forced to fight their way out. The son was even supposed to be played by Ben Affleck! That shows you a sign of the times. This was when Affleck had just done “Armageddon” with Willis, so I guess they formed a friendship. Years later, when I read that it would be about an old school hero like John McClane going up against new school techno-terrorists, I loved it. I actually had a similar idea for a movie, so it would seem like fate that an idea would like that became a “Die Hard” with John McClane smart assing and using streetwise tactics against a technology culture everyone is evolving with.
The first thing to note is now, they’re following the third movie’s example of using the title within a phrase which I didn’t see coming. Especially a title like “Live Free or Die Hard.” Although, I like it better than“ Die Hard 4: Die Hardest.” I don’t understand why they couldn’t use the international title “Die Hard 4.0.” It’s not a conventional title and it relates to the movie’s techno theme.
This one was based on an earlier script which was a techno-thriller called “WorldWar3.com.” I can’t help but think I would’ve liked this film as a stand alone movie more. But like the others, it was tailored to a John McClane story.
Here, John is no longer an alcoholic, but he’s definitely not happy with his life. He’s estranged from his kids and he had divorced from his wife, Holly. They use a device in reference to the first movie where his daughter, Lucy, uses the last name Gennaro instead of McClane to distance herself from her father. What the hell kind of a dad was John McClane?!
The terrorists here are a rogue organization that hacks into the government mainframe and begins to shut down important computer run programs that run society. It’s a scary thought. Especially since almost everything these days is digital. The foundation of the terrorists’ codes is written by a select group of hackers that are assassinated in the beginning of the movie. There’s only one left and McClane is called in to bring him to the F.B.I. So, he has this simple task which quickly turns ugly when the bad guys try assassinating the last hacker, Matthew Farrell. They waste no time getting to the action.
They get away and the terrorists put their plan into effect. First, they mess with traffic, then they mess with power and utilities before pushing the button to bring us all to a new stone age. It’s a reset of the system. The main villain this time around is Thomas Gabriel played by Timothy Olyphant of “Justified.” I have nothing against this actor, but he was just so bland. A good villain doesn’t have to necessarily be charismatic. I liked Colonel Stuart of the second movie even though he was a stone-faced bad guy archetype, but here, Gabriel barely even emotes. His voice is so monotone; it almost feels like a Keanu Reeves impression. I get he’s supposed to be a bitter and focused individual, but there wasn’t anything threatening about him. In the other movies, they may be villains, but sometimes they’re cool enough for you to root for them in some small way. Here, I couldn’t wait for McClane to rid of them.
So, McClane delivers Matthew to the Feds in Washington D.C. like he was assigned, but when they get attacked, McClane jumps into action to get them out of there. There’s a sequence where a helicopter chases them to a tunnel and the hackers open all the lanes and shut the lights out. This sticks the both of them smack dab in the middle of a colliding nightmare. This is a pretty exciting sequence and I believe the only computer effects used were to merge the actors in with the cars crashing. But it’s just so over the top! The physics are mindboggling!
Here, we see John act a little bit more like John McClane. He starts talking to himself. There should have been more of this. This kind of characterization is sorely missed in this movie. Most of the time, John barely smiles. He’s more melancholy. The best thing about the John McClane character is he’s complex without acting complex. He puts on a front and laughs in the face of danger as both a defense mechanism and intimidation. He probably seems the most pissed off in this movie. Later on, when he daughter is kidnapped, he becomes so serious. It’s understandable. But he and his wife were both stuck in a building riddled with villains in the first movie, he still kept the mood light. Maybe it’s a testament to how old he’s getting. Maybe something bad happened to him in between the last movie and this one, but John should not be this serious!
The Matthew Farrell character just didn’t track with me. I know he was supposed to be the polar opposite of John, but he came off as baggage. I don’t know why they felt the need to stick John with another sidekick. It worked in the last movie because the chemistry between Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis worked. Here, the generation gap didn’t work in its favor as it could have.
I suppose I should address the rating issue. A lot of fans of the series complained about this movie being PG-13. The studio wanted it to reach a larger audience and a lot of teenagers go to the movies these days so they figured they’d market to a wider crowd by making the action more extravagant instead of violent. It’s quite noticeable how much more grand the action set-ups have become. But it would seem, they traded grit for comic book action. There is probably only one big-scale action sequence in each of the original three movies, but here, the action is elevated to such a huge scope. There’s a scene late in the movie where John actually faces off against a fighter jet and destroys an entire highway set-up. McClane manages to escape it as the jet explodes and there’s a shot of the collapsed highway and burning cars. It’s an image that looks like it belongs in an apocalypse movie. The music cue even sounds like a clip of “The Terminator” score. And does John have a funny line in this aftermath? No. No he doesn’t. He just says “woo.”
So, Lucy McClane is kidnapped in the end and John has to get her back. They make sure to have Lucy resemble her father, but I think they make her too tough. We lose the severity of the situation. Why should we be frightened of the bad guys if their hostage isn’t?
To be honest, I really liked this movie the first time I saw it and even went back for repeated viewings. But it just doesn’t hold up anymore with me. It’s incredibly far removed from the other movies and any suspense that the series had to offer was completely absent in this movie. I can still watch it on occasion and enjoy it on a popcorn movie level, but “Die Hard” should be more than that.
TWO STARS OUT OF FOUR.
But now, we have a fifth entry coming out. The buzz hasn’t been good due to the people behind the movie and early word is, it’s more of a forgettable action movie. I’m setting my expectations low, but to be honest, I’m pretty excited to see it. I’m just a sucker for John McClane. It’s like meeting up with an old friend. If it’s entertaining like the second movie, I’ll be pretty satisfied.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my take on the movies. You may have disagreed with my points and that’s cool. Entertainment is subjective. I just wanted to offer my perspective and give a little history about the series. There’s a reason these movies stick around. It was a game changer and like other game changers, it’s been duplicated so many times. It became almost a subgenre. People describe its clones as “Die Hard on a blank.” There are some entertaining ones though. But no matter how many there are, there’s just no beating the original.
E.J. is just a simple man who loves movies. Don't judge.