Belated sequels: Why they go wrong?


The belated sequel is, for all intents and purposes, a sign that Hollywood is close to running out of ideas. The plan is simple: take a famous property, convince everyone it needs to come back, deliver a final product and pray that old and new viewers show up. The basic elements of this system are designed to prey on an audience’s basis desires. The studios, obviously, think audiences and average moviegoers will devour anything with recognisable packaging wrapped around it.

anchorman2The marketing departments rule the roost here. The studios, like with every other movie, TV show etc., tell their marketing departments to coerce audiences to attend. From the get-go, these departments have advantages at their disposal. Due to immense coverage/ speculation/rumours by fans and the media, studios, producers, actors, directors etc. are seemingly coerced into dusting off old projects.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – out in 2013, nine years after the 2004 cult-hit original – was sold on getting the band back together. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd had moved on to leading man roles and engaging movies after the original’s underwhelming release. Their career trajectories, along with Anchorman‘s slowly growing fandom, drew interest for the long-awaited follow-up. These three leading men were hounded for years over the movie’s delayed development.

The industry’s reliance on brand recognition over star power slowly diminished Anchorman 2’s chances of critical and commercial successes. The sequel was released to mixed reviews from audiences and critics. Its cast’s energy was seemingly nowhere near enough to save the finished product. Fortunately, the three have gone on to Marvel Movies, Oscar-calibre material and truckloads of paycheques. Despite their talents and charm, Ferrell and co’s movies have made smaller profits and diminishing returns compared to earlier efforts. Ferrell, in particular, has gone from bad to worse of late. Get Hard and Daddy’s Home swung for the fences and missed spectacularly.

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Many belated sequels were not worth the wait. Dumb and Dumber To was the result of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels being hounded for the better part of 20 years (and we all know how that turned out). Super-flop Zoolander 2 stuck too close to the original, but left the comedy (and actors’ dignity) behind. The stinker was sorely missing the original’s slew of memorable lines and fun performances from once-fresh-faced comedians Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

The past two years have seen numerous belated sequels including My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Independence Day: Resurgence, Bad Santa 2, Finding Dory, Alice Through the Looking Glass and Inferno. A large number of these suffered due to pure laziness. They coast on the originals’ success and didn’t come close to creating something worthwhile. The rare recent exception is Danny Boyle’s T2: Trainspotting. The follow-up to the 1996 cult classic sees its characters come home to roost and accept who they are with entertaining results.

o1XC96sFsE-5Q2Fpp4HQ6g___tmp_11_715_The audience sees the cast (Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller etc.) and filmmaker return to this beloved property. The original was an out-there crime-thriller against the establishment, the ever-expanding United Kingdom and popular culture. Since its release, McGregor and co. have starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest movies and TV shows. Meanwhile, Boyle has picked up a Best Director Oscar and made a slew of hits. They have since become The Man.

T2: Trainspotting pokes fun at everything from new-age drug culture to social media without being overbearing. In this character-based drama, our leads are older, tireder, full of regret and ready to take their anger out on one another. Unpredictably, Renton (McGregor) is far from the fulfilled, reformed man we first think he is. The movie’s big revelation – Renton admitting to his failures, lack of worldly experience etc. – turns him into the loveable loser he was back in the day.

The sequel comments on its own belatedness, with every character questioning themselves and the world around them throughout. Whereas most belated sequels rehash character arcs, story beats and jokes, T2: Trainspotting reflects on the length of time between drinks. The movie is informed by, but not entirely reliant on, our general knowledge of the significant social, political and cultural changes between the mid-1990s and today.

ID4RHEADER-1The majority of belated sequels – comedies especially – rely almost 100% on a copy-and-paste formula for a quick fix. In fact, many feel like little more than hubris and laziness blended together. However, the better examples are aware of their own peculiar existence, commenting on the movie’s world and the real world without nudging us too violently. It is not so much who is involved and what they are doing, by why we should be watching that matters most. With numerous belated sequels scheduled (Wedding Crashers 2), this trend is not slowing down. I wonder which movies out today will get follow-ups 20 years from now. An Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling re-team for La La Land 2: Still Tapping maybe?

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Top of the Tube: The best YouTube movie critics


Since its inception into popular culture in 2005, YouTube has become a pioneering force for worldwide video sharing. The service has since surpassed several key entertainment mediums to become the go-to source of entertainment. The past decade, indeed, was a mixed bag for entertainment mediums and modes of all shapes, sizes, and functions. But YouTube moved with the times.

As print formats continue to descend into the darkness (or online), YouTube is bolstered by comedy, drama, and action videos shared by anyone – many of whom long for their 15 minutes of fame. Even Hollywood has come on board with the phenomenon, with eager filmmakers picked from obscurity after uploading their work onto the behemoth site (see the original Pixels short).

Nowadays, trailers, clips, and behind-the-scenes videos are only a couple of clicks away. The rise of the YouTube film critic has been huge for many Generation X and Y-ers. They provide heads-up examinations of each new movie and TV show. My chosen critics have stepped up to the microphone; hitting well above their weight and higher than the competition.

photoThousands of hits, spiteful comments, and copycats later, they have evolved into becoming some of the most influential critics/citizen journalists working today. The self-employed film buffs including Jeremy Jahns, Chris Stuckmann and Schmoes Know have enough range and charisma to attract the attention of viewers and advertisers. So, how exactly have these critics and filmaholics broken away from the scores of YouTubers currently blogging, vlogging, and flogging?

Jeremy Jahns, pronounced many different ways by many different people, is a one-man machine working from home. His YouTube channel, launching in mid 2009, was a sure-fire, quick-witted response to the CGI-induced nightmare that is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Since then, Jahns has been uploading his opinions on everything including movies, trailers, video games, and TV shows.

The YouTube sensation’s style can best be described in one word: Laymen. Beyond the cool suits and calm attitude, the man speaks like you and me. He delivers each video like a guy talking to you in a bar. That’s what makes him so approachable and interesting – his ability to analyse each movie, communicate his ideas, provide witty humour and deliver a final blow within each short, concise video. Jahns is a one man 3-D experience (and not just because he stands so close to the camera).

maxresdefault (1)Chris Stuckmann is of a similar breed of heavy-hitting YouTube stars. This other thirty-something has embedded himself in popular film criticism and social media. Popping up on Screen Junkies and across the internet, his friendly face and welcoming personality pull you in. More so, his analyses are memorable and thoughtful enough to keep you around. Like with every YouTube critic, his biggest videos focus on the year’s most anticipated movies. Every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie review connects to the audience whilst informing everyone else. His hilariocity reviews and in-depth spoiler discussions always provide something new. Prometheus and Drive are seen in a different light thanks to Stuckmann’s deft approach.

The best of the best critics break through language divides to create original and entertaining discussions. What the Flick?! is one of the milestone achievements of online and YouTube film criticism. The four leads – Ben Mankiewicz, Christy Lemire, Matt Atchity and Alsonso Duralde – are part of Los Angeles’ broadcast and online film journalism elite. The four star in video reviews with each other and/or a slew of similar guests.

Their reckless energy keeps eyes glued to the screen no matter the subject at hand. It is a unique skill – conveying charisma, charm and immense knowledge in a modest fashion. The crew’s reviews, opinion segments and interviews are worth the subscription. Their reviews of Marvel/Netflix shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist explore each episode, character, storyline and underlying element with ease.

Screen Junkies takes the cake for modern online criticism and entertainment. Sprouting from humble beginnings several years ago, the group kicked off with the uber-successful Honest Trailers along with interviews/kooky segments/other hosted by Hal Rudnik. Their sundance-news-sj-universe1entries continually break the mould – providing fun and funky ideas for their audience to bounce off of and have a good time with. Since then, movie fights and honest trailer commentaries have become part of their ongoing campaign for online ratings. Screen Junkies News is the cherry on top of the sundae. The News channel’s array of hosts and topics (movies, TV etc.) appropriately balances expert opinion and laughs.

A lot of people think it is easy to become a YouTube/internet sensation. Video apps are chock-a-block with people pointing cameras at themselves, surrounding themselves with cool backgrounds and spewing their opinions for the masses to devour. However, it is almost impossible to connect with viewers and maintain a high level of interest from them. The aforementioned channels and organisations prove talent in front of and behind the camera – along with blood, sweat, tears and dollars – are needed to make YouTube careers go from dreams to reality.

Deepish Thought: The Line Between ‘Director’s Cut’ and ‘Final Cut’


In 1982, sci-fi-action-thriller Blade Runner polarised critics and audiences. Acclaimed movie critic Roger Ebert tarnished whatever reputation it had, becoming one of the strangest Hollywood projects of its decade. The film tanked, forcing Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford to reconsider their options.

Directors-Cuts-Scott-072015Blade Runner ‘Final Cut’ came out after several re-jigged versions of the 80s smash, removing everything Scott and Ford disliked. The move kicked off the rise of extended/special/director’s cuts in home entertainment. Today, it is considered one of contemporary Hollywood cinema’s most ground-breaking blockbusters. The film shaped an entire generation of filmmakers, convinced the film was the pinnacle of Hollywood potential.

Over cinema’s history, there has been a strong divide between the director’s cut and theatrical version. A film’s producers, refining the run-time and content to fit the rating system and avoid ambiguity, typically decide the theatrical cut. The director’s cut is longer, broader, and more explicit than the theatrical cut, presented as the director’s approved copy.

The director’s cut refers to what is decided on in the editing process. This particular copy comes between the rough and theatrical cuts, leaving in everything the directors they accepted and endorsed. Many of these are released after the original version, with ‘Director’s Cut’ or ‘Extended/Special Edition’ DVDs selling like hotcakes and attracting increased critical attention.

Many theatrical cuts exist to fit in more screenings per day at the cinema complex. However, with most blockbusters stretched to two-and-a-half-hours, the call for more cuts and minimal directorial control may be necessary. There are two key examples of how studio, director, and producer dynamics have transformed some projects into some of the most memorable productions in contemporary cinema.

avengers-age-of-ultron-team-noscaleThe Avengers: Age of Ultron is a packed middle chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whilst telling its own story – introducing a new villain, protagonists, settings etc. – the 11th franchise instalment forced director Joss Whedon to set up future flicks including Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Thor: Ragnarok. To achieve his vision, Whedon set his sights on a four-hour cut to complete this monumental task. The move would have potentially split the instalment into two parts, fleshing out each element to its full potential.

However, the film was designated as one instalment by MCU/Disney heads – receiving mixed reviews from critics and fans for pushing too much into one production. Here, Whedon and the studio clashed head on. Whilst Whedon’s idea would have provided more bang for your buck, the MCU’s plans for future movies would have been stalled. Age of Ultron left the director and studio butting heads, leaving the debate over Whedon’s vision up in the air.

Whereas Age of Ultron blurred the lines between Whedon and the studio’s visions, Ridley Scott’s features make a clear distinction. Scott, from Blade Runner onwards, has had several projects flipped and switched by the studios. For the 2003 re-release of Alien, Scott agreed to create an alternative cut to satisfy 20th Century Fox directly. However, with films including Gladiator, American Gangster, and Black Hawk Down, Scott and the studio’s vision matched directly. All three were released as extended/special editions for DVD editions.

df04719ef97e67c26eb87ab73301ed5fOf course, the most common version of the director’s cut is adding more scenes to extend its run-time. The theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven was met with mixed reviews and dim box-office returns upon release in 2005. Despite being considered a failure, Scott stood by the project throughout its production, release, and reception. The underrated crusades-epic was given the green light, with Scott developing a director’s cut for release several months later.

Screened at the Laemmle Fairfax Theatre on December 23rd, 2005, the director’s cut is approximately 45 minutes to one hour longer than the original. As the version Scott wanted for release, the director’s cut – at 194 minutes – includes a more thorough, fleshed-out version with an overture and intermission. The film received a much stronger reaction from critics, praising Scott for sticking to his original vision. The film, thanks to Scott’s version, is considered one of the filmmaker’s best movies.

The debate between theatrical and director’s cuts has pros and cons on both sides. Big-name, visionary directors including Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg have final cut privilege over their films to positive results. On the other hand, producers, taking advice from focus groups and people involved, have good reason to change the edit, understandably protecting their investment to gain commercial success.