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All Three of Pixar’s Billion-Dollar Movies Are Sequels. Now What?

Pixar

From Animation World Network:

Incredibles 2 became just the seventh animated film to cross the $1 billion mark at the global box office. It is Disney’s fifth animated and 18th-ever billion-dollar release and joins Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War as Disney’s third release to reach the $1 billion milestone this year.

Egregious success for Disney in 2018 aside, Pixar is now the first animated studio to release three films with $1 billion worldwide box office. And all three of these films are sequels: Toy Story 3Finding Dory, and now Incredibles 2. And yet people wonder why Pixar continues to make sequels in the first place. Money speaks louder than critics, I suppose.

Go on…All Three of Pixar’s Billion-Dollar Movies Are Sequels. Now What?

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Isn’t Really A Remake Of A New Hope

force awakens

Every so often, a fan theory comes along to remind us how good fan theories can actually be when the work and time is put into them. Less than a year ago, EC Henry composed what I believe to be a masterful breakdown of The Force Awakens that (dare I say it) makes the movie just a little bit better.

Is Star Wars: The Force Awakens a remake of the original Star Wars (A New Hope)? I’ve always considered the movie to borrow voraciously from that original film, while also lifting plenty from the other two parts of the trilogy. But many reviewers like myself have talked ourselves breathless about how TFA features yet another “droid on the run” story with Death Stars, cantinas, and a modest chosen one.

But in EC Henry’s video essay below, the case is made that TFA is really a “creative remix” of the original trilogy, and there’s a strikingly good reason for this that might shed light on the future of the entire franchise. I’ll unpack the theory below (with some of my own observations), but here’s the quick 3-minute breakdown.

As EC Henry points out, nearly all of the similarities between TFA and A New Hope occur in the first act of both movies. BB-8’s story is parallel to R2D2’s, and we’re on a barren planet that slowly reveals our hero, Rey, who is reminiscent of Luke in some ways.

The Millennium Falcon departing Jakku, followed by meeting Han Solo and Chewbacca, is where the first act in TFA ends (roughly), which mirrors the end of the first act in A New Hope, when Luke meets Han and departs Tatooine aboard the same ship. Henry also implies that Greedo and Han’s antagonism is mirrored with Han’s confrontation with the mercenaries aboard the freighter.

At this point, TFA’s second act starts to mirror the second half of The Empire Strikes Back. There’s a monster-in-space encounter (Rathtars in place of the asteroid worm) followed by Han deciding to visit an old friend (Maz Kanata as a fill-in for Lando Calrissian). We also see Kylo contacting Snoke in the same way Vader contacts Palpatine.

To save for time, TFA converges the Luke/Dagobah subplot with the Cloud City subplot. Rey goes to a mysterious planet and learns more about her origins and destiny with Maz pulling double duty as a fill-in for Yoda. And just like in Empire, the villains show up to wreck things. Rey is defeated by Kylo Ren (a la Luke and Vader’s first fight) and is captured, similar to how Han is taken away by Boba Fett.

force awakens

From here, TFA mirrors the third act of Return of the Jedi. The Rebels/Resistance meet to discuss their rescue plan and discover “another Deathstar.” The story breaks in two with ground forces on Starkiller Base trying to break down the shields and Rogue Squadron attacking from space, just as the Battle of Endor had two fronts. There’s an epic lightsaber battle happening as the space assault reaches its climax, with the Jedi using fury to overwhelm the Sith (Rey slicing Kylo is quite similar to Luke taking down Vader).

As Henry also points out, there are exceptions to this where small elements of the original trilogy are mirrored throughout (the catwalk scene, for example), but there certainly seems to be a primary structure in place that combines all of the movies in a coherent way. But what’s the point? Why would Lucasfilm do a creative remix like this at all?

The expectations for TFA were always going to be astronomically high, so the strategy here makes some sense. Add all of the nostalgic fan service to TFA as a tribute in order to gain credibility for this new trilogy, so the next two movies can unfold in more creatively bold ways that aren’t enslaved to the source material. Put more simply: they started with a look at the past and ended with a strong look toward the future.

And in one strange way, TFA is basically the movie George Lucas intended to make in the 1970s. Rather than a trilogy, he envisioned the entire arc of Star Wars to be told in a single movie. TFA essentially fulfills that vision and authorial intent, so as someone who had a lot of problems with the film, I’m finding myself appreciating it more for what it manages to accomplish in light of what couldn’t have been done 40 years ago.

Did I miss anything? Add some of your own observations below. And if you like this essay, be sure to subscribe to EC Henry’s channel, and consider supporting him on Patreon for more great videos.


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @@jonnegroni

Will ‘Cars 3’ Be GOOD? – The Pixar Detectives


An “extended look” trailer  for Cars 3 came out just this past week, so last night, the Pixar Detectives took to Super News on Facebook Live to talk about it. And of course, the question our minds is pretty obvious: will this movie be any good? Or should we prepare for another Cars 2 situation?

We discussed what we liked and didn’t like about the first two Cars films. We asked: Is Lightning a good protagonist? Do we need more new characters? Why do I hate the way these cars are designed and Kayla likes them? We covered all that and then some.

Be sure to join us live each week, so you can comment along and enter our weekly giveaways. This week, we gave out the Blu-Ray Digital Combo Pack for Inside Out! And as always, we’re open to any and all prize suggestions from you all. Just leave a comment a below or in the video.

We’ll be back next Wednesday at 7 p.m. pacific (our normal time), and let me know if you have any lingering Pixar or Disney questions you want answered and explored in future episodes.

Here are some of our top comments from the livestream:

The only good cars was the first one. Pixar should just move on from cars. – Ashley

You know what would be an interesting conflict? The rise of electric cars threatening to replace Lightning and the other racers. Have the villain be an Elon Musk type figure who wants to turn the main racetrack into a tesla dealership – Steve

I think it will be a suprise shocker that will leave everyone satisfied – Tyler

I don’t think they’re slipping with their designs, I mean The Good Dinosaur was visually gorgeous. Inside Out was insanely beautiful. – Alexia


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni

Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Is Loud and Dumb, Just Like You Expected

review independence day resurgence

Despite what you may be led to believe from its title and the marketing for it, Independence Day: Resurgence is more “requel” than sequel, in the sense that while it does continue the storyline from the 1996 blockbuster, it’s still in the business of kicking off a new series of movies, rather than tying up any loose ends.

During parts of Resurgence, this works well and is paid off with some impressive world building that ties in logically with the events of the first film. Since the alien invaders of that movie were defeated 20 years ago, a more unified mankind has adapted their technology to prepare for their inevitable return.

Many players from the first film make a return for continuity’s sake, though Will Smith’s character was killed offscreen in between movies. If you aren’t caught up or haven’t seen Independence Day in a while, you might get a bit confused when some of these secondary characters show up without much explanation. But for the most part, Resurgence balances its focus with the next generation of heroes, most of them eerily being offsprings of the first film who all happen to know each other.

review independence day resurgence

Sadly, the new kids are probably the worst characters in Resurgence, and that’s amidst some trying competition.

Resurgence is the epitome of a film that tries so hard, yet fails so miserably at what it sets out to do in terms of plot, narrative, and even the basics of humor (rivaling some of the most painfully unfunny movies of 2016 so far). There’s some good spectacle to be had here, which is all most moviegoers are getting in the seats to see in the first place, but Resurgence makes a lot of the same mistakes as its predecessor during an era where they’re not quite as forgivable.

Independence Day was a silly, dumb disaster movie, but it resonated with audiences because its tone was of the moment. It spoke to the children of the Reagan era, who witnessed America bringing an end to the Cold War through their president’s own mouth.

Resurgence, by default, has to carry on this dated approach because it’s in an alternate timeline where “no armed conflict has taken place in 20 years,” as the audience is told early on. This sequel/requel would have been far more interesting if it displayed any sort of progression from the themes before it, especially throughout the entirety of the third act, which undoes almost everything worthwhile presented before it, finished with an ending that might as well have put dollar signs in each of the characters’ eyes to translate Fox’s plans for a franchise.

review independence day resurgence

And again, these problems are coupled with some incredibly weak storytelling, editing, and dialogue. Massive coincidences involving characters running into each other or happening to be connected occur on top of each other so much, it’s jarring when something unpredictable happens or the pacing feels right.

As expected, there’s a lot of death and devastation, but the camera moves so quickly to other characters, that none of the loss resonates, thanks in no small part to the seemingly dozens of key players all trying to contribute something valuable to this film. It worked somewhat in Independence Day because Smith and Goldblum had enough gravitas to lead attention to their stories above most of the rest, but Resurgence lacks that point of view that grounds the viewer and gets them invested. It tries, perhaps, with Liam Hemsworth, who essentially reprises Smith’s role for him, even though his son is right there.

That said, Independence Day: Resurgence isn’t as offensive or catastrophic as it could have been. At least a third of the movie has real potential in how it sets up a world that feels more evolved and interesting than it deserves to be. But by the end, you’re still waiting for someone to say, Welcome to Earf’, or I’m BACK.

Grade: C-

Extra Credits:

  • The writers of Honest Trailers are going to have a field day with this one.
  • I was excited to see Maika Monroe — who was in one of my favorite films of 2015, It Follows — playing one of the better characters. She deserves a better franchise than this.
  • Seriously, what was even going on with some of the “humor” in this film? I was in a packed screening with tons of people who seemed primed for some lighthearted jokes and quips. Yet there were maybe two or three soft chuckles over the course of two hours, even though someone made a joke every two minutes.
  • Some of the good things in this movie: the Warlord. The scientist bromance, I guess. The ship with the arms. Jeff Goldblum not sucking.
  • Some of the worst things in this movie: Characters and world governments behaving like the most insanely moronic minds ever put to film.

    I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

Is ‘Finding Dory’ Part of Hollywood’s Sequel Problem?

finding dory sequel problem

Mark Harris via VultureThe Sequels of 2016 Aren’t About Storytelling; They’re Just Brand Extensions

I don’t consider “sequel” a slur. But it’s notable how much the impetus behind them has changed, and with it, their very nature.

This summer’s sequels are not, for the most part, story continuations but brand extensions. Some are good and some not; some have succeeded and some have flopped, but almost all of them are different beasts than the first generation of blockbuster genre sequels.

To my taste, the best reason to make a sequel is because the story demands it.

Overall, this is a great write-up by Harris that articulates a lot of the frustration I and many critics and fans have been having with sequels this year. He even champions Marvel’s Civil War as a good example of how sequels with grander narrative purpose make better impressions on audiences who’ve grown savvy to Hollywood’s sequel formula.

But I would disagree on one example he brings up briefly.

As for Finding Dory, it’s a solid brand refresher that will make a mint — an effective way for Disney to remonetize a dormant franchise. But nothing will convince me that Pixar’s move from being arguably the finest producer of original content in Hollywood to a sequel manufactory (next up: The Incredibles 2, Cars 3, Toy Story 4) is anything but dispiriting news.

I don’t disagree with Harris on this point at all, but I think Finding Dory is a wildly inappropriate example of his main point. Finding Dory is no Civil War in the sense that it exists in a larger universe of movies with a single narrative (or is it?), but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad sequel off of the definition Harris attributes above to movies like TMNT: Out of the Shadows and The Huntsman: Winter’s War.

Go on…Is ‘Finding Dory’ Part of Hollywood’s Sequel Problem?

Review: ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ Is Weird For All the Wrong Reasons

alice looking glass review

When I saw the first live-action film, Alice in Wonderland, I found the whole thing sort of…OK.

It wasn’t very good or anything, but the 3D at the time was so stunning, and the effects so magical, it was easy to overlook how off-putting it was to see Alice being transposed as a fantasy hero, complete with a boring, unrelated side plot in the real world.

Over half a decade later, her adventures continue, though not much has changed to the film’s detriment. It seems Disney learned from all the wrong takeaways in that first film’s success, namely how important the Mad Hatter deserves to be in his role thanks to the fact that Johnny Depp is playing him.

Below are my lingering thoughts on the film, but my full review and breakdown is available here.

I suspect that the only people who will care for this sequel are strict fans of Burton’s 2010 interpretation. And I suspect even further that those fans will be mixed on Looking Glass for the most part. Unless you have a sadist passion for seeing the Mad Hatter and Alice embarking on elaborate adventures in Wonderland just for the sake of it, then this entire film will ring as hollow as the 3D.

alice looking glass review

In the review I linked above, I go into detail over why the story and purpose of Looking Glass is atrocious to the point of my stamping it a very low grade (lower than the “C” I would grade Alice in Wonderland). But I glossed over points about the visuals and how the film measures up to the books.

As far as the books go, I’m not very disappointed with how they’ve been adapted, if only because it’s probably impossible for anyone to adapt them faithfully. Carroll wrote them to be veiled absurdist stories that criticized the Victorian Era, so a more modern interpretation suffers a herculean task: how can you use wordplay to capture the spirit of the original while also applying the Carroll effect to current events? If any filmmaker was able to do this successfully, they’d have a masterpiece on their hands. But for obvious reasons, that will probably never happen, at least anytime soon.

When it comes to the CGI, I have little doubt that this will be a splitting point between fans and critics. Some of the actual design and movement of these characters is solid, even compelling at times. My main issue with them is that the existence of the green screen was all too apparent throughout the film, thanks to bizarre hiccups in lighting that contradicted the faces of the characters with their backgrounds. Why some are heralding this as a visual treat on par with this year’s Jungle Book completely baffles me, but for whatever reason, I’ll probably be the minority opinion on that front.

alice looking glass review

So chances are that you’ll enjoy the visuals and hopefully overlook the massive narrative issues that doomed this film for critics like me. Otherwise, you’re probably better off scouring for other, better adaptions of Looking Glass, including the somewhat decent 1998 movie with Kate Beckinsale.

Grade: D


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Review: ‘Everybody Wants Some’ Has Something For Everybody

everybody wants some review

There’s a lot going on in Richard Linklater’s spiritual successor to his 90s cult classic, Dazed and Confused. Taking place at just past the beginning mark of 1980 yet right at the beginning of the first semester of college, Everybody Wants Some is a crammed ensemble movie about a group of college baseball players hazing the new freshmen and slowly unwinding before the new term begins.

Relationships are formed, rivalries come to a head, and airless competition takes place in just about every scene, even surrounding a bong. Each character in Everybody has something they’re deliberately yearning for, in the same vein as Dazed but perhaps in a less serious sense. Only the film’s true protagonist, a freshman pitcher named Jake, is trying to babble something meaningful about his first experiences at his new school.

But his teammates, a joy full mix of frequently shirtless bros who come into their own as characters throughout, are there to remind Jake that he has more to learn from them than he does himself. The film spends a lot of its 117 minute running time making it clear that Jake fits in easily, but he’s also very much expendable in the eyes of everyone around him — including his new friends, a one night stand, and perhaps the girl he really likes.

everybody wants some review

What works so well in Everybody is how careful it is to present its cast as lived-in characters living in an overly lived-in frat house (well, a donated dorm house, technically). It’s easy to find these abrasive, bombastic young men as a bunch of “dumb jocks,” but Everybody clues you in early on how layered even the most uncomplicated people are.

One character in particular presents himself as the most honest, straightforward stoner you could picture from the early 80s, only to be revealed later on as the character with the most secrets. And that’s Everybody Wants Some in a nutshell: mostly contrasts and contradictions existing in a pleasing realization of 1980, complete with the soundtrack you deserve from that description.

Growing up, a lot of us have preconceptions about jocks, nerds, and drama geeks based on our high school experiences. So it’s more than refreshing to see an honest college tale exploring how relaxing it is to find definition outside of the social circles people are used to. When the jocks “go punk” for a night, Linklater doesn’t present any pointless drama to shake things up. He lets the characters just be themselves.

everybody wants some review

But while Linklater mostly excels at providing breezy and easy to love characters, some of his faults from past films are still present here. Many of the film’s most important messages, including themes surrounding identity and how transition is a big mess for 18 year olds, are explicitly rambled by the actors who don’t even seem to believe what they’re saying. Perhaps it’s because so much of the film is quite well-realized as a Texas college romp that it’s easy to see the cracks in writing that hold the viewer’s hand.

Thankfully, the best thing about Everybody Wants Some has nothing to do with overthinking it. At its core, the film is hilarious, energetic, and sure to put a grin on your face. Who doesn’t want some of that?

Grade: A-


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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