2016 Movie Prediction Scorecard

I love going to the movies – and I’m especially excited about what 2016 brings. Sure, there are a lot of sequels and remakes – particularly for series that don’t really demand it. But a lot intrigues me.

And since I usually have a good eye for how movies will turn out before their release, I created this Expectation vs. Reality scorecard which I will repost in December 2016!

My methodology is imprecise. For the most part, my predictions come from my gut. On a more technical scale, they come down to how I feel about the marketing/trailers that I’ve seen so far, everything I know about the behind-the-scenes choices, how much I trust the actors and the creative team, as well as the premise of the movie itself. All of these, plus an err on the side of cynicism, brought me my Expectation Scorecard.

And to make things clear, these are not predictions about how things will be critically received. These are predictions about how I personally will respond to the film. Obviously I don’t expect Gods of Egypt to get a 75% on MetaCritic and Batman to get a 10% ;)

scorecard

Some explanations:

Green means I have some level of hope. I think it’s a safe bet that Captain America: Civil War will be a return to form for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I trust the Russo brothers immensely, as Winter Soldier was one of the best MCU movies to date. I also suspect that Doctor Strange will rock, and will hopefully evoke the same big, magical wonder as Thor and Guardians of The Galaxy did for me.

And I’ve got my eye on Now You See Me 2, which is a bit of a gamble. However, Now You See Me was probably my favorite film of 2013, and the sequel’s trailer sold me as soon as they introduced Daniel Radcliffe as a magician who can’t do magic. If the movie is as clever as this casting choice, we’re in good hands.

Then you have my “cautious optimism.” The Finest Hours and Star Wars: Rogue One have no reason not to impress, but could prove a bit dull. Fantastic Beasts could be a whimsical return to the world of Harry Potter, or a bland cash grab. Independence Day 2 may be as wonderful a rebirth as Jurassic World or The Force Awakens, or a too-late sequel after 20 years of other derivative alien invasion movies. Suicide Squad and X-Men Apocalypse are movies that I will likely enjoy, but I may have a few too many complaints to give perfect marks.

Then we get pessimistic. I hope Star Trek: Beyond is good, especially with Justin Lin at the helm. But the trailer was a bit weird and Into Darkness was a major disappointment. File that one under “once bitten, twice shy.” Assassin’s Creed has Michael Fassbender in the lead and a lot of love put into the production, but video game movies are unpredictable. Gods of Egypt turns me off with its whitewashed cast, but mythical spectacle always gets my attention – maybe it will err on the side of The Mummy instead of the lame Clash of The Titans remake. And while The Huntsman: Winter’s War looks like the movie they should have made the first time around, I’m not sure “better than Snow White And The Huntsman” will be enough to qualify it for kudos.

Then, we have movies with some hurdles to overcome. I want Deadpool to be amazing, but the trailers full of toilet humor and crude jokes makes me worried that the producers don’t really get Deadpool. I haven’t been overly fond of Disney’s live action remakes, so there’s no reason I should like The Jungle Book any more. Warcraft could be good – for a video game movie – but the CGI is overwhelmingly distracting in the trailers. And Gambit, despite being an X-Men movie, stars my least favorite actor Channing Tatum. Blech. Still, I will probably check out all of these with the hope that they’ll surprise me.

But out of all the movies I plan to see, there’s only one I expect to reek. I don’t often waste time on movies I expect to hate (which is why you don’t see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 on this list). But Batman V Superman is an event movie – a movie one must see simply to discuss it, good or bad, with likeminded people. I will preface this by saying that I did not like Man of Steel, although I didn’t totally loathe it and I do enjoy Snyder’s other work. That mostly comes from me finding Superman boring, but I do have interest invested in Batman and Wonder Woman. I would love it if this movie was good. Based on the first trailer, I thought it looked solid.

But the last trailer was an abysmal mess of cheap humor, Jesse Eisenberg at his most terrible, bad CGI, and too many spoilers to leave the movie in any level of suspense. Not to mention the cringe worthy fact that Clark Kent’s “look I’m wearing glasses now” disguise apparently works on Bruce Wayne. Despite Snyder’s universe trying to pass with a facsimile of gritty realism, the absolutely dumbest part of Superman lore apparently still applies. SIGH.

So, like Jeremy from CinemaSins, I call it now: this film will be the Terminator Genisys of 2016. I would love to be proven wrong, though. Mostly because I want that Wonder Woman movie to still happen ;)

What are you looking forward to in the coming year? Anything you think will surprise you? Let me know, and check back next year when I update the scorecard with all my reactions!

AetherHouse’s Year In Review: The Movies of 2014

It’s time for the lists! Yes, I know we’ve got a few weeks left in this month, and a few more movies I plan to see (The Hobbit conclusion, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and possibly Night At The Museum 3), but I’m doing this list anyway. I have a feeling that none of those three movies, except perhaps Exodus if it’s really stellar, would make any of these categories anyway. So here goes!

1. All of these are movies I’ve seen from start to finish. So you won’t see me bashing Transformers or Ninja Turtles, as I didn’t bother forking over money for those. On the flipside, you may believe that an art film like Boyhood was the best movie of the year, but I don’t tend to see movies like that in theaters. Most of these are blockbuster “big” movies. I’m a pretty mainstream person.

2. I have both “best” movie and “favorite” movie in here for a reason. My favorite movie is one I simply adored watching. The “best” film is one that’s good on a technical level: a well-written story, well-acted and well-told. My favorite movie will not win an Oscar, but I think the “best” movie ought to.

Legho! Also, mild spoilers!

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Follow Friday: Carrie Rubin! + Thoughts on Horror

It’s my pleasure to give this week’s Follow Friday to Amazon bestselling author, and physician, Carrie Rubin. Carrie’s blog is enlightening as well as humorous. She’s chock full of great stories, in addition to being a lovely and supportive blog friend. Go visit her blog and maybe even buy her book :)

Fridays are usually freeform. Mostly, I preface them with a Follow Friday, and then I yak about whatever’s going on with my projects, or something on my mind. This week – a brief discussion about horror, as that’s been something relevant to me this week.

Horror and I have never been good bedfellows. I’ve never seen Saw, or Hostel, or even classic slasher movies like Friday The 13th. Until I was 17 and Repo! The Genetic Opera became one of my favorite movies, I had a real aversion to gore as well. I’m still squeamish, but only with the “realistic hardcore” gore from something like Django Unchained or Saving Private Ryan. Or anything that involves demonic possession. Or really hardcore disturbing stuff like American Horror Story, because of all the disfigured skinless serial killers they’ve got running around. But the fake, dismembered-limbs, bright-red-blood, obviously-fake-entrails gore from Death Race 2000, or the 300 movies, or even Harper’s Island? Doesn’t really bother me anymore.

I can count the amount of “scary” movies I’ve seen on probably one hand. About the only ones I grew up with were Poltergeist, which is fairly tame, and some mild Stephen King fare like The Langoliers and The Stand. Last year, I watched Devil during October and quite enjoyed it.

So, since it’s the season of horror, I’m going back and watching a few movies I would have been afraid of once, but can now handle just fine. Austin and I have begun with the Scream trilogy, which is on Netflix. I’m adoring them so far. The irreverent humor is just grand and I’m still never able to guess who Ghostface is. The first one was basically like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Murder Spree” and I really need a gif of Matthew Lillard being hit with a phone and whining about it as he’s simultaneously bleeding to death. And they’re really not scary at all so much as they’re hilarious. I don’t even know why movies like Scary Movie were made if Scream already nailed the horror parody.

Next on the list: The Cabin In The Woods, which is a Joss Whedon movie and supposedly quite wry; The Craft, which I’ve seen bits of before and enjoyed; may give the first 3 Resident Evil movies a shot (as I’ve seen 4 & 5 and they were basically just action movies with a few zombies). Maybe Cursed too, because I think it’s on Crackle or Amazon? I may also watch Rubber, which is a dark indie comedy about an evil tire that rolls around and makes people’s heads explode. And I’ve got The Cable Guy, World War Z, Carrie, Rosemary’s Baby, Apollo 18, The Raven, Prophecy, Let The Right One In,  and Donnie Darko all in the queue, all of which I’ve never seen…..so that should be enough to get my slightly wimpy horror/thriller fix for Halloween XD

And after all that – Chicken Run. Because Thanksgiving. :P Have a good weekend!

Stop Whining About Book-To-Movie Adaptations

I’m going to see The Maze Runner tonight, and I’m sure the chorus of voices saying “it’s not as good as the book!” has already begun. Yet despite being a writer and reader, I feel there are plenty of times where movies are good, if not better, than the books. Perhaps it’s because I’m both a novelist and a filmmaker, but to me, they’re all just stories.

And we know this stems from some readers being elitist, right? That whole “I’m better than you because I read” nonsense? Even though each medium has both trashy stories and fantastic stories and NEITHER MEDIUM IS ALWAYS BETTER?

Also, Harry Potter spawned a generation of people who feel entitled to closely executed adaptations. Because let’s be real, before/during the HP craze, most adaptations used the books as a starting point and then ran in another direction with the concept (a la every Disney movie ever). I can’t think of any scene for scene adaptations before HP. But HP movies were direct adaptations, if you can look past stuff like Hermione getting Ron’s lines.

Anyway. I think people who go into book-to-movie adaptations with buckets of reluctance, or who put the source material on a pedestal, are massively overthinking this. And often, they’re just looking for something to complain about.

Yes, some movie adaptations are sub par. There’s nothing wrong with the movie Never Let Me Go…except for the fact that it’s a movie. This is one of the few stories that I advise people read the book instead/first, because the process of reading it is the best part. You’re thrown into a conversation with the narrator who assumes you know her world, and she slowly peels back the layers. The movie played it straight, as it had to, even giving away the book’s secrets in the bloody trailer.

Equally, Deathly Hallows Part 1 was a cash grab of wizards camping, so fans had a right to be irked.

And on rare occasion, literal adaptations work. True Grit the book could have been the shooting script for the Coen brothers.  But they’re the Coen brothers. They weaved trademark Coen humor into the source material, making it their own while still doing a line-for-line remake. They also picked a project that catered to their style in the first place. This is a rare accomplishment.

But sometimes the film can fix stuff about the book because books are not infallible tomes of sacredness. I love the writing and the story in The Time Traveler’s Wife, but the characters are such poorly drawn hipsters. In 2009, the movie with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams came out…and I prefer it over the book. Sure, cutting out the pretentious weirdness made it more “mainstream,” especially because some of the novel’s crude elements vanished in the PG-13 movie. But I think it was for the better.

In the same way, I’ve seen a few people with their fingers crossed that the Mockingjay movies will “fix” some of the problems the book had – even going as far as not killing….well, you know.

More detail in the books =/= inherent quality. I’m not a huge fan of the Lord of The Rings movies, but I think they cut to the chase a lot faster than the books. Hilariously, The Hobbit has the opposite problem.  See, there’s no formula for this. Some work, some don’t. We shouldn’t generalize.

And remember how much it sucks when they stick too closely to the source material. Hey, remember Watchmen? That movie no one knows how they feel about? One of the biggest complaints is that it was too literal an adaptation. I mean, it’s a shot-for-shot remake of the graphic novel, save for that plotline about a Black Freighter. Most critics complained that Snyder was trapped by his loyalty to the source. He forgot he was making a film instead of a graphic novel with moving panels.

Movies should be an opportunity for new vision. I liked the book The Princess Diaries. I REALLY liked the movie. They’re incredibly different, and only similar in premise and a few character names. To me, that’s whatever. If I want to experience the storyline from the book, I’ll read the book. I’d be pretty bored sitting through an exact rehash in the movie theater. I like what the story became in Gary Marshall’s hands because it was surprising and entertaining.

In fact, some of the greatest movies ever made were based on books. Gone With the Wind. Wizard of Oz. Fight Club. The Shawshank Redemption. All based on books. Due to their lasting effect on popular culture, we’ve got to admit that these movies are at least as good as the source material, if not better. Back in the day, I doubt anyone scorned these films on the principle that they were adaptations, or whined that “they didn’t include my favorite scene!”

Finally, just have some perspective about how movies work.  Ender’s Game, as a flick, seemed empty compared to its source. While entertaining, the film washed away the darker, deeper themes from the book. But understandably, the studio did not want an R-rated Ender’s Game for adults. The most marketable thing to do was to release Ender’s Game as a pre-Christmas sci-fi epic for the family. Especially considering that most people read Ender’s when they’re children. For all intents, it’s a children’s book. Despite that, Disney’s animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is about as thematic as you can get in a film aimed at younglings. Books have a lot more wiggle room with content because they’re non-visual, but nudity, violence, and lust are things are nonexistent in movies that a 10-year-old is going to see (save for The Road To El Dorado which was…proof that the 1990’s were kind of weird). It might not be the most savory fact, and you don’t have to like it, but marketing concerns are something you should at least acknowledge.

Artemis Fowl fans are mad that the upcoming movie will be a combo of books 1 and 2. Even though that’s my favorite series, I ain’t even mad. They’re short books, much like A Series of Unfortunate Events. Because 2 resolves a lot of the seeds that 1 planted, I can easily see how they could be combined. I’d be less eager to combine other books in the series, but if I was the one writing the Artemis Fowl script, I’d probably do  the same thing. And unlike many readers who feel protective over their cherished books, and who feel like people who get into fandom because of the movie are “posers,” I’m psyched that millions more people may be exposed to the Fowl universe.

Overall, books have to be marketable towards readers, but movies are advertised to the general public. Due to the visual, fast-paced nature of film, we are unable to get inside the character’s heads and we gloss over some details. But often, this isn’t a huge loss. I prefer that The Hunger Games movie shows us the bigger picture than just Katniss’s perspective. And I certainly don’t mind that Peter Jackson skipped over all that Tom Bombadil stuff in Fellowship of the Ring. I see movies as a great shortcut to experiencing stories I wouldn’t waste 8 hours on (like The Maze Runner), or for sharing obscure stories with a wider audience. The key is to remember that movies are different for a reason, and that source books are nothing more than a starting point. They aren’t meant to be a stencil.

Appreciating Artists While They’re Still Alive

Like everyone else, I am saddened and shocked by the suicide of Robin Williams. This is a death that has disturbed me more than most – not since Heath Ledger have I been this bothered by a celebrity passing.

I never cared much for Heath Ledger before his death. I could barely name any movies he’d been in, and he didn’t strike me as particularly memorable. But I knew that Ledger’s youth and his upcoming performance as the Joker, which was an incredible cap on his short life, was the cause of my unease. I was disturbed at what we DIDN’T get out of Ledger during his life, all the potential Oscar-worthy roles he could have bestowed.

Robin Williams was the opposite. At 63, he entertained the world for 4 decades. My grandparents, my parents, me, and kids younger than me could probably all recognize him. He accomplished all that an actor probably can – securing himself as a legend, winning the approval of the Academy, and dabbling in almost every genre.

So why do I feel so….guilty? Because I’ll admit what I think a lot of us have probably been thinking – we thought Robin Williams was a “has been.” Washed up. No longer funny. No longer a leading man. The 90s were his prime, but his filmography of the past 15 years is a somewhat depressing one, with the most recent being Happy Feet, RV, and Night At The Museum (luckily he costarred in The Butler and August Rush). His last critically acclaimed starring role was in 2002’s “One Hour Photo.” Unlike Jeff Goldblum, who we retain a sense of nostalgia for despite his lack of recent work, I think Robin’s recent slip in quality film gave everyone a negative taste. His last big project – “The Crazy Ones,” on CBS, was cancelled in May.

With that, the world collectively said, “We don’t care about Robin Williams anymore.”

This is devastating to me. It is devastating that he could have recognized that apathy, coupled with his mental illness and substance abuse, and that he took his own life. And it is devastating that I had a small part in it with my own apathy, with my own grimace at his attempted comeback. “Yeah, he was good twenty years ago, but…”

The truth is, the man WAS a genius, til the very day he died. I think there’s probably a link between artistic genius and depression, as someone so above the world as Williams would undoubtedly have a hard time fitting into it. The money doesn’t matter. The fame doesn’t matter. When you don’t ‘think’ like other people do, it’s alienating. You can feel alone in a crowded room of adoring fans. And despite all the praise you may have received decades ago, none of it matters if you’re lonely today.

I’m sorry, Robin. I am so sorry that I took you for granted. The world was better with you in it, and I hope that all artists who suffer for their genius can receive the appreciation we stopped giving you.

For some, art is just a hobby and they have no need for an audience. But many artists thrive on the response of others – their purpose on this planet is intrinsically linked to how profoundly they touch others. So if you take anything out of this…appreciate the geniuses out there. Show them. Tell them. Buy their movies and music instead of pirating. Spread the word about their talent. You never know what a difference it might make.