A Rant: Against Online-Only Special Features

Ever since I picked up my first DVD player way back in 2000, I’ve had a bit of an obsession with special features on those discs.  Why?  Because the show bits and pieces of what happens behind-the-screens.  You’ve also got interviews with the cast and crew that shows a little bit more insight into the making of a film.  One of the most interesting special features that was introduced on DVD’s was the full-feature commentary.  This usually involves the director and maybe some cast and crew members getting together and discussing the scene as it happens.  Obviously, you’ve also got your standard trailers and previews.  Most DVDs had quite a bit of features on those discs.  Some of those discs also had extended cuts of the film that were never previously released.  The best example of special features is the Alien Quadrilogy which was released back in 2003.  It was a 9-disc set.  Each film not only had it’s own disc, but each of those discs housed two versions of the film.  That was not all.  Each film also got a second disc that had extensive behind-the-scenes footage.  The final disc in the set housed all the trailers and promotional materials and stuff that was seen on older Laserdisc copies.  The Alien Quadrilogy ended up being one of the best examples of a DVD Boxed Set.

Between 2006 and 2009, we saw two high-definition formats competing for the market:  HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.  Blu-Ray ultimately won out in the end, but the idea for these new discs was to give people a sharper picture of movies at 1080p, if you had the HDTV for it.  A single Blu-Ray disco could contain up to 50 gigabytes of information, which allowed for much sharper picture, but also better audio quality.  The special features were also carried over from DVDs.  Blu-Rays are now pretty much the standard when it comes to home video entertainment.  However, at some point over the past 7 or 8 years, I’ve seen movie studios try different ways to market their Blu-Ray releases.  Paramount got a serious amount of backlash, because their home video release of Star Trek Into Darkness, had special features spread across different releases.  The special features you got, depended entirely on which store you got the movie from.  It pissed off a lot of people.  Thankfully, that didn’t last very long.  But something has been happening, and it’s something that I really don’t like:  Online-only special features.  I bring this up, because I recently bought The Fate of the Furious on Blu-Ray a couple of days ago.  I found the movie to be very entertaining, and mostly worth the purchase price.  However, on the Blu-Ray sleeve as well as on the back of the case itself, it’s mentioned there is a code to watch the extended version of the film online.  Why the fuck wasn’t the extended version included on the disc?  Now, I understand that people are moving towards digital means of watching movies, which includes streaming.  Amazon does it, Netflix does it, and you’ve got services like Vudu that also provide the same service.  I get it, and I use it from time to time, but I’m an old fashioned kind of guy when it comes to home video.  I prefer having a hard copy.

Now, to be fair to Fate, if you bought the film on disc, you don’t have to pay extra for the extended version.  But you DO have to sign up for a digital service.  Again, it’s not necessarily something that you have to pay for, unless you’re buying or renting movies through that service.  If you have a code, you get a free digital copy.  In case you lose your disc or something happens, you still have a copy of the film.  THAT was a smart move.  What pisses me off about some of these special features, is that some of them are exclusive only to certain platforms.  For example, some features you can’t get unless you have an account through iTunes.  Who is the fucking idiot that came up with that game-plan?  The problem with exclusive features or movies, is that some people who don’t want to use those services are left out in the cold.  Some of these movie studios, be it Universal, Fox or Paramount, have a preferred digital platform.  Okay, fine.  If you want to use that platform, knock yourself out, but at least have the same special feature set on the platform be the same that is on the physical disc.  THAT would make more sense to me.  This exclusivity bullshit is pissing me off though, and having certain special features, like an extended cut of a film, be online-only just serves to push people away.  That’s not how you make money.

What’s Next? Transformers 6

A little while back, I posted a review on the latest entry into Michael Bay’s Transformers movies: The Last Knight.  I didn’t hate the movie entirely, but it was an absolutely insane shit-show.  If I graded the film based on action alone, I would have given the film a solid 10/10.  The action was phenomenal.  It’s just that the movie surrounding the action wasn’t so hot.  The acting, while mostly passable, failed to connect with the audience and the story was just made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  So…what’s coming up for the franchise?  Paramount has announced a while back that they are planning at least 13 more movies in the Transformers universe, but considering how poorly received The Last Knight was, they may want to rethink that.  We are getting a spin-off which is supposed to be due next year.  It’s going to be about Bumblebee and is supposed to be set in the 80s.  Apparently, they want to give him an actual voice and the design from the animated show.  I’m very curious.  Is it going to be any good?  Hard to say.  Michael Bay is only going to produce the movie, not direct it.  Bumblebee is an interesting enough Transformer to warrant his own movie, so I’m willing to see how that goes.  As for a sequel to The Last Knight?  That’s a little difficult to answer.

Based on the current numbers on Box Office Mojo, Transformers 5 has pulled in well over 400 million dollars world-wide.  The film bombed in the States, pulling in barely over 100 million dollars on a 217 million dollar budget.  If it wasn’t for the international market, The Last Knight would be a complete disaster for Paramount studios.  It’s not even performing as well as Age of Extinction.  Not even close.  What needs to happen for Transformers 6 to be better than the previous effort, is to jettison Michael Bay entirely.  He’s a great action director.  He knows how to frame it and shoot it.  The issue is that he can’t seem to hire proper writers to be able to tell a coherent story or even give us compelling characters.  Not only that, the humor almost always falls flat.  If you took out all the humor and most of the exposition, you would end up with a 2 hour movie.  That’s all we really needed.  Now, we know that Unicron is going to make himself known at some point in the next movie or two.  There’s no getting around it, since they mentioned him multiple times.  How that’s going to happen, I don’t know.  Apparently the big guy is hiding underneath our planet, and the Transformers’ creator, Quintessa, wants to destroy him to give life back to Cybertron.  What the next movie needs to happen is to focus entirely on the Transformers themselves and their potential battle with Unicron.  If you want a good starting off point, check out the original animated Transformers film from 1986.  That film introduced Unicron and made him feel like a legitimate threat.  This is Unicron, for those who don’t know:

What I want to see from Transformers 6, is Michael Bay completely removed from the picture entirely.  I don’t even want him producing the picture.  We also need to hire writers that have at least SOME respect for the source material.  The people that wrote the last 4 movies have done a major disservice to not only the source material, but also the fans as well.  I’m sorry, the only movie that didn’t flat out suck in any way was the first film.  Also, we need to get rid of the human characters.  Nobody goes to a Transformers movie for human drama.  We want to go these movies to see giant shape-shifting robots wreck shit.  So far, the only movie that has managed to deliver on ALL counts is the original animated film, and that’s over 30 years old.  Michael Bay doesn’t even seem to care anymore, as all he sees is dollar signs.  Well, the performance of The Last Knight should tell Paramount Pictures that some adjustments need to be made.  I know that Paramount wants a cinematic universe with Transformers, as that seems to be the “in” thing these days, but if they fuck up Unicron and that particularly story-line, a lot of people, including myself, will stop going to these movies.

Movies That NEED a Sequel

My last post covered some amazing films that really didn’t need sequels at all, but got them anyway.  That’s not to say that all the sequels were bad, but they were generally inferior to the original production.  For this post, I’m going to be specifically talking about certain movies that deserve a sequel, but haven’t gotten one.  I’m also going to be including movies that while the film may not have been overly successful, a sequel is still a real possibility.  Let’s give it a go, shall we?

Power Rangers

When Power Rangers showed up in March, I was very surprised at how good the movie actually was.  My expectations for this film were understandably low.  What we ended up getting was a very compelling coming-of-age story with teenagers that actually felt like real people dealing with real problems.  The teenagers were very 3-dimensional and were very likable.  I also liked the fact that they had to earn the right to become Power Rangers.  This new film served as a film reboot of the highly popular Power Rangers franchise, and I feel that it did a really good job.  The suits were awesome and surprisingly NOT CGI.  Certain elements of the suits were, but the suits themselves were built from scratch.  The film didn’t exactly flop in the box-office, but the international response was not what the film-makers had in mind.  It has yet to open in Japan, from what I understand, but the future of the film franchise is up in the air at this point.  It’s a shame, because it is a very good movie.  It’s got a great story with fantastic characters and visuals that are pretty decent.  The word on the interwebs is that Lionsgate Studios and Haim Saban, the creator of Power Rangers are in talks to try and get a sequel made.  It looks very possible that we might get a Power Rangers 2.  The original plan was for at least 6 movies, but I’m not entirely sure that will happen.  We may get lucky with a trilogy, but I don’t see it progressing further than that if they don’t address some of the problems that the first movie had.  I’m actually fairly optimistic about this one, though.

Dredd

This one’s a bit of a heart-breaker, because we know this one WON’T be getting a sequel.  It’s too bad really, because the 2012 adaptation of Judge Dredd is a surprisingly visceral and brutal experience that underscores how brutal the character is.  This one hurts because the film was universally praised for it’s unflinching and violent take on the character, who was brilliantly portrayed by Karl Urban.  They took everything that was great about the character and the world that Dredd inhabits and gave it a very stylistic and bloody look at the world.  It was very simple story that had some very extraordinary characters.  Unfortunately, the film bombed at the box office.  People were rightfully wary that the film was going to be too much like Sylvester Stallone’s film, so that had a lot to do with it.  Home video sales didn’t really help much, either.  It’s a shame, because it’s such a fantastic action film that pulls no punches.

Warcraft

Here’s another one that I feel needs a sequel and one that may eventually happen.  Warcraft, based on the popular video game franchise by Blizzard Entertainment, was met with mixed to negative reviews in the states and was considered a massive flop here.  In China, though, the film was a major success.  It’s entirely possible that because of the film’s international success, we might see another one.  I would certainly hope so.  Warcraft was a surprisingly decent movie that was faithful to the game.  The sets, the costumes and the character designs all look like they came out of the video game.  Now, Duncan Jones, the director of the film, has ideas on where to take another Warcraft film if Universal decides to go for it.  I’m not as optimistic about this one as I am about Power Rangers, but I’m secretly hoping that Universal will go for it.  There’s so much more story to be told.

Willow

Willow is one of those movies that manages to set up a very interesting movie, but didn’t do much to get a sequel.  It’s a shame, because this is a very good fantasy film.  The best films are character-driven and it’s no exception here.  The characters in the film which include Willow himself, Madmartigan, and even the evil Queen Bavmorda are memorable.  Unfortunately, the film was met with a lackluster box-office performance and mixed reviews by both critics and audiences alike.  It’s sad, because there was a lot of stuff they could have done with the world of Willow.  The movie had it all: Excitement, adventure, comedy and drama.  It was a good old-fashioned fantasy film.  The effects were stunning and the music by James Horner was truly wonderful.  Unfortunately, money talks, and Willow didn’t make enough to warrant another entry.  The film did end up with novels that take place after the film, but they were not particularly well-received.  It’s tragic, really.

It’s funny:  I was expecting to have a lot more movies on this list, but when I started to really think about it, there aren’t a whole of movies out there that need sequels.  Some people would argue that most movies don’t need them.  That’s a fair enough statement, but sometimes a sequel can open up a film’s world quite a bit more and delve more into certain character backstories.  How does one judge that a movie gets a sequel or not?  Ultimately, it comes down to money and how well-received a film is, but mostly money.  In an industry that is peppered with sequels and remakes, these are the movies that I feel need to get sequels.

 

Movies That Didn’t Need A Sequel

As I’m sure you’re all aware of, I’ve gone on many a tangent about the merits and detriments of movie sequels.  Long story short, I like GOOD sequels.  Sequels that not only give you more of what you already know but add new things to complement the old.  There are quite a few awesome sequels out there.  I’ve done lists about some of my favorite sequels of all time.  I’ve also done lists about some of the worst sequels of all time.  But for this list, I’m going to do something a little different.  I’m going to talk about great movies that got sequels/prequels that they didn’t need or deserve.  This will be a two-part project.  This first part is about movies that didn’t need a sequel, while part 2 will be about movies that definitely NEED one.  Some of these will seem rather….obvious, while others may seem somewhat questionable.  With all that said, let’s get into it.

Highlander

Highlander is one of those movies that’s hard to explain why it’s so damn good.  When it was released in the states, it flopped hard.  Internationally, people ate it up.  I guess people in the states weren’t quite ready for sword-fights in New York City.  The concept actually works on a narrative level.    It’s got awesome characters, a story that you can sink your teeth into, and a villain that is simply iconic.  Highlander got not one, not two, not three, but FOUR sequels.  Highlander II tried to explain the origins of the immortals by saying that they came from a different planet.  Also, there was an environmental message in there.  It definitely didn’t work.  It was a complete disaster.  It went over-budget and was poorly received at the box-office.  While subsequent home video releases would eliminate the whole Planet Zeist angle, it didn’t help the fact that the movie was poorly made and poorly directed.  Michael Ironside was cool though.  Highlander: The Final Dimension and Endgame both sidestepped Highlander II, but failed to connect.  The less said about Highlander: The Source, the better.  Highlander: Endgame was by far the most interesting of the sequels, I thought.  It tried to combine elements from Christopher Lambert’s movies with Adrian Paul’s TV show.  It kinda worked.  The highlight of the film was definitely the fight scenes, many of which were choreographed by the legendary Donnie Yen, who also starred as Jin Ke.  Of the sequels, Endgame is the best, but it would’ve been better if the sequels didn’t exist at all.

Jaws

Jaws is what many consider to be the first major blockbuster film.  It shattered all kinds of records and kick-started Steven Spielberg’s career as a director.  Why is it so good?  It’s more about the characters having to deal with a shark rather than the shark itself.  The characters are all very interesting and come across as genuine human beings.  Obviously, Robert Shaw’s Quint steals the show, but Richard Dreyfuss comes pretty damn close.  The movie worked because you didn’t see the shark until about three quarters of the way through the film.  Instead, John Williams’ score took the place of the shark and really amped up the tension.  It’s about as perfect a thriller as you could get.  The sequels never came close.  The second film was a re-hash of the film and pulled its punches.  Jaws 3 embraced its b-movie silliness and ran with it, but it was still not a good movie.  Jaws: The Revenge is easily the worst film in the series and pretty much grounded the entire franchise.  You can read my review on it by clicking on the Dunce Corner tab.  The problem with the sequels and most shark movies is that they focus more on the shark rather than the characters.  It’s the characters that drive the story, not the beast.  The original film remains untouchable and is still the king of shark movies.

Taken

Taken is probably one of the most iconic movies of Liam Neeson’s career.  His threat to his daughter’s kidnappers is legitimately scary and he goes about tearing through Paris to find her.  This works, because the premise is simple, yet very effective.  It’s a father looking for his daughter using “a particular set of skills.”  It’s not the most original premise, but it’s executed fairly well featuring a very strong performance from Liam Neeson.  The sequels were nothing more than obvious cash-grabs.  The second film isn’t awful, but it retreads a lot of the same territory that the first movie already covered.  The third movie?  It’s a complete waste.  It’s extremely derivative of better films like The Fugitive.  It also doesn’t help that the editing is crap.  It’s like the director/editor went to the Michael Bay School of Editing.  Honestly, stick with the first movie, it’s infinitely better.

The Matrix

A lot has been said about The Matrix Trilogy.  Most people tend to agree that the sequels are significantly inferior to the original film.  The Matrix, which was released back in 1999 was revolutionary.  Not only did the film offer a unique cyberpunk story, but it also pioneered a new level of visual effects.  On top of that, you had a really strong cast featuring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving.  The Matrix had a very mind-warping concept that utilized Rene Descartes as its inspiration.  It all came together very well, but it also had some of the best fight choreography seen in Hollywood movies.  Why?  The kung-fu sequences were choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping, one of the best fight choreographers that Hong Kong has to offer.  The sequels would try to explore more of the world of The Matrix including Zion, the fabled city which was mentioned in the first movie, but never seen.  That was pretty cool.  However, the film gets bogged down by mindless philosophical mumbo-jumbo in an attempt to be more clever than it actually was.  The final movie was even worse, with a climax that was so out of left-field and so anti-climactic that it’s been constantly mocked.  You didn’t need the sequels, the first film was good enough.

The Crow

The Crow is one of the best comic-book movies ever made.  Period.  Everything about this film from the soundtrack to the visuals was sublime.  The acting was amazing and the action was brutally spectacular.  Brandon Lee was truly at the top of his game when he tragically died on set.  One could make the argument that the film is memorable for that reason, and one would not be wrong.  It’s difficult to say whether or not the film would be as good had Mr. Lee not been killed.  That being said, The Crow was one of the defining films of the early 90s.  It featured a hard-rock soundtrack coupled with a Gothic visual style that has been often imitated but never duplicated.  This was one film where any sequel would feel insulting.  Yet, we got three of them.  City of Angels is the best sequel, but it’s by no means a good movie.  It’s just a carbon copy of the original film only not as well-done.  The worst offender has to be Wicked Prayer which featured Edward Furlong as the lead character.  Big mistake, bad movie.  The less said about it, the better.  The Crow is one of my favorite movies of all time and few movies have been able to match its power.

Those are some of my picks for movies that really didn’t a sequel, but got anyway.  I hope you enjoyed this list as much as I had making it.  Stay tuned for the movies that NEED a sequel, coming soon to a website near you.