Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Are Good Third Films So Difficult?

Trilogies live and die on how they close their stories. While no film trilogy is technically perfect, the best are the series that send audiences out of the theater both satisfied and still wanting more. Unfortunately, there are countless instances of series that have royally botched the landing when it comes to the final film in a trilogy. In the best cases, a bad third film can leave audiences disappointed and jaded concerning the storytelling prowess of the series' creators. In the worst cases, terrible third movies can retroactively make the good films in the series worse.

While there are plenty of fantastic third movies in franchises, these are the installments that stand tall among their peers and show that a great trilogy finale is possible. But these are instances of fantastic storytelling, strong characters, and a focus on quality over name-recognition profits. Given the sheer number of terrible third movies, especially those that come after strong first and second installments, audience members have long wondered where so many franchises go wrong.

There is no exact winning combination when it comes to creating a worthwhile third movie, or “threequel,” but there are numerous challenges that have led to franchise downfall. Recognizing what causes a bad third movie can help filmmakers avoid making a movie that’s bad for everyone. Or it can at least let audiences see a bomb coming and save their money.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cinema’s 30 Greatest Chase Scenes (Part 2 of 2)

Chase scenes have created some of cinema’s most memorable and thrilling moments of all time. From frantic foot chases through exotic locales to cars speeding down both new and familiar streets, chases provide visceral excitement that takes a simple concept and spins it in constantly new ways.

Whether it’s the centerpiece of an epic story or a gritty little scene that captures movie magic in new way, there are countless ways for a chase to be memorable.

After counting down the first half of these 30 amazing chases, we’ve come to the Top 15. These are not just some of the best chase scenes, but some of the best film scenes, period. What makes these 15 the greatest? They’re masterfully done, wholly original, excitingly memorable, and infinitely rewatchable.

Read Part 1 for #30 to #16. Now on to the list!

15. Mini Cooper Mayhem – The Bourne Identity

Escaping from the police who have been alerted to his potentially dangerous nature, Jason Bourne takes new companion Marie on a wild ride through the tiny streets of Paris in a slightly beat up Mini Cooper. Sporting a far from glamourous look and a thoroughly gritty feel, the practical stunts and escalating intensity made this a far different chase from the many slick Hollywood chase scenes that came before it. Putting Bourne in a Mini Cooper helped open up new possibilities, as the amnesiac assassin barrels down alleys and between cars while being pursued by motorcycle police.

Best Moment: “Um, we’ve got a bump coming up.” Cue a thrilling ride down a set of stone stairs that would only be possible with Bourne behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper.

14. On a Mission From God – The Blues Brothers

Finally having the funds they need to save their childhood orphanage but with time almost up, Jake and Elwood Blues are chased by dozens of cop cars and the many enemies they have made on their mission from God. This is one epic car chase, spanning an entire night and travelling though states as the cars in pursuit keep piling up, but Jake and Elwood stay cool the entire way. The brothers even smash into and through an entire mall, destroying countless cop cars and storefronts along the way. Countless police vehicles are smashed and flipped along the way, with the destruction eventually bringing the sheriffs, SWAT, and Army down on them.

Best Moment: With one quick turn, The Blues Brothers cause the dozens of cop cars in pursuit to create a massive pileup, giving them the chance to pay for the orphanage’s bills before being locked away for a long, long time.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cinema’s 30 Greatest Chase Scenes (Part 1 of 2)

The chase scene. It’s a staple of action movies from across the decades. Nothing offers quite the visceral thrill as a high speed chase through the streets, across space, or even through dimensions. These scenes can make a good movie great or even be the one standout part of an otherwise forgettable affair. In either case, they have become some of the most well-loved and memorable parts of cinema.

A good chase can be on foot, behind the wheel, or at the helm of a spaceship. It may have two desperate foes locked in combat, a legion of villains on a heroes tale, or one man racing against time. In any case, these are the scenes that stick with audiences for years after, bringing them back again and again to be thrilled.

Read Part 2 listing #15 to #1!

30. Race to the Bridge – Vanishing Point

On his mad dash to San Francisco, Kowalski encounters a Jaguar driver with a big head on his shoulders. While the majority of Vanishing Point is some type of car chase, this is one of the scenes where the pace really picks up. While it sort of comes out of nowhere, this race between car lovers is a great obstacle on the protagonist’s manic drive to his destination. Plus, just having that ever cool white 1970 Dodge Challenger front and center is enough to put this competition on the list.

Best Moment: After spinning out in the dirt, the two combatants get back on the road with a tiny bridge their goal. With room for only one car, Kowalski’s opponent is driven into the river.

29. Stolen Documents – Ratatouille

When rat Remy realizes that Chef Skinner has papers proving that Linguini is the son of the legendary Chef Gusteau, he steals them to keep them from being destroyed. With Skinner chasing after Remy, and making everyone truly believe he is insane, the chase leads through buildings and down streets, eventually culminating in a desperate leap onto a passing river boat. Michael Giachiano’s score makes this race both thrilling and hilarious as it becomes more and more insane.

Best Moment: With the papers airborne, Remy takes a leap, catching the documents in his mouth and catching an updraft. Sailing to safety on a boat, Linguini’s future is saved.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Greatest Fictional Weapons: The 15 Coolest Swords in Fiction

It’s not just one of the earliest weapons ever created by man, it’s also one of the greatest. Thanks to its iconic image, simple nature, and wild degree of adaptability, the sword has managed to stay in the hearts of minds of people long after the creation of high tech weaponry.

Not only that, but it has spawn some of the most iconic weapons in film, television, video games, and books. Whether it is used to cleave through legions of enemies or to symbolize a hero’s greater power, swords in fiction have truly left their mark. But which is the greatest?

In a fictional clash of fictional swords, these are the blades that come out on top. Spanning myth and popular culture, the following 15 swords and their many wielders have hacked and slashed their way to victory and a place in the hearts of devoted fans everywhere.

One note, I’ve decided to leave off the lightsaber for the sake of competition, everyone knows that would be number one on every list if it was included! For an in-depth look at the creation, history, and use of the weapon, read Greatest Fictional Weapons: The Lightsaber.

15. The Gunblade - Final Fantasy VII

When The Buster Sword (more on that later) became such an iconic weapon in Final Fantasy VII, the developers at Square must have tried to up the stakes with Final Fantasy VIII. You can't get much crazier than a humongous sword, so the evolution was natural - put a gun in it. Thus, The Gunblade, part sword, part gun, all impractical. But still enough to provoke envy.

Craziest Feature: Gonna have to go with the whole, shooting bullets out of a sword thing. Sure it wouldn't work in real life, but this is a JRPG.

14. Atlantean Sword - Conan the Barbarian

Giant muscles need a giant sword, so low and behold, Conan the Barbarian's Atlantean Sword! Full of ornate decoration and ridged blades, this sword is all testosterone. It's good for chopping up giant serpents and cutting off heads, so it's good enough to be on this list.

Craziest Feature: It helps solve the Riddle of Steel, of course! Whatever that means …

Sunday, August 31, 2014

What Makes a Great Sequel?

Hollywood loves a sequel. And it makes sense why. When a movie is a hit, it’s far easier to create another story set in a world what has connected with audiences and filled theaters instead of forging a completely new reality with unfamiliar characters. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up for interpretation, but the proliferation of sequels is here to stay.

There are countless film sequels every year, taking audiences back to familiar yet new stories starring characters that become more and more well known as they return for continued adventures. Unfortunately, there are as many bad sequels as there are good ones. Whether these are just another entry in a terrible franchise or a disappointing follow-up to a well-loved classic, bad sequels don’t help anyone. In fact, they can bring a promising franchise crashing into the ground or perpetuate a cycle of bad movies based on uncreative thinking. The more time and money that an audience has invested into a story and characters, the greater the payoff should be. These high stakes can easily result in both bad changes and a lack of creativity, neither of which bring critical or commercial success in the end.

So what is it that makes a great sequel? There have been plenty over the decades, but it still seems to remain an elusive equation for the writers, directors, producers, and actors involved in filmmaking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When Modern Technology Makes Movies Worse

Ever since the first moving picture was taken and displayed on a screen, motion picture technology has been steadily advancing. These leaps and bounds have resulted in new and improved ways of storytelling, such as sound, color, widescreen cinematography, and advanced editing techniques. Movies themselves are a form of technological advancement, after all. But are all advancements in technology beneficial to storytelling in movies?

Some of the greatest films in the history of cinema were done with limited resources and before modern advancements were even imagined. These were stories that created new concepts and worked around limitations with imagination. Humungous epics like Ben Hur were completed through the use of massive stages, detailed miniatures, and thousands of extras. These types of films are truly impressive even today thanks to the literal blood, sweat, and tears both in front of and behind the camera.

While computer graphics have allowed filmmakers to create creatures and setpieces that could never have come to life through practical effects, they have also taken their toll on many stories. With an overreliance on modern technology, the magic and suspense of films are often sucked out in favor of big but lifeless spectacle. What is the right balance? How can it be properly struck today? And is there any going back to the classic ideas and impact of past films?