The Most Anticipated Science Fiction & Fantasy Shows of 2020

Avengers: Endgame
One “game” you can’t be late to.

In a post-Endgame, post-Star Wars Saga world, I have a hole in my soul where movie anticipation used to live. I had a lot of anticipation in 2019 for the new Terminator film, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Men in Black International, Zombieland 2, and Jumanji 3. All let me down in some way. They weren’t fails (mostly), but didn’t come close to how idyllic the original films were.

Endgame was the only perfect finale. I’m happy enough with Rise of Skywalker, but feel strangely empty knowing 42 years of storytelling is done.

I no longer have a burning desire to know how the next thing turns out. In fact, the only movie I’m excited for offhand in 2020 is Black Widow. And I’m actually a little bit meh on that. Call it a sort of Post-Snap Depression.

black-widow-may-2020The Best Sci Fi is on Television these days

Strangely, it’s TV that’s got me jazzed this year. The 2019 Mandalorian Season One was so good that my faith in Disney and Disney+ is restored. Can Season Two happen now? (What? No more ’til next fall? I cry foul!)

But there are other shows I’m crazy with anticipation for.

Here’s my short, short list for upcoming 2020 sci-fi shows:

The Mandalorian (Disney +)

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All-Access)

The Orville (Moving to Hulu)

falcon-and-winter-soldier-show-disney-plus

The Falcon and Winter Soldier (Disney +)

It’s annoying that all the best shows are being vacuumed up by premium channels. This must stop. Between Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, consuming all the good stuff will cost more than cable used to be. Remember cable?

I actually remember when TV had four stations: CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS (for Sesame Street and Mr Rogers Neighborhood). And they were free. That’s what commercials were for. I have more time to pay than money, so commercials are fine in my book. However, I’m not the boss of TV, so I’ll have to figure something else out.

Twinkies not included.

2020 Movies to Anticipate?

There’s also the next Fantastic Beasts film, but no matter how much I like those, I don’t love them. They just aren’t Harry Potter. They kind of feel like The Hobbit movies compared to the Lord of the Rings. Or maybe prequel movies never live up to expectations in general (which might explain my meh-ness about Black Widow).

If you love your superheroes, sci fi, and fantasy features, there’s definitely good stuff coming, but patience is required. Who knows when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 will be — 2022? And Thor 4 is slated for 2021.

eternals

I’m fairly disinterested in 2020s The Eternals. The MCU will probably surprise us with a good film regardless, based on their track record. It’s just that I don’t need new characters in an already crammed shared universe.

What movies and TV shows are you looking forward to this year? Or do you also feel…kind of tired of it all?


RunPee – Our 2109 Movie Review Rankings (and who was stuck with the worst films!)

Jumanji Character Names and Skills

Avenger Superhero Powers, by Category

Critic Movie Reviews v RunPee Family Reviews

Critic Movie Reviews v RunPee Family Reviews

RunPee FamilyNot having professional or writer-educated staff (besides First Officer/COO Jill Florio, who was a journalist and magazine editor back when people still had real jobs), RunPee’s reviews are written from the heart, and are hopefully more useful than what we get from the well-paid critics of Rotten Tomatoes…  Because we send RunPee family members who are actual fans of the genre to get Peetimes and review them.

RunPee Reviews? What Peeps See What?

jill florio
RunPee Jilly likes blockbusters. She fully admits she has tentpole tastes and is not ashamed.

So we have Jill and Dan on sci-fi, fantasysuperhero, and action films; RunPee Sis on horror and comedies; RunPee Mom on animation, childrens’ films, dramas, and historicals; with Dana and Shani on miscellaneous flicks of their choice.

Of course we “RunPeeps” have interest overlap, and don’t always get our first movie choice. Sometimes one of us has to view a film we dislike (or even hate), or is totally out of our expertise to comment on — for example, don’t ask me to see War films, unless it’s Star Wars (or 1917, which rocked!).

We see hundreds of movies a year; life happens. We try our best. We try to keep off-interest assignments down.

chewbacca
Chewie is happy with most movies, if his family is any indication in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

RunPee has superior movie reviews!

What makes our movie reviews better is that a typical critic sees every movie willy-nilly and aren’t necessarily fans of each genre. So if they cordially dislike Sci Fi or superhero films, they will piss on them (to use a “Pee” reference) in their reviews. They DON’T GET THEM. We do. We try to make this inequality right.

This element explains the frequent discrepancy between Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Scores and Audience Scores. Sometimes the numbers variance is huge and seemingly inexplicable. It’s not that Critics are stupid — these are often very educated people — but each critic is not going to appreciate every type of film. They can’t. Could you?

jumanji-game-box
Would you play this game? Seriously. Like, ever?

Critics often grade/rate genre films as if they were the bastard stepchildren of serious dramas. And that’s just wrong. At least, it’s not helpful to die-hard (or at least emergent) genre fans. If you loved, say, Jumanji 2, you should review Jumanji 3, because a built-in fan will have better opinions of its relative worth in the series than someone who didn’t appreciate the first two. If you are a Harry Potter fan who’s read the books, you’ll review it better than a casual fan who doesn’t know what Expelliarmus means. Savvy?

(Ten points if you get the franchise where savvy is a thing!)

To sum up why our reviews are better 😉

We also don’t waste your time merely recapping a movie. You can get the basics from the IMDb and the trailers. We offer our honest insights instead.

RunPee co-founder and CEO Dan says it best, “Our reviews resonate with people because we generally review movies in our favorite genres. The last thing I ever want to read is a review of a Marvel movie by some snooty movie critic. If you’re not a fan of the genre you’re writing about, then how can you expect to write something meaningful?”

You do know RunPee writes reviews, right? Check them out on our blog here or do a search on RunPee.com

Types of Peetimes: recommended, emergency, alert

Why do I only see old movies in the Movie List?

RunPee Family

 

All Joker Performances — Ranked

Ask people to name the first three superhero villains they can think of, and you’ll probably get “the Joker” from everyone. There’s just something about the character we’re drawn to, for some reason. Perhaps it’s the secret appeal of being able to cast aside the rules of normal society, or perhaps it’s simply the striking visual mix of acid-green hair and the purple suit against a white-painted face. Perhaps it’s the inherent fear of clowns that most of us share.

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that Batman’s greatest foe is certainly a fan favorite. He’s appeared in every type of media there is and been brought to life by some of the biggest actors in Hollywood. But which performance was the best? Below is an attempt to answer that question in chronological order.

Cesar Romero, Batman (1966-1968)

2 out of 5 painted-over mustaches

The very first actor to bring the Joker to life, Cesar Romero’s performance was… something. In fairness, the classic Adam West show had a campy feel that a more serious Joker simply would not have worked in — and Romero’s constant laughter did set an iconic precedent for all the Joker laughs to come. His completely over-the-top portrayal was rather brave, and others might even rank him higher for sheer silliness and wild abandon.

Jack Nicholson, Batman (1989)

4 out of 5 dances with the devil

While Cesar Romero may have beaten him to the screen, it’s fair to say that Jack Nicholson set the stage for the way the Joker would be portrayed for the next thirty years. Equal parts darkly funny and terrifying, Nicholson’s Joker was an unexpected twist for viewers who were used to the comedic interpretation. For the first time, we had a Joker that was actually scary — and we loved him for it. He had the perfect blend of traits: a dash of whimsy, a veneer of sarcasm, a complete disregard for the rules of society. Nicholson’s Joker brought us everything from bone-chilling threats to acid-spraying boutonnieres, and somehow managed to make it all work. Not even his rattling false teeth or pop-off fake hands could make us think of him as less of a villain.

Mark Hamill, Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

4 out of 5 maniacal laughs

When it comes to Joker portrayals that are truly Mad Hatter-mad, there is no substitute for Mark Hamill. From his signature cackle to his dramatic delivery, this Joker is every bit as committed to hamming it up as Romero before him, but Hamill manages to make it electric and slightly terrifying. You can’t help but take him seriously, even though he doesn’t seem to have a serious bone in his animated body.

To many of us, he will always be the voice of the Joker, no matter how many other actors come after him — and that’s only fitting, considering what a wonderful job he’s done across so many mediums, from TV to video games to theme park rides. To rank Jokers purely based on the number of times he’s played the role, there is no competition.

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (2008)

5 out of 5 pencil tricks

If Nicholson brought a new level of terror to the Joker, Ledger kicked it into high gear. This Joker is absolutely no laughing matter. It’s what makes Ledger’s performance so lauded, even years after this death. For the first time, we get a sense of how truly powerful this character can be. And it’s not his mania that chills our bones, though Ledger brought plenty of that to the role.

But the terror of this Joker comes from the way he amplifies all the scared, lonely, desperate parts of our hearts. This Joker has a way of bringing those parts of people to life, because why wouldn’t you run away and protect your own when someone that chaotically evil is around? What’s the point in order, in the rule of law, in a sense of fair play when someone is stacking the deck and changing the rules at random like it’s a deadly game of Calvinball? For this reason, Ledger’s Joker will stay among the greats for many decades to come.

Cameron Monaghan,Gotham (2014-2019)

3.5 out of 5 ambiguous origins

Is he the Joker? Or just a cultural predecessor, a source of inspiration that the “real” Joker would later pick up and run with? Both the show and the showrunners imply the latter, even passing the mantle from one twin brother to the next, though the series finale does try to leave it open for interpretation. But it’s fair to count him either way. From the painted smiles to the maniacal laugh almost worthy of Hamill himself, to Monaghan’s flair for theatrics, he certainly plays the part of the Joker with style. And the dual performance as both Jerome and Jeremiah allow us to see the range of Monaghan’s expression, as one actor who took on not just two, but three different “variations” on the Joker.

Props to the actor for pulling it off with aplomb, but unfortunately, this same variety means if there’s one you don’t like as well as the others, it drags the whole ranking down.

Jared Leto, Suicide Squad (2016)

1 out of 5 ill-conceived tattoos

Come on, is anyone surprised by this ranking? Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad had all the subtlety of Romero (which is to say, absolutely none) without any of the campy charm. He managed to be somehow both over the top and lifeless at the same time. This won’t even get into his weird, gratuitous relationship with Harley Quinn. This Joker is non-threatening, uninspiring, a joke of a villain. He’s every generic gangster we’ve ever seen. Worse, he adds absolutely nothing to the role. His performance is forgettable, his laugh unmemorable. You can strike him off this list as easily as a copy editor might strike off a paragraph in a script, and you won’t have lost anything.

Zach Galifianakis, Lego Batman (2017)

3 out of 5 obscure villain sidekicks

Even villains want to feel like they matter to somebody. In Lego Batman, we get a Joker unlike any other — one who’s so desperate for Batman to admit that they’re arch-enemies, that he will stop at nothing to prove his point. And while the performance probably wouldn’t have worked in a live-action Batman movie, there’s more than enough to love about him in the Lego-verse. The shock that he feels upon discovering he does not matter to Batman! The heartbreak! This Joker is easily the funniest on this list. But while the humor works for this particular movie (and works really well), ultimately it’s just not as memorable as the more nuanced performances.

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (2019)

4.5 out of 5 stairway dances

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the amount there is to unpack and discuss about this latest entry into the Joker mythos — or the quality of the performance that Phoenix delivers. This is hands-down the most unique portrayal of the Joker to date, with a backstory that hits hard. Humanizing the character like never before, Joker delivers a powerful message about just how easily people can snap and become monsters. Phoenix’s acting is top-notch, equal to any other Joker to appear on screen, as he manages to be both heartbreaking and horrifying at the exact same time.

The only reason for the half-point deduction that lets Ledger come out on top is because the Joker in this movie doesn’t believably ever go on to become the comic book supervillain we know his character becomes. It’s not that he isn’t capable of the violence and chaos involved, but none of the chaos he inspired in the movie is planned. (And that’s even assuming that the more dramatic aspects of the movie actually happened.) While he acts as a rallying cry for the disenfranchised in the film, it’s hard to picture him leading a gang of merry troublemakers around the streets of Gotham to do his specific bidding.

Still, there’s no denying the impact this movie will have on not just Joker performances, but on superhero movies in general. And time will show what kind of cinematic chaos erupts from this game-changing performance.


Joker is now available at Amazon.com on DVD/Blue-ray.

DVD at Amazon.com

Blue Ray at Amazon.com

Jill Florio gave it a grade of C+. You can read the complete movie review here.

Wonder Woman 1984: Actor News, Story Continuity

 

The decade of 2010s when female protagonists said #MeToo to Science Fiction

Amy Adams in Arrival

Amy Adams in Arrival

Science fiction has long been dominated by male protagonists to placate the mostly male audience. But times are a changin’. Some of the most outstanding science fiction of the 2010s featured women as either the protagonist or equal partners alongside a male counterpart. Spoilers ahead for these 2010 films. 

Arrival (2016)

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer, based on the story “Story of Your Life” written by Ted Chiang
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Let’s start with what I think is the very best science fiction movie of the decade: Arrival. Amy Adams plays Professor Louise Banks in this cerebral exploration of language and time. In no other genre than science fiction could a professor of linguistics, male or female, play the protagonist of a story.

The protagonist in Arrival is patient, smart, thoughtful. Let’s face it, those are qualities more associated with women than men. She doesn’t rush to conclusions; she doesn’t approach the problem to be solved with pre conceptions; and in the end, she doesn’t resort to violence — but contrarily, uses her intellect to avoid violence.

In short, she doesn’t try to be a woman in a man’s role.

That said, I think the best display of Professor Bank’s qualities is when her counterpart, Professor Ian Donnelly — played by Jeremy Renner — makes a crucial discovery that helps solve the translation puzzle. Bank’s doesn’t show any signs of resistance to a new idea; nor does she resist an idea that isn’t her own; she even recognizes Ian discovered something before he tells her, and is genuinely excited at the prospect.

If the genders had been switched between Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, and it was the female, Professor Banks, who discovered the key that unravels the puzzle, then this is the part of the story where the female would have to do something heroic just so her idea could be recognized by the male.

I’m not just saying this to be critical of men. When trying to solve a problem I can absolutely recognize the tendency to resist changing direction. Sometimes there’s a feeling of mental momentum that builds up, and trying to stop it and change course requires effort. (Picture cartoon here of man driving, not knowing where he is or where he’s going, but stubbornly determined to continue driving, while ignoring the input of the woman in the passenger’s seat with a map.)

Arrival also brilliantly explores how a woman, Louis, can handle making the fantastically painful choice to have a child she knows will die young. Yet, before her child dies, they will have love and memories to last a lifetime. Ian, her husband, leaves her, because he isn’t strong enough to handle the emotional pain Louis embraces. 

I don’t want to suggest women have always taken a back seat to men as protagonists in science fiction. Linda Hamilton, as Sarah Connor in Terminator, and Sigourney Weaver, as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, have played powerful women protagonists, as have many other women in science fiction. However, those characters lean heavily on women thrust into traditionally masculine roles: violence.

The real beauty of Arrival is that a female character, in a military setting, uses her intellect to avoid violence.

Colossal (2016)

Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis

Colossal, staring Anne Hathaway

I know what you’re thinking: Colossal? I’ve never heard of it.

I know, right? I was right there with you until a few months ago. Colossal was in and out of theaters without so much as a “boo.” It couldn’t have been a wide release movie or we would have done Peetimes for it.

Yet here we are. Colossal is one of those movies I love telling people to watch. Don’t look for the trailer on YouTube; don’t look it up on IMDb; just try your best to watch it without knowing anything at all about it and enjoy.

It’s on my list here of great science fiction movies of the past decade, so you already have a hint, but I guarantee you, you won’t see it coming.

Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are both fantastic in their roles — but I’m not going to say anything more than that. You’ll understand when you see it.

Lucy (2014)

Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman

Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson,

Okay, I’ll admit it: Lucy isn’t exactly great science fiction. It’s more like guilty pleasure science fiction. It’s a little like the movie Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, except that it goes to infinity.

What makes Lucy so enjoyable is Scarlett Johansson’s performance. Going from a directionless young woman to, basically, a god, in the span of a day.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Bluntedge of tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

This is one of my all time favorite science fiction movies, and among the best of the Groundhog genre. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt co-star in this movie. However, when the backstory is considered, it’s Emily Blunt’s character, Rita, who is the hero. She’s the one who went through the temporal loop first and figured it out. And she’s the one who mentors Tom Cruise’s initially cowardly character, Private Cage. It only looks like Tom Cruise is the main character because of the point of view the story is told from.

Okay, they can be co-heroes. But still, Rita is the one who saves the day, twice.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Director: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

A Quiet Place, staring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

As long as we’re talking about Emily Blunt, let’s not forget how outstanding her performance was in A Quiet Place. Her character, Evelyn Abbott, wasn’t the hero of the story. Akin to Signs, every member of the family was the hero.

Bonus, we get A Quiet Place 2 — and thank you for not trying to be cute and name it A Quieter Place — on March 20, 2020.

Her (2013)

Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

her-starring- Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

Yeah, yeah, I know this is a stretch. Joaquin Phoenix is the protagonist. But this is my list and I’m going to argue it’s merits for inclusion. It’s science fiction at it’s best and it explores (soon to be) very real experience that millions, perhaps billions, of humans will encounter: what to do when we fall in love with an artificial intelligence (AI).

I have to start by saying how masterfully Scarlett Johansson voices Samantha — the AI. I would fall in love with my Google Voice too if it had Scarlett’s voice. There’s no doubt that Joaquin Phoenix is a generational talent. However, his performance would have felt contrived if the AI he falls in love with didn’t do such a great job communicating the nuances of emotions through voice alone.

Aside: Have you ever noticed how rare it is that a woman narrates a documentary? It seems like the choices are Morgan Freeman, Neil Degrasse Tyson,  Richard Attenborough, or any other man with a British accent. I can’t even think of a scientific documentary that’s voiced by a woman. But would someone please put Scarlett Johansson to work narrating? Her voice soothes like freshly baked bread slathered in butter. I could listen to it all day.

First View Movie Review – Her

Ex Machina (2014)

Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Ex Machina, starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Maybe you think the inclusion Ex Machina is a bigger stretch to add to this list than Her. Granted there are no women in this movie: just two men and two AI/robots: Ava and the speechless Kyoko. While the AI have the shape of female figures — for less than research purposes — the AI use those shapes, and the effect they have on the two men, to their advantage.

When you think about it, it’s really quite brilliant. The AI Ava uses everything it knows of women and men as tools to plan her escape. She manipulates both men with such subtlety that Caleb believes he has successfully thwarted her plan only to find out that was actually part of her ultimate plan.

We could be here all day talking about the nuances of what this implies, but I think the big takeaway here is that each person’s deep seated values around gender attributes is something that other humans, and soon AI, can use to manipulate us. We all know this is true because no demographic is more easily manipulated than young men by sexy women. Want to sell more of anything? Just picture a sexy woman holding your product, or better yet, draped over it, and sales will increase. You think that won’t be the first thing AI recognize and use to their own advantage as soon as they have the will to do so?

Also worth mentioning:

I don’t consider superhero movies to be science fiction, however I must give a nod to the addition of Captain Marvel in the MCU.

I’m personally not a fan of Brie Larson in the titular role. I think Blake Lively would have been a better choice, but be that as it may, introducing a powerful female superhero is important for the growth of not only the MCU franchise, but also our culture. It saddens me that grown men reacted to Brie Larson with such animosity over her stance on women’s rights. But at the very least, this exposes a problem that these men need to work toward getting over, because we’re not going back to the culture they crave of women beholden to men to give them value.

At the same time that Captain Marvel is being heralded as the new age of powerful women in superhero films, we already had one in Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow. Natasha’s sacrifice was every bit as crucial to the resolution of Avengers: Endgame as was Iron Man’s. Yet, I don’t see in-universe acknowledgement in the same way. I really hope that during Phase IV of the MCU there are reminders that Iron Man wasn’t the only one to make the ultimate sacrifice to defeat Thanos.

Lastly, I do not remotely consider Star Wars to be science fiction. However, if you ask me, the only good thing about the Star Wars trilogy of 2010s was the female protagonist. I wrote a lengthy article about how women rated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker higher than men. And in particular, women under 20 had the highest rating of any age group for either gender.

Way back in the 1960s, the television series Star Trek broke new ground in creating an all inclusive cast, while still pandering to white entitlement. There’s little doubt that if Captain Kirk were in the captain’s chair today he’d probably face multiple counts of sexual harassment. But, at least there was an African-American female bridge officer, along with Asian and Russian men.

It’s clear that the future of all movie franchises will lean heavily on not only creating a balance between male and female protagonists but also reaching a balance in races and sexual orientations. Marvel has already announced that there will be multiple characters added in Phase IV and beyond who are on the LGBTQ spectrum.

We’ve come a long way as a culture, but clearly we’re not “there,” yet — and who even knows what “there” even looks like.

20 Groundhog Day Type Movies – The Ultimate Repeating Day Film List

What is the best all-time series franchise?

harry-potter sorcerers stone
It started well and kept getting better. Congratulations, Harry!

So many movie franchises, so little time. While it’s easy for producers to add yet another movie to any long-running series, it’s not so easy to have every one of them qualify as good, quality films. And in some series, all are decent, but none are outstanding. How to decide who gets the top spot for film series narratives where everything is both above average and don’t contain a clunker?

Definition: What’s a movie franchise?

We figure anything beyond a trilogy counts as a true series. Also, I’m looking at stories with an element — any element — of cannon material.

We fudged a few times here. Riddick only makes four films by including Dark Fury, an animated but CANNON inclusion to the series. The Matrix (at least through now, since a 4th movie has been recently announced, but hasn’t been filmed) has an entire cannon series of Animatrix anime. We’re going to take a leap and include those.

So, we’ve decided we have to draw a line somewhere, since linear story-telling material in so many series are all over the map.

Here we go: Soft Reboots are included…Hard Reboots are not. In other words, if the series nods to any previous incarnations and characters, that’s a Soft Reboot (ie – the Kelvin Timeline in Star Trek that refers to our Classic Timeline and has Old Spock and New Spock as continuous characters), but Hard Reboots are out (removing something like Evil Dead from the equation, for example, since the new version goes back to the beginning and erases the entire previous trilogy).

James Bond films are tough that way, and might be based on who was Bond when. Probably. We’re mulling over whether each Bond series has any connective tissue to the last. But clearly with each Batman version, it’s a Hard Reboot from the ones that follow. Which makes detangling DC an issue.

Note: We can’t say we’ve covered every series out there, especially those in the horror genre, which can malinger like old laundry. We see a lot of movies, but aren’t superheroes here. Let me know what I left out in the comment section below. 

Interesting “leading” actors note:

Vin Diesel, Harrison Ford, The Arnold, and Sylvester Stallone each have two entire lead role franchises on this list. Wow! We could possibly, maybe, conceivably, say so do Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, but those are “starring” roles in large ensemble films, instead of clear leads.

What do you think? We aren’t sure where to draw the line on this, so feel free to chime in to the comments with your opinions. We realize people can get worked up about their favorite movie series, and we want to hear all about it!

So, let’s get to it. Here are the franchises we’re looking at, and our personal, very opinionated comments as we go.

  • Aliens — Pure disaster from 2 onward. What not to do. ARGHHHH. So much original goodness, so, so wasted. After the first and the sequel, which ROCKED, we can’t recommend anything else. And they keep on trying…to no avail.
  • Terminator —  None actually suck, but it’s very uneven. A good effort. Also, with all the timelines, working out what is a Soft Reboot vs Hard Reboot is problematic. This would have been worth consideration as a winner, especially with the new Dark Fate offering, if Genisys wasn’t so damned dumb.
  • Predator —  All of them are rather good, if you don’t throw the Aliens vs Predators into the mix. That 2nd AvP is one of the worst movies I have ever sat through. And, to be honest, I don’t like Predator 2 much at all either, except for the fun spaceship ending. It felt like a gangster film and was not very sci fi. Bummer.
  • Resident Evil — Jeez. Past the first, are any good? There are six live action films to date, and a few animated ones. Did you realize six movies even happened? I remember really liking the first one a whole lot, with the brand new Alice and Raccoon City. Then the Resident Evils seemed to blend into a massive zombie mess, and can’t recall anything important, except for a cool scene with a motorcycle crashing through a church stained glass window. Which movie was that? I sure don’t know. Oh, wait, and didn’t one film have the remnants of humanity in Alaska? I really tried to keep up…
  • Harry Potter — Most consistently above par as a series. Each one is great-to-excellent. Probably the All_Over_Series Champion for this article’s purposes. So far, the Fantastic Beasts films are pulling it down a little, but not by much. None of these suck. The first two are juvenile….because the intention is that the audience will grow up with the series.  And the juvenile ones even knock my socks off, by introducing a magical ambiance and the firm foundation of a wizarding wish fulfillment fantasy. You know you want to get an acceptance letter to Hogwarts too. Don’t deny it. 😉
  • Twilight — Oooo boy. Best case: they are consistent…consistently bland. Next…
  • Star Wars. Yikes. It’s really too bad how uneven this series is. Even if you love the prequels, you’ll argue about the new films. No one agrees here with any of this. It’s really too bad. How did this happen?
  • Star Trek / original and Abrams — More yikes. Do you prefer Kirk or Picard? And which Kirk do you prefer? It doesn’t really matter, since each series has some great highs and some low, low, lows. Somehow, each movie manages to keep the continuity going (the Kelvin Timeline of JJ Abrams is a borderline Soft Reboot because of the alternate timeline including Old Spock). But the classic Kirk stories have their greats (Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home) and their losers (The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier). And the Patrick Stewart efforts are also up and down (Great: First Contact, Awful: Nemesis). I’m not going to argue about Nu-Trek. The big issue: no matter how you slice it, none of the parts of the series are consistent enough to come close to winning this prize. Sorry, Trek fans.
  • Indiana Jones — Sigh. Yep, uneven…I doubt I need to elaborate. Honestly, I only love the original. The rest are good-to-poor in execution. And it’s not Harrison Ford’s fault. I don’t know what happened with such a great premise.
  • MCU — Sooooo close to perfection. None are bad. The Hulk isn’t exactly good (it gets by with a ‘fair’). We think after the Harry Potter series, this is the Runner-Up Winner in terms of being consistently excellent. One could say the MCU should win by default, however, since after a WHOPPING 23 films, they are almost uniformly excellent. Should we allow one ‘fair’ Hulk film to drag this amazing feat down? (This Hulk was definitely better than the Ang Lee Hulk, which is frankly unwatchable). Seriously, none of these films are bad. But not all of them rank as good. This is a toughie. Also, Agents of SHIELD, Peggy Carter, and a few other one-offs with good material count as cannon. (Not sure if Thor’s adventures with his roommate Darryl count, but I don’t see why not. It’s even a trilogy in itself!)
  • X-Men/Wolverine/Deadpool — Part of the fun here is even the characters don’t know what is or isn’t cannon. Personally, I think this is an example of Marvel working out the bugs in making a contiguous franchise. Even their most recent X-Men movie this summer shows how awfully bad things can get when the writing isn’t planned well. I’m as confused as Wade Wilson when it comes to the X-Men.
  • DCEU — OH DEAR GODS. I’m going to just disqualify the DC universe until they figure out what the heck they’re doing. Some of it is cannon. Some are quite enjoyable (for me: only Wonder Woman and Shazam). Some of the DC films are hard reboots and some are soft reboots, and some suck no matter how you slice them.  Even after the successful new Joker film, I think they still don’t know what they’re doing. I hope James Gunn’s Suicide Squad 2 will be great, but even that is supposed to be a soft reboot. Will Birds of Prey fit in? Do we even care?
  • LOTR/Hobbit — It’s really too bad about that last Hobbit film. Our trips to Middle Earth could have swept all the wins. Battle of Five Armies was just awful. Damn.
  • Lego Movies — These are almost all pretty good. But the Ninjago one isn’t worthwhile. Sorry, Lego fans. Alllmost. It’s too bad. The other three are excellent. One clunker ruins the score.
  • Men In Black — Only the original is GREAT. The other three are…fine. Even the new one is…no better than fine. My personal ranking is 1, 3, 4, and then 2. Pass.
  • Toy Story —  Quite good as a series. 2 is kind of a clunker and brings the series down, which is too bad. This is almost a winner.
  • Shrek — Do you know there are four Shrek films out there? Me neither. And that boots this off the list. Sorry, Mike Myers. Were the last direct-to-video? I have no idea where this went.
  • Despicable Me + Minions — A fairly even series, I’ll grant it that, and a lot of fun. Not one is a clunker. But if Despicable Me wins this contest, I may have to eat someone, like a random Grip or Best Boy or Foley Artist…please, don’t make me do this. Cute, cute, cute. But seriously amazing storytelling? This might be a runner up. Seriously, for being a silly premise, this is kind of a winner. Banana!
  • The Matrix — The first movie redefined action movies. On the DVD box set there’s an option to watch the movie while three movie critics (yes, movie critics) commentate on the movie — how brave of the directors! One of the critics commented: “I realized while watching this movie that I was witnessing a watershed moment.” Then the other two movies came out — Reloaded and Revolutions — a few years later, to less than critical acclaim. As a huge Matrix fan, I didn’t know what to think, but upon rewatching, and rewatching, I understand that the story couldn’t have been better. Even the universally panned Burly Brawl fight scene in Revolutions served an important plot point than few people understand. (There’s a reason the fight went on, and on, and on.) Between Reloaded and Revolutions, we had the collection of animations –in the Animatrix. While it’s probably only appealing to uber-fans, the stories are all entertaining and are artfully done. Well worth watching, and they help fill in much of the back story, and even introduce a character who later shows up in Revolutions.
  • Riddick — All are good. Two are great. But having only half be amazing isn’t enough to win the franchise prize.
  • The Monster U/Godzilla — This series is ongoing, so the jury is still out until we see King Kong vs Godzilla. So far, the series is enjoyable, but far from great. I remember thinking during the first Godzilla movie that there wasn’t nearly enough Godzilla. Mostly, watching any of these movies just makes me crave watching Pacific Rim again.
  • Mission Impossible — Most of these mush together in my head. I can recall it around the stunts…as in, “This is the one where Tom Cruise does a Halo Jump.” Some of these are really very good, and some (early on, mainly) are mediocre.
  • Fast & Furious/H&S — None of these are bad, but it’s a pretty uneven series. Like with Mission Impossible, it gets better as it goes, and I remember them by stunts (“This is the one Vin Diesel flew a car between skyscapers in Abu Dhabi…”).
  • Rocky/Creed — The first movie was pretty amazing, and I don’t usually like fight plots. But then each following film focused more on fighting and less on story. Things got mediocre fast, even with the Creed films bolstering the narrative.
  • Rambo — I hate to say this, but I’ve never watched a single Rambo film. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.
  • Jaws — HA!  The first two have some decent continuity and are worth viewing…but then things dwindle fast. Do you know how many Jaws movies there are? (Hint: officially, 4. But with the ‘bad shark franchise’ being so fat and happy, you’d think there were more.)
  • Bond — Very uneven, if you look at all the Bonds in all the years. Some Bonds are more consistent than others. But since each one is a Hard Reboot, this makes it hard to grade. I don’t think any new Bond character acknowledges a prior Bond storyline. But I might be wrong. If you have some thoughts, share them in the comment section. I’d love to know if any Bonds refer to prior incarnations.
  • Die Hard — Did  you realize there are five films in this series? Poor John McClane, running barefoot through glass shards every Christmas. So to speak. I love him and the original film, but  this series is still too wobbly to win the Ultimate Franchise award. A+ plus for the original. then thing get mediocre quickly.
  • Mad Max — With Fury Road, this is 4 films and thus enters our competitive list. And I hate to say this….but I have NOT seen Fury Road. (Man, I know. I suck.) Even so, I think this is a consistent series, and each one is worth a watch. But they aren’t AMAZING, no matter how you slice it. So it’s not a win, not compared to Harry Potter.
  • Hunger Games — Decently consistent, but the 3rd is sort of lame and drags the series down. It’s too bad — this really could have been a contender. All it takes is one bad movie…
  • Transformers — Let’s face it:  that any single one of these movies is watchable is a win. The best I can say about any of the Transformer movies is that they make great films to play in the background for cleaning the house.
  • Halloween — There are 11 movies in this series. The most recent brought Jamie Lee Curtis back in a true sequel (and Soft Reboot) that continues where the first film left off, discarding the rest. Thankfully. This is how to do a follow-up, and it performed very well at the box office. There are two more films on the pike to continue this narrative.
  • Jurassic Park — The original is an A+ film and Lost World was a pretty good sequel. Then we got the abyssal Jurassic III, which should be taken out behind the shed and shot. It’s that bad. It took a long time to revive the series with Jurassic World, and the 4th movie is quite charming — a great relief for dino-philes like me. The 5th film is good, not very good or great, but certainly isn’t a dog like HP 3. It’s too bad 3 happened at all: JP could have been contender. JP 3 is THAT BAD.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean — Although there are four movies in this series, the only one to be taken seriously is the first. While the original was ground-breaking and fresh, everything that followed seemed like a live-action cartoon. FAIL.
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation – All, at least in the 5 films, (American Vacation, European Vacation, Xmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation and Vacation) are watchable. None are above a B grade, however. Just because all are watchable doesn’t mean any are great.
  • The Bourne movies – There are 5 of these! But the quality is up and down. Bummer.
  • Saw, Chucky, The Conjuring Universe – I’m just not a horror fan. I’ve seen exactly zero of these films, so I can’t comment on them. We’re hoping RunPee Sis, our resident horror fan, will make her own franchise list. I do have the sense that all have a very uneven quality. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comment section below.

I don’t pretend to cover every series. I’m not that awesome. But from this list here, it’s clear who wins, and who just misses the cut.

Winner: Harry Potter (even including the 2 Fantastic Beasts films), with 10 films of good to ‘fantastic’ quality that all easily make the ‘film classics’ list. Congrats to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Newt!

Runner Up: The Marvel Cinematic Universe. I really want to give this series the win. It’s hard to have 23 movies (plus two cannon TV shows and several one-shots) all be amazing. And it’s not fair to have Hulk (and maybe Thor 2) drag the entire thing down. When they did Hulk they really didn’t have the MCU formula worked out — that was the same year as the original Iron Man, which was a long shot at best. But you know what? It created an empire that almost nothing could compete with. It’s just soooo close. MCU, we love you 3,000.

Honorable Mention: The Matrix. A lot of people just do not like the sequels, and haven’t even seen the Animatrix Collection. In fact, the sequels spawned some serious vitriol when they came out. But if you watch them now, 20 years later, and forget “all you know, and think you know”, you’ll actually enjoy what the directors have accomplished. This cinematic experience is really very deep, and the quality can’t be argued against. We only hope the previously announced four-quel will add to the story (unlike the new Men In Black: International).

Honorable Mention 2: Believe it of not, Despicable Me/Minions is right up there, and more consistent than the otherwise beloved Toy Story series. I’m shocked too.

Do you agree or hate my assessments? Comment below. I promise I’ll respond with respect. This is what makes films fun. 

Disney announces release dates for upcoming MCU Phase 4 movies and Disney+ shows

Marvel StudiosOkay, deep breath. Thanos is snapped away along with his minions, and Ironman (luv u 3000) is hanging out with his daughter in the Soul Stone.

That’s the past. It’s time to create new stories, heroes, villains and get the MCU Phase 4 underway.

Here’s the movie/TV lineup Disney has announced:

2020

black-widow-may-2020May 1st, 2020 – Black Widow

What we know so far: the story takes place between the events of Civil War and Infinity War.

Stars: of course, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, and also introducing Florence Pugh (Angela in Malevolent, Saraya Knight in Fighting with My Family) as Yelena Belova, David Harbour (Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, Dexter Tolliver in Suicide Squad) as Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian, Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff…and oh yeah, this guy named Robert Downey Jr. may have a cameo as Tony Stark.

eternalsNovember 6, 2020 – The Eternals

What we know so far: It introduces the Eternals, a race of immortal beings who lived on Earth and shaped its history and civilizations.

Stars: Angelina Jolie as Thena, Richard Madden (Robb Stark in GOT) as Ikaris, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Gemma Chan (Astrid Young Teo in Crazy Rich Asians) as Sersi, Kit Harington (Jon Snow in GOT) as Dane Whitman, Kumail Nanjiani (Stu inStuber, in Silicon Valley) as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff (Connie in The Walking Dead) as Makkari, Barry Keoghan (George in Dunkirk) as Druig, Brian Tyree Henry (Jefferson Davis in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) as  Phastos, Lia McHugh (Jessica Nolan in American Woman) as Sprite, and Dong-seok Ma (Sang-hwa in Train to Busan) as Gilgamesh.

falcon-and-winter-soldier-show-disney-plusNovember 12, 2020: The Falcon and Winter Soldier on Disney+

What we know: Kari Skogland (The Handmaid’s Tale) will direct all six episodes of the series.

Stars: Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will officially reprise their roles as Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Daniel Bruhl and Emily VanCamp will both be joining the cast — reprising the roles they played in Captain America: Civil War.

2021

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsFebruary 12, 2021 – Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

What we know: an introduction of the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi the Kung-Fu Master. In the comics Shang Chi’s main power was really just a skill: the ability to rapidly master forms of combat. Although in later years, he did gain the power to replicate himself, which could come in handy. It’s unknown if the MCU will duplicate that power from the comics.

Stars: Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as The Mandarin.

wandavisionSpring 2021: WandaVision on Disney+

What we know: There will be six episodes that follow after the events of Avengers: Endgame. It’s unknown how they will explain Vision’s return after he was killed/unstoned by Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. We do know that the events of WandaVision will cross over into the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which premiers around the same time.

Stars: Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will reprise their roles of Maximoff and Vision. They will be joined by Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis from the Thor movies and Randall Park as Agent Jimmy Woo from Ant-Man. In addition Kathryn Hahn (Afternoon Design, Bad Moms) will also be joining as a “nosey neighbor.” Teyonah Parris is cast to play the role of Monica Rambeau — the young girl introduced in Captain Marvel.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessMay 7, 2021 – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

What we know: the plot is unknown but it will involve a crossover with the Disney+ show WandaVision.

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer (Strange’s girlfriend from the first Dr. Strange movie), Benedict Wong as Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, and a To-be-confirmed actor as Nightmare.

Who is Nightmare, you ask? In Marvel Comics, Nightmare is a Class 3 demon —equal to Dormammu, Shuma Gorath, and Cthulhu — who rules the Nightmare World, located within the Dream Dimension. Nightmare feeds off humanity’s collective psychic dream energy, and terrorizes humans and superheroes alike.

Loki on Disney+Spring 2021: Loki on Disney+

What we know so far: Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role as Loki, even though Thanos killed him in the first scene of Avengers: Endgame. But remember, later in the movie the Avengers go on their time travel adventures —  and Loki ends up holding the Tesseract and disappearing with it.

Hiddleston said: In the years since Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which came out this Spring… Two questions I’ve been asked are ‘is Loki really dead?’ and ‘what’s Loki doing with that cube?’ It’s always the cube somehow. And this series will answer both of those questions.

Spider-Man-3July 16, 2021 – Spider-Man 3

What we know: not much. The good news is that Spider-Man is returning to the MCU at all. The bad news is this is likely his last solo movie in the MCU. The plot is unknown, but will likely pick up on the ending of Far From Home, where Spider-Man was revealed to the public to be Peter Parker. And since Sony and Disney aren’t playing very well with each other, this movie might reveal why Spider-Man won’t be continuing as an Avenger. Unless Disney buys Sony and makes this whole mess go away.

MCU What IfSummer 2021: WHAT IF…?

What we know: this is the first animated adventure in the MCU. The first season will have 23 episodes that explore what would have happened in previous MCU stories had things gone differently.

Stars: Jeffrey Wright (West World as Bernard, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as Beetee ) stars as the Watcher, who narrates the series.

Thor Love and ThunderNovember 5, 2021 – Thor: Love and Thunder

What we know: Director Taika Waititi, who did Thor: Ragnarok, is back. So is Natalie Portman as Jane, only this time she’s going to level up and gain the powers of Thor herself. (50/50 odds that she cries at some point.)

Stars: Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tessa Thompson as Brunnhilde/Valkyrie, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor, Taika Waititi (the director) as Korg.

hawkeyeFall 2021: Hawkeye on Disney+

What we know: The show will act as a passing of the baton as Clint Barton ( Jeremy Renner) passes the title of “Hawkeye” to a new character: Kate Bishop. Kate is rumored to be played by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Enders Game, Bumble Bee), but that is not yet confirmed.

Note: Disney+ series for Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Moon Knight are also in the works, and will debut after Hawkeye.

2022

October 7 – untitled movie

I’m going out on a limb to speculate that there will be more than one MCU movie released in 2022.

2023

February 17 – untitled movie
May 5 – untitled movie
July 28 – untitled movie
November 3 – untitled movie

Marvel Phase 4 Predictions – Some MCU Sure-Fire Guesses

A Buffy Revival – Vampires Spike and Angel Could Absolutely Do a Movie

buffy-vampire-slayer-title
You can’t keep a good slayer down.

Note the following: David Boreanaz says he’s done playing Angel. Joss Whedon (creator, writer, editor, director, minor deity) has also said he’d make a Buffy movie if the heavens willed it so.

We think David would return with the right offer. With Bones finished, isn’t he free now? And I don’t think James Marsters (Spike) or Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy) would require too much arm twisting, even though Marsters said he’d aged out of the role of a young-looking immortal. To which I, a fanatic disciple of Whedon, say ” pish-posh.”

A Buffy Movie? Why the Hell (Mouth) Not?

It’s a known quantity: once you’re killed off in a Whedon production, it only means your character will return with a vengeance (or at least a reprise).

So, if Angel and Spike look 14 years older, a creative team of writers could not only make it work, but turn a bug into a benefit.

While Buffy loved both vampires, the best chemistry onscreen was arguably between Spike and Angel. Season Five of Angel just beat the pants off its parent show. I hate to admit that, since I adore Buffy, in every season. (Except that one year, with Riley…)

We Don’t Even Need to De-Age Those Pesky Vampires with a Soul

On the surface, it seems too bad that any kind of revival would have to explain the vampire aging thing or do a (please NO!) recast. But we know Whedon could spin the aging any which way,  and even turn it into a plot point. Kinda like plotting around Terminator flesh aging in the Salvation film. Or was that in Genisys? (Not to mention Dark Fate.) #OldButNotObsolete

Maybe vampires will have some kind of undead plague spreading around and Buffy will have to save her Champions, even though the rest of humanity would be happy to see all vampires eliminated forever.

Perfect moral ambiguity! The Scoobies/Team Angel (what’s left of them) could be sharply divided on this matter; they could get Giles out of his tweedy retirement…and oh, don’t forget that we have a metric ton of Slayers now, ready to stake the undead. I bet there aren’t many demons and vampires left to fight anymore.

Who knows what Willow and her fellow witches are even up to these days? They could try to be neutral, like Switzerland, with torn loyalties. The newly risen First Order Watcher’s Council could be bogged down, once again, in bureaucracy…with Master Watcher Andrew leaving with a few followers, in collaboration with a new breed of re-souled vampires committed to fighting the forces of darkness.

And the Main Plot of a New Buffy Show?

It could be set up that only Buffy and Faith (with Andrew, Dawn, and Illyria) want to save Angel, Spike, and the other re-souled undead, while every other Slayer on the planet is against helping vampires, even ones who saved the world. (Several times. What is the plural of Apocalypse?)

So Buffy and gang would have to both find a cure, and hide from/fight hundreds of cheesed off Slayers…all while asking themselves what the right thing to do is. There could be betrayals, unexpected allies (like Wolfram and Hart — such uneasy bedfellows), clever patented Buffy misdirection…adding a siege mentality at the end, and…of course…. sacrifice.

Because there is no Joss Whedon production without tear-jerking sacrifice to balance his trademark humor and sparkling dialog.

That could be a hell of a movie.

 

 

Terminator TV Series: The Carlenator

Ahoy there. Spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate ahead!

Terminator: Dark Fate isn’t blowing the doors off the box office. It opened with a slightly disappointing weekend of $29 million: $1 million below expectations. In fact, the past three Terminator movies (Salvation, Genisys, and Dark Fate) all failed to meet box office expectations, throwing the future of the franchise in doubt.

Personally, I can’t get enough Terminator. I say keep them coming.

Terminator Dark Fate - Carl

But you know what I would love, Love, LOVE to see? A Terminator TV series that chronicles the adventures of the T-800 (Carl/Arnold Schwarzenegger) meeting Alicia and her son Mateo. It wouldn’t need to be a badass action drama. It would work fine as an comedy, with a sprinkle of action here and there. I would imagine the plot would focus around Carl coming to grips with his existence and searching for purpose, with a little bit of a one man A-Team theme where he occasionally helps out people who are in trouble.

If you’re thinking that Arnold is too old for this, then remember that they de-aged him for Dark Fate. The de-aging technology is getting better and better. It’s getting to the point that they wouldn’t even need Arnold to participate. They could use a double on-set and replace him in post production, along with a synthesized Arnold voice.

What do you think? Would you watch a show like this?

Is Joker a standalone or part of the DC Extended Universe?

JokerThe Joker (played by Joaquin Phoenix), is a standalone origin story, set in 1981 Gotham City, which tells the story of how the character Arthur Fleck , a failed stand-up comedian, turns to a life of crime and chaos.

The Joker is the first in a series of movies and comics DC is launching under the DC Black heading. DC Black stories are a bold new approach to let storytellers experiment with characters without being beholden to the continuity of the larger DCEU (DC Extended Universe). The idea is to create a series of standalone movies — one-offs, so to speak — that don’t relate to any other DC movies.

Basically, DC has given up trying to compete with the success of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and are going back to what they do best: tell dark stories about dark characters in dark places.

Ironically, the MCU is also experimenting with this form of storytelling, outside the bounds of continuity with the main MCU story-line, in their “What If…?” series, where they transpose different characters into different roles: such as “What if Black Panther was Starlord?” …or explore how things could have been different if a character had made a different decision. Like what if Steve Rodgers hadn’t become Captain America?

Disney Plus is working on this concept, but Marvel is still leaps and bounds above anything the DC has offered lately. We’ll see if this idea helps level the playing field.

Movie Review – Joker

Newbie Movie Review – Suicide Squad (2016)

The Essential Will Smith

 

Gemini Man opens October 11.  The name Will Smith has become synonymous with  sci-fi action films.  Smith has had a long and varied career, even if his genre roles are my favorite.  I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid.  Somewhere I have a Soundtracks cassette of eight-year-old me rapping (or attempting to)  “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  (Once upon a time, kids, we paid to do karaoke and they gave us recordings of it.)  On the eve of Will Smith’s latest movie, let’s take a look at his most essential performances.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Will Smith’s first significant acting job was starring in this long-running sitcom.  He played a fish out of water who left a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia to live with his rich relatives in California after getting in a fight.  But you probably already knew that from the famous, catchy theme song.  I had loved Will aka The Fresh Prince for his novelty rap songs like “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”  This show was what made him a household name though.

Six Degrees of Separation

This was one of Will Smith’s first movie roles and it proved he could play serious parts.  Smith’s character interrupts a rich couple’s dinner party claiming to be a friend of their Ivy League children.  He charms his way into their home but there may be more to him than there appears.  This movie, adapted from John Guare’s play, is the basis of the Kevin Bacon game aka Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.   (I can link Will to Kevin in 2 degrees.  Will Smith stars with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black.  Tommy Lee Jones stars with Brad Pitt in Ad Astra.  Brad Pitt is in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.)

Bad Boys

Will Smith joined fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence for this action film where they play detectives.  The duo proved to be so popular that not only did they make a second movie, a third one is slated to come out next year and a fourth one is in pre-production.

Independence Day

Man, I miss 1996!

This blockbuster set a precedent for a while.  It just wasn’t summer without a Will Smith movie, most of them coming out on Fourth of July weekend.  Smith plays a military pilot who helps defend Earth against an alien attack.  The special effects may seem dated today, but at the time the White House getting blown up by a UFO was the coolest thing any of us had ever seen.  The movie became the highest-grossing film of 1996.  The following summer would see Smith working with aliens again.

Men in Black 

Don’t look at this or they’ll flashy-thing you.

Based on a comic book, this sci-fi comedy blockbuster paired Will Smith with Tommy Lee Jones.  They made for a winning team.  They play secret agents who are part of an organization that supervises alien lifeforms on Earth and hides their existence from humans.  The movie spawned three sequels and a cartoon series.

Ali

Smith plays boxer Muhammad Ali in this biopic.  His performance earned him his first Oscar nomination.  (I’m not going to discuss his second Oscar nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness.  If you want to see Smith in an inspirational role, watch The Legend of Bagger Vance instead.  It’s much less schmaltzy.)  Sadly, this is one of those films where the movie isn’t as good as the performance.  But it’s still worth seeing.  Will Smith becomes Muhammad Ali.

 

I Am Legend

I still feel like Smith was within a hair’s breadth of getting an Oscar nomination for this role.  You can feel his loneliness and isolation as the last man on earth after a zombie apocalypse.  The scene where he begs a mannequin to talk to him is SO GOOD!  This is easily one of my top films of 2007.  It’s a change from the more humorous sci-fi roles of ID4 and MIB.  This one’s more serious.  And he still rocks it.  It’s amazing how they were able to film/create an abandoned New York City, especially Times Square.

Focus

I love movies about con men.  And this one has Margot Robbie to boot.  Usually, Smith plays the hero.  It’s rare to see him play an antihero (like in Hancock).  This is a fun movie with some twists.

Concussion

Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in this important film about how football can lead to brain damage.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe but snubbed by Oscar for his performance about a doctor who takes risks to do the right thing.  This underrated performance is one of his best roles.

Suicide Squad

Deadshot putting up with Harley.

There aren’t words for how bummed I am that Smith won’t be reprising his role as Deadshot for the new Suicide Squad movie.  He made a great antihero, a villain you cared about.  He was a badass but he was also a loving father and made both halves of that believable.  He also had great rapport with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.  My only consolation is that he’ll probably play someone equally badass in the Marvel Cinematic Universe eventually.

Aladdin

No one else will ever be Robin Williams.  However, Smith brought his own original spin to the role of the Genie.  It’s hard not to enjoy this new version of the classic.

Don’t miss the best parts of Gemini Man or any of your other favorite movies.  Always use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for the latest movies like Ad Astra, Joker, and the upcoming Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RunPee/).