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. 

All The Stars – End Credits Song from Black Panther – Video and Lyrics

black panther and king T'Challa
All The Stars from Black Panther is one hell of a great song.

Up for Best Original Song at the Oscars this year, All The Stars from Black Panther is looking very good. It’s up against the big contender Shallow from A Star Is Born, but it could certainly bring in a win if the Academy sees fit to go in a different direction from their usual drama-type film awards. All The Stars is a great song — very inspiring — and while I’m biased by being a total science fiction geek, I’d love to see something in my genre of choice actually win this time.

Here’s that gorgeous Black Panther end credits video, and the lyrics from All The Stars, just to get you excited and happy. You’re welcome. 🙂


All The Stars

(Sung by Kendrick Lamar, SZA)

Love, let’s talk about love
Is it anything and everything you hoped for?
Or do the feeling haunt you?
I know the feeling haunt you

This maybe the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer
This maybe the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer

Tell me what you gon’ do to me
Confrontation ain’t nothin’ new to me
You can bring a bullet, bring a sword
Bring a morgue, but you can’t bring the truth to me
Fuck you and all your expectations
I don’t even want your congratulations
I recognize your false confidence and calculated promises all in your conversation
I hate people that feel entitled
Look at me crazy ’cause I ain’t invite you
Oh, you important?
You the moral to the story, you endorsing?
Motherfucker, I don’t even like you
Corrupt a man’s heart with a gift
That’s how you find out who you dealin’ with
A small percentage, who I’m building with
I want the credit if I’m losing or I’m winning
On my momma that’s the realest shit

Girl, let’s talk about love
Is it anything and everything you hoped for?
Or do the feeling haunt you?
I know the feeling haunt you

This maybe the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer
This maybe the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer

Skin covered in ego
Get to talkin’, I get involved, like a rebound
No control, no off switch in the way that you bringing me down
It’s a turn on, get it away from me
Know you mean wrong, keep away from me
And it’s all wrong, get it away from me, yeah
I just cry for no reason, I just pray for no reason
I just thank for the life, for the day, for the hours and another life breathin’
I did it all ’cause it feel good
You could live it all if you feel bad
Better live your life
We are running out of time

Love, let’s talk about love
Is it anything and everything you hoped for?
Or do the feeling haunt you?
I know the feeling haunt you

This maybe the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer
This maybe the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer…

(Songwriters: Alexander William Shuckburgh / Kendrick Lamar / Mark Anthony Spears / Solana I. Rowe / Anothony Tiffith. All The Stars lyrics 2018 © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.)

…Did you know? Black Panther is the world’s ninth-highest-grossing film of all time. From the wikipedia.org


Movie Review – Black Panther – One Incredible Party

A Black Perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther

How to Dress Like You’re From Wakanda in Black Panther

Highlights from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival

This year’s Sundance Film Festival recently concluded.  [pullquote]The celebration of independent cinema has been going strong for 41 years[/pullquote].  Even though the Oscars for 2019 haven’t been handed out yet, the Oscar race for 2020 has officially begun.  Past Oscar nominees and winners Little Miss Sunshine, Manchester By the Sea, and The Big Sick, among others, have premiered at Sundance.  This year, 121 films were screened over ten days in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s Sundance Film Festival:  

The festival opened with After the Wedding, director Bart Freundlich’s adaptation of the 2006 foreign film of the same name.  The drama starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Moore got disappointing reviews.

Chinonye Chukwu became the first black woman to win the Grand Jury Prize for her film Clemency.  In the movie, Alfre Woodard plays a prison warden haunted by all the death row executions she’s carried out.    

The Souvenir won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize.  The movie is about a film student finding her voice, while dealing with a complicated relationship that threatens her future.  Written and directed by Joanna Hogg, the movie stars Tilda Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne. A sequel is already planned that will add Twilight star Robert Pattinson.    

One Child Nation, directed by Zhang Lynn and Nanfu Wang, won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Documentary.  The movie focuses on China’s one-child policy and the effect it had on generations of families.

Honeyland (not to be confused with the drama Honey Boy) won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary.  It focuses on the last female bee hunter in Europe who must save the bees and restore natural balance when something goes wrong.   The movie was directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov.

Brittany Runs a Marathon won the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film.  The inspirational comedy, written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, stars Jillian Bell as a woman trying to take control of her life by running.  

 Queen of Hearts, directed by May el-Toukhy, won the Audience Award for World Cinema Dramatic film.  The movie is a tragedy about a woman who seduces her stepson.

Knock Down the House, directed by Rachel Lears, won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary.  The movie follows four young women, most notably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who dare to challenge incumbent candidates for their seats in Congress.  Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was not able to attend the screening of Knock Down the House due to complications with the government reopening.  However, she surprised the audience by joining a Q & A after the film, via web conference.  The movie provoked an emotional response from the audience and received a standing ovation. 

 Sea of Shadows, directed by Richard Ladkani,  won the Audience Award for World Documentary. The film is about efforts to save the vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, and end criminal practices that are damaging its habitat.  

The most anticipated film going into the festival was Joe Berlinger’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, a biopic of serial killer Ted Bundy starring Zac Efron and told from the POV of Bundy’s girlfriend.  Although the movie received mixed reviews, Netflix purchased it for $9 million dollars after the festival.

Blinded by the Light was this year’s most expensive acquisition.  It was sold to New Line for $15 million and set a new festival record for the most money spent on a film.  The movie is about a teenage Pakistani boy in England in the ‘80s who’s obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. The film was directed by Gurinder Chadha, who directed the feel-good hit Bend It Like Beckham.    

Amazon spent the most money, setting a record with $46 million dollars total.  Amazon bought one of the movies with the most buzz going into the festival, The Report, for $14 million.  The Report is about an investigation into the CIA’s torture practices following 9/11. It stars Adam Driver, Jon Hamm, and Annette Bening, and was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns.  

Amazon also bought two of the biggest comedies at the fest: Brittany Runs a Marathon, acquired for $14 million, and Late Night, acquired for $13 million. Late Night, directed by Nisha Ganatra,  stars Emma Thompson as a TV talk show host who clashes with a new writer, played by actual writer-producer of the film, Mindy Kaling.

In addition, Amazon paid around $5 million for the Shia LaBeouf film Honey Boy, directed by Alma Ha’rel.  LaBeouf wrote the autobiographical film, in which he plays his own father, as a way of exorcising his demons.  The movie got a standing ovation at its premiere.

The most controversial film at the festival was the documentary Leaving Neverland, a four-hour two-part documentary about two men who claim to have been sexually abused by the late pop star Michael Jackson, as children.  After death threats and talks of protest, extra security and police presence were added to the screening. There were also counselors available at the screening. The premiere only attracted two protesters.  A premiere in Salt Lake City the next day attracted eight.  In early January, Jackson’s family decried the film as “just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations.”  After the screenings, they released an official statement speaking out against the film.  Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, will air on HBO this spring.  

The dramedy The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang, was one of the most popular films at the festival.  It was acquired by A24 for an amount rumored to be around six or seven million dollars. The movie stars Awkwafina from Crazy Rich Asians.  It’s about a family that decides to keep a matriarch’s cancer diagnosis from her, to lessen the sting of death. The movie will probably get a theatrical release this summer.

Documentaries did well at the festival, too.  

Ava DuVernay’s company ARRAY acquired the documentary MERATA, about the Maori filmmaker Merata Mita, who was the first indigenous woman to direct her own movie.  Hulu acquired The Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary from director Ben Berman. The film focuses on the stand-up comic/magician of the title.

Sony Pictures Classics acquired the documentary “David Crosby: Remember My Name.”  A.J. Eaton is the director. Cameron Crowe, director of Almost Famous and Singles, known for his love of rock and roll, is a producer.  Crosby is best known for his work with the band Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Hail Satan? was acquired by Magnolia Pictures in November and is planning a spring release in the U.S.  The humorous documentary follows The Satanic Temple as they try to uphold religious pluralism.

Magnolia Pictures is also the distributor for the documentary Ask Dr. Ruth.  Ask Dr. Ruth may not have made as big a splash as expected.  I could not find much reporting on it from the festival.  We will have to wait and see if it becomes as popular as RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 

Liza Mandelup won a special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker for Jawline, a documentary about social media fame.

Mads Brügger won  the Directing Award for World Cinema Documentary for Cold Case Hammarskjöld.  The twisty documentary focuses on the investigation of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Warning: This trailer is a little bit graphic.

Jacqueline Olive was presented with a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency for her film Always in Season.  The film deals with the subject of lynching.

Warning: disturbing content.

Luke Lorentzen received a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography for Midnight Family.  The documentary follows a Mexican family who run a private ambulance service, as they struggle to make ends meet in a competitive market.  

Netflix acquired American Factory for $3 million dollars.  The documentary is about a Chinese company that opens a factory in a shuttered General Motors plant.  The movie follows the culture clash of Chinese and American workers working together, as well as the American workers trying to adapt to newer technology.  

Ursula Macfarlane’s documentary Untouchable, which chronicles Harvey Weinstein’s years of alleged sexual abuse of women, also debuted at Sundance.  The festival is where Weinstein picked up many of Miramax’s hits including Clerks, Reservoir Dogs, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. However, he is now no longer welcome there.    

Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary Apollo 11 got a Special Jury Award for Editing.  The film recreates the space mission, including audio and video the public has never experienced before.  

 

Alexandre O. Phillipe screened his film Memory: The Origin of Alien which examined Ridley Scott’s horror classic.   I couldn’t find any information on whether this film has a distributor or not. However, Phillipe is an established director who made 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene about Psycho a few years ago.  I predict this movie will be playing on the big or small screen by the end of the year.

Showtime acquired the four-part documentary Wu-Tang: Of Mics and Men ahead of the festival.  

Directed by Sacha Jenkins, the docu-series tells the history of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan.  The first two parts of the series premiered at the fest. The living members of the group were in attendance.  

Warning: adult language.

Netflix premiered The Great Hack as a work-in-progress. The documentary from directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer focuses on the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data breach.  

Sony Picture Classics acquired the documentary Where Is My Roy Cohn? about the lawyer whose clients included Joseph McCarthy and even Donald Trump.  The movie was directed by Matt Tyrnauer.

Halston, a documentary about the American fashion designer, and sold to the company formerly known as The Orchard Film Group, has yet to be renamed.  The film will get a theatrical release this spring, be broadcast on CNN in the third quarter of the year, and later stream on Amazon.  The movie was directed by Frédéric Tcheng.  

Other notable Sundance films include:

Patrick Brice premiered the horror movie Corporate Animals, starring Demi Moore and Ed Helms. Polygon described it as “The Office, but gory.”  It does not appear to have a distributor yet.

Neon and Topic Films went in together to acquire the film Luce.  Luce was directed by Julius Onah and adapted from JC Lee’s play. The psychological thriller stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, as parents whose adopted child’s identity is called into question.  

Netflix premiered the new Dan Gilroy film Velvet Buzzsaw.  Like his critically acclaimed movie Nightcrawler, it stars Jake Gyllenhaal.  It’s a horror movie set in the art world. It got mixed reviews at the festival, but now that it’s available on Netflix, Twitter is having fun with it.  

Warning: graphic images and disturbing content.

Apple bought its first film, writer-director Minhal Baig’s Hala.  It is unclear whether the movie is going straight to iTunes or will have a theatrical release.  The film is a coming of age story about a teenage girl trying to reconcile her Muslim faith with her love of skateboarding, and her crush on the boy next door.  

Harmony Korine’s latest film, the much-anticipated Beach Bum starring Matthew McConaughey as a Florida poet who seems too busy drinking and doing drugs to write, screened at the festival.  It has a cool lineup of a supporting cast, including Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Buffett. I could not find any reviews of the film, however. It entered the festival with a distributor already (Neon), and will hit theaters in March.  That’s when we’ll find out if the McConaissance continues.

Warning: contains language, drug use, and naked McConaughey butt.

Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live fame got rave reviews for his performance in Big Time Adolescence, written and directed by Jason Orley.  Unfortunately, the film has not been picked up for distribution.

HBO bought the movie Native Son ahead of its premiere at Sundance.  The movie was directed by visual artist Rashid Johnson, and adapted from Richard Wright’s classic novel by playwright Susan Lori-Parks (best known for her Broadway play Topdog/Underdog).  It updates the tragic story of Bigger Thomas to a modern setting.  Native Son will play on HBO sometime later this year.  

A24 premiered Joe Talbot’s film The Last Black Man in San Francisco.  The movie stars Talbot’s friend Jimmie Fails. The two of them wrote the film together, loosely basing it on Fails’ attempt to move back into and restore his childhood home.  The movie deals with the theme of gentrification. It received a standing ovation at its premiere and won the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic film.

Neon acquired the horror film The Lodge for around $2 million.  It is the English language debut for directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz.  The pair previously made the movie Goodnight Mommy (which is creepy as hell and one of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen).  The movie stars Riley Keough from American Honey and will be released later this year.  The movie is about two children trapped in a cabin with their future stepmother, the survivor of a religious cult.  

Neon and Hulu acquired Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters in a mid-seven-figure deal.  The horror comedy stars Lupita Nyong’o as a kindergarten teacher defending her class against zombies.  

Neon also acquired the U.S. rights for Monos,  a thriller about a group of Latin American rebels and their American hostage.  The movie was directed by Alejandro Landes and stars Julianne Nicholson.  It received a World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award.  

HBO acquired Share, for seven figures.  It was written and directed by Pippa Bianco, who received the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.  The film is about a cellphone video that appears to show a sexual assault, which gets widely shared.  The movie was also honored with a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting.

IFC Films bought the drama Official Secrets, directed by Gavin Hood.  The movie stars Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, and is based on British secret service officer/whistle blower Katherine Gunn, who tried to stop the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  

Babak Anvari premiered his new horror film Wounds, starring Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson.  It’s about a bartender who starts to suffer from supernatural phenomena once he picks up a stranger’s cellphone.  Some reviewers hate it. Some hate the ending, but like the mood of it. All agree it is deeply weird. So was Hammer’s way of promoting the film: dropping fake dead cockroaches on the floor at parties around the festival.    

Amazon premiered crowd-pleaser Troop Zero starring Viola Davis, Allison Janney, and Jim Gaffigan.  Directed by Bert & Bertie, the movie is an underdog story about a girl who wants to win a national competition to get her voice on NASA’s golden record, and rallies her scout troop to help her.  

Paradise Hills might be the most surreal movie to come out of the festival.  It sounds like pure eye candy.  Vulture called it this year’s “most bonkers” Sundance movie.  It stars Emma Roberts, and features Awkwafina in a dystopian world.  

Which of these films will make it to next year’s Oscars ceremony?  

Check this blog to find out. We’ll have more news and reviews of 2019’s hottest films.  In the meantime, you can check out our coverage of this year’s Golden Globes and see how well I did at predicting the Oscar nominees.  And always remember to use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for the latest movies.

RunPee and the 2019 Oscars – Predictions for the 2018 Movie Awards

Highlights, Comments, and Acceptance Videos for the 76th Annual Golden Globes

Full List (and comments) for the 2019 76th Annual Golden Globes Nominees & Winners

Golden Man’s Top Ten Films List for 2018