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Today marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Joss Whedon’s big-screen Firefly adventure, Serenity. Stop me if you have heard this one before. A beloved science fiction show is prematurely cancelled by the network. Fans demand more and eventually, their favorite characters are reunited on the big screen. It worked for Star Trek. But instead of launching a series of movies about the crew of the Serenity, the Firefly movie turned out to be a one-and-done.
In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman was a phenomenon. So it seemed like a given that the summer of 1990 would belong to Warren Beatty’s comic-strip adventure, Dick Tracy. The movie boasted big stars like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Madonna and of course Beatty himself. Also like Batman, Dick Tracy had an eye-popping visual style. Throw in original songs written by Stephen Sondheim and a promotional tour by the Material Girl and Dick Tracy seemed like a can’t miss blockbuster. Disney revved up the merchandise machine and prepared to count the money as it rolled in. But despite a massive marketing push, Dick Tracy didn’t become the phenomenon it seemed destined to be.
“Show, don’t tell.” How many times have you heard this phrase used to describe one of the most basic rules of storytelling. It’s far more effective to show the audience an action than to have someone tell the audience about it. Here’s another one: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So why then does Fear the Walking Dead insist on having characters tell us everything that it should be showing us? Because it’s a lot cheaper to have an actor in a chair describe the fall of Los Angeles than it is to film it.
Before Fast And Furious or Michael Bay came along the original Die Hard set the standard for the action movie genre. It also introduced us to Bruce Willis as police officer John McClane, an everyman hero who stood in stark contrast to the muscle-bound action stars of the time. Although the series and the character are beloved, most of the Die Hard movies are really not all that great. Of them all, one stands as a classic, one’s pretty good, two are just okay and one’s quite awful. Let’s rank ’em and see which is which.
It’s easy to forget this now, but once upon a time Eddie Murphy was the coolest and funniest guy on the planet. In the early 80’s, his movie career got off to a fantastic start with 48 Hours and Trading Places, But it was 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop that officially made Murphy a major movie star. Three years later, Murphy reprised his role as Axel Foley in an action-packed sequel. Beverly Hills Cop II wasn’t nearly as good as the first movie, but as 80’s action movies went, it was better than most. Then Murphy decided he wanted to do other things for a while. By the time he got around to Beverly Hills Cop III, ten years had passed since the first movie and no one cared anymore. Especially Murphy.
In the superhero genre, the Batman franchise stands out as one of the longest and most successful. With seven movies since 1989 (not counting old movie serials, animated films or the sixties TV-show tie-in), the series has featured an array of colorful bad guys to challenge the Dark Knight. In fact a common criticism of the series is that many of the movies belong to the villains while the hero disappears into the background of his own movie. With the coming onslaught of movies set in the new DC cinematic universe, the floodgates have been opened on Batman villains. Suicide Squad alone will feature several Arkham inmates. Before that happens, let’s rank the Batman movie villains we have so far.
In the early 1990’s, comic book artist Todd McFarlane started a revolution. He took on the publishing giant that was Marvel Comics and against all odds, he won. His creation, Spawn, became the number one selling comic book on the shelves out-selling Spider-man, the X-Men and Batman on a regular basis. Toys, video games and of course movies followed. Sequels were part of the plan. A thriving Spawn movie series was supposed to be the final step in McFarlane’s victory over his former employer. Instead, the Spawn movie was a disappointment and Marvel slowly grew to dominance at the box office.
Tonight, the Muppets make their triumphant return to television. Advance word is that the show is actually very good and will appeal to all ages which is terrific news for beleaguered Muppet fans. For years, Jim Henson’s creations have struggled to find their place in pop culture.
Just four years ago, Disney successfully relaunched the Muppet movie franchise with the comedy, The Muppets. Disney hoped to build on that film’s modest success with a sequel. But unfortunately the 2014 follow-up, Muppets Most Wanted, cost more to make and grossed about half as much worldwide.
So when you’re watching the Muppets on TV tonight, remember, you have the failure of Muppets Most Wanted to thank for it.