As I say every year, plenty of regular everyday people make New Year's resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too. I volunteer to stand in and make those resolutions in one of my favorite editorials to writes every year. Welcome to my third annual "New Year's Resolutions for the Movie Industry."
At this same time last year, I targeted the overkill zombie trend action-ified fairy tales and the usual Adam Sander. A few of my resolutions last year came true, particularly the ones calling out all of the hype. Expect more of the same, but let's see what I can cook up this year.
For 2014, let's roll out some new hopes, dreams, and expectations. Let's also speak out to put down some ridiculous trends, tendencies, and bad habits that are ruining the movie industry. As with every year, I've been building this soapbox and working up a lather since writing the same piece last January.
Let's open this jack-in-the-box and see what happens. I've got 25 resolutions for the movie industry. I opened this discussion to reader suggestions and included them with mine. Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Just like our own resolutions, Hollywood needs to hit the gym and lose a few pounds. There is definitely some fluff that needs to go. Enjoy!
1. Go easy on the 2015 hype, because we still have to get through 2014 first.-- There's a good chance you've been hearing about the stars aligning in 2015 for arguably the largest year in movie history. I know they say that every year, but this is actually true. Just listen to this lineup slated for 2015 so far: the next James Bond film, Star Wars: Episode VII, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2, 50 Shades of Gray, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Superman/Batman, Dan Brown's Inferno, Mission: Impossible 5, Fast and Furious 7, Jurassic World, Ted 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks 4, Kung Fu Panda 3, Disney's Tomorrowland, Pixar's The Good Dinosaur, Pixar's Inside Out, Despicable Me franchise spin-off solo film Minions, Madagascar franchise spin-off film The Penguins of Madagascar, Marvel's Ant-Man, The Smurfs 3, Spongebob Square Pants 2, Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, the fifth Bourne movie, Hotel Transylvania 2, Assassin's Creed, Resident Evil 6, Divergent sequel Insurgent, and remakes of Peter Pan, Peanuts, Ben Affleck's Live By Night, Cinderella, Mad Max, The Terminator, The Fantastic Four, and The Jungle Book. Yeah, I told you so. That is what's on the horizon. The hype is going to get big. Step back from reading spoilers and just enjoy 2014 first.
2. In an annual cry for help, somebody please stop letting Adam Sandler make movies.-- I scream this from the mountaintop every damn year. Stop filling this guy's wallet with box office money to keep making this endless string of crap. Two years ago it was That's My Boy and Jack and Jill. Last year, it was Grown Ups 2. All are repetitive and atrocious. When are you going to learn to stop seeing his movies? Why can't he fail the way Eddie Murphy did with endless crap. Sandler is overdue to fail. His 2014 film, Blended, reunites him with his 50 First Dates co-star Drew Barrymore from one of the most overrated romantic comedies of all time. Sadly, that reunion is probably enough to get people to drop $9 to see his crap. Please, whatever you do people, stop falling for it. Wait for Redbox or wait for endless re-runs on FX. Stop giving him your hard-earned money.
3. In another annual gripe, stop with the unnecessary remakes of 1980's and 1990's movies.-- Hasn't Hollywood learned their lesson in the last few years with Fame, Footloose, Conan, Red Dawn, and Fright Night? Last year's Carrie added to the tally of unnecessary remakes of movies from 20-30 years ago that were fine then and are still fine now. No one was clamoring for an update on any of those. The train, unfortunately, isn't stopping (as this list suggests from The Week last April) and I don't have much faith in the planned remakes and updates of Escape From New York, Mad Max, Weird Science, and Highlander. Reaching farther back than the 80's, someone had the audacity this past year to actually think about a sequel/remake of It's a Wonderful Life. Leave them where they are and get an original idea, Hollywood writers.
4. For the sequels and remakes that are coming out, dare to be different.-- As much as we say that there are too many unnecessary sequels and remakes, I challenge the ones coming out to dare to be different. Don't just try to update and carbon copy. Evolve and shape the material as something unique while still in the spirit of the original or source material. For example, take a look at Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It bears zero resemblance to the Danny Kaye film or the original short story, but crafted an interesting, different, and modern story with the concept. That's a nice blueprint example to work from, Hollywood writers.
5. Enough already with the two-part finishes making us wait another year for an ending.-- Speaking of sequels, Twilight and Hary Potter ruined the trend of two-part movie finales to franchises. They duped you. It wasn't the fun of getting an extra movie's worth of story and action. It was a trick to get you to wait and pay double for something that should fit in one movie. Hire an editor. Pare down the extra fluff and give us just one finale and curtain call. Stop dragging it out. I'm talking to you, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 in 2014 and Part 2 in 2015. You're not that cool.
6. Good luck, Divergent. You're going to need it.-- Speaking of The Hunger Games (these convenient segues will continue all day), I wish the next would-be young adult sensation, Divergent, good luck in movie theaters. It's going to need it. It's not that it can't be as good as The Hunger Games, it's that since Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games itself, the marketplace has become flooded with YA imitators like The Mortal Instruments, Vampire Academy, and other crap which makes the genre look bad. Divergent, I believe has as equal chance to fail miserably as it does to succeed. Good luck.
7. Speaking of Shailene Woodley, don't forget about this renaissance of "coming of age" movies you've got going.-- Shailene Woodley, star of Divergent, was a nice lead in this past summer's The Spectacular Now, a very good coming-of-age movie that might be the closest we get to a new era of legitimate teen movies. Combined with 2011's The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Moonrise Kingdom, The Spectacular Now and 2012's Kings of Summer and The Way Way Back (the best of the whole bunch) have ushered in a mini-renaissance to the teen movie that I hope keeps going. Hopefully, 2014 can produce a few more winners to add to that two-year parade.
8. Give Ben Affleck a chance as Batman.-- Even though the big Man of Steel sequel doesn't come out until 2015, paparazzi and spoiler scoopers will undoubtedly be on the lookout for catching "Batfleck" in costume on set shoots and break the internet. We might even be lucky enough in 2014 to get a teaser trailer for next summer's showdown. Whenever we get the first look, don't judge a book by its cover. Give the guy a shot to see what he can do to make the role different from his predecessors.
9. Give Gal Gadot a chance as Wonder Woman too, but do her one better and give her her own movie.-- Speaking of giving Ben Affleck a shot, let's do the same with Gal Gadot with playing Wonder Woman in the same 2015 blockbuster. Don't get me wrong, I don't think she looks the part either. My vote would have been new movie star and former MMA maven Gina Carano (who, coincidentally is dating Superman himself, Henry Cavill, in real life). Just as with Affleck, try not freak out when we get a first look at her with her lasso either. That said, if Marvel Films can make a movie out of a D-list character like Ant-Man with Paul Rudd, then Warner Bros. surely could have gave the Amazonian Princess her own movie too. She doesn't deserve to play third fiddle to Superman and Batman in her first trip to the silver screen. Get her her own movie!
10. Get your groove on, Fox and Sony, at making your own Marvel Universes.-- Speaking of comic book movies, kudos and applause go out to 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures in starting to take their bulls by the horns with their reformatting their existing Marvel properties. Even though Disney has bought Marvel Films and Marvel Comics, Fox and Sony still retain the rights to the flagship characters they've held for 20 years. With The Avengers blowing up over at Disney, Fox and Sony have now put themselves on the course to make their Marvel movies matter too. Sony is beefing up The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for this year. Fox has X-Men: Days of Future Past coming out and is hoping to reboot The Fantastic Four with the help of the director of Chronicle. Neither studio wants to loose these cash cows to Disney and is going to great lengths to capitalize.
11. Please don't suck, X-Men: Days of Future Past.-- Following up #10, if there's a movie that has the most to lose in 2014, it might just be X-Men: Days of Future Past. It is ambitiously seeking to merge the worlds of last decade's X-Men series with the 1960's-set X-Men: First Class reboot from 2011 in a time travel story that is legendary from the comic book. None of the X-Men movies have ever been remotely canonical to the comic source material, and this one will likely drift mightily too. Even then, X-Men: Days of Future Past has the ability to resurrect the franchise after a slow middle of bad films. It can match the Fast and Furious series' resurrection a few years ago when it spun out of Tokyo Drift and brought back the original stars once and for all. This could be big, so please don't suck.
12. Speaking of Marvel, the The Amazing Spider-Man 2 not to bite off more than it can chew.-- This is exactly how the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie series got crappy in the first place. It tried to stuff too much into one movie. Spider-Man 3 was a trainwreck of too many villains. While director Marc Webb and star Andrew Garfield have tried to separate their web-slinger from the previous version, they look like to me that they are falling for the same trap Raimi fell into with too much too fast. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks to pack Electro (Jaime Foxx), Rhino (Paul Giamatti), and a pair of potential Green Goblins (Chris Cooper and Dane DeHaan) in just the second movie after a rebooted origin. I like their master plan of building up to a "Sinister Six" mega brawl, but it still feels too fast.
13. Stay on track, Walt Disney Animation Studios.-- To the folks at Walt Disney Animation Studios, you finally outperformed and outcrafted your little sister, Pixar Animation Studios, with the runaway success of Frozen and the moderate reception to Monsters University. Don't lose that momentum. You're not going to reclaim your throne after one success, but you are starting to string a few winners together with Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and now Frozen. Keep your speed and keep pushing, Disney.
14. Meanwhile, Pixar, watch out. You better raise your game.-- In the meantime, Frozen has put Disney's other animation studio, Pixar, on notice. Monsters University is going to lose a vote to Frozen with every family household you ask from 2013. I think it's time to regain your originality and cut it out with the sequels. I'm sure Finding Nemo 2 can make a killing in 2016, but it's not going to win the hearts and minds like your previous works. Pixar, you are overdue for another game-changer. You haven't had one since Toy Story 3.
15. Enough with the teasers of teasers.-- In the marketing department, I'm tired of the "teaser of teasers." Most teaser trailers are a minute or under in length, while full-length trailers typically run two minutes or so. I don't need a 15-second Instragram video tease to an already short 30-60 second first trailer. Just give us the whole thing and stop playing around. You will get enough YouTube hits when you release the entire thing and not the dangling peek.
16. Can Johnny Depp finally cool it with the bloated blockbusters and weird characters?-- I'm not saying Johnny Depp is another version of Adam Sandler, but his act is also getting stale. With word of another Pirates of the Caribbean movie and the bomb that was The Lone Ranger last year, I think Johnny Depp needs to step back and be an actor again and not a carnival performer. Remember The Ninth Gate and Donnie Brasco? I do. That was the actor behind the clown taking easy paychecks. 2014 looks to one movie of hope and one more gag. The hope of Depp, the actor, is Transcendence, a trippy-looking sci-fi piece from Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister. The groaning gag will be the Johnny Depp weirdo role as the Big Bad Wolf in the fairy tale parade Into the Woods. After that, Depp re-teams with Tim Burton for Alice in Wonderland 2 for 2016. There's no end in sight. He needs to hire a new agent.
17. Cut Leonardo DiCaprio some slack.-- Leonardo DiCaprio is no longer a teen box office idol that has grown up. He's a legitimate star and leading man. He's the reason that The Great Gatsby elevated itself to a modest summer hit. He's the best thing that rises out of the controversy surrounding The Wolf of Wall Street. Between those two 2013 releases, 2011's J. Edgar, and his wild villain in Django Unchained at the end of 2012, DiCaprio has had a hell of a two-year run. Any of those roles could have arguments as missed Oscar wins. Like it not, you are watching, arguably, the best actor under 40 working today. Everything he does gets better with each movie. He has said after working non-stop for the last three years, that's he's taking a hiatus from acting to focus on environmental activism. I, for one, am going to miss the guy.
18. In a repeat of last year, enough with the dark and action-injected fairy tales.-- I had enough of this trend in 2012 after dueling Snow White movies and then 2013 gave us Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and the bloated Oz the Great and Powerful. This is worse overkill than the new zombie trend expanded by hits like Warm Bodies and World War Z. Hollywood needs to be done with beefing up fairy tales. Leave that stuff to TV series like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, which can put more time and detail into expanding those classic stories. That's the venue where extended storytelling and smaller risks work better. Hollywood won't be listening with the Disney doubleheader of Into the Woods and Maleficent striding into theaters in 2014. Worse yet, 2016 is slated to have another Depp/Burton Alice in Wonderland sequel. It's like they forgot how to make a family-friendly fantasy film and have to pander to the teen crowd that wants more brooding violence and thrills.
19. For a new trend this year, let's cool it with the beefed-up Biblical adaptations too before they even start.-- I can see this epic fail coming a mile away, just like the steroid fairy tale movies. If you haven't heard, we've got a pair of Biblical-themed blockbusters coming our way in 2014. Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky has Russell Crowe in the title role of Noah, promising to fill out its creative gaps with action and disaster film pitfalls. That films drops in March. Later in the year, Gladiator director Ridley Scott will tackle the book of Exodus and the story of Moses with Christian Bale in the lead role for a December release. I know it's been a long time since Charleton Heston broke the mold for Biblical blockbusters, but molds get broken for a reason. Even with today's awesome capabilities of special effects, how do these two films not come out as bloated or gaudy over being wondrous and inspiring?
20. Don't believe any more J.J. Abrams "secrets" and deflections.-- If it looks like Khan and sounds like Khan, it probably is Khan, now famously resurrected by "Mr. 2013" Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness. While I respect his effort to offer surprises in his works, it's nearly impossible to keep a secret in Hollywood anymore. J.J. Abrams thinks he's the smartest guy in the room, but comes across more like a guy caught in a lie than a guy who kept us guessing in delight with his beating-around-the-bush last year his Star Trek Into Darkness villain. We live too much in a TMZ-fueled world of breaking news to keep secrets anymore. Even though he's really trying hard, people are going to find out what's up his sleeve for the next chapters of Star Wars this year. He might as well work with us than against us. In the meantime, don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth. He's deflecting for a reason.
21. While we're talking about Abrams, please don't overuse Benedict Cumberbatch.-- 2013 was clearly the year for Benedict Cumberbatch. He pulled a 2012 Channing Tatum and has roles in six different 2013 films. The highest of the bunch were his protagonists in Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and his supporting roles in Oscar contenders 12 Years a Slave and August: Osage County. He has become a highly in-demand new star and makes the rounds showing his comedic side on YouTube and talk shows. I fear that he's on the verge of being overused and over-exposed. Rumors have been circling a while that Abrams wants Cumberbatch as the villain in his new Star Wars series. Dude, you can't be Khan and then the next Darth Vader. Small doses, my British friend. Don't give them everything at once. Ease into it. Give them just a little and make them want more.
22. The so-called $50 "mega" or "super" tickets are as bad at raping your wallent as 3D re-releases and up-charges.-- In a blatant gimmick to dive deeper into your wallet or purse, Paramount Pictures experimented with a "mega ticket" for World War Z. A $50 price tag got you an early 3D screening, custom 3D glasses, a small popcorn, a full-size movie poster, and a digital download of the film to keep before it hits video. Intriguing concept, one that apparently sold out successfully enough to give the concept a second try with Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in December. Cute idea, but I think it reeks of overindulgence and ripoff. This feels like the recent trend of studios re-releasing old films converted to 3D to make an extra few bucks on suckers who buy into the gimmick and up-charge of 3D. Going to the movies is expensive enough that $50 isn't going to catch on when tickets are already north of $10 nationwide. Families can skip the expensive trip to the movie theater and stay home for what flat-screen TVs and home theaters can do now. Then, families can just wait for the one-time cost of a $20 Blu-ray four short months of quick turnaround after a movie has hit and left theaters. Better yet, look at the next resolution.
23. If you want another avenue to get your movie to wider audiences, maker more Video On Demand releases concurrent with theatrical releases.-- I wrote an editorial this past fall about being a new lover and fan of the Video On Demand (VOD) market. It saved my movie viewing life after having a baby this year. It saved me more than a few trips to see hard-to-find movies. In the bigger picture, not only does it give independent films a cheaper way to put themselves out there for wider audiences, I think the convenience of the whole system is a huge selling point. Most Americans have a cable bill with these services readily available. If studios want a bigger reach to audiences, I think they should consider the VOD route over "mega-tickets." Many independent films do a concurrent VOD release at the same time as a traditional theatrical debut. Some even hit VOD before theaters. In a scooping culture of wanting to be "first," I think the bigger movies can follow the indie lead and make a killing. Don't tell me a few movie nerds like myself wouldn't pay a little something to see a big name blockbuster at home, on their own couch and at their own convenience, rather than heading out to a crowded and costly theater. Heck, you might even get a guy like me to do both: see it on VOD and then want to see in on the big screen next. Now, Hollywood, you just got my money twice. See, look how smart I am. I'm readily available for hire if you want to fire your distribution and marketing department. I've got this covered.
24. Give Paul Walker a fitting and non-exploitative exit from The Fast and Furious series. Better yet, just cancel the next and last movie.-- This is low on the Hollywood totem pole of needs and problems, but I'm crossing my fingers for a respectful way the Fast and Furious series can put closure to Paul Walker's founding character. The lastest word, via Cinema Blend, is that Brian O'Conner will be "retired" instead of killed off or written out. This will be tricky to convey with limited footage. I would have been completely OK if they just stopped making the franchise. I know Jason Statham's villainous cameo pushes things forward some, but this past summer's triumphant ending return to L.A. at the picnic table of the Toretto home is the way I will remember Paul Walker going out. That was good enough. They can stop there.
25. Finally, as always, please remember, that the book will always be better than the movie.-- This is going to happen all year long and it starts with Divergent in March. I say this all the time, but there is no argument. The book will always be better than the movie. Get over it and accept them as separate mediums and entertainment forms. Don't pout like a baby when X-Men: Days of Future Past or The Giver doesn't hold water to the source material. We've known this too long without acceptance. The movies are never going to get it all right 100%. Root for essence and tone and stop there.