Film Nerd 2.0: How to fight parental franchise fatigue when raising kids in an endless summer
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Film Nerd 2.0: How to fight parental franchise fatigue when raising kids in an endless summer

I love 'Star Wars' and 'Harry Potter' as much as anyone, but there has to be more

I didn't even realize there was a problem.

And, believe me, I understand that as problems go, this is not a life-threatening one or a world-altering one… but it's something that finally caught my attention as I realized how we were starting to instill some bad habits in the boys. Rather, they were starting to pick up some bad habits, and I was allowing them to take root. And based on the last column I published in this series, it's definitely something I've encouraged.

I love that my kids have a fairly broad palette in terms of what they will or won't watch with me. One of my proudest moments as a film nerd dad was when Toshi had a friend over and I heard him trying to convince his buddy to watch a Charlie Chaplin film. Black and white has never been a problem for them. Abbot and Costello, the Three Stooges… these are every bit as new to them as "Guardians Of The Galaxy." They were not only willing to watch "To Kill A Mockingbird" with me, they got positively lost in it.

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Review: 'As Above So Below' offers uneven but effective scares
Credit: Universal/Legendary

Review: 'As Above So Below' offers uneven but effective scares

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
Charming cast goes a long way towards making this work

There is a story about the Paris catacombs that I love dearly. In August of 2004, several police officers were exploring a section of the infamous maze of tunnels near the Eiffel Tower when they came across a particular doorway covered in plastic with a sign that said, "No entry."

Inside, the police were momentarily terrified by the sound of attacking guard dogs, but they realized it was a recording. Pushing further into the tunnel, they found a full working cinema, complete with lights, a projector, a bar, a dining area, and seats carved directly into the rocks.

When they went topside to report their find to their superior officers, they were pleased with what they'd found. By the time they got back, though, everything was gone, and all that was left was a note that said, "Do not look for us. Signed, The Society Of The Perforated Mexicans."

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13 actors who would have made great 'Ghostbusters'
Credit: Columbia Pictures

13 actors who would have made great 'Ghostbusters'

Who ya gonna call? A pretty eclectic group of performers, if we're in charge.

One of the greatest cosplay costumes ever was at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, where a married couple made great use of who they were to create something memorable. He was dressed as a Ghostbuster in a reasonably realistic costume complete with a proton pack that lit up, while she was dressed as the librarian ghost at the start of the film. What pushed the costume over the top was that the wife was in a wheelchair, and they had modified the chair to look like one of the ghost traps that was open, and she was being pulled into the trap.

Genius, right?

I wasn't surprised to see a ton of Ghostbusters outfits at Comic-Con this year. Sure, it's the 30th anniversary this summer, but I don't think that's why we saw so many costumes. The truth is that every year is a great year for Ghostbusters sightings. Box-office is certainly one way to quantify a film's success, but it's not the only way. I'm far more interested in how deeply something takes seed in pop culture. Do actual lines of dialogue make it into the popular lexicon? Do other movies rip this movie off? Were there sequels? Spin-offs? Merchandising?

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'Big Hero 6' may turn out to be one of the year's biggest unexpected hits
Credit: Walt Disney Feature Animation

'Big Hero 6' may turn out to be one of the year's biggest unexpected hits

Prepare for the onslaught of Baymax, parents

Early Wednesday morning, John Lasseter stood in front of a small group of journalists in a theater in the animation building on the Disney lot to introduce a presentation about November's new animated release, "Big Hero 6," and it felt to me, after over a decade of attending events where Lasseter has spoken, like a bit of a victory lap.

And why not? Since "Bolt," Disney Feature Animation has been slowly but surely rebuilding what was a tarnished brand into something that is every bit as strong as the strongest moments from the "Mermaid" through "Lion King" era. "Frozen" was a global smash hit, and more than that, it managed that elusive cultural penetration where it goes beyond being successful and simply becomes omnipresent. "Frozen" was everywhere. Everyone knew what it was. Considering how dark things were for the studio before it was re-organized from within, it's amazing to see the energy that everyone has there now.

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Why Superman and Batman may lose the war to Marvel before they even begin
Credit: Warner Bros.

Why Superman and Batman may lose the war to Marvel before they even begin

It's all going to come down to people falling in love with these icons

"No jokes."

Last week was about the fifth time I've heard that there is a mandate at Warner Bros. regarding any of the DC superhero films in development, and it's very simple and direct and to the point.

"No jokes."

It would seem like a crazy rule to set for an entire series of films. How can you know what the tone is for every story you'll be telling in a series before you've even started telling it? The thing is, DC has taken a few stabs at establishing this larger universe on film, and they've gotten smacked down for everything that hasn't had Batman in it. "Man Of Steel" made money, and I'm certainly not the only person to like the film. I may be one of its more ardent defenders, but I'm not alone. I think you'd have a far harder time finding someone to defend "Green Lantern," the studio's other big attempt at launching one of the core Justice League characters with a film franchise of his own.

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Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day are set to complicate 'Vacation' for Ed Helms
Credit: MGM

Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day are set to complicate 'Vacation' for Ed Helms

Looks like this one is finally happening

It looks like "Vacation" is still happening, and they're adding cast members that are making me really want to see this movie.

When I interviewed John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein about their film "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," they were still just signed to write a new "Vacation" film. Since then, they've also been announced as directors for the film, and it's gone through some development twists and turns, including what felt like a step back just before they went into production so they could consider their options and fine tune it some more.

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With announcements for 'Executioner' and Remo Williams, Hollywood seems crazy for pulp
Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

With announcements for 'Executioner' and Remo Williams, Hollywood seems crazy for pulp

But does the public even want these characters to make a comeback?

How many of you have ever read an actual original era pulp story? Anything involving Doc Savage or The Shadow or John Carter or Doctor Death or The Phantom Detective or Tarzan or Solomon Kane or Conan or The Continental Op? If you haven't, that puts you in what I am sure is a vast majority at this point. I can't fault anyone for not being a reader of that sort of source material. It's not something that is part of the active mainstream right now, but if Hollywood gets its way, that may be about to change.

There are some huge names in the world of pulp. By far, the biggest budget pulp title currently pending release is the David Yates "Tarzan" that Warner Bros. is putting out in 2016. When I interviewed Samuel L. Jackson at Comic-Con this summer, he repeatedly told me how excited he was by what he'd seen while he was filming "Tarzan." He feels like it's the right version, fun and cool and different. I know nothing about it. I have no idea what they're adapting or what approach they're taking. I like that the film is finished shooting and in the can and we still basically don't know anything and haven't seen anything. That's sort of refreshing. Alexander Skarsgard plays the title role, and Margo Robbie is onboard as Jane, so it's going to be an awfully pretty movie all the way around, and with Christoph Waltz as a bad guy, it seems like he'll be more than capable of any moustache twirling that is required.

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Review: 'Sin City' sequel serves up ugly stories, no fun, and even wastes Eva Green
Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: 'Sin City' sequel serves up ugly stories, no fun, and even wastes Eva Green

HitFix
D+
Readers
A+
Even the style wears thin this time around

There's a moment early on in "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" where we find Frank Miller seated in the bar where Nancy (Jessica Alba) is dancing, looking very much like the sort of creep who you'd expect to see populating a Frank Miller universe at this point, and when I spotted him, time and space folded in on one another and reality collapsed.

Well, okay, maybe not, but it is a wink in a movie that is already one long, drunken, woman-hating wink, and more than anything, I sat through the film questioning those years when I actually considered Frank Miller an exciting voice in comics. At this point, "Sin City" is threadbare parody piled on top of suffocatingly stylish homage, and the result is almost unbearable.

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Review: Chloe Moretz shines in surprisingly mature supernatural love story 'If I Stay'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Chloe Moretz shines in surprisingly mature supernatural love story 'If I Stay'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Why is this teenage film more mature than many adult love stories?

Movies about young love are hard to pull off, and when they don't work, they can be cloying and obnoxious. Done right, though, there is something both lovely and piercing about them, and while I think "If I Stay" has to do a fair amount of juggling to get its premise to work, there is a cumulative power to it that I found undeniable and earned.

"Earned" is a big word for me in films like this. One of the biggest problems when you're making a film about love between people of any age is showing how love sparks between people and how it flourishes and doing it without giving in to short-cuts or cliche. How many times have you seen a supposed romance and the meeting is completely ridiculous? How many movies have you seen where you're supposed to just accept that characters have fallen in love because that's what the film needs them to do, not because of anything we see in the movie?

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Paul Rudd gets moody in San Francisco for first 'Ant-Man' photo
Credit: Marvel Studios

Paul Rudd gets moody in San Francisco for first 'Ant-Man' photo

So does this mean everything's fine now?

Oh, look, it's Ant-Man.

Actually, more accurately, it's Scott Lang, and it's a lovely foggy San Francisco day, and it's the first picture to prove that, yes, they are indeed in production now on Marvel's "Ant-Man," with Peyton Reed now directing.

I didn't realize San Francisco was the setting of the film, or any part of the film. I knew they were gearing up to shoot in Atlanta, so I guess I assumed that's where the film was set, or that they were using Atlanta to double for somewhere else. Right now, though, the production is here in California, making effective moody use of the Bay Area, and I like that first still.

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