What’s Up With My Annabelle Creation?

What’s Up With My Annabelle Creation?

Just under a week ago RedLetterMedia’s Half in the Bag episode for Annabelle: Creation dropped on YouTube. What’s more fascinating than the review of the film itself is Mike and Jay talking about the My Annabelle Creation contest. The idea of the contest was for up and coming filmmakers to craft a short film set within the “Conjuring” universe. The winner of the contest was awarded a meeting with New Line execs and director David F. Sandberg about developing the short into a feature length film in the vein of the Conjuring film universe. On the surface it sounds like a fantastic idea, until Mike pulls out some of the fine print from the contest’s rules and found some pretty shady details. In this article I wanted to take a look at this controversy, what’s been said by others since the RLM review, and what it all could mean. So, without further ado let’s get to it.

-What’s the Big Deal?-

Within the rules of the contest the studio is given a three year option to make a feature length version of the film for fifty dollars. If the option is exorcised with the three year time frame another fifty dollars will be paid to the creator. This in and of itself is a rather shady deal. A typical option on other material (i.e. A script, novel, comic) lasts from twelve to eighteen months with a claus to extend the option by three to six months. Even if a film has an eighteen month option extended for the additional six that’s a still a year less than the contest’s.

In addition to the exclusivity of the option let’s look at the monetary amount provided for said option. Fifty dollars is not only insultingly low by typical standard option prices, but it makes the purchase price even worse. A typical option for a non-WGA affiliated writer tends to be around a couple thousand dollars. Not much, but still more than fifty. But an option’s price is often a percentage of what the purchase price will be. Example, your option could be $1,000 or ten percent of the purchase price. Making the script’s sale around $10,000. That mean’s that Annabelle: Creation’s option is 100% of the purchase price.

-What are the Best/Worst Case Scenarios?-

From the looks of everything presented New Line holds all the cards in this deal. Although if we play the Devil’s advocate there are “potential” perks for winner Julian Terry and his short The Nurse. The best case scenario would be that Terry gets to move forward crafting a feature length film based off The Nurse. Along with his debut film being studio produced it could include a strong marketing campaign and wide theatrical release. Not bad for a director’s first feature length film.

Even if the studio decides not move forward with the feature that doesn’t mean Terry is out of luck. Winning this contest has raised his profile to the point where he has been in contact with multiple talent managers. Anyone struggling to break into studio filmmaking knows how big of a coup it is to get a manager. This gives Terry the ability to get other projects he’s working on off the ground. I have no doubt other studios/producers have seen The Nurse and would be interested in bringing Terry in to direct a film for them. Still not a bad deal.

The worst case scenario would be to see New Line take The Nurse and develop the feature length version without Terry’s involvement. In that case he’s left with a hundred dollars and watching from the sidelines as The Nurse gets made. The cynic in me sees how this could happen, but the optimist in me wants to hope that Terry has an ally in his corner. David F. Sandberg has come out after the controversy stirred up stating that he’s talking with New Line to clarify the agreement. Sandberg’s short Lights Out was optioned by New Line leading to his own feature film debut. His hand in this contest feels like a genuinely good guy who caught a break wanting to help another filmmaker catch a similar break. Although he may not be a big name (yet) he’s made two films for New Line that have grossed over a hundred million dollars on relatively small budgets. If New Line wants to stay in business with Sandberg they’ll listen to his concerns and make sure Terry comes out of this contest with a good deal.

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do you think that all this controversy is warranted? Or is this just the Internet blowing things out of proportion? Would you be interested in seeing The Nurse become part of the Conjuring universe? Let me know. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

Dissecting the Low Box Office of Summer 2017

Dissecting the Low Box Office of Summer 2017

With the summer film season pretty much over there has been a lot of talk about the low numbers at the box office. We’ve heard the trouble that AMC Theaters is facing with a huge dip in their profits and Wanda Group buying up a large chunk of their stock. So in an age when we’re seeing more films break the billion dollar mark how is there such a huge slump? What’s sailing and what’s crashing? Is there any reason besides the quality of a film that is to blame for this? Today I will start sifting through the rubble and give my personal opinions on the matter.

-3D is on the Decline-

Hard to believe that it’s been eight years since Avatar came out with studios taking away the wrong lesson from the film. Since then we’ve seen multiple films that have used this tool as a way to tack a few extra bucks to ticket prices as a means to inflate box office numbers. Over the past eight years I’ve noticed the number of 3D showtimes slowly start to taper off. Most filmgoers (myself included) have been turned off by the over saturation. 3D is no longer something used to enhance a story and people are sick of shelling out for it. While studios don’t care theater chains have taken note and book more 2D showtimes than 3D. I know that personally that it has been over three years since I saw a 3D film (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and I have no intention of changing that anytime soon.

-Franchises/Cinematic Universes Are Not a Sure Bet-

Every year I have to talk about the sequels, reboots, or other franchise non-starters that failed. Why did (insert brand name and number here) not make money? How did Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean go from a billion dollar fourth films to a fifth one that will not crack $800 million? Let’s just state right now that neither of those films were bombs, but they definitely underwhelmed. People are not getting tired of sequels (we’ll come back to that), but they’re tired of mediocre films. Both On Stranger Tides and Age of Extinction coasted off the success of their previous films so who would want to see a fifth film if it’s predecessor didn’t measure up?

Now we come to what has become the biggest detriment to modern blockbusters. The obligatory cinematic universe where movies don’t need to be sequels, but can leech off of each others success to sell tickets. People have seen how Marvel changed the game and now want to copy and paste that style. The biggest faceplant right out the gate was Universal’s Dark Universe with this summer’s The Mummy. Previously Universal has tried to make this idea work with Dracula Untold which didn’t make the money they’d hoped. But if at first you don’t succeed, ignore the previous film and try again. The Mummy tried to right the ship and get this universe on track. Unfortunately instead of telling an entertaining self contained story it put the cart five miles before the horse planting the seeds for films that are still in pre-production. Nobody wants to see a film who’s main goal is to sell us on another story.

-Comic Movies Are Still Successful-

Every year people continue to predict that the superhero bubble is going to burst. While there have been some clunkers in the past few years the majority are making bank. Marvel continues their winning streak with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pulling in over $800 million. Spider-Man: Homecoming sits at a healthy $700 million with a few major territories rolling the film out in the coming months. The DCEU upped their game with Wonder Woman raking in nearly $800 million. The best part: all three of these film received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Are we going to see superhero films crash and burn? More than likely, trends in films are cyclical as we’ve seen with the western genre. But for now it’s safe to say this genre is bankable.

-New Apparently Isn’t the Answer-

It’s funny how people have spent what feels like decades decrying Hollywood for having no original ideas. In a time when brand recognition is the biggest asset Hollywood can achieve the number of non-franchise films are diminishing. This year we had a handful of original films that had mixed results at the box office. Both Baby Driver and Dunkirk pulled in a decent return on their investment, but let’s focus on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. An ambitious space opera based off a French manga directed by Luc Beeson. It may be based off a pre-existing property, but pull fifty people in a crowd and ask them if they’ve heard of this manga. The trailers were flashy and they had two young people in the lead. And yet, a so so story really hampered this film. So while it was original it wasn’t fantastic. We need quality to go with originality.

-The Diminishing Importance of Summer-

Once Jaws came out in 1975 and made bank it changed how studios released their yearly slate of films. Since then there has been a very specific pattern in how films are released. January: The dumping ground for films studios have no faith in. February/March: Genre films that have no other place in the year. April: Key up for the summer. May/June/July/August: The moneymaker months! September/October: Comedy and Horror films predominantly. November/December: Films vying for Oscars and a handful of blockbusters released over holiday weekends. In the late 2000’s that thought process changed. 300 was a moderately budgeted film that opened on March 9th, 2007 and made over $450 million. After this studios decided to look at weekends throughout year where there was zero competition from others and popped in films hoping to dominate the box office. Spreading out high budget films has now become a major way to hedge their bets. This year alone Beauty and the Beast, The Fate of the Furious, and Logan all opened before the summer started and pulled in a large amount of money. Had they opened in the May-August timeline odds are their numbers wouldn’t have been nearly as strong.

-In Conclusion-

So while studios try to distill all these problems into one easy answer they miss the point. You can not think one solution will fix a summer slump. And let’s be honest it’s a slump, nothing more.

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Did you enjoy the summer films? Did you decide to stay home and binge watch Netflix and Hulu? What was your favorite/worst films of the summer. Let me know. Remember, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

PS: I’m working on something special for an upcoming article. If I can crack it be prepared something a little different from my usual style.

No One Sets Out to Make a Bad Film?

No One Sets Out to Make a Bad Film?

Bad films are gauged on a critical spectrum all their own. Whether you have films that are high concept failures (The Last Airbender), low budget schlock (Silent Night Deadly Night: Part 2, Street Trash, and numerous other 80’s horror films), so bad they’re good (Tammy and the T-Rex is a personal favorite of mine), movies that set out to be prestige pictures only to fail miserably (United Passions), and the rare film that transcends it’s terrible reputation to become a cultural milestone (The Room, Troll 2) there is no limit to the long list of bad films. We’re often told with multiple misfires that no one sets out to make a bad film. Ed Wood wanted to craft an important film with Glen or Glenda and 20th Century Fox wanted to reboot a superhero franchise with Fant4stic. Neither of these got the reception their creators had hoped, but what about other films? Have we entered a time where the market for terrible films is now being targeted by opportunistic directors, producers, and studios? Let’s take a look at some of the recent trends in bad filmmaking and how they’re contributing bad films in a bad way.

-The Mockbuster Market-

This is something that truly bothers me. The term “mockbuster” came into the filmmaking lexicon around the mid 2000’s. Basically when a large tentpole film gets released in theatres (Thor) a company will release a low-budget knock-off with a similar title direct to video in hopes of exploiting consumer ignorance (Almighty Thor). The most notable example of this is the production company The Asylum. While they originally made low budget films with original concepts (and still do occasionally) all that changed when their version War of the Worlds was released to coincide with the big budget Cruise/Spielberg remake. With a hit on their hands multiple films got released in this vein (Snakes on a Train, Sunday School Musical, Transmorphers, and numerous more) continuing the trend to this day. While this is by no means a current trend as these kinds of films have been around for ages. In fact: if you look back to the late 70’s early 80’s there were numerous films that tried to capitalize on the success of Star Wars. Some of these films have gone onto be classics in a somewhat odd fashion. Piranha rode the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, but in turn launched the career of Joe Dante. Who coincidentally went on to direct the Spielberg produced Gremlins. The difference is now it has become a legitimate industry instead of a one off film from a producer looking to make a quick buck to finance their next project.

-Content for Cable-

My family got cable for the first time when I was a kid and it was exciting. I now had channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network at my disposal. Along the way I branched into other major networks. USA was where I initially saw films like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Critters, but along with them I saw films like Mosquito and the previously mentioned Tammy and the T-Rex. USA created the spin-off Sci-Fi channel (now known as SyFy) and this is where things got interesting. Many numerous bad films found their way onto this channel and developed a niche following. Then came 2013, there was an abnormal amount of buzz surrounding one of these films. Sharknado (a film from the previously mentioned The Asylum) hit Internet forums like an atom bomb propelling the film to a limited theatrical release and became a multi-film franchise. While the original film may have been an attempt at taking a kooky idea and make something from it the three sequels upped the ridiculous factor just to get more from this insanity. So much so that Sharknado 5: Global Meltdown debuted last night and the possibility of a sixth film not out of the question.

-Critics of the Bad-

Oh boy, here is the big factor that for me has shifted bad filmmaking into the norm. Looking back the kickstarter of this trend was the classic (and thankfully still going strong) series Mystery Science Theater 3000. What makes this show so endearing is how relatable it has always been. Who hasn’t sat around with friends and cracked jokes at a film they’re watching? With the rise of Youtube many people flocked to the platform to critique media. I’ve talked previously about a handful of these channels, but I’d like to shift my focus towards Youtuber I Hate Everything. He has a series titled “The Search for the Worst” where he berates some of lowest rent films made. One of his reviews was for the film “The Amazing Bulk”. In typical fashion he ripped the film to shreds. Surprisingly Wide Eye Releasing the company who distributed the film got in contact with him. They thanked him for raising the profile of the film and even sent him a gift. Along side the gift was a copy of their film “Shark Exorcist”. Yep, this is where things have gone. A studio now relishes the attention a bad review can give that they will go out of their way to make similar situation occur with another film. This to me is proof that some bad films are no longer a fluke. And this is what bugs me the most. What’s the point of putting forth any effort if you can film mediocrity and bank on notoriety to sell it?

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do people now set out with the intention of making a bad film? Do you think an industry of terrible films is a problem? Or does it just give people more options for their entertainment? Let me know. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts and Instagram. As always, thanks for reading.

Star Wars, Troubled Productions, and What it All Means.

Star Wars, Troubled Productions, and What it All Means.

It has been two weeks since news broke that Phil Lord and Chris Miller were exiting the upcoming Han Solo spin-off film. While it’s not uncommon for directors to pull out of a film during pre-production it’s almost unheard of for this to happen mid-shooting. I’ve been wanting to write an article discussing some aspects of what’s going on at Lucasfilm and the behind the scenes issues that have plagued Han Solo and Rogue One. Now that more news has surfaced lets consider all news/rumors and speculate what it all means.

-He Said, She Said-

As with any director departing a project the reason cited with Han Solo was “creative differences”. This is a buzz term used multiple times over in scenarios similar to this one. So, what does creative differences mean? In a nutshell: it’s a diplomatic term that can mean anything from, “The director and producer/studio have differing ideas on what the story/style of the film should be.” to “Someone on this production is completely insane and other person(s) involved don’t want to be working with them for over a year.” As of now we’re hearing conflicting stories. Story A: Lord and Miller have been facing opposition from producer Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan from the get go. The pair have wanted to inject their signature style into the film and enjoy the creative freedom they’ve been given on previous films. Instead they were being treated like directors hired to execute a preordained idea that was the voice of someone else. Story B: After seeing dailies the directors had shot the studio and others involved were mortified to see a comedic tone where lead actor Alden Ehrenriech’s performance was likened to Jim Carrey. In between we’ve been hearing multiple stories that validate both sides. One story states that Disney screened a sizzle reel of shot footage to licensees to positive feedback. Another states that Ehrenreich raised concerns about what Lord and Miller were doing and that lead to Kennedy putting the kibosh on production. Who knows for sure what the truth is? I assume it’s somewhere in between.

-A Worrisome Pattern-

If all the behind the scenes issues are giving you a strange sense of deja vu you’re not alone. Just a year ago we heard about similar behind the scenes issues that Rogue One was facing. Gareth Edwards had shot a film that was rumored to be a little too gritty and more akin to a war film than your average Star Wars film. This lead to a re-shaping of the tone if not the story. Many people were asking, “How did this happen?” When you’re making films budgeted in the 150+ million dollar range everything is nailed down before the cameras roll. Even if said film turns out to be a bomb I can guarantee 9 times out of 10 it was not for lack of trying. So how has this happened twice under Lucasfilm’s watch?

-In Name Only-

When Kathleen Kennedy started talking about the direction of Star Wars after the gangbusters opening of The Force Awakens there was a distinct topic that kept creeping into the conversation. The studio wanted to recruit as many talented people to craft the stories of the series as they could. Gareth Edwards had a fantastic debut with the micro budget film Monsters and followed it up with the awesome American reboot of Godzilla. Phil Lord and Chris Miller churned out hits from films that sounded like they were going to be laughably bad. I’ll admit I had no idea I’d enjoy a 21 Jump Street reboot or a film based off of Legos as much as I did. These directors had bona fide hits and piqued my interest in creating something unique with their respective Star Wars films.  Unfortunately it seems like once Lucasfilm has these directors signed onto their films they expect them to fall into line with their vision of what the film should be. Once that doesn’t pan out they call in seasoned filmmakers like Tony Gilroy and Ron Howard to take over production and deliver a film more in line with what the studio has in mind. Not to knock Gilroy and Howard, but both of them are safe filmmakers. Nothing they’ve done in the past decade had any sense of risk to it. To me that’s the biggest detriment of them all. Last year I wrote an article about how the Star Wars spin off films were more intriguing to me than the Episode films. We have the chance to see some amazing genre mash-ups outside of the constraints of the main storyline. I’m still holding out hope that Obi-Wan Kenobi will get a film in the vein of a spaghetti western.

-What’s the Answer?-

While there has been a section of Star Wars fans who see these troubled productions as a sign of things to come, I maintain an optimistic outlook. We’ve entered a new chapter in Star Wars and with that there will be some growing pains. Kathleen Kennedy needs to take a page out of the Kevin Feige handbook. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was starting out there were a few films that had issues (i.e. Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World) but productions got smoother. Not only did the films begin to take calculated risks in their style they found filmmakers who were trustworthy collaborators. Kennedy and Co. need to begin trusting the people they hire to deliver top quality films. We can not keep hearing about production woes on-set and cross our fingers that these films will turn out.

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do you think Lord and Miller got the short end of the stick? Are you happy that Ron Howard is now in the director’s chair? What character would you like to see get a spin off film? Would you like to see more of a team effort in executive offices of Lucasfilm? Let me know. I’ll also be posting a link at the bottom to my previous article about the Star Wars spin offs. Remember you can find me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts and Instagram. As always, thanks for reading.

https://sdfilmthoughts.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/why-im-more-excited-for-the-star-wars-spin-offs-than-sequels/

Why are Studios Giving Tentpoles to Newcomers?

Why are Studios Giving Tentpoles to Newcomers?

In the wake of The Mummy’s recent reception including a soft domestic opening and abysmal movie reviews word came out of star Tom Cruise’s influence over the production. While director Alex Kurtzman is no stranger to blockbuster filmmaking (He’s been part of enormous franchises including: Transformers, Star Trek, and The Amazing Spider-Man) it has always been in either a screenwriter or producer capacity. So why is it that Universal Pictures entrusted him with 125 million dollar budget and having directed only a single film prior? (That film: People Like Us. A 16 million dollar drama that failed to recoup it’s budget in the theatrical run. Quite a giant leap.) The more I started thinking about this question the more I realized this isn’t something new. A recent trend has been to find a director coming off a hot debut and give them the helm of a franchise. Examples include: Marc Webb – (500) Days of Summer/The Amazing Spider-Man, Josh Trank – Chronicle/Fant4stic, Colin Trevorrow – Safety Not Guaranteed/Jurassic World, Gareth Edwards – Monsters/Godzilla. In this article I wanted to look at not only the motivation for this but also the repercussions and what could be done to avoid more so so big budget features.

-Why-

Let’s start with the initial question I posed in the title. Why would “The Big Six” want to put the fate of a franchise in the hands of people who made a films on a fraction of a scale as these? My biggest assumption is with a lot of veteran directors stagnating they want fresh blood. There is hope that if you shake things up there will be new and impressive results. Edwards gave us an engaging and humanizing look at giant creatures attacking civilization with Monsters and it cost a lean $500,000. It makes sense after the outcome of the 1998 Godzilla that finding a director who has talent and a reverence for the genre is a must. Why trust a person who sees directing as a job instead of finding someone who treats it like art?

-Consequences-

The dark side to this is what is more than likely going to happen in this scenario. Studios for the most part don’t trust someone/something new. Just take a look at the list of sequels, remakes, adaptations, and reboots that have happened and are in the pipeline. They’re in the business of making money and that means making films that are palpable for the widest audience possible. Even if the director comes in with a unique vision that will impress and astound odds are the studio only want more of the same. When Marc Webb was announced as director for The Amazing Spider-Man I had cautious optimism. Next came news that they were going to give moviegoers “The Untold Story”. A statement that even graced the film’s teaser poster. In the end, the film was just another Spider-Man story that lacked the zaniness of Sam Raimi’s style. Even worse is either losing trust in the director during or hiring someone knowing they can be micro-managed. Josh Trank infamously tweeted how a year prior to Fant4stic’s release he had a film that would’ve received great reviews instead of the critically panned clunker released. This came on a swirl of rumors that over a 3rd of the film had been re-shot and Trank was exhibiting ‘erratic behavior’ during production. Was the film a disaster or did 20th Century Fox get cold feet with Trank’s vision and wanted something more vanilla? It’s probably going to be a few more years before the dust finally settles and we’ll get the truth.

-How-

Now we come to another major question: How did we get to this point? I think there are three major factors that have contributed to this uptick. Firstly, the turnaround time from writing a script to theatrical release has shrunk dramatically. No longer are films given a gestation period that will allow for kinks to be ironed out. Seeing studios set a release date for a film before they have a final script is becoming an extremely common occurrence. Seasoned directors are less willing to risk their credibility for a half-baked film than someone looking to climb the ladder.

Secondly, the disappearance of mid budget films. It use to be that directors were groomed into blockbusters. The movies they made beforehand had incremental increases in their budgets.  This meant directors got to learn how to control larger production aspects gradually rather than overnight. Could Sam Raimi have made Spider-Man after The Evil Dead? Possibly, but it more than likely wouldn’t have turned out as good as it did. Unfortunately this is a problem that studios created for themselves. Mid budget films disappeared because making a profit on them isn’t easy. Studios now make $150 million films which are guaranteed hits or they’ll buy up a bunch of independent films for a few million dollars and earn profit this way.

Finally, studios don’t tend to care if a film is good so long as it makes money. We have seen numerous summer films make a ton of money whether or not they’re actually good. While initial reactions to Jurassic World were more on the positive side the hype has since died down and people are a little more critical. I myself really enjoyed the film when I first saw in theatres in spite of some issues, but after re-watching it at home I found it didn’t pack the same wow factor. All Universal had to do to make Jurassic World successful was sell a slick nostalgia trip filled with dinosaurs. Whether or not you like the film you have to admit Universal sold their film well and made 1.6 billion dollars in the process. Odds are they could’ve put almost any other person in the director’s chair and gotten a similar result.

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do you think independent film directors are a positive influence on mainstream Hollywood? Would you be interested in seeing more films made on budgets of 30-75 million dollars? Do you not care who’s directing so long as the film entertains? Let me know.

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts and I’m now on Instagram as well. As always, thanks for reading

Fun Things from the Get Out Commentary

Fun Things from the Get Out Commentary

Not going to lie, this is an article I’ve been waiting to write for a while. After seeing Get Out on it’s opening weekend I was enamored with the film and was dying to hear writer/director Jordan Peele discuss every aspect of the film. Before we dig in I’d like to throw out my two cents about the film. It is hands down one of the best films of the year and is sure to become a staple in the horror genre. It’s so good I actually had to see it twice in theatres to pick up all the subtle bits of foreshadowing Peele placed in the story. As a story of race relations in the U.S. it’s searing and thought provoking. (Yes, this coming from a white guy who was born and raised in one of the whitest areas of America.) So without further ado, lets dig into some of the fantastic anecdotes Jordan Peele lays on the viewer.

-Subverting the Genre-

The cold opening of the film is loosely based around the 1978 horror classic Halloween. We’re shown the perfect white suburb, but this time the character is already uncomfortable in this environment.

-Who’s on the Other End of the Line?-

While it’s never confirmed in the film we find out that Andre is more than likely on the phone with Rose who is baiting the trap.

-Homages to the Classics-

Throughout the commentary Jordan Peele discusses he numerous horror film influences. The man knows the genre in and out. Point of fact here’s his thoughts on the car in the opening, “I sort of wanted this Porsche to be like Jaws. Like it has this music coming from it, it has this menace. And also pulling from Christine a little bit. Also Duel a little bit.”

-Setting Up the Lore-

The Knights Templar helmet Jeremy wears to abduct Andre is our first clue into the origins of the Red Alchemist Society. Peele postulates that this is the way the society channels the immortality of the Holy Grail through their techniques.

-The Score-

This is composer Michael Abels first film. He’s a classical composer who has worked in a wide variety of genres including: blues, jazz, and bluegrass. “I chose him because I really wanted the soundtrack here and the score to have this new different sound. Something we’ve never heard before.”

-The Main Musical Theme-

To quote the director himself this was the quality he was looking for in the composer and score, “If you could give me black voices with a sinister sound that’s not voodoo. Maybe something that sounds almost like a disembodied or satanic negro spiritual.”

-Picking Additional Songs-

The use of the Childish Gambino song “Redbone” was to signal to the audience that Chris is an intelligent and alert person who makes the right decisions. The scene was originally scored, but it apparently felt too heavy and needed something more chill.

-Foreshadowing: Part I-

The first time we see Chris he is putting shaving cream on his face. This was the audience’s first hint at what the 3rd act would entail for Chris.

-Foreshadowing: Part II-

Rose’s smile when she is selecting pastries in the opening is the same one that can be seen in the photos Chris later finds in her bedroom closet.

-Filming Locations-

The entirety of the film was shot in Alabama. The apartment Chris and Rose have was filmed in Mobile and was suppose to give off the vibe of Brooklyn without being specific.

-Tough Parts of Filming-

Hiding the Rose reveal was the toughest part of the story. Jordan Peele wasn’t sure it would work. He commends the actress for making the reveal work so well “The character is as good an actor as she is.”

-Day One-

Jordan Peele’s first scene he shot as a director was the introduction of Rod. It was actually shot at a cruise ship terminal rather than an airport.

-Foreshadowing: Part III-

The close up shot of Chris stepping off the pavement into the woods was to show a transition in the story. Chris is going from the city (his comfort zone) into country (the wild).

-Foreshadowing: Part IV-

The scene where Rose is arguing with the cop about asking for Chris’ ID looks like her standing up for Chris on initial viewing, but it’s actually her covering her tracks. I picked up on this the second time I saw it and thought it was one of the most brilliant plant and pay offs in the film. It shows just how much of a sociopath Rose truly is.

-Directorial Instincts-

When Chris meets Rose’s parent’s on the doorstep coverage was shot in spite of Peele knowing he wanted it to play out in a wide. He said he should’ve trusted his instincts instead of wasting part of a 23 day shooting schedule on footage he knew would never get used.

-Who to Satire?-

While multiple films have taken aim at the blue collar red state racism Peele wanted to dig deeper. He wanted take on the liberal elites and show racism knows no class boundaries even in 2017.

-Jeremy’s Backstory-

Of all the people in the Armitage family when Jeremy was younger he knew what the family was doing was wrong. In the end he was turned into a monster because of the corruption from his family’s influence.

-The Hypnosis Scene-

Peele states that this is his favorite scene in the film. He wanted the Chris/Missy dynamic to be similar to the Clarice/Lecter conversations from Silence of the Lambs. He also wanted Chris to keep his composure and be resistant and grounded to the hypnosis.

-The Sunken Place-

We get a lot of great details about The Sunken Place. The basis comes from the feeling of falling you sometimes have before falling asleep. “Well what if you never caught yourself? Where would you fall. What would you go into?” The Sunken Place is a construct of Chris’ mind and worst fear, sitting alone powerless watching television. And The Sunken Place could potentially be different for every victim. “It’s a state of mind that is created by your own brain based on Missy latching onto your deepest fear or darkest moment.”

-The Party Scene-

The party scenes were the most difficult to film. The larger number of people made it harder to shoot. Peele wanted to give the partygoers an international flavor to show the scope of the Red Alchemist Society’s size.

-The Blind Art Dealer-

At one point it was discussed whether or not such an idea for a character would be too over the top. But in the end it’s just over the top enough. It also gives the audience the feeling that Chris may have found an ally.

-Dream Influence-

The scene where Chris goes upstairs and the party guests go silent staring at the ceiling is based off a dream Jordan Peele once had.

-The Phone Issue-

Instead of the cliche, “There is no cell phone service” plot point Peele wanted to deal with it in a more believable way. Having Georgina constantly unplug it to kill the battery makes more sense.

-Peele’s Performance-

While he doesn’t have an acting role in the film Peele did provide the voice on the opposite end of the phone during the Chris/Rod conversations during filming. “That’s one of the advantages to being a sketch performer. As a director you can do half assed versions of these characters.”

-Another Comedian’s In-Law-

It turns out that actor Yasuhiko Oyama is the father in-law of Ken Marino (Best known from Wet Hot American Summer, Party Down, and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster).

-Bingo-

The auction scene was deliberately vague as to how/what the bidders are placing. Peele hypothesizes that since the Red Alchemists are descended from the Knights Templar each card represents different artifacts the group has amassed that are up for trade.

-Rod to the Rescue-

Once “all is lost” for Chris the audience’s only hope is Rod. He becomes the Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers from The Shining) or Buster (Richard Farnsworth from Misery) to the story. Thankfully unlike the other two Rod survives.

-Alternate Music Choice-

When Chris wakes up restrained in the rec room originally James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” was going to be playing on a continuous loop. It turned out the licensing fees for the song were too high so they went with the video of Rose’s grandfather explaining the procedure.

-The “Real” Reason Jordan Peele Made the Film-

Peele jokingly states that he made Get Out to curry favor with TSA so he’d get great treatment at airports.

-The Surgery-

It was originally going to be that the person who’s body is being taken over were going to die. The idea of them being forced to live on while someone else controls their body was tantamount to modern slavery and far more horrifying.

-The Sophomore Slump-

Peele knows that he’s going to have trouble trying to follow-up Get Out. He asks the audience to, “give him a little rope” to make a worse film.

-Racist Irony-

It was intentional that picking cotton from the arm rest cushion was the thing that would end up saving Chris from slavery.

-Prop Origin-

The ceremonial box that contained Dean’s surgical tools was in fact a box used to hold poker chips.

-Exploring the Mythology-

With the extensive amount of mythology surrounding the Red Alchemists Jordan Peele promises he’ll divulge more about them down the line. I guess that means I’ll be buying the special edition blu-ray when it comes out.

-Spielberg Influence-

While the car in the beginning was likened to Duel there is another homage to Spielberg. The reveal of Georgina’s scar in the car was influenced by the reveal of the velociraptor’s ability to open doors in Jurassic Park.

-An NC-17 Rating?-

Peele states that he assumes if a movie had been made ten years ago where at the end a black man is choking a white woman to death and the audience being on his side it would’ve gotten an NC-17 rating. I can’t say he’s wrong about that.

-The Main Song-

The song in Swahili is translated to, “Trust Your Ancestors”.

These are just a handful of interesting tid bits Jordan Peele revealed in this track. And I have to say, this is one of the best tracks I’ve listened to in a long time. While we get a lot behind the scenes information it’s fantastic hearing him discuss the mythology of the story. I can not recommend it enough. I can not wait to see where Jordan Peele goes as a director from this fantastic directorial debut. As usual, what are your thoughts? Did you like Get Out? Are you going to pick up the blu-ray? If you do, do check out the alternate ending. Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts and as always thank you so much for reading.

How Does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stack up with the 22 Sequel Do’s and Don’ts.

How Does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stack up with the 22 Sequel Do’s and Don’ts.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opened last weekend in the United States with a stellar $145 million. This is beyond impressive when you realize the original Guardians opened at $94 million. Having seen it I wanted to discuss it, but wasn’t sure I had an angle until I remembered an old article from Entertainment Weekly. Entitled “22 Movie Sequel Do’s and Don’ts” I wanted to take these 22 points and check them against the film to see how the film stacked up. Of course, there will be spoilers and I will provide a link at the end to EW’s original article. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

1. DO: ADD AN EXCITING NEW VILLAIN

To be fair, Guardians 1’s villain was a little run of the mill. Ronan the Accuser’s motivations were broad and evil, but for a debut film they worked well enough. Vol. 2 kicked it up with a more personal bad guy. While we initially assume that Ayesha and the Sovereign people are our primary antagonists we shift over once Ego arrives. Being Peter’s father it cuts harder to see everything Peter wanted turn out to be a lie. And it gets even worse once Ego reveals he was responsible for Peter’s mother getting cancer. It hurts and makes you root for our heroes even harder. (Outcome: Success)

2. DON’T: ADD IN TOO MANY VILLAINS

The film does have one primary antagonist and two secondary antagonists. Split between an A plot and B plot we have the previously mentioned Sovereign people and Ego, but in a B plot we have Taser Face and even Nebula has a moment. But in all honesty, it never feels convoluted or overstuffed. Luckily Taser Face and Nebula serve a purpose in their plots. And on the plus side they didn’t try to shoehorn Thanos into the film for an Infinity War set-up. (Outcome: Success)

3. DO: ELIMINATE THE LAME CHARACTERS

This is a tough one as many of the characters from the original film were fantastic. But the elimination of the Nova Corp characters Rhomann Dey and Irani Rael was helpful. There was no need to drag them back into the story. (Outcome: Success)

4. DON’T: OVERLOAD ON CONTINUITY

This is another tricky one as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for constantly dropping hints and easter eggs as to where the future of the series will go. I didn’t have a problem with these, but I’m also a comic book fan who loves catching all the hints and teases for the future. Guardians does have a lot to take in, but it’s not an overload on the level of Iron Man 2. (Outcome: Partial Success)

5. DO: CONSIDER CHANGING THE SCENERY

With any space opera style film you get the opportunity to explore different worlds. And while we do spend a good portion of time on run down space ships we also get to see rich and beautiful worlds for our characters to explore. (Outcome: Success)

6. DON’T: BEND OVER BACKWARDS TO RESURRECT DEAD CHARACTERS

Aside from a flashback in the beginning to show Peter’s mother none of the characters who died in the previous film appear. And while we can discuss how Baby Groot could  be considered a resurrected character he technically came back to life in the first film. (Outcome: Success)

7. DO: MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS MORE TROUBLED

Yep, Vol. 2 definitely hits this mark hard. Between Peter’s issues with his father and Yondu, the Gamora/Nebula conflict, and Rocket coming to terms with who he is character crisis is everywhere. (Outcome: Success)

8. DON’T: FORGET THAT VILLAINS ARE SUPPOSE TO BE VILLAINOUS

With the exception of Nebula none of the previous villains return. And we do still see the anger and resentment in Nebula. And while she and Gamora reconcile there’s still pain there. (Outcome: Success)

9. DO: IN GENERAL, IT PAYS TO TELL A SIMPLER STORY

This one is hard to deliberate. The story gets a little busier than the first film, but that’s because it’s building on the previous story. (Outcome: Success)

10. DON’T: BUT IF YOU’RE GOING BIGGER, MAKE SURE IT MEANS SOMETHING

Gunn went into this story with a vision. Taking the groundwork he set up from the first film he built upon it in an impressive way. (Outcome: Success)

11. DO: CONSIDER SWITCHING UP DIRECTORS

While almost every other Marvel franchise has seen a shift in the person at the helm (The Russo Brothers took over Captain America in a brilliant way) and have seen stagnation with returning directors (Iron Man 2 wasn’t as good as Iron Man and we can debate Age of Ultron’s merits). Luckily, Gunn has a love and respect for these characters and it shines through. I can not wait to see where he takes Vol. 3. (Outcome: Success)

12. DON’T: BUILD YOUR SEQUEL’S PLOT AROUND DENSE, IMPENETRABLE BUREAUCRACIES

The Sovereign people at times bog down the film when the story cuts back to them. And in fact it may be the one weaker aspect of the film (Outcome: Fail)

13. DO: REMEMBER THAT STUPID AND OVER-THE-TOP IS BETTER THAN STUPID AND DULL

Haha, it is great to see Vol. 2 going over the top. The space jumping scene may in fact be one of the goofiest things that has been put into a Marvel film. (Outcome: Success)

14. DON’T: MAKE A SEQUEL ABOUT HOW BORED YOUR CHARACTERS HAVE BECOME WITH THEIR SUCCESSFUL LIVES

Thankfully all of our characters are flying high on the new adventures the outcome of the first film paved the way for. The opening shows them relishing their rolls as protectors for hire. I think of a quote from Rocket Raccoon, “Great! We can jack up our prices if we’re two-time galaxy savers!” (Outcome: Success)

15. DO: KILL OFF A MAIN CHARACTER

Oh man, this is one hurts. While Yondu was a supporting character in both of these films it was Michael Rooker’s brilliant performance that made him super likable. His sacrifice to save Peter hits hard. We get to see Peter understand that family isn’t about biology. He had a father this whole time who cared and protected him all those years. Yondu’s funeral is heartbreaking and adds weight to Peter’s search for family. (Outcome: Success)

16. DON’T: KILL OFF EVERYBODY

Our main characters make it out with some emotional pain, but at least they make it out alive. (Outcome: Success)

17. DO: CONSIDER JUST NOT REFERENCING THE FIRST MOVIE

Comic book films can get bogged down in building off their success and make sequels inaccessible if you haven’t seen the previous films (i.e. The Dark Knight Rises). Hints are dropped to what happened in the first film, but never to the affect that it’s key to see it. (Outcome: Success)

18. DON’T: MAKE SEQUELS TO COMEDIES

While Guardians has a great sense of humor it’s not a straight comedy. The humor in Vol. 2 is just as on point with it’s jokes and has some moments that are gut busters, “I’m Mary Poppins y’all!” (Outcome: Success)

19. DO: BASICALLY EVERYTHING TOY STORY 2 AND 3 DO

As I mentioned earlier we see characters get real growth in the series. Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Nebula, and Yondu all get to show more emotions and get depth. There is never a time where they use the original film as something to lean on to illicit emotions from the audience. The villain is stronger and personal to our lead. (Outcome: Success)

20. DON’T: JUST GRAB AN ORIGINAL STORY AND PLUG IT INTO A FRANCHISE

With a movie series based off a comic book this is an easy trap to avoid. There are decades of comics that have the Guardians of the Galaxy running off on intergalactic adventures. And while the film is based off the 2008 re-launch of the series there’s still a lot to mine. Gunn and Marvel have a trove of material and it means Vol. 3 is ripe with potential (Outcome: Success)

21. DO: CONSIDER ADDING A CO-STAR WITH EQUAL (IF NOT GREATER) STAR POWER

Kurt Russell, need I say more? (Outcome: Success)

22. DON’T: JUST REPEAT YOURSELF

There is always some level of repetition when it comes to sequels. Sometimes it’s calling back a catchphrase from the first film or blatantly re-treading an entire plot. It would’ve been super easy to take brilliant moments like the dance off and done them again for a cheap callback. There are a few things that feel old hat (another huge fleet of ships in the finale), but a lot of new ground it covered and fresh beats are hit. (Outcome: Success)

From the looks of it Vol. 2 hits all of the do’s and avoids most of the don’ts.  Personally, I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It went for deeper emotions instead of bigger explosions. As usual though, what are your thoughts? Did you enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as much, more than, or less than the first film? Are you going to give it a second viewing in theatres? I know I will. Of course, you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts. Yep, going to keep telling you that until I get to the triple digits for followers. Remember to check out the Entertainment Weekly link at the bottom. And thanks again for reading.

ew.com/gallery/22-movie-sequel-dos-and-donts/