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Top 10 Summer Sequels and Remakes of 2014

Here are my chosen seeds for top summer sequels and remakes, based on which ones most excite me, which ones have the longest running franchises, and which ones make me roll my eyes. Keep in mind that I have not seen any of these movies, and I’m usually basing my analysis on a single viewing of a trailer.

Without any further ado, I give you…

The Top 10 Summer Remakes and Sequels of 2014!

Let’s start it off with the newest of the live-action Disney trend. In the spirit of “Once Upon a Time,” Malificent comes at the Sleeping Beauty legend with a little more focus on (and hopefully a little more of a motive for) the ‘evil queen’ character. In revolving around the villain as much as (if not more than) the hero, Malificent will be giving Angelina Jolie more of the spotlight, and viewers everywhere are more than okay with that.

Oh, Sin City, that alluring episodic noir film that I was just barely not-17-enough to see. Well, nine years later and now, I am a full-fledged adult who may not care enough to pay admission rates. I think what most intrigues me about this sequel is that it’s not entirely a sequel; rather it’s another set of stories in the same universe and style that will continue to be somewhat anachronistic. For example, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke, both of whom died in the 2005 film are listed in the cast of the new one! (I wonder if Hollywood’s current golden boy and A Dame To Kill’s top-biller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be playing young Bruce Willis again…) Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez will probably turn out an entertaining product, especially with the star-studded cast and the nudity potential from Rosario Dawson, Eva Green, Lady Gaga, and the returning Jessica Alba.

Coming in at number eight is the obvious sequel to the reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The filmmakers must have decided that since different Spider-Man comics didn’t care about consistency, neither should they, and thus Andrew Garfield’s young, cocky Amazing Spider-Man replaced Tobey MacGuire’s stunted, awkward just-plain Spider-Man. I think the biggest difference in the trailers is that while Spider-Man 2 emphasized how much the hero didn’t want to be Spider-Man, the preview for The Amazing Spider Man 2 actually starts with him saying that he loves everything about it. I also like that Harry Osborn’s character arc looks like a repeat of what the actor, Dane DeHaan went through in Chronicle--the found-footage, ‘realistic’ approach to telekinesis set in Seattle (woot!) for which DeHaan plays the man character and villain. (I’ll also be looking forward to Colm Feore, one of my favorite actors.)

(The picture says it all.) Oh yes, the crew is back again! For more knock-down fights and big explosions. The trick to this franchise is remembering who survived the last movie… Yeah, I can’t remember either. But imdb tells me that they’re bringing back Stallone (obviously), Statham (as Christmas), Schwarzeneggar (as Trench), Dolph Lundgren (as Gunner Jensen), Randy Couture (as Toll Road), Terry Crews (as Hale Caesar), and Jet Li (as Yin Yang). Let’s guess that the rest are dead or working on another movie.

The Expendables 3 is also inviting Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson (as the villain!) to the cast. If you like to watch movies with all of the guys who played soldiers in the 90s, and boxers or some other athletes in the 80s, and if you’re cool with the fact that Stallone himself has the first writing credit for the picture, this is the summer blockbuster for you.

Quick question: Hiccup, have you taken a session or two on how to train you voice? Or how to train your dad not to give you the worst name ever?

Welcome back to pre-medieval Scotland, where the women are scarce and the dragons are plentiful–(seriously, I think there were only two female characters in the entirety of the first movie). And speaking of How to Train Your Dragon, I think we should recap: in the first movie, the main character forged the first known bond between human and dragon and learned how to train him as the title might suggest; he stood up to his friends, his father, and his tribe (clan? let’s just go with ‘people’); he helped to create an alliance between the two warring species; found a girlfriend; and vanquished a dragon so amazingly large that absolutely no one believed it would be capable of flight. (Seriously, the beast is roughly 250 feet tall at the tallest spike and 800 feet long from nose to tail, which makes him much bigger than even the colossal Godzilla of the 2014 remake… which has not yet appeared on the list.)

So, I honestly don’t believe that they can come up with a plot that has higher stakes than that–(the dragons most certainly won’t get bigger, will they?)–but even if they’re not trying to eclipse the first film in scale, how would they even follow it? I don’t really plan to find out on this one. As you can tell by my comments on it, I did not enjoy the original, but I must have been in the minority, seeing as it sold well enough for a sequel to be commissioned.

One giant robot movie deserves another, and it gets a little hard to count how many ‘anothers’ are out there for the Transformers universe if you include the TV shows, the video games, the comic books, and all of the recent Michael Bay blockbusters. In this movie, Mark Wahlberg and his family find themselves a truckload of trouble when they accidentally find and reactivate Optimus Prime, (or so I can deduce from the previews). Transformers 4 promises Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammar, and the buttery voice of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime–whose robot voice  is second only to Vin Diesel’s in The Iron Giant.

In this sequel, they are upping the stakes, removing Shia LeBeouf, and adding dinosaurs! That’s right: the previews indicate at least one giant, mechanical T-Rex with less rubbery skin than the Jurassic Park variety. And to me, this looks like a direct throwback to Beast Wars, my personal favorite in the decades long Transformers saga. So prepare for loud clashes of metal on metal and dizzying camera angles that will rival those in Gravity.

No, it’s not King Kong, but it’s still Andy Serkis, a talented actor known for dressing up in morph suits with little diodes all over him. In fact, I think his best known roles don’t involving him showing his face at all, which is a shame, because he proved to be quite expressive as David Bowie’s assistant in The Prestige (aka Batman and Wolverine’s Other Movie). In Dawn of Planet of the Apes, Andy Gollum Serkis reprises his role as Caesar, the king chimp in the ape revolution that’s taking the world by storm–(No, that cliche isn’t good enough…) The beast is out of the cage in this Planet of the Apes Prequel/Sequel, and the fur’s about to fly! (And that’s too much. Oh well.)

The trailers indicate more fight scenes and less science than the original–which isn’t really the original, but I’ll put a pin in that one for now. Anyway, the first new on was titled Rise of Planet of the Apes. Now I don’t mean to quibble, but given that the first one in this franchise reboot was literally about the first seeds of ape evolution, and this new one is about an actual revolution (a ‘rising up’ if you will), don’t you think the names should have been switched?

Speaking of franchise reboot, I should note that this movie (like many on the list) is both a remake and a sequel. Most nearly, it seems to be a remake of the 4th installment of the original films, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in which Roddy McDowall (truly the Andy Serkis of his day) played the upright chimpanzee named Caesar. And for any of you keeping track, if we don’t count the TV show or any of the B-movie ripoffs, this is the eighth Planet of the Apes movie, which manages to be

  1. a prequel,

  2. a sequel to a prequel,

  3. a re-reboot after the Mark Wahlberg (I thought he was Matt Damon) rendition flopped,

  4. a remake of a 40-year-old franchise,

  5. and a remake of a sequel/prequel within that franchise (because Conquest was the fourth movie, but it was set earlier in the timeline than the first two)

So really the only question remaining is what happened to James Franco between movies 1 and 2?

(Do not click on the link! There are spoilers in the cast list.)

Show of hands: who starts mentally (or audibly) going through the cartoon theme song whenever you see the title? If you’re not one of us, you will probably not get nearly the same amount of nostalgic joy from going to see Michael Bay’s (produced, not directed) live-action reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If you recall the first live-action Turtles films, they were generally funny, and filled with cartoon sound effects and rubbery mascot costumes–putting the emphasis on comedy in the action-comedy genre. This does not seem to be the case in the new high-stakes blockbuster, which looks like it will feature more destruction and a higher death toll than ever before. Honestly, a part of me is really intrigued by the notion of the dark side of the turtles, but a part of me is writhing inside at the juxtaposition of Mikey’s pizza-based puns with Leonardo possibly actually cutting off someone’s head–(if you recall from the originals, Leo’s super-sharp swords only dismembered robots and inanimate objects.)

As for the spoilers, okay, maybe they aren’t really, but I know there are at least two reveals that I’m going to miss out on, just from having read the list. Two items that shouldn’t mess with your enjoyment are the fact that Leo is being voiced by Johnny Knoxville, (which means that Raf will not be main character this time around), and that April O’Neil is being played by Megan Fox, whose most featured acting trick is staring at something off-screen with her mouth slightly open–(also see Kristen Stewart). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Michael Bay must like working with her.

Despite some reservations I’ve heard from fans of the series, I will say that the CG overlaying looks pretty good, and I imagine Master Splinter will not look like he came from the Sesame Street reject bin, as he did in TMNT 3. Well, I won’t go into the theater expecting it to be exactly what I remember, but I think this one will actually get me to the theater. Go ninja, go ninja, go!

Okay, so I’ll admit that the front cover already has me a little dismayed. It looks like they’re trying to keep the giant lizard shrouded in mystery and call attention to the people who fight Godzilla, which is not at all what I grew up on. See, when I rented Godzilla films on vhs way back in the 90s (gasp), I had come to expect the movies to be primarily about Godzilla slugging it out with some other giant monster, while a thin veneer of human interpersonal drama passes as context. That Godzilla (1998) was about Matthew Broderick was not so bad, because he was all about the fascination with the giant iguana. (I confess, I never actually saw the millenium edition, but it looked like a pretty standard monster slugfest, but this time with rubber pitted against alien CG.)

If I’m not mistaken, this coming picture is actually the 30th feature film rendition of the giant monster Gojira that has terrorized the Tokyo skyline for sixty years. In fact, it has been exactly 60 years since the original movie. 50 would have been more fitting, but in 2004, the Japanese were releasing what they thought would be the last tribute monster battle montage known as Godzilla: Final Wars. They were wrong; it just took them ten years to find out.

So given that Godzilla ’98 didn’t do so well–(I enjoyed it)–the creators must have thought it had something to do with the lizard being not quite big enough. The new Godzilla is so big in fact that he hardly fits into any of the frames, with reports of his height ranging from 250 to 800 ft. Although he is supposedly between 360 and 400 feet, he clearly is the same height or taller than some buildings that are supposed to be around 5-, 6-, and 700. Basically, the scientific and pseudo-scientific communities are calling his existence more impossible than the rubbery mascot costumes of yester-year.

But that won’t stop Kick Ass and Breaking Bad stars from having touching family drama during the disaster film, which–given the current trend to make everything a little grimmer and grittier–could turn out as hopeless as the family situations in either Kick Ass 2 or frankly all of Breaking Bad.

Capping off our list is the high-budget, high-expectations, high-probability-of-time-paradox feature film, X-Men: Days of Future Past. The title follows the formula of [Franchise]: [Epic Subtitle!] and doesn’t even need to use roman numerals to pull it off. It saves a lot of questions with just the subtitle which indicates that, yes, it is both a sequel and a prequel, theoretically happening some time after both the X-Men Trilogy (set around the turn the millennium) and after X-Men First Class (set in the 60s). We know that Professor X is back (somehow) in both timelines as James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, and there are rumors that he will be walking (somehow) in both; there are rumors of both Magnetos and possibly of two Wolverines, given that 2000s Wolverine is theoretically being sent back in time to pre-re-unite the X-Men and prevent an apocalypse that would be officiated (possibly) by Peter Dinklage. (Even after his amazing speech on the injustice of prejudice against differently-sized-persons in a recent episode Game of Thrones, it seems he has decided to hate mutants.)

Now, if all of this sounds mighty speculative, it’s because it is. Unlike the nine runners up on this list, I have carefully avoided most trailers, reviews, and even the cast list of the new X-Men film, because I want to have many opportunities to “Ohmygod!” about adaptations from the comics when I go to see it tonight. That’s right: I will be attending the 10pm release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, for which I am super excited.

I am a long-time fan of the comics (which I read completely out of order as a kid), the cartoon, the video games, and the live-action portrayals by Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy, Ian McKellan/Michael Fassbender,  Kelsey Grammar/Nicholas Hoult, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos/Jennifer Lawrence, Alan Cumming, Kevin Bacon, Taylor Kitsch, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, and Darth Maul (as Toad). I think I’m more excited about this particular sequel/prequel/reboot/re-imagined-alternate-universe than any other version of the X-Men I’ve encountered so far.

(Stay tuned for my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past and my chock-full-of-spoilers tale of Batman and Wolverine’s Other Movie.)

***

Honorable (and dishonorable) mentions that did not make the list, on the grounds that they were not/will not be in theaters during the summer, include

  1. Captain America: Winter Soldier,

  2. 300: Rise of an Empire,

  3. RoboCop,

  4. Into the Woods,

  5. The Hunger Games III: Mockingjay – Part 1,

  6. Rio 2,

  7. and Noah (based loosely on Genesis, not the band).

The first film adaptations of books, like The Giver, Divergent, or The Fault in Our Stars, are not included on this list, but you already know how I feel about John Green.

Lastly, I want to put in a quick shoutout for Guardians of the Galaxy, which I am really looking forward to. Cheers to you, James Gunn, for having the courage and foresight to turn a new comic series into a film franchise.

***

A few disclaimers: The opinions above are opinions; if you’d like to dispute them, feel free to add comments, or to post your own reviews where you see fit. All of the commentary is original, although the links and basic information about the movies was mainly pulled from imdb. If I made any egregious errors, I’d appreciate editing suggestions. If you’d like to see a review of a particular movie, please let me know.

Thanks for reading, and B’tao to you!

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