Sunday, September 20, 2009

Charlie Sheen Will Be In Wall Street 2

I’ll admit, I was pretty down on the idea of a sequel to Wall Street when the idea first began floating around Hollywood a few years ago. There have been so many mediocre revivals of 1980s franchises recently, from Indiana Jones to Die Hard to Rambo, that a healthy dose of skepticism is certainly warranted. However, Wall Street 2 has actually grown on me a lot in the last few weeks. Just as the “greed is good” culture of its time made the original movie a compelling and well-timed success when it came out in 1987, I think our current social and economic climate will provide an excellent subject for Oliver Stone’s patented type of directorial scrutiny.

Even if that’s true, though, the biggest fear with any sequel made so long after the original is whether the same things that made it great in the first place will come together again to make something just as good. For quite a while, all we’ve really known about the Wall Street sequel was that it would center around what happens to Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) when he’s released from prison 20 years after the events of the first movie. But there was no word on the first movie’s main character, Bud Fox, who was played by Charlie Sheen.

Until now, that is. In a bit of news I just came across earlier this month, Sheen has apparently agreed to appear in the film, although from the sound of it his role will be a fairly small one. Still, his presence lends this project that last bit of legitimacy that I was looking for. As a fan of the original, I’m quite happy to see the sequel panning out so well.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thoughts on Disney Buying Marvel

In case you haven’t heard the biggest news in the entertainment industry yet, Disney purchased Marvel a few days ago for the sum of 4 billion dollars. This move came as a complete surprise, and speculation has been running rampant over what implications this could have for both companies.

Is the deal really a cause for worry? Maybe, maybe not. Some people seem to think that it could lead to the “Disneyfication” of Marvel’s movies and/or comics – a rather absurd proposal, if you think about it. Despite its clean-cut, family-friendly image, Disney has distributed the likes of Sin City, Pulp Fiction, and plenty of other violent or otherwise “mature” media through Miramax (which it also owns), so the issue isn’t one of what level of explicitness Disney will allow its new subsidiary to “get away with.” Besides, after the financial debacle that was last year’s Punisher: War Zone, Marvel swore off making R-rated films in the future anyway.

The real issue, I think, is one of creative control over Marvel’s franchises. I’m not too concerned for Marvel Publishing, which handles the publication of Marvel’s extensive line of comic books. Since Marvel’s rebound from bankruptcy in the late 1990s, its publishing arm has maintained an unprecedented level of creative autonomy (and critical acclaim) which I seriously doubt Disney would feel any need to dismantle. (As a brief side note, though, I do wonder whether this deal could lead to Marvel absorbing Boom! Studios, another comic book company which for the last year or so has been publishing a number of well-received comics based on Disney-owned franchises, including Toy Story and the Muppets.)

To dwell on publishing for just a moment longer, I think it’s important to remember that Marvel hasn’t merged with Disney – Marvel is now simply owned by Disney, and as such it will remain a mostly self-directed institution. So for those worried that Mickey Mouse will soon be joining the X-Men by corporate mandate, you have nothing to fear (although if fan art like this piece provides any indication, it might not be so bad!).

So with Marvel’s comic book universe fairly safe, in my opinion, my main concern in is over what will now happen to Marvel Studios. This is the independent production studio, owned by Marvel, which has so far brought us Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, and which is currently producing next year’s Iron Man 2. Several more Marvel movies, including Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers, are also lined up for the studio.

I have commented before on this blog that I felt Marvel Studios’ legal and financial independence gave it a level of creative control that we are never likely to see from DC, since it is owned by Time-Warner. Forming its own production studio was a major triumph for Marvel in that regard, which makes it a bit sad to see the company essentially “selling out” when it’s proven that it can be both financially and critically successful on its own.

I’m still somewhat optimistic, on the one hand, because Disney has done such an excellent job in its handling of Pixar, which has perhaps the single greatest track record of any production studio in history. But fundamentally, this deal is still about Disney making more money, and the difference between Pixar and Marvel is that Marvel has many more long-standing franchises that have the potential to be exploited, for lack of a better word. Disney will do whatever it feels it needs to in order to protect its own financial interests – and if this means, for example, forcing Marvel Studios to crank out a third Iron Man movie without the same care that was devoted to the first two movies, I have little doubt that Disney will do so. We’ve already seen this same scenario play itself out in Sony’s mishandling of the third film in the Spider-Man franchise, and with a fourth film on the way (and, supposedly, a fifth as well), the cycle seems almost inevitable.

Of course, the true effects of this deal probably won’t be felt for at least a few years. I imagine Marvel Studios will continue to operate as it is now through the completion of its current slate of films, at which point it will either close its doors or take its work in whatever direction Disney feels best. This might not end up being a bad thing at all – it’s not as if Disney doesn’t have an eye for great filmmaking. The point is simply that Disney will have a tremendous influence on what Marvel-based movies are made in the future, for better or for worse.

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering...

If you’ve visited this site recently, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. There are reasons for that – legitimate ones, in my opinion, although I’ll leave that decision up to you. The big one is that I really haven’t seen many movies this summer. My only trips to the theater in the last few months have been to see Public Enemies and Funny People on their opening weekends, and Inglourious Basterds this last weekend. I’ve only rented one movie that I can think of, and that was a few weeks ago now.

Why have I watched so few movies lately? The main reason is that I spent a large portion of this summer interning in a congressional office in Washington, D.C. It was a wonderful experience, and one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I met a lot of wonderful people there, and I made a lot of valuable connections too. But it did take up a lot of my time and energy each day, and very rarely did I have two hours to sit through an entire movie – my free time came more often in 20 to 30 minute bursts, which I typically spent watching 30 Rock, a show I hadn’t seen before this summer (and which I highly recommend).

Since my return from the Capitol, I’ve been catching up with friends, trying to keep up with the first few days of classes, and doing a good deal of reading. (For those wondering, my graphic novel review blog is still in the works – in fact, the domain has already been created. I have a number of reviews written, but I want to make sure I have enough done in advance to prevent the same stop-and-go difficulties I’ve had with this blog.) Although I’ve watched a handful of movies since being back, my viewing time continues to be mainly concentrated on TV shows, predominantly 30 Rock and The Shield – which, now that I’ve begun watching the fourth season, has joined the ranks of The Sopranos and Lost as one of my all-time favorite shows.

As the new school semester starts, I foresee myself watching more movies than I have been in the recent past. This is thanks in part to a film class which promises to do an excellent job of filling in the gaps in my own knowledge of the history of film, especially in terms of international cinema, and also thanks to my own building desire to start writing about film on a regular basis again. However, I find my interest in new releases waning at the moment. This will probably change as we enter the last quarter of the year – typically the time when the year’s best movies are released – although I find myself irked by a few recent developments, namely the delay of Scorsese’s Shutter Island until February of next year.

My hope is that with this most recent return to the blogosphere, I’ll be able to maintain at least a semi-regular presence here. I’ve learned a lot about my own writing process and style (what works, and what needs improvement) through constructing these posts over the last few months (almost a year, actually!), and I hope to continue developing my own skills and entertaining people at the same time. There are a few things I’m really interested in trying out here, and I look forward to posting them and hearing your thoughts soon.