Monthly Archives: March, 2012

My Favourite… Film Franchise

It seems that every single film these days is followed by a rubbish sequel or three. But ever so often comes a film franchise where the sequels match the original film, or at the very least build on their legacy. Here we take a look at our all time favourite film franchises.

Jon from The Film Brief writes: 

A good film franchise is rare, and attempting one is usually ill-advised. Unless a work is originally conceived as a series, the option to open the floodgates for sequels inevitably gets taken too far, and you wind up with aliens in your Indiana Jones, or Jar-Jar Binks and “I don’t like sand – it’s coarse and rough, and it gets everywhere. Not like you…” in your Star Wars. It’s best just to push George Lucas as far away from the creative process when it comes to building a franchise, really.

For me, whittling down the candidates for my favourite franchise was fairly easy. My eventual choice Back to the Future was just about the first series that came into my mind – those movies were really the first that made me realise just how fun movies can be. The Godfather series was another contender – those movies were really the first that made me realise just how cinematic and complex movies could be. My love for that franchise, incidentally, extends to the third and final movie, which sums up the vicious cycle of the triumphs and tragedies of the Corleone family and their cohorts brutally and powerfully. Most people, in my experience, can’t get past Sofia Coppola’s admittedly poor acting in a very small role.

I digress. Back to the Future is my favourite franchise. I know full well that the evocation of Westerns in the third instalment is cheesy, poor and superficial, but it matters not a jot. I love that movie (admittedly not as much as the first one – come on, is there a better example of a science-fiction/nostalgia/romantic comedy?) because of its riffing on the same good jokes and the hope, however contrived, that Doc may find love. The second film in the series just about captured the enthusiasm and zeal of the first. At its time of release, Back to the Future Part 2’s evocation of America in 2015 seemed tongue-in-cheek, but clever and predictive. We’re still waiting for hoverboards and Jaws 19, directed by Max Spielberg. But all the kids are wearing 80s clothing.

The Godfather films are universally revered by those worth listening to as essential viewing for anyone wishing to be versed in the language of cinema. They are indeed powerful experiences, and are integral components of the cinematic currency of our time. Back to the Future is my favourite film franchise for very different reasons. They were the first movies to truly inform me of the cinema’s capacity for escapism. These films transport me back to the hopeful child I once was, before I turned into a cynical and over-analytical adult. I treasure them and the social connections they have afforded me with other like-minded, Doc and Marty-loving souls.

Jon Fisher is the creator and editor of The Film Brief and host of The Film Brief podcast which you can find on iTunes. 

Tim from Not Now I’m Drinking a Beer and Watching a Movie writes:

I wanted to be cooler about this. I wanted to be able to wax lyrical about Fritz Lang’s Mabuse films, or a series of short crime silents delivered by a Panamanian cubist painter between the wars. But without a doubt my favourite film franchise and that which has definitely had the greatest impact on my film life is the James Bond franchise.

I am a huge fan of film history and older films. Classic directors such as Buster Keaton, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles etc etc etc are my filmmaking heroes. The James Bond series was my window into this world. Long before I would even contemplate watching any other film from pre-1995, I was trying to track down a copy of every Bond film. I have memories of trawling through my local video store, grabbing scuffed up VHS copies of them all. They were my favourite movies, and I would love having discussions with older cousins and uncles about what their favourite Bond film was. I was always enthralled by the exhilaration, the stunts. But equally as much, I was captured by the humourous patter between Desmond Llewellyn’s Q and whoever the Bond of the day was and the at times, extremely complex plots. In a way very little has changed. Even now, as I push myself to become more of a film historian, I often crack out my complete Bond DVD set for an arvo of beers and fun. Without a doubt, my most anticipated 2012 cinematic release is the forthcoming Bond film Skyfall.

One of the many things I love about the Bond franchise is the seemingly endless conversation starters. Favourite Bond? For me somewhat controversially it’s Timothy Dalton, but you could mount an argument for any of them. Favourite Bond Film? Hands down Goldfinger for me, but again you could mount an argument for a whole heap of the films. Least favourite Bond Film? Sorry George, but personally On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Favourite villain, favourite Bond girl, and on it goes.

From a Western film perspective there is probably no more long running and iconic franchise than this one. Every time it seemed that the series was dead and buried, it would rise again reinvigorated. Sure, some of the films have been tired, but equally as many have been inspired. The one thing they all shared was a sense of fun, of sheer enjoyment. Let’s face it, a vast majority of cinema is escapism. I don’t know about you, but I often watch films to escape the world around me and as far as sheer escapism goes, nothing beats Ian Fleming’s great creation.

Here’s an iconic scene from my all time favourite Bond flick.

James from Film Blerg writes:

I distinctly remember being told not to watch Scream. I was 9 or so when it first came onto late night television and stories had circulated far enough that parents were aware of Wes Craven’s new horror film and the desires of most children my age wanting to see it.

As most cinematically inclined and authoritatively yielding children do, I managed to sneak a peek at an old television that barely picked up a signal. The first image I saw through that static mess was Drew Barrymore’s lifeless corpse hanging from a tree with her slashed stomach ghoulishly hanging out for one and all to see. I immediately turned off the television in horror.

A few years later, the film came back on television on a Saturday night, this time with the sequel screening straight after it. Popcorn was prepared and by this stage, I had my own television and was ready to give it a second chance.

Immediately I fell in love with the franchise. Perhaps I was too young to pick up on the satire, intertextuality and genre conventions that were at play, but I was entranced regardless. The underlining plot of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) continually battling against knife wielding maniacs was too much fun. It was almost like a soap opera with the relationships between the main characters, an element enhanced by the franchise’s creator Kevin Williamson of TV’s Dawson’s Creek fame.

Drew Barrymore’s unexpected and untimely death shocked audiences around the world and saw the beginning of what would be called the slasher genre. Spawning similar films such as Urban Legends, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the spoof franchise Scary Movie, Scream’s instant legendary status was evident almost immediately.

Following the success of the first film, three more films were released in 1997, 2000 and 2011, all with Wes Craven and the original three cast members including Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette. Scream 4 may be the weakest, and like the other sequels, becomes more of a playful, fun film rather than inflicting actual fear, horror and suspense. However, it still does the job and does so with much more tenacity than most in the genre.

It may be rather trashy, but the Scream franchise will always have a special place in my heart.

James Madden is the Editor of Film Blerg. He is currently undertaking a Master of Arts and Cultural Management at the University of Melbourne and is a Screen Editor of Farrago Magazine. James has contributed to countless student and online publications including Portable, T-Squat and Upstart.

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Worth Watching February 2012

Worth Watching: 

  • Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), Sean Durkin – This features probably the best performance by an actress over the past 12 months, from Elizabeth Olsen. She believably portrays a young woman full of anguish and vulnerability with no requirement to revert to histrionics. Once you settle into the film’s back and forth structure it engages and provokes thought, taking the viewer on an original (and at times harrowing) journey.
  • The Artist (2011), Michel Hazanavicius – An excellent film. A homage to classic Hollywood and the transformative power of cinema at that time. The influence of Singin in the Rain (1952) is plain to see. The pride of the main character makes him a frustrating figure. Full of positives, the highlights are the cracking cinematography and the two joyful lead performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
  • Man on a Ledge (2012), Asger Leth – Sam Worthington establishes himself as an action star well worth watching in this, following in the footsteps of Aussie brethren Russel Crowe. This is a classically, simply shot action film that reminds just how enjoyable a film like this can be. A lot of this is down to how the plot slowly, but surely reveals its secrets which helps to maintain interest throughout.
  • Shame (2011), Steve McQueen – A film about a man addicted to sex, or more specifically ejaculation. Fassbender is surreally good as the high powered exec living this life until his sister, the phenomenal Carey Mulligan, turns his world upside down causing him to reflect on how he carries himself. A character study of a man caught in the most shameful of addictions. McQueen is a stylist and a technician & this is adoringly shot with great use of light, angle and especially sound.
  • Hulk (2003), Ang Lee – This maligned film starts with a cracking credit sequence and never looks back. The most interestingly constructed comic book film I’ve ever seen, editing is masterfully used to truly make it feel like you are watching a comic brought to life on the big screen. Such a great vibe, truly inspired and don’t worry, Bana’s Hulk is awesomely destructive when the time comes. Jennifer Connelly gives a wonderful performance as well. Thematically as well as in looks, this is a much more ‘grown-up’ Marvel film.
  • Hugo (2011), Martin Scorsese – An extremely rich film worthy of repeated viewings. Dripping in mechanics and clockwork, it features a revelatory performance from Sacha Baron Cohen and a phenomenal one from Ben Kingsley. Of course this is Marty’s ode to cinema, but at times, that is clumsy with dialogue serving as film lecture. It is a bit po-faced at times, but overall an amazing film.

Not Worth Watching:

  • Flowers and Trees (1932), Burt Gillett – This Disney effort was the first ever winner of best animated short at the Oscars. It is classically Disney in style and nicely conveys the joys of the natural world. However the film has dated pretty bad and with no story to speak of there is precious little emotion to be found. Take a look:

  • Search by Image, Recursively, Transparent PNG, #1 (2012), Sebastian Schmieg – It’s a clever idea. The results though are underwhelming. For far too long its just pictures of space, and the lack of any soundtrack really hurts it. Gets a lot cooler when the images begin to change, but these cuts are much too fast. It’s rare for a 4 minute film to feel too long, but this achieves that because too many of the images just aren’t that interesting. Check it out:
  • Bluebeard (1944), Edgar G. Ulmer – One of my favourite fairytales is transformed into a pretty poor film. No real attention paid to establishing the film’s period chops and Bluebeard doesn’t even have a rockin beard. The film is about as atmosphereless as a film can be, even the invocation of the Faust tale can’t help. To top it all off the background music is incessant, and I don’t think anyone actually paid any attention to the music chosen. Really, truly terrible. And if it still sounds like a film you want to watch, you can check it out here:

  • One for the Money (2012), Julie Anne Robinson – Katherine Heigl stars, featuring a whole lot of fake tan and as bad an attempt at an Italian accent you will ever come across. What starts as fun, light fare with a rockin hardboiled voiceover descends into inanity at lightning speed. Poorly acted (the supporting cast are atrocious), with an even more poorly constructed plot this woeful film is one I assure you you can afford to miss.
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008), Louis Leterrier – Supposedly this is the better of the recent Hulk films. I must have missed something cause this bored me to tears. Somewhere between a sequel and a reboot, having all the same characters played by different actors is distracting. And not one of them is as good as what came in Ang Lee’s take, with Ed Norton & Tim Roth particularly miscast. Derivative, you can see the Bourne and Casino Royale (2006) references all over this one but they add little. And the decision to have the Hulk’s transformation triggered by heart rate rather than anger is a major fail.
  • The Spanish Apartment (2001), Cedric Klapisch – Really slow start, with the most notable aspect being a number of (failed) attempts at funky aesthetics – onscreen graphics & images in fast forward. Gets into its stride, accurately conveying the sheer unfamiliarity of a new city, and a meta apartment with residents from all over Europe in each other’s pockets. In the end though, there are so many characters that none of them are really given the narrative attention they deserve. A surreal, comedy of errors that is perhaps too ambitious in the end.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), Stephen Daldry – An exceedingly annoying film with one of the most misjudged central characters ever. This painful child character, with the infernal tambourine he takes everywhere, is paired with an infuriating voiceover for a lot of it. Sandra Bullock is surreally good, and she evokes more emotion in her small part than the entire rest of the film. And whilst Max Von Sydow is also very good, his character is symptomatic of what’s wrong with the film. If the young central protagonist, and Sandra Bullock’s character had their screen time swapped, this might have been bearable. It isn’t.

If you only have time to watch one Hulk

Avoid at all costs One for the Money