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The Best Not Quite “To Be Continued” Endings of Franchise Films

One of my complaints about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was how much of the film was filled with shameless plugs for future DC Universe films.  I am all for connectivity between superhero films, thus establishing a shared universe of story-telling.  That is, in fact, one of the greatest triumphs of the Marvel cinematic universe!  The problem with Batman v Superman was how obvious and awkward and often confusing those connections-to-not-yet-made-future-films were.  The ending was a particular problem.  The film’s ending (which I won’t spoil) was clearly designed to be a cliffhanger that would make an audience excited for the next DCU adventure.  But I felt it landed with a thud.  Rather than being excited for the next film, I’m already dreading the time that will need to be wasted in Justice League to undo the events of the end of Batman v Superman.

This got me thinking about great endings to films in a series.  There’s something magical about a great ending to a film, particularly a film that is designed to be, not a stand-alone one-and-done entity, but rather an installment in a series.  There is a delicate art to being able to satisfactorily bring a film’s story to a close, while also teasing future adventures.  I adore that buzzy feeling of walking out of a movie absolutely desperate for the next installment, even if that next installment might be years away.

So what WERE some great endings to franchise films, endings that gave me that thrilled, excited feeling?  Well, I’m glad you asked, as I’ve decided to list some of my very favorites.

Now, before we begin, let me clarify that I’m not talking about a movie that ends on a out-and-out “to be continued” cliffhanger.  The best example of that would, of course, be:

Back to the Future Part II This film, gloriously, actually does end with the words “to be continued.”  (Well, actually the film ends with the words “to be concluded” which makes sense only when you know that the words “to be continued” were added on to the ending of the original Back to the Future for its home video release, so this ending of Part II now echoes/completes that ending of Part I.  Without that “to be continued” ending of Part I, you might expect the ending of Part II to read “to be continued” rather than “to be concluded.”  At least, I would!  Sadly, all DVD and blu-ray releases of the original Back to the Future restore the original ending and remove that “to be continued.”  But I dearly miss that “to be continued” ending, as that’s the ending I grew up with.  Why no branching option, Warner brothers, … [continued]

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Is a TV-show adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s wonderful comic-book series Powers finally going to happen?  This project has been developed for YEARS, most recently at FX, but now it seems there’s a 10-episode order from Sony Pictures TV for Playstation, whatever the heck that means.  Powers is a phenomenal comic about cops in a world of super-heroes (click here for my detailed thoughts on the series) and, if done right, this could be a fantastic TV show.  I hope this actually comes together.

Is the new 24 twelve-episode mini-series going to be more like seasons 1-2 of 24 (good) or seasons 3-8 of 24 (not-so-good)?  Dunno.  Nice to see this first trailer, though there’s not much here to get me excited, just yet:

We also, at last, have our first glimpse at the long-in-the-works Sin City sequel.  The trailer is good but not great.  Here too, I need a little more to really get me excited.  I desperately want this movie to be good, but I think the time for a sequel may have passed.  Crossing my fingers on this one.

Each year, when I read about Paleyfest, I am insanely jealous and wish I could go to all of the panels.  Here’s a phenomenal rundown of the Parks and Recreation panel.  This is required reading for fans of Parks and Rec.  Lord I love that show. I can’t believe it’s survived cancellation as many times as it has, and it was just renewed for another season!

So, they’re really truly going ahead with Ghostbusters 3?  Without the participation of Bill Murray?  With Harold Ramis having just recently passed away?  With Ivan Reitman now saying he WON’T return to direct the film?  You know, for years and years I wanted this movie to happen, despite the huge risk that, so many years later, it’d be impossible to recapture the alchemy and make a film that was any good.  But now I’ve really soured on the whole idea.  Is it in any way conceivable that a Ghostbusters 3 could be any good?  Not to me.  This lengthy interview with Ivan Reitman is a fascinating look at the process behind this eons-in-development sequel, but I just think it’s a totally misguided notion.

Now, Brad Bird working to develop The Incredibles 2?  That is a sequel I can get behind!!!  I would love to see that come together.

I am absolutely tickled at the idea of Marvel Studios moving to a pattern in which they’d release one new movie each quarter.  That is an awesome dream!

Then there’s Fox, who still owns the rights to several Marvel series, including … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson reinvented what DVDs could be when he released his extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, a month before the release of The Two Towers in theatres.  I had fallen quite in love with The Fellowship of the Ring after having seen it many, many times in theatres.  (I have never seen a movie more times in theatres than I saw Fellowship.)  I loved the film.  When I read that an extended edition was being released on DVD, I was of course excited.  I had seen (and loved) previous home-video director’s cuts of movies (James Cameron’s Aliens and The Abyss come to mind).  But I was not prepared for how bowled over I would be by the Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.  I still remember watching it, that first time, and being shocked at how complete a re-edit of the film it was.  This wasn’t just the same movie with a few additional scenes added in.  The entire movie had been re-worked and enhanced.  Particularly in that first 45 minutes, I felt like I was watching a totally different movie, with so many little shots and moments woven into the fabric of the film that I had already loved and known so well.

That Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring quickly became the definitive version of the film for me.  I hardly ever watched the theatrical cut again.  For the next few years, the release of Mr. Jacksons’ Extended Editions of his Lord of the Rings films became a vital part of the experience of anticipating and enjoying these movies, for me.  I anticipated the DVD release of the Extended Editions almost as much as the initial theatrical release, because it seemed to me that it was the Extended Editions that represented the full, true versions of these films.  These days, when I re-watch the films, I only watch the Extended Editions.

And so I was excited when I heard that Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, would be receiving an Extended Edition release of its own.  But I must confess to not being quite as deliriously impatient for this release as I was for the extended LOTR films.  As I wrote in my review of An Unexpected Journey, that film’s theatrical release already felt to me like an Extended Edition.  Not just because of its lengthy run-time, but because of the film’s structure, which seemed to me to be overstuffed with the types of digressions and moments of back-story that characterized the LOTR Extended Editions.  So how much could the film be further Extended?

Not by much, it turns out.  The Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected [continued]

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My friend Rabbi Ethan Linden has written a wonderful article on his blog about HBO’s recently-concluded Game of Thrones mini-series (which I LOVED) and some broader thoughts about the fantasy and sci-fi genres.  Here’s an excerpt:

People love to make fun of the superhero comic book genre, the fantasy genre, and the science fiction genre, both in movies and in books.  This is unfortunate, because all three of these types of fiction provide some the most fertile ground for the creation of words that, though different from our own in important ways, nonetheless allow us to reflect on the realities of our customs, cultures and institutions.  For some reason, these three genres are often considered to be “nerdy” or “dorky” and the typical mainstream reviewed will often make a snide remark about the intended audience for these types of fictions before launching into a review of the actual material in front of them.  (Take a look at this New York Times review of the TV series for a prime example.)  That these genres are taken seriously is a shame, because great fantasy, science fiction and superhero stories can be among the best ways we have of thinking deeply about who we are.

You can read the rest of Rabbi Linden’s terrific post here.

This is a superlative article, over at Hitfix.com, listing 25 Movie Sequels That Hollywood Should Have Made.  The list is spot-on, with excellent choices both common (Serenity) and obscure (Devil With a Blue Dress).  Warning: reading this will make you a little sad that sequels to these films do not exist, while X-Men Origins: Wolverine does.

Check out this great new trailer for the adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Looks phenomenal.

Speaking of trailers, Steven Spielberg has finally released a new film, his first since Munich in 2005!  (What’s that, you say?  He directed an Indiana Jones film in 2008?  No, no, you’re wrong, there’s no way Mr. Spielberg could have had anything to do with that train-wreck.)  Anyways, take a look at the trailer for War Horse.

Cars 2 didn’t really interest me, but I’m looking forward to the next Pixar film:  Brave.

Here’s a look at the latest Mission Impossible film: Ghost Protocol.  None of the first three Mission Impossible films have been as great as I’ve wanted them to be, but I’ve enjoyed them all, so I’d be excited for this fourth installment even if it wasn’t Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant)’s live-action directorial debut.

Here at last is our first teaser trailer for John Carter (Of Mars).  Is it possible this is going to be good?  … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

One of my favorite web-sites these days is Badassdigest.com — you should definitely check it out if you’ve never seen it.  They’ve had some great pieces up recently, such as Devin Faraci’s simple, rational piece about why you should avoid purchasing the just-announced Star Wars saga on blu-ray, and this article decrying the ridiculous people who are putting together a version of Huckleberry Finn with then “offensive” language removed, and this scary story of a Lost fan who won the lotto using the cursed numbers (“the numbers are bad!!”).  They also linked to this illustrated history of the Batmobile, which is really fantastic (and extraordinarily thorough!!)  Seriously, the site is great.  Check it out.

Drew over at Hitfix has also had some killer articles up recently that are well worth your time, such as this epic interview with Edgar Wright (seriously, anyone out there reading this who hasn’t seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World needs to remedy that RIGHT NOW) and this in-depth conversation with The Social Network director David Fincher.

Speaking of in-depth conversations, those fine folks at the Onion AV Club have posted a wonderful career-retrospective interview with the great Jon Lovitz.  This is a great read.  (Thanks to my buddy Ethan for sending this my way!)

Sir Ian McKellan starts filming next month on The Hobbit, reprising his role as Gandalf the Grey.  Say Hallaluyah!!

So, they’re actually making a fifth Jack Ryan movie, with Chris Pine cast as the lead?  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I guess I hope that they can pull it off.  I have a lot of faith in director Jack Bender (a prominent director from Lost) and I do think the series still has legs.  I absolutely adore The Hunt for Red October, and while I like all three follow-ups I don’t think any of them quite succeeded on all cylinders.  I’d love to see another great Jack Ryan film.  Will this be it?  One can hope…

I’ve got LOTS more reviews of 2010 movies (and some TV shows) coming up in the coming days, and I’m hard at work on my Best of 2010 lists (which I expect to post at the end of the month), so keep checking back to MotionPicturesComics.com!… [continued]

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News Around the Net

Apparently police officers in Pittsburgh spent eight hours investigating “the most grisly murder scene in 35 years” before discovering it was, in fact, a movie set.  Pretty funny.

The breaking news this week, of course, is that Jon Favreau won’t be returning to direct Iron Man 3.  I’m somewhat disappointed.  I like Mr. Favreau as a director, and I think he was a key component of the first film’s success.  And I like it when the creative teams for these super-hero sagas remain consistent from film to film.  (Look at what happened to the X-Men franchise once Bryan Singer departed after X2.)  On the other hand, as much as I adored the first Iron Man (click here for my original review), I think the second one was pretty mediocre (click here for my review of Iron Man 2).  So maybe some fresh blood is in order.  I’m a little nervous about just what Marvel has planned following their grand Avengers crossover film in 2012.  How does one go back to making Iron Man movies after The Avengers?  I hope they find a talented, steady hand to guide this franchise forward.  (And psst!  The Mandarin would be awesome!!)

Speaking of Marvel, last week they released the first full trailer for Thor, and it’s a much more substantial look at the film than I’d been expecting.  I really want this film to work, but I’m still a little dubious as to whether they’re going to be able to pull off all of the Asgardian stuff convincingly.  Fingers crossed….!

Speaking of trailers, have you seen the preview for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides? Click here to check it out.  Is this going to be any good?  So far it certainly looks of a piece with the previous three films, despite Rob Marshall’s taking over from director Gore Verbinski.  On the other hand, I was never all that wild about any of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so it’s difficult to get too excited about the prospect of a fourth (and possibly a fifth and sixth) installment.

Since I’m posting links to trailers, I guess I should also note that, sigh, Paramount has released a trailer for the aren’t-they-missing-a-word-in-that-title third Transformers film, Dark of the Moon.  Click here to check it out.  It’s actually a pretty clever, well put-together trailer.  If I hadn’t seen the first two Transformers films, I’d probably be pretty excited.  But I did, so I’m not.  (Also, many on-line writers have already noted how the trailer is basically just a souped-up version of the original teaser trailer for [continued]

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So is Peter Jackson going to direct The Hobbit? Or will it be his protege Neill Bolmkamp, who directed District 9? Who knows — I just hope this mess with MGM gets sorted out soon.  I’m still getting over my enormous disappointment that MGM’s financial situation resulted in Guillermo del Toro’s departure from The Hobbit films.  But boy would it be great to see PJ take the helm once again…

Great new trailer is up for The Social Network, the new film about facebook directed by David Fincher and scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

So, we finally got out first glimpse at The Green Hornet and… I’m still not quite sure what to think.  This film is either going to be awesome or a total catastrophe…

This is a cool poster.

CHUD’s list of the Worst CGI in Film History continues, and it’s well worth your time.

Will we ever get another decent X-Men film?  I loved X-Men and X2, but X3 was a crushing disappointment and the less spoken of the abominable X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better.  I hate prequels, as a rule, so when word came out last year that the next X-film would be a prequel entitled X-Men: First Class, I thought that was a big mis-step.  So what now gives me hope?  Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick Ass) and stars James McAvoy (Children of Dune, Atonement, Wanter) as Professor X and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) as Magneto.  An ember of hope is fanned…

Are we about to finally get another decent Predator film?  The first Predator is awesome — one on my favorite movies ever.  But the second one (set in the future with Danny Glover as the lead) is weak, and the less spoken of the two Alien Vs. Predator films the better.  But Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal’s Predators is set for release in just a few short weeks, and damn if this new trailer isn’t pretty awesome.  An ember of hope is fanned…

It’s hard for me to believe that a new Planet of the Apes film is really happening.  And now I read that John Lithgow and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) have joined the cast?  Um, okay… An ember of hope is… well… we’ll see…… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

There’s a great article about Mel Brooks up at Boston.com, because his musical Young Frankenstein is coming to Boston for a two-week run.  I was disappointed by Young Frankenstein when I saw it on broadway, but this brief piece about one of our comedic legends is worth a read.

Here’s a fascinating article about the many different versions of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  I’m a big fan of this groundbreaking film, and I’d love to see the newly-restored 147-minute version.

One of my very favorite web-sites, thedigitalbits.com, has posted a very informative interview with DVD Producer Michael Pellerin.  Mr. Pellerin has been involved with the DVD releases of The Lord of the Rings since the very beginning, and he has some fascinating comments on the recent blu-ray release of the trilogy as well as the material that Peter Jackson has been saving for the eventual ultimate blu-ray super-duper box set.  (Can’t wait for that!)

Speaking of Peter Jackson and The Lord of the RingsDecember 2012 needs to hurry up and get here already!!!

Artist Ron Miller has created a series of breathtaking images entitled the Eight Wonders of the Solar System.  Gorgeous.

I am starting to believe that Ridley Scott is actually going to make the Alien prequel that has been rumored for years.  Mr. Scott spills a lot of beans in this interview with MTV, although it was the folks at HitFix that revealed that he’s actually planning to create TWO prequels.  OK, color me cautiously intrigued.  I’m excited to see Ridley Scott return to the Alien universe for the first time since 1979, though as a rule I think prequels are stupid.

Here’s a great profile of comic book genius Jeff Smith.  Bone is one of the masterpieces of the medium (if you haven’t read it — you really must), and I’m really digging his new series Rasl.

Star Trek geeks: check out this incredible opening movie from the 2009 FedCon Science Fiction Convention.  This gorgeous 4-minute short film, created by Tobias Richter, features an action-packed sequence featuring the U.S.S. Kelvin & redesigned U.S.S. Enterprise from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film.  Pretty awesome stuff.  (Though I still hate the redesigned Enterprise…)

Speaking of Star Trek, I am giddy with excitement over the next batch of episodes in the phenomenal fan-film series Star Trek: Phase II.  (I’ve written before about Phase II here, and here is my review of one of their recent episodes, “Blood and Fire.”)  There’s a great series of teases for these upcoming episodes up at Trekmovie.com, including the revelation that these mad geniuses are planning on including Arex (the … [continued]