Why Disney Bought Marvel and Star Wars

With ‘The Lone Ranger’ set to come out in the middle of next week, it started a train of though about why Disney was forced to purchase both Marvel and the rights to Star Wars. They fail at producing blockbuster franchises on their own.

Now, I am sure some will point to the success of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise at the box office as a major win for Disney, and monetarily it definitely was, but as ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ showed, making money does not a good movie make, and Disney has a bit of a track record of this as of late.

In recent years, Disney has tried to take properties from many different genres of entertainment, from video games to books to old film ideas, and launch them as possible money-making franchises.  And aside from ‘Pirates’, none of them have succeeded.

The problem I am having with writing this is the fact that I have enjoyed the majority of the films that Disney has produced during that time period, from ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ to ‘Tron: Legacy’ to ‘John Carter’, so I have found some pleasure from the films and would have more than likely enjoyed additional forays into those worlds.

As a result of their inability to create a steady stream of franchise fare for the theatre, which to be honest is the backbone of the major studios in this day and age, it forced Disney to look to outside sources to bridge that gap.  With the acquisition of Pixar finally happening in 2006, Disney was able to leverage that move into a significant boost for their animated feature film department which saw a decline in the quality of films produced around the turn of millennium.

As a result of this acquisition, Disney has seen a sharp turnaround in the quality of animated features, up to and including 2010’s ‘Tangled’ which highlighted the fact that they could look at outside companies as a way to increase their overall box office successes.

What this led to was Disney looking at up and coming studios with the possibility of having success on the franchise level, and this led Disney directly to Marvel Studios in particular, and Marvel Entertainment as a whole.

Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment at the end of 2009 on the strength of 2008’s ‘Iron Man’ and 2010’s upcoming ‘Iron Man 2’ and the prospect of the paycheck that would be 2012’s ‘The Avengers’.  A previous deal allowed Paramount to have their logo on the last two Marvel films in ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Iron Man 3’ but these two movies, the first produced fully since Disney purchases Marvel, currently sit at third and fifth in box office receipts worldwide in unadjusted sales, which tells you the value of just what Disney purchased here.

As a result of this, Disney also took a long look starting in 2011 at purchasing LucasFilm from George Lucas to gain access to the profitable ‘Star Wars’ franchise.  While not securing the rights to the first six episodes of the ‘Star Wars’ saga yet, the purchase of LucasFilm enables Disney to produce films that further the saga and standalone’s that would enhance the universe, all of which will draw large crowds to the theatre.

Who knows for sure if this was a long term plan of Disney’s, to purchase Marvel and LucasFilm, or if this is a direct result of past failures to launch monetarily successful film franchises, but what it has done is create an atmosphere where Disney, in 2015, will be producing films for three of the most successful movie franchises of all time: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’, ‘The Avengers 2’ and ‘Star Wars Episode VII’.  While there is an outside chance this could be overload on general audiences, for the serious movie fan, this could be the best summer ever.

Wether any of this will mean a successful run for ‘The Lone Ranger’ in the theatre or not remains to be seen, but it does mean that Disney is hoping that they can learn how to build franchises with these acquisitions, and who knows, we may yet see a ‘Tron’ trilogy come to  fruition as well.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

World War Z

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After extensive reshoots including the entire third act and a budget that ballooned upwards of $200 million and being pushed back in the release schedule as a result, ‘World War Z’ finally hit theatres this past weekend and is a mixed bag of results.

While not necessarily a traditional zombie-horror movie but more of an action-thriller, what ‘World War Z’ did well was make an actual medical case for zombieism that makes sense in this day and age, and I thought that played really well during the film.

The one thing that has really jumped out at me this morning while writing this article is just how the reshooting of the third act impacted the film.  A couple of scenes really stand out, and once you stop to think about how those scenes happen, you can tell that the third act reshoot was rushed and the rewrite maybe not thought through all the way.

That being said, for the most part, ‘World War Z’ flows quite well and the plot is well done. Some possible changes to characters could have created a slightly more intense atmosphere which would have been a step forward, and hopefully we might see that should a logical sequel come to pass in the future.

Going into this film, I would highly recommend that audiences keep in mind that this is setup as a disaster film that uses a zombie virus as a plot device instead of making a it a horror flick that focuses on zombies eating flesh.  Much like ‘The Walking Dead’ does on TV, ‘World War Z’ uses zombies as a way to further the story instead of building the story around the zombies.

As a disaster based action thriller, ‘World War Z’ definitely does its job and deserves to be seen on the big screen, and Brad Pitt has rarely been better in recent years, as you can clearly see that he wanted to bring this film to life and did as much as he could to do so.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Monsters University

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‘Monsters University’ is the first ever prequel from Pixar and was everything that I was looking for out of a movie featuring a younger version of Mike and Sulley.  The main problem with prequels is it can take some of the suspense out of the film as you already know what is going to happen to the main characters, and while that is also true with ‘Monsters University’, Pixar managed to throw enough of a curve ball at the film to make it interesting.

The one thing that I did find to be missing from ‘Monsters University’ was the hidden adult-centered jokes that Pixar loves to do.  Now, I’m not sure if that was just because I was having too much fun during the film and I simply missed them, or if there just weren’t that many this time around, but this film still kept me in stitches throughout.

There were moments during ‘Monsters University’ that I would classify to be Pixar’s best work ever in a feature length film for the level of their animation.  I don’t want to say too much, but there are some scenes near the end of the film that are the best looking computer animation that I have ever seen.

‘Monsters University’ is definitely geared a little younger than ‘Monsters, Inc.’ was, but that is just a natural progression I believe, but one that did not take away from the overall quality of the film.  After a couple of misses in the fun column, Pixar is back in a big way with ‘Monsters University’.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

This Is the End

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After a subpar effort from ‘The Hangover Part III’, and a lack of viable options for comedy fans, ‘This Is the End’ was used as counter-programming to this weekend’s other major release, ‘Man of Steel’, and was quite productive in doing so.

Setup as an end of the world apocalypse film, starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel as heavily fictionalized versions of themselves, ‘This Is the End’ is just as funny, crass, rude and laugh out loud unbelievable as ‘The Hangover’ originally was four years ago.

‘This Is the End’ had me on the edge of my seat laughing for pretty much the entire run length, and managed to do so in a manner that actually kept me guessing as to just how the film was going to end.

Some unexpected twists and surprises along the way managed to enhance the laughs from the film and do enough to further along the “plot” of the film as well.  While the plot is not the main reason to see this movie, there is still one there and in all honesty is not anywhere near as bad as it could have been, and full credit for that goes to Rogen and his frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg, who somehow managed to actually craft a full film out of this idea.

I would also suggest that you not go into this film expecting Oscar worthy acting, as that is just not going to happen.  If you go in expecting to laugh and have a good time, and finally see a comedy actually perform, you will not be let down by ‘This Is the End’.

Also, there are actually just enough special effects and CGI moments worthy of seeing this film in theatres on the big screen, so definitely take advantage of the opportunity to do so.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Man of Steel

manofsteelAfter a massively successful ‘Batman’ trilogy and a failed ‘Green Lantern’ film, DC Comics and Warner Bros. once again turned their attention to their prized jewel, ‘Superman’.  A character that once saw tens of millions of dollars squandered on unending development during the 1990’s that wound up with the subdued ‘Superman Returns’ in 2006, it has long been thought that a successful return to Smallville and Metropolis would enable Warner Bros. to build towards a ‘Justice League’ film to counter Marvel and Disney’s ‘The Avengers’.

While that may seem quite ambitious in scope, the combination of one of the most well-known comic book characters in the world and the involvement of two of the more important people from the recently completed ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ certainly allows for this type of thinking and planning.

Now, whether or not ‘Man of Steel’ lives up to this hype and billing is completely in the eye of the beholder, but for this beholder, it certainly does the job well for a company that has struggled to make good films based on comic book characters lately.

Personally, I have always been left a little underwhelmed by Superman as a character.  Here is a superhero with a power set unlike any other character that we will see on screen, but he has never been treated in a manner that properly shows these powers.  As a result of this, I would have to say that I have, for the most part, found the characters big screen appearances to be boring, but that really cannot be said of ‘Man of Steel’.

While this may not be your Daddy’s Superman, Henry Cavill’s Kal-El fits perfectly into this film, and you can clearly see how he will be the focal point for any proposed ‘Justice League’ universe moving forward.  Cavill brought greater humanity to Clark Kent than we have seen at any other time in the past, short of the TV series ‘Smallville’, and this works to the benefit of the film as a whole.

I also really enjoyed Michael Shannon as Kryptonian General Zod.  While not necessarily in the same mold as Terrence Stamp’s Zod from the original two ‘Superman’ films, Shannon brought plenty of on-screen presence to his character to balance out Cavill’s Superman.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El stole the opening of the film for me as well.  In stark contrast to Marlon Brando from 1978’s ‘Superman’, you can tell that Crowe was proud to be Superman’s father and I will say this, I would watch a Jor-El on Krypton two-hour film without a moments hesitation.

The easiest way to explain ‘Man of Steel’ is that if you are a fan of Superman and his mythos and his “all-American values” you may not enjoy this film, but if you are a neutral when it comes to DC and this character, you should for the most part enjoy this film.

Regardless of whether you are a fan or not, you owe it to yourself to see this film on the big screen, exactly the way it was meant to be seen.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Summer Blockbuster Season – June Edition

May of 2013 has ended up setting a record for the opening month to the Summer Blockbuster season with the best May on record and it will be up to a couple of movies to keep that trend going in June of this year.  While June is traditionally a month for Memorial Day weekend openers to continue their run and Independence Day avoiders to get a week in at the end of the month, this year could be different with Warner Bros. Superman reboot right smack in the middle of the month.

This is the End – June 12

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With ‘The Hangover Part III’ not being a total success at the box office and the floppish nature of ‘The Internship’, audiences could be clamouring for an R rated comedy by the time ‘This Is the End’ is released on the 12th of June, which could mean an opportunity to surprise for this film.

Man of Steel – June 14

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The newest attempt by Warner Bros. to launch a successful DC Comics property other than ‘Batman’ into theatres, the ‘Superman’ reboot ‘Man of Steel’ should be the box office king in June.  The fear of opening a week before ‘Man of Steel’ forced ‘After Earth’ to move up a week to opening on May 31st, a move that still will not generate a positive box office buzz, but such is the power of the Last Son of Krypton.

World War Z – June 21

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Based on the successful novel by Max Brooks, ‘World War Z’ looks to capitalize on the recent run of zombies in pop culture.  However, this film itself has been beset by budget and filming issues that forced it to be pushed back until the 21st of June, to come out a week after ‘Man of Steel’ and the same weekend as Pixar’s ‘Monsters University’.

Monsters University – June 21

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Pixar’s first ever prequel film, ‘Monsters University’ will tell the story of how ‘Monsters, Inc.’ main characters Mike and Sully first became friends.  ‘Monsters, Inc.’ brought in $255 million back in 2001 and the new film is expected to go clear of that this time around as well.  A somewhat below par animated movie season so far this year should bode well for this film and expect ‘Monsters University’ to become yet another huge hit for Pixar.

White House Down – June 28

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The last potential hit of June is the second White House terrorist film of the year, ‘White House Down’.  Following on the heals of February’s ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, this film starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx has the potential to be a surprise hit this summer.