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BLOG YTC_:Hollyweird: Episode XXVI: Hollyweird 2, Electric Boogaloo

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In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

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The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Poss final blog photo dream framev9.5There is an old saying that bad things come in 3’s. Well this logic seems perfectly applicable in cinematic terms. In fact, ‘3’ may even be too generous. Bad films often come in pairs too. The more any successful film is continued through sequels (or the dreaded word… ‘franchised’) then the more likely it is for the follow ups to turn out poorly.

Most sequels are indeed a big number 2.
Most sequels are indeed a big number 2.

This is simply the law of diminishing returns; what was once fresh and fun becomes stale and predictable. Sequels of any number (or even that dreaded term again… ‘franchises’) are by their nature a paradoxical nightmare. The idea is to have all the familiar elements whilst also innovating in some way. So you have to try and do something the same yet also different- and all without screwing up in any major way involving the usual pitfalls of the casting, writing, direction or catering. (I may be guessing that last one).

Of course good sequels can certainly be made. Ignoring a series of films that were always intended to be a part of trilogies, you can still get cinematic gems from entirely unplanned extensions. These unexpected follow ups can, on occasion, seem to be universally praised.

(Psst…. Don’t spread it around but yes, I do have a heart. I love this series.)

Follow ups such as Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Before Sunset, Evil Dead II, Clerks II or

Follow ups such as Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Before Sunset, Evil Dead II, The Godfather Part II, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior are generally considered either as good as their first films or possibly even better than the originals.

There are even more successful sequels of course, but frankly there are so many considerably bad sequels to films than good sequels. In fact I am not even going to put forth any names of bad sequels. You can all think of some yourselves. That is how easy it is. It will take you seconds and make you curse the wasted hours of your life wasted on them all.

Is this the worst sequel ever?? Well no I have actually seen something worse...
Is this the worst sequel ever?? Well no I have actually seen something worse…

Of course any list of sequels under either category is completely subjective. Purely in terms of my thinking, films listed as ‘bad’ sequels are films that I, critics and frineds alike all generally agree to be painful attempts to capture lightening in a bottle twice.

Meanwhile ‘good’ sequels are ones that I have personally enjoyed and that have generally entered the popular consensus as worthy follow ups.

In both instances rummaging around www.imdb.com or www.rottentomatoes.com, whilst hardly being factual proof, at least generally backs up what seems to count as the best known ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sequels.

 

Too true
Too true

Ignoring both the plethora of bad sequels and those rarer, but famous good sequels, what is left to be discussed are the underrated sequels.

‘Underrated’ sequels are films that I personally believe deserve a lot more credit than they seem to get. Once again this absent credit is solely based on many online opinions and throughout everyday discussions from years of being a film geek. But if this is the world that we live in then these are the opinions that count.

To my mind, underrated sequels are films that seem to have poorer reputations than is fair. So I am now going to name a few of these films and attempt to explain just why these flicks need to be given more credibility. There is no order to these selections but they all need a voice in their corner, dammit!

Anyhoo, all justification aside this is very much a case of “Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the blog”.

 

Ghostbusters 2

ghostb

When will we get a good Ghostbusters sequel?” ask so many people online that the news of Ghostbusters 3 never ends. In fact the answer is that we already have one.

Ghostbusters 2 is not as good as the first film. No way. But you know what? Neither are 99% of any movies. Ghostbusters is absolutely amazingly well crafted to be fun for all ages. It features cool ghosts, slightly scary baddies and constant quips. Well oddly enough, so does the sequel.

Ghostbusters 2 features a Spectral Nanny played by the lil’ fella’ from Ally McBeal and a painting that literally follows your gaze around a room. I’d say these just about compete with the Ghost Librarian and Gozer’s acrobatic flips from the first film for a sense of scares and eeriness.

Eve in Portrait form, Murray is the class clown

Bill Murray is still on hand to dish out the put down, as are the people of New York City. The line delivered by a Harbor (sic) Master at The Titanic’s arrival in Ghostbusters 2 easily matches any lines from the first film. Even the fun action of the Ballrooms scene in the first film is mirrored in Ghostbusters 2 by an equally captivating courtroom scene.

Whilst it is true that the unforgettable sight of the Stay Puft Mashmallow Man from the first movie cannot be beaten, a funk-based, bopping Statue of Liberty powered by the songs of Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher & Higher’ sure deserves some praise in my world for coming as close as possible to upstaging ol’ Puff Daddy.

As a sequel, Ghostbusters 2 just plain deserves a little more respect. It may not be a stone cold classic but it’s fun. It does a really strong job of following up soehting that just was never going to be bettered. Frankly I wish more sequels were as good follow ups as this flick is. Heck, in Ghostbusters 2 bustin’ still makes me feel good.

 

SCREAM 2

Well for a movie that has its very own characters discuss how there are possibly no good sequels, I think Scream 2 does one hell of a job of putting that very notion to bed.

What made the original Scream so good? Primarily it was the original idea of mixing how jaded horror-film watching teens would react to being stalked by a real killer. But the aesthetics of the film were why it succeeded. The novel plot was combined with fun dialogue, and a fresh cast. Furthermore it was directed very tightly by horror legend, Wes Craven. Craven rings the tension when he needs to without the movie over staying its overly-precocious welcome.

Scream 2 does the same thing, but on an even bigger scale. You know, like good sequels often should do.

This is for leaving Sliders
This is for leaving Sliders

All of the original cast return in ways that make sense. The lead, Sydney, has moved onto College life. She has been traumatized by the original killings but is pushing on with her life. Once a copycat killer appears at the College, Sydney begins to lean on the other survivors of the first film for support- but not without judging them suspiciously too. Meanwhile new characters are brought in and handled just right- from Sydney’s new boyfriend to a pushy small time journalist to a creepy professor to a ex-con with a chip on his shoulder.

The casting in all of the roles is excellent, which is no surprise as even these smaller roles are played by Jerry O’Connell, David Warner, Laurie Metcalfe, Tim Ophyliant, and Liev Shrieber. All the performances verge on melodrama just as they should do. By doing this the actors enable Scream 2 to be both silly and straight at the same time.

Sorry Dave- but you know you're creepy.
Sorry Dave- but you know you’re creepy.

Meanwhile Craven nails the tension aplomb. Two scenes really stand out that horror fans often seem to unfortunately forget about. The first involves Sydney being stuck in a Police Crusier with the killer, Ghostface. Sydney has managed to crash the car to stop herself being butchered, but thanks to the locked doors she has only one way out- she has to crawl over a possibly unconscious Ghostface. Craven knows when to cut and where to keep audiences guessing whether Ghostface is really passed out or just waiting to strike.

A second, excellent moment is when a fellow survivor, Gale is being pursued by Ghostface through the Media Department on campus. She is with an ex-lover, and fellow survivor from Scream, Dewey. As the two become separated Gale ends up locked outside of a soundproof booth. There she gets to watch as Dewey is being stalked by Ghostface but because of the thick glass she cannot warn him. As Dewey becomes another of Ghostfaces victims, Gale can do nothing but watch. Her screams are silent as his blood flows…

“I know you stole a French fry”

There are other memorable moments too. The beginning is set in a cinema and sets the tone for the entire movie, whilst a Greek Theatre production stands out for its representation of everything getting amped up to verge on the theatrical.

The original Scream is absolutely inventive and enjoyable. It features a unique villain and brutal murders. Yet the only truly tense moment is the opening scene with the surprise killing of Drew Barrymore. The other moments of the original film are all still a bit of fun, but they lack the palpable tension of the scenes in Scream 2.

Once more the good casting and fun dialogue give a zap of energy to this sequel, whilst the tense direction of creepy set pieces keeps the film on edge. All of this whilst the narrative is woven into the original films back story, yet is also moved forward by returning characters. Essentially then, this is a great sequel as it delivers more of the same without seeming a retread.

This is 'the end', beautiful friend
This is ‘the end’, beautiful friend

In fact the only reason Scream 2 really falls short of the original is due to its ending. The revelation of the killers is lame, and set up the rest of the series to get weaker and weaker. (In fact, compared to the next two films in the series, Scream 2 is practically The Empire Strikes Back). This weak ending does kill Scream 2 a little since it ends a fun trip on a dull note. But to focus purely on a poor last 5 minutes is to miss a great 115 minutes beforehand.

The Critical Consensus of Scream 2 seems to be that it is certainly good, but that it is nowhere near as good as the original Scream. I disagree. I think the script is as good as the original right up until the last few moments, but in fact the whole sequel actually has better directed set pieces that work on a much larger and scarier level.

 

BATMAN RETURNS

A purr-fectly good Sequel (Sorry!)

Considered far too dark and sexual at the time of the films release, Batman Returns remains one of the Caped Crusaders best appearances. This is when Tim Burton apparently had a pair of testicles and wanted to be a pusher of Hollywood boundaries, as opposed to the ‘emo lite’ he has now peddled for over a decade.

Michelle Pfiffer seems to have walked off of an S&M film being shot in a studio next door, whilst Danny DeVito’s Penguin is genuinely freaky, having wandered in from some form of The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari remake. Both actors really nail their roles in ways suitable for this world of Burton’s. They would never work in Schumacher’s camp films nor Nolan’s gritty films, but in this version of Gotham both villains are pitch perfect. They intrigue and scare like black devils against a snowy backdrop.

Good clean fun for the whole family!
Good clean fun for the whole family!

Rounding out this is Michael Keaton, to me possibly still the definitive Caped Crusader. His Batman is silent and deadly, but you know- not a fart. He doesn’t grimace or talk like Clint Eastwood having gut ache. Keaton plays Batman as a driven Psychotic, doing the bare minimum to protect the good and punish the bad. I actually think that Christian Bale is an ideal Bruce Wayne. Bale makes the character seem humane, scarred and a believable buffoon in public. Oddly I think Keaton over eggs all of these traits as Bruce Wayne. Combine Bale’s Bruce with Keaton’s Batman and you’d have quite the Batman.

If this doesn't make you smile then you have no soul
If this doesn’t make you smile then you have no soul

Also, at the end of the day the film involves penguins with missile launchers strapped to their backs, an insane Christopher Walken and it is possibly the bleakest Christmas Blockbuster of all time. Tell me theses reasons alone are not worth the world giving some more love to Batman Returns.

 

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2

Book_of_shadows_blair_witch_two_posterOK, this is actually only here for a very slight reason. The film- as a whole- is very poor. Yet the central conceit, which is established in just the first few minutes of Book Of Shadows, is actually surprisingly solid.

If we step back in time a little, the original film of The Blair Witch Project was the first major Found Footage horror film. Other films had used similar concepts, but The Blair Witch Project was a huge phenomenon. It remains the highest grossing Independent film of all time, making approximately $250 Million just at the Box Office, and in turn ousting Easy Rider to the top spot. For anyone involved around at the time, The Blair Witch Project really was inescapable. It was spoofed or referenced on almost any Television show of the time and became almost a shorthand in itself to feature someone crying through a confession on camera.

Part of the reason for this massive success of the first Blair Witch was that it was one of the first horror films to blur the line between reality and fiction via the Internet. Fake web pages helped sell the film as being based on real events. No obvious proof was on hand that this was a fictional film being presented to the world via the fledgling ‘viral advertising’. Now of course this would be much harder as the world has become far more internet savvy. But these were simpler times kiddies and the ruse worked wonders.

Ironically all of these actors careers have disappeared
Ironically all of these actors careers have disappeared

So once the original Blair Witch has come out, blown the world away and become a pop cultural phenomenon, just how does a studio go about following it up with a sequel?

If they attempted to keep palming off the original film as ‘real’ after revealing it to be a hoax then they would seem like idiots who were insulting their audience. In contrast though, if the film makers simply present the sequel as a standard ‘supernatural slasher’ type movie then they risk alienating the same audience.

Instead I would argue that they actually made a good move. instead Lionsgate took possibly the best route they could via acknowledging the whole concept of the first film as a hoax but then pushed on with the ‘real world’ affects of such a hit film in the sequel.

And so began two decades of cheap, crappy imitators. Sigh.
And so began two decades of cheap, crappy imitators. Sigh.

 

The sequel opens with a montage of real news reports about the success of the first film. The rest of the sequel is then based around characters who go on a ‘Blair Witch’ based tour. They go because they ‘saw’ the original film and want to see the related locations. Naturally they film much of their trip, which allows for the use of more camcorder footage mixed in with the normal camerawork. Inevitably of course then it turns out the Witch is real and the film quickly becomes a poor, generic horror film of the time complete with a nu-metal soundtrack and quick-cutting scenes.

 

This is what the Blair Witch looks like if you're actually curious
This is what the Blair Witch looks like if you’re actually curious

Book Of Shadows is not actually worth defending as a whole movie. But the clever way of incorporating the first, found footage type movie whilst simultaneously moving into a more traditional type of follow up does deserve a bit of praise. Book Of Shadows is clearly not a good film. But it is an underrated sequel that is often unfairly outright derided. At least it tried to be clever in recognition of the first film, which is something that many sequels do not even attempt.

There are of course many more sequels that need some more love. But I think this is enough for now to have hopefully given some praise to the many deserving. Besides, if I ever run out of ideas for this blog I can look at a few more underrated movie sequels in order to make a sequel to this very blog. I just hope that if that happens I can learn from the above examples to stay true to this original whilst moving on in bold new ways.

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Next time I’m looking at a very specific sequel that could have meant a world with less M & M’s in it. Seriously.

Thanks for reading,