Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Horror Film Connoisseur Premieres Tomorrow!

Hey boys and girls, tomorrow October begins, and you know what that means! It’s Halloween month! That’s right, I am a Halloween nut, I go all out on this very special time of year, and on this blog, its going to be no different! So, through out this whole month the blog will be changing names from The Film Connoisseur to The HORROR Film Connoisseur! Sounds catchy dont it?

So, during this whole month everything that will be posted, every review, picture, article, anything…will be horror related! Expect lots of horror related goodness all through out! So be on the look out, check up on the blog often, you just might find something you like. There’s lots of good stuff is in the works for you guys and gals so don’t miss it! Starting tomorrow!

Kant Miss Kung Fu Klassics: Five Element Ninjas (1982)

Title: Five Element Ninjas

Director: Chang Cheh


Five Element Ninjas is a fast paced and extremely entertaining Kung Fu film from famed Chinese director Chang Cheh. It is a film filled with revenge, betrayal, ninjas, and non stop kung fu action! It tells the tale of two Kung Fu schools who are battling to see who is the best of the two. Both schools bring their best martial artist to duel with each other, but only one will emerge as victorious, the best. The desire to be the best martial arts school in the land prompts one of the schools to cheat and so the end up relying on the aid of the notorious “Five Element Formation”, a group of ninjas that is segmented into five groups, each of the ninja groups attacks by using five elements which include: Fire, Water, Gold, Earth and Wood. Will the good guys have what it takes to go up against the Five Element Ninjas?

We're the good guys 'cause we're dressed in white!

Without a doubt, this one is one of my favorite Chang Cheh movies so far. It’s filled with some of the best Kung Fu fights you are going to see on any movie. These actors/martial artists are so skilled and have such speed! These guys are so good you will probably be tempted to hit that replay button to see some of the moves they pull off, I know I did! And the film has such a diverse use of weaponry! This is one of those films where each fight uses a different kind of weapon, each amusing in its own way. There’s giant axes, all sorts of different swords, poles, ninja stars, you name it, you’ll see it on this film. The first ten minutes of the film starts with a tournament between two schools, each school brings their best fighters forward against each other which makes for some really interesting fights. And all this awesomeness happens without the Ninjas even being introduced yet! By the way, one of the most enjoyable aspects for me on this one where the ninjas! You want to see the coolest ninjas on any film? Check this movie out! There’s a whole school of these guys! Stealthy, deadly and with a huge assortment of weapons! I love how a whole bunch of them will jump out of nowhere without making a single sound! These guys will whip out weapons you’ve never seen on any other movie before. So be on the look out for those.

The story though simple, grabs you. The good guys’ teacher is poisoned with a venom that will incapacitate him for three whole months. So he will not be able to use his Kung Fu skills to fight in the schools name, and so his pupils are forced to go up against the other school that is defying them. On their way to the duel a trap is set for them to battle against the Five Element Ninjas. The good guys are not familiar with the techniques used by the FiveE Element Ninjas, so it’s a total massacre, with the good guys getting some of their best fighters literally slaughtered! There is this one gruesome fight where the earth ninjas have knives popping out from the ground, injuring the good guys feet and legs. These knives rip the flesh off of the good guys legs, and he fights as chunks of flesh are hanging out of his legs! But he gives a good fight even though he is practically stepping on his own innards as he fights! Gruesome! Cringe inducing, and also very Chang Cheh! This director loved bloody action on his films! His heroes really suffer on his films.

Hey! Thats four against one! No fair!

Speaking of Chang Cheh as a director, this movie has a lot of elements that you can come to expect from a Chang Cheh/Kung Fu movie. Rivaling schools, Kung Fu fantasy elements, heroes who have to go and train in order to be able to face their enemy (this one being the most reoccurring of all) and finally, I noticed something that happens a lot in Chang Cheh movies: the female is the source of all evil. It’s something that he seems to do in many of his films, where the women are not to be trusted at all. They are always backstabbers somehow (sometimes even literally backstabbers! On this film a female ninja infiltrates the good guys school to get to know their secrets and plans, stirring the roosters nest as they say. Her intrusion into the school is one of the more interesting moments of the film, specially considering what happens because of it. I guess Chang Chech didn’t have the best relationships in the world and this somehow mirrored onto his movies? I don’t know, but the case is he does this a lot on his films! Even in The One Armed Swordsman a female is the one responsible for making the titular character loose an entire arm!

Never trust a female in a Chang Cheh film!

The film is not without its shortcomings though. This is one of the cheesiest of the Chang Cheh films I’ve seen. The Five Element Ninjas sometimes come off as funny, they each dress in the color of their element, the wood ones wear brown garments, the gold ones wear gold, the water ones wear blue and so forth. The wood ninjas were the silliest of all because the hid behind trees and tried to camouflage themselves as the tree, they looked kind of silly. The water ninjas were kind of funny too because all they did was swim around the water, I mean, couldn’t the good guys see them? I didn’t enjoy the use of reverse photography on some of the shots involving the water ninjas emerging from the water. But whatever, this is a Kung Fu fantasy, people float above water, ninjas travel through the earth, disappear, these guys appear to have all sorts of mystical powers, which of course is part of the charm of these movies! One other negative point for me is that to me, of all of Chang Cheh movies, this is the one where you can notice that the exteriors are all sets, with fake skies and clouds. I’ve never really loved this about these movies, but on this one is more evident. Still, the movie is so entertaining that I simply ignored this. Modern Kung Fu films do not suffer from this ailment thanks to the aid of CGI.

But anyhows, once the good guys train to overcome the Five Element Ninjas its payback time and we get treated to the last half of the film which is basically the good guys confronting the Five Element Ninjas yet again, only this time, they are ready for them! It is interesting to see them overcome the Five Elements. This is a great Kung Fu Fantasy and I recommend it as one of the most entertaining and fun ones I have seen to date.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Five Element Ninjas (Shaw Brothers)Five Element Ninjas

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kant Miss Kung Fu Klassics: Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)

Title: Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)

Director: Jimmy Wang Yu


I find it interesting that Master of the Flying Guillotine, one of the most memorable Kung Fu movies ever made, was not produced by the famous Shaw Brothers Studios but by an independent studio called First Films. I guess, like many of the Kung Fu heroes in these movies, the underdog ended up being better then the “master” at least in this case.

If you ever see this guy in the to the hills!

Master of the Flying Guillotine tells the story of a Monk out for revenge. This Monk, who is also a Master at using the deadly Flying Guillotine, has just received a message letting him know that two of his best pupils have just been killed by the famous One Armed Boxer. On the message, the fallen pupils ask their master to avenge their death, a request he is very willing to comply with. Problem is, the Master of the Flying Guillotine is a blind man (a quite deadly blind man I might add) so since he can’t identify any one armed men visually, he plans to go around town killing every one armed man that he hears about during his search. The One Armed Boxer is known across the land for his excellent martial arts skills, but will he be ready for when the Master of the Flying Guillotine finds him? It will be titanic duel of master vs. master! To the death!

The story behind this film is quite interesting for various reasons. One of them is that since this film was an independent production, the original film prints were not maintained in the best way possible, as a result, the few prints that have survived across time are not in the best conditions. A similar situation happened with Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis (1927). Metropolis is a film that you never feel you are watching in its complete form, because new reels of the film keep popping up every few decades. Sometimes, a private collector will have an old print of the film that has scenes that no else has seen for decades, and so, a new version of the film pops up with new scenes, making for a more complete experience. Recently a couple of more minutes of Metropolis were found and added, and now we have a more complete edition of the film available. But I'm pretty sure even this "Complete Metropolis" version that is coming out is missing some scenes as well. Same type of situation occurred with Master of the Flying Guillotine. The version that is currently available is made up of various different film prints. The resulting film varies in quality, but is certainly the most complete version of the film you are apt to see. The film looks pristine and perfect in certain moments, while suddenly the film stock might change color and look horrible. Sometimes the film is dubbed, sometimes it will be spoken in Mandarin with English subtitles. Still, even with these imperfections in film quality, the dvd that is available from Patfhfinder Pictures (the one I saw) is in good enough quality. Most of the film looks great, with the exception of a few scenes where the color looks like it’s going to fade away. But this does not happen often, you should be able to enjoy the film just fine.

He might not see you, but he can certainly hear you!

Another thing that makes this films story interesting is that Jimmy Wang Yu directed it. Jimmy Wang Yu is an actor who made a couple of films with the Shaw Brothers, most notably; I remember him from the One Armed Swordsman (1967) and Return of the One Armed Swordsman (1969). Jimmy Wang Yu sort of branched out on his own and decided to make his own films. On this one he took over directing and acting duties at the same time. The result is this amazing classic we are talking about today. Jimmy Wang Yu made some great films with the Shaw Brothers, but I’m actually glad he went out and did his own thing, and I’m glad to see that the result was so good. In my opinion this film is better then some Shaw Brothers films in a couple of ways. One of them being that when they needed to shoot a fight scene that took place in an exterior, they went out to a real location and shot the scene in real exteriors instead of shooting the whole film in fake, cramped looking sets. One problem I always have with some of the Shaw Brothers films (legendary as they may be) is that you can always tell that they were shot inside of a studio because the sky and the clouds look so fake. The way some of the scenes are lighted on the Shaw Brothers productions, you just know they are inside of a studio. This is not the case with Master of the Flying Guillotine. If a scene took place in an exterior, they shot in a real exterior, on location. I loved that about this film because it gives it an extra level of realism, this was something that was missing from many Shaw Brothers films.

Best part of this film for me though is the villain. He is a monk that works for the Ching Dynasty, killing rebels. Which is another interesting aspect of the film, its sort of the rebels vs. the oppressive evil government type of deal, which by the way is a reoccurring theme on these old Kung Fu movies. The Monk is an expert at using the Flying Guillotine a weapon that has a guillotine attached to a chain. He hurls it through the air, the guillotine lands on your head, he yanks the chain and then it’s off with your head! The character is so effective, that it kind of freaks you out every time he appears. He is so deadly that you kind of feel as if death has just walked into a scene whenever he appears. To top things off, the guy is blind! But that doesn’t stop him from being just as deadly as if he wasn’t. I think that what helped the film the most though was its soundtrack. It’s a very techno thing, with beats and sounds, it kind of felt like a John Carpenter film at times. Every time the monk appears, you hear these shrieks and sounds and beats that makes his whole appearance feel like something out of a horror movie for me. The films soundtrack was very effective in that way. The hero of the film, the One Armed Boxer is also a great character. He uses his intellect and martial arts ability to stop the villain, plus, he is awesome because he gets to kick ass with just one arm! He has that amazing punch that will knock the hell out of anybody, when he displays it, he should get you clapping and cheering with glee.

The One Armed Boxer, also known as Jimmy Wang Yu, the films director.

Master of the Flying Guillotine is an interesting kind of film because it uses two characters that has appeared on previous films on their own and united them in one film. That’s right, this film is kind of similar to Alien vs. Predator (2004) or Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) in that way. Actually, the films original title is Master of the Flying Guillotine Vs. The One Armed Boxer. It took the Master of the Flying Guillotine, a character who had previously appeared on a film called The Flying Guillotine (1975) and the One Armed Boxer from a film of the same name and united them. So it’s gimmicky in that way, but at the same time, it’s also a really well made film. It wasn’t just a film riding on a gimmick; Jimmy Wang Yu actually set out to make a great Kung Fu film.

This movie has that classical Kung Fu storyline where various martial arts schools are called to participate in a tournament, to prove which one is the best. A part of the film completely takes part in the tournament, with these outlandish characters doing their own special kind of Kung Fu. These scenes are a highlight of the film. One Indian contender stretches out his arms and legs during a fight! Another one fights like a monkey! We get a great variety of fighters in this part of the film. It also has another element we see a lot in Kung Fu movies: the main character is crippled somehow. Don’t know why they loved doing this on their films, but a lot of these Kung Fu movies make their main character crippled or handicapped somehow. For examples of this check out films like Chang Cheh’s The Crippled Avengers (1978) where the five main characters are crippled in five different ways. The many One Armed Swordsman or One Armed Boxer movies are also good examples of these types of films, or the Zatoichi films where the main character is a blind swordsman. On Master of the Flying Guillotine, both of the main characters are crippled, The Monk is blind and The Swordsman is missing an arm. Interesting thing about these films is that the characters always turn their disability into their advantage, and suddenly they are that much more powerful because they learned to overcome their handicap. Some American films have also used this plot device in films like the failed comic book franchise Daredevil (2003) and Blind Fury (1989) with Rutger Hauer playing a blind swordsman.

Now you know where all those characters from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat came from!

This is an awesome movie that has this deadly, dreadful, serious aura to it. Its main villain oozes of evil and death! I know I had already recommended it in my Top Ten Kung Fu Movies You Should See Before You Die blog post a while back, but I figured I’d never given it a proper review, so I hope you guys enjoyed my take on it. There is a whole bunch of these films with the Flying Guillotine theme, I’m going to try and find them and review them. Look forward to a couple more Kung Fu Klassics being reviewed in the next couple of days; I am on a Kung Fu Kick and I’m enjoying the hell out of it! Stay tuned!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Master of the Flying GuillotineMaster of the Flying GuillotineThe 5 Deadly Venoms

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Franchises that Never Made It (And Why)

Let's face it, sometimes a film franchise just wont fly. Sometimes, for whatever the reason, audiences will simply not go see a film that Hollywood hopes will become the next big thing. But fear not!  This does not stop the big honchos in Hollywood from salivating at the opportunity to start up the next movie franchise. I mean, what studio wouldn’t want to be the ones responsible for making the next Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Spider-Man? Of course, the main reason they are interested in them is to make millions upon millions of dollars through merchandising and endless and sometimes completely half assed, pointless sequels.

Sometimes Hollywood just wont give up!

The problem with franchises is that once they get you with a decent first entry they got you for good. After that, they can fool you into seeing as many sequels as they can pump out, cause no matter if they are good or not, they know your curiosity is going to get the best of you. As a result we get films like Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Transformers 2 (2007). These were terrible movies that made hundreds of millions of dollars! But this can only last for so long before audiences collectively decide to stop following a franchise.

Sometimes Hollywood is even responsible for killing their own franchise. Batman and Robin (1997) comes to mind. This doesn’t present a big worry for them because then they can have an excuse to reboot the whole thing and start all over again! Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) comes to mind. Yes my friends, franchises are a vicious circle. Some franchises are good all the way through and continue for decades, like Star Wars for example. Others die after its first, second or third sequel.

Franchise Suicide! Batman and Robin (1997)

This doesn’t stop Hollywood from trying again and again. Sometimes they work; sometimes they never go past the first film. There are many reasons for the failing of a franchise, but most of the time a franchise fails to take off because the first film is just not a good film. Sometimes audiences simply fail to connect with the film, the timing of the release is all wrong or the film is released against a bigger picture that swallows up its audience. Whatever the reasons may be, Hollywood continues to try! Sometimes Hollywood will try and re-boot a franchise over and over again, for example: Ang Lee's Hulk (2003) didnt exactly thrill audiences, so they decided to wait a couple of years and try again with Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk (2008). Whatever the case may be with franchises, its fun to look upon Hollywood’s failures isn’t it? So let’s do just that! I present to you, my dear readers, a list of failed franchises and the reasons why they failed.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

What's it about? Like the Karate Kid, this one is about an Asian guy and all around Martial Arts Expert who whips a hamburger eating American into a fully functional killing machine. Fred Ward plays the American cop who’s life is taken away from him in an ‘accident’. Of course the accident is a fake, you see he has been chosen (by force) to become a part of a secret organization called CURE. A private organization committed to upholding the law and the constitution of the United States, making sure things get done right. But in order for Remo to become a killing machine he is trained by Chu, an old martial arts expert who is something like Mr. Miyagi, only with far more attitude! This movie plays out like a James Bond movie laced with Kung Fu fantasy elements.

Why did it fail? I think it’s because the source material on which this film was based on - a series of novels called ‘The Destroyer’- weren’t that well known. As a result, not many people knew what to expect from this movie. Also, I guess Fred Ward wasn’t exactly a big box office draw.

Did it deserve to fail? Not in my book! It was actually a pretty fun movie. Remo turns into a secret agent, who knows all sorts of martial arts techniques. The fun part comes from watching Chu beat Remo into shape. Slowly but surely Remo begins to acquire these amazing abilities like floating off the ground and piercing things with his finger tips! The movie is like James Bond but with a bit of Kung Fu like fantasy infused into it. And it had some decent action set pieces like the one where Remo chases some bad guys through the statue of liberty as it was being reconstructed in the mid 80’s.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

What's it about? Buckaroo Banzai, brain surgeon, scientist, rock star has just perfected a machine that can travel through solid matter and into other dimensions! It’s called the ' Oscillation Overthruster'. Problem is that Lord John Whorfin -a rival scientist- wants the oscillation overthruster for himself! Unfortuantely, Lord John Whorfin has been possessed by an alien being from planet 10! And he wants the dimension traveling machine so that the aliens can take over earth! Who’s to stop them? Buckaroo Banzai and his gang of misfits that’s who!

Why did it fail? I think its because the film resulted too confusing for audiences. That synopsis I typed up above is a condensed version of the film, that I had to watch on various occasions to fully grasp. It’s one of those movies that if you blink you’ll loose vital information and get lost. Its an intelligent film, very well written, its like a bunch of intelligent geeks wrote a sci-fi comedy. I personally love its puzzle like structure, I love that it doesn’t spell things out for me and that it’s a challenge to watch. Also, I love how zany and off the wall it is! I mean, Lectroids from Planet 10? What the --?

Did it deserve to fail? I don’t think so. Unfortunately, audiences failed to connect with it. I guess its one of those movies that were aimed at a small target audiences, and even those guys failed to catch it. Thankfully after the passage of time, it’s found its cult audience. It promised us a sequel called: Buckaroo Banzai vs. The World Crime League. Unfortunately, this movie was such a box office bomb that it brought the studio that produced it into bankruptcy.

Flash Gordon (1980)

What's it about? Ming the Merciless (Ruler of the Universe) is bored, so he decides to destroy a planet for amusement. Unfortunately, this planet is earth! He sends earthquakes, storms and hail storms our way! He even destroys our moon! Its not long before meteorites start falling on our planet destroying everything in their path! Running away from the destruction Flash Gordon (Quarterback for the New York Jets) and Dale Arden end up getting hijacked by Prof. Zarkov’s! He threatens to shoot them if they don’t accompany him on his spaceship to Planet Mongo so they can stop Ming The Merciless from destroying earth.

Why did it Fail? I think this films colossal failure can be attributed to Star Wars coming out in 1975. Star Wars was a movie made five years before this one, yet Star Wars had better special effects then Flash Gordon. What audiences failed to notice was that Flash Gordon was paying homage to the old serials that it was based on, to the old pulpy sci-fi novels. In other words, it was purposely made out to look campy. Unfortunately audiences took this the wrong way, Star Wars had spoiled them. Actors were signed for more sequels, but this film didn’t even make its 35 million budget back so those sequels never came to be. Also, the picture was plagued with many woes. The project changed from directors about eight times! At one point Federico Fellini was considered for director! Arnold Schwarznegger almost ended up being Flash Gordon, but his Austrian accent got in the way. Hell, even Kurt Russell auditioned for the role. The director himself said that this was the most expensive movie to ever be improvised! Another thing is that the Flash Gordon character is a pretty old one, going as far back as the 1930’s, young audiences probably had a hard time relating to it which often times spells certain doom for any project.

Did it deserve to fail? Hell no! I love the look and feel of the whole movie. It perfectly captured what Flash Gordon is supposed to be. This wasn’t an update, this wasn’t a re-imaging, this was Flash Gordon the way he had always been! Cheesy, corny, campy. And I love it precisely for that! Plus the whole film was scored by one of the best rock bands in the universe: QUEEN. Another plus the film had was having Max Von Sydow playing Ming the Merciless! He eats up the screen every time he appears and oozes pure evil!

With Jennifer Conelly looking the way she does in it, The Rocketeer should have made kajillions!
The Rocketeer (1991)

What was it about? During 1930’s Hollywood a young pilot named Cliff Seacord stumbles upon a top secret military jet pack! Once he straps it on and gives it a test flight, he finds it fun to use! What an invention!Unfortunately Nazi’s are after the jet pack too! And that means that now they are after Cliff as well! Will the nazi's ever get their hands on the nifty jet pack and build an army of flying soldiers? Or will Cliff spoil their plans? 

Why did it fail? One of various reasons was a little film called Terminator 2: Judgement Day. James Cameron’s monster sci-fi actioneer opened on the same day and we all know how that ground breaking action film monopolized the box office that year! The Rocketeer made its money back, but just barely. The less then stellar box office doomed any future films.

Did it deserve to fail? No it didn’t, this was a very well made film with excellent production values a fun story and great cast! I saw it at the movie theater and loved it. The Rocketeer was based on a graphic novel by artist Dave Stevens. Stevens had done a new graphic novel on which the sequel was going to be based on called The Rocketeer: Cliff’s New York Adventure, unfortunately, it never came to be.

Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (1993)

What was it about? Based on one of the most popular video games ever Super Mario Bros: The Movie tells the story of Luigi and Mario, two brothers who work as plumbers in New York City. One day, while working they fall into a dimensional door that takes them into an alternate version of New York City! On this alternate version there is an evil dictator who is planning to come to earth and use his de-evolution guns to turn all humans into monkeys so he can take over earth! Can Mario and Luigi stop this mad man?

Why did it fail? To put it bluntly, the film is just bad. It barely resembles the video game. One would expect that a film based on one of the most popular video games ever would be a sure fire hit, but I guess not. This film cost 42 million dollars and made back only about 20 million, so I guess its one of those spectacular cinematic bombs, so huge that it will be remembered for all eternity. One thing does distinguish it though; it was the first film to be based on a video game! Maybe people were not ready for that? Maybe the movie was just plain awful. One of the biggest reasons for the epic failing of this movie was the fact that the directors (Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel) wanted a more adult film, while the studio wanted something more kid friendly, this usually spells doom for any film suffering from this problem. Just look at Monster Squad and Howard the Duck. When a studio doesn’t know who to market the film towards (kids or adults?) the results can be catastrophic.

Did it deserve to fail? Sure did. This movie was so wrong on so many levels. Reportedly, rewrites were constantly being made during shooting! John Leguizamo and Bob Hopkins noticed the film was going badly, so they were constantly getting drunk to make the best of the situation. John Lequizamo broke Bob Hoskins finger by mistake, so Hoskins had to use a cast that was colored pink through out a huge part of the shoot. This movie was so hated by gamers, that even Nintendo Power (the official Nintendo Magazine) was constantly bad mouthing it. I guess bottom line is, gamers were not happy with the film, so they ignored it.

The Phantom (1996)

What was it about? The Phantom, the purple suit avenger (that’s the name I give him) has to stop a villain from acquiring these four magic skulls (The Skulls of Touganda) before Indiana Jones gets his hands on them, just kidding. These four magical skulls are a doomsday weapon that can give its owner power that can lead to world domination! The Phantom must stop the villain Xander Drax (played by Treat Williams) from obtaining it. At the same time, The Phantom is seeking revenge from the pirates who cause his fathers’ death.

Why did it fail? Budget for this film was 45 million. Sadly, it only made little over 17 million back. This movie suffered the same fate as other period piece/comic book pulp adaptations like The Rocketeer (1993) and The Shadow (1994). My take on this is that modern audiences don’t respond well to old superheroes, they like modern ones. Kids didn’t know who the hell The Phantom was, or that he was a superhero who appeared in comic strips during the late 1930’s, so they disconnect. At the same time, the audience that did know about The Phantom were either too old to go the movies, or dead. Yup, this films target audience was long gone when the movie finally got made. Billy Zane had signed for two movies that never came.

Did it deserve to fail? Well, kind of. I thought it was pretty boring. To top things off, it copies many moments from the Indiana Jones films! Same as The Rocketeer and The Shadow, The Phantom failed to connect with audiences because it’s such an old character, modern audiences were not informed of this old time superhero. Which is why nowadays, before they make a movie of a character that isn’t that well known, they flood the market with as many books, novelizations and graphic novels in order to inform audiences of the film. Lesson learned by the big studios from these three films? Inform the audience before hand! This way at least they’ll have an idea of what the film is about, and the film wont flop. Yet, not all is gloom and doom for The Phantom. The film eventually found its audience on VHS and DVD, and strong sales got Paramount talking sequel, with Zane returning as The Phantom. The sequel was to be called The Phantom Legacy. It still hasn’t been made, but we did get a SyFy Channel TV film that’s was just released on dvd “Reimagined and Reloaded” but I wouldn’t put any hopes on it being any good.

Dungeons and Dragons (2000)

What’s it about? A would be tyrant named Mage Profion is trying to bring down Good Queen Savina by trying to make it look like she is unfit to rule. Mage Profion’s true plan is to de-thrown Savina and take over the kingdom of Izmer. In order to do this Profion must first find the mystical Rod of Savrille, a rod that has the power to control the race of Red Dragons, the most powerful Dragons in existense. Enter Ridley Freeborn (get it Free-born?) and Snails, two thieves that Savina employs in order to find the mystical rod before Profion gains control over it.

Why did it fail? Plain and simple: It was a terrible movie! Dungeons and Dragons fans must have been ripping out their eyes with every stupid joke that Marlon Wayans character said! But Wayans is not the only actor to blame; both Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch were responsible for lots of bad acting on their own. But let’s face it, all these actors have been in better films and done a great job, so who is really to blame here? The script! And also: the director! Courtney Solomon had never made a film before this one. Up to this point, he’d been a producer, but never a director, and he blames his own inexperience in filmmaking for the bad results. I had my hopes up for this one, when I finally got to see it in theaters; sadly with each passing frame of film I dove into a pit of despair. Why? Because I know Dungeons and Dragons had potential to be something great, but the power to make this film fell on the wrong hands, and they did a rush job with the wrong tone and feel.

Did it deserve to fail? Well, yeah. It was a bad movie. Bad movies deserve to fail! Still, despite mediocre box office returns, the movie made enough cash to warrant a straight to DVD sequel entitled Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. Don’t ask me about it because I never bothered with it. I’m still waiting for a good Dungeons and Dragons movie that takes itself seriously and has no necessity to add a comedic side-kick.

Serenity (2005)

What’s it about? The government is conditioning powerful psychics to use them for their purposes. One of these powerful psychichs is Rain, a young girl with incredible psychic abilities! But she is there against her will, and so her brother Simon rescues her from the clutches of the government and escapes with her! Now, they are outlaws, and the Alliance is after them! Unbeknownst to Rain, she holds a terrible government secret inside her subconscious that could expose The Alliance as the ones responsible for creating a race of deadly beings known as The Reavers. Will The Alliance ever get a hold of Rain?

Why did it fail? Well, the main reason is because the film was based on a cancelled television show. Word gets out that the film is based on a show that didn’t even get to lift off on TV and you do the math. Still, like many of the films on this list, the fact that this movie failed to make big bucks at the box office does not mean that it was a bad film at all!

Did it deserve to fail? No way! This film is a very enjoyable and well written sci-fi film! It plays out like a sci-fi western! The dialog is very witty and snappy; it was a fun ride in my book. And it had something to say! This films failure came as a surprise to everyone because sneak previews in selected theaters proved ultra successful, the internet buzz on the film was huge and expectation for the film was high. Unfortunately the film opened in second place on its opening, making only 10 million on its first weekend. It went on to make less then its budget (39 million) and was a box office failure. Still, it made its money back on DVD sales and it won many awards all over the place, which speaks volumes about the films quality. Fans of the series and the film have hopes that a sequel will come due to strong DVD sales, unfortunately, though Josh Whedon would love to do another one, he is realistic in saying that there are no plans as of yet for a sequel.

Eragon (2006)

What's it about? Evil King Galbatorix rules the land of Alagaesia with an Iron First! But when a farm boy discovers a dragons egg, and the dragon is born, he soon learns that he has a telepathic connection with the dragon and learns to talk to it! He learns to ride it! It doesn’t take very long before Eragon becomes the dragon rider that prophecies have long foretold about! Eragon is the chosen one to liberate his people from the oppression of evil King Galbatorix.

Why did it fail? Well basically this film was accused of the same thing that Ron Howard’s Willow (1988) was accused of: being a Star Wars clone. Similarities abound, Eragon is a farm boy (same as Luke Skywalker) he has to be trained to learn to harness his powers (just like Luke) so that he can overthrow an evil empire. If tt all sounds to damn familiar, it’s because it’s the plot for Star Wars, reworked to include Dragons. Worst part is that according to fans of the books, the film doesn’t really resemble the book that it’s based on. Audiences and fans did not embrace it. Here is a weird thing about the world of filmmaking: a film may make more than its budget at the box office, but if it doesn’t make as much as the studio expected, then it’s considered a failure, lackluster or mediocre. Eragon was a disappointment to the studios on this regard, even though it made a lot of cash across the world. As a result, we haven’t seen a sequel.

Did it deserve to fail? I don’t know really, I mean, I’ve seen worse movies then Eragon. The effects were entertaining and well achieved. So what if it had similarities with Star Wars? Willow had them and I love Willow! Unfortunately, Eragon was one of the worst reviewed films of 2006. Films sometimes get better with each sequel, and had another film been made, perhaps it would have been better than this one. Hell, there’s a couple more books in this series of novels that can still be adapted. If the next film were to stick closer to the books, then perhaps things could look better for this would be franchise. Unfortunately Eragon was not allowed to grow past its first film. Studios can be very unforgiving when it comes to their millions.

City of Ember (2008)

What’s it about? A group of scientist decide to conduct an experiment by creating and underground city and having a group of people live there for 200 years without communication to the outside world. Just to see what would happen. Unfortunately, time passes and they forget that they have to re-emerge after 200 years. Now the underground City of Ember is running out of power and food and so it is up to two young kids Doon and Lina to find the way out of the underground city and lead its people to freedom.

Why did it fail? I think the main reason for failure was because it was downright boring. I mean, I loved the films themes! A society forgotten and living in darkness has to be taught by a younger generation that there is more then this crippling, old world. That there is something better if we only go and look for it! It’s all symbolic of how sometimes we get so used to doing things one way, living a certain way, that we fail to realize that things could be better, different and that we don’t have to keep living the same old way. Especially if its not working as well as we had hoped. That’s an awesome theme, unfortunately the way the film unfolds is so boring, not much in the way of action or adventure happens. Sadly, City of Embers is a very dull affair, and that my friend is one of the worst things that a movie can be.

Did it deserve to fail? Even though I loved the themes, the film was so dull that yeah, in my book, it did deserve to fail. I don’t hate the film, I appreciate what its saying, I just wish it had been more exciting. The rights to the second book were optioned, but this being a box office bomb (it cost 55 million and only made back close to 8million) well; I guess we’ll never see a film made out of the second novel in the series: The People of Sparks.

Masters of the Universe (1987)

What’s it about? Skeletor has broken into and taken over Castle Greyskull! He has taken Sorceress captive and holds all of Eternia in fear! Soon, “the great eye” of Castle Greyskull will open and all the powers of the universe will be bestowed upon Skeletor! Then, he will truly be Master of the Universe! He-Man confronts Skeletor and his army but is overpowered. So he uses a dimensional key to randomly open a portal to anywhere! As it turns out, he ends up traveling to Planet Earth and taking the dimensional key with him. Skeletor wants that key, because as he puts it “I must posses all or I posses nothing!” Also, he wants to capture He-Man and have him kneel before him as he becomes Master of the Universe. Will He-Man be able to stop this mad man from acquiring so much power?

Why did it fail? I honestly don’t know! I mean, this is a film that is based no one of Mattel’s most successful toy lines from the 1980’s. It has great special effects and action galore! I’m guessing the reason why this one failed was because they changed a lot of things from the cartoon. Various characters were missing or replaced with other characters. We never got to see Orko, Prince Adam, Battle Cat, King Rancor, to name but a few. Another thing that must have rubbed fans the wrong way was that most of the film takes place on Earth as opposed to taking place in Eternia, I mean, that’s what most fans of the Master of the Universe want to see, freaking Eternia! Instead, Eternia serves only as book ends to the film. To top things off, most of the scenes that take place in Eternia all take place inside of Castle Greyskull. All this because of Cannon Films decision to have the film take place on earth in order to bring the budget down. I think this movie was too epic for its budget. But hey, I think they got away with a great looking film for 17 million dollars. Also, I’m thinking not enough promotion was given to the film due to Cannons money troubles.

Did it deserve to fail? Not in my book. Why? Well, for the most part I’m of the mind that Dolph Lungdren actually fit the part perfectly, he played a good He-Man despite the fact that he thinks it was “as low as he could go as an actor”. The film had Frank Langella playing Skeletor, and even though he is under tons of make-up, he eats up the screen whenever he appears! The special effects were entertaining and well achieved. It’s a fun movie in my book. Despite we being promised a sequel in the end credits of the film, when Skeletor re-emerges from the water and says “I’ll be back!” we never did get to see a sequel. The studio that produced this movie (Cannon) was going through major money troubles, and canceled the sequel even though sets had been built for it. Instead they used the sets to shoot the low budget science fiction film Cyborg (1989). A re-boot of this franchise has been trying to take off in the past few years, the most recent being with producer Joel Silver showing interest in getting the project of the ground. Let’s see what happens, I’d love to see another Masters of the Universe film!

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

What’s it about? Klaus, Violet and Sunny are three kids who have just lost both of their parents in a terrible fire. The only relative that can take care of them is Count Olaf, and Count Olaf hates these kids! His only interest is in taking them in so he can kill them and keep the family fortune for himself! Will Violet, Klaus and Sunny ever know the real reason for their parents death? Will Count Olaf achieve his goal of acquiring the family fortune?

Why did it fail? I don’t know, with the popularity of the Harry Potter books, I would have expected for studios to jump a the chance of making more of these films. I mean, you might blame the fact that this isn’t an action/adventure film, but in this case its entertaining from a visual perspective. I simply love LOOKING at this film. I think if I had to blame something for this movie not getting more sequels made and not making as much money as the studios had hoped is because the film is so dark. As you might know, the thing about these books, the gimmick behind them is that terrible things are happening to these kids all the time, and so of course, the film goes the same way. You don’t get a happy happy ending with this one, and it’s something I give director Brad Silberling credit for sticking to, the films original premise and dark mood. Maybe that’s why this one wasn’t as successful as expected. Still, it made its kajillions back, just not as many as expected. Talk of a sequel died out because the kids have grown too much.

Did it deserve to fail? Another film that makes me wonder what the hell went wrong with it! This is such a beautiful film, filled with such beautiful art direction and wardrobe. Eveything about this movie is awesome for me, the sets, the script, the performances, the kids. I mean, these three child actors are so endearing! I really liked these characters because they are not a threesome of stupid a-typical movie kids, they are actually smart, and they use their brains to work their way out of all the crap that life hurls their way. I love that bout these kids. Then, we have Jim Carrey doing one of his best performances ever, he is positively evil on this one. I guess studios aren’t happy enough with this movie making 209 million at the box office, they wanted more…come on this one was begging to be made into a franchise! I guess Ill have to read the books to finally know what happened to these kids.

Golden Compass (2007)

What's it about? The Golden Compass tells the story of a little girl named Lyra who overhears a conversation about a magical dust that is able to unite different universes. Some people fear this magical Dust because they would rather have the words divided. This world is dominated by a society known as The Magistarium, some propose that we can live in a world without the Magisterium! But the Magisterium does not want that! So it becomes a struggle of what would be best? Unification of the worlds and life without The Magistarium? Or to leave things as they are? Luckily, Lyra has acquired a magical compass that when used correctly will always reveal the truth. Will she get down to the bottom of things and discover what is best for her world? 

Why did if Fail? Well, basically, the film sends an anti-religious message. It presents us with the idea that we might be better off living in a world without religion. In the film, The Magistarium represents the catholic church, and the hold they have over peoples lives and minds. Would it be better if we followed our own hearts and minds instead of some overblown lie? Obviously, this message didnt sit well with Christianity, so they went on an all out battle against this film, boycotting it, warning their parishioners about it so they wouldnt go see it. You know, basically, they got scared that certain liberal ideas might get into their parishioners minds. So many churches and religious groups aimed their guns at this one, as a result, it didnt make as much money as desired. Though it did get its money back, it wasnt enough to warrant future films though you can definetly get a feel that they were setting up the story for future films in the first one. 

Did it deserve to fail? Me personally? I would've loved to see this one through. Where was the story going to go? I've never read the books, but Im curious to know where the story went. Did they ever get to live life without The Magisterium controlling their every move? Did the little girl ever uncover the real truth about things through the use of her magical Golden Compass? I simply love the fact that this film/story was so daring, and that it presented us, boldly, with the idea of a different way of seeing things. A very subversive film and a commendable one. All this of course accompanied by beautiful photography and visual effects. Sadly, this was also one of the last films produced by New Line Cinema before Warner Bros. bought it in 2008, so this was the last film to come from the old regime behind New Line Cinema, in a way the old regimes last message as an independent movie studio was a big "fuck you" to religion. 

Planet of the Apes (2001)

What's it About? Mark Wahlberg plays Lt. Leo Davidson working in a space station conducting experiments with apes, training them for space missions. When an electromagnetic storm approaches the space station, Lt. Leo Davidson sends his favorite monkey (named Pericles) to investigate the storm. Unfortunately, the pod on which the monkey was traveling in dissapears into the storm! Lt. Davidson decides to go into the storm himself to try and rescue Pericles but instead he is transported into an alternate universe were monkey men rule, and they treat humans like slaves! Will Davidson ever get to go back home?  

Why did it Fail? Thruth be told, this movie made many million dollars across the globe. Some reports say that it made more the 360 million dollars world wide. Well more than its budget. But this film, like many of Tim Burton's recent films was another bad movie that made money because his name was attached to it. Nowadays, if it says its a Tim Burton Film, people will automatically think it will be great. Because they have in memory all those good films he used to make, but doesnt anymore. In my book, Tim Burton needs to get his mojo back! But whatever, this movie failed in the sense that it is a pretty bad movie. The biggest problem this film has is that its boring as hell. Nothing happens for the longest time! It needed to be more spectacular. The ending is left open for a sequel, but nothing came of it inspite of this one being successful at the box office. Maybe it has something to do with Burton saying he would never again make a film like Planet of the Apes, it was not a pleasurable experience, even for him as a director. It certainly is the least "Burtonesque" of his films, no atmosphere or gothic flare here. There was brief talk of that sequel, but Burton said "The idea of doing a sequel - Id rather jump out of a window, swear to god!"

Did it deserve to Fail?  It failed in the sense that it wasnt a good Planet of the Apes film. 100 years  from now people wont remember Burtons film when they talk about Planet of the Apes, but I'm pretty sure they will still remember the old ones. The make up effects was excellent and the cast was a good one, but sadly this one dissapointed me big time. This is one film that I wish had made less money in theaters! It should have failed yet didnt, probably because the previews were more exciting then the film itself.  

Well, that’s it boys and girls. Hope you enjoyed my exploration of failed franchises.

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