The long-awaited “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is finally being released in theaters this week, after nearly three years since its initial announcement in July of 2014. [Read more…]
Universal Pictures has finally announced the revival of the studio’s classic movie monsters in a series of films titled “Dark Universe.” The announcement confirms the official relaunch of Universal’s iconic monsters into the modern film universe, as well as the confirmation of the initial cast. This announcement also revealed that Bill Condon director of Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” will direct the next film installment, “Bride of Frankenstein.” [Read more…]
Funko is partnering with Disney for Disney Treasures, a new subscription box featuring items from both the Disney movies and parks. [Read more…]
By Fowl Owlerson
I’m going to diverge from the mold I’ve followed for this column and speak about something of great importance. The theme park industry is inextricably linked to the movie business. Without film, the modern theme park industry wouldn’t be the same and, frankly, my first love will always be going to the movies, even though I have to sneak my own snacks into the theater because concession stands don’t sell rodents.
Another medium I hold dear is comics — titles such as Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and The Hulk are among my favorites — so you can imagine I was excited for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” … And the movie ultimately took the wind out of my wings and sent me plummeting to the ground with a loud thud.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, a movie wherein the title is just one of its many problems, released to a negative critical response and, per Box Office Mojo, an opening weekend box office gross that was below the domestic openings of “Iron Man 3” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. The film’s stars and director rebuffed its negative critical consensus and said it was “made for fans”, not critics, as if the two are separated by an impenetrable wall and critics are grim, soulless husks who derive pleasure from nothing because they’re not the ones buying tickets. This a dangerous train of thought, as it postulates that critics can’t judge a film for its own merits because they attend press screenings for free. While critics attend press screenings for free, they aren’t paid as well as you’d think and don’t have access to benefits people with traditional jobs take for granted. It also places a negative connotation on criticism, which I refuse to accept. Nothing is immune to criticism. I’ve learned a great deal from criticism and my work has improved as a result of it. Criticism isn’t an inherently bad thing.
“Batman v Superman” — I’m not going to include the subtitle anymore because I have yet to understand what it means beyond an unsubtle reference to “Justice League” — showed a significant drop of 55% from Friday of its opening weekend to Sunday. The film also suffered a box office drop of 69% in its second week, a trend which continued throughout its subsequent weeks of release. If you break down the numbers and juxtapose the box office performance of “Batman v Superman” with a better received (although R rated) superhero film “Deadpool”, you’ll see that despite the latter’s smaller budget and more restrictive MPPA rating, it’ll likely maintain a higher domestic (North American) gross than “Batman v Superman”, which is unprecedented. Of course, the worldwide gross of “Batman v Superman” is higher and the film isn’t a financial “bomb”, but it still begs the question, why did the film perform under expectations and suffer the subsequent drop? It shouldn’t have limped its way to the finish line.
The past few weeks have run fandom through the gamut of emotions and things have worsened with the release of “Captain America: Civil War”, which, full disclosure, I enjoyed more than “Batman v Superman”, although I do have problems with “Civil War”. They’re hard not to compare as they both tackle similar themes and are of the same genre, and yet “Batman v Superman” fell flat while “Civil War” soared for me despite its flaws. It’s fine if you like “Batman v Superman”. I’ve no qualms with people who like things I don’t like and vice versa. What I take umbrage with is the backlash against critics by certain diehards in the community.
There has been a litany of negative comments on social media about critics and absurd claims that there’s a conspiracy against DC Films. The critics are “Marvel shills,” per incensed fans. There have been think pieces published since questioning the relevancy of critics and many self-proclaimed fans have turned against critics entirely with some resorting to harassment to get their point across. This isn’t to say that critics operate with impunity. Critics should be able to take criticism, although it should serve a constructive purpose. Baseless conspiracy theories don’t count as constructive by any stretch, much less criticism.
A rational, mature response is that critics do matter. A large box office haul doesn’t prove the critics “wrong”. Critics aren’t predicting a work’s financial success; they’re reviewing the work itself. Hence why using box office results as a repudiation of a critical consensus is flimsy. It was inevitable that “Batman v Superman” was going to have a large opening weekend due to it featuring two of the most iconic characters in the world. Many expected its first weekend to be “big”. Its long-term performance was predicated on its quality and whether or not it resonated with an audience, and all of the metrics we use to try to obtain a measurement for the quality of a movie seem to indicate it didn’t resonate.
Criticism is essential. If there is art, there must be criticism. Many filmmakers have learned a great deal about filmmaking by poring through the thoughts of critics in their formative years. This isn’t to say that artists must behave slavishly toward critics or that critics are unilaterally right, or that you can’t go against the grain. You can like what you like — and speaking from one’s perspective — it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things whether a film was rated “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes or if it made oodles of money at the box office. What matters is what you enjoy. So why is this portion of the fan base obsessing over the negative things and resorting to harassment to make their point?
A common argument I’ve heard is that critics have a “Marvel bias,” hence their negative reviews for DC films, a claim that can be repudiated with ease. Reviews are inherently subjective and critics judge a film by whether they feel its good or bad, not by what studio label is attached to it. Furthermore, we’re all biased, including the section of diehard fans lobbing insults at people who have opinions they don’t like. The adversarial approach these fans are taking against critics comes from a protective place. You can like DC and dislike the current state of the DC Cinematic Universe. This isn’t a civil war; it’s nerd culture that’s now pop culture. It’s never been a better time to be a nerd and we should celebrate it, not spew venom. Film critic Drew McWeeny encapsulates this in a great editorial featured on HitFix.
Critics aren’t telling you how to feel; they’re stating how they feel. Critics use their insight, education (not only on film), and an array of experience in the medium to criticize a product. That means saying what they liked, what they didn’t like and offering a recommendation based on their taste. Their reviews are primarily subjective because an entirely objective review would be tantamount to watching paint dry while a Coldplay album plays on a loop. Critics can offer insight and alternative perspectives. They can engender thought about work and perhaps change the way you look at something, or perhaps not. They can show what a refined selection of entertainment looks like and help you develop your own taste, or reinforce the taste you have.
A film’s place in the public consciousness changes and the results are more nuanced in the long-term, and critics can shift the public tide. Pauline Kael was an influential American critic who wrote for “The New Yorker” from 1968 to 1991, and whose collection of writings from 1954 to 1965 were used for her seminal novel “I Lost it at the Movies.” She helped change the initial mixed consensus for “Bonnie and Clyde” and the film later was rereleased and reconsidered by critics and moviegoers. Other critics butted heads with her and readers didn’t always agree with her opinions, but her reviews are still insightful and erudite, and one can respect where she was coming from when she wrote them, even if they don’t agree with her.
I’ve read positive critical reviews that made me roll my eyes and cluck my bill, and I’ve suffered through negative reviews that made me twist my head around and stomp my talons. A bad critic is a bad critic, no matter if I agree or disagree with them. The presence of bad critics doesn’t negate the entire field of criticism, just as the presence of bad people amongst fandom doesn’t mean all of fandom is awful. What matters is a critic’s perspective, and as long as you can understand their criticism and their work engenders thought, they’ve done their job. We don’t learn from being told things we already know and being fed opinions we already have. Having your thoughts challenged can help you hone your opinion and refine your taste. It can also reinforce why you like something.
It’s not one thing that caused “Batman v Superman” to perform below critical and financial expectations. There’s no conspiracy. It’s an underwhelming film and there’s no greater poison to a movie’s long-term success than poor quality. Criticism is bigger than one movie, genre, or even medium. It’ll continue to evolve and persist throughout the ebb and flow of entertainment trends. Even if it needs if takes on a different permutation to do so, criticism will continue to exist. It must.
• Fowl Owlerson has been attending theme parks since he was a little owlet. When he’s not filtering through the latest murmurings around the industry, he can be found writing, reading, and snacking on the occasional rodent. Follow him on Twitter @fowlowlerson for the latest rumors, and drop an anonymous letter to him at email@example.com or via Direct Message on Twitter.
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club is bringing back many of its fan-favorite events in 2015, while also adding a selection of new experiences for members. [Read more…]
By Fowl Owlerson
Since our last online column, a new piece of information has been officially unveiled by Universal Pictures. It furthers the rumor of King Kong returning to Universal Orlando.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2014, Universal Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures, announced a movie in development called “Skull Island”, a prequel to King Kong which will delve into the origins of the ape and the island’s other inhabitants. Joe Cornish, whose filmography includes “Attack the Block” and “The Adventures of Tintin”, is in talks to direct the film, which is slated to hit theaters on Nov. 6, 2016.
Universal has a penchant for opening its attractions in the summer, which can empirically be proven by looking at the opening dates of their existing rides. So can we expect an opening of a new Skull Island attractions between Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon by Summer 2016?
While it might seem like a paradigm shift for Universal Orlando, given the expedited construction of Transformers and Diagon Alley, two years of construction would be in line with most attractions built entirely from scratch.
If this is the case, what will be Universal’s tentpole attraction for 2015? Universal’s new initiative is IP synergy, as can be seen by the sharing of licensed properties between Hollywood and Orlando’s parks, including the seasonal event Halloween Horror Nights.
The “Dracula Untold” Haunted House marks the first theme park tie-in of Legendary’s work since a five-year contract was signed between Legendary Entertainment and Universal. A betting owl would surmise that future Halloween Horror Nights event will include at least one tie-in maze to promote films produced by Legendary Pictures.
It should also be noted that “Pacific Rim 2” is slated to be distributed by Universal Pictures on April 7, 2017. Speculation has risen that an attraction based on the IP is in nascent talks.
While Summer 2016 would be ideal, it’d make 2015 a noticeably “quiet” year for the resort. So where does this leave Universal?
Rumors have mentioned a “top secret” project for 2015, although we remain in the dark as to what this surreptitious project might entail.
Exciting things are assuredly in store for the resort and expect to know more before the year is out.
• Fowl Owlerson, or “Fowly” as he’s affectionately known, has been attending theme parks since he was a spry owlet. When he’s not filtering through the latest murmurings around the industry, he can be seen writing, reading and snacking on the occasional rodent. Follow him on Twitter @fowlowlerson for the latest rumors or drop an anonymous letter to him at firstname.lastname@example.org , if you feel so inclined.
Theme Park Connection, known for selling lots of rare items from Disney’s theme parks, is offering what could be one of the most iconic pieces in Universal’s film history. [Read more…]
Disney has announced that its live-action release previously known as 1952 will be titled “Tomorrowland”. The film is set to be released on Dec. 19, 2014 and George Clooney (The Descendants) is set to star. [Read more…]
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, is commemorating dozens of Disney milestones by celebrating landmark anniversaries in 2013. D23’s Disney Fanniversary Celebration will hit the road visiting select cities from March 1 to April 7, 2013. [Read more…]
The Orlando Science Center has brought cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technology to its visitors in its new Digital Adventure Theater. Guests can see educational documentaries and Hollywood features all in stunning, immersive 3D and ultra high definition 4K resolution. [Read more…]
Disney recently announced that “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow” will officially open on Dec. 6, 2012 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will share the opening date with the updated Test Track and New Fantantasyland. [Read more…]
If you missed Star Trek: The Exhibition when it was at Kennedy Space Center last summer, or just want to revisit it, you’re in luck. The exhibit is now sharing space with CSI: The Experience on International Drive. [Read more…]
The men in black are back and better than ever in MIB3. With Will Smith’s return to the silver screen after a four year hiatus, Josh Brolin’s highly believable performance as a younger Agent K and Tommy Lee Jones dry humor, fans of Men in Black will love this great addition to the series. [Read more…]
With all the emotion, adventure and beautiful landscapes, Chimpanzee is yet another solid addition to the Disneynature line up. The new movie brings you breathtaking footage of chimpanzees in the forests of the Ivory Coast and is a must-see for any fan of the Disneynature films. [Read more…]
A brand new parade and nighttime fountain show are just two of the new things guests will find at Universal Orlando this year as they celebrate 100 years of Universal movies. Also announced today are the opening times for their new Dispicable Me attraction and their upgraded Spider-Man ride, plus a new show for the Blue Man Group and more. [Read more…]
Universal is marking its 100th anniversary this year and will commemorate its centennial with a yearlong celebration honoring the studio’s film history and cultural legacy. Universal’s Parks and Resorts will help highlight the campaign with centennial specific content and merchandise throughout both the Orlando and Hollywood locations. The Orlando resort will soon announce a specially themed entertainment experience that will celebrate Universal’s heritage. [Read more…]
It started last Friday afternoon with the undead lumbering from Uno Chicago Grill on International Drive, down the street to the Wyndham Orlando Resort. The Zombie Walk, put on by The Deadite Empire, was the kick-off to Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend. [Read more…]
The stars of the Harry Potter films helped begin a beautiful fireworks show above Hogwarts Castle in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. [Read more…]
MegaCon 2010 was held this past weekend at the Orange County Convention Center and it was huge. The actual space the event took up in the convention center didn’t seem any smaller or larger than past years, but the crowds seemed at record levels on Saturday. We were told they almost reached capacity and were close to turning people away.
One side of the hall housed all of the comic book artists. The main section was filled with vendors. Here you could find action figures, comic books, clothing, tattoo stations, movie props and more. Other sections included a blood donation area, a video gaming set-up, Legos, role playing games and play sword fighting.
Of course the other big draw was the celebrity area. Some of the big names included Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), Ray Park (Star Wars and Heroes), Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars), Brent Spiner (Star Trek) and Levar Burton (Star Trek and Reading Rainbow).
Thanks to Ricky Brigante for visiting on Saturday and getting the video. The photos below were taken on Sunday.
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MegaCon, the sci-fi, comic book, toy, collectable, and other cool stuff, convention starts Friday and runs through Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive.
You’ll find a huge floor full of comics, collectables, celebrity and comic artists autograph signings, panel discussions, costume contests and more.
Some of the celebrities scheduled to appear are John De Lancie (Star Trek), Russell Tovey (Doctor Who), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), Ray Park (Star Wars and Heroes), Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars) and many more. There’s also many kids events this year including a kids costume contest. Check megaconvention.com for the full updated schedule and list of celebrities.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, be sure to stop by the 501st Legion’s booth. Lucasfilm’s head of fan relations, Steve Sansweet will be available along with a representative of Reed Expo, Lucasfilm’s partner in the upcoming Star Wars Celebration V, which will also be held at the convention center in August. Sansweet will also take part in some of the panel discussions.
Friday – 1 to 7 p.m.
Saturday – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets are available at the door for $24.
Overview of 2009 event:
2009 Mini-MegaCon Costume Contest: