Failed Movies From Failed Series

Ever heard of a show called Firefly? I’m a fan. A hardcore fan. Ever heard of the movie Serenity? It’s a continuation of the characters and storyline in Firefly. Again, I’m a hardcore fan. I just want to get the fact that I LOVE the show(s) in the record before we go where this post goes. Stay with me here.

Firefly was canceled due to the infinite wisdom of Fox television. All television executives are omniscient, just ask the guys at NBC who canceled Star Trek in the 60’s. They knew it was junk and was never going to make any money. Don’t let the fact that Paramount has milked millions out of the franchise (and founded the 5th broadcast network with not much more than Star Trek to carry it) since that point fool you, Star Trek needed canceling. In much the same way, the red-headed (browncoated) stepchild that was Firefly needed canceling, because Fox only agreed to let Joss Whedon do it so that they could keep him for another season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You don’t promote and fund a ‘gimme’ long term. And they didn’t. 13 episodes filmed. 10 episodes aired. No promotion to speak of. You’re outta here!

But Firefly wouldn’t die, I’m sure the old guard Star Trek fans out there understand why that is. Writing. Talking. Promoting. And lo and behold the show that needed canceling is resurrected as a feature length film. Some said “that doesn’t happen” (Trekkies know better, but we let them have their moment. Kids are so cute) and marveled at the feat. And, really it was a feat. An excellent film that preserved the atmosphere of the original show, and completed the main story arc left unfinished by Fox needing to cancel the show. It was on screens all too briefly, and passed onto disk (a copy of which is already in my library) within a few short months.

And then the rumblings started from naysayers, TV executive lakeys, and Hollywood insider wannabes concerning whether Serenity the movie was a success or failure, and whether or not this should “shut the fans up”.

Personally, I don’t feel like shutting up, and I don’t count the shows short time on screen as a failure. Why you say? Because in comparison it’s just not.

I’d like to point out a show (no, not Star Trek) that had a similar fate, not so long ago. A critically acclaimed series with a very short life was resurrected as a movie (that was also critically acclaimed) that went out of theaters nearly as fast. What was the show? Twin Peaks. The movie was Fire Walk With Me. My point is this, even with the media circus that surrounded the show and the subsequent movie, if you look at the numbers here or here, you will see that the show did not in fact do an impressive amount of business. A recoup of about half of the 10 million dollar budget spent on it. But the critics loved it…

In comparison, Serenity’s numbers are just rosy here and here. All told, Serenity has made back the money spent on it, and we aren’t even done with the video sales yet. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. And still, I hear the “What if’s” and the “If onlys”. What’s done is done. The movie came out when it did, competed with the films that were out then, and left the theaters when new films crowded into the fall schedule showed up to push it out. Gotta have all the good films out right before Oscar time. Don’t ask me why, it must be that same omniscience that the TV execs have.

So why should we wear long faces and walk silently? Because the film wasn’t as popular as Lord of the Rings? Didn’t make the kind of money Titanic did? The film didn’t have the history of Lord of the Rings to promote it to every adult in the world, or the potential 200+ million dollar hickey that motivated the blitzkrieg of media exposure which ensured Titanic‘s (undeserved, in my opinion) box office sales. Serenity was good enough on its own merits to pay back it’s investors, and good enough on its own merits to inspire loyal fans of the series. I say we crow to the moon and demand a second film! Who’s with me?

A Stand-Alone Spin Off

Serenity (2005)

Firefly moves from the little screen to the big one with minimal hiccups. I volunteered to be part of the test audience for one of the pre-release versions of the film back in May. That version didn’t have all effects and music in it yet, and that version was still good. Because we watched the television series, there were lots of extremely tense moments, but the best part of seeing the film was realizing that even if someone hadn’t seen the TV show, they’d still be able to enjoy this romping space western.

The movie is consistent with the series’ storyline and details. There are several unexpected events that leave you reeling in your seat. The characters are what make this movie worth watching. As for myself…

Well…

I’ll be there opening night to see the finished product. I loved it.

As an aside, Adam Baldwin is used heavily as a marketing tool on this film, and while he is his always excellent self in the movie, his part was smaller than originally anticipated. He was one of the actors that was out promoting the movie when I saw it back in May, or when the Wife saw it on the second go round on the test audience circuit.

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Editor’s note, 2019. We went to watch this movie on it’s opening week at one of the Rolling Roadshow events for Alamo Drafthouse. The event was held in an abandoned set for the 2004 remake of the Alamo. As usual for most Rolling Roadshow events, there was a special menu complete with vendors decked out in costumes that mimicked things worn in Firefly. The Daughter created some unique art to gift to Jewel Staite and Summer Glau who were there on that special occasion to egg on all the Firefly fans.

Unfortunately, almost none of the pictures I took that night were exposed properly, so there is no record of the event other than what I keep in my head. We had such a great time with Bear Philley and his family that night. It would be nice to have some decent photos to relate what a surreal experience the whole event was. Being outside in a derelict tribute to an iconic battle. A building that was only partially constructed in the first place and hadn’t aged well. The attendants decked out in mock-chinese apparel. Getting to meet Jewel and Summer. It really was the event of a lifetime.

A Graphic Novel That Moved

Sin City (2005)

…and for the art-house approach to cinematography, I give it 1 star. There were no other redeeming qualities to the film. Without a doubt the longest 2 hours of my life. I would have sworn it was at least 3 hours.

There is no cohesive plot to speak of. (not even the disconnected plot line of Pulp Fiction, which this film has been edited to emulate, ergo the guest director credit to Quentin Tarantino I’m sure) The acting is reasonably solid, and the cast was well selected, yet the film was doomed from the outset (like many before it) by its lack of a properly crafted script. The jumps from story segment to story segment are jarring and hard to follow. Nor does the dialog seem natural. It comes out as if the actors are reading it off a page.

The symbology of introduced color does not appear to be consistent (Blue obviously means falseness or error in the film. But red means what? And why is there a Ferengi in the last segment? Was not aware this was a Star Trek film) Nor does the “graphic novel” approach to lighting and effects really lend itself to the cinema experience. This was, perhaps, the fatal flaw in approaching this film as a true “art film” experience, the lack of an internally consistent and recognizable symbology.

All and all a pretty poor film.

IMdb

A Screwball Comedy as Big as Texas

Lone Star State of Mind (2002)

“Didn’t I kill you once already, boy?”

Baby

That line still cracks me up. If you’re looking for reality, look somewhere else. If you are looking for some laughs while watching a group of impossible characters attempt what should be a simple task that turns out not to be simple at all; a quest that leads to getting shot, mutilated or run over by a truck (sounds horrible, don’t it? It’s a hoot) This is the movie for you.

IMDb


Editor’s note 2019. The Wife can be seen sitting at a table in one of the restaurant scenes. It also features a rare appearance by John Mellencamp. Yes, that John Mellencamp.

The Most Depressing Film I’ve Ever Seen

What Dreams May Come (1998)

I expected more from this film. The pre-release cinematography was gorgeous but the story.. Man. The kids die, the wife dies the main character dies. Depressing, horrible stuff and she goes to hell and everything gets worse. None of this is really a spoiler (even though IMDb has flagged this review as containing spoilers) because all of that happens in the first act of the film. It has to happen for there to be any story to tell in this movie. The entire rest of the film is spent getting back out of hell. You have to have some belief in an afterlife to have any reason to watch this film.

Cuba Gooding’s brief appearance is the only and I repeat ONLY positive moment in the entire film. A nasty depressing ride I can skip ever seeing again.

IMDb


Editor’s note 2019. Yes. I get it. It is supposed to be a tribute to undying love. I’m not buying the premise, and if I’m not buying the premise, the film doesn’t work.

An Introspective Look at Indie Filmmaking

Shoot or Be Shot (2002)

It’s an Aleatoric film.

I attended the premier in Austin, Texas. I enjoyed it immensely, especially meeting the cast members for questions afterwards. Sure the edit could use a bit of tightening, but the dialog was witty to sarcastic.

Harry Hamlin and William Shatner delivered solid performances. I have friends and family working in independent film and they completely got into this movie. Sad news folks. those people really are crazy. The real question is what is crazy in relation to film making? If you are making an independent feature, you are pretty close to certifiable already.

IMDb


Editor’s note 2019. The Wife borrowed my IMDb account to write that one lo these many years ago. I spruced it up a bit. We still tell the aleatoric joke to each other when we are watching something that reeks of needing a decent script.

My Favorite Fairytale

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Joe Versus The Volcano (1990) Official Trailer

This is perhaps the most wrongfully maligned film in all of movie history. Everyone I meet hates this film, aside from the lead singer of Abney Park. He wrote a song about it. I’ve watched this film too many times to count. It was my favorite stoner film for a long, long time.

Stoner film? A movie you watch while you are high. Forget Cheech & Chong. Forget Heavy Metal. Forget Dude Where’s My Car. All of those are good. None of them end with a guy jumping into a volcano with his true love. A movie featuring Fish as the native chief who shows Joe which path he has to follow.

The crooked road. The crooked road that he takes to work. The crooked road that mars the plaster in his apartment. The crooked road is everywhere in the film, as is Melanie Griffith who shows off her acting chops by credibly presenting several different characters with the same face.

The New York accent that always sends him down the wrong path. Poor Joe. Repeatedly sent the wrong way by people who use him, yet he always manages to find something of value everywhere he goes.

The mistake everyone makes is taking this movie seriously. It’s not serious. The thing I find most mystifying is that anyone would try to take a film seriously that starts with Once Upon a Time and ends with …And They Lived Happily Ever After. It’s a fairytale. The best fairytale. Try reading Mother Goose or the Brothers Grimm and then get back to me. None of them can hold a candle to this movie.

They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I’m not here to tell you who you are.

Marshall, performed by Ossie Davis written by John Patrick Shanley

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