Disney Animated Movies 59 – Raya and the Last Dragon

It’s been a weird couple of years when it comes to movies. A lot of major movies have been delayed by over a year, including Black Widow of the MCU. Most of the movies that did get released last year bombed hard. Raya and the Last Dragon, the 59th feature film from Disney Animation Studios, only got delayed from November 2020 to May of 2021. It’s also a movie that released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+, although at first you needed to pay a premium in order to see it on Disney+.

Raya and the Last Dragon was first announced in October of 2018, about a year after they announced that Gigantic was cancelled. At the time, they only announced that it would be written by Adele Lim, and would provide Paul Briggs his directorial debut. Briggs had worked at the studio as an animator on a number of movies since Beauty and the Beast. He was also the “head of story” for Frozen and Big Hero 6. However, he was later demoted to writer while Don Hall took over as the lead director. Hall’s previous directing credits include 2011’s Winnie the Pooh, Big Hero 6, and co-directing Moana. Carlos Lopez Estrada also joined in as the co-director. His previous directing credits include Blindspotting, Summertime, and a number of music videos.

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X-Men Movies 14 – New Mutants

This post was unfortunately delayed due to my air conditioner breaking down last weekend. Thankfully it’s under warranty, but with my area under a heat wave, well … it was a significant distraction. Anyway, let’s get to it.

The X-Men film franchise seems to have finally ended. There are some great movies in this film franchise, and it’s quite possible that the MCU wouldn’t exist without it, but that doesn’t change the sad truth that 20th Century Fox’s X-Men film franchise is a mess. Despite all of these movies sharing a universe, the more movies they made, the messier and more self-contradictory their continuity became. The timeline is all screwed up. Characters appear at different ages in different decades, like Emma Frost being younger in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (1970’s) than she is in X-Men: First Class (1960’s). Or how about Psylocke appearing in both X-Men Apocalypse and X-Men 3: The Last Stand, how she’s roughly the same age despite the movies taking place decades apart, and her powers are completely different.

The stand-alone movies aren’t nearly as bad for this. Logan works just as well even if there weren’t any other X-Men movies, save for the fact that it’s also a perfect sendoff for Hugh Jackman’s run as Wolverine. The Deadpool movies are very entertaining, and at least within their mini-X-Men Universe, they’re consistent with each other. In fact, they’re consistent enough that they might even be integrated into the MCU … somehow. From early on, it was also apparent that the New Mutants movie would also mostly stand on its own.

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Batman/Superman movies 20 – Joker

Joker is a notable film for a variety of reasons. One major distinction is that it’s the first, and so far, only R rated movie to earn over $1 billion worldwide. It’s also the second movie where an actor won the Oscar for portraying Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. It’s the first R-Rated Batman related film, if you don’t count the animated adaptation of The Killing Joke.

The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. Back in 2015, Phoenix expressed interest in working on a low-budget “character study” about a supervillain. He’d previously declined working in a superhero movie, because he’d likely be required to reprise a role in multiple films. For a while, he also ruled out The Joker as the film’s focus “Because, you know, it’s just that you can’t do that character, it’s just been done.”  He eventually let go of the idea, even after his agent suggested meeting with Warner Bros about the concept. Meanwhile, director Todd Phillips had been offered multiple superhero movies, but declined because he wasn’t interested in a “loud” movie. Eventually though, he came up with a grounded supervillain film, and became attracted to The Joker because he felt there wasn’t a definitive portrayal of the character.

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Adventures in Home Ownership – 2-Year Anniversary

I didn’t originally plan on writing this post. I generally try to save my Home Ownership posts for whenever I had a major change, renovation, or something else along those lines. But this weekend has been crazy. I worked a mandatory overtime shift on Saturday, had Father’s Day today, and had a number of other things to do. I also had an interview for a permanent office spot at work this past week, one that I at least have a decent chance of getting. That took a lot of my focus. I was going to write a blog post about 2019’s Joker this weekend, but haven’t even found the time to watch it yet.

Although this month is the 2-year anniversary of moving into my house, it was actually at the start of the month, with most of my stuff moved in on June 1, 2019. In those two years, house prices have gone crazy in the part of the country I live in. Toronto is now ranked as the third most overpriced housing market in the world according to Swiss Bank UBS. I’m living about 2 hours west of Toronto, and their prices are now affecting small towns 20 minutes west of me.

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Batman/Superman movies 19 – The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises concluded the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy in 2012. The production was initially delayed for several reasons, one being that Nolan directed Inception in-between the two “Dark Knight” movies. But the main reason was likely the unfortunate fate of one of the major actors in that movie.

Part of the aftermath of Heath Ledger’s death after filming The Dark Knight is that it tossed the original plan for a third Christopher Nolan Batman movie into chaos. They originally planned to bring the joker back to the third entry in the trilogy. Writer David S. Goyer and actor Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent/Two-Face) both confirmed this in interviews. Ledger also planned on returning, stating that he enjoyed working on The Dark Knight. Out of respect for his legendary performance, they decided early on not to recast him. This made Nolan hesitant to make a third film in the Dark Knight trilogy, and it also forced a complete reworking of the story.

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Batman/Superman movies 18 – The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is a significant movie in a number of ways. It was the first ever $1 billion superhero movie, and at the time of its release, the fourth highest earning movie of all-time. It’s domestic earnings of $158 million was a record for a full three years. It’s the first mainstream feature film to partially use IMAX 70mm cameras, used in 28 minutes of the film. It’s seen as the movie that legitimized the superhero genre in the eyes of film studios. Unfortunately, some of its success could be attributed to actor Heath Ledger’s accidental death via a toxic combination of prescription drugs. Because of that last point, for this particular blog post, I won’t be talking too much about the creation process.

The Dark Knight takes place an unspecified amount of time after the previous entry, Batman Begins. Once again directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie features Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox. Although the original character of Rachel Dawes also returns for this movie, Katie Holmes turned down the role to film Mad Money instead, despite originally planning on returning. Maggie Gyllenhaal soon took her place. Gyllenhaal is actually a better fit for the role anyway, and has better chemistry with Bale, despite not sharing as much screen time together.

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Batman/Superman movies 17 – Superman Returns

The year after Batman Begins released, the first major attempt to restart the Superman film franchise since Superman IV finally released, after decades of cancelled projects. The road to even getting to Superman Returns is a long and complicated one, so I’ll only talk about the most fascinating attempts to reboot the Superman film franchise. Not included will be the Superman vs. Batman movie originally planned for 2004, since I already mentioned that in my Batman Begins post.

Before Superman IV failed, Canon Films considered a fifth Superman movie, with Albert Pyun as the director. Not only did Superman IV’s failure kill any chances of a Superman V, but when Canon Films went bankrupt, the film rights reverted back to Ilya and Alexander Salkind. That story would see Superman dying, and resurrected in the shrunken bottled city of Kandor. The concept behind this story actually predated the 1992 comic story arc, The Death of Superman.

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Batman/Superman movies 16 – Batman Begins

If it wasn’t for the fact that Batman Begins released the year after Catwoman, the Catwoman movie probably would have damaged the DC superhero movies a lot more than it did. But the road to Batman Begins wasn’t a smooth ride, not in the least. There were a number of cancelled projects between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins.

First, there was going to be a fifth movie in the previous series, called Batman Unchained. Warner Bros. was impressed with the dailies from Batman & Robin … for some reason, and immediately hired Joel Schumacher to start working on a third movie. The main writer for both of Schumacher’s movies turned down the opportunity, so they hired another writer to write the script for Batman Unchained. The plan was to have this movie release roughly 2 years after Batman & Robin, but after the movie failed to impress critics, not to mention it barely succeeded at the box office, Batman Unchained was cancelled only 3 months before filming began. There was also going to be a Robin spin-off, starring Chris O’Donnell, but that too was cancelled.

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Batman/Superman movies 15 – Catwoman

This right here is the worst movie I’ll be looking at for this blog series. There’s no sense in trying to hide that fact.

Development for a Catwoman movie began as early as 1993, when Batman Forever was in the middle of production. At the time, Tim Burton was supposed to direct, and Michelle Pfeiffer was set to return for the role of Selina Kyle from Batman Returns. Writer Daniel Waters even completed a script, which he handed over to Warner Bros. the same day that Batman Forever released. Of that, he later joked in an interview, “Turning it in the day Batman Forever opened may not have been my best logistical move, in that it’s the celebration of the fun-for-the-whole-family Batman. Catwoman is definitely not a fun-for-the-whole-family script.” On top of that Pfeiffer, commented in August of that year that she was still interested in the movie, but as a new mother, along with her other commitments, it could be challenging.

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Batman/Superman movies 14 – Batman & Robin

Batman & Robin carries several unique distinctions among the Batman films. To date, it’s the only live-action film appearance of Batgirl. It’s the only Batman movie to be released within 2 years of the previous Batman movie. But most importantly, it’s often considered to be among the worst movies ever made. As someone who used to watch bad movies on a weekly basis, I wouldn’t go that far, but this movie is a complete mess that almost destroyed the superhero movie genre.

With the success of Batman Forever, Warner Bros. immediately commissioned for a sequel. They again hired Joel Schumacher to direct and Akiva Goldsam to write, and decided to fast-track the production for a June 1997 release. Chris O’Donnell also returned as Robin, however Val Kilmer decided not to return. Schumacher admitted it was difficult working with Kilmer.

“He sort of quit … and we sort of fired him.”

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