Sometimes it’s best to quit when you’re ahead. It’s tempting to keep on going with the gravy train and assume that the cash will just flow in based on the name alone, but sometimes that means coming up with paper-thin excuses to make a movie, to tell a tale no one was asking for, and to simply try to skate by on the goodwill of the former films. Some of these duds are nadirs of the series; some of them are just portents of worst things to come. A couple would be the forerunners for better films (“Rambo” is a great return to the brutality and morality of “First Blood,” and many Trekkies hold “Star Trek IV” close to their hearts), but for the most part, these third entries are unabashed attempts to cash in on known quantities without any of the artistic merits of the previous two films.
There are some pretty good threequels as well, but these ten films aren’t anywhere in the neighborhood of being considered good. In conjunction with the upcoming release of “Star Trek Beyond,” the third part in the new Kelvinverse “Star Trek” series, it’s time to reflect on the ten worst threequels in film history.
It should be a slam dunk – a known property with recognizable characters, an established story and plenty of excuse for spectacle. So why has it been so hard for Hollywood to successfully adapt a video game into a good film? Since 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.,” movie studios have tried to capitalize on the billions of dollars of success of video games by bringing them to the big screen. Yet time and again, what lands is a loud thud of a movie, boring to major audiences and befuddling to the devoted fanbase.
Despite the constant critical and/or financial drubbings the films take upon release, producers continue to attempt to adapt video games into successful franchises. “The Angry Birds” movie opened well, but was generally despised by critics, and soon there will be movie versions of “World of Warcraft,” “Assassin’s Creed” and a revamping of “Tomb Raider” franchise. It makes sense why filmmakers and companies are chasing these properties, for all the reasons stated above, but why have they always been such terrible dreck with only occasional flashes of innovation?
The first issue is that video games are immersive properties. Gamers are actively participating in these adventures, instead of watching them unfold passively on the screen. That creates the first hurdle for these films to overcome: how do you create something engrossing enough that it wraps people up in the events and makes it feel like it’s happening to them? Even the best blockbusters struggle with this ability to get audiences to identify and empathize with what’s happening on screen, let alone those made simply for cash-in purposes. Therefore, in order to do justice to these video game properties, filmmakers are already facing an uphill climb.
A truly smart and well-written sex comedy is a thing of beauty and not an everyday occurrence — rare in the past and rarer still in the present. Indeed, my film-besotted compatriots and I had relatively modest hopes for Melvin Frank’s 1968 near-farce, “Buono Sera, Mrs Campbell,” at this year’s TCM Fest. For the most part, we were expecting an entertaining but possibly rather routine 1960s romp and were there largely to check out its legendary star. That would be Italian bombshell-turned photographer and sculptor Gina Lollobrigida, a rather amazing woman on numerous counts who, at 88, still has a few thoughts on her mind and an innately humorous sensibility. The movie, much to our delight, turned out to be nearly as extraordinary as its star.
It’s the story of an Italian single mother who finds herself suddenly in the embarrassing position of reuniting with three men from her war-torn past, any one of whom has pretty much an equal shot of being the father of her now grown-up daughter in those days well before the arrival of easy DNA testing. If the setup sounds familiar, it’s because the plot was appropriated — without credit, so far as I can tell — for the jukebox musical and film, “Mamma Mia.” The difference is that this version is funny, enjoyable and occasionally quite witty and heartfelt.
For my liquid tribute, I thought something with a certain diversity of ingredients that might have been consumed in both Italy and the U.S. was apt. Also, since the cast mixed actors known more for conventional light comedy and drama with burlesque-trained comic Phil Silvers and true thespian wildcards like Shelly Winters and Telly Savalas, a hodgepodge of ingredients seemed appropriate.
Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Chris Redd
Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone
Following the 2007 oddball comedy “Hot Rod,” audiences were eager to see what The Lonely Island – the comedy trio comprised of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer – would cook up next. But while the group found great success with their ongoing series of “SNL” Digital Shorts and Grammy-nominated albums, it’s taken nearly a decade for them to return to the big screen. Their latest film, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” is a funny but flawed “Behind the Music”-style mockumentary that, although it aims to match the comic genius of Rob Reiner’s similarly themed cult classic “This Is Spinal Tap,” doesn’t quite reach the same heights.
Samberg stars as pop superstar Conner4Real, a former member of the hip-hop group the Style Boyz who launched a successful solo career after falling out with lyricist/childhood friend Lawrence (Schaffer). The group’s other member, Owen (Taccone), decided to stick by Conner’s side as his official DJ, watching from the background as Conner rose to the top of the music world with his debut album Thriller, Also. But when Conner agrees to film a documentary centered on the release of his upcoming sophomore effort, the cameras are there to capture his meltdown when the album spectacularly flops (Rolling Stone gives it a poop emoji out of four stars) and his celebrity lifestyle is threatened. Desperate to win back the public’s affection, Conner implements a number of increasingly silly gimmicks into his concert tour with disastrous results while his new opening act, rising talent Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd), begins to upstage him.
Summer blockbuster season rolls on as June brings sequels to previous box office successes, a few new comedies, and a couple of films that look to start franchises of their own. For those that like large explosions and massive battles, there’s a lot to offer this month. There’s less on hand for those that prefer smaller fare, but you’ll still find a couple movies worth seeking out in June. All this and a farting corpse film that will tug at your heart strings!
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”
Who: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry and Laura Linney What: The Turtles return to save the city from a dangerous threat. When: June 3rd Why: The first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film under producer Michael Bay was a big hit with families and even a few die-hard TMNT fans. Those nostalgia-based fanatics get to relive the cartoon on the big screen in this outing that finds the ultimate mash-up quartet finally facing off against the likes of Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady. Gonzo casting like Tyler Perry as the scientist that eventually becomes a bug man may point to this film being a bit more interesting than its precursor, and hey, Megan Fox is always fun to watch.
“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”
Who: Andy Samberg, Imogen Poots, Bill Hader and Sarah Silverman What: When it becomes clear that his solo album is a failure, a former boy band member does everything in his power to maintain his celebrity status. When: June 3rd Why: With two cult favorite comedies under their belts, directors Akiva Schaffer (“Hot Rod”) and Jorma Taccone (“MacGruber”) – two-thirds of the comedy music group The Lonely Island, along with Andy Samberg – are back to deliver what may be the “This Is Spinal Tap” for the social media generation. Samberg is great at playing blustery buffoons with big egos, and this film looks to skew all manner of elements of both pop music and celebrity culture. Plus, it involves Samberg fighting another old guy, this time in the form of Martin Sheen. What’s not to like?