This Friday we welcome the release of a rare and mysterious thing… a sequel we actually want to see. Not just because we love the characters, but because the sequel is a natural extension of the original story. I am of course speaking of Toy Story 3, since the ‘hex’ in Jonah Hex has no relation whatsoever to the number six.
The first Toy Story told the story of what happens to toys when their owners aren’t playing with them, and was as sweet and wonderful a family film as has ever been produced. The just-as-good (and possibly even more hilarious) took the story in a natural direction, focusing on the collector’s market for toys, and whether or not the characters have more monetary or emotional value. Now, Toy Story 3 makes a bold move back into pathos as it explores what happens to toys after their owners grow up, move away, and stuff them into boxes. Call me fanciful (I’ve been called worse), but I’ve always felt guilty for all of my He-Men, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joes still lingering in that crawl space we call an attic. Not that I ever intend on having kids (you may remember the recent blog post in which I described my intense distaste for children), but I feel a certain sense of satisfaction in thinking that eventually all of my beloved playthings will one day have a loving owner to play with once again.
Any sequel that gets us thinking about our lives, loves and futures is already a good idea, and that got us thinking here at the California Literary Review. We see so many unwanted, half-conceived sequels in the movie industry, but are there any sequels we actually want to see, yet somehow haven’t been made? Prepare yourself for this edition of The Weekly Listicle, in which Julia Rhodes and I (William Bibbiani) think would be a good idea, and not just a quick cash-in (I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity 2).
The Italian Job Sallies Forth (sequel to The Italian Job, dir. Peter Collinson, 1969)
For years now people have been asking for a remake to The Italian Job, specifically F. Gary Gray’s 2003 remake starring Mark Wahlberg, Ed Norton and many other actors. The remake wasn’t good enough to make either of our ‘Great Remakes’ Listicles, but it was a competent little heist caper. Even so, I’ve never understood why everyone was so excited about it. Peter Collinson’s incredibly vibrant original version of The Italian Job was a hilarious film, excitingly produced and fool of classic bits that remain memorable today. “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”
Besides one of the funniest lines in cinematic history, and one of the most incredible – albeit ridiculous – car chase sequences ever filmed, fans of the original Italian Job will never be able to forget it’s thrilling closing scene, a cliffhanger if ever there was one. SPOILER ALERT: The thieves have successfully captured the gold and drive along the winding cliffside roads, rejoicing in their victory. Then, a sudden swerve sends them careening over the edge. As the team balances precariously on the cliff, unable to reach their victory spoils without dooming them all, Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) says, “Hang on, lads. I’ve got a great idea.”
That idea has never been revealed, nor will be until the sequel (often rumored but never actually produced) which I propose we entitle The Italian Job Sallies Forth, instead of the far-less-enjoyable, but often suggested, The Brazilian Job. After an elaborate plan results in the team surviving but the gold falling down a canyon, the Italian Mafia arrives to retrieve what Croker had rightfully stolen. What began as a simple heist becomes a matter of honor as Mr. Bridger (Noel Coward) insists that Croker, ‘Camp’ Freddie (Tony Beckley) and the rest of their band of misfits steal the gold again as a matter of national pride. In my wildest dreams they end up competing with a pair of mafiosos played by Franco Nero and Tomas Milian, who were big stars in Italy at the time and some of my favorite actors of the era.
Alas, this sequel will never come to pass… unless I finally finish repainting all my old action figures and put on my own production a la Todd Haynes’ Superstar.
House of Re-Animator (sequel to Re-Animator, dir. Stuart Gordon, 1985)
Stuart Gordon’s fantastic horror film Re-Animator has already had a great sequel in Bride of Re-Animator, directed by the original film’s producer, Brian Yuzna. Although it took liberties with Re-Animator’s ending (dead characters are alive again, and severed heads no longer squished), it nevertheless expertly explored the complex dynamic between the symbiotic protagonists Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, in his most iconic role) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). Alas, Yuzna’s Beyond Re-Animator, the third film in the franchise, abandoned Dan Cain as Herbert West’s best friend and moral compass. The result was an unfocused film with lots of neat little moments but no particular reason to exist.
I myself was content to let the Re-Animator franchise die (two great films is better than most franchises get, you know) until Stuart Gordon announced his intention to direct one more film in the series, entitled House of Re-Animator. Stuart Gordon described the opening scene as taking place in the Bush White House, where Dick Cheney has passed away in his sleep. George W. Bush keeps trying to wake Cheney up, unsure of what has happened. In the background, we hear the explanation: “The President has not yet been briefed.” Then, the door opens and there appears one Herbert West, Re-Animator, equipped with his ominous satchel, keeping old politicians alive and in control of the world long after their expiration dates.
Gordon’s film is mired in development hell now (probably since the subject matter would have been more topical before the previous administration left the White House), but pre-production had gone so far as the casting stage, with Academy Award-nominee William H. Macy slated to play the president. I wish they’d just stiffen their upper lips and make it already, since clever horror comedies are in short supply these days.
Mathilda: The Professional (sequel to Leon: The Professional, dir. Luc Besson, 1994)
Our love for Leon: The Professional at The Fourth Wall is well-documented. Luc Besson’s modern classic told the story of Leon (Jean Reno), a hitman leading an otherwise quiet, solitary life until chance sends Mathilda (Natalie Portman, in her film debut) into his arms, or at least his apartment. Mathilda’s family is murdered by a corrupt cop (Gary Oldman, never better), and as she bonds with Leon during the most confusing time of her youth – she’s young enough to need Leon as a father figure, but just old enough to be interested in her protector romantically, adding shocking emotional complexity to an otherwise straightforward thriller – she also finds herself becoming his apprentice in the deadly arts.
The film ends (SPOILER ALERT) tragically, with Leon dying to save Mathilda’s life and Mathilda, after her attempts to take Leon’s old position as an assassin for hire fall through, resumes a seemingly safe albeit rather dull life in an orphanage.
Rumors began to spread some years ago about Luc Besson returning for a sequel focusing on an adult Mathilda, to be once again played by Natalie Portman (one of those rare child actors who not only retained their acting prowess but hasn’t, to date anyway, turned into a cautionary tale). Mathilda: The Professional (my title), could take a number of different, yet equally valid forms. It would seem cheap to simply drop into Mathilda’s life over a decade later and find her to be a total badass assassin. We’re way too involved with her emotionally already, and identify with her as an innocent child too strongly to accept such a jarring and heartless development. No, Mathilda would probably need to be living a very normal life at the start of the film (it’s what Leon would have wanted for her, after all), but find herself in a situation not unlike the first film, in which she’s forced into a deadly situation out of moral necessity rather than personal interest.
I’m not going to take the time to go into detail, but suffice to say that any story I could tell is second only to the dreams of what this film could be if Luc Besson and Natalie Portman ever actually got together and made the damned thing. I really hope they one day do.
Drag Me From Hell (sequel to Drag Me To Hell, dir. Sam Raimi, 2009)
Sam Raimi’s spectacular little horror flick from 2009 starred Alison Lohman as Christine Brown, a normal, wallflowery girl who always does the right thing but suffers for it personally. One day, she tries to assert herself by turning down an old woman’s loan at the bank where she works, only to find herself abruptly cursed. Though PG-13, the film was a frightfest that successfully brought the classic horror convention of trying to eliminate a dreadful curse (see: Curse of the Demon, The Ring, Thinner, etc.). Like most of these modern supernatural tales, a significant portion of the story was dedicated to our secular hero (or in this case, heroine) as they came to terms with the realization that not only does the world of the supernatural – and even spiritual – exist, but that it is most distinctly out to get them.
Drag Me To Hell also ends with on a particularly dickish note, as (SPOILER ALERT) Alison Lohman is indeed abruptly dragged to Hell after realizing that her attempts to foil the curse have backfired miserably (again, see Curse of the Demon, The Ring, Thinner, etc.). What’s more, she’s dragged to Hell right in front of her loving fiancé Clay Dalton, played by Justin Long, who spent the entire story doubting his bride but supporting her anyway, because he was in love.
In the (obvious) sequel, Drag Me From Hell, Clay Dalton would find himself on a similar journey to Christine’s in the first film. Forced to acknowledge the existence of magic, he would thrust himself deep into the world of the occult in search of a way to save Christine from an eternity in torment. Though personal corruption is always imminent through his increasingly disturbing practice of black magic, his love of Christine allows the possibility of redemption. When he finally succeeds at re-opening the gates of hell – at great cost to his own soul – the film kicks into high gear… Will the morally-compromised Clay Dalton find himself tormented forever alongside his beloved, or will he finally be able to drag her from hell?
District 10 (sequel to District 9, dir. Neill Blomkamp, 2009)
Another recent entry, last year’s District 9 was nothing short of a firecracker in a crowded room, startling audiences everywhere with its sudden, undeniable presence and jarringly independent spirit. The A-Team’s Sharlto Copley starred as Wikus Van De Merwe, a low-level bureaucrat tasked with the job of legally, but still forcefully, evicting a large shantytown of illegal aliens in South Africa’s ‘District 9.’ The catch: The illegal aliens are from outer space. Wikus begins the tale as a remarkably unlikable protagonist, espousing casual hatred towards the oppressed minority he pretends to be aiding. After Wikus is exposed to a mysterious compound in District 9, he finds himself transforming gradually into the alien lifeform he held in so much disdain.
Ironically, Wikus would not easily decide that the ‘Prawn,’ as the aliens are called, are oppressed flower children who need protecting from the big bad government… the kind of protection only a white man (or at least, a half-human one) can provide. No, Wikus has a tragic dedication to his own self-preservation, only aiding any of his new enemies (alien and human alike) in an effort cure himself and go back to his boring but at least mildly-happy happy. The film ends well. Wikus Van De Merwe does not.
There’s not much to propose for District 10 that has not already been discussed, but once again it’s a natural extension of the original film’s storyline. (SPOILER ALERT.) With a few of the Prawn having successfully escaped Earth and headed home, leaving a fully-transformed Wikus living in a trash heap, incapable of successfully living in either world, a promise was made to return… with reinforcements. The promise of balls-to-the-wall action is obvious, but also easy. District 10 has the potential to give us a curious new fable, in which the most powerful, untouchable people on earth are held accountable for their actions by a superior force. What if our governments, corporations and other shadowy puppet masters were taken to task for their actions? What would they say? What excuses would they make? Would they doom our planet to the horrors of war just to avoid admitting that they were wrong?
I’m guessing yes. And it would all start in District 10.
Ashleighs (sequel to Heathers, dir. Michael Lehmann, 1988)
Cult classic Heathers is one of those movies whose sequel has been rumored dozens of times over the years. Winona Ryder said recently that a sequel might currently be in the works, but who knows?
The way I imagine it, Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) survived her explosive high school experience, grew, and changed, though her sense of humor hasn’t. Minus the shoulder pads, blue tights, and cute hats, Veronica’s working as a novelist. She has a fifteen-year-old daughter, Beth (whose real name is actually Betty, but Betty is so outdated, duh). Veronica’s best friend is Martha Dunnstock (Carrie Lynn), who slimmed down and became a scarily successful record producer, shooting out hits like “Teenage Suicide: Don’t Motherf#&$in’ Do It,” by Ludacris with Busta Rhymes. When Beth finds herself surrounded by Ashleighs, striving for popularity at a new school, J.D. (Christian Slater) starts popping up in Veronica’s dreams. When enough’s enough, Veronica seeks out Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) and Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk) to help coax Beth away from the perils of mean girls, bad boys, and cruel lunchtime pranks. Unfortunately, the women never quite overcame their petty issues with one another.
If writer Daniel Waters and producer Denise di Novi (who brought us the not-so-awesome Happy Campers in 2001) return, along with the main cast, a sequel could be incredible. “Fetch” may never happen, but I’m still trying for “so very” and “what’s your damage?” Well, f$%& me gently with a chainsaw, I’d be first in line. With BQ Corn Nuts.
The Brain (sequel to Brick, dir. Rian Johnson, 2005)
Rian Johnson’s moody, neo-noir drama Brick kept us riveted. Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)’s inability to save Emily (Emilie de Ravin) led him far astray, across the country to NYU. Brendan’s stoolie and friend The Brain (Matt O’Leary) is attending Columbia, and the two cross paths occasionally. When a beautiful, sweet classmate of Brendan’s is murdered in what seems like a mugging, Brendan starts to see visions of Em on every corner.
As Brendan starts to sense things going awry in the NYU underworld of drugs, literature, and theater, he and The Brain are forced to come together again to hunt down the culprits. Little does Brendan know, his bespectacled friend may be in deeper than he thinks…
Rian Johnson strikes me as one of this decade’s biggest talents, and after The Brothers Bloom and the episode of “Breaking Bad” he directed this season (“Fly”), I’d love to see him, Gordon-Levitt, and O’Leary back together again. And hey, now that “Lost” is finally over, Ms. de Ravin needs to revamp her image so people remember her for anything more than “CHAHHLIEE!”
Slink (sequel to Slither, dir. James Gunn, 2006)
Horror-comedy is one of my favorite genres, and Slither combined the two with utter aplomb. The way I see the sequel, sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) and new wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) have moved far, far away from Wheelsy and opened an exterminator business. Unfortunately, the past always follows you, and despite the rather, ahem, explosive end of the first film, an amoeba survived. Hijinx ensue, Fillion and Banks can exercise their brilliant comic timing, and hey, since I’m not holding out for a “Firefly” reunion, I’ll take Fillion where I can get him.
The Smiths Meet the Johnsons (sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, dir. Doug Liman, 2005)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith was the movie that ended Brad and Jen’s marriage (boo-hiss, say the housewives of America) and put Angelina Jolie back on the map for good. Aside from that, it was a fun, stylish action-thriller and Pitt and Jolie had undeniable chemistry. While it’ll never be called the best movie of the decade, neither was it one of the worst, and I’d see the sequel.
The way I see it, John and Jane Smith, whose marriage improved exponentially after the first film, are having lots of sex, killing bad people with abandon, and not keeping secrets from one another. They run into major trouble when they meet a new couple from down the block, Bob and Carol Johnson, who are not all they seem to be…
Yes, the gimmick would probably not work twice, but you know it’d make money. Pitt and Jolie, who are busy jet-setting with their two gazillion kids, would probably never sign on for this. Frankly, though, half of America probably thinks the Jolie-Pitts really are a bizarre version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, so who knows?
Don’t Say the Zed Word (sequel to Shaun of the Dead, dir. Edgar Wright, 2004)
Edgar Wright is bringing us my most anticipated film of summer 2010: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Now that he’s finished with that, how about bringing Simon Pegg and Nick Frost back to follow up on Shaun, Ed, and Liz (Kate Ashfield)? In a world overrun by zombies, Shaun and Liz manage to live peaceably in the house while Ed resides in the shed, only cumbersome when he gets out and tries to eat them. Things can only go smoothly for Shaun for so long, though, and soon a new species of zombie starts to pop up throughout the world—somehow, decay and rigor mortis are delayed, causing an ability to retain thought and muscle control. The need to consume flesh remains, of course. Pegg, who was after all the star of Run Fatboy Run, ought to be able to have fun with this.
Let’s face it, who among us doesn’t want to see what Wright, Pegg, and Frost could do with a world where zombies provide menial work, entertainment, and even buddies? Having watched and loved Hot Fuzz and enjoyed “Spaced,” I’ll take anything those three can dish out, and though I’m not sure they can possibly improve upon the sheer awesomeness of Shaun, I’d be willing to see them try.