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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 25, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

It may look like a parody, but "Raging Bull II" - now titled "The Bronx Bull" - is currently in production.

Five terrible movie prequels that could actually exist


Nothing is sacred in Hollywood. If a film or property has name recognition, there's no way some studio executive won't try to come up with a sequel – or, since many audiences are sequel-weary, a prequel. It's actually rather strange that prequels have become so popular since everyone knows each one will end. It's the opposite of tension.

Disney's "Oz: The Great and Powerful" is the latest prequel to give a timeless classic film a new angle that, frankly, nobody asked for. It isn't the first, and it certainly won't be the last, as these five horrifyingly real prequel ideas sadly prove.

"Raging Bull"

Martin Scorsese's 1980 boxing drama is one of the greatest movies ever made. I don't think that statement is going to enrage too many people. It's a great story with some thrilling cinematography and an iconic performance from Robert De Niro. How could you do better?

Well, apparently director Martin Guigui thinks he could. Last April, it was announced that "Raging Bull II," a half prequel, half sequel to the classic movie, would start filming that summer. MGM, the owners of the rights to "Raging Bull" and Jake LaMotta's story, of course sued, and the film has since changed its name to "The Bronx Bull" and agreed to detach itself from the original.

That being said, they could change the name to "Balloon Man and the Parade of Sparkles," and people would still watch it now under the mindset that it's a follow-up to "Raging Bull." The main character's name is still listed as Jake LaMotta, so the comparisons – most likely unfavorable – are inevitable. To the film's credit, Jake LaMotta himself supports the follow-up, which tells me all those vicious fights in the boxing ring may have taken their toll. Or, most likely, the bank account might be running a bit low.

"The Shining"

I love "The Shining." When people ask me what I believe is the scariest movie in film history, I say Stanley Kubrick's haunting, mesmerizing 1980 Stephen King adaptation every time. Kubrick was such a unique director, and he possessed such an understanding for what compositions, images, ideas and sounds would rattle his viewers to their core. "The Shining" also has mysteries stacked on top of mysteries – both in its story and from its creation – that make it live on like very few other horror films (a new documentary, "Room 237," has even attempted to unravel the multiple theories and conspiracies embedded in the project).

Of course, Warner Bros. didn't feel like leaving greatness alone. Last summer, the Los Angeles Times revealed that the studio was "quietly exploring" the prospects of a prequel to "The Shining" that would likely answer all of the film's fascinating mysteries and weird moments in a complete misunderstanding of what makes "The Shining" brilliant. Hint: It's not explaining things. Hopefully, this particularly inane prequel idea will make like Jack Torrance and die before it can mindlessly take a bloody axe to something unique and special.

"The Godfather"

You'd think a film franchise as beloved as "The Godfather" would be off-limits from unnecessary prequels and sequels, but I suppose that's the theme of this entire article, isn't it (Coming soon: "Dawn of the Sled: The Story of Rosebud"). Last May, Paramount and Mario Puzo's estate made a deal in court about the book "The Family Corleone," a sequel/prequel set during the Depression.

The arrangement hinted at a potential film adaptation if the book did well, but even if it flopped, it'd be hard to imagine Paramount turning down the opportunity to throw the iconic Corleone name on another big release. It's hard to say that the movie would be terrible – I'd like to think Paramount would put some effort behind one of cinema's signature franchises – but there is such a thing as leaving well enough alone. But sometimes I guess you get an offer you can't refuse (sorry; I had to).

"Blade Runner"

Ridley Scott already stepped into the prequel game this past summer with "Prometheus," the kinda-sorta-maybe if you squint your eyes precursor to the sci-fi horror classic "Alien." It was a moderate success critically and a big success financially. The biggest problem with it, however, was its actual prequel-ness. The links to "Alien" made little to no sense (some would argue the entire movie didn't make sense but moving on) and felt more shoehorned than actually needed.

It seems it was good enough for Scott, though, who is also signed on to produce and direct a "Blade Runner" companion. There is no word whether it will be a prequel or a sequel, though it sounds like a prequel set in the film's "alternate universe" is the favored direction.

"Prometheus" showed Scott certainly still has the visual chops for the genre he helped create, but his ear for stories and dialogue isn't exactly encouraging. Plus, "Blade Runner" is another film made better by its ambiguity and mystery. More explanation would not add to the experience (as everyone should have found out after they added voiceover, read by an amazingly bored-sounding Harrison Ford, to the original film).

However, the irony of people so eager to make sequels and prequels to a movie about replicants attempting to murder their creator is quite amusing.

"Pulp Fiction"

This is probably the best of the misguided prequel ideas. Ever since the wild success of "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," Tarantino has toyed with making a prequel to his first two iconic features. According to the eccentric writer-director, the film would follow brothers Vincent (John Travolta) and Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) during Vincent's famed Amsterdam hijinks. Tarantino even said the prequel had a title: "Double V Vega."

Of course, Tarantino never got around to making the prequel and has now instead focused on historical revisionism (the current rumor is that he's going to work on a final installment for his revisionist trilogy about black soldiers in 1944). Madsen has brought up the project a few times, but the idea of making a prequel now, considering Travolta and Madsen's age, would be a logical push, even for a writer as skilled as Tarantino.

I don't doubt he could make "Double V Vega" – especially now that he has another Oscar under his belt and his highest grossing film yet with "Django Unchained." I just wonder if we'd actually want to see it at this point.

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