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The Pain of having to Wait after a Cliffhanger

To quote the original “Lost in Space” franchise, “Oh, the pain… the pain”… of having to endure the wait for a show’s next season.

Cliffhangers are the norm in movie and TV storytelling these days. It’s not unusual to get to the credits of anything without a significant hanging thread compelling you to get to the next episode as fast as possible.

My family and I just watched the third (and final) season premiere of Netflix’s “Lost in Space.” And of course, our 11-year-old son was pleading at the end of the episode that we blow through his bedtime to watch the second episode. (As there are only 8, I held the line to extend the joy over these upcoming viewing weeks.)

Keeping Track of the Jupiter 2’s Course
This fun, non-stop sci-fi series has been constructed on an endless number of cliffhangers, and it’s been especially challenging as a viewer to wait between seasons to see what happens. It’s helpful that Netflix automatically served up a recap of season 2 to kick things off. The writers enjoy dropping breadcrumbs, and you really need to keep track of developing plot points across the seasons.

Yes, it’s been hard to handle the long pause between the second and third seasons of “Lost in Space.” It’s been almost 2 years! (Yes, there were Covid-19 production delays.) But the producers have committed to get the fans to the finish line. (I can’t yet speak to the characters’ success on that important question.)

You’d think that properly ending any story is an essential technique. But of course, viewership numbers can sometimes kill off a series prematurely and leave the cliffhanger… hanging.

It’s not bad storytelling. Its economics. But ultimately, it actually is bad storytelling.

For a time, I wondered if the new “Dune” would fall into this category.

Why do Movies have Cliffhangers to Sequels that aren’t Greenlit?
The writers and producers of “Dune” wisely chose to tackle just the first half of the book (unlike the 1984 flick, which tried to cram it all in).

The start of “Dune” even includes a title graphic that say “Part One.” And yes, the movie ends on a cliffhanger, although it plays more like a chapter ending. It’s arguably the film’s weakest element. But you accept it, because there’s going to be a part two… right?

Well, after I watched it with my son on the day of its premiere in October, I immediately did some Googling to see when the sequel was coming out, and I was shocked with what I found.

It’s not that they hadn’t shot the sequel yet. It’s that the sequel hadn’t even been greenlit! They were waiting to see how successful the first film is.

I get the economics, but come on!

How Good is Half of “Dune?”
Okay, so they did green-light the sequel a few days later. (The sequel will be released in October 2023.)

But imagine if the box office wasn’t so kind to “Dune.” We would only have gotten half a story.

As it turned out, “Dune” was a big success. And my son and I liked it too.

It’s a perfect family film if you’re regulars in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, there’s lots of action and PG-13-level violence. But If your kids can handle “The Avengers,” “Dune” shouldn’t be a problem. “Dune” is more mature in its storytelling style and more serious in tone. And I think it’s a great next step for a young sci-fi fan.

The Economics can Ruin a Movie Fan’s Day
I can’t dispute economics, but it would have been so much better from a viewer’s perspective if both movies were made back to back, like the second and third installments of “The Matrix” series. (Can’t wait for the fourth one, even though it’s been 18 years!)

Hey, what about a three or four-part “Dune” miniseries for HBO Max? (Yes, again that means covering all of the content.)

Ultimately, If you’re going to tell one story, I feel you’ve got to commit to telling the whole story! Waiting for box office numbers can tragically lead to movies without an ending and very cranky fans.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve just got to have some faith that things are going to work out the way they should. I’m sure director Dennis Villeneuve had faith that he’d get his shot to direct his “Dune” sequel.”

And remember when the pilot of the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot came out in 2003 with a huge cliffhanger? The actual ground-breaking sci-fi series didn’t show up until 2005. So having to wait is not without precedent.

And then there’s “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” We had to wait another three years to find out Han’s fate.

But in this age of countless streaming options and a glut of great content to watch, fans can be fickle.

If there’s a cliffhanger, please don’t make us wait too long for what comes next.

20 Movies to Stream with your Kids while Practicing Social Distancing

Watching a movie at home with your children can be a great way to forget about the coronavirus for a while. Here are some choices you may not have thought about lately.

On any normal weekend, I often find it difficult to find an age-appropriate movie to stream with my nine-year-old son in our family room. He’s generally graduated from G-rated content, but PG movies aren’t always right for him. That said, having read the Harry Potter series, he handled the PG-13 movies just fine.

Everyone’s kid is different. So a simple rating shouldn’t really do more than act as a general guide. You’ve really got to figure it out on your own before you press play.

But if you’re like me, you don’t always have the chance to preview the entire movie ahead of time. So, you’ve got to rely on other opinions to help guide your own choices.

Use Common Sense?
My wife and I often go to Common Sense Media to find out other parents’ thoughts on the appropriate age group for movies we’re considering. I’ve generally found them to be pretty strict about what kids should and shouldn’t watch, which isn’t a bad thing. That said, I tend to subtract a year or two from the recommended age for a particular flick. And that’s because of what I know is appropriate for my own boy. So, you should calibrate accordingly.

Time to Stream a Movie
These are not normal times. As I write this, everything around me and my family has generally shut down for the next two weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. And of course, we’re practicing social distancing.

So, one likely result from all of this is the pressure to serve up more movies at home to your kids. Where you might have had to identify only one new family-friendly movie a week to watch, now you may need a whole bunch more.

I know there are countless activities parents can do with their kids other than simply adding screen time to their day. Even so, I feel it couldn’t hurt to put together a deeper bench of movies choices to serve up as needed during these uncertain weeks ahead.

20 Movies to Watch at Home with your Kids

If you want to expand your own cue of movie choices, please consider these flicks that my son and I have enjoyed together on the couch. You might have missed some of them. Please note that I’ve excluded the usual popular animated choices. (I’m sure you’re well aware of those options already!)

The Adventures of Tintin, PG (2011)
Starring: Jamie Bell, Any Serkis, Daniel Craig (animated)
Directed by Steven Spielberg, this has a wonderful “Raiders of the Lost Ark” energy to it.

Bridge to Terabithia, PG (2007)
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb
Really sweet, although it doesn’t have your typical happy ending.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, PG (2005)
Starring: Johnny Depp
Warped like only Tim Burton can do… but still lots of fun.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, PG (1982)
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore
Of course, right?!

The House with a Clock in Its Walls, PG (2018)
Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett
A little creepy, but Jack and Cate are so enjoyable to watch.

Hugo, PG (2011)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Christopher Lee
Directed by Martin Scorsese, it’s a classic that you may have missed.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, (2017)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart
Solid entertainment.

National Treasure series, PG (2004, 2007)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger
Really clever.

The NeverEnding Story, PG (1984)
Starring: Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver
Yes, it’s dated, but it still connects to kids.

Night at the Museum series, PG (2006, 2009, 2014)
Starring: Ben Stiller
What’s not to love? LOL fun.

Race to Witch Mountain, PG (2009)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino
Action-packed and suspenseful, but still plenty silly.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, PG (2018)
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld (animated)
This is a great movie for children of all ages.

The Spiderwick Chronicles, PG (2008)
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, David Strathairn
More creepy fun.

Spy Kids series, PG (2001, 2002, 2003)
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it’s an over-the-top spoof of adult spy flicks.

A Wrinkle in Time, PG (2018)
Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon
Visually stunning.

Don’t Forget the Popcorn
If you have other suggestions to add to this list, I’d love to hear them! I’ve got my own expanded movie playlist to put together.

Good luck and be safe.

Coming Soon… A Movie Trailer You’ve Already Seen

Before this Marvel movie hit the streets, did you know who Ant-Man was? It’s a fundamental question that’s key to any movie’s success. And that’s what movie trailers are for. But the criteria for when and how you’re supposed to consume your movie previews has been upended…

Before this Marvel movie hit the streets, did you know who Ant-Man was? It’s a fundamental question that’s key to any movie’s success. And that’s what movie trailers are for. But the criteria for when and how you’re supposed to consume your movie previews has been upended…

Remember when the movie theater lights would dim, and you’d prepare yourself to get excited over a few movie trailers? Most of the previews you’d probably never seen before, unless you were experiencing the back half of a double feature. (Remember those?)

And what about the thrill you felt when that one amazing movie trailer hit you from out of nowhere? What an experience!

Whenever I bathed in that super glow of movie ‘geekiness,’ I would feel like I didn’t even need to stay for the main feature anymore. How could it get any better than the previous two minutes?

Of course the current availability of online movie trailers has ruined all that. And while I’ve got to admit that the sport of watching and collecting online trailers at home is fun, the experience pales to the purity of in-theater viewing…

No Surprises
Another byproduct of the proliferation of online movie trailers is you don’t need to show up to the movie theater on time.

I used to refuse to walk in even two minutes late…for fear of missing the first preview.
(Often a big one)

Today, I think it’s safe to say I’ve already seen every ‘major’ movie trailer they throw at me. Yes, it can still be more compelling to see it on the big screen, but the crazy urgency I used to feel on the whole matter has gradually evaporated.
(Yes, occasionally, a new movie trailer is first released on ‘day one’ in the theaters and then goes online immediately after… but that’s rare and something of a stunt.)

Movie Roulette
Now, all you’ve really got to do is skip the fifteen minutes of previews and commercials, (yuck) seat yourself just in time for the opening scene, and you’re golden.

Of course, if you play that game, you risk not finding a decent seat….

Plus if you lose, and show up a couple minutes into the flick’s opening sequence, then you become a major pain the butt for all the people sitting behind you.

And that’s really not cool. Nobody wants to miss the first scene of the movie, because you messed up your ‘movie roulette.’

I say it should be more like when you go to a theater to see a play. If you show up late there, you often can’t get to your seat until intermission.

The Rise of the Post-Credit Movie Scene
One type of movie preview experience that thankfully has remained intact (and in fact is becoming ever more popular) is the post-credit ‘surprise’ scene.
Most everybody has already left the theater…
(Who really wants to watch five minutes of credits?)
And then suddenly another scene pops up!

Often it’s something of a throwaway sequence, but sometimes it’s a significant moment that hints at a future film. Occasionally, it is a clip from the next related film!

A perfect example is the credit sequence from the well-reviewed
“Marvel’s Ant-Man.”
(Which I also really enjoyed…. Good talent. Great sense of humor. A story with heart. And a movie that enjoys living in the Marvel super-hero universe, but stands on it’s own. In fact, it was my favorite summer flick!)

“Ant-Man” actually has two separate scenes buried in the credits. The first one points to the evolution of one of the characters. The second appears to be from the next Captain America film- “Captain America: Civil War.”
(There’s no time like the present to begin seeding your future ticket purchase!)

Creating the Cliffhanger Moment
So it’s interesting how the placement of impactful movie-previews has taken something of a 180 and found a new favorite home at the end of the flick you’re watching…. instead of at the beginning.

And in the age of movie blockbusters built on a model of an ongoing story over multiple installments, it’s important to set the stage for the next sequel…

And that’s something of a nod to the cliffhanger model used in the old action and sci-fi movie serials like 1939’s “Buck Rogers”.

Yes…what’s old is new again…

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