Holiday Bonus – Sequels, Trilogies, and Series, Oh My!
Why Watch That
It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means…time to prepare for an onslaught of movie sequels! In this episode, the Critic and the Referee talk about some of their favorite movie series. You’ll leave the conversation feeling energized, and you’ll be able to answer the question, “What does Napoleon Dynamite and The Matrix have in common?” Enjoy!
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Fantasy/Adventure)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Fellowship of the Ring: Released December 18, 2001
The Two Towers: Released December 19, 2002
The Return of the King: Released December 17, 2003
Plot: Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the films follow the hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) as he and a Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, and thus ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. When the Fellowship becomes divided, Frodo continues the quest together with his loyal companion Sam (Sean Astin) and the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis). Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), heir in exile to the throne of Gondor, and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) unite and rally the Free Peoples of Middle-earth in the War of the Ring.
The Hobbit Trilogy (Fantasy/Adventure)
Directed by Peter Jackson
An Unexpected Journey
Released December 13, 2012
Plot: A reluctant hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of dwarves to reclaim their mountain home – and the gold within it – from the dragon Smaug.
The Desolation of Smaug
Released December 13, 2013
Plot: The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
The Battle of the Five Armies
Releasing December 12, 2014
Plot: Bilbo and Company are forced into a war against an array of combatants and must keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.
Critic: “If you haven’t watched Lord of the Rings, you must be under a rock!” “The Fellowship of the Ring is your setup to the trilogy.” “The Hobbit, which is the prequel, is not as good. But, if you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, why not watch it?”
Referee: “I don’t own the Two Towers, but this is where things really kick off.” “The Hobbit is too slow for me!”
The Lethal Weapon Series (Action)
Directed by Richard Donner
Released March 6, 1987
Plot: Struggling with age and retirement, homicide detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is partnered with young and suicidal narcotics officer Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). Together, they work the case of the alleged suicide of Amanda Hunsaker, daughter of a wealthy businessman who served with Murtaugh in Vietnam. Murtaugh and Riggs soon discover that Hunsaker was involved in a heroin-smuggling scheme led by a retired general (Mitchell Ryan) and his lead enforcer (Gary Busey).
Leathal Weapon II
Released July 7, 1989
Plot: During a car chase, Riggs and Murtaugh stumble upon a trunk full of smuggled South African Krugerrands. This sparks a series of attempts at their lives, forcing them to take a less dangerous case: protecting Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), a loud-mouthed whistleblower. However, they realize that Getz was involved in the same South African illegal activities. As a result, they become entangled in a drug-smuggling operation in Los Angeles involving South African diplomats who use their immunity as a shield. Riggs kills the murderer of his wife who is among the criminals.
Lethal Weapon III
Released May 15, 1992
Plot: As Murtaugh, who is one week from retiring, and Riggs investigate a robbery committed using a duplicate armored car, they find themselves in the middle of an Internal Affairs investigation led by Sergeant Lorna Cole (Rene Russo). The subject of the investigation is a rogue AWOL cop (Stuart Wilson) who is stealing impounded weapons and selling them on the black market. During the investigation, Murtaugh shoots and kills a teenager who attacks him and Riggs; the teenager turns out to be a friend of his own son. This prompts Murtaugh to capture the man responsible for the distribution of illegal firearms and to rethink his retirement.
Lethal Weapon IV
Released July 10, 1998
Plot: While both Lorna and Murtaugh’s daughter are pregnant, Riggs and Murtaugh must pair with rookie Detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock) to investigate a Chinese immigrant smuggling ring. Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li) is a ruthless enforcer who attempts to murder Murtaugh’s family members by burning them alive in their own home. As the story progresses, Murtaugh discovers that Lee is the father of his daughter’s unborn child. Murtaugh and Riggs slay dozens of Chinese gangsters and ultimately manage to catch up with the boss of the smuggling ring.
Critic: “It didn’t get better as they went on.”
Referee: “I love this series. For me, everyone of these worked.” “They kept adding more characters, and it got better.”
The Die Hard Series (Action)
Directed by John McTiernan
Released on July 20, 1988
Plot: The first film begins on Christmas Eve when John McClane (Bruce Willis) comes to reunite with his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) in Los Angeles at her company’s Christmas party. At the fictional Nakatomi Plaza, East German terrorists break in and take the celebrants hostage. McClane escapes detection and hides in the building. He kills off the gang and learns their real aim: to steal millions in bearer bonds from the building’s vault. In the finale, McClane throws the terrorist leader, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), out of a window on the 30th floor.
Die Hard II
Directed by Renny Harlin
Released on July 4, 1990
Plot: The second film takes place a year after the first, again on Christmas Eve. In Washington, D.C., McClane (Bruce Willis) waits for his wife at Washington Dulles International Airport. Mercenaries led by former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) take over the airport communication systems, stranding planes in the air, including the one with McClane’s wife. Colonel Stuart wants to free a captured Latin American dictator (Franco Nero) en route to the airport. McClane discovers the plan, including a conspiracy between Stuart and an Army counter-terrorist unit sent to stop him. He foils their plans and provides a visual landing signal for the circling aircraft by exploding the villains’ getaway plane.
Die Hard III: Die Hard with a Vengeance
Directed by John McTiernan
Released on May 19, 1995
Plot: In the third film, McClane is back in New York City, separated from his wife, suspended from the police force, and a borderline alcoholic. A terrorist known only as “Simon” (Jeremy Irons) threatens to blow up various locations in the city unless McClane agrees to play his twisted version of Simon Says. Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), a shopkeeper from Harlem, saves McClane after the first challenge, and reluctantly continues to help. The FBI reveals that Simon is the brother of Hans Gruber, who was killed in the first film. McClane learns that revenge is a cover story for robbing the New York Federal Reserve. McClane tracks Simon to the Canadian border. In a helicopter, McClane ends Simon with a handgun and a power line.
Die Hard IV
Directed by Len Wiseman
Released on June 27, 2007
Plot: The fourth film takes place on Independence Day, over a decade after the third film. McClane is divorced and estranged from his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Cyber-terrorists hack into computers at the FBI. McClane is sent to bring in computer hacker Matthew “Matt” Farrell (Justin Long) for questioning. Assassins hired by terrorist mastermind Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) attempt to kill McClane and Farrell. Farrell tells McClane that the terrorists are actually in the middle of a “fire sale” — a crippling cyber-warfare attack on the national infrastructure, including power, public utilities, traffic, and other computer-controlled systems. Although the terrorists capture Lucy and Farrell, McClane foils the criminals and saves the hostages.
Die Hard V
Directed by John Moore
Released on February 14, 2013
Plot: The fifth film is set around five years after the fourth, mostly located in Moscow, Russia and Chernobyl, Ukraine. McClane finds out that his estranged son John “Jack” McClane, Jr. (Jai Courtney) was arrested in Moscow for murder. When he arrives at the Moscow courthouse for Jack, Russian terrorists bomb the building, and Jack escapes with imprisoned ex-billionaire Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). In an intense car chase, McClane pursues and saves the pair. John discovers that Jack is a CIA operative working undercover, causing him and his son to team up against underworld forces.
Critic – “It’s a ridiculous franchise that is fun to watch – my favorite is the first film.”
Referee – “The first film has a more serious tone.” “I haven’t seen the last one and probably won’t.”
The Matrix Series (Action/Sci-Fi)
Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Released on March 31, 1999
Plot: The first film introduces a future in which Earth is dominated by sentient machines that were created early in the 21st century and rebelled against humanity. At one point, humans attempted to block out the machines’ source of solar power by covering the sky in thick, stormy clouds. During this time, the machines and mankind were engaged in a massive war in which the machines ultimately emerged the victor. Having no definite source of energy, the machines devised a way to extract humans’ bioelectricity and thermal energy by growing people in pods and keeping their minds under control by cybernetic implants that connect them to a simulated reality called the Matrix. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) recruits hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) into humanity’s rebellion against the sentient machines.
The Matrix Reloaded (Released on May 15, 2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (Released on November 5, 2003) tell the story of the impending attack on the human enclave of Zion by a vast machine army. Neo also learns more about the history of the Matrix and his role as “The One.”
Critic – “This film came out of nowhere…All of you critics, from top to bottom, were wrong!” “This was a new way of seeing action!”
Referee – “I own the first and second films, but refuse to own the 3rd!”
The Bourne Identity Series (Action/Thriller/Spy)
The Bourne Identity
Directed by Doug Liman
Released on June 14, 2002
Plot: In the Mediterranean Sea, Italian fishermen rescue an unconscious American man, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), who is floating adrift with two gunshot wounds in his back. The boat’s medic finds a tiny laser projector surgically implanted under the man’s skin at the hip. When activated, it displays a safe deposit box number in Zürich. The man wakes up and discovers that he is suffering from memory loss. Though fluent in several languages and possessing unusual skills, he cannot remember anything about his identity or the events prior to his rescue. He is now on a race to elude assassins and regain his memory.
The Bourne Supremacy
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Released on July 23, 2004
Plot: Two years after learning that he is a trained assassin and breaking his connections with the CIA, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is framed for a crime connected to one of his past missions. A subsequent attempt on his life results in the death of Marie, his love interest. Thinking that the CIA is hunting him again, he decides to take revenge by hunting down those responsible for her death and for his forgotten past. Bourne discovers that Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), one of the men who oversaw Operation Treadstone, the program that trained Bourne to be an assassin, stole millions of dollars from the CIA. Abbott meant to implicate Bourne in the theft via a frame-up, which would have led the CIA on a wild goose chase if Bourne had been killed as intended. Bourne exposes Abbott to Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), the CIA officer in charge of finding Bourne, and Abbott subsequently commits suicide. During a long car chase with Bourne, the Russian agent who was paid to kill him and was responsible for Marie’s death is killed, and Bourne goes into hiding.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Released on August 3, 2007
Plot: After six weeks of hiding, Bourne (Matt Damon) learns that a British journalist has been investigating his past and contacts him to find out who his source is. Bourne is subsequently targeted by Operation Blackbriar, an upgraded Operation Treadstone, which has also taken note of the investigation. Believing that Bourne is a threat and is seeking revenge, Blackbriar’s director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) begins a new hunt for Bourne. Bourne manages to take classified documents that prove that Blackbriar has targeted U.S. citizens; he is aided by Landy, who disagreed with Vosen from the beginning and does not support Blackbriar’s existence, and former Treadstone logistics technician Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). She may have had romantic feelings for Bourne before his final mission and resulting amnesia. Bourne finally comes face to face with the first Treadstone operative who oversaw his behavioral modification some years earlier, memories of which resurface. Those responsible for Treadstone and Blackbriar are exposed, and Bourne goes underground.
The Bourne Legacy
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Released on August 10, 2012
Plot: Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a member of Operation Outcome, a United States Department of Defense black ops program that enhances the physical and mental abilities of field operatives through pills referred to as “chems”. Cross, deployed to Alaska for a training assignment, traverses rugged terrain to reach a cabin operated by an exiled Outcome operative. Meanwhile, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has exposed the Blackbriar and Treadstone programs in public, leading the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to investigate those involved. Retired Air Force Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who is responsible for overseeing the Beta program from which the CIA’s Treadstone and Blackbriar were developed, decides to end Outcome and kill its agents. Cross manages to survive several attempts on his life and seeks a way to get more chems, since his have run out. Cross eventually comes upon Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), his last link to gain more chems. He discovers that she doesn’t have any chems. However, his physical enhancements have actually “viraled-out” and are now genetically permanent, so he no longer needs them. He reveals to her that, without the help of the mental enhancements, he possesses a well below average IQ. Shearing helps Cross travel to a factory in Manila so that he can avoid this mental regression and elude the assassins who have been sent to kill him. They evade the Manila police and an operative from a new super-soldier program and successfully escape from the Philippines on a junk ship.
Critic – “I love all of these films; the fight scenes are great!”
Referee – “I love these as well!” “They changed directors in the middle of the series, and it just got better!”
The Rush Hour Series (Action/Comedy)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Released on September 18, 1998
Plot: Cultures clash and tempers flare as two cops, Hong Kong Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Los Angeles Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker), from different worlds and with different personalities, discover that they have one thing in common: They can’t stand each other. With time running out, they must join forces to catch criminals and save the eleven-year-old daughter of a Chinese consul.
Rush Hour 2
Released on August 3, 2001
Plot: Det. James Carter (Chris Tucker) is on vacation in Hong Kong, while Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) is busy doing police work. After an explosion at the American Embassy, Lee attempts to track down the man who may be responsible: Ricky Tan, a Triad gang leader and the former partner of Lee’s father, who was also a cop. Lee drags an unappreciative Carter along for back-up. Lee discovers a power struggle between Tan and Hu Li of the Triads. They later find out that the struggle has something to do with the death of Lee’s father and a counterfeiting scheme. Lee and Carter go back to the States, where they discover that everything that’s happened goes way beyond an explosion at the Embassy.
Rush Hour 3
Released on August 10, 2007
Plot: After an attempted assassination on Ambassador Han, Inspector Lee and Detective Carter are back in action as they head to Paris to protect a French woman who has knowledge of the Triads’ secret leaders. Lee also holds secret meetings with a United Nations authority, and has personal struggles with a Chinese criminal mastermind named Kenji, who is revealed as Lee’s long-lost brother. Lee’s and Carter’s race will take them across the city, from the depths of the Paris underground to the breathtaking heights of the Eiffel Tower. They fight to outrun the world’s most deadly criminals and save the day.
Critic – “I’m not a fan.”
Referee – “If you want an action movie that is funny, this is it!” “The first one worked, second worked, third was okay.”
The Rambo Series (Action/Thriller)
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Released on October 22, 1982
Plot: A Vietnam Veteran (Sylvester Stallone) uses his combat skills against the lawmen of a small town after they arrest and abuse him.
Rambo: First Blood II
Directed by George Cosmatos
Released on May 22, 1985
Plot: John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is released from prison by the government to participate in a top-secret covert mission set in the last place on Earth he’d want to see again – the jungles of Vietnam.
Directed by Peter MacDonald
Released on May 25, 1988
Plot: Rambo’s Vietnam commanding officer Colonel Trautman is held hostage in Afghanistan, and it’s up to Rambo to rescue him.
Rambo (or Rambo IV)
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Released on January 25, 2008
Plot: In Thailand, John Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma to rescue a group of Christian aid workers who were kidnapped by the ruthless local infantry unit.
Critic – “This is an action series that requires you to suspend disbelief.”
Referee – “The first film is good, and the second one is good.”
The Mission Impossible Series (Action/Spy)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Released on May 22, 1996
Plot: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), an Impossible Missions Force agent, is framed for the murder of his fellow IMF agents during a Prague Embassy mission gone wrong and wrongly accused of selling government secrets to a mysterious international criminal known only as “Max”. He must discover and expose the real culprit without the help of his organization.
Mission: Impossible II
Directed by John Woo
Released on May 24, 2000
Plot: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is sent to Sydney, Australia to find and destroy a genetically modified disease called “Chimera”.
Mission: Impossible III
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Released on May 26, 2006
Plot: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) comes face to face with a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer while trying to keep his identity secret in order to protect his girlfriend.
Mission: Impossible IV – Ghost Protocol
Directed by Brad Bird
Released on December 21, 2011
Plot: The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name.
Referee – “I liked the first and second film; the third one wasn’t as good.”
The Indiana Jones Series
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Release on June 12, 1981
Plot: Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Release on May 23, 1984
Plot: In 1935, a year before the previous film, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) escapes Chinese gangsters with the help of singer-actress Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and his twelve-year-old sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). The trio crash-land in India, where they come across a village whose children have been kidnapped. A destructive cult led by Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) has also taken the holy Sankara Stones, which they will use to take over the world. Overcoming his own mercenary nature, Indiana manages to overcome Mola Ram’s evil power, rescue the children, and return the stones to their rightful place.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Release on May 24, 1989
Plot: In 1912, a thirteen-year-old Indiana (River Phoenix) attempts to recover an ornamental cross that belonged to Francisco Vásquez de Coronado: a task that he finally completes in 1938. Indiana and his friend Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) are assigned by American businessman Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) to find the Holy Grail. They are teamed up with Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) and pick-up where Indiana’s estranged father Henry (Sean Connery) left off before his disappearance. Donovan and Elsa are actually in league with the Nazis, who captured Henry Jones in order to get Indiana to help them find the Grail. However, Indiana recovers his father’s diary filled with research and manages to rescue him before finding the location of the Grail. Both Donovan and Elsa fall to the temptation of the Grail, while Indiana and Henry realize that their relationship with each other is more important than finding the relic.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Release on May 22, 2008
Plot: In 1957, nineteen years after the previous film, Indiana (Harrison Ford) enjoys a quiet life as a teacher before he’s thrust into a new adventure. He races against agents of the Soviet Union, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), to find the crystal skull. His journey takes him across Nevada, Connecticut, Peru, and the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Indiana is faced with betrayal by one of his best friends, Mac (Ray Winstone), is introduced to a greaser named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), who turns out to be his son (his real name is revealed to be Henry Jones III), and is reunited with Marion Ravenwood, an old flame who was introduced in the first film.
Critic – “Comedy and action are here…it works!” “Some of it is completely outrageous, but it has the right amount of cheese.”
Referee – “It’s good; stick with the first and second film, and you’ll be safe.”
The Alien Series & Prometheus (Horror/Sci-Fi)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Released on June 22, 1979
Plot: On its way back to Earth, the US commercial starship Nostromo is diverted to a desolate planetoid after receiving a cryptic signal from a derelict alien spacecraft. While exploring the alien ship, one of the Nostromo’s crewmen discovers the remains of the ship’s pilot and a large chamber that contains thousands of egg-like objects. One of the eggs releases a creature that attaches itself to his face and renders him unconscious. They break quarantine to bring him back aboard the ship. When the parasite dies, he wakes up, seemingly fine. Soon afterward, an alien organism bursts out of his chest and rapidly grows into a terrifying eight-foot tall creature that starts killing off the crew one by one.
Directed by James Cameron
Released on July 18, 1986
Plot: After 57 years in hypersleep, the sole survivor of the Nostromo, Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), awakens aboard a medical space station orbiting Earth. Her story of the alien terror that she encountered is disbelieved, and she learns that the planetoid from the first film (now designated as LV-426) is now home to a terraforming colony. When contact with the colony is lost, Ripley accompanies a squad of high-tech Elite Colonial Marines aboard the spaceship Sulaco to investigate. Once there, they discover that the colonists were wiped out after they had found the derelict alien ship (and its deadly cargo) from the first film.
Directed by David Fincher
Released on May 22, 1992
Plot: Due to a fire aboard the Sulaco, an escape pod carrying the survivors fr0m the second film is automatically jettisoned. It crash-lands on the refinery/prison planet Fiorina “Fury” 161, but Ripley is the only one to survive the crash. Unbeknownst to her, an Alien facehugger parasite is also aboard the ship. Before long, a full-sized Alien is then loose in the prison, killing the inmates one by one. Ripley also discovers that there is an Alien queen growing inside of her. She must kill not only the rampaging alien but also herself in order to save humanity.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Released on November 26, 1997
Plot: 200 years after the events of the previous film, Ellen Ripley and the Alien queen she was carrying are cloned. The Alien queen is surgically removed from her body as the United Systems Military hopes to breed Aliens to study on the spaceship USM Auriga. A group of mercenaries kidnaps human hosts and delivers them to the military on the ship. The Aliens escape their enclosures, while Ripley 8 (a clone that contains some Alien DNA herself) and the mercenaries attempt to escape and destroy the Auriga before it reaches its destination: Earth.
Prometheus (Prequel to Alien)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Released on June 8, 2012
Plot: Explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe to find humanity’s forerunners, the “Engineers”. After they arrive on the desired planet, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.
Critic – “Alien and Aliens are the quintessential horror/sci-fi films!”
Referee – “These films are good!”
The Referee’s additional picks to watch…
Pirates of Caribbean (Action/Adventure/Fantasy )
Toy Story (Comedy/Cartoon)
The Godfather (Crime/Drama)
Star Trek: 2009 Reboot (Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi)
The Jewel of the Nile (Action/Comedy)
Man of Steel (Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi)