Movie and TV farewells of the year

David Letterman, shown here at the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, said goodbye to television in 2015.

Two hugely popular film franchises said goodbye this year, and they couldn't be more different.

One is "Paranormal Activity,"the low-budget horror flicks from Blumhouse Productions. The series began in 2007 with a haunted-house movie that had no stars, the slimmest of scripts and a bunch of slamming doors instead of special effects. Presented as found footage from surveillance cameras in a San Diego McMansion, "Paranormal Activity" was a good old-fashioned chiller with a modern twist.

Five more films spelled diminishing returns, but there was something comforting about the format, which never changed. With the release of this year's final film, "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,"we've lost a dependably enjoyable franchise, and a dependably profitable one, too. According to BoxOfficeMojo, the whole series cost $28 million to produce and took in $888 million at the box office.

The other franchise to leave us was "The Hunger Games,"a series of big-budget spectacles whose marketing campaigns alone could have funded a hundred "Paranormal" films. Based on the best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins, "The Hunger Games" introduced us to a dystopia called Panem where children were forced to battle each other to the death — at least until the rebellious Katniss Everdeen ( Jennifer Lawrence) stepped in. The first film, in 2012, turned Lawrence into a superstar and promised a new kind of teen flick, one that combined brutal violence with sharp social commentary.

Alas, the series never quite rose to its potential, but don't tell that to its fans, who have shelled out $2.7 billion (and counting). The ensuing mania for teen-dystopia films is with us still, in the form of the franchises " Divergent" and " The Maze Runner." They're not quite the same thing, though, largely because there's only one Jennifer Lawrence.


And guess what? Lionsgate recently hinted that "Hunger Games" prequels are a possibility. It's so hard to say goodbye.

— Rafer Guzman


TV, like life, goes on. Right? The departure of a giant personality doesn't usually mean the end of his or franchise. Someone else steps in. The show goes on. Life too — and also for the personality. Johnny Carsoneffectively expunged his public profile after " Tonight," disappearing behind his Malibu compound walls. He wasn't "Tonight," after all. He had his own life. He was done.

Instead of walls, David Lettermandisappeared behind his beard. You may have seen the pictures: a huge flowing white personality unto itself, which Letterman likened (accurately) to Charles Darwin's. But Dave's evolution from the world's most famous late night host to hirsute private citizen has been experienced by all of us in other ways. "Late Show" was taken over by Stephen Colbert— clean-shaven, and still feeling his way into a new personality and style so different from his "Colbert Report" one. In Letterman's absence, the rest of late night TV seems more polite, less attuned to the tumultuous political landscape. Jon Stewartalso left last year, so late night is definitely more polite and less attuned.

But the difference between Jon and Dave (plus beard) is that the former will be back, on HBO. The latter is gone for good.

Those words, "gone for good," are sobering: For 33 years, David Letterman —along with Carson — was TV's dominant entertainment personality. Whether you were a fan or not — clearly, I was — he made TV better and culture more interesting. His worldview was funny, acerbic and humane. He formulated a way for us to look at the raging bonfire of vanities, and apparently — or subliminally — many of us absorbed his worldview too.

Now that's gone. Maybe television isn't like life after all. When a giant leaves the stage, the stage just gets smaller.


TV, too.

— Verne Gay

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