The Good, the Bad and the What-The-Hell-Is-Hollywood-Thinking: A Look at Some Upcoming Movies

As if the capitulation of the Republicans in Washington was not depressing enough, it too often seems like we can’t even find a decent movie to look forward to seeing. Of course, most of us are not in Hollywood’s target demographic – we’re older, have jobs, and aren’t dead-eyed, drooling morons who yearn to clap our flippers like trained seals at the hackneyed antics of third rate “stars” splashed across out-of-focus screens while seated in moist, sticky chairs that we paid close to $15 each to occupy.

But I still love movies, and I still have hope that Hollywood is going to accidentally let slip though its paws at least a couple films this year that don’t insult my intelligence, that don’t hector me with pinko propaganda, and that don’t derive from some obscure comic book beloved by a cult of social misfit fanboys whose idea of a romantic evening is a hi-speed Internet connection, a two-liter bottle of Pepsi, and an old tube sock.

And I love trailers too. I hate commercials in front of movies, but there can never be too many trailers. Each new trailer is like a bright new dawn or a just-poured pint of draft Dos Equis lager – full of hope and promise. Sure, most of the time that hope and promise fades when Kevin James waddles on-screen to make a fart joke, but still….there are moments where something awesome blows your mind.

Those rare, fleeting moments where a trailer teases you with the promise of a great story, an exciting adventure, a hilarious romp…where you think “Wow, that looks cool!”…where you just know that as funny as the jokes the trailer reveals are, the ones that await in the movie itself will be even funnier…they make sitting through the crap worth it. That’s what makes me love trailers – trailers have the power to remind us that movies don’t have to suck.

With that in mind, in descending order of how awful they look to me, let’s check out just some of the movies that are coming down the pike in the next few months….

Final Destination 5 (Due August 12, 2011):

This latest entry in this apparently never-ending series of gore-soaked exercises in armchair sadism raises an important question: Why do we allow people who pay to see these movies to vote?

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I am not saying that the kind of brain-dead quarter-wits who would plop down $15 of dough that probably came from some government handout are responsible for this administration and the Democratic majority in the Senate, but I’m not not saying it. For the sake of our nation, I propose an amendment to our Constitution that forever bars anyone buying a ticket to a Final Destination film from ever again exercising the right to vote.

On the up side, the special effects look okay. Pass.

The Adventures of TinTin (Due December 23, 2011):

Finally, Steven Spielberg has given in to the public clamor for a motion capture movie based on some Belgian comic strip that no one in any country that matters has ever heard of about a creepy-looking kid and his stupid dog.

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At the threshold, motion capture technology can’t yet bridge the uncanny valley and always tends to create there weird characters that cause you to spend the whole movie thinking “If that thing comes near me I’ll kill it with a rake.”

So, instead of using the technology in a limited way to spice up live action with some strange being – like Gollum in Lord of the Rings – they make it the whole movie and it’s almost always a disaster. You’ll notice how this post does not refer to the upcoming Polar Express 2: The Revenge.

Second, comic book movies are awful enough, but a Belgian comic book? Belgium is like France without the good parts. Pass.

30 Minutes or Less (August 12, 2011):

I’m a traditionalist and I like my comedies funny, which is why I’m not looking forward to this one. Apparently inspired by the incident where some poor pizza guy was blown apart by a psycho who clipped a bomb to him to force him to rob a bank, this features the same general scenario with the addition of lots of people shouting, making funny faces, swearing and driving cars badly. There’s your comedy gold; I’m eagerly awaiting to their hilarious spoof of the Rwanda genocide.

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A little of stars Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride goes a long way, light years in fact. Aziz Ansari is there too and he’s kind of funny. But this just looks agonizing. Pass.

Killer Elite (Due September 23, 2011):

No. No, it’s not a remake of the awesome, quirky 1975 Sam Peckinpah masterpiece The Killer Elite. In that, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Burt Young and a bunch of other studs fought World War III all over the San Francisco Bay Area. It kicked more ass than John Boehner could ever get in line.

But this…what a waste. I like Jason Stratham, I really do, but he’s becoming to playing invincible killing machines what Michael Cera is to playing quirky millennial smartasses. This is the same karate-kicking, gun-wielding, unstoppable guy he’s been in every movie he’s ever made – it needs to end. In fact, the whole invulnerable, unstoppable hero trope needs to end. Move on! There’s no suspense – super death dealer guy gets wronged, he seeks vengeance, he wins. We’ve seen it a zillion times before, but I’m not seeing it again.

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And De Niro’s in it. De Niro! What, did he invest with Madoff or something? You can practically see him mentally endorsing his paycheck as he goes through the motions in the explodey/shooty trailer. And I usually like movies that are explodely and shooty. Pass.

Just for a taste of what could have been, here’s the kick-ass Suisun Bay mothball fleet climax of the original. Savor:

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Real Steel (Due October 7, 2011):

I can hear just the pitch that got this made: “Think Rocky meets Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, and best of all, we don’t have to pay Stallone or Mattel a dime!”

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Okay, so big robots box. There’s that. Oh, and there is a kid too, of course. He’s wise beyond his years. Didn’t see that coming. And Hugh Jackman is a down on his luck boxer who needs to teach a robot to fight to save his relationship with his kid. But the real question is, can he teach the robot to love?

Kill me. Pass.

Immortals (Due November 11, 2011):

I think I liked this CGI swords, sandals and screaming movie better when it was titled 300.

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Sure, it looks impressive, if you like watching CGI renderings in slow motion and digitally enhanced bloodletting. But then the actors open their mouths and it’s all downhill from there. If the best dialogue they could find is in the trailer, what aural torment awaits us in the theater? I hope they think to include subtitles translating Cliché into English.

And I’m exhausted by movies about unbeatable sword guys who literally mow down hundreds of faceless, nameless opponents without a receiving scratch, though they do break a sweat – all these guys seem to literally glisten. It’s boring. And it’s creepy. Pass.

Moneyball (Due September 23, 2011):

Now, you need to understand that I detest spectator sports – particularly baseball – with a venom I usually reserve for liberal social programs, Red Lobster, and Rage Against the Machine. Which is why the trailer for this film, the true story of an Oakland A’s manager who apparently radically changed the game, is so good. I can’t wait to see it.

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Let’s look at why, because it illustrates what Hollywood can do to get people like me back into those stained, stinky seats. The trailer introduces the conflict – an impoverished ball club on the rocks – and then hints at how it will be solved – by interesting characters coloring outside the lines. Add the incomparable charisma of Brad Pitt, plus some solid dialogue and some fine technical work (the cinematography and direction look fantastic) and you have a movie that adults want to see. The fact that the trailer is expertly cut to hint at the story and pique our interest without giving away the entire plot only helps.

Now, I know from the sports fans who pester me with their yammering all the time that there is a lot more to this real-life story than what is on this trailer. But the point is that I want to find out. I want to know the story; I want the movie to take me into world that I know (and, frankly, care) nothing about and show me how it works. That’s what makes a great movie – and a movie I will plop down my $30 to take my hot wife to see. I’m there. Go!

So there it is – an enormous amount of crap, but maybe a few little nuggets of gold as well. Remember that we get crap in large part because people pay to see crap. Don’t see crap. Instead, criticize, mock and disrespect crappy movies with a vengeance. This is important – stupidity needs to be mocked or bad things happen, like Obamacare and Lady Gaga. But good stuff – well, you need to support it.

Happy movie-going!


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