Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You Oughta Be in Pictures

by Robison Wells, a shimmering star in the cinema firmament

Amazingly, I managed to see all the big summer movie blockbusters this year. This is kind of a big deal for me, considering that I very rarely ever watch anything at the movie theater. Ever since I had a kid, my movie watching has gone down the drain. I live across the street from a theater, for crying out loud, and I never go over there. Dang kids.

But, this year, through a string of magic coincidences and negligent parenting, I managed to see: The Da Vinci Code, X-Men 3: Cyclops Gets Fried, Superman Returns, and Pirates of the Carribean: Miss Swan's Chest. I missed Mission Impossible 3, but saw The Devil Wears Prada, which I'm assuming was a pretty good tradeoff.

And you know what? I was pretty dang disappointed. All of those movies were okay, but none of them was amazing. None were terrible, either. They were all just kind of blah. Here, below, are my thoughts on all of them. Spoilers ahoy!

The Da Vinci Code: I've blogged about this movie a little bit before, and you'll no doubt remember that I was somewhat annoyed with the moral message of the show. Because I'm a zealot. But there's no denying the fact that, as I'm looking back on the summer, The Da Vinci Code is the movie that I'd most like to re-watch.

Here's the problem with The Da Vinci Code: it's a movie about ideas. Granted, it's not a movie about The Federalist Papers -- it's not revolutionary or life-changing -- but it's about ideas nonetheless. For crying out loud, ninety percent of the book is transcribed lecture. And yet the audience was annoyed that there weren't enough laser beams and sword fights (or whatever the attention-span challenged audience wanted). If you watch the movie, realizing that it's a really talky, idea movie, then it's perfectly enjoyable. Not groundbreaking, but good.

X-Men 3: Cyclops Dies and Nobody Cares: This movie was just about the exact opposite of The Da Vinci Code: the first two movies were really awesome, what with the explosions and the kung-fu fighting and the mutant powers. But this episode was a whole lot of talking, and very little stabbing bad guys. Sure, occassionally Jean would explode and people would disintegrate, but on the whole it wasn't quite up to par with the previous two. (Probably because it had a different director -- a director who seemed to think that it would be a good idea to remove all the action and characterization.)

Superman Returns: Here's a question for Superman: Honestly, Superman, if you can fly up into space and hear everything all over the world and then swoop down and solve all the problems, then what the stinking heck are you doing capturing muggers and stopping car accidents. Honestly, aren't there wars going on somewhere? Sure, it's nice that you rescued that girl who had no brakes, but what about GENOCIDE, you moron!? And if you can do all this good and hear all the world's problems, then why do you waste so much time dorking around the Daily Planet?

Pirates of the Carribean: Some people seem to have very strong opinions on this movie, and they make very angry statements, such as: "character assassination, no sweeping love story, everybody gets a plot (including various body parts) - total mess". People who say this (Sariah Wilson, I'm looking in your silly direction), seem to care just a tad too much. But, here's my thought: if you can accept that this movie is different from the first, then it's completely enjoyable. If you can stomach the idea that Jack Sparrow isn't in quite as much control, and that Keira Knightly left her makeup kit home and spent too much time in the tanning bed, and that Legolas is, well, bland as always, then it's a totally watchable movie. Sure, it's a little long, but so was the freaking Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, and you all seemed to love that, didn't you?

The Devil Wear Prada: This movie was actually really good.

So, there you go. Those are the movies I've seen, and that's what I think about them. Looking back, I'm surprisingly negative, considering how I said they were all decent movies. Ah well. It wasn't my point anyway.

My point, which I'm just now coming to, is this: I wonder how long cinema, as we know it, is going to be around. Case in point: Mission Impossible III vs. television's 24. If you think about it, there's not an enormous difference between the two of these. They're both outrageous action thrillers, where insanely improbable things happen, and people are way too serious, and a lot of things blow up. So, what sets them apart? Mission Impossible has better effects. 24, on the other hand, has a new episode every week, all season long. It was six years since the last Mission Impossible, and it's really not all that much better than what we get every week with 24. So, why do we care?

Look at the current state of TV: production values are up, stories are excellent, writing is better than ever. Look at 24 and House and Lost and Veronica Mars and Smallville and all the other great new shows cropping up. CSI is one of my most hated shows, but you can't deny that the production values are good. But more importantly, all of these shows can build characters and story in a way that movies could only dream about. Let's say a Mission Impossible TV show started in 2000, the same time that MI2 came out. Since then, we could have had hundreds of episodes, where plots are developed and characters are explored. Instead, we have one big blockbuster movie, six years later, where nothing much has changed, but there are cool explosions and make-up.

Modern technology is making special effects cheaper and easier all the time. How long will it be before nothing differentiates between the big blockbuster movies and TV shows?


At 8/01/2006 5:41 PM, Blogger FHL said...

Just look at the pilot for Lost, and you can see the blurring of the boundaries even more.

I think the one thing keeping the movie theater industry going is the "date" concept. You don't have couples hanging out in front of the TV for a date, unless they're married. ;)

Or maybe it's for those of us that don't have home theater systems and Dolby 5.1 Surround.

The popularity of House astounds me. Oh, I totally love it, but there's so much medical jargon that goes completely over my head. It's not like you can watch it and do your own diagnosis. (Do real doctors watch it?) House is just so charismatic and ... codgerly. It's such a pleasure to watch him verbally abuse everyone around him. But I can't imagine a movie version.

Now, 24 the Movie, clocking in at 18 hours, that'd I'd be up for. =)

At 8/01/2006 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I completely disagree with you on Devil Wears Prada. 5 words: Worst Movie of the Summer!

At 8/01/2006 8:18 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Heck yeah I care too much. I'm a movie-holic and take my viewing seriously. See my earlier blog entry wherein I'm still bitter about "The Prince and Me" and that came out how many years ago?

I think my main disappointment with Dead Man's Chest has to do with the fact that I so fanatically loved the first installment. After Curse of the Black Pearl was over, I just sort of sat there because I didn't want it to end. I wanted to keep watching it. In fact, I wanted to go out and buy more tickets so I could watch it over again right then.

So while I know it is nigh to impossible to catch lightning in a bottle again, I was hoping for it. Dead Man's was fine, had a couple of slightly humorous moments (nothing laugh out loud like in the first one) and I will go see the third one only in hopes that the writers will somehow redeem themselves. But I am disappointed.

Plus, I'm afraid I can't take your opinion seriously on this, Rob. You're the same guy who put down Persuasion as your worst movie ever and failed to realize the subtle wonderment of Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle.

At 8/01/2006 8:23 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Gah - before Rob can mock me - I meant Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. Northam and Ehle were in Posession (which is also a great movie).

I can only blame the heat wave that knocked out the power to my house today while I was at the store and made it impossible for me to get back in my house because my garage door opener is electrically operated and every other door/window in my house was locked, thus consigning me to frying my brain in the heat.

Or it could just be that I don't pay close enough attention to what Rob says.

At 8/01/2006 10:27 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Sariah what makes you think Rob even knows who is in Persuasion?

I mean he might know if Jack Bauer was in it. No, wait! Watching Jane Austen movies is how they will torture Jack in the next season.

Evil Bad-Guy: "Talk or we will kill your daughter, kidnap your girlfriend and chop off all your limbs."

Jack spits in EBG's face.

EBG: "Talk or we'll put on Persuasion."

Jack: "I'm persuaded."

At 8/02/2006 10:15 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Mean Aunt, I laughed so hard at your post. I can totally imagine Jack's gravelly, velvet voice gritting out, "I'm persuaded." What a nice way to start the day!

At 8/02/2006 10:18 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Anonymous, would you care to elaborate?

Sariah, like I said, if you can detach yourself from the first movie, then Dead Man's Chest was a great movie. But it was very different from the first.

As for Persuasion: what a dumb movie. Aside from the fact that it's just slow and dull and boring and dumb, I'm continually annoyed with this fact: Anne is so spineless and meek. If the camera didn't linger on her interminably, constantly focusing on her blank stare, then we'd probably even forget she's in the show. That's not how she is in the book. Jane Austen is known for vibrant, intelligent heroines. Anne's a lump of boring.

Also, (and you'll all think I'm a shallow cad), but Anne's pretty dang homely -- again, unlike her character in the book. In fact, this entire movie is chock full of ugly people. Captain Wentworth looks like a misshapen version of Alan Rickman (who's not an attractive man himself). Ugh.

At 8/02/2006 12:36 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Hmm, methinks the author doth protest too much.

At 8/02/2006 6:11 PM, Anonymous Fellfrosch said...

As a big fan of Austen, and especially of Austen movies, I can say with some sense of self-importance that Persuasion was a lame movie. The only Austen movie, in fact, that's actually worse than the book it's based on.

Poor Jane Austen--to be born in an era when she couldn't be a screenwriter. Her storytelling is so much better than her novel writing it's really just tragic.

At 8/03/2006 1:42 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Rob said: Sure, it's a little long, but so was the freaking Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, and you all seemed to love that, didn't you?

Tristi says: Freaking Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice? You and me, dark alley, whoever comes out alive is the winner.

At 8/03/2006 1:45 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Oh, and before I leave this blog, you think Alan Rickman isn't attractive? Holy cow, man! Have you seen Sense and Sensibility? His whole self was just brimming with attractive in that movie. But it was more than just him -- it was his personality in that character. I've written whole treatises on Alan Rickman in S&S. Okay, after I beat you up for Colin Firth, I'm beating you up for Alan Rickman.


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