Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sequels: Sometimes, You Must Kill Them

It's like beating a long-dead horse skeleton. Really, really not worth it.
Then again, once in a while, magic happens, ie Godfather, Dark Knight, Aliens, Toy Story.

But last weekend, I saw Pirates 4--yes, FOUR--and going into it, I just kept thinking, "Really? Really?" I'm almost starting to forget that the original movie is so magical and ingenious, though not really because that's impossible. Why do they keep making movies? I mean, I know why. It's because we buy the tickets to see it, usually on opening weekend, and no matter how bad it is, there's a pretty decent and guaranteed return on the investment. Leaving practically no incentive to make the sequels actually good.

And Disney is the biggest culprit. I will admit, a lot of kids enjoy watching their favorite movies over...and over...and over...and over...and over again. Having a sequel available can help slow down the drill that's destroying the parent's sanity. But...still. Cinderella was given two sequels. So was Aladdin, and the Lion King. Once again, Pirates was given three. Fantastic movies, not-so-fantastic follow-ups. Not that they were all Knife status, but the mere idea of it is so unappetizing that I can never really get excited about them.

Crazy as this might sound, I'm beginning to compare half-baked sequels to fan fiction. Oh yes, you read that right. There are some strong similarities to what makes them good, and what makes them blind the audience in their hideousness.

Problem 1. If the original was amazing, great. You fell in love with the characters, the author's universe, and the story itself. And every time you get to the end, you just don't want it to end. And so you come up with hare-brained ideas to continue the story when it just needs to end--and often, these fan fictions end up being erotic, which is just weird. Keep that to yourself. Lesson: Let it go, let it die in peace. Don't torture it!

Problem 2. Riding on the glory of original work, so that you can avoid being original yourself. Maybe this doesn't apply to sequels as much as franchises like Halloween and its counterparts, James Bond, and so on. Instead of coming up with your own idea, you just tweak someone else's. In the novel world, I see so many Pride and Prejudice spin-offs, it's sickening. Sometimes, you get something good (like adding zombies to Pride and Prejudice, or Rob Zombie's Halloween) Lesson: If you have legitimate skill in storytelling, no matter the medium, prove it. Do it yourself.

Problem 3. Familiarity. It's just easier to get people excited about something they already know and/or love, again reducing the incentive to make it a quality product. And yes, once you've established something everyone loves, you can take more risks. But personally, I value the original risk more. Lesson: You can be good by improving what's there, and you can be great by starting what isn't. Think the PC and Internet.

This summer is so full of sequels, that it's time we look back and reanalyze why we're doing it. Make no mistake, I will see X-Men, Kung Fu Panda 2, Hangover 2, and HP 8. Although, HP doesn't count. That one has to finish. When they made the first movie, I didn't doubt they would finish all seven books. And I am going to the midnight premiere, and may end up standing and cheering as if I were at the Superbowl. Some obsessions are unhealthy.

I will not see Spy Kids 4...I mean, really, why? This is just wrong.

Anyway, Pirates 4. Good not great. I'm glad they completely refreshed the storyline, taking out some key characters to put in Penelope Cruz, who was excellent. Depp lost absolutely none of his charm, and that is not easy. The plot was messy in its details, if not in its overall points, and I laughed and had fun. Especially at the end. If you're really not enjoying it and want to leave, stay for the last scene. It's worth it. So, Fork. I was prepared for the worst, and got okay, instead.

Here's a reminder of why there is a Pirates 4. Okay, it's all Captain Jack, and there are good moments that don't include him, honestly, but I like this one.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rom-Coms: The Good, The Bad, and The REALLY Bad

Here's the formula for a romantic comedy (aka rom-com, chick flick, etc):

Guy and girl meet, one of three things then happens:
1. They hate each other
2. Someone makes some stupid, crazy and secretive plan to get something.
3. Or both

Then the plot thickens, "funny" stuff happens, and they start to like each other.

The plan is found out or some stupid fight happens, guy or girl leaves without any intention of coming back. Which is completely unrealistic and frustrating. I mean, can you at least listen to the whole story? Don't just storm out after hearing one bad thing. Talk it out. Work out fights like real people. If this is a common occurrence, the relationship is really not gonna last for very long.

Chase scene! Cannot forget the chase scene with the gooey speech admitting all the feelings that the hero-heroine just couldn't say last week. And all ends happily ever after.


But some of the movies unfortunately cast into this genre are good, usually because they are completely unique and don't include lame cliche jokes. For example:

50 First Dates: That's an adorable movie. Highly improbable, verging on impossible, but funny and sweet. A guy meets a girl he really likes, but oh no--she has short-term memory loss. Every day, she forgets what happened the day before. Now he has to figure out a way to help her remember him, because he's in love. Aw, how sweet. And I mean that for real; I'm not secretly gagging.

Strange, but wonderful for it. And Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore--NOT my favorite comedy actors by far--were actually quite cute. My rating: Spoon. Once in a while, when you want an easy, sweet, romantic comedy that's not completely dumb, go for this.

Stranger Than Fiction: When Wil Farrel does something not involving him undressing and pulling really dumb jokes, he can be quite funny and quite amazing. Though, yes, I did like Talladega Nights. This movie, however, is a complete turn from his normal style. And I mean a complete turn.

He plays a boring, OCD IRS agent who starts hearing a voice narrating his life. The voice then predicts his death. Not so good, right? Well, on the way to solving this mystery, he ends up realizing what a drab life he was living and he decides to really live it. He goes after the girl he likes, learns the guitar, and triumphs. The issue of his death hasn't been resolved, though, but that's for you to find out by watching. It's a sweet, gooey romantic comedy from the guy's perspective. With a little bit of an insane author thrown into the mix. And it's wonderful. Spoon Spoon Spoon.

This, right here from Stranger Than Fiction, is the best pickup ever. And I mean, THE BEST. It will melt the hearts of any anti-romance fiends and/or cynics.

"You want me?"
"In no uncertain terms."

How, how can anyone resist that? This part alone, I believe, makes this movie my all-time favorite romantic comedy.

Juno: Do I need to say why? I think this is a pretty solid, universal Spoon of a movie. It started the trend of indie/hipster romances where the characters like to talk about their favorite obscure bands. Nowadays, movies like that can be annoying unless they're done right (like 500 Days of Summer).

It's Complicated: Awesome movie. Meryl Streep is gorgeous and elegant no matter what she does. And this movie is unique and does not play to the traditional genre at all. It's funny, cute, entertaining and worth watching many times over. Girls' Night Out Spoon! (these kinds of spoons usually have ice cream on least, they do for me and my girlfriends).

Just Friends: Yes, it has many rom-com cliches. No, it is not a cliche. Yes, it is awesome. Anna Faris makes my life better, all the time. Basically, it's this: On your marks: A fat, dorky kid in high school gets picked on by the football team, but he happens to be bff's with the hot head cheerleader, who has pushed him into the deadly Friend Zone. Get Set: Fed up, he runs away, gets in shape, and becomes a music-producing celebrity 10 years later. A twist of fate brings him back to his hometown, where his dream girl still lives. And...go! Oh, don't forget super-psychotic pop star (Faris) tagging along, and rival Dusty Dinkleman, another loser-turned-Don Juan who always seems to one-up our hero. This movie is my family's Christmas tradition...along with Elf, all the clay-mation classics, and Christmas Story. Spoon. Watch it!

Now, onto the romantic comedies I really, really don't care for:

  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: Actually, can we extend that to just about EVERY Matthew McConaughey movie? He is pretty much a douche. No more. Please. Do I need to bring up Ghosts of Girlfriends Past? Do I?
  • Maid in Manhattan: I do like Jennifer Lopez, really. But, this movie, not so much. Cinderella stories are a very easy default, and often fall quite flat. (A Cinderella Story is an example of one that doesn't fall entirely flat)
  • The Proposal: SHOCKER. I love Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. But the premise of this movie falls apart very quickly and it's kind of lame. They go from NYC to ALASKA for a weekend and fall in love??? NO. It's not a Knife, but it's not a particularly pleasant Fork, either
  • Family Stone: It's boring--I know it's a drama-dy, but it's not a good drama OR comedy in any way. And Sarah Jessica Parker's BF who wants to propose doesn't really stand up for her, and then falls for her sister the minute she comes into town. Nice. Again, not a knife, just a really bad Fork.
  • The Holiday: Not good, not that bad. Kate Winslet and Jack Black were great together. Cameron Diaz (whom I hate with a fiery passion) and Jude Law...just awful. The dialogue was lame and awkward and not inspiring at all. Another Rusty Fork
  • What Happens in Vegas: Another completely contrived, stupid plot with lame antics. Knife.
In conclusion, Matthew McConaughey is annoying, and Cameron Diaz needs to be censored out of every movie she's ever been in, except Shrek. If they ever end up in a rom-com together, be ready. The end of the world comes shortly afterwards.

There are so many more...but I'll leave it here. I think the idea is clear enough.

I think the real problem is that romance and love and relationships are far too complicated to work in silly, contrived plots. Yes, we all love the easy, happily-ever-after endings, but when we come across stories that have realistic and well-done relationships, the result is SO much more satisfying.
I can't help but enjoy the math jokes :) Au revoir!