Friday, July 30, 2010

Hell No I Won't Go

You know how it is. You want to go to the cineplex to see something, but you just never get around to it. Before long, you say to yourself: “I’ll just wait for the DVD”. This phenomenon is what is changing the movie business, making it harder for exhibitors (i.e. the theaters) to make money.

The reason is pretty simple. With the advent of big, high-def, flat-screen TVs, the movie-watching experience at home is becoming preferable to going to the theater. Think about it. Your own family room, your own bathroom, your own snacks (at a third of the price), clothing optional or at least flexible, pause-stop-rewind capability. What’s not to like? The NFL is already having the same concerns as the theaters, as attendance at games is becoming less attractive, for those same reasons.

This is also why you tend to see the kind of films that are being made these days. “Big” is the operative word. Theaters need to lure folks (mainly young ones) and the only way to do that is with “spectacle”. The exhibitors tell the distributors which is pretty much the same as telling the studios/producers/agents and the message becomes crystal clear. Hence, you get Iron Man and all the other big-budget, special-effect driven films. Dramas do get made. But not like they used to. TV has become the place to see “drama”. At home, of course.

I bring this all up because I recently watched two films I missed at the theater, one due to procrastination and the other by choice.

The first was Zombieland. I was drawn to this by two things: the previews and Woody Harrelson. I’m no big fan of zombie films. Seen too many. What’s new in that?

Well, there was something fresh and plenty to like about Zombieland. For starters, they didn’t waste much time on what made them zombies in the first place. Some throwaway line that I don’t even recall. It was more about killing the zombies and surviving. Liked that. Also loved the “rules” (for instance, The Double Tap). Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) was great, too. And Woody was everything I expected.

On the negative side, what made it not-so-great was Jesse Eisnenberg. Hated him in Adventureland and he played essentially the same character in this. He is running the risk of becoming the new Michael Cera (I know, he’ll take that) in that he doesn’t “act” so much as “be himself” in every role. I’ll be interested to see what he does with an Aaron Sorkin script in the new Facebook movie. Will he be DeCaprio or Cera?

The other big downer to this film was the last half. Once they got to Bill Murray’s house, it became a different movie. Things got even worse at Playland. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it simply went off the rails at the end.

The second film is almost too painful to admit, but I also saw 2012. Yikes. I’m a sucker for a good disaster movie which is why I gave it a shot - at home of course. This was a disaster of a disaster movie. For the most part, they are all ludicrous. You have to swallow lots of (ahem) improbabilities to keep watching. However, this may have set the bar at a new low. Like Antarctica. Which at the end of this movie was probably in the Caribbean somewhere, although I stopped caring about continental shifts and other such things.

I always used to poke fun at how in every Seinfeld episode all of the characters would run into each other on the streets of Manhattan like it was Main Street in Nantucket. Hell, that was nothing compared to this film. The earth’s crust was shifting and they still managed to land a plane within walking distance of the “arks” over in China where John Cusack’s character was reunited with the scientist he met at Yellowstone National Park just days before! But that was only after Cusack’s character and his family managed to land a smaller plane in Denver (I think) where they ran into the Russian billionaire who previously employed Cusack as his limo driver!

I won’t go on except to say that the whole premise was that Earth was supposed to implode or disappear in 2012 according to the Mayans (and others apparently), and yet once the “ark” carrying Cusack and all his closest friends managed to swerve and avoid the north face of Mount Everest, the sun came out! Forget that whole thing about the center of the Earth boiling! Not happening! Somebody turned off the heat!

2012 is an example of the type of movies Hollywood thinks it has to bring to the theaters these days. Except that The Hangover did $100 million more in domestic box office. The lesson? Damned if I know. All I do know is that more people probably watched both at home than in the theaters. And that practice is unlikely to change anytime soon.

1 comment:

  1. The lesson is that a good comedy movie > a poor action movie > a good drama? Just in these modern times, that's the way it seems. Provide what the public wants is what you should be going for if you're in the business (or want to be).