Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Coming Distractions. There's lots of crap on the horizon.

While sitting in the dark waiting for Speed Racer to start (then later realizing that sitting in the dark was far more enjoyable than watching the movie), I was happily anticipating the onslaught of summer movie previews (for me, still one of the pleasures of going to the movies, though nearly offset by in-theater soda commercials, but more on that later).

The lights faded a bit and the previews began. And enthusiasm was replaced with a perverse fascination. How on Earth do these incredibly weak or just plain terrible ideas find financing and the proverbial greenlight? Allow me to parade out my bewilderment. Imagine, if you will, that you are a big hollywood exec walking into a screening room filled with your underlings and are about to watch 5 new ideas seeking financing. Here are the pitches...

The Incredible Hulk.
A. First time out it failed. Miserably.
B. No fan of the material could have possibly forgotten the really camp scripts and low production values of the extremely dated television show.
C. Throw in Edward Norton as star and writer, an actor whose participation brings wrinkled brows rather than goosebumps.
D. The death blow: really, really bad CGI in the trailer. It's a little like watching a trailer for Roger Rabbit, but there Roger is SUPPOSED to look like a cartoon. This script is going to have to be amazing to make this work. 
I'll speak for all of you playing mogul along with me... PASS. 

Get Smart.
A. Wait, here's some really good material. Personally I consider the first couple of seasons of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart pure classic 60's television. Brilliant at times and always entertaining, in it's day (and even now) it was as reliably funny as today's South Park. But there's the rub. How can you improve on such great source material (written and directed by some of the best of their time)? The trailer seems to be making the emphatic point that you can't.
B. Lame. Os so very lame attempts at copping some of the very best running gags ever in a television series. But if memory doesn't serve the viewer, running gags can't be reborn without brilliant set-up. Trust me, there's nothing brilliant going on in the trailer.
C. Steve Carell. The stiff, wooden performance on display in the trailer could win an award for "the actor most out of his depth". Carell's delivery of the staple Maxwell Smart line, "Missed it by that much." is outright painful to witness.
Unfortunately, the brutality of the humorlessness of this trailer could provide paragraphs of criticism. PASS. Please get it off the screen and let us move on.

Meet Dave.
A. Who could possibly ever entertain the idea of putting money into an Eddie Murphy comedy without first being checked for reality distorting drug addiction?
B. Hello? A script? Did anyone think that it would be a good idea to review the script before actually making the movie? What? Someone did read this script before production? Huh? Well, in that case, let's stamp this thing with PASS in giant block letters, then lead everyone involved to the border and take away their passports. Wait, is there anywhere we can still find a firing squad? I'll say what we've said here before, please, somebody write this guy a great cop drama. Moving on.

A. Uggh!
B. Can we start some kind of national testing program for licensing potential CGI animation producers? (Maybe Robert Zemeckis can be first in line?) Let's take a clue from the way we handle computer hackers, everyone involved in creating Igor should be banned from going within ten feet of a keyboard or mouse.
C. Celebrity voices do not a fun movie make.
D. Did we say Uggh! Here's a sample of the high comedy from the poster tagline: "All Men are Not Created Evil".
When your eyes can focus again from that glazed over feeling you have after witnessing the trailer, we'll move on. Take your time. The last presentation is the worst.

Take a deep breath. I'm not making this up.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
A. We love our nutty Uncle George for all of his endearing eccentricities but this man needs to be separated from any medium where he can express his actual thoughts. The Clone Wars were mentioned in the very first Star Wars and have now been trotted out of the Lucas Film stable of intellectual properties more often than 24 hour news footage of Iraq. Here's a good bet... when holographic viewers hit your kitchen countertop, the first entertainment download available will be a Star Wars rehash. Kind of makes you want to go back to stone tablets just for a reprieve. Lucas certainly understands the word "Clone" when it comes to idea recycling.
B. Please, if there really is a Lord in heaven, for the sake of not making all of us loathe animation, TAKE AWAY THE COMPUTERS FROM THESE PEOPLE! Good God this stuff looks awful. Take a seven second "movie" bridge in a 2nd rate video game, expand it to an hour and a half and slap in some light sabers and... well, just take a look at the poster.

The font can't possible go large enough in this column to stamp PASS on these projects. Follow the experience of being dazzled by the stupidity of these coming attractions with 2 hours and fifteen minutes of Speed Racer and I almost turned to starting a blog about planting roses. I'm off to go soak up Iron Man at my local theater and before I leave, I'll re-watch the latest Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer. Then there's Wall•e and Tropic Thunder to look forward to... there, that's starting to make me feel better. What's getting YOU through this crap? We'd love to know.

And by the way... there was that soda commercial we mentioned. Coca-Cola in their slick marketing savvy has been using a film school competition to fill those silver screens with a coke ad before the trailers begin. The recent winning entry was screened before these illustrious trailers popped up and, in retrospect, perhaps sheds a little light on the dearth of creative thinking in Hollywood. Coke apparently ponied up the bucks to finance the distribution of one of the most unoriginal and clich├ęd ideas any of us could joke at calling creative. Without even seeing it, imagine a woman jumping into the frame and joining the characters in famous museum paintings, chasing a bottle of diet coke from painting to painting. As hack as it was, it beat out Meet Dave.

All together now... PASS.

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