Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: The Happening

I won’t even do the precocious beat-around-the-bush-not-a-review-but-it-actually-is-a-review thing this time. I saw The Happening on June 14th with friends at AMC Saratoga 14, and it sucked. It was the worst movie ever made. Marky Mark played a constantly confused science teacher, but either M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t know what science actually is, or hates it with a passion and is trying to covertly take it down by having dumb scientists in his movies. Zooey Deschanel has insanely creepy giant bug eyes, and stares at anything and everything in the film determinedly. But perhaps the worst offense a film called The Happening can possibly have is for nothing to happen during the entire movie. Oh sure, people die and the main characters run around aimlessly through the countryside, making mad dashes to outrun the scary wind, and hide out in Plot Point House at the end. But the characters never come to any concrete conclusions about what The Happening is supposed to be. The thing simply Happens, and then it stops Happening, and then it Happens again. On the bright side, the hot dog guy was somewhat amusing (he said he likes the shape of hot dogs; presumably it is left up to the viewer to decide what that means).

But yeah, the God-damned worst movie ever made. My friends and I weren’t sure if he could top Lady in the Water but I’m happy(?) to report that this is exactly what Happened.

Um… trailers!

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Oh hells yesses. I miss this friggin’ TV show like I miss no other, so I’m very excited to see the continuing misadventures of Mulder and Scully. I certainly don’t have any complaints about them classing up the joint with Billy Connolly. I gotta say though, Scully (since that is your real name, and not Gillian Anderson like you keep trying to tell me), you look a lot prettier with shorter hair. I’ll still ogle you during the whole movie, don’t worry, I’m just sayin’ is all. A SEQUEL and an ADAPTATION, of course, I won’t delude myself, but I’ll still be happily standing in line. I’m a sucker for beloved franchises.

Mirrors
Probably because I’m kind of weird, I have a lot of difficulty seeing Kiefer Sutherland onscreen and not thinking he’s Jack Bauer. So when I see him as the father figure in a family being terrorized by mirror monsters, I don’t worry for a second. I know that Jack Bauer will make short work of the mirror monsters, probably by shooting them in the knee and asking them where the bomb is, or simply garroting them if he doesn’t have time to deal with them. Apparently this is a REMAKE of a South Korean film. I don’t really care in any case; Jack Bauer just doesn’t feel very Jack Bauery on the big screen (he rarely even kills one guy, much less fifty, though he did some lovely assisted suicides in Flatliners), so I’ll just wait until the next season of 24 to get my fix.

Babylon A.D.
Oooooooooooh, Vin Diesel in a sci-fi movie with explosions, punching and guns. Best part: Vin Diesel shouts out “What is wrong with her?”, and the “what” sounds completely ridiculous. I can’t even describe it in text. I’m sure I’ll be watching this at Geoff’s house; the man has something of an unhealthy obsession with Vin Diesel. Oh yeah, ADAPTATION of the French novel “Babylon Babies.” I love how Wikipedia lets me say stuff like that, and it looks like I’m just really knowledgeable when it comes to French novels. None will be the wiser!

Wanted
ADAPTATION

Swing Vote
Hooray. Nothing more timely than a movie about voting ballots not being counted in an extremely close election. OH WAIT, THAT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO. AND EIGHT YEARS AGO. Also, why does this movie have a thousand actors I recognize? I’m normally terrible with actor recognition, but I saw Dr. Conrad Zimsky, Howard Payne, Major Kira and Frasier! Just so you know, if it were up to me, I’d elect Dennis Hopper over Kelsey Grammer, but that’s just because Speed was so awesome. And- wait, what’s this? ORIGINAL?!? A bright shining beacon amidst a sea of all-this-has-happened-before-all-this-will-happen-againses! Well okay, it looks stupid, but that might just be Kevin Costner.

Nights in Rodanthe
Hey look, that guy from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Otherwise I don’t give a shit about this ADAPTATION based on the novel of the same name by Richard Sparks (thanks again, Wikipedia!). Is Richard Gere sexy? He seems to be in so many romance films, comedy and otherwise, but I just don’t see the appeal. Maybe people are remembering a time when he was more attractive?

Total: 83.33% (5/6)

Wow. As of a June 14th screening of The Happening (sucked sucked sucked sucked sucked) at AMC Saratoga 14 in Saratoga, CA, Hollywood was careening toward 83.33% unoriginality. Hollywood, this is basically a fail for you, especially if The Happening is the best you can do for original scripts.

[discuss]

Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Please don’t mistake this for a review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which I saw today with Bevin at Regal Davis Stadium 5 (apparently the place to go for the popular films around here). I mean, sure, this movie was an absolute riot, a wonderful revisiting of a beloved character that I felt fully lived up to the legacy set before it not by being amazing but by simply being entertaining throughout (not quite as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark, but really, what movie could be?). The important thing is, HOW WERE THE TRAILERS?!?

I absolutely love going to big blockbuster films close to their release dates. Even when they’re complete crapfests, the experience of sitting in an audience full of enthusiastic moviegoing patrons is like no other. There’s a genuine electricity in the air. But best of all, they have more trailers! Not to mention a wider variety of trailer genres. Unfortunately, these trailers must be so new that they haven’t all been put online yet; I’ll update these entries with links when I can track ’em down.

Traitor
Ah, Islamic terrorists. My generation’s Nazis/Communists, these pesky middle eastern extremists find their way into pretty much every film nowadays (including Iron Man) as the go-to generic villains. I dig Don Cheadle, and Jeff Daniels was in Speed, so I might hit this up if I’ve got the cash, and someone to go see it with. Wikipedia tells me Steve Martin came up with the plot and is executive producing! Take that for whatever it’s worth, but he didn’t seem to be inspired by anything beyond the Iraq War, so at least it’s ORIGINAL.

The Dark Knight
SEQUEL/ADAPTATION

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Now this one intrigued me. There is almost no dialogue in this trail, which depicts the story of a man who ages backward and falls in love around the middle of his life. I’m not some kind of Brad Pitt superfan, but I certainly appreciate his acting ability, and hey, Cate Blanchett of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fame is there too! The lack of voiceover certainly made me sit up and pay attention, and the imagery was compelling enough to keep my eyeballs on the screen. A quick Wiki look, however, tells me this is based on a 1922 short story, and is therefore an ADAPTATION. Not necessarily a terrible thing (if you’re gonna base a movie off a short story, stories of antiquity are probably the way to go so that no one remembers how they went), I’m just sayin’ is all.

Hancock
ORIGINAL

Australia
*puts on Jerry Seinfeld mask* What is the deal with exterior shots in movies being so blatantly bluescreen CGI these days? *takes off mask* That opening shot of Nicole Kidman starting to tell a random little girl a story (a really boring generic one by the sound of it) just looks awful. Poignant opening scenes shouldn’t look like they’re on a soundstage. Is it that difficult to roll a camera in the desert around sunrise/sunset when there are some clouds in the sky? Also, is the little girl a Hollywood movie producer, and is Nicole Kidman pitching her latest movie idea? If so, I wouldn’t buy it. Like Benjamin Button, this trailer has a long stretch of non-dialogue, but the images simply weren’t as compelling to me. Huge Ackman of Swordfish fame doesn’t compel me to shell out $10 either. ORIGINAL, but not necessarily good. I’m not seeing much intersection on that particular Venn diagram.

Kung-Fu Panda
Ugh. No no no. As much as I love Jack Black, I refuse to see a vehicle movie starring him as a fat cartoon panda. I prefer movies starring him as a fat human who rocks. ORIGINAL? Sure, I guess.

Eagle Eye
Apparently there’s a small “trailers starring characters from the movie you’re about to watch” theme. It’s like some shitty recommendation system: “If you like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you may also like…”. Sorry, but I don’t actually like Shia LeBouf. The bitter taste of Transformers and those voyeuristic robots watching kids dry-hump is still fresh in my mind (if minds could taste things, anyway). When the phone rang, I thought for a split second that it was one of those “please turn off your cell phones” ads, because the whole thing’s just so damn generic. Shia LeBouf gets phone calls BROUGHT TO YOU BY SPRINT and there are guns and explosions and jumping from high heights, but at the end I had no idea what the hell was going on. Is it still ORIGINAL if I thought it was some kind of new Matrix movie, with the prescient phone calls and the slightly green tint on everything? I guess it still is.

Total: 28.6% (2/7)

Let’s break it down: as of a May 24th screening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at Regal Davis Stadium 5 in Davis, CA, Hollywood is en route to being 28.6% unoriginal. I can’t remember the last time I counted this many movies not derived from a prior story at one screening. I’d consider this quite refreshing… if Kung-Fu Panda didn’t exist.

[discuss]

Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Iron Man

Be forewarned: this is not a review of Iron Man, the latest comic-book-turned-blockbuster-film Bevin and I went to see last Sunday at Regal Davis Stadium 5. It is completely irrelevant that the movie was a delightful action-packed romp that didn’t suck like all those other comic-book-turned-blockbuster-films thanks in no small part to Robert Downey Jr.’s acting chops and Jeff Bridges’ having been totally awesome in Big Lebowski so it always rocks to insert his Dude lines into every movie he’s in. We’re here to talk about the trailers!

The Dark Knight
Apple hasn’t put up the trailer I saw yet, but this should get the fact across that the Joker is in it. (Update: correct trailer linked) The Joker’s in it. I’m sure this movie will get a lot of extra asses in seats on account of it being Heath Ledger’s posthumous celluloid appearance, but I was excited about the latest entry in the fat bloated puss-seeping Batman series before his untimely demise. Batman Begins was a wonderful movie despite anything that starts with the word “Batman” being an ADAPTATION of the comic book series of the same name, and its SEQUEL is shaping up to carry on its grittier depiction of Gotham City and its inhabitants with aplomb.

Hancock
You know what? Normally I wouldn’t give Will Smith a second glance beyond seeing his movies because they’re so shit-tastic, but… I think this one looks like fun. Certainly they’re capitalizing on the general success of superhero movies (more on that below), but taking a comedic slant without it being Superhero Movie is an admirable goal, and Jason Bateman has settled quite comfortably into his stiff Michael Bluth typecasting and made it work for him. And to top it off? ORIGINAL. This is the rare diamond in the rough I love to find amidst all the also-rans.

The Love Guru
God! Please! No! Not another movie where Mike Myers plays a sexy dude that the ladies all desire to have sex with and also he’s a walking stereotype with a crappy accent! I think this movie might actually be my fault; there was a distinct moment where I was walking down the street and thought to myself: “it sure is a good thing Mike Myers ran the Austin Powers franchise into the ground, and that we will therefore never see another movie like that collective pile of dreck”. Clearly Fate is a cruel mistress that listens in on my internal monologue. Bitch. ORIGINAL, with more offensiveness than you can shake a midget at. And they do. Shake a midget at offensiveness, that is.

You Don’t Mess With The Zohan
Here’s the one I forgot to mention before. My unconscious mind had almost successfully removed it from memory, but I had to be curious and ask too many questions, and it all came pouring back. At this point I remember asking “Why only one comic book movie trailer? Are no more coming out any time soon, that we have to sit through this bullshit?” One thing is for certain: Rob Schneider will never want for employment as long as Sandler continues to star in movies. ORIGINAL, except for the Prince of Persia/Assassin’s Creed-evoking wall-jumping at the beginning of the trailer. Oh yeah, also it will blow. Adam Sandler and all. (fun fact: Bevin and I simultaneously turned toward each other and grimaced after both this and Love Guru. Great minds, I suppose)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Yay! Somehow the still-bitter taste left in my mouth from the Star Wars prequels has not affected my excitement for this long-rumored SEQUEL to the Indiana Jones series. Maybe I’ve got faith in Harrison Ford, maybe I think Steven Spielberg has the ability to cancel out George Lucas’ immense shittiness, or maybe I’m just really happy to see Marion Ravenwood again, but I have a good feeling about this one. The trailer is pretty generic, and it felt weird to watch a preview for a movie due out in four days, but screw it, Indy is so cool. Lucas had better not fuck this up.

Total: 40% (2/5)

To sum it up: as of a May 18th screening of Iron Man at Regal Davis Stadium 5 in Davis, CA, Hollywood is poised to be 40% unoriginal. Oh, and I didn’t stay ’til the end of the credits, because I knew that the footage couldn’t possibly meet all the hype everyone gave me. I was right. Spoiler alert I guess:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djiBN5aeskw

Does anyone actually care that there might be an Avengers movie? The Avengers weren’t cool; I would have been much happier with a straight-up Iron Man sequel, though one isn’t strictly necessary. All it shows me is just how bottom-of-the-barrel they’re getting with the Marvel/DC properties. I’m still holding out for the Aquaman movie. It’s coming, just you wait.

This really just exemplifies the whole reason I keep track of things like Hollywood’s unoriginality. If I hadn’t just dropped $7.50 on a movie ticket, I would talk about how we need to stop going to see comic book superhero movies, so that they stop making them. Please, do your part like I didn’t do.

Oh yeah, one more thing about Iron Man: there were several scenes that would have been better places to insert “Iron Man” then where they put it. I get it, he says “I am Iron Man” and then you play the song, very cute and all, but that riff was begging for an ass-kicking scene.

[discuss]

Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Be Kind Rewind

Again, this is not intended to be a review for the movie mentioned in the thread title. The fact that Be Kind Rewind (which I saw with my family on 2/24 at Regal Santa Cruz 9) was a superb movie that managed to retain that delightful charm of Michel Gondry (despite being, for all intents and purposes, a straight-up comedy) is not the issue at hand, but rather the relative unoriginality of upcoming film releases (see previous post for enlightenment on the subject).

Surprise movie time!

Never Back Down
Or as I like to call it: “UFC The Movie”. I’d love to make the derivative call on this one for being a blatant promotional film for the Ultimete Faghting Champtionship, but strictly speaking this is more like your standard sports film, unoriginal in every respect except for the precise origin of its script. ORIGINAL, and the main character looks like a reincarnation of Tom Cruise.

Run, Fat Boy, Run
I’m a big fan of Simon Pegg’s work (and work to be?), so this trailer went over well with me. And Hank Azaria?!? Sign me up! I actually saw the teaser originally, which doesn’t convey the plot very well at all, but I fully intended to see it anyway. You all should too, as it appears to be ORIGINAL.

Baby Mama
Whatever reaction I get when I see Simon Pegg onscreen, I get the exact opposite reaction with Tina Fey. She may have gussied herself up a little bit compared to her Saturday Night Live days, but I see through her act. She’s still as smarmy and annoying as ever, and bringing in her SNL friends isn’t going to help any. I was especially depressed to see John Hodgman in this trailer, because I worship the ground he walks on. Apparently his expert con man tactics aren’t paying the bills if he has to make cameos in this dreck. And even though this is approximately the seven trillionth pregnancy antics film released this year, it’s still probably ORIGINAL enough to beat the system.

Get Smart
I have to admit, I wasn’t excited about this movie when I originally heard about it. Maybe I was afraid of them pulling an Inspector Gadget (a fair assumption, since Gadget was very similar to Maxwell Smart and voiced by Don Adams). Luckily, humans evolved the capacity to change their minds, like, hundreds of years ago, and Steve Carell appears to be playing the role splendidly. However, as it probably clear by now, this movie is an ADAPTATION of a television show of the same name. I’ll still probably go see it.

Sex and The City
Ugh. Bleck. Ick. So stupid. Our theater played a TV ad for Lipstick Jungle before the trailers, and the creators were trying to play it up as somehow different from Sex and The City because… it has different actresses in it? All the promotional material I’ve seen for this movie SEQUEL/ADAPTATION seems to be playing off of its success on television, and nothing else. They say trailer, but there’s so little footage that one could only really call it a teaser. I’m a sucker for Chris Noth (apparently he’s dreamy? All I know is that he’s the best detective on Law & Order: Criminal Intent), but don’t expect me to drop the Hamilton come May.

Total: 40% (2/5)

In summary: as of a February 24th screening of Be Kind Rewind at Regal Santa Cruz 9 in Santa Cruz, CA, Hollywood was on track to be 40% unoriginal. Thanks for playing, and please go see Be Kind Rewind at your earliest convenience. Here’s Michel Gondry’s sweded version of the trailer!

[discuss]

Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio: Jumper

Last Saturday, I went to see Jumper at AMC Saratoga 14 with a few friends. This isn’t a review of Jumper… well, Jumper sucked and blew, and it was dumb. There, I reviewed it. But this entry’s primary purpose isn’t to review Jumper, it’s to showcase a little game I made up awhile back. When you go out to see a movie, pay close attention to the trailers. Add one to the count for every:

-Remake (a newer version of a previously released movie) (Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job)
-Sequel (slash prequel slash interquel slash etc.; a movie taking place within the chronology of a previously released movie) (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Land of the Dead)
-Adaptation (a movie based on a previous non-movie work, like a book, play, real life event, what have you) (I Am Legend, Iron Man)

Count each trailer that meets one of these conditions (movies that match multiple criteria still count as one, though they make interesting case studies and should be noted for posterity), and compare it to the total number of trailers, and you have a percentage that represents how many upcoming films are “unoriginal”. Of course, plenty of movies that don’t fall under these criteria are unoriginal in a multitude of other ways (entries in well-defined genres, ripoffs of other movies, some guy getting kicked in the crotch, and so on), but I’ll go out on a limb and say that my definition of an unoriginal film is a far less forgivable instance. How many times do we need to see The Incredible Hulk on the big screen (at least two, apparently)? I’d much rather see another Michel Gondry movie with whimsically low-budget special effects than another James Bond crapfest. With this game, we get a general idea about how the coming months will play out in terms of originality in Hollywood. If we sample enough movies, we might even be able to glean some useful data and (God willing) throw together some Excel spreadsheet charts!

On with the trailers!

The Happening
I’m very excited about this one. We haven’t had an M. Night Shammalammadingdong movie for a few years now, and I’m eager to see if he can top Lady in the Water, arguably the shittiest film of all time. The presence of Mark Wahlberg and a seemingly pointless reference to Colony Collapse Disorder in the trailer are icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned. While the Wikipedia mentions that this script started as a live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender (man, that would have been a really stupid idea), it no longer carries this distinction, and is therefore ORIGINAL.

Street Kings
Keanu Reeves is at the top of his game when portraying a renegade cop who doesn’t play by the rules, so this will probably be good watchin’. I’m always sad to see more capable actors like Forest Whitaker get dragged down though. And looking at these credits, I see at least two rapper names (“Common” and “The Game”). Oh yeah, this’ll be good shit. But a cursory scan of the credits also doesn’t reveal the phrase “based on a short story by” or anything of that kind, so we’ve got another ORIGINAL on our hands.

Wanted
Noble assassins that curve bullets around corners! It’s clear that these trailers were made just for me. What could have potentially been a freakish long streak of originality is blissfully broken by this ADAPTATION of a comic book miniseries.

WALL-E
Pixar can do no wrong, and like every other film they’ve made, this one is 100% ORIGINAL. Though the robot’s resemblance to R.O.B. and Johnny Five is intriguing, I won’t hold it against them if the movie is up to their usual standards of excellence.

10,000 BC
This film slides by on a technicality. Though it, as historical fiction, is loosely based on real life, it is not based on any specific real event, and therefore is ORIGINAL. The CGI blows though. So that’s something.

The Bank Job
My brain didn’t retain any knowledge of this trailer after the film, so I’m glad I wrote it down so as to look up the video later. Wait, maybe “glad” isn’t the word I was looking for. There’s like sex and bank robberies and a bumbling ensemble cast and and other cliché bullshit, but the trailer proudly proclaims to be based on a true story, so it gets the dishonorable ADAPTATION stamp of disapproval. Oh yeah, and it sullies The Clash by playing London Calling at the end. Boo.

Total: 33.3% (2/6)

So as of a February 16th screening of Jumper at AMC Saratoga 14 in Saratoga, CA, Hollywood was slated to be 33.3% unoriginal. Honestly, this is one of the best scores I’ve ever seen in my thus-far limited tallying, but now we’ve got hard data! Give this game a try the next time you go to the movies, and I’ll post your results (include date and location of viewing; the more random data, the better the pie charts!).

On a sidenote, “Hollywood Unoriginality Ratio” makes a great acronym to describe these dumb movies. Go me.

[discuss]

"What do you get when you multiply 9 by 6?"

My friends and I invented a little game we play whenever we go to the movie theater. During the movie trailers that precede the feature presentation (did you know the trailers used to be shown after the movie? That’s where they got their name! The More You Know!™), we count how many unoriginal movies are premiered compared to originals. Now, an ambiguous term like “unoriginal” may seem a bit silly to use concerning Hollywood productions these days, but for our purposes this is broken down into three subcategories:

•remakes (movies based directly off of older movies, or foreign films; War of the Worlds, The Amityville Horror, The Ring 1+2)
•sequels (and prequels; Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith, Be Cool, Herbie: Fully Loaded, Batman Begins)
•adaptations (movies based off of other non-movie works, such as books, short stories, and TV shows; Fantastic Four, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Sin City, Bewitched)

The purpose of this little game is to determine just how little creativity is left in the Hollywood scene. Of course, this doesn’t take into account films that use formulaic plots (like romantic comedies or teen movies of the sexy romp nature), or are just plain bad, but it gives us a useful figure we can work with. Sometimes I see a movie with about 50% unoriginal trailers (this should be considered a good figure in this day and age); other times, it gets as high as 80% (this is a pretty common figure in my experience).

So the next time you go to the movies, see how things add up. Note that results may vary depending on what sort of movie you’re seeing, or what type of theater you’re in (local indie theaters will have much lower figures). If you are welcomed with an Unoriginal Ratio of <30%, you should consider yourself very lucky, but don't count on it. Movies suck hard nowadays. This game isn't intended to be fun, it's intended to make you feel sad about how movies suck so hard nowadays. And on that note, I'm gonna go see the Hitchhiker's Guide movie (adaptation) on opening night. Hopefully it won't suck hard!