The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News

Movie Magic No More

Web posted on February 21, 2017

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

Just before last year's Academy Awards I did a rant about how CGI has changed the movie experience and not for the better. With the Oscars coming up next weekend, it's time for another tilt at the motion picture industry.

Just like television, the motion picture industry is spending way too much time on converting super hero, mediocre hero, and even barely adequate hero comics into high budget low quality movies. The same holds true for conversions from graphic novels (really expensive comic books). I was never much of a comic book fan as a kid. I preferred to read real books where one had to use some imagination.

Then there are the never ending sequels. Hollywood wants to turn every moderately successful movie into a full blown franchise. The first movie is generally fairly good and worth watching. In some rare cases there might be room for a sequel or two. After that they go downhill rather quickly. Unfortunately as long as they keep making money, the producers will keep making sequels or prequels. Many of our favourite movie franchises need to be euthanized, or at least put into hibernation for generation or two. Let them become classics and leave well enough alone.

They should have left Captain Jack Sparrow in Davey Jones' Locker. The fate of the Skywalker clan and friends should have been left to our imagination. (They lived happily ever after) The voyages (in all time lines) of the Starship Enterprise should have ended in a black hole a long time ago. Dracula (the original bat man) needs to rise and put the Caped Crusader out of his misery. (That just might be worth watching, or it could suck) How much Kryptonite would it take to rid us of the sons and daughters of Krypton? By the third movie, I was cheering for the Alien. (And there is a sixth one coming in March - enough already) "Ghostbusters" should have been busted. Indiana Jones (they are actually making a fifth movie - give me a break) should be in a retirement home just down the hall from James Bond. (That story line might have some potential) We need to be independent of "Independence Day." One of the lesser known classic Japanese monsters needs to come along and make a nice snack of the critters in "Jurassic World." You know how I feel about Godzilla from my last column on movies. The list goes on. Where is the Terminator when we need him the most?

There must be some sort of law of diminishing quality in movie sequels where the quality goes down with each sequel. The problem is that too many fans are hooked and the keep going to each sequel hoping that it will get better. Remember what Einstein said about the definition of insanity? Rarely, if ever, does the quality improve. Too many sequels have, to use the inside term, "jumped the shark." Some have even jumped the megalodon, and even a kraken or two. Stop going to sequels.

There used to be a quote in the entertainment industry "leave them wanting more." They should do that more often, and have a definite end to many story lines, instead of trying to keep it on life support. Pull the plug. As a fan it saddens me to see how badly some of the original concepts have been treated. The Gene Roddenberry franchise in particular has gone beyond what he imagined and not in a good way. One movie with an alternate timeline if done properly might have been worth it, but the whole concept went downhill rapidly right after the opening credits. They did not make as much money as expected with the last movie. I hope the producers take the hint, pull the plug.

There are a few movies that could have done with one sequel. That Tom Cruise movie about U.S. Navy pilots comes to mind. They keep telling us there is a sequel in the works, but nothing seems to happen. Instead he keeps making impossible movies not worth watching. Some of the rumours about possible story lines sound rather interesting and much more plausible than the original. There are many people who believe that "The Final Countdown" had a more realistic and believable plot.

About the only thing that is worse than too many sequels is when they try to remake a classic. The reason that they are classics is that they have stood the test of time. The original may have been in black and white, or the special effects look dated, but that is part of being a classic. The attempt to remake "The Magnificent Seven" was far from magnificent I think I will wait until it comes out on regular television. Attempts to revive the Lone Ranger (with Captain Jack Sparrow pretending to be Tonto) and Tarzan proved that the industry can totally screw up the classics. Speaking of classics, it looks like the attempt to remake Ben Hur crashed and burned big time. Another remake that should never happen is "Dambusters." The original movie had some of the worst special effects in motion picture history, but remains a classic. A certain New Zealand director, who is an aviation enthusiast and an excellent model builder (he should give up his day job) has been working on this project for years. With every remake they try to put a new or different spin on the original classic. I have yet to see a remake that has come anywhere near the original. The more special effects and CGI they use, the more difficult it is for me to suspend my disbelief. When will they learn?

Too much time and money is spent on making all movies look like video games and music videos. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I have never quite grasped the concept of music videos. To me music is for listening, not watching on TV. On the other hand, a good sound track can make a movie, and a bad one can destroy a movie. Just think if they had used "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" instead of the "Imperial March" every time Darth Vader appeared on screen. Video games have never had much appeal. I used to play solitaire, but I have found better ways of wasting my time such as writing these columns.

In too many cases when a best selling novel is given the Hollywood treatment, any resemblance between the original work and the movie beyond the title is coincidence at best. The works of several authors have been completely trashed beyond recognition. Clive Cussler, Alistair MacLean, and Tom Clancy come to mind. Some of the tales of Harry Potter could have been a lot better. There are many books that I would love to see turned into quality movies, but I am afraid that they would be completely butchered. Best selling authors should retain absolute control over screen adaptations of their works. Some, like Clive Cussler will never work with Hollywood again.

I am fairly sure that the number of good script writers has not increased in the last 75 years. Unfortunately, they are making many more movies today than there are screen writers out there. I would have to say that the same holds true for some of the so called on screen talent. Many of today's alleged stars would never have made it past being the extras in the background that get killed off in the first few minutes of a movie. ("Red shirts" in Star Trek Speak) If some of them put as much effort into acting as they do for their causes and political activities they might be worth watching. As for directors, the evidence speaks for itself.

We generally get one or two relatively decent movies every season if we are lucky. Original ideas and concepts seem to be actively discouraged.

Impress me with good original writing, good acting and directing, not by all sorts of effects. One more thing, I see all sorts of commercials on TV at home, why should I have to overpay to see them in the theatre? That alone has made me very selective about movies worth seeing on the big screen.

I am a movie fan and have hundreds of DVDs and dozens of VHS tapes, of just about every genre, almost all of them picked up at yard sales, auctions, and at the used book sale. I may have bought a handful of movies at a store. I may have mentioned in passing that I am somewhat thrifty. I also have a long list of movies I am still looking for. Everything from 1950s cheap monster movies (the cheaper and cheesier the better), and even cheaper science fiction movies, to classic (and not so classic) British comedies, westerns, a few World War II movies, and even some relatively recent movies. Many of the movies I am looking for have never been released on DVD or Blue Ray and are hard to find on VHS, some might be available only on Beta (there are many current movies that I will only watch when they are released on Beta) or laser disc.

I have a simple formula for seeing movies, if I think a movie is worth it, I will go see it on the big screen. If not, I will wait until it is released on disk. Most of the time I will wait until I can get it at a yard sale or the book sale. If I don't want to spend money I will wait until it comes to regular TV. If it's not worth wasting my time watching it on regular television, I will wait until it comes out on Beta.

Once again, I will not be watching the Oscars on TV. It has been well over a decade since I attempted to watch the Academy Awards. I am sure I can find some third rate rerun that will be better and more interesting.

Another trivia question: Name the actor who has appeared in the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Dr. Who franchises. He does not live in Guelph, but on the off chance that he reads this column, I would love to hear from him. Once again there are no prizes. Just some time spent using your favourite search engine.

The correct answer to my first trivia question is Fern Villeneuve. He appeared on a 1997 $20 silver coin featuring the Canadair Sabre Jet and the RCAF Golden Hawks aerobatic team. He was the first leader of the team. He retired with the rank Lt. Colonel in 1982, and was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006. He is celebrating his 90th birthday this year. I believe his aircraft C-GLYN is still based at the Guelph Air Park. I haven't been out at the Tiger Boys Open House for a few years, so I am not sure of the current status.


Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at news@thefountainpen.com

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.


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