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Movie Lessons For The New Year

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Now that it's 2007 and all, I hope that the film industry will take a moment to reflect on what they've learned from the past year, to consider the mistakes they've made and hopefully not repeat them this year.

Just in case you studios, producers, directors, and actors are listening, here are those lessons, in no particular order.

Enough with the exploitation… er, adaptation of Japanese horror movies for Western audiences. Yes, The Ring did well at the box office and helped Naomi Watts come out of Nicole Kidman's shadow (somewhat). Yes, it's great to expand our notions of horror by looking at how the Japanese conceptualize it. However, enough is enough. With both The Ring 2 and The Grudge 2 failing at the box office, perhaps they should move on. Hey, I hear that Korean horror movies are increasing in popularity. Or — here's a wild idea — and maybe it's just me talking, but come up with something completely original!

Video game movies are bad, mmmkay? Just because a video game was fun to play and sold lots of copies doesn't mean that people will want to watch it in theaters. Bloodrayne had a $25 million budget, but only had a total US gross of $2 million. Silent Hill had a $50 million budget but only a US gross of $46 million, although worldwide gross is admittedly better. The thing is that stories in most video games aren't substantial enough to fill a whole movie because they aren't meant to be substantial. It's a video game! You go in, kill stuff, and rescue someone! Could you imagine if 14 years ago someone decided to make a movie about Super Mario Broth… oops, never mind.

Sadly, this warning comes too late, for I hear that video game movie director Uwe Boll is directing a Bloodrayne sequel, which takes place this time in the Wild West — and something about Billy the Kid being a vampire! Ye gads!

A-list celebrity voices in cartoons and children's movies don't guarantee sucess. Remember how, back in the old days, studios like Disney wouldn't have to rely on celebrities to do voices for their animated films? They would just hire someone who would do the best job in bringing life to that character, not who would best bring in audiences. I don't think anyone famous did voices on Snow White or The Little Mermaid, yet these films did spectacularly well without them. On the other hand, Charlotte's Web so far fails to meet box office and critics' expectations, regardless of its A-list cast.

I actually don't mind having celebrity voices in animated films, provided they meet two conditions. One is that they should actually fit that character. I can't think of anyone else who could have done Mufasa's voice in The Lion King other than James Earl Jones. The second condition is that marketing of the film shouldn't focus on the celebrity voices, but on the film itself. I was aghast when I first saw the Charlotte's Web poster and saw the names of the eight or so celebs who provide the animals' voices. Kids don't care that Oprah is the voice of the goose! Kids only care about being entertained.

Sometimes, "better late than never" doesn't work. If you produce one of the most famous and beloved television animated series of all time, don't wait until it's no longer successful to put it on the big screen. Yes, I'm talking about the upcoming Simpsons movie. I love The Simpsons. I've been a huge fan since I was a kid. I can recite from memory whole scenes from various "Treehouse of Horror" episodes. But I stopped watching several years ago. Why? Because the series has gone downhill. I tried watching a few episodes couple of years back, but they were so awful and disappointing. Sadly, the writers have just run out of ideas. I don't know what the movie's plot is, but I can't imagine it's anything vastly different from the series. This is confirmed so far by what I've seen in the trailers. Oh, whoopee — Homer does something stupid and hurts himself again. Yawn. Jeez, this movie should have come out ten years ago. I know I'm counting my chickens before they're hatched, but I just have a bad feeling about this movie.

Ease up on the comic book movies! Now, I love me some comic book movies. I enjoyed the X-Men and Spider-man movies. I loved Superman I and II. And I really, really loved Batman Begins. Yes, they all did well — but why do I get the feeling that some studios out there just have a list of all the Marvel and DC characters and are going down the list, checking off the ones they'd like to turn into a movie franchise? For example, I heard somewhere that, rather than make an Avengers movie, they've decided to churn out separate movies of each individual member of the Avengers since they can make more money that way. I guess it explains the upcoming Iron Man movie.

You know, I just noticed a theme in my list. The take home message here is that filmmakers should try being original again. Enough with the film adaptations of comic books, video games, and film genres from other countries. Doesn't anyone in Hollywood have an original thought anymore? Then again, did they ever?

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About Toni Schwartz

  • steandric

    nonsense! naomi watts and nicole kidman are childhood friends long before hollywood. they knew and got along with each other since teenage. naomi had never been in nicole’s shadow. you snobbish people made it up in order to up-play the stardom of nicole kidman. of course nicole was luckier than her pal because she met tom cruise. and naomi had had to wait until david lynch cast her in mulholland drive. the ring was a follow-up which further confirmed that she was not just a good actress but was also bankable.

  • Steandric- We “snobbish people” did not make anything up. Yes, I know that Nicole and Naomi are old friends. It’s hard not to compare the two because of this, and since they’re both Australian actresses.

    Yes, Nicole became more well-known because she was married to Tom, but she started becoming really big only after she divorced him. As for Naomi, she’s a fine actress, but she’s still relatively new and doesn’t have Nicole’s star power. But it seems that Naomi is doing well, with films like The Painted Veil.

  • I agree about The Simpsons pathetic state, but it’s not because the writers have run out of ideas. It’s because the writers aren’t in the same league as their previous counterparts.

    While I also agree that a movie from a game isn’t a good idea, focusing on theatrical receipts is the wrong way to look at it. Most of a movie’s money is now made in DVD sales.

  • El Bicho- You definitely have a point about The Simpsons. Many of the original, brilliant writers had left, and their replacements just aren’t as good.

    You also have a point about basing a movie’s success solely on box office numbers. At the same time however, I still think that most movies based on video games range from somewhat tolerable to downright horrid.

  • Great lessons Kaonashi, can’t disagree with a single one!