FLUNKING the TEST of TIME!
This last decade brought with it a lot of great things – The iphone (best known as the home of over 30 different fart noise applications, this miraculous, handheld device proved itself capable of handling anything that doesn’t involve making phone calls)…
…the Segway (the amazing, self-balancing personal transport device meant to forever change the face of commuting but instead forever changed the face of beach house rental huts, select municipal postal systems and guest relations at Epcot)…
…Twitter (a social networking device that lets us know exactly when someone’s bored in line for coffee anywhere in the world – and also whenever Demi Moore bends over)
Winner, People’s Choice awards 1993 & 1996
Yet, oddly enough, in a time signified by people bending the English language into linguistic pretzels to suit their own whims (bromance, ginormous, ridonkulous), no one managed to give the aughts a snappy nickname.
And therein lies the charm, the greatness and yes, the fail of this decade. A decade that, while struggling to live up to the fantasies of its own imagined reputation of jet packs, flying cars and teleportation, managed to define everything but itself.
It is in this spirit that the Armchair presents:
10 entertainment phenomena from the last decade that absolutely will NOT stand the test of time.
Though they may have been entertaining, eyebrow raising or even thought-provoking in their time, the items listed here, like over the counter Viagra and its intended effects, were born with an expiration date.
But hey, who isn’t?
1) Remakes. There were an inordinate number of movie remakes thrown at our collective faces in this past decade – specifically for genre fans. Everything from sci-fi classics (The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, The Invasion, Planet of the Apes, The Time Machine) to horror (Friday the 13th, The Fog, The Hills Have Eyes, Halloween and sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and sequel, etc), to action (Death Race, Gone in 60 Seconds, Assault on Precinct 13, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3).
Unfortunately, and with all due respect to the films and filmmakers who really did give it their all – so basically Stephen Spielberg – most of these remakes will always be an afterthought. In other words, no one will ever picture Marky Mark’s eternally bewildered face when you say Planet of the Apes is your favorite movie of all time – which no one would ever say.
“I’ma go talk to an ape.”
2) Comic Book Movies. In the last 10 years, comic books have served as fertile ground for Hollywood producers looking for a property with a built-in audience. But in the next 10 years, we’ll likely get maybe 3 or 4 successful comic book movie franchises, TOPS! That might seem like a bold statement but when you think about it, we’ve already established the franchises for the biggest heroes. It’s no coincidence that Spidey, Batman, Iron Man, Wolverine and the X – Men are box office big boys – they’ve got the best material!
Even though Hollywood is buying up the rights to every comic book character ever made, and is COUNTING on them being huge, it just isn’t going to happen. Just because they have existed in another medium and possibly with success, doesn’t mean it’s got what it takes to go the distance,… that goes with novels as well – for every Harry Potter, there’s a Spiderwick, Narnia and Vampire’s Apprentice. What we will most likely see are more sequels to the big heroes, some indy hits, akin to Wanted and Road to Perdition and a slew of big budget failures akin to Ghost Rider, The Spirit, Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer. Even when you have the biggest franchises in history, if the story doesn’t resonate, you lose it all. See: Superman Returns
3) Afterthought Sequels. When a film really resonates with the audience and opens up a world full of possibilities, it’s only natural for it to spawn a sequel. Audiences want it and they’re willing to pay for it – it’s a win/win. But that reaction is immediate. You knew the second Tony Stark stated “I am Iron Man” that you wanted more mustachioed heavy metal. But for some mysterious reason (wait, mystery solved -it’s a potent combination of greed and complacency), this last decade brought a TON of sequels YEARS after the original or previous installment…and very few of them lived up to their pedigree. What’s that? You want some examples? Sure, sure amigos, here you are in order of late-to-the-party-ness:
The Whole 10 Yards – 4 years later, Bruce Willis, having already established himself as a movie star, had nothing to lose by returning for a quick buck and a sequel no one asked for. Matthew Perry wasn’t as lucky.
Daddy Day Camp – 4 years after a decent family flick, Eddie Murphy knows better than to return for seconds. Cuba Gooding Jr. didn’t get the memo.
Matrix Reloaded – 4 years after the nerd-centric cyberpunk flick successfully combined anime, kung fu, hacking and S&M into the crossover hit of the decade, a ponderous sequel shows up and polarizes the very audience the original brought together.
Big Momma’s House 2 – 6 years after the original left us thinking the worst was over, Martin Lawrence returns to the scene of the crime proving once again that you don’t have to be IN drag for your movie to BE a drag – though it does help.
Legally Blondes – 8 years after Elle Woods raised the bar at law school, a (second) shoddy sequel comes around to lower it again.
Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd – 9 years after the fact, a substandard and highly derivative sequel with a premise as clever as its name proves you can’t “out-Jim Carrey” Jim Carrey.
Be Cool – a full decade after everyone stopped caring about a quirky gangster’s take on Hollywood, Chili Palmer returns to up the quirk to 11 and alienate everyone in this lackluster sequel featuring a once-aspiring action hero as gay comic relief.
Son of the Mask – 11 years after Jim Carrey got his Tex Avery on, yet another studio genius tried to make a Jim Carrey-less Jim Carrey movie to predictable results.
Basic Instinct 2 – 14 years later, in a world where pantiless upskirt shots are how most starlets pay to have their kitchens remodeled, Catherine Tramell’s antics failed to shock or interest anyone.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – 17 years later, nobody cared about Baby and her proximity to any corners. Also Baby wasn’t in it.
Blues Brothers 2000 – 20 years later, the Brothers Blue came back to ruin their own good name. Just kidding. It was 18 years. This stinker didn’t even come out in 2000. WTF?
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 19 years after “Last Crusade” and a whopping 27 years after the original, religious artifacts are left behind to make room for space men in a story that never unearths the magic of the original.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – 22 years after a farmboy used mystic powers to take down his father’s empire, we discover the force is actually a hereditary blood virus. All analogies of religion, training and discipline go out the window as kids everywhere learn that being a Jedi is like using Maybelline. Maybe he’s born with it. Maybe it’s Midichlorians.
Jason X – 22 years after “Friday the 13th” (and 7 years before the remake), some MENSA candidate decides Jason Voorhees would be just as scary in space and greenlights the film with the tagline: “Evil gets an upgrade.”
Rambo – 26 years later, an aging John Rambo spent a lot more time leaning on a machine gun than on his feet. Although enjoyable, it’s not the definitive Rambo flick it wants to be.
Rocky Balboa – 30 years after the original won 3 (count ’em 3) Oscars, Mr. Balboa’s got the heart, but doesn’t pack quite the same punch in a movie as tired, dreary and world-weary as the title character.
Exorcist prequels (Exorcist: the Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) – 32 and 33 years respectively after an absolute CLASSIC horror film graces both our movie theatres and collective subconscious, Hollywood decides to make a prequel that’s SO bad, they immediately remade it. Let’s just be thankful they stopped there.
One notable exception to this phenomena was Bad Boys 2 – in the 8 years since the original buddy cop surprise hit, Will Smith buffed up both his biceps and acting chops, Martin Lawrence resurrected the charm and delivery of his days doing stand up and director Michael Bay perfected his kinetic, anything-goes, style of filmmaking and together they delivered a babe-laden, foul-mouthed, adrenaline-fueled, explosion-fest that not only towers head and shoulders above the original, but gave action junkies the fix they’d been craving since the 1980’s. I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it.
4) Disaster Porn. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a multimillion dollar movie become so irrelevant so quickly as 2012. Within 30 seconds of the trailer’s release, millions of people on the interwebs sighed, shook their collective head and watched entire cities exploding between yawns.
Do know what is even MORE effective at freaking people out? Hearing things explode in the distance and slowly coming closer. Seeing the roaring cloud of dust of a building that’s fallen on the other side of the city is something that will get your heart pumping. When you have no idea what is happening,… but you know it’s coming, that is sheer fright. Less is more.
Do you want to see everyone’s eyes glaze over? Blow up every single building in a city. And make sure to animate every single pane of glass breaking as the earth opens up and our hero drives a car up the side of a falling building like a ramp, skipping off of an airplane, then catching his Labrador with one hand.
It may work for a Judas Priest album cover, but we’re tired of it. Besides, Roland Emmerich (AKA Mr. Subtlety), you have just destroyed the entire planet one city at a time, what could you possible blow up now that would make any difference? Check out how awesome 2012 is without special effects…
5) Video Game Movies. The line between video game and movie is getting very thin these days as technology becomes more advanced and all our various media begins to merge into one cumbersome mass of pixels. But that doesn’t mean that what works well in one medium will necessarily translate into another. The difference between passive entertainment and interactive entertainment is actually quite HUGE and never is it more obvious than when Hollywood producers try to cash in on the popularity of a video game by turning it into a movie. When you do this, you take away the one element that made that property unique -the fact that you’re controlling the action.
And for this reason alone, we believe the plethora of video game-based movies that leapt from our consoles to our multiplexes in the last ten years will simply fall by the wayside as time advances to the next level. We’re looking at you, Resident Evil, House of the Dead, Tomb Raider, Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, BloodRayne, Doom, Hitman, Max Payne and Far Cry. There are others, but as predicted, I’ve already forgotten them.
Lost in translation
6) Torture Porn. The Hostel, Saw, Captivity, Turistas, Wolf Creek trend of kids unwittingly going where they aren’t supposed to go, then getting strapped down or hung up and graphically tortured for 2 hours, can only go so far. Along the same lines as mentioned in the “Disaster Porn” entry, …. WE DON’T NEED TO SEE IT!
If it’s part of the story (take the end scene of Braveheart for example -when he is strapped down and the executioner walks up with a hook, and then the camera pans up only showing William Wallace’s face reacting to what is going on), THAT creeps me the hell out. What is going on down there? Wait, I don’t want to know.
But here’s the thing, that was a small scene in a 2 and a half hours of pure cinematic genius. Not vice versa. It’s tired, it’s boring, and there are only so many ways you can repackage this crap.
The only thing Eli Roth can do to up the ante is to make it a reality show. Until then, these movies are about as shocking as Marylin Manson in his 40s.
She’s hoping to parley this into a part in a much bigger torture movie.
7) Technology Horror. It’s a tricky business basing your scares on a popular device or technology. Partly because it’s difficult to turn something people are really excited about into something they fear, and party because, as we all know, any given tech has a shelf life about as long as that of your average french fry.
You know how The Net was kind of intriguing at the time but if you watch it now, all you can think about is how tall everyone’s jeans are? Well, get ready to look back fondly at movies like Fear Dot Com, Untraceable, One Missed Call, Freaky Links, Pulse, Cry_Wolf, Stay Alive and others only to find yourself thinking about how low everyone’s jeans are.
P.S. I’m calling it now. Get ready for a Twitter-based horror movie. Probably about someone tweating from beyond the grave. In fact, I’m gonna get on that. Lemme know if anyone has a good title.
8 ) “Found Footage” or POV Movies. Some of the best movies ever made can thank a small budget for their success. (See: Star Wars: A New Hope vs Phantom Menace) The makers of The Blair Witch Project had no budget, and used it to their advantage. Wrapped in an amazing publicity campaign, it was a stroke of genius.
We’ve had quite a few movies since, but all have had a decent gimmick attached to them to PRETTY MUCH make it work . Cloverfield (Found Footage with a giant monster) Quarantine (Found News Report Footage) Diary of the Dead (Found Footage with Zombies) and Paranormal Activity (Found Footage of ‘something in the house’) etc.
As entertaining as these movies were, the gimmick’s got to be good enough so that people will be willing to put up with crappy video and shaky camerawork and there are only so many gimmicks left. The only upcoming movie of this nature that MIGHT show any promise is The Vatican Tapes, which is ‘found footage of a failed exorcism at the Vatican.’
Sooner or later though, people are going to start saying “ENOUGH!.”
Actual footage from the movie
9) Non-Pixar Animated Movies. Call me jaded. Call me biased. But I don’t think there’s any reason an animated movie needs to pander to the kids. I get that animation inherently possesses a quality that draws kids to it like Pete Wentz is drawn to lady jeans, but animation isn’t a GENRE. It’s a MEDIUM. That means there isn’t a set of rules that automatically belongs to it – an animated film can be just as challenging, deep or complex as any other film. I’m not saying they should animate Das Boot and release it with a cast of dancing penguins, I’m just saying that people don’t seem to understand (or remember) that kids are capable of processing a movie that dares elevate itself above the complexity of a fart joke. Pixar understands this and that’s why their movies alone are consistently able to entertain audiences of all ages.
There were a whopping 20 animated films this year alone and I’m betting most of them won’t exist in anyone’s mind for the next 10 months, let alone the next 10 years. So say your mental goodbyes right now to Over the Hedge, Fly Me to the Moon, Planet 51, Robots, Dinosaur, Chicken Little, Shark Tale, Flushed Away, Bee Movie, Happy Feet and the rest of the sub-par collection of pixels that never learned that only the professionals can make it look easy. You won’t be forgiven, but you will be forgotten.
10) Celebutants and Reality Stars. To be honest, this is just as much a hope as a prediction, but ever since society turned on the house lights and invited the audience on the stage, entertainment as we know it has gotten just a tiny bit worse every day. We’ve set the bar of what qualifies as a celebrity so low even Verne Troyer can’t successfully limbo that bad boy.
Reality stars have an extremely low half life and they know it. But the lure of celebrity is so intoxicating that these desperate, untalented wannabe’s keep having to up the ante on each other, doing whatever it takes to avoid having to return to normal life. One shocking act after another, then publicity stunt after publicity stunt until finally, you’ve got the authorities chasing an empty weather balloon across the country and you’re forcing your kid to lie to Wolf Blitzer on live TV.
Fame is fleeting, kiddies. But when you’re famous for being famous, fame is a rocket-powered white Ford Bronco racing down a grease-slick Hot Wheels track at a 45 degree incline with a 15 minute head start. And your Paris Hiltons, Kim Kardashians, Tila Tequilas, Spencer Pratts and whoever else is out there trying to leverage a resume of eating animal testicles, flashing beav or releasing a sex tape into a line of purses, fragrances or – God help us – a music career, are running a 3-legged, potato sack 40k that leads to the vast, arid desert of nowhere. Or worse, anonymity.
Full speed ahead.
That’s it. So long, Aughts, Oh’s, 2000’s or whatever you’re calling yourselves now. Don’t let that hover car you promised us hit you on your way out.
Armchair Mogul 2010