Monday, 23 February 2009

When I'm running for my life I generally don't look back at the plumbing.

This afternoon I got an email asking me to list ten romantic comedies outside of the subliminal “Groundhog Day” that, to quote the email, “don't suck”. You know it's not very often I get to show off my extensively useless movie knowledge in such a way and so of course I jumped at the opportunity.

In the, oooh, six whole seconds I had spare to compose a list here's what I came up with.

African Queen

While You Were Sleeping

Some Like It Hot

Breakfast At Tiffanys

High Fidelity

When Harry Met Sally

Tin Cup

As Good As It Gets

The American President

Bull Durham

There's several amazing things about that list. One is that had you asked me my opinions on romantic comedies I'd have told you they're pretty much the movie version of soap operas. In other words, practically worthless. And yet I honestly love every movie on that list, and could quite happily load up the DVD player and watch any of them right now (Gee Note: If I could actually get the tray to open on the DVD player that is. Alas after an “incident” involving a guinea pig, a stray wire, and a slice of toast with some jam on it, the damn thing won't budge). Another amazing thing is that none of these movies have been remade in modern times. Admittedly only a couple are old enough for that to be likely but even so, it's incredible that no one in Hollywood has watched “Some Like It Hot” recently and thought “You know those Curtis and Lemmon guys are OK I guess. But this film would be so much better with Ryan Reynolds and that guy from Heroes. You know the one who's dating that blonde chick. Milo Whatshisface. Him anyway. He'd be great”.

See Hollywood has a tendency to do silly things like that, most recently with horror movies. It's something I've never really understood. I mean good films are good films. If you remake a successful and popular movie you leave yourself open to all sorts of things, most notably the comparison between your flick and the original. And almost always the original wins that particular battle. In fact of the countless number of remakes we've seen over the years, from Sabrina (Gee Note: The Harrison Ford remake of the Humphrey Bogart/Audrey Hepburn classic, not the television show about a teenage witch. Speaking of which, what the hell happened to Melissa Joan Hart? No really, where did she go? Mandrake the Magician couldn't disappear as effectively as she has) to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, only one could really be called successful. That one? Why it's Ocean's Eleven of course.

The reason why Ocean's Eleven works is that it took a not so good original movie that none the less had a great concept, and used it as a guide to create a really decent film that made a ton of money. And considering the number of films that get released every year that fall in to the category of “great idea – badly done” one would have thought studio execs would be all over this template to success. Remake bad movies that had brilliant premises.

And if you ask me (Gee Note: Which nobody has by the way, hence the reason I'm forced to write it here on this blog) the first title on the “Films that really should have been a lot better than they were, but seeing as they weren't they should be remade” list should definitely be Reign of Fire.

There are generally speaking two ways in which Hollywood movies get made. Either a producer or a studio boss comes up with an idea for a picture he thinks will make a bucket load of cash, and then puts together a "package" consisting of a screenwriter, star, and director. Or a pre existing script gets pitched to a studio boss, and the package is built from there.

Here's how I imagine Reign of Fire got made. A young nervous screenwriter stumbles in to a Hollywood party only to find none other than major power player Sam Moneybags sitting at poolside, flanked by a gaggle of pretty young wannabes. After a couple of gulps of Dutch courage Nervous Guy slithers up to Moneybags and clears his throat.

Moneybags: Can I help you son?

Nervous Guy: Mr Moneybags, it's an honour to meet you. I love your films. I thought "Death Fight 7" was a work of unparalleled brilliance…

Moneybags: Cut the crap son, I'm a busy man.

Nervous Guy: Right. Yes. Of course. Ummm. Look I know this might be slightly forward but I'm a screenwriter and I have this project I'm working on. I was wondering if you could find time in your busy schedule to maybe set up a meeting or something?

Moneybags: Listen kid. Scorsese can’t get a meeting with me. You really think I'm going to clear my diary for someone who thinks "Death Fight 7" is a good flick?

Nervous Guy: No I guess not.

Moneybags: Tell you what, I'm feeling generous, so I'm gonna give you three seconds to pitch your movie to me. GO!

Nervous Guy: Uhhhhh… OK. How does "Mad Max fights Dragons" grab you?

Moneybags: (After a long pause) Hmmm… son sit yourself down here. You just got yourself a green light.

Because let's face it who wouldn't want to watch that movie? I mean really the damn thing sells itself. Bleak apocalypse, great big fire breathing flying lizards, revealing costumes, what's not to like? Add a cast consisting of everyone's favourite shirtless wonder Matthew McConaughey, Gerard Butler of "This is SPARTA!!!" fame, and the current star of the Batman franchise Christian Bale and this flick has "Damn Good" written all over it.

So it's astonishing that the movie is, well, rubbish. Not in the "So bad it's an embarrassment to everyone involved" kind of way. It's just completely underwhelming. Put it this way, at one point there's a face off between a handful of sky divers and a dragon. And it's boring. Now go back and read that again. Sky divers kicking off against a dragon = boring. I know, it sounds impossible, but some how Reign of Fire managed it. And not only do the action sequences largely fail, but the characters are also pretty lifeless. In fact outside of McConaughey's fabulously weird performance (Gee Note: Honestly it's like he got so stoned during filming he convinced himself he was in a different movie to everyone else) not one turn is memorable. Which considering the calibre of the actors on show is pretty remarkable. I don't know, maybe Christian Bale got distracted by something.

(Gee Note: By the way, that infamous recording of Christian Bale going off on one on the set of Terminator: Salvation has been remixed in to a dance record by the producer of Ru Paul's new album. I don't have an opinion on it. I just wanted to type out that sentence to see what it would look like.)

Bizarrely though Reign of Fire isn't alone in being a poor movie about a dragon. Indeed it appears that despite the fact that fantasy novels are routinely churned out of publishing houses like a cow churning out milk, rarely does a Hollywood screenwriter make a decent fist of a good old dragon bashing yarn. In the past couple of years alone we've seen Beowulf, Eragon, and even the third instalment of the Mummy franchise take on these winged behemoths. And while their not awful films per say, you'd have to go far and wide to find anyone who would put them in their top ten list.

And the thing is a tale about an old school dragon beating should be a piece of cake. Dragon turns up causing all kinds of destruction, knocking down houses, setting fire to big piles of hay, spooking the cattle, and generally being a nuisance. Despite initial personality clashes a group of hardy misfits band together to protect the village, there's a big fight, and having finally learned to work together the misfits defeat the dragon. Cue rejoicing of peasants and a hearty “bravo” to the surviving members of the group before fading out on a thumping tune performed by Bryan Adams or Nickelback or some other middle of the road, soft rock ensemble. See? Easy.

But amazingly this would appear to be the most difficult thing to do as far as Tinsel Town is concerned. So average citizens may be forgiven for making up their own stories about huge flying lizards, filling the gap that the entertainment industry has left open. Stories like that of the Ropen for example.

You know tales of giant winged beasts are not just confined to the medieval ages. From Thunderbirds to Mothmen, even in these enlightened times reports of unknown creatures tearing a path through our skies are aplenty. And the Ropen is no different, reportedly larking about in the air above Papua New Guinea. Except Ropen isn't a giant moth or bird. Instead it's the cryptozoology/ creation science/ small child's dream monster. Because our flying menace of Papua New Guinea is practically a living dinosaur.

Well that's if Duane Hodgkinson is to be believed. Stationed in New Guinea during the second world war, Hodgkinson was going about his daily business one day in 1944 when he and another soldier walked in to a clearing. While there a wild pig ran past, probably desperate to get back home in time to catch Lost. The pig's swift movement seem to startle something above them and as they looked up the two soldiers were amazed to see a “Pterodactyl” take off from the trees ahead. For those who are reading this and have no idea what a Pterodactyl is, you know that bit out of Jurassic Park III where they're on that wooden bridge and Billy or whatever the hell his name is gets carted off by one of those flappy dino-bird things and you're all like, awww man that dude's dead for sure, but then he turns up like ten minutes later without a scratch and you're like no way man, that's rubbish, the fall would've killed him if nothing else? Well anyway, it's one of those dino-bird things. You know thinking about it I could have just put up a picture or something. In fact I think I will.

(Gee Note: And before we go any further, unless I mention the following I'm sure to get an email from some pedant, possibly Rob, telling me that Pterodactyls are neither dinosaurs nor actually called Pterodactyls. Dinosaurs are exclusively terrestrial based lizards that stand upright. Therefore any lizard that is water or air based doesn't count. And the correct term for a “Pterodactyl” is actually Pterosaur. There. I said it. I am of course still going to call it both a dinosaur and a Pterodactyl. Why? Because I don't really care all that much. That's why.)

Anyway according to an interview Hodgkinson gave to Jonathan Whitcomb he saw “a pterodactyl take off from the ground and circle back overhead and to the side giving us a perfect side view which clearly showed the long beak and appendage protruding from the back of it's head (just like the ones that Fuzzy used to ride in the comic strip Ally Oop). It was a big one!” (Gee Note: OK I've been staring at Google for the past ten minutes and you know I have no idea what the hell “Fuzzy” or “Ally Oop” are. Sigh. Why couldn't Hodgkinson be a Flintstones fan? Then he could have said “You know, like those ones that Fred and Barney used instead of an aeroplane.” And we could all go “Ohhh yeah. I know EXACTLY what you mean!”. In fact in retrospect it's lucky I posted that picture).

Hodgkinson isn't the only one to have seen a pterodactyl however. While on Bougainville Island, Papa New Guinea, in 1971 Dr. Brian Hennessey claims to have spotted the creature. According to Hennessey “I actually heard it before I saw it. A slow flap... flap... flapping sound. It was very big (wingspan at least two meters, probably more... possibly much, much more). It was black or dark brown. I had never seen anything like it before”.

According to locals on Papa New Guinea's Umboi Island the Ropen is a nocturnal animal that and has a bioluminescent tail. You know like a firefly (Gee Note: Except one that's obviously taking the same “supplements” as 90% of Major League Baseball players). According to legend it feeds on fish, although on occasion it has been known to feast on human flesh, mostly by digging up the graves of the recently deceased.

Gross huh?

So is it really likely that a Pterodactyl is kicking it in the skies of Papa New Guinea? Well probably not. I mean considering that Papa New Guinea is hardly an undiscovered country, and that a Pterodactyl is hardly a wee little thing, the chances of one not being comprehensively documented by now is slim at best. I mean if we know the entire life cycle of the rarely spotted 8 inch long Pennant Fish, which is found in the much less hospitable Red Sea, then not to have discovered a huge flying glow in the dark lizard in an easily accessible part of the world is kind of unbelievable. And when I say “kind of” I of course mean “completely”.

But of course I could be wrong. And if I am then who knows? Maybe the remake of “Reign of Fire” will be a documentary.


Rob said...

But a pterosaur isn't a dino... Oh. You bastard.

Daisy said...

LOL interesting blog... Although the post is bit too long.

Just a friendly critique... Passin by from BE...