I recently saw four new films: Wanderlust, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, John Carter, and 21 Jump Street. I wish I could recommend them with huge thumbs up and give them a high rating…but I was disappointed with all of them, especially the ones that had promise. The worst of these films, by far, was John Carter, a Disney extravaganza that reportedly cost $250 million to make. That was the reason I wanted to see it: because I’ve written scripts that would cost around $2.5 million to make and I wanted to see a movie that cost 100 times as much. So naturally it had to depress, and in that sense, it didn’t disappoint. It was boring, it was stupid, and it wasn’t worth anyone’s time. But the other three, well, what was wrong with them? 21 Jump Street was another of those young people films where you get to see kids partying, making a mess of a house, getting yelled at, shooting off guns, and just being silly. We’ve seen these films over and over. Apparently though there’s a market, so we will continue to see them. But where was the effort to make it different? Salmon Fishing in Yemen was slow, my wife wanted to leave halfway in, but I thought it could redeem itself, it could actually say something, or move you in some way. But then you had bad guys come in and wreck the dam, destroy what was built, and hope crushed….for about ten minutes. Then a salmon flips into the air, some had survived, a soldier lover watches his girl drift to the other guy, and all’s well with the world….in Yemen? Give me a break. As for Wanderlust, here was a film that could have made the grade. Jennifer and Paul go back to the 60s, metaphorically, via a commune of hippie-type free-living people who embrace them. OK, fine. I can go with that. We all want to return to that time, to the free love, open arms, make-love-not-war period when we had hope. But then they had to spoil it by giving the commune leader greedy intentions, selling off their land, and being arrested in the end. Stupid stuff. Insulting stuff. Why not have that leader be a good guy with a counter-culture POV? Why not play it out seriously, not ridiculously? Could have been a much better movie. As they all could, if they had a better sense of story.
I saw another movie, We Have a Pope, which was also slow and not very exciting, except for the fact that the newly elected Pope didn’t want to be Pope, and he disappeared and was found and convinced that he should put on the hat, and he said OK, but then when he went out to bless the crowd, he looked at them and apologized, because he just couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to be Pope. And he walked back into the Vatican, leaving everyone confused. And I walked out of the screening room thinking: right on. A good ending. They didn’t compromise. They didn’t go for happily-ever-after. They didn’t make it silly. The guy didn’t want the job. Less power to him.