Metro In Focus: Who’s to blame for Hollywood’s lack of originality?

jupiter-ascending-feat-1By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

Who’s to blame for Hollywood’s lack of originality? Are the suits too eager to greenlight reboots and sequels? Are screenwriters so uninspired they can’t think past remaking their favourite 1980s TV shows? Do actors only consider characters based on video games?

Of course not.

The people responsible for the movie doldrums these days live in your mirrors and selfies. That’s right, if you go to the cinema and didn’t check out Birdman, Whiplash or Obvious Child but did go see Guardians of the Galaxy twenty-five times, you forced Hollywood’s hand, guaranteeing another ten years of the big screen exploits of comic book characters Rocket Racoon and company.

Guardians is a fun movie that people liked and Hollywood is in the business of giving moviegoers what they want, but the fear is that a constant stream of familiar feeling films could create a less discerning audience. If you are fed a steady diet of dog food eventually you’ll get used to the taste.

Birdman is an accessible and entertaining movie but with a total gross less than one weekend’s business for Guardians it’s unlikely to inspire a Birdman 2: No Plucking Way but bigger box office could inspire more adventurous films as an antidote to the slew of movies with numbers in their titles.

Big budget Hollywood doesn’t often take the path less trodden. People went to see Inception but I would argue that the reference point for that movie was the director Christopher Nolan, hot off the Batman streak and not the unique story. Less successful were originals like Edge of Tomorrow, despite the usually winning mix of great reviews and Tom Cruise and Transcendence, the computer hard drive horror that brought Johnny Depp’s box office average way down.

Despite those high profile failures this weekend Warner Brothers has gone off the map to show support for an original story from The Matrix directors, the Wachowskis. Jupiter Ascending is a space opera about genetically engineered warrior Caine (Channing Tatum) who helps human janitor Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) take her place as heir to the galaxy.

Big stars, name directors and a new story should appeal but already the knives are out. “Jupiter Ascending looks like a great movie,” wrote ‏@RickIngraham on twitter, “to never see.”

Jupiter Ascending will rise or fall based on audience interest, but if it tanks it’ll be harder for other unusual stories to get made. There are already at least thirty sequels, reboots and spin-offs scheduled for 2015—everything from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Paul Blart: Mall Cop II—so unless you want another Daddy Day Care reboot in 2016 get out of your comfort zone and see something new and original today.


paul_blart_mall_cop01In this Year of the Recession much has been written about the impact of a slowed economy on Hollywood. Jonathan Taplin of Film In Focus reports that “last year the Sundance Film Festival reported 3,624 feature film submissions composed of 2,021 U.S. and 1,603 international feature-length films. Assuming they all expected to make it to a theater that would mean 69 films released each week… we must acknowledge that there are too many feature films being made in America.” Here, here Jonathan. Let’s start with Paul Blart Mall Cop.

When we first meet Paul Blart (Kevin James) he’s about to do the physical portion of his State Trooper’s exam. He’s noticeably heavier, shorter and sweatier than the other candidates and sure enough, he doesn’t make it through. It’s back to the rather humbling life of a security guard—excuse me, security officer—at a New Jersey mall. He’s a love sick loser, unlucky at love and life. He “eats his pain” using “peanut butter to fill the cracks in his heart.” He has a crush on Amy (Ugly Betty’s Jayma Mays), a pretty girl who sells hair extensions at a kiosk in the mall called Unbeweavable. She’s out of his league, but he may be able to win her over when a group of thugs take over the mall and hold her hostage on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

Paul Blart Mall Cop was produced by Adam Sandler’s company Happy Madison Productions. They specialize in cheap and cheerful comedies usually banking on one recognizable star backed by Sandler’s reliable crew of regulars. This time Kevin James, best known as TV’s King of Queens, takes the lead. He’s a likeable sitcom actor who seems to have based Paul Blart on the kind of character John Candy focused on; the loveable guy beaten down by life.

It would have been interesting to see what Candy could have done with a character like Blart. Kevin James plays him as all doe eyes and physical humor, two things Candy excelled in, but Candy knew where the line between real life and caricature was and rarely ever crossed over. His characters had huge dollops of humanity that made them likeable no matter how badly they behaved. James isn’t quite that skilled. In his hands Blart isn’t a real person, just a collection of traits that are supposed to add up to someone that the audience will care about. Trouble is, we don’t. We don’t care about him or the predictable story.

James does pull off some impressive physical work. For a big guy he’s sprightly, not Chris Farley agile, but his stunts are the movie’s best gags. The scene where he goes all Rambo in the mall’s Rainforest Café provides a glimmer of hope for the rest of the movie, but alas, it doesn’t sustain.

Paul Blart Mall Cop is essentially a sitcom played out to feature film length. Unfortunately there aren’t enough laughs or interesting characters to justify the extra hour.