Quick thought on the Utopia TV show

I started to watch the first episode of Utopia, only to discover that it primarily consists of unpleasant people screaming at each other. I turned it off after half an hour.

But it occurs to me, unpleasant people screaming at each other is also a perfectly apt description of real politics. Only in real politics, when a bunch of obnoxious jerks band together to force their will on a different bunch of obnoxious jerks that are slightly fewer in number, it has an actual impact on our lives.

Just a thought.

(My apologies for this post being a week late. I’ve been too busy with that life stuff to blog.)

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New Movies on Netflix in September 2014

My blogging has been light recently.  I’m switching day-jobs, and have been busy wrapping things up on my old one.  Blogging will most likely continue to be light until I get up to speed on the new job.

A list of movies you’ve heard of that are new on Netflix in September is below.  But first, here are my recommendations:

AnacondaOne of those movies that’s so bad its good.

Arachnophobia: Not a great movie, but it’s some solid cheesy fun.

Braveheart: A solid, epic action movie, from back in the 90s when they made action movies with depth that could be critically acclaimed and win Oscars.

Also worth noting:

Chinatown: A noir classic that I personally find too incoherent to work, but a lot of other people love.

Good Morning, Vietnam: If you’re still depressed over Robin Williams’s suicide, this might be a good one to rewatch.  Has some of the best ad-libbing of all time.  I personally am not a fan of everything in the movie other than Robin Williams riffing.  Although this is the reason why I always think of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” as a sarcastic song about grisly death.

Complete List

Movies

A Price Above Rubies
A Simple Plan
Across the Universe
Addams Family Values
Alfie
An Officer and a Gentleman
Anaconda
Anastasia
Arachnophobia
Are We Done Yet
Bounce
Braveheart
Brian’s Song
Chinatown
Cool Runnings
Coyote Ugly
Crocodile Dundee
Days of Thunder
Deep Blue
Defiance
Elizabethtown
Flubber
Good Morning, Vietnam
Guess Who
Hoodwinked
Jay and Sielnt Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie
Lords of Dogtown
School of Rock
Swiss Family Robinson
The Blue Lagoon
Silver Linings Playbook (Sept. 16)
3 Days to Kill (Sept. 17)
Bad Grandpa (Sept. 27)

TV
Californication
Doomsday Preppers
The Blacklist Season 1 (Sept. 7)
Trailer Park Boys Season 8 (Sept. 5)
The League Season 5 (Sept. 2)
About a Boy Season 1 (Sept. 14)
Arrow Season 2 (Sept. 14)
Bones Season 9 (Sept. 16)
New Girl Season 3 (Sept. 16)
The Fosters Season 2 (Sept. 17)
Revolution Season 2 (Sept. 22)
How I Met Your Mother (Sept. 26)
Parks and Recreation Season 5 (Sept. 26)
Comic Book Men Season 3 (Sept. 28)
The Walking Dead Season 4 (Sept. 29)

Battleship vs. The Lego Movie

I found this Overthinking It piece contrasting the Battleship movie to the Lego Movie to be interesting, but I feel like it missed the most important distinction.

The Lego Movie was created because people had a good story to tell.  Starting with a good story, it’s not surprising that we ended up with a good movie.  (Not that every attempt at telling a good story works out, but it is generally a necessary precondition.)

Whereas Battleship was just a cynical cash grab.  Some studio executive looked at a list of old toys and board games, picked out some that he thought people had heard of, and then decided to buy the rights and make movies out of them.  There was zero thought given to whether these would make good stories, or even if it was possible to make a story out of them at all.  It was just “People have heard of this, therefore [I hope] they’ll show up in theaters to see a movie version.”  As I recall, the same deal included the rights to make Monopoly, Stretch Armstrong, and Ouija Board movies.  (Though I’m going by memory of an article I read like 7 years ago, so I could be mistaken.  Also, I have to admit that I can imagine a decent Ouija Board movie.)

Consider this: Milton Bradley does not own the concept of battleships.  They own the trademark for a board game called Battleship, and the patent to those game mechanics.  But that intellectual property doesn’t extend to film.  Any studio that wanted to could have made a movie about a battleship, and probably even called it “Battleship,” without paying Milton Bradley a cent.

The only reason that the studio bought the the completely unnecessary rights to a game with no plot was to allow them the opportunity to lie that the eventual movie would have some connection to something people have vague affection for.  And telling that lie to the audience was the entire purpose of the movie.

All that was left to do was slap together a script that was just a means to get to ships firing guns, explosions, and someone saying “You sank my battleship.”  And when that wasn’t enough to reach their desired run time, pad that with more random action scenes like fist-fights and an alien in an exoskeleton.

Then the producers figured that they could just sit back and wait for all the people who played the board game as a kid to show up in the theaters.

But that didn’t work out for them.  I suppose we should be a bit thankful, as this whole exercise finally disproved the famous HL Mencken quote, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”  So there’s that.