Bad Problem-Solving Movies Are Just Frustrating

As I noted last week, I love problem-solving movies – when they’re done right. Unfortunately, every now and then a movie comes along claiming that it has some great puzzle to solve, but it turns out to be just an endless series of frustrating problems, leading to an unearned happy ending.

There are two films, in particular, that I think of as truly awful problem-solving movies, both of which came out in 1998: A Civil Action and Armageddon. I saw both of these films in theaters, and I couldn’t wait for either of them to end after about the halfway point. Let’s talk about these two films to shine a spotlight on why bad problem-solving movies are so frustrating. I’ll even compare them to better movies that take a similar concept and succeed where these ones failed. Continue reading

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I Love Problem-Solving Movies

What do Apollo 13, Ghost, and Rudy have in common? Sure, they all came out in the 1990s, but I posit that they share something more substantial than that. They’re all problem-solving movies.

What is a problem-solving movie and how does it differ from other movies? When you boil these three films down to their essence, they are films about people learning to solve very specific problems that would otherwise prevent them from their ultimate goal. Each problem that they solve leads them to another bigger problem and so on until they have overcome so many odds that to fail is simply not an option. Apollo 13 is about survival, Ghost is about becoming more than a noncorporeal entity, and Rudy is about getting onto Notre Dame’s football team.

I love problem-solving movies, so I’d like to talk about why it’s so fun to watch the heroes of these three films overcome their numerous problems. Continue reading

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Bill vs. Ted

Bill S. Preston, Esquire, and Ted “Theodore” Logan. The Great Ones, as some call them, are quite possibly the best duo in history. But who is the greatest Great One? Years ago I saw a tongue-in-cheek list of the best and worst things to come out of the 1980s. On the “Best” list it had Ted while on the “Worst” list it had Bill. But is that a fair judgment?

It might seem crazy to try to separate the two and compare them since they work so flawlessly in conjunction with each other. But that’s just what I’m going to do because I want to get to the bottom of who is actually the best. I definitely wouldn’t consider either Bill or Ted one of the worst things to come out of the ‘80s.

I’ll be rating these two characters in five categories:

  • Romance – Who’s the more romantic of the two with the ladies?
  • Zingers – Who is the funniest and most quotable?
  • Dads – Who has a more interesting family life?
  • Physicality – Who is stronger and more physically capable?
  • Wisdom – Who is wiser?

I’ll explore all of the evidence in each section and then make a final verdict for each one. Whoever wins more categories will be declared the winner. Join me on this most triumphant adventure as we compare Bill vs. Ted! Continue reading

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Old Hobbits Die Hard

I have a humorous bit of Photoshopped silliness to share with you. I was recently having a conversation with some friends about The Lord of the Rings when someone referenced Gollum, and then the title of this article suddenly sprung from my lips. This generated a few chuckles. At that moment I knew I needed to turn it into some sort of graphic art. What can I say, old habits die hard.

Please enjoy the results below: Continue reading

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Big Trouble in Little China vs. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

I’ve heard it said that 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China was ahead of its time. It introduced American audiences to Asian mysticism and style of filmmaking before they were ready to embrace them in a big-budget action film. With an estimated budget of $25 million, it only earned $11.1 million in the United States. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is often cited as receiving the credit that Big Trouble in Little China deserved. That 2001 film told a fantasy story rooted in Chinese culture, and it had a worldwide gross of $213.5 million on a $17 million budget.

But I would argue that if any film is the natural heir to Big Trouble in Little China, it’s 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. That film left both of the other films in its dust, earning a whopping $654.3 million on a $140 million budget. Continue reading

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What About Bob? What About Chiasmus?

When I get an idea for a Cinematic Chiasmus, I get excited about it because it’s a chance to look at a film in a way that no one has ever done before. A few months ago, the good folks at Latter-day Chiasmus featured one of my Cinematic Chiasmus articles on their Facebook page, and then they asked me to take a look at a certain film to see if it works as a chiasmus. That film is What About Bob?

I had never done anything like that before. I had never tried to analyze a film that I didn’t have a good feeling about. I figured this would be a good example to see if I could actually force this model to work on any film or if it could be objectively shown to fail to work on most films.

I’m going to do something really different this time. Spoiler alert: What About Bob? is not a chiasmus. It has a few parts that match up nicely, but not enough to get anywhere close to a perfect chiasmus structure. And so it winds up looking really weird and disjointed when I try to impose this type of analysis on it. For this reason, I have set up a color coordination for it to show the four ways in which individual scenes match up (or fail to match up):

Green – The two events on both sides of the film match up perfectly.

Red – The event does not correspond with anything else.

Orange – One event matches up with another that’s out of order.

Blue – One event matches up with another that’s on the same side of the chiasmus.

I’ve also included some helpful commentary below many of the points, especially in the first half, to explain my reasoning for my use of the colors and what to expect further on. With all of that said, let’s see how What About Bob? stacks up. Continue reading

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The Dynamic Do-Over

The LEGO Batman Movie looks to be a dynamic do-over for the Dynamic Duo. And thank goodness for that. I loved Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and I certainly don’t mind a dark interpretation of the World’s Greatest Detective. But I don’t think anyone is ever going to make a better solo Batman film than 2008’s The Dark Knight, so it’s time to start thinking outside the box. And if the trailers are any suggestion, it looks like that’s exactly what The LEGO Batman Movie is doing.

It’s giving us the Robin we’ve always wanted. He’s the exact opposite of Batman – colorful, naïve, and goofy. Let’s talk about how we got to this point and why I’m looking forward to a lighthearted Batman film done right. Continue reading

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