Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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Tom Walton

COMMENTARY

Despicable me, I can’t find a movie worth the drive

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    Walton

    The Blade
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    'Despicable Me 3'

Friends of this column keep telling me I need to get out more. So do foes of this column. Faced with such unanimity of opinion, I decided recently to go see a movie.

I scanned The Blade Movie Guide that runs in the Peach Section every day. But after looking over the list of options, I reluctantly changed my mind. There was no movie I wanted to see.

It was a stark reminder that much of what Hollywood cranks out these days is for people considerably younger than me. I’m talking about the scarcity of films for adults, not adult films, OK? Big difference.

What we get instead are animated films, superhero action movies, and sequels which milk an idea that worked the first time but usually fall flat the second.

A recent Blade movie list looked more like a baseball box score on the sports pages. Despicable Me 3, Nut Job 2. Maybe that’s why this summer’s movie ticket sales were the lowest in 25 years.

Since the world has far too many despicable people plus a lot of folks whose grasp on life’s big picture is tenuous at best, we may see several more installments coming to a theater near you.

If we get Despicable Me 12, can Nut Job 11 be far behind?

On the day I checked, my many choices included both The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger. A whole lot of avenging going on there. If a film has scenes in which an actor floats in slow motion while delivering a karate chop to some unfortunate chump below, that is not my idea of entertainment

Atomic Blond was another option. What guy doesn’t like Charlize Theron? But mediocre reviews curbed my enthusiasm.

Movies that appeal to people of a certain age, say 40 and up, seem to me, at least anecdotally, to be few and far between. The World War II film, Dunkirk, was one, I suppose, but the violence of war is a theme that wears me down after about the first half hour.

I spare Saving Private Ryan from that broad indictment for two reasons. It had a riveting story to tell, and it included Tom Hanks. For me, he’s instant box office every time. Even if he appeared in a mediocre film with a weak storyline, I would go just to watch the guy I consider our greatest living actor.

Animated films are another nonstarter for me. And here, as with war movies, the exception proves the rule. I thought the original Shrek film was brilliant, a cinematic gem children could laugh at but one which grownups could appreciate for all the witty writing and sly double-entendres.

From Mickey Mouse and Steamboat Willie to Shrek, animation has come a long way. But I still prefer real people on the screen.

A friend was commenting about all this recently, and she made the point that true romantic comedies aren’t being made any more. That’s not literally true, but she had a point. She was referring to the movies of her youth that starred glamorous Hollywood actors at the peak of their profession or fame.

Stars like Cary Grant. Elizabeth Taylor. Clark Gable. Deborah Kerr. Vivian Leigh. Jimmy Stewart. Katharine Hepburn. John Wayne. Marilyn Monroe. Bogie and Bacall. Paul Newman. On and on the list goes. Add your own favorites. They were larger than life.

Today Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep qualify for such elite status. Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts? Marvelous actors for sure. Brangelina? Please. So yesterday.

There is no denying the influence on movie-going habits of stay-at-home services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Fire, and others. Most evenings that is all many people want. They don’t feel the need to get dressed and go out.

However, there are times I miss doing exactly that. When I do go, I’ll buy a ticket, purchase a tub of popcorn (nothing tastes better than popcorn made at the movies), settle into a seat, and enjoy the show. I can even tolerate a floor sticky from spilled soda.

I try to ignore all the people around me who fuss with their cell phones during the movie. Question: What is the most useless 15 seconds of screen time before the movie begins? Answer: the plea to silence all cell phones.

The announcement says something like “don’t make us ask you to leave.” Oh, if only they had the nerve to make it happen. I’m still waiting to see it. I would stand and applaud the offenders’ exit.

Some folks, and it’s not just teenagers, simply cannot put the things away for 90 minutes and enjoy a movie. Isn’t that the point of going — to escape from the real world for a while? Those glowing phones are an unwelcome distraction and an insult to everyone else in the theater, but the theater staff does nothing about it.

Despite that annoyance, I remain a movie fan. It’s a lifelong habit that began at the Ritz Theater in Tiffin. Truth be told, it actually began outside the fire station in Sycamore, Ohio, where we watched westerns projected on a huge sheet hung on the side of the building.

That was then, this is now. When the list of films at the sprawling multiplexes of today includes movies starring “emojis,” I accept that the times have passed me by.

Kirk Baird, The Blade’s entertainment writer, understands these trends much better than I do. I’m just a patron of the cinematic arts who knows what he likes. But sometimes I think Hollywood doesn’t like me back any more.

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Sunday. His radio commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard every Monday at 5:44 p.m. during “All Things Considered” on WGTE FM 91. Contact him at: twalton@theblade.com

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