Tag Archives: movies

Obnoxious Sports, Pretentious Arts Enthusiasts Two Sides of Same Coin

By Jason Menard

To quote one of Canada’s finest bands, Sloan, “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” And though you’ll likely never get them to agree to it, supporters of sports and the arts are often two sides of the same obnoxious coin.

First, an admission of guilt. I was once an arts’ snob: I judged certain music, literature, and art forms as somehow less worthy than others. I was at the same time an obnoxious sporto, judging people by the teams they supported.

All that to say that I’m now reformed (almost. I still think you Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans need to go get help). Continue reading

California Gaming Law Puts Rules Squarely in Parents’ Hands

By Jason Menard

Free speech comes with a cost – personal responsibility. The repeal of a California law banning the sale and rental of violent games to minors puts the responsibility for parenting right where it should lie – with the parents.

Unfortunately for many kids that’s not exactly a comforting thought.  Continue reading

He’s Still There — So Why Doesn’t Anyone Care?

By Jason Menard

The truth has come out and, as many expected, Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre behaviour over the past two years was nothing more than a piece of performance art for a mockumentary filmed by his long-time friend, and brother-in-law, Casey Affleck.

This revelation was prompted by less-than-stellar reviews of the film, I’m Still Here. It seems that audiences and critics alike haven’t been getting it — at least not the way the filmmakers intended — so Affleck has felt the need to explain the duo’s intentions behind making it. Continue reading

DVD Double-Dipping Plays on Fans’ Folly

By Jason Menard

The next time you have a party, you may want to cross those Hollywood movie moguls off of your invite list – they’re proving to be notorious double-dippers.

Earlier this week Francis Ford Coppola released Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier, calling it the definitive presentation of his legendary film. Well, definitive until the next opportunity to dip into fans’ pockets presents itself.

Looking over at my DVD collection I find my copy of Apocalypse Now: Redux, which in itself was – at the time – the definitive rendering of the film. You know, the movie the way the director intended it to be, before all those nasty Imperialistic Forces like society, studios, and financiers got in the way of Coppola’s vision.

So, in the end, the more committed fans of the film could find three versions of one film staring back at them from their shelves. That’s three times one person has shelled out for the same movie.

At least Coppola’s first and second releases were markedly different in presentation. And this third one combines both presentations, so for those still slowly replacing their old VHS tapes (or, shudder, BETA), this isn’t a bad release to start off with. But increasingly film studios are re-releasing films, with minor tweaks or extra additions, just because they can – and a gullible public will continue to buy their films.

No genre is immune from this cash grab. Good films and schlock alike will exist in multiple versions. Didn’t buy the 1996 release of Swingers? Fret not because you can still get the 2003 Collector’s Series edition. Liked Clerks? Well, you can pick up the original release of the film on DVD, but the true fan knows they’ve also got to have Clerk X – the 10 th anniversary edition. Hell, George Lucas has developed a cottage industry in releasing and re-releasing versions of the original Star Wars trilogy? And if the gazillion versions out there weren’t enough, there’s another one on the way, just in time for Christmas!

Remember The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Remember how fans breathless with anticipation could purchase an impressive DVD reproduction of the film – all the while knowing that a more robust version would be released the following November! And that doesn’t even count the special boxed versions with your collectable Gollum figurine.

Even Jennifer Garner’s star turn in 13 Going on 30, released on DVD in 2004 received a make-over with the release of the Fun ‘n’ Flirty edition less than two years later!!!! I mean, c’mon. It was a cute film and all, but was anyone’s life seriously lacking from the omission of the “pick the right 80’s outfit” or Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl video?

While the movie studios will altruistically claim that they’re simply giving the fans what they want, and providing them with a greater film experience, the truth of the matter is that these re-releases and re-re-releases simply show the level of contempt that studios have for their viewing audience. They know that people, for whatever reason, get emotionally involved in these films, and by offering more film-centric experiences they’re able to tug at the fans’ heartstrings hard enough to make that wallet fly open.

The great fear was that our DVDs, like VHS and film reels before them, would become obsolete via the advent of the next great technology. The truth is that our DVDs will be made obsolete by the advent of the next great version of the film.

Film is not the only medium that is guilty of turning to its loyal fan base for a cash grab. Some video game producers do this annually! One of the most popular video game franchises, the Madden football series, enjoys the financial windfall of annual revisions. And while in the past some revisions have only been minor tweaks to game play, that hasn’t prevented the game developer from charging full price for essentially the same game, only with a new cover and another year added to the title.

Of course, video games have also used the power of re-releases for good. Greatest Hits designations involve a reissuing of popular games, at a much lower price, thereby increasing the penetration to a less-affluent segment of the game-buying public. Unfortunately, there is no correlating drop-off in price for films entering their second edition.

It’s only the most avid film buff that will even benefit from many of the additions that re-released versions include. I own a substantial number of DVDs and I can count on one hand those on which I’ve actually explored the special features. I’ve yet to watch a film with the director’s or the actor’s commentary overlapping. In fact, I quite enjoy the film just as it is, thank you very much.

And perhaps that attitude will be my salvation. As I look at my collection, I can say that there are no duplicates of films. Although there may be those bearing the Special Edition, Collectors Edition, or even the Awesome! Totally Awesome Edition (in the case of Fast Times at Ridgemont High), they were chosen because I liked the film and that’s the version I found – not for any desire to expand my experience through DVD-ROM games or exclusive interviews with the costume designer.

Films in themselves are an experience. We fans get attached to our favourite authors, directors, and production, but that doesn’t mean we have to be slaves to their every whim. And if movie companies really want to respect their fans and give them what they want, why not get it right the first time? Cram everything you have in the first release – don’t dole it out piecemeal, reserving the juicier bits for subsequent releases.

Of course, that would show that the movie studios respect their fans more than the mighty dollar – and as much as I love a good comedy, I’m not prepared to suspend my disbelief that much.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Opportunity Knocks in the Form of Tom Hanks

By Jason Menard

Batten down the hatches! Shield your children’s ears. The day of the Apocalypse is upon us! Verily, the very foundations upon which Western society has been built are set to crumble.

And the culprit? For years rumours have abounded that the Anti-Christ walks among us and now we have seen his face. The one to send humanity to its fire and brimstone end? Tom Hanks.

With the release of the DaVinci Code movie, defenders of the Christian faith are wringing their hands nervously at the allegations and potentially devastating revelations that were first popularized in Dan Brown’s novel and now have made the big screen in an easy-to-digest, two-hour format. And Tom Hanks, with his everyman appeal and Midas Touch at the box office is a perfect vessel from which evil can pour forth.

Think about it. What if the Holy Grail isn’t a chalice or the living bloodline of Christ through a marriage to Mary Magdalene, as the DaVinci Code claims? What if the elusive Grail is actually a hidden item that inexplicably allows people to reach unheard of levels of fame despite not doing too much?

I mean, the evidence is there. Hanks has made a career being Hanks. Save for his performance in Philadelphia, he’s never really done anything that’s beyond the everyman, pleasant guy. SplashBig? Even Forrest Gump was a pleasant Everyguy with some developmental challenges. Cast Away? Everyguy on a beach with a volleyball. That Thing You DoThe LadykillersRoad to Perdition? Everyguy in period dress.

Hell – no pun intended – for someone as pleasantly bland as Hanks is there must be something that he’s drawing upon to unleash the forces necessary to survive bombs like Joe Versus the Volcano and Turner and Hooch. Maybe the grail is shared amongst Hollywood glitterati – which would explain why I know Zsa Zsa Gabor’s name and why I can’t walk past a newsstand without seeing her next-gen copy Paris Hilton – allowing people to be famous just for being famous.

No, Hanks is just Nice Guy on Screen with an Impressive Rolodex (or compromising pictures of Ron Howard.) Which is why it’s so intriguing to see Christians losing their minds over something as innocuous as a movie. Yes, the issues are challenging and appear to be unflattering to the Church as an institution. But in their zeal to repress discussion of the book, its contents, and Hanks’ performance (which may not be a bad idea…) the Church has ignored the greatest opportunity of all. And that is the chance to be relevant.

The DaVinci Code was not the first source for these Grail theories. Nor are alternative versions of the life of Christ or Christianity in general restricted to the here and now. But people are talking. Religion is relevant. For a Church that’s been hemorrhaging parishioners for years, instead of boarding up the doors with dogma, the Church should be engaging these newly interested people in discussions about religion.

Having faith does not preclude having curiosity. Questioning one’s religion does not constitute a crisis of faith. It is a factor in what makes us human.

I am not religious. I am spiritual. I suppose it’s a factor of not being able to drink the whole glass of Kool-Aid for any one religion. However, I also believe that if God is going to punish me for being a good person, being respectful of others, raising my kids and loving my wife to the best of my ability, and for thirsting for knowledge, then that’s a deity that I’m just ready to get down with.

Many others are like me. They are fed up of religions that choose to dictate to their followers as opposed to engaging them in the discussion. Many religions employ a top-down model of faith, wherein a select few are in the know while the followers must swear blind allegiance.

Why can’t we question our faith? Does a belief in a deity preclude curiosity? Does it eliminate free thought? Or can religion not open itself up and engage those who are interested in thoughtful debate and discussion. Not everything has to be black and white – there’s room for metaphor and there’s room for leaps of faith – but shutting people out of the discussion process is counterproductive.

For the first time in years, religious discussion is cool. But instead of embracing the opportunity that Pop Religion books, movies, and texts are presenting, the Church is boarding up the doors and hoping to ride out the swirling winds of questions and interest. Too bad they aren’t realizing that these questions are an invitation to engage in discussion and teaching, not just a challenge to the Church’s authority.

In the end Tom Hanks, Dan Brown, or any other anthropologist, writer, or historian isn’t the Anti-Christ. In fact, if used properly to stimulate an open debate and inclusionary nature in the Church, they could in fact be part of Christianity’s salvation. And after all, we all know the position of Anti-Christ has already been filled – by Chuck Woolery.

Opportunity is knocking. But will the Church finally answer its call or keep the door barred?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved