retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I've been trying for a week to think about how best to write about Tomorrowland, the new movie from Brad Bird, who has brought us such terrific films as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (which was, to my way of thinking, finally a really good Mission: Impossible movie because it was less about Tom Cruise, more about the mission, and actually had a sense of humor).

The thing is, Tomorrowland has gotten only mediocre reviews, wasn't very successful at the box office on its opening weekend, and Mrs. Content Guy wasn't nuts about it. And the problem is that I completely understand why the reviewers and Mrs. Content Guy didn't like it much, and why audiences stayed away more than the folks at Disney expected.

Still, I liked Tomorrowland. A lot. Didn't love it, but respected what it was trying to do, and liked much of what it did.

I remember when I was in college at Loyola Marymount University, one of our teachers was Charles Champlin, who also was the main film critic for the Los Angeles Times. (That's my idea of a dream career.) Champlin was noted for being generous of spirit when he reviewed movies, and sometimes was referred to (by cynical, know-everything college students) as "the Will Rogers of film criticism" - he never met a movie he didn't like. But I don't think that's the case here, especially because as I get older, I find myself less forgiving of films that test my taste and patience.

Without giving away too much, I can tell you that Tomorrowland is about a young woman, played by Britt Robertson, who finds a mysterious pin that seems to transport her to a futuristic land whenever she touches it; that leads her to a grumpy middle aged man (George Clooney) who, she believes, knows what that land is and how to get there.

Among the problems that some people seem to have with Tomorrowland is that a) it takes too long to get going and is too long in general, b) the marketing was misleading, so they didn't know what to expect, c) seems to be much ado about too little, and d) is too preachy.

As I said, I can't really disagree with these points. It is certainly true that the marketing for the movie hasn't given away very much ... which, to be honest, I found to be a nice change from trailers and commercials that seem to give away entire movie plots, leaving me often wondering why I needed to actually see the flick.

But this is where I differ with some of the critics and even Mrs. Content Guy.

At its core, Tomorrowland is a movie about hope ... about whether humanity is capable of innovation and imagination, of greater achievement and higher level thinking. In some ways, it is even a criticism of modern movies that seem to take a kind of perverse pleasure in watching cities come tumbling down because of alien invasions or natural disasters. Preachy? Sure, to some degree. But about one-third of the way through the movie, I decided that I liked the core message, agreed with it, and was willing to go along for the ride on which Bird wanted to take me. And from that moment on, I enjoyed myself immensely. Tomorrowland may have its flaws, but I was perfectly willing to look past them and enjoy the movie for what it is.

There's a moment in the movie when Robertson's character talks about a Native American legend that, in fact, explains the movie in simple terms:


There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is... which wolf wins?

The one you feed.


A good lesson, I think. There are worse concepts around which to build a movie.



I also saw a lovely little movie, Love is Strange, last weekend, and I can recommend it without reservation.

The film concerns two aging homosexual men, played by with great style and delicacy by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow, who after a decades-long relationship are allowed to marry when the law changes in New York. However, when they do so, Molina's character loses his job - he's a longtime chorus director in a Catholic school, and while the diocese has known about his homosexuality, same-sex marriage is more than it can handle. With the loss of his job comes the loss of the apartment they can no longer afford ... and they are forced to split up and live with friends and family members until they can find a place to live.

Love is Strange is like a terrific and heartbreaking little short story ... it does not have any grand ambitions, and it plays out on a small scale. But it is about real people, and these days, few movies seem to be ... so I was happy to spend some time in Molina's and Lithgow's company.



Finally, my daughter convinced me to sit and watch a comedy called The Wedding Ringer last weekend. It was pretty good - it stars comedian Kevin Hart as a fellow who hires out his services as a best man to people who don't have a friend to fill that role. Josh Gad plays the hapless client, and while the movie plays out pretty much as you'd expect it to, there are plenty enough laughs to go around.

My guess is that Hart and Gad will end up reteaming at some point. Maybe they'll get a script that a little less predictable, and it'll be better for all concerned.



I have a new beer to recommend to you this week - the Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale.

"Wet Hop" means that "wet - undried - hops go straight from the fields into our kettles within 24 hours," according to the Sierra Nevada website, creating an intense flavor that I found enormously tasty.



That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!
KC's View: