business news in context, analysis with attitude

By now, you may have read that Hollywood is having its worst summer in recent memory, with no week so far having higher box office receipts than last year. It is almost unprecedented, but I cannot say that I am surprised.

A perfect example of why this is happening came during my recent week off, when it was hard to find a movie to see with my 11-year-old daughter. The middle of summer, and there were very few kids movies in the marketplace!

We ended up seeing “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” which is a sequel to the old Disney “Love Bug” movies of decades ago, and was both mindless and unentertaining – not a good combination. (I dodged the bullet on “Bewitched” – one of the neighbors took my daughter to that one.)

Maybe hoping that a Disney remake would be good was setting my expectations too high. But I also was disappointed by “War of the Worlds,” the new Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise movie that is an adaptation of the old H.G. Wells novel.

It isn’t that the movie doesn’t look good. It does. Spielberg is incapable of making a movie that doesn’t have stirring, remarkable sequences, and this one has a ton of them. But the problem is that his other alien movies – “ET” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – had a lot more joy and wonder, and that this one seems mired in the midlife crisis of a deadbeat dad. Maybe that’s because we live in a world that is very different from the world where those older movies were made, but there’s no context, no sophistication about the alien attacks in “War of the Worlds.” It is just a high-tech excuse for Tom Cruise’s character to reconnect with his kids…and it seems kind of empty.

I also think that there are plot holes in “War of the Worlds” that I could drive a truck – or even a space ship – through. And that doesn’t help.

I will tell you one thing about the ending, though. Trust me, it won’t ruin it for you…

It isn’t aliens trying to take over the planet.

It is Scientologists.

Better you should stay home, have a glass of wine or a beer and read a book.

Try the Kenwood 2004 Sauvignon Blanc or the Coppola Diamond Series 2003 Sauvignon Blanc…both crisp and cool for a hot summer day.

Or, as I recommended earlier this week, a bottle of Anchor Summer Beer, which is just great.

And then settle down with Robert B. Parker’s terrific new western, Appaloosa.” Set in the old west and in the fictional town of Appaloosa, it follows the exploits of itinerant lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch as they try to rescue a town from the exploitive and criminal behavior of wealthy rancher Randall Bragg. In doing so, they face moral and physical challenges, and Cole and Hitch serve to the illustrate the same kinds of ethical themes that Parker explores when he writes about Spenser and Hawk and Jesse Stone – the meaning of honor, the responsibilities of friendship, and the demands of love.

And best of all, it has horses and saloons and gunfights – all the things that defined and made the old west great.

When you’re done, if you’re in the mood to saddle up for some great western movies, pop “The Searchers” or “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” or “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” or “Unforgiven” or “Silverado” into the DVD player.


Have a great weekend.

KC's View: