Block Blunders

“Transmorphers” can be found in the new release section of your local video store, right next to “Tranformers”. Every time I walk by it, I share “Transmophers” like my own son wrote it. Why- because it is the perfect example of my all time favorite genre of film: movies that are designed purely to be rented on accident. Movies that are just one letter, one costume change, or one missing actor away from being the title you meant to see. Block Blunders, as I refer to them. They age better than an Oscar winner, as they are, in fact, the most ‘Hollywood’ of all movies. No studio has ever cared about making art, but the guys behind these movies don’t even care if people watch the movie- they only want your money.

And it will work- people will watch these movies. Why- because the people who make these movies prey upon a single, unchanging fact: married people can not remember a single detail about movies. I’ve been married less than a year and have already rented three movies we own. Last week, I wanted to rent “Be Kind Rewind”, but kept calling it “Late Fees”, when talking to the clerk. Increasingly, I’m finding people just react to me with complete puzzlement when I describe movies, which marks you as ‘married’ more obviously than a ring.

So, I’m slowly becoming the exact type of person that makes these movies possible, but, before I descend into complete, movie-going senility, I’d like to share a few insights to my favorite genre. Thusly I present, the four major schools of Block Blunders:

4) The Front Cover Mixup:


This con targets, almost exclusively, moms who were sent to rent a movie by their son. As the producers of these movies know, moms pickup movies like they are a bottle of wine, grabbing the first thing that looks even vaguely familiar Thus, if you can just catch their eye and hint that this is the same movie their kid was just talking about- you have them, hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, this approach –while hilarious– makes the front cover mixup the most mean spirited of all block blunders, as angst-ridden, teen age sons often react explosively when mom returns with a copy of “Devil Youth”, rather than “Hell Boy”. In fact, 90 % of all men made mom cry for the first time after a front cover mixup, which is why this swindle is often referred to as “The Weilheim”, a rough acronym for “What The Hell Is This Mom?”

3) Make Him Bigger


These movies are more American than a pickup truck, as they follow the premier, US business plan: just offer a bigger version. Do not waste time dreaming of a new product- just add another beef pattie and start selling. In fact, these movies are born purely in the board room, with lines like, “if people liked a movie with an alligator, they will go fucking nuts for the Loch Ness Monster!”

The problem with these movies is, they assume that Americans are smart enough to realize the new villain is bigger- a huge risk. There are about 30 people in this country –all tour guides– who actually know that an orca is larger than a shark. Consequently these movies (‘arc films’, as I call them) often waste the entire front cover on pure animal facts, like “is actual the world’s largest predator” or “much more likely to carry rabies”. Nothing shows a studio’s failed attempt to deal with this challenge better than the trailer for “Orca”, which is four minutes of pure animal facts –occassionally resorting to latin phrases– on why you should be more scared of a whale than a shark:

2) The Verbal Slip Up


The most brazen of all Block Blunders- a straight, three card monty trick that probably doesn’t even have a minute of film inside the box. Renting these movies is like discovering the nice guy on the train just ran off with your wallet- they genuinely prey upon inattentive consumers. But, like all swindles, it’s hilarious when it’s happening to some one else. From the hoodwinked titles to the suspicious press quotes: these movies have the funniest front covers in the business. Unlike the normal Hollywood bomb, which can just put a Maxim quote on the front cover, these movies have never been seen before. Therefore these movies –needing a positive review for the front cover– just put quoatation marks around abstract sentances, e.g. “Many people still ride Trains!” or “Robots require software”.

Author’s Disclaimer: I am in the process of getting several Verbal Slip Up movies green light. As a friendly warning to my readers, the titles include: “This Country is not for Old People”, “Latin American Pirates”, and “Melquiades Estrada has been Buried a Lot”. Please rent carefully.

1) Statute of Limitations


A block blunder with full, diplomatic immunity. Copy right laws expire after 70 years, meaning, if a studio decides to film a classic piece of literature, any one with a camera can release the same exact movie:

  “Fox is doing a big budget version of ‘Moby Dick’?- perfect! We’ll get the mechanic from Wings and release our version on the same fucking day! We’ll make thousands!”

These movies know they can not be punished. They are the celluloid equivalent of a cop’s daughter and, accordingly, they are called an “Irish Princess” in most circles. Because of this impunity, the Irish Princess is the greatest of all block blunders since it can actually impact Hollywood. Warner Brothers does not need to worry about another cyborg ripoff of “Terminator”. But, it does need to worry about a line-for-line copy of “Beowulf”, which is why –when ever Hollywood now films a classic book– it uses trick animation or invents its own title:

  “Who said anything about ‘Alice in Wonderland’?- our movie is called ‘The Mad Hatter'”

My prediction is: within five years Hollywood will resort to basing the entire movie off of a completely trivial character within the book, in much the same way that “Teen Wolf Too” was based off of that fat kid after no one else would re-sign. I, personally, can not wait for “Owl Eyes: the one guy who attended Gatsby’s funeral” (summer of 2012, filmed entirely in IMAX).

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