Thoughts on Upcoming Movie Titles

A couple of months ago at the movies, I was enjoying the preview for something I hadn’t heard of yet, starring Viggo Mortenson as a creepy Russian organized crime guy and Naomi Watts as the chick who gets caught up in trying to unravel his plot. I was all on board with it until the title flashed on screen: EASTERN PROMISES. Um, what? I leaned over to the person I was with and said “Terrible title. Just terrible.” Seriously, if I were playing Balderdash and that title came up, I’d make up something about a lavish musical in which a powerful leader’s favorite concubine tries desperately to hide her forbidden but passionate love for a mere stable boy and nurse him back to health when he falls ill. Definitely nothing about the Russian mob. On the poster, the title is written in threatening red block letters below a pair of tattooed hands that look ready to strangle any nosy blonde who comes along. It’s incongruous at best, and just dumb at worst.

While perusing my fall preview issue of Entertainment Weekly a few weeks later, I realized that many of the upcoming holiday and Oscar-bait movies have equally stupid, uninteresting or just plain off-putting titles. Now, I’m not judging the movies themselves. I’m just saying that I find it hard to believe these are really the best anyone could come up with.

1. Gone, Baby, Gone

Blame the original novel’s author Dennis Lehane for this one, but Ben Affleck’s directorial debut sounds more like a car racing movie than a kidnapping drama.

2. The Seeker: The Dark is Rising

“The Dark is Rising” is such a fantastic title that even though it is the second of the five books in the children’s series by Susan Cooper, the whole series is collectively known as The Dark is Rising Sequence. This movie also happens to be based on that second book, seeming to skip the events of the first. So why muck up a great title by adding a phrase that doesn’t appear in any of the book titles and really just makes me think of Harry Potter’s Quidditch position, even though I’ve read the damn books? Plus, who’s going to say that whole thing? Guaranteed, fans will just shorten it back to The Dark is Rising. Nice job, studio.

3. Lions for Lambs

Wait, are we trading lions for lambs? Are we giving lions to lambs? (Seems like it would make more sense to give lambs to lions, am I right?) Are we talking about weather that comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb? Is there some symbolism here that I’m missing but will totally get and think is really deep after seeing the film? Whatever.

4. The Jane Austen Book Club

Okay, this is a perfectly acceptable title for the book that the movie is based on. But it’s kinda dumb for a movie. And since those involved in promoting the movie keep insisting that it’s not all about reading Jane Austen, then why didn’t they just change the freakin title?

5. Things We Lost in the Fire

While a potential Halle Berry and Benecio del Toro hook-up sounds pretty hot, this title is just overly angsty. Sounds like high school poetry.

Now for the good news: some titles are awesome!

1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

But what’s it about? Credit for this gem goes to the novelist Ron Hansen.

2. Shoot ‘Em Up

Don’t mind if I do. Very good action movie title. Not too serious, not too clever. Juuuust right.

3. 30 Days of Night

Loved this title when it referred to the a graphic novel by Steve Niles, still love it for the movie. It sounds poetic, but when you think about the literal meaning, it’s damn creepy.

4. I Am Legend

I like how forceful this is while still being mysterious. Doesn’t hurt that the movie it’s attached to looks pretty kick ass too.

5. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

It’s just fun to say!

Honorable mention goes to I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. Who doesn’t, but how hard can that be to find? Maybe I’ll understand after I see the movie.

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Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

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