In lieu of anything worth reviewing being newly released to theaters, this week's episode of Escape to The Movies takes a look at the somewhat surprising twin box office failures of Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand and Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head, the confluence of which is leading film journalists (and, one assumes, the film industry) to postulate that the "80s Beefcake Action Star" revival that many were assuming was on the way in the wake of Arnold un-retiring and the success of the two Expendables movies might already be dead in the water.

I happen to think that's jumping the gun a little bit - Stallone generally didn't star in major hits outside of the Rocky and Rambo franchises, and while Schwarzenegger's caricature probably has eclipsed his actual persona in the minds of younger audiences, I still think the money is there if and when he opts back into the Terminator series or makes good on that Conan 3 rumor.

Honestly, I wouldn't really be too broken up if this really was the end for that particular breed of action film and/or action star. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy these guys and liked the original 80s and 90s testosterone-fests that made them stars, but it's entirely possible that that whole scene has really run its course. However, it did get me to thinking about a few of the other genres, sub-genres and types of films that I'd be more than okay seeing take a dirt nap.

For example:

"Our Not-So-Difficult Life Is Surprisingly Difficult"

Examples: This is 40, Wanderlust, Eat, Pray, Love

Alright, look, I'm actually not big on the "First World Problems!" meme, aka the hipster version of "Finish your dinner, there are people starving in China!" Yes, thank you, I'm aware that I am part of a class/culture for whom the prospects of winding up genuinely destitute are overall pretty slim. That I would have to fall pretty far and then on downward through every crack in the social safety net to even approach the level of desperation that many poor souls throughout the world live every day. And y'know what? The (mutually acknowledged) fact that I can't possibly conceive of that level of suffering means that you pointing out that my problems aren't comparable isn't going to have any tangible effect on me. It's not going to make me feel better, it's not going to give me perspective, it's not going to shame me into joining the Peace Corps. The only thing it does is help you thread the impressive paradox of simultaneously feeling somehow morally righteous while snark-shaming someone who just told you they were in the midst of a problem.


That having been said, I could really do without any more movies about comfortably upper-class people facing either personal crisis that don't exactly measure up to, say, not being able to afford health insurance. This is not to say that the well-heeled are inherently unsympathetic protagonists, just that the stakes kind of need to be proportionate if the goal is drama or at least some level of emotional investment on the part of the audience. For example: Bruce Wayne is rich as hell, and if his biggest problems really were his multibillion dollar company not turning a hefty enough profit (as opposed to the senseless murder of his family, obvious psychological issues and multiple evil organizations looking to punch his ticket), nobody would want to watch movies about him.

This, incidentally, is why soap operas and melodramas used to be more interested in focusing on the lives on the wealthy and powerful. Excess looks good onscreen, and the major problems you have to throw at glamorous people in order for the audience to start caring what happens to them offer even more excess - a win-win!

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