Notes from the back row 

Sequels and video game adaptations

I'll tell you one thing, I'm really glad I don't own a video rental store right now. High quality downloads are already available legally on sites like iTunes and new technology is coming down the pipe making it even easier to "rent" movies online. Not to mention the millions being downloaded illegally.

Of course, the even larger problem is that Hollywood is having a hell of a time making decent movies these days, instead relying on (admittedly cool) gimmicks like digital 3D to lure people to the theatres (at inflated 3D prices). Most of the big films now are either remakes of old classics (The Crazies), adaptations of books (Twilight, Harry Potter), comics (Iron Man, Batman) or videogames.

Another disturbing trend is the recent pillaging of other nations' films and "Americanizing" them (Let the Right One In, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). From the looks of things the well has run dry down in Tinsletown, with studios making less films and constantly looking for the next big franchise (because one good movie isn't enough anymore).

And the proof is up on screen. This week the Village 8 is opening Sex and the City 2, an unneeded sequel based on a successful but already near-forgotten TV show, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer offering everyone is hoping will be the next Pirates of the Caribbean.

Based on a character created for the groundbreaking (it was really, really hard to win) videogame from 1989, Prince of Persia follows Bruckheimer's Pirates formula and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a goofy, honourable hero swordfighting his way through a sandy sea of destiny, magic, evil uncles (are there any other kind?) with a stunningly good looking chick (played by recent Bond girl Gemma Arterton.)

Full of roof-hopping acrobatics (parkour is Hollywood's new Kung-Fu) and delicious battle scenes both large and small, Prince of Persia also suffers from a convoluted plot and there are more than a few blatant exposition scenes where people are yelling about what needs to happen next. It's a kid's movie.

Gyllenhaal and Arterton are good though as the Prince and Princess alternate between trying to save the world with a magical dagger, bickering and falling in love. Ben Kingsley hams it up in dark eye shadow as the uncle and the ostriches and snakes nearly steal the show.

Tonally, the movie has a bit of an Indiana Jones feel (but with a much weaker script) and it should do well with younger audiences due to the fact that it's paced like a video game. Prince is similar to Tomb Raider, although even with his washboard abs Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't have the screen presence of Tomb Raider's Angelina (who does?)

But all is not lost for movie lovers. While Hollywood wallows in the mire of its own creative woes the last ten years have also spawned another golden age of documentary filmmaking. Cheap camera and editing technology have opened doors for an entire new legion of filmmakers with stories to tell. Unfortunately, for every lighthearted masterpiece like King of Kong or Big River Man there are just as many gloom-and-doom films like Food Inc., The Cove, Jesus Camp or The End of the Line, which is the DVD of the week.

Coming from Mongrel Media, who are championing the cinema as a means of social change, The End of the Line is a look at how we are drastically overfishing our oceans and literally eating species like the Bluefin tuna into extinction. Depressing stuff, but also important knowledge to have out there. The fish, it turns out, are doing even worse than Hollywood these days. But are more worth saving.



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