So, Channing Tatum, who I understand is quite the sexy hunk of man-meat, has a film that opened this weekend in which he discovers the endless joys of street fighting. The film is aptly titled Fighting so as to ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting into when you walk into the theater.
It’s always a terrifically amusing trend when movies give themselves titles that pull no punches as to what the main idea is behind the film. It’s kind of courteous, frankly. Sometimes it lets you know right off the bat that a certain movie is something that you will or won’t want to see. Sometimes, however, it can hurt a film that deserves a more careful touch. Let’s take a look at ten circumstances in which films of all genres and attitudes were given quite obvious titles.
1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin – When I first heard about this movie–and heard that it was the first starring vehicle for Steve Carell–I considered the title and assumed the worst. I mean really–The 40-Year-Old Virgin sounds like a nice opening for a really broad and awful sex comedy. But the movie has a good smart sense of humor and a hell of a heart to it. The title works for it, but its frank “hey-isn’t-this-whacky” conceit doesn’t bode well initially.
2. Batman Begins – Save for a couple of bad comic relief moments (like “I’ve gotta get me one of those”) the title is the only thing about Chris Nolan’s 2005 reboot of the Batman franchise that I don’t like. It’s a stirring, rousing, and even artistic rendering of the Batman legend that deserves a lot better than what its obvious and lazy title has to offer. Nolan righted this wrong, though with its stellar sequel which boasted an equally stellar title: The Dark Knight.
3. Being John Malkovich – Now here’s a great blunt title. It usually seems like a trend for weird movies to have weird titles. Take Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for instance. But with his break-out film, 1999′s Being John Malkovich, the title finds its bizarre obscurity within its own up-front candor. “Being” John Malkovich is exactly what this movie is about and if you don’t find that cool, then you know right away that this movie is just not for you.
4. The Buddy Holly Story – Even the Ritchie Valens movie got a title taken from the late singer’s classic song. But his plane-crash deathmate, Buddy Holly wasn’t so lucky with his picture. The ring of “The Buddy Holly Story” has the charm of a forgettable TV movie and while it does do a good service to shout “Buddy Holly biopic” at the top of its lungs, it’s just another really lazy movie title. Maybe one day they’ll redo this movie and give it a stronger title. That’ll be the day! (Get it? GET IT?!)
5. Die Hard 2: Die Harder – I’m getting a little cerebral and outside-the-box with this one. The title has absolutely nothing to do with the plot or premise of the movie, but it speaks to the essentials of what the film is all about–and all sequels in general for that matter. Die Hard, you say? I say, die harder!! The title serves to let you know one thing and one thing only: you’re in for the same type of thrills as the first one, but we’ve gone and upped the ante. Any reasonable Die Hard fan hears this title and is immediately sold. Another good example of this tactic is the sequel to Alien being titled Aliens.
6. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle – Now, there have been a lot of “go(es) to” movie titles, but something about this one is just so perfectly on-the-money. There’s no confusion as to what this movie is about–the same can’t quite be said for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The names Harold and Kumar are just charming and the involvement of White Castle in the situation instantly implies off-the-wall slacker/stoner shenanigans and the possibility of cheetahs.
7. Kill Bill – Do you really need to know anything else? The title for Quentin Tarantino’s two-part revenge tale couldn’t be more perfect for the fun, violent, over-the-top extravaganza that’s found in every frame of this film. It’s a succinct and clever little rhyme that perfectly illustrates the key goal of The Bride (Uma Thurman) in her long quest for vengeance and gives a cheeky elbow to the ribs to ensure that nothing here will be taken too seriously.
8. Snakes on a Plane – Now some (such as myself) would argue that the title for this film should have been Muthafuckin’ Snakes on a Muthafuckin’ Plane, but considering that the title was almost Pacific Air Flight 121 then I guess just plain old Snakes on a Plane will have to do. The movie is a ton of campy high-concept fun, but like Kill Bill, nothing else about this movie serves more to assure the audience that the filmmakers are in on the joke than its hilariously blatant title. This movie is indeed about snakes. And they are on a plane. And that is some scary shit.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Let’s dissect this one, shall we? First word: Teenage. Okay, right here we know that it’s probably, at the highest, for the 16 and under crowd. Second word: Mutant. This brings a little more to the party; now things are starting to get a little on the sci-fi side. Third word: Ninja. Woah. Intersting. Very high-concept, a little goofy. Surely there isn’t more?? Fourth word: Turtles. I’m in.
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – This is another one that could stand an interesting dissection, but I’ll save it. One of the most interesting elements to this movie’s title is the use of the word “massacre.” It really sounds pretty graphic and horrifying. And then you meet all the crazies that populate the movie and it you start to realize how accurate of a title we’re dealing with here. Everything from the “Texas” to the “Chainsaw” to the “Massacre” is all spot-on. Kudos, Tobe Hooper. Kudos.
And there we have it. Ten magical little gems of the past and the titles which told us all about them. Tune back next Monday for another ShepRamsey-certified Top Five or Ten or Eleven or Fifty-Six. Who knows what the future has in store for us?