News Column

Bluefield Daily Telegraph, W.Va., Charles Owens column

June 19, 2013

YellowBrix

June 19--As of this writing, "Man of Steel" is soaring high at the box office, helping to revitalize a once struggling franchise for the Warner Bros. studio. Yes, the summer blockbusters are in full swing. Some are excellent. Some are lousy. And judgment is still to be reserved on those that haven't been reviewed or released yet.

My first big summer blockbuster movie experience came back in May of 1977 when "Star Wars" hit the big screen at the old two-screen cinemas in Green Valley. Going to the movies back then was a big deal. You didn't have an Internet to surf, and the local cable company in McDowell County only had 13 channels back in the day. High definition didn't exist, and trying to pick up channel 6 with rabbit ears in McDowell County was easier said than done.

The big, space-fantasy adventure was an experience that would help shape my childhood, and forge a love of all things science fiction. Living in McDowell County, we couldn't travel to Bluefield every weekend to see every big movie -- after all the drive was a good hour and back depending upon traffic on U.S. Route 52. And the summer blockbusters of today were few and far in between back then. Sometimes you would end up with only one big movie a summer, as was the case with "Star Wars."

I believe I saw "Superman II" on the big screen in Green Valley as well, which was, in my opinion, the best of the original Christopher Reeve movies. But Clark Kent just isn't the same nowadays. At age 75, he's gone from being a newspaper reporter to a blogger of all things in the comic books, and on the big screen he is now a bit darker and more serious in tone.

But getting out of the heat, and into an air-conditioned theater, is still kind of a summer tradition for a lot of families. It was with my family -- and I do miss those great childhood memories. It is admittedly hard to find good movies nowadays, and skilled marketing teams can usually create a trailer that will make any bad movie look good. Sometimes you simply don't know what you are getting into until you sit through a good hour or so of a movie.

Growing up we didn't have DVD or Blu-ray discs. You could rent VHS tapes. But renting a movie and then having to turn around and drive all the way back to Bluefield to return the tape wasn't easy. Sometimes it simply wasn't worth the hassle -- even if you could keep a movie for five days -- because in the winter you never knew when the next big snowstorm would keep you from being able to drive up 52 to Bluefield. Sometimes you could only make it to Welch during bad weather.

Nowadays, finding an actual video rental store that is still in business is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But there is no shortage of those video rental kiosk boxes. I guess that's the new wave of the future. And if renting from a kiosk isn't your thing, you can still go to a theater. And in a box-office match-up straight out of a comic book, Superman battles Brad Pitt and an army of angry zombies this weekend.

Will the "Man of Steel" overcome the zombies of "World War Z" and Angelina Jolie's hubby?

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If there is one thing Hollywood loves to do at the box office it is to blow up and destroy things. There are apparently a lot of explosions, and things that get destroyed, in the new Superman flick. The White House gets destroyed -- again -- in the upcoming "White House Down" movie, and apparently most of the world gets wiped out by zombies in Pitt's "World War Z."

But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have just given some producer in Hollywood a good idea for his next disaster flick. The good mayor announced last week that he wants to build giant removable floodwalls around lower Manhattan, as well as levee gates and other defenses to protect New York from rising sea levels and severe weather that climate change will bring in the months and years ahead. Bloomberg says the work is urgent and must begin now. He is the latest in a long line of politicians to warn about the looming dangers of climate change.

I know I've certainly watched plenty of History Channel specials predicting ultimate doom associated with global warming in recent months. It seems everyone from Nostradamus to the ancient Mayans saw this global catastrophe coming centuries ago, at least according to the History Channel. And yes, that would be the same ancient Mayans that also thought the world would end last year.

But a movie about rising sea levels and oceans destroying New York City would be a perfect fit for the next summer Hollywood blockbuster. Maybe director Roland Emmerich -- who likes destroying entire cities and the White House, in particular, in his movies -- is already working on this.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph's assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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(c)2013 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.)

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