Eric’s Sack of Mail: ‘Da Vinci Code,’ ‘X3,’ ‘Inconvenient Truth’

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We’ve had a lot of letters recently that belong in Eric’s Sack of Mail — correspondence that is NOT angry, irrational or stupid — so we’re going to present some of them today and some of them in another installment. And here we go!

A reader named Garrett responds to my review of “The Da Vinci Code,” where I made fun of a particular detail in the plot:

I didn’t particularly like the Da Vinci Code film, but I don’t think twitting the filmmakers for using a bank account’s “safe passage clause” as a plot point is very fair. Maybe if the bank account was really, really old, back to the times where safe conduct agreements and edicts were more common. Still not very reasonable, I suppose. What is more likely is that the bank manager (in light of his true motives) was making that up in order to get them under his control.

We can, I suppose, fault the two main characters for their naive acceptance of such a ridiculous contrivance.

Was there a time when a “safe passage clause” was common in bank accounts? Like in the Wild West or something? I’ll have to look into that.

But yeah, I think you’re right that the real problem with the movie’s use of it is how the Hanks and Tautou characters accept it like it’s perfectly normal. (Also normal: Declaring “I’ve got to get to a library, FAST!!” in a loud, urgent voice.)

Speaking of big movies where characters say and do ridiculous things, a DVD Talk reader named Brad wrote in response to my review of “X-Men: The Last Stand” (which was listed after two other reviews, by the way; you’ll need to know that). I mentioned some other trilogies where the third entry was the lowest in quality, prompting Brad to say:

I respect your opinion, HOWEVER…

Back to the future III? Jurassic Park III? Godfather III? Okay, I’ll give you that last one.

But BF3 was at least as good as the first one, and better that the second by a mile.

JP3 is, in my humble opinion, much better than the first one. And don’t get me started on Lost World!!

*takes deep breath* I’m alright…I’m okay…

Anyway, all trilogizing aside, no hard feelings, and keep up the good work.

BTW, d’ja notice that of the three [reviews] of this movie, YOURS IS THE THIRD? Coincidence. I think not. What goes around…

Just kidding. 8 > )

“Back to the Future III” and “Jurassic Park III” as good as the originals?! Surely you smoke crack, sir.

And if my review was the weakest of the three, just think how bad the FOURTH one will be!

Ah, good-natured jesting! It is my favorite.

My “X3” review also mentioned the absurd line, “I’m the Juggernaut, b****!” Consequently, a reader whose name I didn’t get wrote in with this information:

I was checking out your review (great review!) and I noticed that you mentioned Juggernaut’s line “I’m the Juggernaut, B****!” as “an effort to produce the Worst Line of 2006.” I’m sure you’ve had plenty of people inform you of this since you posted that, but in case they didn’t, that line comes from a parody that’s spreading like wildfire over Myspace and YouTube. Some guys dubbed their voices over an episode of [the animated TV series] X-men.

I was aware of that, and it actually makes the line worse, in my opinion. Not only is it a bad line by itself, but it was included for a stupid reason (i.e., as a shout-out to fanboys).

Nonetheless, I had not seen the animated dub in question, and the reader was good enough to provide a link. Here is where the little mini-phenomenon can be seen. (WARNING: It contains non-stop R-rated language. Don’t click it if you don’t want to hear it.) And here is the creators’ MySpace page. One of their blog entries chronicles their elation at discovering their line was being featured in the movie, which is kind of adorable. (By the way: I have a friend who honestly believes — and has strong evidence in support of it — that the line in “Pulp Fiction” about “it’s always time for pie” came from her. I’ll have to tell you the story sometime.)

Finally, I wrote a blog entry criticizing Fox News for snottily implying Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” was a failure for grossing “only” $350,000 over its opening weekend when it was only playing in four theaters at which nearly every screening was sold-out. Brandon writes in with this additional insight:

You lambasted Fox News (and rightfully so) for claiming “An Inconvenient Truth” was not a sucess for grossing about $350,000 over the weekend while playing at only four theaters nationwide.

While I’d agree the movie cannot be considered a failure, I’m hesitant to view it as a blockbuster success as you seem to right now. Your argument that every single showing of the movie was sold out at every theater over the weekend reminds me of NASCAR fans. NASCAR fans are quick to point out that the main race for NASCAR sells out to a tune of over 200,000 seats every week. Other sports, they claim, hardly have any teams that sell out on a consistent basis. Here’s why I feel they are wrong:

There were only 200,000 seats available! It’s only available one day of the week! If you took every NFL team and was somehow able to put them into an arena and have them play each other in one game every week, that would sell hundreds of thosands of seats years in advance. Same goes for the NBA or MLB, in my opinion.

Mr. Gore’s movie was available to a limited number of people in limited areas, much like NASCAR. My guess is that those who really really wanted to see it went out of their way to catch it the opening weekend. These people are not few in number, but can hardly rival the numbers of people who have seen and still want to see “X-men”.

I’m willing to bet that if you’d opened “House of 1000 Corpses” to only 4 theaters over one weekend, it would have earned $350,000, too.

You cannot compare the release of “X-men” to the release of “An Inconvenient Truth” in either a positive or negative way, in my view.

Those are good points. “An Inconvenient Truth” is not a blockbuster, and likely never will be. Documentaries that gross huge amounts of money are extremely rare. And you’re right that if the film HAD played in 3,000 theaters, the per-theater average would have been miniscule.

My point was simply that, contrary to Fox’s snotty implication, less than half a million dollars is NOT a disappointment under the circumstances. By all accepted measures within the film industry, $350,000 in four theaters is stupendous, regardless of what “kind” of film it is or what audience it appeals to. A per-theater average of $90,000 over four days is good, period. No one in the film industry would dispute that.

But when Fox News says, “X3 made $120 million! Ooooh, and poor Al Gore’s movie only made half a million,” they’re being disingenuous. The average viewer is going to take the implication — Gore’s movie is a flop — at face value because Fox didn’t MENTION that it was only playing in four theaters and that its take was actually quite good. They took the outcome they wanted — Gore fails — and found a way to phrase the facts to fit that.

“An Inconvenient Truth” has dropped in per-theater average as it has expanded to more theaters, of course. That’s partly because with each passing week more and more people who want to see it have already done so, and also because the potential audience for documentaries in general is so small. It’s grossed $3 million so far. If it makes it to even $12 million, it will be among the top five highest-grossing docs of all time.

That’s it for Eric’s Sack of Mail this time. Keep those sensible and intelligent cards and letters coming!

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