Thursday, January 5, 2012
Worst of 2011: Revenge of the Fallen
I have returned from an extended hiatus to bring you movies you probably rightfully avoided in the first place.
I haven't done one of these in a long time. I keep a list of every movie I've seen in the past year and update it every few weeks or so. It goes from best at the top to worst at the bottom. Problem is, the worst of the year always seems too boring to talk about because that's what ends up at the bottom. Stuff that gave me headaches and bores you so hard you wake up with sleep boners in public and limbs gone numb. I don't really care to talk about the sleep bonery boring movies so I handpicked a bunch of movies towards the bottom that were bad in ways I can get passionate about, for you, the reader.
10. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
So uninterested in story was Michael Bay, that he dared to name this movie after a Pink Floyd album. When he couldn't, he deleted a word the title and it still didn't make sense after seeing the actual film. Now, the second TRANSFORMERS movie was probably the worst studio movie I've ever seen. Offensively so. Even though dog shit had permeated every fiber of it's being, you can't say it didn't hold your attention. You've got to respect a movie specifically produced to get parents to buy their kids toys when it becomes an endurance trial for your senses, taste and patience. It’s almost a John Waters movie in how consistently shocking it is. That said, the bar was left pretty high when going into making another one of these. Everyone considered it a waste of time, including the cast and to many extents, Bay himself. He kept calling this one his apology for the second one. I wasn't born yesterday. I wasn't actually going to believe that this was going to be any good at all. In fact, I was hoping that Bay would top himself and deliver something that was somehow even more of a shitstorm than the previous one.
So which movie did he make? Well, the movie starts in the 1960’s where a robot that has the ultimate power or secret or message or some sort of MacGuffin, lands on the moon and JFK himself creates NASA so that they can go to the moon and find out what it is. Excellent start if you’re planning to outshit yourself. But even rewriting history wasn’t as wacky as I wanted it to be. Did he finally make a decent Transformers movie? No. Did he out horrible himself? No. He failed in both ways. This formula lead to some “safe” decisions that became a boring movie. They fired Megan Fox for calling Michael Bay “Hitler” and they hired a Victoria Secret model to be Shia LeBeouf’s girlfriend. The good robots fight the bad robots again. At one point the government puts the good robots on a rocket into space for no real reason and the bad robots massacred humans in major cities and took over. It’s bad enough that the government would get rid of the only weapons we had to fight big evil robots, but it turns out that the good robots never left and were in hiding the whole time. They wanted to make the humans see that they needed them. There isn’t enough sugar in the world I would put in Optimus Prime’s gas tank after a heroic speech explaining this strategy. The good robots eventually take down the bad. So many people die. The US Army fights but is useless. Cleavage is displayed. Time is wasted. Cellphone clocks were checked. What but for the grace of god go us.
9. COWBOYS & ALIENS
This one stings a bit more, but technically, it’s from the WRITERS of TRANSFORMERS 2 and we should have had our guard up. But they also wrote the excellent STAR TREK prequel, which was my number one movie of 2009. And it was directed by Jon Faverau, director of IRON MAN, my number three movie of 2008. Pretty solid. It had Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig being cowboys while the hot and actually talented Olivia Wilde kicked some ass as well. Even my beloved Sam Rockwell was involved. It should have worked. It did not. C&A starts off decent enough. A drifter with no memory and some fancy bracelet is found on the prairie. He is trying to figure out how he got there. When some laser wielding aliens start shooting shit up this small town like they are Dr. Loveless or something, Craig shows up and uses his bracelet to fend them off. Intriguing! Unfortunately, that’s where it peaks. I do love that it shut up the people that said “Cowboys fighting aliens. It writes itself” because obviously any concept could be bungled. But was the concept even that strong? Who was clamoring for this? Remember that short movie that came out five or six years ago where Batman meets The Joker in an alley and then Alien shows up and starts shit and then is killed by Predator and then I think an X-Wing blows them up and gets gobbled up by a sandworm that Beetlejuice is riding. That wasn’t any good. It was just “things you know”. And usually these high concept movies are so wrapped up in their setting that there is no actual substance. You’d figure Jon Favreau would have seen that somewhere but I guess his Iron helmet has an icing problem. At one point, I thought since the title wasn't COWBOYS VERSUS ALIENS that the Cowboys and Aliens would band together in the end to fight something more evil. Like Murky Dismal from RAINBOW BRITE.
8. THE RUM DIARY
Hunter S. Thompson was institution much like MAD Magazine and the Looney Tunes that inspired the younger lads of several generations to begin a love for all things chaotic. Like Hunter S. Thompson, the people that started these things are very dead. But that hasn’t stopped greedy people from keeping it going as ghosts of their former glories in order to make a buck or two. So, we get repackaged and repurposed versions of the things we used to love and they don’t really seem right. THE RUM DIARY was written in HST’s earlier days. So, this could almost be considered a prequel to his popular FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS novel since the main characters are more or less a proxy for himself. They even had Johnny Depp play both characters in each movie. The book while being less manic, still comes with fucked up imagery and chaos in the form of drunken violence that any Gonzo fan will more than likely appreciate. But when stories like this are told by people who don’t understand them, things get watered down and therefore become irrelevant. It could be argued that even Johnny Depp, a so called “keeper” of the legacy could be growing soft and not even realize it when producing this movie. He’s got kids now. He’s got tons of younger fans that love him because he was a Pirate in some movies. He’s got people surrounding him to protect his image. It was this softness that turned THE RUM DIARY into a potential crazy odyssey into a slick and clean product about a REAL ESTATE SWINDLE. I have to write a separate blog about classic characters being adapted for the silver screen to tell a story of a real estate swindle (THE FLINTSTONES, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE ADDAMS FAMILY), but that’s for another time. Even if the makers of this movie didn’t want it to be as sick and twisted as FEAR AND LOATHING, they certainly wanted to make you think it was in the marketing (which by the way, has got to be remembered as some of the most deceptive marketing of all time). It’s Hollywood’s job to exploit what you love into you giving them more money and this is a perfect example.
7. NO STRINGS ATTACHED
It’s unfair to preface this entry with saying that while GHOSTBUSTERS III was being delayed by Bill Murray, Ivan Reitman made this movie to pass the time. It’s unfair because not only did this movie get made before that one, but it kind of makes Bill Murray to blame for this. The Diablo Cody led “Fempire”, a group of girl writers who write women devoid of empathy, has become a popular resource for spec scripts in recent years and this is one of them. Natalie Portman is doctor who is too busy for relationships and is too irked by the emotion such a thing would entail. Ashton Kutcher plays an aspiring writer freshly dumped by his girlfriend for his dad. He’s lovesick and a hopeless romantic. But that’s not going to prevent him from getting into a situation with Portman where they can meet for fuckings. Portman has a whole apartment full of these kinds of modern women and one token gay that loves it when “They all get on the same cycle” so they can crave for red velvet cupcakes TOGETHER and not feel guilty. There’s no real reason why Portman shouldn’t want to be with such a fine eligible chap like Kutcher’s character, and by the same token, there is no reason why he should want to be with someone who is so clearly focused on herself. I guess this doesn’t stop people in real life either, but does it really have to take the place of my beloved GHOSTBUSTERS sequels?
6. THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART I
This is what movie titles look like now. I have seen every TWILIGHT film in a theater. I intended to see them to their conclusion. I think the reason I have stayed on so long is that vampire baseball scene in the first movie. The whole film is filled with the most unintentional ridiculousness that you’d swear some dormant comedy director from the 1980’s had come back under the guise of Catherine Hardwicke to destroy popular cinema from the inside out. I’d buy that Catherine Hardwicke was actually John Landis, because she’s remained consistently awful in the most entertaining way. But none of the films that followed ever came close to the first. I keep hope alive, however. In this one, the vampire guy and the boring girl get married and have a honeymoon on some beach where they fuck and she gets pregnant and comes to term all within a few weeks. This didn’t need to take the whole movie to come across, but it did anyway. Suffice it to say, every time I put one of these movies on the worst of list, I mention how boring the girl is and ask why every single character is so bothered to tend to her every waking need. It doesn’t get answered in this movie either. But there is a part where the very beautiful yet incredibly awkward Kristen Stewart gets in some lingerie for her man and tries to look sexy but it just comes off bizarre. I’ve never seen this happen without comedic intentions and can attest that it was worth the price of admission.
5. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
I was a fan of the first three movies. The last movie is so big and ambitious that they forgot to end things and got way confusing and weird and it’s nearly three hours long. But I consider it an effort. This movie is a cereal box. It’s Jack Sparrow being shoehorned into an adventure that concerns him very little, that even he seems bored by. I had to be reminded that Geoffrey Rush was in the movie. I had to be reminded a lot of things, it’s almost like I never saw it. Blackbeard and his daughter, Penelope Cruz (who seems to be in a different movie altogether) are in search of the fountain of youth and they need a mermaid’s tear in order to drink and capture the youthiness. They kidnap one and some missionary dude is in love with it. Where is Jack Sparrow again? A mermaid’s tear? Is Trey Parker writing this? It’s a very tired movie that goes through the motions, and Rob Marshall is not an action director. He’s a make up ad director at best. There isn’t enough eyeliner in the world that can shield you from this.
They tried to make the TWILIGHT actors into movie stars by putting them in other films. They’ve pretty much failed so far. With the vampire and boring girl, they wanted to be in indie melodrama and that didn’t work out. The muscle-y one was the only one with the brains to try to be in some big popcorn movie. So, they wrote him a big action movie in the style of THE BOURNE IDENTITY where he gets to solve a mystery and run around and kiss the girl and punch some dudes. They got John Singleton, a competent director to run the thing and it should have worked, in theory. But the whole thing felt like that movie WINDY CITY HEAT. It’s a movie made because Jimmy Kimmel tricked one of his friends into thinking he was cast as the lead in this big action movie, and the whole cast and crew were in on the joke as they kept making him think the movie they were making was real. It felt like everyone was taking the TWILIGHT kid by the hand and shoving him into each scenario. At no point did he look capable or comfortable in the spot light. He just had zero charisma or charm or mystery about him. I guess this movie gets extra points for being the one shot at a career for someone and watching them totally blow it. That comes around again later in the list.
3. SHARK NIGHT
I know you shouldn’t expect much from a late August horror release starring Aquamarine, but the villain (not the shark) of the movie explains Shark Week as inspiring his plan and greed, and that kind of work deserves to be noticed.
2. BATTLE: LOS ANGELES
I love movies set in Los Angeles. I love seeing the places I’ve been to and the streets I drive on every day. This movie was shot in Tennessee. And even if it was shot here, you couldn’t tell anyway because this is one of the dustiest brown movies I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen THE BOOK OF ELI. Why do filmmakers make movies brown and hard to see? It’s like a fad. And even if you could see, the alien ships are the same alien ships you saw in: INDEPENDENCE DAY, WAR OF THE WORLDS, TRANSFORMERS, DISTRICT 9, SKYLINE, COWBOYS & ALIENS and every other movie with an alien invasion that was made in the last ten years. And even if the ships were cool and fun to look at, they’d still be blowing up some of the most boring soldiers ever written. Even the title is boring. It was designed to be boring. It’s a placeholder for FIGHTING: A PLACE. They wanted to make this a series of that kind of thing. COMBAT: NEW YORK and FRACAS: SEATTLE. Nothing new. Nothing watchable. I give it two sleep boners.
1. GREEN LANTERN
A lot of people have been surprised when I told them that this was the movie I felt was the worst one to get released in the year of our lord, 2011. I then ask them if they’ve seen it, and they always say “No”. Much like Christ, I have dealt with GREEN LANTERN so you never have to. Very rarely is a movie so devoid of any redeeming value that at least one little scrap of it isn’t worth seeing albeit for it’s unintentional humor, it’s intentional humor, it’s downright bizarreness or just plain shock. GREEN LANTERN has none of those things, or is, collectively all of those things. Nah. It truly is the soulless cash grab that it appears to be. It features a hero that nobody really likes, a villain that doesn’t really have a plan, and a vague black thing in space that…might eat Earth? Think of it this way. Would you care about Batman if he could create anything that popped into his head. And a big black cloud marked “Evil” showed up and wanted to eat everything. And then 50,000 other Batmen showed up who are all way cooler and have way more experience than he does. The character seems inherently flawed. We can be having the same conversation about IRON MAN right now, because there really isn’t much to that character, either. But that movie was elevated by the talent involved. Van Wilder and Serena Vanderwoodsen are not the talent you get behind to make something much better than what it actually is. And that’s another interesting point of the movie. Ryan Reynolds has been circling stardom for a very long time now. No one was ever sure what to do with him, but his boyish look and somewhat comedic demeanor hinted at raw star power. They tried making him a comedic foil and then the comedic darling. It didn’t work. They tried him as the romantic lead to middling results. This was his big chance at a franchise and a solidified place in Hollywood history as an action hero. This was supposed to be his summer. This was supposed to be his DIE HARD. He even had a big studio comedy scheduled for late in the summer and it was supposed to be the one two-punch that made Reynolds the new “it” boy. Even if the movie was just bad, it could still have some aftermarket value for late night viewing. But it was just so chiseled out of any personality or excitement or unique quality that the end product seems pretty blank. Everything about it seems disingenuous. Even when he’s walking around in costume, he looks like a fan photoshop. To hate this movie, is to list a staggering amount of anachronistic events and how they were conceived in a manner that would be the very most confusing. All done in a bland and unfunny way. Even just saying the two words, GREEN LANTERN together doesn’t seem to amount to any sense.
Up Next: Best of 2011! Done it much more grand fashion than I’ve ever done before! Which is to say, a timely one.