Tuesday, January 01, 2013

FILM: The Most Disappointing Films of 2012

I have a very high-threshold for crappy movies. I'm arguably the only person on Earth who likes Grease 2; I can actually finish the sentence "My three favorite Pauly Shore* films are..." ; and I love Christmas movies—and I watch all of them. So my bar can go pretty low, like un-limbo-able low. However, every year I'm subjected to a few mind-numbing, time-wasting eye sores that make me wish I can fast-forward—and mute—which leads me to my list of what I like to refer to as "Massive Disappointments." No, I'm not exaggerating.
It all started with Haywire. Oh boy. Steven Soderbergh, the guy behind the Ocean's Eleven saga, was going around patting himself on the back for his genius plan of hiring a real MMA fighter, Gina Carano, to play a black ops super soldier on the run. It sounded like a great idea. Why hire some prissy actress who has to go through months of training to do 10% of her stunts, when you can hire a combat-ready badass who won't yell cut when she breaks a nail—or a finger? Then, knowing his public well, Soderbergh pads the movie with well-known actors: Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, and Michael Angarano. This is a recipe for a potentially awesome, ass-kicking spy thriller helmed by a woman. Should be cake. No. No cake. It was more like tofu. Bland, boring, and lifeless. I'm genuinely astounded by how he managed to make Michael Fassbender boring. Michael freaking Fassbender. Wow! Sure, he didn't write the movie, that ambiguous honor goes to Lem Dobbs (Romancing the Stone), but for him to even put his name on it. Not cool bro.
Recovering from that was pretty easy. I had no stake in it. It's not like he was my favorite director or I even follow MMA. But I do love me some Kate Beckinsale-vampire-warrior action in the Underworld saga. I even totally ignored the third film, where she didn't make an appearance. So when it was announced that she was returning to reprise her role in Underworld: Awakening, I was psyched. Then they started being coy about Scott Speedman returning, and hinting at a potential love child being the center of the film. I'm sorry, what? The entire point of the saga is that two people from different worlds fell in love and are fighting to the death to be together. It's supernatural Romeo & Juliet. Why would you kill him off and replace him with some creepy teenage girl? Don't nobody give a shit about vampire motherhood. If they did, Twilight would've glossed over all the romantic parts and gone straight to the childbirth.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was slightly less disappointing for the mere fact that I didn't enjoy the first one either, so I was basically just killing time, which I'm sure is what Nicholas Cage must've been doing as well. I was, however, slightly invested in Eddie Murphy's A Thousands Words for two reasons. One, I was kind of hoping his live-action comedic slump of ten-plus years was over, since he was allegedly funny in last year's Tower Heist. And two, I was hoping this would be a good spring board for young comedic actor Clark Duke, who I'd like to see more of. But hoping for either is like hoping for world peace. Pigs will fly—first class—before either will occur. I don't know who Murphy needs to team up with to finally get back to being funny, but he should just start cold-calling all currently successful comedic writers and directors before he loses what little respect he has left, which is surprisingly still possible considering that he's voiced an animated jackass for the last decade.
I generally prefer romantic comedies over romantic dramas, but every now and then I break out a hanky and optically dehydrate myself. That's what I prepared to do when I went to go see the Notebook-like romantic drama The Vow, where a guy has to re-woo his wife after a car accident wipes him out of her memory. Throw the romance veteran Rachel McAdams and the hunky Channing Tatum into the mix, and you've got yourself an estrogen-drenched crowd-pleaser. What could be more romantic than falling in love twice? Oh I know! Not having to. Let me explain. In the film, Tatum has to convince McAdams that they were in love, then he has to sexually re-attract her—because that would be hard (pfft!)—and amp up the romantic moments between them, all while trying not to be offended every time she treats him like gum at the bottom of her shoe. After his best efforts, he gives up. She slowly remembers the woman she use to be and why she evolved into that woman. And then she kind of sort of admits to being interested in him again. So basically, she doesn't remember their amazing love or any of their memories, including their mad-dash museum wedding, and now she loves him about one-sixteenth of the amount he loves her. Fantastic. Even her character at the end of The Notebook showed more enthusiasm when her husband told her their love story—and she had Alzheimer. Romance fail.

Speaking of failures, I will admit that perhaps Kristen Stewart doesn't deserve to be as intensely criticized for her acting abilities—or infidelity—as she is, but it's really hard to jump on the supportive train when I see her in movies like Snow White and the Huntsman. First off, let me give props to Charlize Theron for being one crazy ass witch, bathing in milk—that people drink, ugh!—and going all Single White Female on Snow White. Secondly, that was a seriously awesome take on the mirror the witch demands compliments from. And lastly, Theron's wardrobe had amazing detail. That said, those were basically the only good parts of that film. When I first heard that there would be two Snow White films this year, I was eager to compare them, especially since one, Huntsman, was dark and spooky, and the other, Mirror Mirror, was colorful, family fun. I wondered which approach would be the most entertaining, and my money was on Huntsman. Come on, Theron, Stewart, and Thor's Chris Hemsworth? Slam dunk, for sure, right? [Buzzer sound.] Nope. The story called for Snow White to transform into a Joan of Ark-esque revolutionary leader. She was to train to be a warrior, execute rousing speeches, lead the battalion to the gates of hell, and win the heart of her prince. But instead, they ended up in some weird fairyland with fake dwarves, her prince was a coward, she somehow wooed the grieving widower huntsman by flailing around all the time, her "big speech" couldn't inspire a little league team, and she barely trained. Mirror Mirror had it beat by miles—and it had a prince that barked.
Lola Versus was on my must-see list because it was written by a lady, and that lady was Zoe Lister Jones. Zoe starred in an indie last year that I loved called Stuck Between Stations, so I was excited to hear that the actress was also a screenwriter. I hoped her skill for expressing snark and sarcasm was true to life, and I hoped it showed in her writing. The script sounded promising: a jilted bride seeks adventure. Why not? I honestly don't know if the problem was Greta Gerwig's bland delivery of Lister Jones's lines, Joel Kinnaman's lack of screen presence, or the boring and uninspiring events that occurred throughout the plot, but I do know that it was all of those combined. It was like Lena Dunham's "Girls," if it was written poorly and about someone you have nothing invested in.
"TAKE IT OFF!" is a common phrase that strippers, and most likely the cast of Magic Mike, hear often. And women all over the world appreciated it when they did. In fact, they flocked to theaters in hoards to drool and take mental pictures of some seriously hunky dudes: the ever-shirtless Matthew McConaughey, the meathead dancer Channing Tatum, the volatile bad boy Alex Pettyfer, the wolf-by-night Joe Manganiello, the pretty boy Matt Bomer, and the token minority Latin crime solver Adam Rodriguez. But once again, Steven Soderbergh signs up to direct an incredibly boring movie about a very interesting topic. How do you make men taking their clothes off boring? How? That's impossible! Yet, there I was, sitting there with a limp lady boner. Boo hoo. Stripping is soul-sucking. I want to make furniture and fall in love. Nobody cares. What a missed opportunity to have a little fun with the concept. This movie was more depressing than Striptease, and that movie was about a single mother who had to strip to feed her child. Way to ruin it for the rest of us.
Ok, I'll be honest. I was in no way enthusiastic about watching Les Miserables. It sounded insanely depressing. It's 157 minutes long. And I've never seen or read the play. But I buckled down, and kept last year's resolution to watch as many 2012 movies as I could, even if I didn't want to see them. Don't get me wrong. I love musicals. Remember, how I mentioned Grease 2? Well, I also like Grease, Guys and Dolls, Funny Girl, many musical animated films, like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, many music-related films, like Almost Famous and Pitch Perfect, and I tend to watch any dance movie that comes out, even Step Up Revolution. So liking musicals isn't the problem. The problem was that I didn't realize they were going to sing the whole time...like 98.9% of all the dialogue. Two hours in I was dying for someone to just speak. Any word. Any word at all. I couldn't wait for it to end. It was like watching R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet." Half the words don't rhyme because they're speaking in a sing-songy voice. They kept changing tempo randomly mid-verse. And not everyone sang that well. I know you're thinking, Russell Crowe, but Hugh Jackman had his grating moments as well. If it weren't for Anne Hathaway and Aaron Tveit, I would've prayed for temporary deafness.

So there you have it. The films you should think twice about adding to your Netflix queue. And, in case you're wondering, yes I noticed that I mentioned Channing Tatum three times. I'd write him off completely and applaud his future plans to take a year off from acting, but I actually enjoyed 21 Jump Street and his little-seen indie Ten Years, and I'm looking forward to seeing G.I. Joe: Retaliation this Spring. So I'll cut him some more slack. That is, until I see the trailer for Magic Mike 2. Yeah, that's coming.

*For the record, it's Son-in-law, In the Army Now, and Encino Man.

No comments:

Post a Comment