Friday, December 16, 2011

Worst Movies of 2010

I know, I know. It's that time when everyone tells you what they thought the best movies of this year were. Well, I work a little slow. I like to amass a decent sized sampling of movies and it takes me a little while to get there. I like to end on a positive note, so we'll get to the flipside in a couple days. I'll start with the bad news. These are my worst movies of 2010.

We get lots of drawn out scenes of meetings where old men try desperately to save their own backsides. We get lots of one-on-one meetings between others, either trying to save themselves or talk tough to one another. We get lots of clips of CNN. All of this is steeped in joyless financial jargon. The movie only moves away from feeling like economics class when it involves Gekko’s daughter, Winnie. However, with her constant whining she’s much more an annoyance than the reprieve we need.

This is a string of rom-com and action flick clich├ęs positioning themselves one after another right through the inevitable, totally unsurprising ending. Somewhere, there’s a room full of trained monkeys banging out a class action suit on their keyboards because they didn’t get credit for churning out the screenplay. In short, the jokes aren’t funny, the action isn’t exciting, there are no twists we don’t see coming.

The latest version of the classic tale Gulliver’s Travels is pure Jack Black through and through. Either he cracks you up, or he doesn’t. There isn’t much else to tip the scales in the movie’s favor. That’s because the story constructed around his hijinks and shenanigans is merely bland when it is at its very best. Most of the time it just takes all that’s good from its source material and pummels it into submission.

Dance movies are pretty much critic-proof. Take the original Stomp the Yard, for example. It’s largely a rip-off of Drumline, right down to how the climactic battle plays out. Still, it was a modest financial success and has developed a devoted following of people who won’t hear a negative word about it. The high energy routines are infectious. People enjoy dance movies, regardless of their narrative issues. This is why Stomp the Yard was made in the first place. It’s why lots of people still tune in to cable airings of You Got Served and Honey. It’s why there have been three Step Up movies. Alas, it’s the only reason why we have Stomp the Yard: Homecoming.

This third installment of the Step Up franchise takes a disturbing about-face in philosophy from its predecessors. The original is an okay flick. Step Up 2 The Streets is dreadful, arguably racist and has a ridiculous title. However, to the credit of both movies, they have a character using dance to help them get a better education. This takes the opposite approach. It sticks its middle finger up at academia whenever possible. I understand it wants to promote dance as a way of life, but the near criminalization of education is off-putting. Ethics aside, SU3 suffers from the same thematic problems as SU2. The plot is lazily concocted. The dialogue is hokey at its very best and often cringe worthy. I may not be as young and cool as I once was, but I know when slang sounds phony and unnatural. This does. The entire movie is unnatural, for that matter. It acts like it is part of this universe, but clearly is not. And why is this is 3D, anyway?

Silliness can be well executed. Sadly, not in this case. Our hero occasionally kills people because he feels like it, is in love with a prostitute and doesn’t have the most pleasant personality. The prostitute, by the way, is named Lilah and is played by Megan Fox. She works so hard at her southern accent she neglects to ever change her facial expression. Even a face as beautiful as hers is boring if it never does anything. John Malkovich could’ve saved this thing by giving us a dynamic villain, but he’s far too restrained. As Jonah Hex, Brolin does what’s asked of him and grunts his way through the movie.

This reminds me of another Wes Craven flick, Shocker. However, while Shocker is a gleeful dark comedy and revels in its own ridiculousness, My Soul to Take is an unfocused poser. It desperately wants to be something, it just can’t decide what. It’s attempts at cleverness are anything but. As a result, we get a lot of eye-rollingly bad jokes. It’s efforts at scaring us fail miserably. Wes Craven deserves his lofty spot as a master of horror. He’s earned it through decades of scaring the crap out of us. Occasionally, he’s scared us while simultaneously making fun of how he does it. However, in a career longer than my life has been he’s made some missteps. This is one of them.

This movie plays out over the course of two hours. Two long hours. Two long, boring hours. To be fair, Eastwood manages to inject some intrigue here and there. We get a few fascinating scenes and our interest piques because we get the sense that this whole thing is eventually going somewhere. It doesn’t. Actually, it does. It just doesn’t go anywhere near where we thought it was going. Often, this is a good thing, gives a movie the element of surprise. Here, it’s a bad thing. It’s a very bad thing. It makes an already pretentious movie even more so. The three strands of the story come together in a most contrived manner for an utterly corny ending. Worst of all, it never even bothers attempting to answer the question it spends nearly its entire runtime beating us over the head with. If you’re curious about the possibility of a hereafter go speak to your local clergy, read some books on the subject or google it. Whatever you do, don’t try to find the answers here.

There is no justification for this film to last more than thirty minutes. Yet, it clanks its way through 107 excruciating hours…er…minutes. Could director Kevin Smith have outsmarted us all, and pulled a Tarantino by paying homage to a genre born of an era, long gone? Of course, that appears to be exactly what he’s done. However, doing that is simply not enough. You still have to make a good movie. The best of those movies were funny and contained big, exciting action sequences. This has Tracy Morgan dressed up like a cell phone.

To try and force some laughs, parents are treated to…subjected to a never ending stream of references to other, better movies. Lots of James Bond, some Lethal Weapon, Men in Black and countless others, including a huge Silence of the Lambs parody that can be spotted from miles and miles away by anyone who’s seen the horror classic. And it’s not funny. Yeah, during the 82 minute runtime I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes at least 82 times. Story-wise, it just lurches forward with the obvious message about overlooking our differences, joining forces and working together to overlook our differences. No, that’s not a typo. It gets to the point where it’s unbearable.

The extent of the humor here is Yogi steps on, touches or leans against something and gets hit in the face, knocked down, flung through the air, etc. Verbal jokes are boiled down to him saying “pic-a-nic” instead of “picnic” over and over and over…and over again. Occasionally someone farts, references farting, or makes a farting noise. To be blunt, this movie thinks kids are dumb. Sure, some will laugh at first. However, after about ten minutes they will realize the well is dry. I’ll give the slow ones fifteen before the chuckles stop.


Dishonorable Mention:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Dinner for Schmucks
From Paris with Love
Little Fockers
MacGruber
Saw: The Final Chapter (3D)
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Why Did I Get Married Too?
What did I miss?

2 comments:

  1. Hereafter and Wall Street were such a massive disappointments.

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    Replies
    1. *Hereafter and Wall Street were such massive disappointments.

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