We continue our exploration of “bad films” in this second part of the series. Please note that “bad” is being used loosely. Many of the films, I simply didn’t like because they were either disappointing or boring. But then, of course, any “good” or “bad” list is a product of subjectivity.
1) Adjustment Bureau (2011) – Written and directed by George Nolfi and based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, this sci-fi romance begins with David Norris (Matt Damon) hitting the campaign trail. He’s vying for a Senate seat, but has his work cut out for him. Although he’s a young, impressive up-and-comer, he has been involved in a bar brawl and was arrested for that. Some of his constituents see him as immature; a situation that only worsens when another photo surfaces – this time of him flashing his buttocks at a class reunion. He is easily defeated by his opponent. While in the men’s toilet, practicing his concession speech, he meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), an British ballerina. He is smitten. He spends the rest of the film, doing everything he can to hook up with Elise, his “soul mate.”
SPOILERS **** During the course of his pursuit, he discovers that there is an Adjustment Bureau, a group of “angels,” who act upon and carry out the “Chairman’s” plans. So, it’s kind of like Wings of Desire, but a naff version of it. First off, I had a very hard time believing that a guy who kissed and talked to a woman briefly was so in love with her that he would continue to pine for her for THREE years. The film tries to explain this. Apparently, he and she were originally supposed to be together, but that plan was changed. Their attraction is essentially residual “code” that keeps getting in the way. David is told that the reason the plan was changed was because he was destined for bigger things, and she would only screw that up. He could be “fulfilled” by her alone. (Gag.) The fact that he chose personal “fulfillment” (read – selfish) over a life in which he served the greater good, really vexed me. When David argues that he should be able to make his own choices, one of the angels explains that because people are essentially child-like idiots, free will was removed. But it wasn’t. Not really. In the end, David and Elise get to go off into the sunset because it was all just a “test.” What? Come again? This film has nothing to do with free will vs destiny and it should stop pretending it is. In fact, it should stop pretending to be about anything at all. It’s about two people guided by hormones and the powerful neuro-stimulators with which we are all flooded when we “fall in love.” Nothing more. These two characters had no basis for their undying passion. They had three dates/encounters, and based on that, he was ready to give up a political career he had wanted since his youth? Makes absolutely no sense. What annoyed me more than the fact that this was promoted as something intelligent when it ended up being a mindless “happily ever after” romance was the fact that Terence Stamp, who plays an enforcer named The Hammer, was totally wasted. If he’s supposed to get the job done, why was he so ineffectual? The ending was so ridiculous that I half expected Damon and Blunt to open the door to the Chairman’s office and find Morgan Freeman screwing in a light bulb. I haven’t read Dick’s story, but I know he didn’t write this sappy for schmucks Hollywood romance. No way. I would actually like to remake this film with one of two endings: 1) they open the last door and Blunt gets hit and killed by a car, anomaly fixed or 2) the Adjustment Bureau catch up to Damon and reset his mind (like they said they would if he told anyone about them), and he and Blunt never hook-up. Anomaly corrected again. Sorry no happy ending. Boo hoo. Get over it. If you didn’t already figure it out, I loathed this film.
2) The American (2010) – Adapted by Rowan Joffe from Martin Booth’s novel, A Very Private Gentleman, this drama has a very simple plot: An assassin (George Clooney) hides out in Italy for one last assignment. And that’s it really. You sit around in Italy with Clooney while he befriends a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and hooks up with a beautiful local (Violante Placido). It’s like watching paint dry. In fact, I only saw the film a few months ago, and I had already forgotten what it was about. Clooney is certainly not as his best – he has the same expression throughout – and probably co-produced the film because it allowed him to stay in Italy, where he already lives. If you want a good crime drama, get a Bourne film. The American could be the newest cure for insomnia.
3) Hunger (2008) – As much as I adore Michael Fassbender, I really disliked this film. Co-written and directed by Steve McQueen, it chronicles the last six weeks in the life of the Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands (Fassbender). Sort of. Fassbender doesn’t actually show up for quite a while and when he does, he’s naked, hairy and being dragged down a hallway by prison guards who wash and shave him. He doesn’t begin “starving” himself until the very end of the film. I don’t know that I would call this drama “bad” but I didn’t like it for several reasons. First, and maybe it was accurate, but it really seemed to love showing filth. The prisoners acted worse than monkeys in a cage. They smeared their excrement on the walls and poured their uneaten food into a corner. The guards had to come in – in full biohazard clothing – and power hose the shit off the walls. I kept thinking that if someone treats you like an animal, you can at least not give them the satisfaction of acting like one. Second, I couldn’t get behind Sands’ logic. At all. Even though he had a child and family, he was determined to starve himself to death. And when he died – and he knew he would die but didn’t know it would take an excruciating 66 days – another person would begin. I don’t remember how many guys actually died in this “protest” movement that took place in 1981, but it seemed like a total waste. A lot has been said of Christian Bale’s transformation for The Machinist – he looks like he is a prisoner at Auschwitz – a lot more should be said about Fassbender’s transformation for this role. He lost 33 pounds in 10 weeks. He’s a skinny guy to begin with so he looks positively wretched. It’s a fantastic performance, I just don’t know that I would recommend seeing Hunger unless as a curiosity. On the plus side, Liam Cunningham was perfection as Father Dominic Moran, a man who tries talking Sands out of his hunger strike. (He’s the sensible one of the two.) Problem was the way the dialogue was filmed. Fassbender and Cunningham are shot in profile, facing each other seated in two chairs at a card table, for 16.5 minutes. I wanted to grab their chairs and whirl them around. Would it have killed the director to shoot this as you would, you know, A FILM, with close-ups and reaction shots, rather than like a play and giving you the vantage point as if you are sitting in the fifth row?
4) Centurion (2010) – Michael Fassbender again. This time he’s Centurion Quintus Dias, a legionnaire marching northward under the command of General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West) and his Ninth Legion. Their orders are to destroy the “barbarians” and especially their leader Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen), but the “barbarians” get the jump on them and massacre everyone but seven of the soldiers; Dias being one of them. Against all odds, the men try to make it back home, but they are being hunted, particularly by the truly dangerous Pict named Etain (Olga Kurylenko). I really loved Dog Soldiers (2002) and The Descent (2005), and I keep hoping that writer/director Neil Marshall will make another good film. So I keep watching, and waiting … and being disappointed. Doomsday (2008), a mish mash of Road Warrior (1981) and Escape from New York (1981), was truly dire, and Centurion wasn’t much better. It attempts to solve the mystery of what happened to the Ninth Legion, and is a very rare film in that it puts Picts on the big screen. (I can’t think of another film that does.) It has some exciting, and very brutal, fight scenes; is a nice ensemble piece – with a standout performance by Liam Cunningham; has a few good quotes, and even has a lovely, gritty, dirty, blood-soaked look to it. But it commits the cardinal sin of being truly boring. I didn’t see it that long ago, and don’t remember much about it. A few scenes stand out, but otherwise, not worth the bother.
5) Jonah Hex (2010) – Based on a DC Comics character, this action/drama/fantasy begins with the “creation” of the titular character (Josh Brolin), a bounty hunter who gets horribly disfigured. What happens during the rest of the film … I’m a bit hazy. Yes, I watched it, but if I remember it was fairly convoluted. Quentin Turnbull (John Makovich), the moustache twirling bad guy sans the moustache, has a weapon of mass destruction and Jonah Hex is trying to stop him from using it. To do this, he sort of enlists the help of Lilah, a ballsy prostitute – are there any other kind? – played by Megan Fox. Standing in his way is one of Turnbull’s more insane henchmen, Burke (Michael Fassbender), an Irish guy with a Maori chin tattoo. (Why he has a Maori moko is beyond me, especially since he isn’t Maori and he isn’t a woman. Chin tattoos are for women.) Looking over the cast members on IMDB, I’m thinking “really? He was in this?” All I’ll say is that the Jonah Hex viewing experience was a blur. The only person I remember being in the film was Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and he went uncredited. LOL. He played the dead son of Quentin and Jonah Hex raises him from the dead to ask him questions. Moving on …
6) The Illusionist (2010) – I’m a big fan of The Triplets of Belleville (2003) so I was really looking forward to writer/director Sylvain Chomet’s latest animated feature about an old-school magician caught in a world of rock stars and TV. Desperate for work, he travels to Scotland for a pub gig, and while there, he meets a young woman. From a screenplay by Jacques Tati, The Illusionist is essentially a silent film. Depending on your proclivities, this may or may not bother you. It is a beautiful film and has some nice moments, but I’m not a fan of Tati, and I wasn’t all that engaged in the story or characters. Certainly not a “truly bad film,” but a disappointing one for me. Also the girl really got on my nerves.
7) Eichmann (2007) – Adolf Eichmann was a prominent Nazi, who is responsible for implementing Hitler’s Final Solution, which aimed at the total extermination of the Jews. As far as drama goes, his story should make for interesting viewing. Well not when Snoo Wilson writes the screenplay and Robert Young directs it. Instead, they have crafted a veritable snoozefest of a film. Eichmann (Thomas Kretschmann) is arrested and while he is in prison, Capt. Avner Less (Troy Garity, Jane Fonda’s boy) tries to get a confession out of him. This reminded me a bit of Antibodies (2005), only that was a good film, and this was not. Even though it has a running time of 96 minutes, you feel like you’ve been watching it for three hours. FYI: Stephen Fry is cast as the Israeli Minister of Justice. I’ll leave you to think about that odd casting decision.
8) Cedar Rapids (2011) – Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), a loser insurance salesman who beds his 7th grade teacher (Sigourney Weaver), is ecstatic to represent his company at a convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While there, he becomes enamored with a Nebraska agent Joan (Anne Heche) and is awed by his roommates Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and boisterous Dean Zeigler (John C. Reilly). This was a much-talked about indie comedy, so I decided to take a chance on it. I ended up leaving the room after about 25 minutes, because it wasn’t funny at all. Also, I’ve decided that I would like to repeatedly smack both Helms and Reilly with very heavy metal objects. They are both about as funny as being burned alive. Someone please keep them from making another film.
9) Seconds Apart (2011) – While investigating the deaths of some high school football players – they were playing a game of Russian roulette at a party – Det. Lampkin (Orlando Jones) comes upon a set of creepy twins Seth and Jonah (Gary and Edmund Entin), who have a penchant for filmmaking. And like many twins, they have an ability to communicate without words. Everything begins to unravel when one of the twins begins getting cozy with classmate Eve (Samantha Drake). I didn’t hate this horror film – it was better than some of the garbage floating around out there – but I also didn’t like it. With so few good horror films being released these days this one will do in a pinch. But only just. Hey, at least it doesn’t look like it was filmed on someone’s iPad camera and stars the director and his amateur friends.
10) The Company Men (2010) – Another one I had heard good things about, but couldn’t finish it. The story revolves around three corporate guys - Gene (Tommy Lee Jones), Bobby (Ben Affleck) and Phil (Chris Cooper) – who are trying to keep their heads above water during the recession. The biggest problem about this film was that I didn’t really care about any of the people in it. Bobby is the first to get the axe, and he lives in a palatial house and drives a sports car. Although his wife seems fairly sensible – she wants to cut back – Bobby doesn’t really want to downsize his life. It’s all about appearances. At first, I kind of liked Gene, one of the founding members of the corporation who was very matter-of-fact and who seemed to have principles – and then we discover that he’s having an affair. Out came the disc, and I was done. My husband finished the film and said that it actually had a “lesson” at the end, but I just can’t get into a film that cries about over-privileged, over-paid higher ups. Let them burn.
11) Hereafter (2010) – I didn’t really hate this film, but it was disjointed as hell. Directed by Clint Eastwood, it centers on three characters Marie (Cecile De France), a journalist who is also the survivor of a tsunami; George (Matt Damon), a psychic who doesn’t want to be; and Marcus/Jason (George McLaren), a British child who has lost his twin. All of their lives intersect – eventually. After the opening sequence of the tsunami, which is exciting and amazing, everything SLOWS down and it takes forever for anything to get going. In fact, this film would have been better as a miniseries. One episode could have focused on Marie; one on George, who was, for me the most interesting character; and then the kid. The fourth episode could have brought them all together. As it stands, Hereafter is too long at 129 minutes but not long enough to do an adequate job telling any of the stories. If one film had to be made, it should have been about George. Eastwood is usually a great director. I guess everyone is allowed to slip up from time to time.
12) Due Date (2010) – From the trailers this looked like a remake of the John Hughes film Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) only with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in the roles played by Steve Martin and John Candy. And it is. Unofficially. Downey Jr. plays an uptight, high strung father to be who needs to get home for the birth of his child; Galifianakis plays the fat, slovenly, child-man (AGAIN with this f-cking character) who annoys the hell out of Downey Jr. That’s it. Ok, you know what it’s about, now avoid it. Some of the “humor” made me want to throw up – Galifianakis is truly vile – and the rest of the time, it’s just brainless, infantile slap stick. Like a cartoon brought to life. I hated it. Someone make director Todd Phillips stop.
Have Your Say
Powered by Facebook Comments