Saturday, February 25, 2012

To All The Losers

Now, after due consideration, I am ready to select the "winners" of the Worst of 2011.


WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?!  This is awful work, and the fact that Clint Eastwood saw this and said, "good job", is truly astonishing.  Despite what has been said, Leonardo DiCaprio's make-up as J. Edgar Hoover wasn't horrible, just not that great.  HOWEVER, once we got a gander at Armie Hammer's make-up as the older Clyde Tolson, I did something I rarely do while watching: I gasped!  I gasped at how simply awful it looked.  Brother Gabe said Hammer looked like Johnny Knoxville when he's playing old on Jackass, and I think Knoxville looked more realistic than Hammer's awful mummy impersonation.  Like J. Edgar itself, it was a case of simply trying too hard...


Transformers: Dark of the Moon thinks that by making things bigger, it makes them better.  It isn't.  Instead, we still are treated to loud and ugly visuals where the robots never appear to be anything other than gigantic computer-generated things.  In fairness, Optimus Prime was more lifelike than Shia LaBeauf, so that's worth something. 


How Eastwood again allowed this to go on is insanity.  All that going back and forth between the present, the past, and the past within the past was becoming a nightmare.  I know what they were going for, but at times it was becoming so convoluted as to what time frame in the story we were actually IN that one just gave up trying to sort it all out.  The transitions between the past and the present were bungled beyond anything a professional, Oscar-winning director could be believed to have done.  We had flashbacks WITHIN flashbacks (something I hate) and J. Edgar kept gleefully jumping around with nary a text as to where one was in the story, and going back and forth in the Lindbergh kidnapping case was only making things more bizarre: for long stretches, we'd forgotten about the case only to find ourselves back after what appeared to be a half-hour or more since last we left Un-Lucky Lindy.


When you can recognize the composer by how the music sounds, and be infuriated with said music score, and recognize it only by how lousy said score is, it is a bad, bad, BAD sign.  When I heard the music for Green Lantern, I thought it was awful: loud, bombastic, toneless, and did I mention loud and bombastic?  When I saw "Music by James Newton Howard", I shouted at the screening, "KNEW IT!"  This man has written some of the most awful music for films (The Village, Defiance, Water For Elephants, The Green Hornet, and worst: The Last Airbender), though I imagine he MUST have written something good.  The Law of Averages demands that.  However, something HAS to be said when I can recognize Newton Howard's music...and know it will be bad.


Some clothes are ugly, but when what is suppose to be the elegant costume has you scratching your head. Here we can see Suttirat Larlarb was looking to Helena Bonham-Carter for inspiration, but while I don't expect all the clothes to be elegant (we can't all work for Merchant-Ivory), at least make them not so ridiculous as they were in Beastly


New Orleans, I figure, has suffered enough.  The sets were remarkably unoriginal (the vampire club looking like it was requisitioned from a warehouse, and the warehouse looking like it was about to be bulldozed).  How with such a setting like New Orleans you could make it look so unappealing will be a great mystery.   Dylan Dog: Dead of Night failed in every aspect it was asked to do: from acting to story to technical.  The fact that they thought it was going to be a franchise just makes everything more sad than funny. 


Here's a tip to Zack Snyder and all those who worked on Sucker Punch: if I want to see a video game, I'll get a video game.  Sucker Punch was all Snyder: hyper, ugly, and pointless.  Did I mention UGLY, as in looking?


There were an awful lot of badly-written films, but Green Lantern wins merely because of girth.  It took FOUR people to write this shit, and three of them to come up with the story.  This begs the question: WHAT STORY?!  I will always marvel (no pun intended) that FOUR people, working in tandem, could not put together a cohesive (let alone coherent) story on which to build a franchise on.  Moreover, they got paid...lots of money...more than I make in a come up with THIS?!  Where's Occupy Hollywood when you need them?


So rarely has a film mistaken stupidity for insight as horrendously as I Melt With You.  It yearns to be the film that tells the story of A Generation.  Instead, it becomes a mean, nasty thing to endure: seeing people kill each other and themselves to fulfill some pact made a quarter of a century earlier is just stupid.  Add to that the fact we don't like any of these guys...we WANT to see them dead.   Self-absorption has never been so distasteful, so hideous, and so intolerable.  The really weird thing about I Melt With You?  When they start dropping like flies, it isn't after all the drugs and booze that would have killed off a fraternity that they consume that does it.  Stupid, ugly, narcissistic men doing irrational things for the most ridiculous of reasons...we don't mourn when they go one by one, we celebrate.  That, I figure, was not what they were aiming for.


Maybe it's harsh to beat up on a fellow Christian, one who made this film with the very best of intentions.  HOWEVER, I am an 'art before faith' reviewer, and Alex Kendrick couldn't direct a plastic bag to float in the breeze.  Everything is hammered down again and again with no sense of subtlety, and I get the sense that his idea of directing is to tell people where to point the camera and tell his 'actors' to start.  Few times have I seen a film that features such awful performances en masse (and some racial stereotypes) as Courageous has.  Every 'actor' in Courageous is flat, every scene is obvious in where it is going, every part of the story is predictable.  The only time Kendrick looked convincing is when he is literally preaching to the converted...because he is an actual pastor.  Ultimately, Kendrick's worst enemy isn't The Enemy, it's himself.


How things have changed.  When the first Hangover was released, I though Zack Galifianakis should have received a Best Supporting Actor nomination.  Now, I give him the Worst.  Why?  Apart from the fact that he tries to do the same thing (operative word: tries)?  Well, it because he made Alan not into the generally sweet but odd creature but instead made him a raving, murderous lunatic.  How can I love or care about someone who comes close to murdering someone old enough to be his son?  He wasn't a loveable oddball, he was a psycho, a dangerous, selfish thing who did not shrink from attempted murder of a minor to get his totally delusional way.  Both the character and the actor were mean, nasty, horrible things to watch.  Finally, after all the things Alan does to the poor kid, Galifianakis got on his high horse and thought a Mel Gibson cameo would be the thing to ruin The Hangover Part II?  Seriously?!  Is this guy THAT out-of-touch, or has he simply been too long Between Two Ferns


I can grant a little leeway in that Just Go With It is a horrible film.  However, it takes a specially inept child actor/actress to stand out for the sheer hideousness of a performance.  This isn't the first time I found Bailee Madison to be aggressively grating: a little-seen film called Letters to God marked another lousy performance.  However, what can be said of a child actor who is so awful (both on screen and performance-wise) that when she falls face-first into mud, your first reaction is to applaud?  Madison was annoying (with that accent that was adopted for no reason other than a disastrous attempt at comedy), but when she called for me to feel for her, I really just wanted to chuck her into the nearest volcano.  If she somehow continues to find jobs on screen, I am seriously tempted to find her agent and give him/her either a medal for performing miracles or an exorcism for continuing to inflict Bailee Madison on us. 


I'm rather spoiled for choice in the Worst Actor category.  Each one of them was abysmal and showed that looks do trump talent in Hollywood (with the exception of Seth Rogen and Shia LaBeauf who judging from their body of work don't have either).  Reynolds is the only one to show actual talent (just not in Green Lantern).  As I contemplate all the nominees, one thing stood out: just how expressionalless, how dull Taylor Lautner is on screen. 

We've already seen just how incapable he is of "acting" in all the Twilight films, but now in Abduction, he's been asked to carry the entire project on his very built shoulders.  He just couldn't: with his robotic, almost Shatner-esque delivery and blank expression, there was nothing on screen that one could call actual acting (which is to convince the audience that you are that character).  I figure I can admire his work ethic: when he came close to losing the part of Jacob Black because he looked too scrawny he worked out furiously to build himself into the himbo that he is today, and I get the sense that if I met him, I'd think he's a nice guy.  However, he is not an actor (but bless him for trying), and somehow the idea that Abduction (or in his case, Abs-Duction...couldn't resist what's been said already by others) was going to be either a franchise or his launch into an action star (because everyone save him has given up on him being an actual actor) is almost endearing in its naivete. 


It wasn't that long ago that Reese Witherspoon was going to conquer the world.  She earned the Oscar for Best Actress in Walk the Line, but since then, she has struggled to find anything good.  Since she won for capturing June Carter Cash so well, she has had one flop after another (Just Like Heaven, Rendition, Four Christmases, How Do You Know and as of today, This Means War).  Perhaps some of the fault lies not in our star but in the script...although having seen How Do You Know, she bears part of the blame for that.  However, Water For Elephants is not only just another Wither-ing-spoon flop, it also is one of the worst performances of the year.

She was blank as the love interest, looking bored to find herself married to a man who is twenty years OLDER than her (Christoph Waltz) and puzzled to find herself allegedly in love with a man ten years YOUNGER than her (Robert Pattinson).  I say allegedly because try as she might, Witherspoon couldn't convince us she had fallen in love with Pattinson's character (given it's RPattz, a remarkable achievement indeed).  I don't ask much of people, but if you're going to be in a love story, make it appear as if you are actually IN LOVE with the person you're playing against, not like you keep wondering what to do next.


I selected this particular image for a specific reason: Justin Bartha is one of the best examples I can give as to why The Hangover Part II was a complete and total unmitigated disaster.  It has nothing to do with Bartha, and therein lies the problem.  He was completely unnecessary to The Hangover Part II.  In fact, the whole film is unnecessary.  I imagine people went in expecting more of the same.  In a certain sense, they lost their money's worth.  However, did people really want basically a remake (almost shot-for-shot if not plotwise)?  If they had actually gone for something ever-so-slightly different (as in, put Bartha's character of Doug into the mix and leave Stu out of the film), The Hangover Part II could have been saved (a tall order, mind you, but at least you'd get a different dynamic in the film with basically a new character whose reaction to the mayhem could have taken the film down different roads). 

Instead, they opted to redo the first film and get the same result.  That didn't happen, and the biggest reason for that is because they completely failed to understand what made The Hangover so good and so funny.  Underneath the raunch and madness of The Hangover, there were two things: both a logic to the story (an insane one, granted, but a logic nonetheless) and secondly, a heart.  The whole story of The Hangover wasn't the wild goings-on of the Wolf Pack, it was the fact that these four guys genuinely cared about each other.  Their entire motivation was to save Doug.  In The Hangover Part II, their entire motivation was to escape from their One Night In Bangkok (after they basically kill Mr. Chow, try to kill a minor and appear non-plussed at the fact that said minor no longer has all ten fingers).  They don't care about the teenage Teddy (this is especially true of the character of Alan, who goes out of his way to try to literally kill him); they only care about avoiding the consequences of their truly Ugly American behavior.  The Hangover has a heart, The Hangover Part II doesn't. 

The people who made The Hangover Part II (from director to writers to actors and even the caterers) all thought that what made The Hangover a success was how raunchy it was.  With that in mind, they thought, "if we make it raunchier, dirtier, more vulgar, it will be funnier".  Sure: people may have lapped it up to where they paid big bucks to see it opening weekend (and enough to spawn talk of yet a third Hangover...begging the question, how stupid could four men be to have the same thing happen three times AND/OR how stupid could three-plus women be to allow it to happen thrice) but a The Hangover Part III will be seen I think in the same way The Godfather Part III is seen now: a sad end for almost everyone concerned. 

I think you have to be amazingly stupid to WANT to see The Hangover Part III.  I think if you really want to see it, you should give up the right to vote.  We can't have people like THAT making decisions for our country. 

As for Justin Bartha, I congratulate him on being the smartest actor in Hollywood.  He read the script, said to himself, "I'm not much in the film", but did he get upset?  No, no, no.  He said, "NOT ONLY DO I GET A FREE VACATION TO THAILAND...I GET PAID TO DO NOTHING!"

Justin Bartha, you've just become my new hero/role model. 

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