Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The 50 Worst Films of the Decade, 40-31

I think it's interesting to compare this list to the 50 Best Films of the Decade list I'll be publishing later on this week.  The most surprising revelation?  Four director's works appear on BOTH lists, and another director of a Worst Film manages to sneak in an Honorable Mention on the best list!  Can you guess who they might be?

The 50 Worst Films of the Decade, 40-31

40. Big Fish (2003)

"Big Fish" feels like the work of a hacky amateur trying to make a Tim Burton movie rather than a film by the man himself.  Self-conscious when it should be whimsical, creepy when it should be funny, maudlin when it should be uplifting, the film, in over 2 hours, never once manages to hit the right note, defying not only the established standards for Burton's filmography but also the very laws of statistical probability.  It doesn't even look good, with flimsy cardboard sets and cheesy facades standing in for the fantastical Southern landscape of Albert Finney's imagination.  But the biggest problem is that the movie celebrates the power of imagination and tall tales without actually relating one even remotely decent or interesting story of its own.  What we're left with is a romance about a man desperately in love with the sound of his own voice.

39. Daredevil (2003)

"Daredevil" is bad for a number of reasons, but what stands out to me years later is that it can't seem to decide what sort of comic book film it wants to be.  There's a serious, brooding, "adult" comic book film here, in which Daredevil is a scarred, tortured anti-hero who works out his trauma on bad guys.  But then there's also a ludicrous, candy-colored cartoon comic book film here, in which Colin Farrell parades around with a target etched into his skull and spouting cheesedick one liners like "I want a bloody costume!" and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner have adorable mock-fight sequences in playgrounds.  The two movies don't ever actually meet, and the result is a movie designed to appeal to absolutely no one, save possibly Kevin Smith.  But that's probably just his Ben Affleck man-crush talking.  (NOTE: "Daredevil" spawned a sequel of sorts, "Elektra," that's almost assuredly an even worse film, but I never saw it, thus saving it from inclusion herein.)

38. Rat Race (2001)

Quite possibly the decade's most shrill, obnoxious comedy, "Rat Race" has approximately 3 tools in its arsenal: celebrities mugging, people who are not quite celebrities mugging and fast-moving objects running into one another.  Now, I'm not saying that a good injury or physical gag CAN'T be funny, but when that's ALL that happens - people crash into things, things crash into things, people crash into people, my palm crashes into my forehead - it gets old fast.  The movie actually has an okay set-up...John Cleese plays a billionaire who has organized an elaborate game for his rich cohorts, betting on which of a group of clueless chuckleheads will end up with a $2 million prize he has hidden away.  But it just goes absolutely nowhere, unless you consider Rowan Atkinson doing an offensive Italian accent to be "somewhere."  Also, here are some names that should never appear in the credits of a film that claims to have an "all-star cast": Breckin Meyer, Seth Green, Jon Lovitz, Whoopi Goldberg, Amy Smart, Dean Cain and, of course, Paul Rodriguez.  (Actually, that last name should not appear in the credits of a film.  End of statement.)  "Rat Race" made me yearn for the wit and subtlety of Goldberg's '80s comedies.

37. United 93 (2006)

"United 93," Paul Greengrass' ode to terrorists making Americans shit our collective pants, is not so much a BAD film as an inappropriate, unnecessary and even monstrous one.  The fact that it's actually pretty well-made does not redeem it, but actually serves to confirm that the people involved should have known better.  The movie seeks to do nothing less than recreate 9/11 - in particular, the flight that never made it to its final destination and instead crashed in a Pennsylvania field on that fateful day.  Not for dramatic effect, not to make any kind of academic or sociological "point," not even, presumably, to make money - cause who wants to go relive 9/11 on a Saturday night at the movies? - but just to do it, to see if it can be done.  And, yeah, it can.  Watching the film is a sometimes painful, always uncomfortable and intensely unpleasant experience...but that doesn't make it worthwhile.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The movie made me dislike Greengrass, as a person, pretty intensely.  Why was he even putting us all through this again?  Just to show off?  In the hopes that, by making the year's most SERIOUS and sober picture, someone would give him an award?  What a piece of shit.

36. Shallow Hal (2001)

"Shallow Hal" marks the moment - the EXACT moment - when the Farrelly Brothers' schtick wore out its welcome.  The rest of the decade was a slow, painful slide into obsolescence for them.  All of their movies pair gross-out laughs with sentimentality and an essentially sweet nature, but "Shallow Hal" tips the scales (har!) and overwhelms any and all actual humor with a relentlessly judgmental, scolding tone.  The film, in which the superficial Jack Black is hypnotized by Tony Robbins (in a pointless cameo) and thereafter falls in love with a morbidly obese Gwyneth Paltrow (who appears beautiful to him), tries so desperately to have it both ways that it's practically bipolar.  You can either convince people that fat jokes aren't funny, and that we all have a responsibility to treat each and every human being with decency, love, compassion and respect, or you can make 90 minutes worth of fat jokes.  Just get off the bitchtrain and pick one, guys.  Doing both is like Hitler ending one of his rousing addresses to the German volk by sharing his old family recipe for gefilte fish.  There just isn't much of a middle ground there, and even if a skilled comic writer could FIND some way to balance these two impulses, the Farrelly Brothers just aren't talented enough to pull it off.  So you get lots and lots of (mostly awful) fat jokes followed by scenes in which we're told that it's wrong, WRONG, to pre-judge people because they're fat. Also, Jason Alexander with a tail, which is less funny than its sounds.

35. Ultraviolet (2006)

$30,000,000 was apparently spent on "Ultraviolet," though I can't imagine HOW.  Perhaps they paid people off to pretend it wasn't such an enormous turd?  It contains arguably the WORST-looking CGI in the history of that particular technology; whole sequences appear to not have even been finished, like the animators caught a few seconds put together of what they were working on and left early to go get drunk.  There aren't really even any big stars in it, besides Milla Jovovich and that kid Cameron Bright, who was in pretty much every movie this decade that didn't already feature Dakota Fanning.  Where did the budget go?  The costumes, which look patched together from discarded couches director Kurt Wimmer found abandoned on the street near the studio?  The prop guns, which look like cheap plastic toys with swords glued to the bottom, perhaps because they are CHEAP PLASTIC TOYS WITH SWORDS GLUED TO THE BOTTOM!  I think it's entirely possible "Ultraviolet," rather than a failed dystopian science-fiction film, was actually just a front for Kurt Wimmer's First Annual $30 Million Coke and Caviar Party, and the actual decoy "movie" that resulted only cost $11.50 and a handy in the parking lot of the Astroburger next to the Paramount lot.  At least, I'd like to think so.

34. What Planet Are You From? (2000)

What happens when an alien from an advanced race with incredible technology but no understanding of real emotion has to come to Earth and try to mate with a human female?  Well, the results are a mix between "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and the creepiest, most ick-inducing thing you've ever seen.  Comedian Garry Shandling plays said alien, and one of the running gags of the movie is that his artificial penis (which he plans to use to impregnate a human female and thus ensure the future survival of his kind) vibrates noisily when he gets aroused.  Which means that you spend a lot of the film thinking about and having your attention called to Garry Shandling's penis.  Which, right there, is kind of a deal-breaker.

33. Righteous Kill (2008)

De Niro and Pacino team tell a story that's somehow both incomprehensible and predictable.  I've been thinking about that for a while now, and I still can't quite wrap my head around it.  The whole mystery - in which a pair of cops search for a vigilante killer who leaves poems at the site of his murders - builds up to a twist that's completely straight-forward and obvious, but gets there via insanely convoluted, nonsensical means. It's almost like director Jon Avnet (the visionary genius behind "Red Corner" and "88 Minutes"!) wanted you to FORGET that you figured out the twist in the first 20 minutes.  Suffice it to say, when the protagonist in a suspense thriller looks into the camera in the first moment of a movie and tells you he's a serial murderer, it's probably a fake out, misdirection to keep you from paying attention to the REAL murderer.  And when that same suspense thriller has only 2 real characters, process of elimination alone would seem to dictate that...well, perhaps I've said too much already.

32. Evolution (2001)

Ha ha, butt...

In the ill-fated "Evolution," David Duchovney and Orlando Jones hunt an alien creature that doesn't understand how evolution works.  No, I mean, um, it "evolves" quickly, cause that's a thing...right?  Setting the cause of proper science education back further than Ben Stein and Kirk Cameron ever could, Ivan Reitman's sci-fi comedy (and I use all the words in that phrase loosely save "Ivan Reitman's") was originally conceived as a real horror film.  Then, realizing it was not at all scary, Reitman reconceived it as a comedy...ish thing, sorta.  Anyway, it's probably very much like its original incarnation, only Julianne Moore falls down a lot.  Who knows what it could have become next if Reitman hadn't presumably run out of time and been forced to release whatever he had thrown together, as-is.  A swashbuckling Technicolor adventure film about an alien menace that transforms into a variety of different forms before settling on "vaguely nondescript blob of computer-animated goo"?  An Errol Morris documentary in which Julianne Moore speaks directly into the camera about spending an entire film shoot pretending to trip and fall?  Pretty much anything would be less painful to sit through than this debacle.  It clearly just needed more time to...wait for it comes...any second now...evolve.  Yeah, that's right, I went there.

31. The Cat in the Hat (2003)

This movie's a loud, joyless, chaotic waste
Nothing like the Seuss book (on which it is based)

Look out for Mike Myers, with make-up that's scary
He's more frightening here than "The Grinch's" Jim Carrey

And despite being ignored by most of the nation
This still kicked off a wave of bad Seuss adaptations!


Anonymous said...

Your comments about Big Fish reflect how subjective "critical reviews" and best/worst lists are. I've seen Big Fish on many "Best Lists" And I have to say if you think it didn't have a story of its own, you didn't get the film at all. It had a powerful story to tell about fathers/sons. Big Fish is considered by many to be a masterpiece. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, obviously. I think, however, you are in the minority on this one.

Lons said...

Well, obviously, critical reviews and "Worst Films of the Decade" lists are subjective. There's no definitive list released just telling everyone what the Worst Movies were...You have to use your own judgment and decide for yourself. I'm in the minority of opinion on several films on this list. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong, just that others are entitled to their own opinions.

As for Big Fish's "story," you have identified a theme (fathers and sons), and not a story, but that's beside the point anyway. MY point is that it's a movie about fanciful tall tales and their power...and none of the fanciful tall tales in the movie are compelling on their own merits. I defy anyone who has not seen the film very recently to even recall and identify a single one of the Finney character's ACTUAL stories that he tells his son. They're instantly forgettable, and lack the charm one would typically associate with the "tall tale" genre, and that would bring the movie's underlying message about the importance of imagination into clearer focus.

rednikki said...

I don't necessarily agree with you on all of these, but boy do I enjoy reading your scathing reviews!

xl pharmacy said...

Evolution is way high in my list because it is pretty bad. I don't think that I would watch that movie again.

un sex shop said...

It won't succeed as a matter of fact, that's what I believe.

Anonymous said...

I have come from the future to tell you that your an asshole and these shouldn't even qualify as movie reviews.