Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The 50 Worst Films of the Decade, 50-41

In some ways, writing a list of the "worst films" of the year or the decade is an act of pure cynicism, a bilious exercise in slamming someone else's work that is completely trivial and unnecessary.  If you write a review of a bad film the week it opens, you are, in some small way, doing a kind of public service.  "Hey, moviegoing audience," your review seems to say, "avoid this clunker at all costs in favor of something more worthwhile. You're welcome!"  But written months, or in this case, YEARS after the films have already been thrashed by critics and audiences (in most cases), serves no immediate purpose other than celebrating the taste and wit of the author and flattering the sensibilities of the reader, who is encouraged to sneer and laugh caustically at targeted artworks.  It's the cinematic equivalent of public masturbation...self-indulgence that benefits no one, and really only has the potential to offend.

Having said that...it sure is a lot of fun!  And these movies are terrible!  They have it coming.


50. The Hunted (2003)

William Friedkin's overwrought pseudo-action film is essentially a remake of "First Blood," only without all that pesky action and social commentary.  The film was released 6 years ago and was immediately forgettable. So much so, in fact, the only thing I really recall about it, aside from disliking it intensely, is Benicio del Toro's completely indecipherable accent, despite the fact that he's supposed to be playing an American soldier.  It's like his character from "Usual Suspects" joined the military and wigged out...He must have just gotten bored and decided to try something a little different.  "Give me the keys, you cocksucker."

49. The Hours (2002)

Three generations of women suffer from inexplicable ennui, stare longingly out of windows and generally bore the living shit out of me in this mercilessly long, turgid, suffocating Oscar bait.  The theme of Stephen Daldry's self-congratulatory snoozefest seems to be that women are a mysterious puzzle-box of emotion that no one can ever even begin to decode.  So accordingly, he sets up drab, maudlin and entirely generic "depression" scenarios for his main characters and then does very little with them, not so much trying to investigate or explore the sadness of author Virginia Woolf or her '50s housewife counterpart as fetishize it.  ("Oooooh, they're so sad and you don't even know why!  Just give them some Critics Circle Awards already!")  Ed Harris earns groans, loud, heaving, guttural groans, as a self-pitying poet suffering from AIDS.  By the end, the audience is ready to throw him out a window before he takes care of the job himself.

48. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Where to even begin with the movie's inexplicable narrative?  Oh, I know, how about its main characters outrunning freezing temperatures?  Once you've actually written a scene in which a guy outruns the rate at which things turn cold, you've pretty much thrown up your hands in defeat.  (NOTE: Another horrible '00s film, "Die Another Day," asks us to accept a character driving faster than the sun, but this is a Bond movie, so I think a bit more baffling, ludicrous implausibility is acceptable.)

47. Scoop (2006)

"Scoop," the story of a journalist who gets a story idea from a dead guy and then follows it up with the aid of a whiny senior citizen, is clearly just lazy, the work of a guy who could make a movie in his sleep and essentially tries to do exactly that.  You keep expecting all the film's various threads to come together in a way that's dazzling and surprising and witty, like the last scene in a great "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but instead everything just kind of stops, limply, like the last scene in a mediocre "2 and a Half Men."  Writer/director Woody Allen himself appears in the film as a nebbishy old crank who for some reason starts hanging out with Scarlett Johansson (okay, so this part is based on a true story) and has never been less likable on screen.  Seriously.  Ever.  And I've seen "Scenes from a Mall"!

46. Southland Tales (2006)

You can tell things aren't going to go well within the first few minutes of "Southland Tales," as Justin Timberlake narrates an exceedingly complex, yet simultaneously silly, series of future events. All that exposition (really, it's about 20 minutes all put together) doesn't get us anywhere, as the movie then proceeds to ping around between different characters incoherently for the remainder of its running time.  Most of these individuals - many of them the results of Timberlake-esque stunt casting (hey, it's The Rock! Kevin Smith in old age make-up! Stiffler!) - play more like sketch comedy characters than significant players in a large-scale dystopian science-fiction odyssey.  After a while, it's impossible to even care what's happening or why you can't follow of it.  I sort of just gave myself over to accepting that the movie was abysmal and wouldn't make any sense after an hour or so, and entertained myself by remembering other, better movies about the looming apocalypse.

45. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

It's hard not to feel like the third "Spider-Man" adventure is just an obligatory addendum tacked on to the only movie in the series it felt like Raimi WANTED to make.  The pieces just don't ever come together...An alien symbiote whose existence is never really explored, and whose properties are never quite spelled out, a sort of rivalry between Peter Parker and another cameraman who seems bent on destroying him for no real reason, an on-again off-again romance that you keep sort of rooting will go off-again, permanently...It's all kind of shoehorned in there, and as a result, the film is a rambling mess.  How much of a mess, you may ask?  Tobey Maguire's Parker is transformed from a gangly nerd into an emo-hipster hybrid who actually performs jazzy musical numbers, and this is meant to be taken SERIOUSLY, as the central dramatic conflict of the film.  Drag me to Hell, indeed.

44. The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)

It takes a lot to make a film that can be said to "dumb down" perhaps the most inane, stupid, redneck-yshow of all time.  Just think about that...The stars of the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV program were OFFENDED by how stupid the movie adaptation was, and these are people who would have given a limb to get cut first from "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" at the time of the film's release.  This completely jokeless comedy actually does serve one useful purpose...it's an amazing time capsule of the year 2005. Jessica Simpson and Johnny Knoxville are popular!  The nation is obsessed with "blue collar comedy"!  Everything completely blows!  It's like walking straight into the past without a flux capacitor!

43. The Da Vinci Code (2006)

OK, everyone, what's the secret to making a white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat thriller?  If you said "a one-hour faux-history lecture from Ian McKellan," congratulations, you're a complete dipshit who may or may not be director Ron Howard!  2 quick things that bug the shit out of me about this tepid, bloodless adaptation of a book that wasn't any good in the first place: (1) Tom Hanks' character is referred to by a fake word, "symbologist," despite the fact that a real word for a person who studies symbols, "semiotician," already exists!  There's no quicker, easier way for a movie to tell you that it thinks you're fucking dumb than for it to make up easier words to substitute for difficult ones.  But maybe that's just me...I am, after all, an experienced vocabulist. (2) Hanks' character is presented with what are meant to be challenging, centuries-old math puzzles and they turn out to be based on straight-forward arithmatic lessons ripped straight from the archives of "Square One Television."  I mean, seriously...the Fibonacci sequence?  You figured that one out all by yourself, T.H.? Without the teacher's manual?

42. Vacancy (2007)

This is just another mindless "couple gets stranded during a road trip gone bad only to be set upon by psycho(s)" film, and one that wouldn't really stand out from all the other similarly-plotted shitkickers that have been clogging up New Straight-to-DVD Release shelves and Best Buy bargain bins for the better part of this decade, were it not for the cast.  "Vacancy" was seemingly cast entirely based on giving comedians of the future some material.  I don't even think it should have gone straight-to-DVD.  It should have gone straight to Mystery Science Theater.  Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale as the unhappy couple?  Well, um, sure, okay.  Frank Whaley as the homicidal lunatic who has trapped them in his motel of horrors?  Wait, wait, what?  Frank Whaley?  This guy is about as menacing as...well, as Frank Whaley.  I'm not sure I can un-menace him any further via analogy.

41. The Fountain (2006)

Darren Aronofsky spent about a decade trying to get this movie made, and all I can say is, "Wow, I didn't realize a bad mushroom trip could last that long."  There are no words to describe what a convoluted, nonsensical mess this movie is.  So I won't even try.  Suffice it to say that the movie ends with Hugh Jackman assuming the Lotus position in the middle of outer space next to a glowing tree.  And that's NOT the most laughable thing that happens.  That's not even getting into the "conquistador" sequences that look like they were shot in some guy's North Hollywood studio apartment.  Let's just not even go there.

Posted via email from Lon Harris


Brandon said...

"Vacancy" was also the biggest disappointment of the year for direcotr Nimrod Antal's American debut (previously directing the amazing "Kontroll.")

Brandon said...

Nevermind, spoke too soon. Just saw Antal directed "Armored," out this week in wide release.