Setting a film in the future is tricky. You can have fun with it and create eye-popping visuals unconcerned with authenticity, or you can try to build a convincing projection of the world we live in now. What you should avoid is landing somewhere in the middle, as Neill Blomkamp has in Elysium. Certainly pieces of Elysium‘s world feel possible, like the disconcertingly ubiquitous biotechnology; some of it even probable, like the bastardized mélange of languages or the lack of paying work in an overpopulated world. But between the magical healing tubes, the utterly structureless society, and the absurd lack of humanity in damn near every character, Blomkamp’s follow-up to 2009’s slick District 9 spends far too much of its screen time asking you to meet it halfway.
Category Archives: Bad, Bad Films
You know what the worst part about having to write this review is? It’s that I was fully prepared to enjoy Green Lantern, despite the problems I was certain would be present. Any reviewer who tells you they approach every movie in the same way is lying, and movies like this one-movies with the clear intention of selling popcorn and building franchises-don’t come with high expectations. Which is why about two minutes into the film I found myself, not just annoyed that I spent eleven bucks on a ticket to a crap movie, but incensed at the abysmal execution of this big, green mess. Nearly every last choice made in Green Lantern is a bad one, and even aside from the technical stumbling, the film just isn’t much fun. No, “Director” Martin Campbell has done nothing here worth any praise. Certainly the effects work is good, but I’m giving the computer geeks credit for that.
People will write books about this era of film. To be fair, books will always be written about film, but the past few decades have been dominated by one instrument of change in particular–digital effects. Certainly special effects have always been relevant, and since essentially the beginning of film as a medium have been gradually improving and contributing to it, but nothing has made fantasy in film authentic like digital effects. And not only have digital effects taken film to an entirely new level of imagination, but they have done it with remarkable speed. Personally, I am a massive fan of effects work, to the point of occasionally applauding films that might not have much else going for them (e.g. TRON: Legacy), but as with anything, it can’t all be good. This digital effects renaissance has a flip side, and it is movies like Priest. Movies that are so horridly assembled in every way besides the special effects, they just end up being laughably bad.
I generally avoid reading reviews until I’ve made my own conclusions. It’s a precaution against accidental plagiarism or having my opinion subtly altered. In the case of Another Year though, I felt safe. I was so convinced of my position, so sure of my assessment, I didn’t feel the usual need for prudence. I couldn’t imagine that the professionals would really have such a different viewpoint then my own. This assumption lead me to the Rotten Tomatoes rating of this film: 92%. It led me to rave reviews from Ebert and Travers and Scott. And more than anything, it entrenched my position that Mike Leigh‘s Another Year is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a good long while. It is as smug and self-satisfied as its two chief characters, and leaves the viewer with nothing but questions. I don’t know what movie everybody else is watching, but Writer/Director Mike Leigh’s latest is a pretentious cipher of a film and, to put it plainly, not worth the film it was printed on.
60 Second Reviews
Despite the fact that its two leads-Leonardo DiCaprio and Danny Boyle-have been such significant and consistent contributors to the film culture, The Beach is simply not a very good movie. It’s familiar as Boyle’s work, but untidy, and DiCaprio is getting in his very last performance as a precocious kid before Gangs of New York and Catch Me If You Can made his adulthood official.
Movies and books are different enough mediums that, when someone does a half-assed job of adapting a book into a screenplay, it can be terribly evident; The Beach‘s most glaring issue. There’s way too much happening here for the story to feel cohesive. There are suggestions of a love story and attempts at comedy. There’s blood and mania enough that it could even be called a psychological thriller. I can’t say if I would rather a film have too much going on or not enough, but in either case it’s not a minor trouble. It gives you the persistent feeling of having missed something vital, and once you realize that’s just the nature of the film, you’re more frustrated then you were before.
At it’s core the story is about hedonism, and hedonism needing limits; an admirable sentiment, but the film’s handling of this notion leaves much to be desired. The hedonists themselves are a collection of dogmatic hippies who bound around like they’re at summer camp. Frankly, you don’t have to subtly convince me not to like these people. Still, taking it for granted that this is the filmmakers intent, the consequences simply don’t make sense. Moving into the third act Leo’s Richard, separated from the beach people, suddenly begins a rapid descent into jungle madness, a consequence of his mistakes. But are two or three days of solitude enough to drive a person insane? Only if you’re rushing to get to the point.
The Beach is an interesting moment in the careers of these two giants, and though at the time it must have seemed a passion project, it has now become a dated mess.
What was the last Johnny Depp movie that got you really excited? Or Angelina Jolie for that matter? With Ol’ John there’s a glimmer of hope coming in the form of the Hunter S. Thompson adaptation The Rum Diary. Certainly Depp recalling his Gonzo in any way is good news for us. Other than that, it’s just a new trio of Pirates movies, yet another Tim Burton thing, and rumors regarding Kathryn Bigelow’s next flick. Things are even bleaker for Angie, with a reprisal of her Kung Fu Panda Tigress on the horizon, and little else. My point here isn’t so much to rip into these actors’ future endeavors as it is to call attention to the strange turn their careers have taken. Towards the beginning of their respective careers, Deep and Jolie both built their legacies on talent. They may have started out as beautiful faces, but with roles in films like Gia and Girl, Interrupted, Edward Scissorhands and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? they cemented respect from a critical audience. And now it’s come to this. The Tourist. Boringly predictable and occasionally incoherent, The Tourist gives Jolie and Depp the opportunity to spend some time in Venice, dress in overly elegant clothes, and be some mildly different version of their publicly banal selves.
3D film is a gimmick. It doesn’t contribute in any regard other than the visual experience, and despite all the current hype, it’s a one-trick pony that seems to have been mostly explored. That’s not to say everything has been done, but ultimately the 3D experience has only so much to offer. With this in mind I was actually excited by the prospect of Piranha 3D. If 3D film is a purely visual device with essentially zero regard for story, then it stands to reason that the perfect platform for this technology is a film like Piranha; an over-the-top celebration of boobs and blood. Much like pornography the film is quite apparently unconcerned with story, doing just enough to get you to the next massacre. I was eager to see how this would play out and came into the film with high hopes. Much like the endless hotties dancing on boats, those hopes got really drunk, took off their tops and were promptly eaten alive.
I never watched the show. Mr. T was the only aspect that seemed at all intriguing, and he just wasn’t enough to pull me. And the chafing part of watching The A-Team in theaters is how much of a problem that became. Without an understanding, without an awareness of the minor characters and the relationships and the dated sense of humor, this film becomes work. There’s an ever-present potential for reference, which means the under prepared viewer is never able to settle down and simply have an experience. An experience which, besides it’s desperate obligation to the source, is mostly scrambled and frenetic. Like most of the summer movies you’ve ever seen, the first priority of The A-Team is to bombard you with action. I’m not sure what it is about these productions that precludes the possibility of spectacular action AND an enjoyable story. Certainly it’s not as though we’ve never seen it before (A couple Mission Impossible movies, a few James Bond‘s, the Bourne flicks, etc.), but whatever the logic, The A-Team is definitively just one piece of the pie, ghosting everything else and smirking, as it inevitably and perhaps appropriately, makes stupid amounts of money.
Whatever happened to movies like Psycho and The Birds? Alfred Hitchcock is lauded as one of the horror/thriller genre’s most significant forebears, yet there seem to be no attempts made by modern day Hollywood to recapture his unique approach. These films were effecting in their lack of blood and guts, yet somehow the genre has come to entirely ignore that concept, leaving us with a trend of gory one-upmanship. Scary movies no longer leave anything to the imagination (unless the MPAA insists on it), and the supposed thrill that an audience gets from seeing so much human destruction takes utter precedence over the kinds of subtleties Hitchcock tended so masterfully. Nightmare on Elm Street lives safely in this trend; an absurd, callow, unoriginal assemblage of grisly vignettes with no obligation to story or plot or character development or, well, anything that might make a movie worth your nine bucks. To put it another way: I want my nine bucks back.
Clash of the Titans is a train wreck; a 180 million dollar plus train wreck, where the train is painted bright red with flames on the side, and filled with thousands of faceless extras, and the sky is wholly computer generated for no good reason, and Sam Worthington is the conductor, and he’s yelling…a lot.