Monday, December 21, 2009

Man on Film: Worst Films of the Aughts - Numbers Ten Through Six

The List 10 - 6

You've gotten the introduction and the films qualifying for honorable mention. Here is the first half of the top ten.

10. Minority Report - 2002

You might be able to tell by the fact that this is one of two Spielberg-directed films on the list that I might not like Steven Spielberg. While I think he can be a great visual director, his repeated steps up onto his soapbox are tirelessly aggravating to me. Minority Report along with IJ: KoCS are the last two Spielberg movies that I saw in the theater. Each time, I left the theater wanting my time and money back. In the case of Minority Report, I only spent $2 at a bargain theater.

I remember (and this was 7 years ago) sitting in my seat and becoming aggravated by his heavy handed preaching no less than ten minutes into his take on Philip K. Dick's dystopian vision of the future. Getting to watch Tom Cruise non-act his way through the film was brutally painful, something that a more intuitive director would have taken care of by pacing the film more responsibly. Two-plus hours of watching Tom Cruise occupy the big screen has since been added to the Geneva Conventions as a torturous offense. By the time Spielberg was done spelling out what you were supposed to believe with Days of Thunder as his lead, my brain hurt and I felt dumber for having sat through the film.

I'm not sure that I have recovered those lost IQ points, but you readers of the blog who knew me before 2002 might be able to shine a light on that subject. Regardless, Minority Report stole two hours and 15 minutes from my life that I'll never get back, and it brutally raped the memory of Philip K. Dick, further cementing Spielberg's place in the special part of hell reserved for people who take good source material and make turgid, piece-of-shit movies out of them.

9. Max Payne - 2008

Based on the trailer, I really thought this movie had the potential to be a solid dark action flick. Seriously, tell me how this doesn't look like it should be good.

Mark Wahlberg, who was just coming off the ass-kicking, Bronson throwback Shooter (I'm choosing to block out We Own the Night--if I didn't see it, it didn't happen, right?...), looked to have a super-dark, hyper-stylized revenge flick newly added to his resume. Mila Kunis looked super hot and was purported to be kicking ass, and good-looking ladies kicking all sorts of ass is never a bad thing. All looked good.

Then the movie came out. Holy Hell was I dead wrong. Any aesthetic appeal to the film was ultimately deemed irrelevant by the complete lack of anything resembling a story. Absolutely nothing happened other than his family being killed and then his finally starting to get revenge like 90 minutes in. I know video game movies are more often than not going to be awful, but they probably could have ripped the script directly from the game and at least had something happen in the first three-quarters of the movie. I cannot remember a single plot point from the first hour of the film, and that is probably because there wasn't one. This was basically an even more egregious sleight to storytelling in favor of making something look cool than the most effective advertisement in favor or steroid use ever, 300.

Regardless, Max Payne was interminable and just sporadically meandered for 90 minutes until he finally started shooting the people who killed his family. Stupid.

8. Elizabethtown - 2005

I have absolutely loved two Cameron Crowe movies: Say Anything... and Almost Famous. I don't count Fast Times at Ridgemont High because he didn't direct it, even though it is arguably more about him than any of his films other than Almost Famous. Singles and Jerry Maguire were both flawed for many reasons but were not necessarily horrible. Elizabethtown, however, is absolutely terrible.

This is basically a film that consists entirely of rehashed moments from Cameron Crowe's earlier films. Making a film that is basically ripping off your own previous films is reprehensible enough, but he chose Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst as his leads, sealing this film's fate as an unforgivably awful movie. In their hands, even an intelligent script would fall flat, but this is the filmic equivalent to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication, which might be the worst non- Weezer album of the past twenty years, in that it is basically a covers album of one's own greatest hits with shittier lyrics. That it is from the mind of Cameron Crowe, who is capable of much better, makes it all the worse.

The thing is I knew going into it that it was supposed to be awful. I had not heard a single positive reaction to the film. Such a resounding disapproval lowered my expectations mightily. I thought it would be bad. Then I put it in and started watching, and each scene made me more and more angry than the one before it. It is a saccharin exercise in forced self-discovery with no rationale or plausibility to the protagonist's eventual self-actualization. Elizabethtown was a bullshit movie from someone who should know better. It's cloying and melodramatic and gratingly cutesy, all for the sake of trying to generate some feel-good ending, but it's all for naught because this movie blows.

7. House of the Dead - 2003

Uwe Boll had to make the list somewhere, didn't he. Now, unfortunately, I have not seen Alone in the Dark or any of the BloodRayne movies, but I think we can all agree that Uwe Boll is a mainstay on this kind of list. House of the Dead is absolute horseshit. When realizing that this is somehow an adaptation of a video game*, the first question that popped into my mind was, "The video game can't have been this bad, right?"

*I had sex in the decade prior to this film coming out, so why would I know this beforehand?

Seriously, it's a horror movie with no suspense, no rationale behind characters' actions, nothing resembling acting, and no budget. I could bore you with "plot points," but there aren't really any. The characters are supposed to be going to the rave of the century but, having gotten a glimpse of it in the opening minutes of the film, expectations for such a rave are comical as there could be have been no more than 15 people there. It is rare that a film has such a disconnect between what is supposed to be going on within the context of the film and what is actually shown on the screen. Hell, there are little shots from the video game spliced in intermittently to the film despite the fact that there appear to be very few similarities between them.

6. Juno - 2007

In case you missed it the first time I wrote about it, I hated this fucking movie. Watch this trailer, and tell me what about that is going to be good...

(I do realize that the sound isn't synchronized on this one, but the other trailer doesn't get my point across as well.)

Seriously, this movie is godawful. The dialogue is wretched. The characters are nothing more than caricatures. Everything is entirely too cute and precious. Juno is a bottomless pit of precocious witticism in a pregnant teen vessel. There is nothing that even approaches a real moment in the first two-thirds of this film, and when an attempt is made to bring this film back to reality it is all the more irksome because it just drives the point home that this film made no attempt at all to be about real people or real situations.

It is also indirectly responsible for "The United States of Tara," the biggest waste of the talents of John Corbett ever, so there is a tangential reason to hate this even more. That's kind of irrelevant because there is next to nothing redeemable about this movie. The fact that legitimate talent is attached to this film is just more aggravating because they could have been working on something good rather than this trite horseshit.

The fact that there are five movies that I hated more than Juno should have you coming back for the final installment of this series on Tuesday. Happy Jesus Day.


qualler said...

I like how Minority Report is #10 on your worst movies list while it is #10 on AO Scott's best movies list. I normally respect Scott's opinion, but really? The 10th best movie of the decade is Minority Report?

What bothered me about it was how simultaneously futuristic and dirty/grey the future is, according to Spielberg. And way too much Tom Cruise sans PT Anderson inadvertently making fun of him via letting him act totally batshit crazy.

Old Man Duggan said...

Yeah, this whole decade was awful for Tom Cruise. If I had extended the honorable mentions further, he would have found his way up there for Valkyrie, too. If you were curious, the other films shortlisted for the worst of the decade were Troy, Valkyrie, and Love, Actually, all of which were offensive to me as a moviegoer.

qualler said...

Love Actually made me want to cut myself. Unfortunately I couldn't do so because I was on an airplane.

Old Man Duggan said...

I just had a conversation the other night with another person who violently hated Love, Actually, which made me feel a lot better because I thought I was crazy. He saw Crash (Haggis not Cronenberg) the same week, so he was plenty pissed when that week was over.

I fortunately missed the aforementioned Haggis Best Picture winner (although I fully expect that if I had seen it, it would have made this list).

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