Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When bad movies happen to good people

This may seem like an odd choice for a list, but it came to me as I surveyed the rather depressing slate of new releases this weekend in wide-release world.

Though I can finally, and will, go see "There Will Be Blood" again, the other choices just do nothing but make me cringe, which in two cases is a real shame because the flicks star two people who I really like.

Paul Rudd almost managed to walk away with "Knocked Up" even though he was surrounded by a slew of very funny people, but I just don't think there's any way I'll be able to watch him sleepwalk through "Over My Dead Body" this weekend. Likewise, Steve Zahn's performance as Glenn Michaels in "Out of Sight" stands up as one of my favorites, but is there really anything that can be good about "Strange Wilderness," which, as far as I can tell, appears to be a stoner comedy about Bigfoot?

This dose of the January movie blues got me to thinking about actors and actresses I usually like and their most regrettable (in my eyes, at least) movie roles. Here goes:

Billy Bob Thornton
Just how bad was Billy Bob in "School for Scoundrels"? I think the answer can be summed up thusly: Even worse than Jon Heder, who has been basically playing an increasingly lame version of "Napoleon Dynamite" since that extremely likable flick thrust him upon the world. There's just not one good thing I can say about this thoroughly unnecessary Todd Phillips remake, so please don't rent it for any reason whatsoever.

Kirsten Dunst
It feels a little rotten to pick on Ms. Dunst so severely, but a look through her movie resume turned up three movie I just can't stand, even though I still do like her most of the times she turns up in movies. The big three: "Spider-Man 3," in which she looked just as miserable as everyone else in Sam Raimi's disaster; "Marie Antoinette," which was just one of the most empty movies I've seen in many, many years, and "Elizabethtown." In regards to the latter, I have just one question: How in the world could you (the formerly great Cameron Crowe) manage to make a movie in which Kirsten Dunst flirts on the phone whilst taking a bath, and still manage to have it just suck from start to finish?

Tim Roth and Naomi Watts
OK, I haven't seen "Funny Games," Michael Haneke's English-language remake of his own movie, yet, but I've seen the rather wretched trailer so many times now that it feels like I've seen the flick at least twice. I'll never bother to see the real thing, so if you do and there's some redeeming value here that I'm just missing please let me know.

Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston
Did anyone enjoy "The Break-Up"? When it comes to romantic "comedies" I usually have little time for flicks that delight the masses, but here's one case where just about everyone I know just hated watching Vince and Jen yell at each other for 90 minutes. Just an amazingly bad movie.

Paul Giamatti
OK, we're getting into a stretch here of people who it really pains me to include on this list, but when you appear in a movie as bad as "Lady in the Water" I really can't give you a pass. Granted, Mr. Giamatti did work very hard to try and save this, but M. Night's "fairy tale" just had very little wonder to it at all and was, frankly, just a tremendous bore.

Samuel L. Jackson
I decided to give both Sam the man and Christina Ricci a pass for "Black Snake Moan" because, as much as I just detested that Craig Brewer movie, I'm willing to concede that maybe I just didn't get it. With "Freedomland," however, I can state unequivocally that Mr. Jackson just made a horrendous choice. Richard Price has written some fairly great books, but this flick which also starred Julianne Moore just had no business ever getting made.

Catherine Keener
I love Catherine Keener more than just about any actress (except for maybe Laura Linney) in the entire world, but Nicole Holofcener's "Friends With Money" just made me want to claw my own eyes out to make it stop. The duo have made two much better movies in "Lovely & Amazing" and "Walking and Talking," and they're set to collaborate again soon on something that's still just called an "untitled Nicole Holofcener project," so there's plenty of great stuff coming and already here to help wipe this blight from my memory.

Audrey Tautou
I made a pledge to myself to never watch "The Da Vinci Code" which I unfortunately broke once the movie came out on DVD. I really have to learn to trust my instincts a lot more, because although the movie as a whole was one big stinker, watching Amelie just mope her way through it made it all the more painful to watch.

And there you have it. Two that didn't make the cut simply because I still have to end this at some point and go to my paying job were Penelope Cruz in "Vanilla Sky" and Owen Wilson in "The Darjeeling Limited." Please feel free to add any movies that have just made stars you like look really bad, and let me know if there's any reason at all to go see either "Over Her Dead Body" or "Strange Wilderness" this weekend. Peace out.


Richard said...

Sorry, it's Naomi Watts and Tim Roth for "Funny Games" as Watts is lead, Roth is supporting. Must an actor always have to be listed before an actress?

Bob said...

I had the same reaction when I saw Paul Rudd was going to be in that Eva Longoria crapfest. He's SO much better than that. I'll have to give it some thought on some of the ones I would pick. Giamatti did the best he could in the awful AWFUL "Lady," but Tautou just seemed lifeless in "Da Vinci." What a waste of a great cast. The only one who came off well in that movie was Ian McKellen.
I guess to lift your spirits I'll tell you that I just posted the Bob Award Nominations over at my page and I think you might find they jive more with your views than the Oscars did. Maybe not completely but at least "Zodiac" and comedies not named "Juno" get some recognition, so they're already better than the Oscars.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're certainly right there, Richard ... I usually go out of my way to list the actresses first, but I was a little sleepy when i unleashed this diatribe this morning .. and I'm on my way to check out the Bob awards right now!

Eric said...

I love a good snark fest. Well done. Nothing to add but I do disagree about Marie Antionette. yes it was all fluff and eye candy with really no substance
But it was still fun to watch IMHO
Did you ever get to cloverfield?

Reel Fanatic said...

I did, Eric, and I should have posted some kind of review but didn't bother since the flick has already made more than $40 million by the time I got around to watching it ... Overall, I was surprised by how much I liked it .. The video-camera gimmick didn't bother me too much, and I thought it was mostly a lot of fun to watch .. Some old dude in the back, however, stood up at the end and pronounced it was the worst movie he had ever seen .. I decided to just let him vent rather than to ask why

Chalupa said...

Maybe I'm weird, but I actually liked Marie Antoinette and Elizabethtown. They didn't make my top 10 lists for those years, but I thought they were much better than some other movies I had seen in the same years. I wouldn't describe them as AWESOME, but I still enjoyed watching them.

Reel Fanatic said...

Nothing weird about disagreeing with me, Chalupa, because a lot of fine folks do so all the time .. I wanted to love both of those movies, and while I had some time for Marie Antoinette because it was plenty stylish, I was just thoroughly disappointed by Elizabethtown

Ian said...

Eva Langoria is here in the UK talking up "Over my dead body" and appeared on the Jonathan Ross chat show on Friday where it was pretty obvious it was dire. Ross smiled and tried to talk it up too. Then on Monday night he did his "Film Review" programme and pretty much told us what we already knew from the bad clips we'd already seen - it's a stinker.

Agree with a lot of what you say (especially "Elizabethtown" and "Da Vinci Code") but have to say I enjoyed "Black Snake Moan", although that may be because my expectations going in were so low, and also because it's arguably one of the best "like 3D through a window" HD-DVD demonstration discs out there.

I can't face "Cloverfield". I suffer from motion sickness and wobbly-cam on "Transformers" and the last Bourne movie were bad enough - there are far too many reports of people wanting to throw up because of the awful shaky camerawork so I'll wait for the shiny disc and watch it on a small laptop instead of the plasma!

Can't think of any "great actor" clunkers except perhaps Michael Caine in "Swarm" (but then I think he's a pretty poor actor anyway, seriously over-rated for reasons I just can't fathom).

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm definitely with you on the shaky camerawork in the last Bourne movie, Ian ... I can understand why it got so much acclaim, and dig almost everything else that Greengrass has touched, but that flick just left me with a tremendous headache too!

Ashok said...

Well, seems I have watched every other movies and to be honest, "Over he dead body" and "Strange Wilderness" are the only two to be seen sadly. Its a dry weekend as last weekend had my favourite director's "There Will Be Blood" which I enjoyed every frame of it which oozes art. Do watch it and I might goto "Michael Clayton" once again and may be "Juno". Lets see. Hoping for better movies to come up. "Pride and Glory", "Righteous Kill" and "88 Minutes (which is finally releasing it seems).

Christopher55 said...

How many years has it been since Redford, Hoffman or Pacino has been in a good movie? Has Nicole Kidman ever been in anything good? I got stuck on New Year's Eve at a small party where the host put on "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." 2007 has bad enough without ending it with Adam Sandler. (I fell asleep, thank goodness.)

I remember when Michael Caine used to be in two or three really bad films in a row then would appear in something terrific.

Hopefully the talented actors you named will rebound.

Reel Fanatic said...

Of the big three you mentioned, Christopher, the only one I could name a recent good movie for was Hoffman, who just made "Stranger than Fiction" a much more delightful movie than it would have been without him .. As for Pacino and Redford, I'm definitely with you there, especially since "Lions for Lambs" was easily one of my worst movie experiences of all of 2007

Vance said...

I actually kinda liked Marie Antoinette too.

I was shocked Paul Rudd was in that Over Dead Body movie. I thought maybe I misrecognized the actor.

Meanwhile, I saw that Funny Games trailer and it's made me sick to my stomach and has given me nightmares since last week. In fact, I'm sick now and I blame sleepless nights (from the trailer) for that.

I know Haneke's "point" to the movie but really, is there a point? Totally sick and disturbing (and I'm usually one to support "artful european" movies) and I think I need therapy (and I've only seen the TRAILER (though I watched the original trailer too)).

Reel Fanatic said...

Had I not seen the trailer or heard what it was about, vance, I probably would have gone to see this one simply on the strength of Haneke's name alone ... I guess you could say the trailer has performed a real public service in convincing people not to see the flick, but I can't imagine that's what they were really going for

Divinity said...

My additions would be Natalie Portman in all the Star Wars prequels, Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her (to reach way back) and Rachel Weisz, Jeremy Irons and Robert Carlisle in the supremely craptastic Eragon.
As I may have mentioned once or twice before, Ms. Dunst manages to suck any enjoyment out of any movie I've seen her in (with the exception of The Virgin Suicides) so I just avoid all her films now.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm certainly with you on Natalie Portman, Divinity, although as bad as those prequels were you really could have picked just about any from those flicks ... and I have to say "Virgin Suicides" is just a flick I like a whole lot and even a little more every time I watch it again

Divinity said...

Oh, I ♥ The Virgin Suicides especially as it also ranks as one of the best book-to-screen transfers - in keeping with the tone and wistfulness of the source material - that I've seen to date.

J. Marquis said...

I would agree that almost everybody in the world hated The Break-up. But I really liked it...I felt like it was something every couple in America should be required to watch before they moved in together.

I think a lot of people (though not you, RF)were expecting a funny romantic comedy with an nice, neat upbeat ending. I admired this film's willingness to keep things real.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're right that I didn't need a happy ending, Mr. Marquis .. I guess what really annoyed me about that movie was that I got no sense at all of why they ever got together in the first place, so I really didn't care if they stayed together or not .. Without even that little bit of investment, the movie was just a waste for me

J. Marquis said...

It's funny you say that, RF. That's how I felt about them getting together in real life...

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