Blogging. So I’m going to try blogging now. Okay, let’s go. Off to a great start.
Shoot, let me start over.
I’m going to be writing about movies and stuff, because it’s something I can do and I’m sick of RottenTomatoes’ janky-ass site. That’s right, I will use words like ‘ass’ on my blog. Check mate, Roger Ebert (God rest his soul).
I’ll start with something easy. Something that’s fun to write…like movies from this year I thought were pretty bad that other people kind of liked! That’s a good way to get people on my side, right? Right?
Whatever, nobody’s reading this anyways. Yet. (P.S. Minor spoilers for some of these. Whatever man.)
Warm Bodies (February 1st)
Most movies that come out towards the beginning of the year will get praised as long as they have something to make them stand out. I mean, what was Warm Bodies up against? The most notable movie to come out around that time was Movie 43, so I rest my case. As a result of all the inevitable January/February crap, Warm Bodies came in #1 at the box office, which is great on a conceptual level because more movies with crazy original plots like a zombie who falls in love with a living girl deserve some level of recognition. But the film also happened to receive a ton of positive reviews from critics (getting up to an 81% on RottenTomatoes), which makes it 2013’s first critical success. Which makes me wonder, did all the reviewers get up and leave after the first hour without telling anyone?
Because exactly half-way through the movie, I was baffled by just how quickly the movie went from being a sweet and original romance with a fun sense of humor (courtesy of writer/director Jonathan Levine, who was hot off of 50/50), to being a complete wreck that seemed to forget what kind of movie it wanted to be. Suddenly and cruelly, all the freshness is drained away and replaced with an intensely cliched and predictable thriller complete with out-of-left-field skeleton monsters that wield the frightening and deadly powers of terrible CGI. Then you have the fact that the protagonist makes his first impression by killing his love interest (Teresa Palmer)’s boyfriend (Dave Franco, no less!)
Not once for the rest of the movie is this brought up. They live happily ever after but all I kept thinking was “you saw him murder your hot boyfriend! You should be traumatized for life! You’re clearly a sociopath!” There’s also a makeover scene in which a zombie takes a shower while M83’s classic song Midnight City blares, by far the most hipster moment I’ve seen in a movie this year (and I’ve seen all of Prince Avalanche). Even John Malkovich can’t save the mess this movie devolves into. It’s a bummer too, because I was really enjoying myself. What was I thinking, movies with zombies can never be original!
Iron Man 3 (May 3rd)
Alright, so of course right now I’m picking a fight with one of the most beloved franchises of the last decade and 2013’s highest-grossing movie. And I’ll say straight up, Iron Man 3 isn’t bad at all! It’s perfectly watchable. It’s especially hilarious, continuing to cement my suspicion that these movies are slowly becoming pure comedies with as much action as the budget allows tacked on for good measure. The problem is, when I wasn’t completely charmed by how funny everything RDJ says is, I was pretty bored. Like I was going through the motions. Like Marvel keeps checking off the same boxes in every movie. They wouldn’t do that, would they?
There are three major action scenes, and they’re broken up by slow skits in which Robert Downey acts like he did in the last two movies (plus The Avengers). The first action scene is basically just his house being destroyed, which is pretty much 100% special effects and thus contains no sense of excitement. The second takes place in and around an in-flight airplane, which is the best scene in the movie, but ends rather abruptly. Fun fact: the second time I watched this movie was on an airplane, and they completely omitted this entire scene, as I can imagine it would be rather unnerving to watch a bunch of people getting sucked out of a hole in a plane and then watching the plane explode while mid-flight.
Then you have the villain problem, which is the best thing but also the worst thing about the movie. It’s great that director Shane Black took risks by throwing a curveball at the plot and also satirizing movie super-villains (the one time the movie doesn’t play it safe), but this is thrown aside pretty quickly, and the movie’s actual threat is rather convoluted. We have nerdy Guy Pierce (whose story arc is ripped straight out of The Incredibles) and a bunch of people who can explode themselves (?) lead by a woman whose major distinguishing feature is a scar on her face. I didn’t think any of this was compelling, and the waves of dissatisfaction are hitting me again as I write this.
At least the final battle is explosive enough, though the whole thing takes place at night which felt like a special effects cop-out, and the requisite ‘major-character-dies-but-then-is-saved-because-of-course’ felt particularly groan-worthy. Again, it was a fine way to eat popcorn, but with the amount of critical and commercial success it got, I almost feel bad that I disliked quite a bit of it.
Elysium (August 9th)
I have to admit, I felt kinda bad ripping in to the two previous movies. They were well-intentioned, and pretty entertaining at points. Elysium is a different story.
Now, it’s true that a lot of reviews argue that the movie is a step down from Neill Blomkamp’s previous film, the now-classic District 9. I find this accumulating sentiment to be the biggest understatement of the year. It isn’t a big step down. It’s falling down the entire staircase. In fact, it’s falling down an up escalator.
Elysium is bad, and what’s strange is that the things that are bad about it aren’t even subtle! Jodie Foster has the most embarrassing performance of the year, straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Blomkamp’s bud Sharlto Copley was a little more believable at being evil, but his character was completely unnecessary and ultimately unimportant.
Then we have Matt Damon, who lives among the poor Latino people on Earth while all the rich white people who look exactly like Matt Damon live in space where every single person seems to own a machine that easily cure diseases but not one exists on the entire planet. It’s already offensive that they had to cast Matt Damon as a Latino because of course a Latino actor couldn’t be expected to save the world (or rake in the box office cash), but what’s more offensive is how simplistic the social commentary is layered on. District 9 wasn’t much better, but at least it had a funny lead performer and some truly great special effects, especially considering its budget.
Elysium has nothing to hide its blatant moral message behind but a cliche sci-fi plot with artificial stakes (literally and figuratively), action that feels even more video-gamey than District 9 did, and Jodie Foster making a fool of herself. Many might argue that Elysium isn’t overrated because not that many people would say they ‘loved’ it. I’m still trying to figure out what I should have even ‘liked’ about it.
Don Jon (September 27th)
Like Warm Bodies, Don Jon has an 81% on RottenTomatoes, making me think 81% is some sort of sweet-spot where everybody knows the movie isn’t that good, but they’ll let it go.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and acted in this movie. Impressive, yes. But something had to give. As it turns out, it was the writing.
In fact, JGL ‘s
family-friendly porn-addiction comedy has exactly the same problem as Warm Bodies. It starts out really strong, with a hilarious swagger and bro-skewering attitude that has its cake and eats it too. It also has Scarlett Johansson, which never hurts. But yet again, half-way through it turns into a ridiculously cliched romance that runs out of jokes and tries to lay on some very insincere emotion.
Enter Julianne Moore, who has the comedic timing down but is also one of the weirdest casting choices of the year. She isn’t given much to work with, though. The film only really gives her two lines of character development towards the end (pretty much the same as in Gravity, but without all the cool effects and excellent directing to distract you from how awkward it feels). The climax of the film revolves around Moore’s character telling Gordon-Levitt’s character what his problem is, and then JGL agreeing with her, and boom! He’s solved! If I was a porn addict, I might even be offended by how easy the movie made it seem.
But like normal people, I’ve never looked at porn in my life. Don’t even really know what porn is. Needless to say, the movie made no sense to me.
American Hustle (December 20th)
Ah yes, the Moby Dick of movies that everyone loves but I didn’t. That analogy works for everything, I swear.
American Hustle has a 94% at the moment on RottenTomatoes, with an 84% audience score. The New York Film Critics Circle named it 2013’s Best Picture. It’s sure to rack up even more awards for its multiple cast members. There is always one acclaimed big end-of-the-year film that I dislike. Last year, that film was Silver Linings Playbook, which came from the same director, and also starred Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
David O. Russell knows how to direct actors. He’s the best in the business in that regard. That’s why Silver Linings received Oscar nominations in all four acting categories last year, and why Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both won for The Fighter (which remains my favorite O. Russell movie). This movie is no different – the cast elevates it to such an extreme. Literally every cast member, from the majors of Bale, Adams, Lawrence, Cooper, and Renner, to minor roles such as Michael Pena and Louis C.K., are exceptional and often hilarious.
In my opinion, the big problem is that the rest of the movie couldn’t keep up with the performers. At times the story moved at breakneck speeds, but paradoxically always felt like a drag. A good word is exhausting. The twisting story, which consists of one lie and betrayal after another, eventually felt like total overkill. We get it, everybody lies, and lies cause problems. This is demonstrated to me every day in real life. Tell me something new.
O. Russell loves playing around with dysfunctional families, blood-related or not, but the crazy crime family he puts together here gets annoying fast. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street demonstrates how to create a completely repulsive, amoral character and somehow make the audience still want to always be around him. In American Hustle, I felt like I wanted to get away from almost every character as soon as possible. The film does not allow for that. You get a lot of all of them.
Especially Amy Adams’ side-boob, but I’m not going to chalk the film down for that. Sometimes more is more.
Phew. Anyways, those were five moves I saw this year that I felt got more praise than they deserved, in no specific order. Of course, I’d be completely willing to believe that maybe I’m crazy and these are all great movies.
By the way, whoever made the posters for Don Jon is the worst poster designer in the business. Was it you, JGL? I bet it was him. Dreamy AF.