Even the biggest of stars can make a turkey now and then
I’ve been a crafty film critic over the decades, which means I have learned to avoid movies that look horrible in the coming attractions. Of course some movies featuring major stars and high profiles simply can’t be avoided.
What, you think professional film critics aren’t allowed to let their personal preferences decide which movies to see and review? Sorry to disappoint but we are human, which means that while we strive to be objective once the lights go down, personal preferences can slip from our subconscious mind to our fingers on the keyboard when the lights come up.
Here then is my list of the movies that range from repugnant to forgettable, with a few seeking and finding mediocrity in between. There is at least one movie on this list that will shock my fellow moviegoers, so I will state my prejudice up front: I absolutely despise movie musicals that sing constantly, including the dialogue. The movies are listed in alphabetical order. My rating system is four stars to bomb.
Battleship — If you expected something outstanding from a movie based on a popular game, what have you been smoking? Liam Neeson fans, beware: it’s the old bait and switch tactic as he has barely more than a cameo role in this alien invasion saga that stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker. Directed by Peter Berg (Very Bad Things, Hancock), the action sequences look like they could be outtakes from the Transformer movies. If that excites you, this is the movie for you. Otherwise it’s lame and forgettable. *1/2
Dark Shadows — There is something so sad about a movie that wants to be funny and isn’t. Dark Shadows is exhibit one, another collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, a union that has produced excellent results in the past (Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland) and some misfires (Sweeney Todd). The movie plays its vampire parody elements dead straight, The movie just sits there flat and boring, with the energy of the actors in lock down mode thanks to laugh lines that get no laughter and a storyline that never goes anywhere interesting. *
Hope Springs — Not horrible, this movie makes the list because with this cast, it should have been better. Oscar’s grand dame Meryl Streep teams up with Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell in a mildly amusing contemplation of a 31-year marriage on life support directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada), This would be a Lifetime movie with a lesser cast, and even with this amazing trio, it drags along with only the occasional moments of honest insight. **
Killing Me Softly — While one admires Brad Pitt for his desire to make small, independent movies, his taste in said endeavors has often been bad. A prime example is his latest film, Killing Them Softly, an awful drama that pretends it is a mob action movie when in fact it is a boring, meaningless talk-a-thon. Writer-director Andrew Dominik would have faded away after his title-challenged western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, except that he has an influential friend in his corner, Pitt. That explains why he was allowed to make another movie. Bomb.
Les Miserables — As noted in the introduction, I hate a musical that even sings the dramatic dialogue, but I’ll leave the critique to my mother, who I unfortunately dragged to this movie with me. She turned to me when the lights came up and said, “That is a movie you endure, not one you enjoy.” **
Red Dawn — Usually when a film has been finished and has been sitting on a shelf for years, it is because the executives know it stinks. Red Dawn, a remake of the right-wing John Milius drama from 1984 that starred Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen, was shelved because of MGM’s financial woes. Starring Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck, after the United States is invaded by North Korea, a gang of teenagers become resistance fighters known as the Wolverines. Totally forgettable.**
Rock of Ages — Despite a mildly entertaining performance by Tom Cruise as a pampered, sexed-up and boozy rock idol, this screen adaptation of the Broadway musical is a major disappointment, coming as it does from director Adam Shankman, who did such a fabulous job bringing Hairspray to the big screen. Your average music video has more visually interesting moments than most of the big musical moments in this bland, forgettable film. And while Cruise can sing, that is not enough to save the movie. *1/2
This Means War — Director McG and his trio of writers decided to try and spiff up the romantic comedy genre by mashing it together with an action comedy. Despite a talented trio of protagonists in Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, This Means War is a movie that fails to provide even a hint of reality around the edges in its tale of CIA spies who fall in love with the same girl and use their spy tricks to try and win her. Pine proved he had star potential when he took the center chair as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot and Hardy is a rising star via Inception, Warrior and The Dark Knight Rises, but they should avoid comedy — at least with a script this insipid. As for Witherspoon her career hasn’t exactly been soaring since her Oscar win for Walk the Line in 2006. **
The Watch — When an R-rated comedy full of scatological references falls down completely, those sexually suggestive attempts at humor seem particularly painful and ugly. This movie is so stupid and useless, it didn’t for a moment reflect on any behavior that seemed remotely plausible. The film eventually veers into sci-fi territory and while hilarity is supposed to ensue, what we get instead is bad sci-fi mixed with bad comedy and a Guinness World Record for the number of times the male anatomy is mentioned in a single movie. The Watch is about as funny as a kick to the balls ... over and over again. Rating: Bomb
Wrath of the Titans — A bad sequel to the enjoyable Clash of the Titans, the fantasy sequences are big and loud and completely devoid of any character. They are by the book and we are talking a very bland, forgettable book. **
What movies did you feel were a waste of time and money? Tell us which movies you hated by adding a comment below.
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There is something so sad about a movie that wants to be funny and isn’t. 'Dark Shadows' is exhibit one, another collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, a union that has produced excellent results in the past ('Edward Scissorhands,' 'Alice in Wonderland') and some misfires (Sweeney Todd).
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