The past two months have been a constant barrage of bad DVDs being pelted at me from all sides. I usually don’t bother with the bad ones if I can find 5 movies with something to offer the audience (my readers) or if there’s a little hype and I have something to say about it then I’m fine, but these are bad movies (four of them are horrible). So I waited and I waited for something good to come to go with these and found one but before I could post it, I got hit with another.
So here are 4 terrible movies, one good one, one weird one, and one other one.
To the list…
The To Do List (CBS Films)
Written & Directed by Maggie Carey
The To Do List is supposedly the female equivalent to the raunchy, male, coming-of-age sex movie. You know the ones I mean. The nerd who wants to lose his virginity before college sets out to find the one woman who will sleep with him.
Aubrey Plaza is the nerd in question. The one who wants desperately to lose her virginity. PROBLEM: Aubrey Plaza is hot as fuck and would have absolutely no problem (is there a sign-up sheet?) finding someone to do her. So she makes a list of all the sexy things she wants to do before college. Having no idea about anything sexual, she just lists things she heard about and proceeds to check them off one by one. End. Roll credits.
The To Do List is rarely funny. There are maybe two or three good laughs. And it has no message. Even the most raunchy coming of age films hit the audience with a message at the end.
I loved the casting in this movie. Loved all of these people in other things but The To Do List just wasn’t that good. Personally, I think National Lampoon would have done it better, with a big-breasted playmate pretending to be a bookish virgin and having sexual misadventures while hapless boys follow her like puppies. With no message, no moral, a great cast and a well-meaning gender flip on the raunchy coming-of-age theme, it felt like a waste of my time in the end.
There was just nothing new here.
Skip it. (It was fun to see Aubrey doing sexy things but not if she’s playing a teenager. She’s 30 for fuck’s sake)
Next on the chopping block…
The Heat (20th Century Fox)
Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Katie Dippold
Starring Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Dan Bakkedahl, Taran Killam & Michael McDonald
The Heat is yet another movie with no idea what it wants to do with its extremely likeable stars. Thinking that just having likeable stars is enough of an idea for a movie. But it is not. The Heat is bad.
There are continuity problems galore, like when they allow Melissa McCarthy to improvise and they end up using part of one take and part of another take and maybe part of a third and the props go back to earlier positions. It looks like a sloppy student film with mega stars.
Much of the script appears to be written on set. Not just the improvising but the plot as well. This is bad filmmaking. Judd Apatow has proven that it is the best practice to let funny people improv a line reading but not an entire scene. Because nothing is the same from shot to shot.
Especially when Melissa McCarthy is playing with the scenery. She is very funny. She outshines Sandra Bullock. (And I like Sandra a lot) but it looks like they just pointed the camera at her and wrote a film around whatever she ended up doing. I can’t stand sloppy filmmaking. This is the sloppiest major film I’ve seen in a long time.
Skip it. (It’s not worth the few chuckles it manages to elicit)
The World’s End (Universal Pictures, Focus Features)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan & Rosamund Pike
The World’s End is a bad idea, badly executed and hard to watch. I have seen buddy comedies that turn into alien invasions before but Done… Much… Better.
I usually like Edgar Wright but it is painfully obvious that they phoned this shit end. There’s no script and no jokes. The characters are unlikable and the premise is for crap. And by the time the aliens come, I’m rooting for them to kill these awful, awful people.
The World’s End is chock full of plot holes and theme-holes and the robots go from hard to kill, to easy to kill, back to hard. The robots are fragile porcelain dolls and then are menacing terminators from one scene to the next.
The movie starts with what feels like an hour long description of a night that epitomizes the phrase “You had to be there.” We should have been there. Instead of having it described to us for soooo long. And then at the end we get (((SPOILER ALERT))) some pollyanna, bring-back-the-dead crap that makes absolutely no sense. Not only did they all just blow up in front of us but right after that EVERYTHING blew up. This, mind you, is moments before they bring them all back. You can’t take that shit back, man.
This is what really bad writing looks like. The World’s End is a joke of a movie from people I used to respect. What a waste of time.
Skip it. (Go rent Hot Fuzz & Shawn of The Dead. Edgar & Simon have let us all down)
This next one’s not that bad actually…
The Lifeguard (Screen Media Films)
Written & Directed by Liz W. Garcia
Starring Kristen Bell & David Lambert
The Lifeguard is good for what it is. It’s the low-budget, well-written but poorly directed story of a woman in early life crisis. Much like in The World’s End, the main character returns to her hometown to relive her glory days. But in this one, she starts a romance with an underaged boy.
This is not a comedy but it’s also not too heavy a drama. It is the right amount of whimsy and sexy and preachy. I liked it. The problem with The Lifeguard is with the pacing and the editing. It is just so badly directed. The performances are adversely effected by it. And like with most writers directing their own scripts, the actors are allowed to just recite the words. It’s not bad acting, it’s bad directing.
So I liked the story. I liked the dialogue. I liked the actors. But the editing, the pacing, the performances and the camera work each at times made me want to turn the movie off. But in the end, it is a decent presentation of a good script. Now if someone would just make a good movie out of it you’d have something worth watching.
Skip it. (Kristen Bell’s body is the best thing about the movie)
Let’s keep the shit parade going…
The Family (Relativity Media)
Directed by Luc Besson
Written by Luc Besson & Michael Caleo Based on Malavita by Tonino Benacquista
Starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, Tommy Lee Jones & John D’Leo
I wanted to like The Family but it never really got off the ground. You spend most of the movie waiting for the shootout.
The two kids were pretty cool and I wish they had concentrated more on their High School high jinx. But for most of the film the characters are over the top and almost cartoonish versions of the mob family. There were quite a few Bugs Bunny moments.
And The Family is not very funny. Robert De Niro is fantastic in comedies but is not even likeable in this. Michelle Pfeiffer is very good in other things as well, but she is a cartoon character in this one. The kids were truly the only sympathetic characters and I was left wishing it were a young adult film about the mob kids. Bring on the mob kids movie.
Skip it. (There are a lot of funny mob movies. This is not one of them)
And now for something good…
Despicable Me 2 (Universal Pictures)
Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Written by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio
Starring Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan & Ken Jeong
This is a fun and funny movie. Just pure joy to watch. A great fucking family film.
I love this movie. I think I smiled all the way through it. It’s a good story. Good characters. A nice romance. A great adventure. So much cute. (It’s so Fluffy!!!) The Minions are awesome.
Steve Carell is great. Kristen Wiig is fantastic. A really good animated sequel. With good music. Pharrell Williams supplies some original music to each scene. Matching the music style with the theme of the scene.
Despicable Me 2 is a very entertaining animated feature.
Rent it. (Fun for all ages. I had a huge smile on my face the entire time)
Last but not least something… very weird…
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (Edko Films, Magnet Releasing)
Written & Directed by Stephen Chow & Derek Kok
Based on the novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en.
Starring Huang Bo, Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, Show Luo & Chrissie Chau
First thing I thought after finishing Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons was that Stephen Chow had lost his damn mind. But then after finding out that it is loosely based on a Chinese classic novel, I gave him some slack. His movies have always been zany and madcap and just this side of cartoonish but Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is just so weird.
Conquering the Demons is the story of competing demon hunters, the demons they hunt & The Buddha. It is so crazy I couldn’t describe it without charts and diagrams. There’s not a lot of martial arts. A few fighting fight scenes but mostly wire stuff & super powers. Infact, the special effects are not the best I’ve seen but the story is well worth the ride for the fairy tale imagery and the love story and the wacky demons and hunters.
I wished Stephen Chow would do a serious film while watching this; probably the wackiest thing he’s ever done (and that’s saying a lot). I would love to see his character study in a drama. He tells great stories and right beside the slapstick, is always real emotion.
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is just so very strange. It is surprisingly religious at times and even a little scary at others but in the end it is a good story in a really silly package… with subtitles and superheroes.
Rent it. (But do not rent it unless you are ready for the weird and the wonderful)
So to recap…
There were two movies about young love (meaning sex): The To Do List & The Lifeguard. Neither very good.
There were two movies about a family of bad guys trying to be good: The Family & Despicable Me 2. The first not so good. The other probably my pick for Best Animated Feature of the year.
There were two movies about funny people who don’t get along very well but fight evil together anyway: The World’s End & The Heat. Both pretty fucking bad. I mean really fucking bad.
And one movie in a class by itself: Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. That may have given me nightmares but I’m not saying.
And that’s it.
I got a lot of year end folder cleaning to do. So there should be a bunch of posts in a row. (I found the Latin American Directors list. That’s up next)
So I’ll see you guys in a few hours.