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Ten Disappointing Movies- A Mexican Standoff

If there’s one thing film nerds can be accused of, it’s perhaps letting themselves get their expectations a little too high when it comes to the craft they love. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. If The World’s End winds up stinking, I am going to absolutely devastated, and probably inconsolable, liable to be lured out of my sorrow cocoon only by high-quality chocolate and cuddles.

Comic book movies get the blunt end of this stick especially, and I’m going to try my best to prevent this list from getting overwhelmed with spandex and Shakespearian actors collecting a hardy paycheck. Because of this Iron Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 will not be appearing on this list. But they’ll probably be on the next one.

Also not on this list is Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, as that is the easiest cop-out answer to this question. That being said…

Pearl Harbor Movie Poster

10.)    Pearl Harbor

I truly think Michael Bay gets way more crap than he deserves. Outside of the absolutely abysmal Transformers franchise, almost everything he’s helmed has been nothing short of at least entertainingly assembled. The Rock is a fantastic film, getting a strange buddy cop duo out of Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage, of all people. And now that I have officially gotten rid of all of my Internet cred, I can finally say that Pearl Harbor is a piece of crap. Not that I was expecting an awful lot from a Michael Bay movie about one of America’s great tragedies, but I at least expected it to be about Pearl Harbor, and not the dopiest romance of all time between Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale that involves one count of having sex in a parachute and could have entirely been solved if Affleck had just sent a letter saying that “No, I am not dead. Please don’t have sex with Josh Hartnett.”

FUN FACT: This movie currently holds the record for most explosions. They could have leveled a small country with half of the firepower used to make this dreadful movie.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

9.)    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher is one of our finest working directors, responsible for such great films as Se7en, Fight Club, and The Social Network, and it’s his wonderful direction that saves this film from being totally worthless. That, and a very solid turn by Rooney Mara as a fetishist’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Working from some pretty lackluster source material, Fincher does the best he can, but we expect more from him nowadays, or at least a Kevin Spacey cameo. What we got was a pretty poor mystery (she was in the trunk the whole time) crafted from a very obvious piece of author surrogacy about a misunderstood writer that has two beautiful women pursue him for no explicable reason besides the fact that he is played by Daniel Craig, and Daniel Craig is hunky. Plus, rape.

Paul Movie Poster

8.)    Paul

Shaun of the Dead is my favorite film of all time, and Hot Fuzz is a worthy contender for that belt. I’ve come to expect a lot from the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost team of British witticisms, as mentioned previously in my excitement for The World’s End, and Paul just doesn’t hold up. Not that it’s a baaaaad film, per say, but it’s certainly not up to the usual standards, and is oddly and unnecessarily critical of organized Christianity. It’s a strange subplot to have in a movie with this many weed jokes. I blame this on the absence of director/co-writer Edgar Wright, who sat this one out to make Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which I recently proclaimed to be the greatest comic book film of all time). Even with a cast stacked with Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, and Bill Hader- among others- Paul was really just a letdown.

Knocked Up

7.)    Knocked Up

The Judd Apatow brand of comedy took the multiplex by storm after 2005’s hilarious and incredibly successful The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up was poised to take that mantle again. And despite being phenomenally received by critics and ending up on many year’s end Best Of lists, I can’t help but find Knocked Up to be really a misfire. Holding up much better as a drama than a comedy, the movie ends up being incredibly sexist with all of the women depicted as conniving shrews, and is just another in an endless parade of movies where a pudgy, roly-poly guy ends up with a  hot chick. But I don’t know why he’d want to. She’s very unpleasant.

Step Brothers

6.)    Step-Brothers

Will Ferrell was king of movie comedy for a short time. Anchorman is still one of the most quotable films of all time, and Talladega Nights was alright. Step-Brothers, however, is a total misfire. Clocking in around or over two hours depending on which cut you watch, director Adam McKay is in dire need of a proper editor, with many scenes going on long past they stopped being funny. It’s also an exercise in simple humor, with one joke stretched to the entirety of the picture. It’s two forty-year-old dudes acting like profane eight-year-olds for two hours. And that’s it. Two hours of characters that don’t change, and end up not learning anything at the end. This also marks the moment where I became really sad about the state of John C. Reilly’s career. He’s such a talented actor in films like Magnolia and Boogie Nights, and I hate to see him wasted on Ferrell’s slow descent into nonsense.

Green Zone Poster

5.)    Green Zone

The director-star team of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon gave us two really great Bourne films, a fact I acknowledge aside from the fact that it started all this shakey-cam action nonsense I mentioned in my Man of Steel review. Greengrass also netted us the phenomenal and heart-stopping United 93, so it seemed as if Green Zone could not have possibly failed. We were so wrong. Green Zone is not only preachy, it’s a sermon, with Matt Damon not so much playing a character as he is playing Every American Soldier Ever. The movie is a mess and will not leave you alone with its message, even if you agree with it. Want to know exactly what I’m talking about? The movie ends with an Iraqi citizen shooting two men, looking Matt Damon dead in the face, and saying, “You have not say what goes on in Iraq.” That’s just bad writing.

Burn After Reading Brad Pitt

4.)    Burn After Reading

The Coen Brothers are two finest filmmakers in history, with their highs like Fargo, Barton Fink, and The Big Lebowski rising amongst the upper-echelon of film history. With No Country for Old Men, they finally won their Academy Award. The Coen Brothers could do anything. And they chose to do this crap. Burn After Reading is a film stuffed with confusion, and not the fun Inception kind. None of the characters have many motivation, and the performances suffer for it, with even storied actors like George Clooney, Frances McDormand, and Richard Jenkins really phoning it in, the only exception being Brad Pitt, who is phenomenal. I get that the Coens were trying to bring us a message about endings and narrative structure, but sometime messages are just dumb.

The Hobbit

3.)    The Hobbit

Please don’t compare this to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It will only make you sad. Everything about this looked great for a time. Guillermo del Toro may have dropped out (I truly think his Hobbit would have been one for the ages), but that meant we got Peter Jackson back, who did a real number on the original trilogy. And we had the perfect Bilbo! Martin Freeman is a joy in the role and absolutely nails it in a movie that deserves far worse. Then we heard that the one simple children’s book that comprises the Hobbit was going to be divided into three movies, perhaps the worst narrative decision in recent memory. The movie is so absolutely stuffed with filler that it’s hard to tell what’s even important that is happening here. The short answer is nothing. With the exception of lip service appearances from Gandalf, Saruman, and Galadriel, we only get to know two of the characters, the first being Bilbo, the second being Thorin Oakensheild (who suffers after the production team made the suspect decision of making him sexy). That leaves twelve whole members of our venturing party that I can’t even identify by name, much less tell you anything about him. This movie also commits my cardinal fantasy movie sin of making the old dwarf really good at fighting, Yoda style. All of my problems with this film can be surmised by the rock giants sequence which A) Does not advance the plot, B) Does not teach us anything, C) Looks really pointlessly expensive, and D) Is bloody pointless! Needless to say, I am not excited for part two, which features even more filler in the form of a romance subplot for an elf princess we haven’t met yet. Sigh…

man of steel henry cavill

2.)    Man of Steel

You can read all the reasons this one was disappointing in my review. To boil it down the short version: A great cast is wasted, the camera work was bad, there was far too much pressure on this movie to be good and it wasn’t, the climax is irresponsibly destructive, the acting is bad, the flashbacks are silly and unstructured, and oooooooh boy is there no emotion or levity in this film whatsoever.

Lincoln Movie

1.)    Lincoln

I understand fully that I am the only person on Earth that didn’t like this movie. I have gathered that. But I really think this movie is dreadful. Don’t get me wrong, Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal in the titular role, but a good performance does not a good movie make. Not when the script is this bad. Lincoln himself is hardly relevant to the plot at all, only marginally involved with the events going on, and drawing more comparisons to the Anthony Hopkins role in Amastad than I think Spielberg wanted. That and Abe is just annoying, breaking off into long and pointless stories that made me want to scream. I get that his is very historically accurate to Lincoln himself, but I’m all in favor of tossing out accuracy in favor of better entertainment value. Plus, Spielberg was fine with changing which states voted which way for the sake of dramatic tension, so for the sake of my sanity could we not cut out all of his stupid stories? Lincoln is rife with one-dimensional characters that have the Green Zone problem of being representatives of ideas far more than they are characters. And none of them change, save for maybe Tommy Lee Jones, which explains why he is easily the best part of the movie. With poor plotting, a Joseph Gordon-Levitt subplot that just doesn’t work, and a weird sense of humor that causes us to cut from battles about slavery to fat people falling down, Lincoln is easily one of the most disappointing movies ever, especially since it comes from Spielberg- the movie director.

Oh! And that distracting cinematography! I could go on…

Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and current writer of apology letters to everyone who liked Lincoln so damn much. Tell me how wrong I am in the comments. Also, subscribe or follow above to continue being frustrated with me.

Keep coming back for more of these Mexican Standoffs, a weekly dose of The Good Stuff, and reviews of top movies and television.

You can also find Kevin on Twitter.

Have an unexpected journey!

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12 thoughts on “Ten Disappointing Movies- A Mexican Standoff

  1. Thank God for Knocked Up being on that list. Ugh. I hate that movie.

  2. Oh my god, I thought I was alone in hating Lincoln! I mean, I had virtually no feelings one way or the other on the movie itself, but everything was so dark all the time, and while I understand that they were trying to set a theme (or whatever), it mostly just made it really difficult for me to see.

    • And there were so many scenes that were shafts of light only shining over Lincoln’s eyes. As my scriptwriting teacher said, “Could you be drawing any more attention to yourself?”

      Of course, Day-Lewis was great, but he doesn’t get points for that any more.

      I thought I was the lone hold-out against this film, but it’s great to find a common ally.

      • I love Daniel Day-Lewis, which is a large part of the reason I categorize this movie more as ‘not as good as everyone says’, rather than ‘bad’. His performance didn’t make me forget about the ill-formed secondary characters, though: I felt like there were characters who were shuttled off places just to get them out of the way, which is bad enough in TV but really should not be happening at all if you can write them out.

      • If a character is causing you trouble in something that is only two hours long, is it not more sensible to simply remove them?

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