Contributors: Kristen Ashley, Mark Ashley,
The Matrix: Reloaded
The Wachowskis threw nearly everything into these two bloated and pretentious
follow-ups to their 1999 sleeper hit, including four years and $230 million.
Unfortunately, they forgot to make them fun.
The best moment of the series' concluding entry, Matrix: Revolutions, comes when Keanu Reaves does his one big emoting scene blindfolded. The filmmakers knew that he'd remind us of Quint's description of a shark's dead eyes from Jaws, so they tried (unsuccessfully) to spare the audience the pain of sympathetic embarrassment. For the most part, though, Revolutions dwells on the banal Zion portion of the story. Zion's last defense, apparently, is human-operated walking cannons that look like nothing so much as a metallic version of Steve Martin's gyrating "Wild and Crazy Guy" routine. At about this point, I realized that Trinity had perfectly summed up this year's two Matrix films, and in fact, my entire cinematic year, near the beginning of Revulsions when she succinctly stated, "I don't have time for this shit!"
If one counts this year's two Matrix films as merely the two halves
of one story, that could imply that there is yet another Matrix
film envisioned as part of the trilogy. As Neo is so clearly a Christ
figure, perhaps it is to him I should pray that this never comes to pass.
|Maid in Manhattan
Can a Latina mother promote diversity within the traditionally-male enclave of hotel butlerdom while raising a smart kid and romancing a millionaire? Hey, it's J-Lo. You have to ask? Aside from the stunning incongruity of the use of Paul Simon music, the film's obsessive soundtrack has a song to echo every event, down to J-Lo's need to answer nature's call to the tune of BTO's "Takin' Care of Business." Every punch is telegraphed (or, more appropriately, hand-delivered on a silver tray). Every bit of conflict reeks of contrivance. Every bit of humor falls flat.
I don't even know where to begin here. This is a buddy picture that's gone so awry it actually travels back on itself and becomes slightly humorous. I mean, Harrison Ford fighting Isaiah Washington...and winning? Harrison Ford is painfully unfunny, Josh Hartnett is screamingly unattractive, there is no chemistry between the two (or between the two and anyone else -- I mean, how can anyone make Lena Olin seem sexless? I nearly gagged during the sex scenes, BLECH), the script was hideously clichéd -- yet, you can't help but laugh when you see Ford on a bicycle with a basket on the front. Well, at least it wasted a couple hours on an airplane...
-- Kristen Ashley
Masked and Anonymous
film's politics are muddled. When Fate - dude, it's like, he's the Fate
of the country, don't you get it? - gets out of jail, he boards a rickety
bus crowded with Mexican workers. Crowded for the workers that is: in
the back of the bus sit Bob and Giovanni Ribisi, with all the leg room
in the world. Yep, man of the people, all right. Ribisi rants about revolution
and uprising, and Fate agrees with him. Odd that it's the white man's
burden to raise up the workers. In another scene, Fate talks to the ghost
of a blackface entertainer (who I think was Ed Harris) about past injustices;
the ghost then turns into an African-American janitor. I'm not the pc-police,
but something about these scenes made me feel uneasy, and probably not
in the way they were intended. Did I mention that Bob and band play "Dixie"?
Daddy Day Care: an affront to all things parental, this pointless
exercise made a few bucks, but was completely forgettable. To suggest
that men could run a daycare center better because they "get" that it's
all about the fun is to suggest that women have been doing a BAD job all
along. Philosophical reasoning aside, the film is just plain bowel disrupting,
heart-achingly bad. And
recently, Murphy hit us with The Haunted Mansion, another awful
film that could have easily been written by a computer program using a
few key phrases and requirements: lots of haunted house spooks and a few
butler jokes. Make the leads black instead of white, cast a few kids and
a few veteran theater actors (oh, whither Terence Stamp?) and stir. No,
Haunted Mansion was a complete waste of celluloid. Hopefully this
is the real reason Roy Disney quit.
I don't really have a problem with Eddie Murphy trying to change his
image and become more family-friendly like Bill Cosby. But he forgot to
do one important thing -- be funny.
|Tears of the
This film begs the question: is Monica Bellucci worth dying hard for? For Bruce Willis and fellow Seals sent to rescue her from rebel troops during the Nigerian civil war, the answer is an irreversible yes. Things start going haywire when he refuses to bring her friends along. She slaps him twice, he gets a heroic boner, and the body count rises to levels unprecedented even for a Bruce Willis action film. When someone asks Willis why he changed his mind, he replies: "I'll tell you when I figure it out." One look at Bellucci's cleavage and you can figure out why. The movie's title refers to Bellucci's perfectly lit, snot-filled tears of anguish. Or maybe not. But you can forget looking for subtlety beyond the title. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) wouldn't know subtlety if it sat on his face, wiggled and farted. When he's not underlining war atrocities with overblown, Lion King-ish music, he's prowling the dark, rain-soaked jungle in search of Bellucci's unbuttoned shirt.
Bruce Willis gives his most focused performance yet. He has to. Looking impassive opposite the greatest snot-blower since Diane Keaton is no easy acting feat. The movie ends, surprisingly, with a powerful quote: "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for a good man to do nothing." Well, here's your chance to do something. Be good and avoid this latest product from evil Hollywood.
-- Rolando Recometa
Julie Taymor's movie about Frida Kahlo is gorgeous looking, and intersperses its conventional narrative with surreal and imaginative touches, yet it's reluctant to give us more than a film version of a Greatest Hits album, compressing events of 47 years into a two-hour biopic that is mostly surface veneer. Salma Hayek looks like Frida in her colorful Mexican dresses with heavy necklaces and braids wrapped around her head, but the psychology of her art and the political issues that she cared about are presented only in a very superficial manner. The film's preoccupation with her love affairs and shouting matches takes away from a deeper understanding of her work and the complexity of her character. The sense of triumph seems to be missing from the film -- the result is an experience that is without passion. "It meant nothing," Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) pleads when confronted by Frida about his extra-marital affairs. "It had all the emotion of a handshake." That could also describe the film.
-- Howard Schumann
EVIL MOVIE OF
Top 10 things I hated about The Hours:
1) They ruined a rather beautiful book.
2) The screenplay is one of the worst literary adaptations in movie history. The novel's generally graceful prosaic style is translated to the screen as utterly graceless speechifying.
3) Far more than in even the book (which, too, is dubious in this respect), the film presents Virginia Woolf, one of the finest writers of her era, as little more than a sophomorically morbid proto-goth. Nicole Kidman's performance is almost embarrassing to watch, it's so far off the mark.
4) It's offensively didactic, and thematically heavy-handed. For a film that wants to pose as some sub-Bergman desperation fest, Daldry has the subtlety of Michael Bay.
5) I have truly seen very few actors over-act to the downright cringeworthy degree that Ed Harris does here. I wasn't the only one in the theatre laughing when he thew himself out the window.
6) Philip Glass' score is unrelenting, overbearing, and migraine-inducing.
7) The showy editing style is incredibly distracting.
8) The shots of eggs being cracked and the hotel room flooding (as well as many other lame stylistic touches) are so Film School 101.
9) Julianne Moore's performance looks extremely underdeveloped and one-dimensional in comparison with her much better performance in a similar role in Far From Heaven.
10) Meryl Streep has never seemed more like she's merely going through the motions: "Good, another repressed, depressed woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown; after Adaptation, I thought I might actually have to start acting again!"
-- Josh Timmermann
The League of
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
It pains me to have to criticize this film, as I find Godfrey Reggio to be a genuine, gentle soul whose heart is in the right place, and he has some real insight. It's just a shame that he communicates this much better at speaking engagements than through his filmmaking. His groundbreaking 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi is, in retrospect, a fantastic music video. It sported a great Philip Glass soundtrack, but was somewhat incoherent as a film. His torpid, self-indulgent 1986 follow-up, Powaqqatsi, had another terrific score, but little else. Surprisingly, some 15 years later, Steven Soderbergh decided to pony up the money for the completion of the trilogy. I'd love to know what sold him on the idea. Supposedly describing "Life as War," the film's haphazard imagery and desperate editing produce a fatuously meaningless experience. If you begin to think you see some statement emerging from the stock war footage and the shots of sporting events as mock war, hang on, because you're going to have a hard time tying in the naked babies, tumbling coins, and computer-generated shots of, well, nothing. Rent the DVD, and you get the added bonus of listening to Reggio and Glass tell you, in the supplements, how difficult this film is, and how it may take awhile to "get it." Like its predecessors, it is very nice to listen to, but there's just no "there" there. After hearing Reggio speak in person at screenings of his films, I know he has something to say. Unfortunately, his films seem not to. Pretense, thy name is qatsi.
-- Michael Buck
|The Life of David Gale
This movie was utterly ridiculous. It seemed like the filmmakers wanted it to be an "important" movie that would spur debate on capital punishment across the country. All it spurred from me, however, was eye rolling. I think this was supposed to be an anti-death penalty film, but the anti-death penalty characters were more asinine and childish than those who were supposed to be the movie's antagonists. If the film was intended to further the anti-capital punishment cause, it failed miserably. And even ignoring the implied message, the plot was completely unbelievable, and the "twist" ending was so absurd it left me dumbfounded.
-- Melissa B. Cummings
no way around it -- to succeed in using God as a comic premise, you need
irreverence. But of course, that requires a little bit of courage,
and timidity is the name of the game in Hollywood when it comes to anything
meaningful. So the "comedy" in Bruce Almighty is nothing
but riffs on infantile ideas of cosmic power (the deity as Superman),
while the film espouses the very conventional, dishonest, unreflective
beliefs that it should be ridiculing. I'm sick and tired of this sort
of condescension -- whether I find it in a serious drama or Jim Carrey
fluff, it's still insulting.
The Last Samurai
Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary
Though the trailer touted its Oscar-heavy pedigree, the film delivered nothing more than one of the blandest and most erratic cat-and-mouse films in recent memory. One more reason the Academy should either 1) retain the ability to rescind Oscars, or 2) not allow marketers to use Oscar wins as a selling point without express written consent.
-- Ed Owens
Ham on wry? Actually, The Sloppiness would be a better title. Premise: a few priests remaining in an arcane order fight off neighborhood ghosts and demons only to be undone by the Sin Eater, a fellow who's managed to annoy the Church for several centuries by sending unabsolved souls to heaven because he, well, eats their sins (and mighty good eatin' too, from the look of it!). Now, if that makes any sense at all to you, bring your knife and fork and dive right in. Otherwise, take a dose of Bromo and remember that what goes down can come up.
-- Don Larsson
|School of Rock
I'm familiar with Martin Scorsese's "one for you, one to the pay the bills" approach to filmmaking, but Richard Linklater shames himself here. It's hard to believe that the same guy who made Before Sunrise and Waking Life also made this Kindergarten Cop/Big Daddy-like thing that tries too hard to be funny and cute without ever remotely managing either. Jack Black has to be one of the unfunniest "comic" actors working today. He doesn't crack jokes or deliver humorous lines; he pukes them up, all over the poor kids in this movie and, more importantly, the poor audience.
-- Josh Timmermann
Journeys With George
Far From Heaven
Under the Tuscan Sun
The kind of movie that gives women directors a bad name.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: Thank God Arnold has given up films now. -- Mark Ashley
Love Actually: Actually, not. -- Chris Dashiell
From Justin to Kelly: Of course it's bad, but it's
still way more fun than The Hours. Then again, what isn't
more fun than The Hours? A root canal? -- Josh Timmermann
Luther: A beautifully filmed and episodic biopic for Protestant
Johnny English: Everyone involved with this should be ashamed. -- Mark Ashley
The Human Stain: It would be just as believable if Anthony Hopkins
and Nicole Kidman switched roles.
Down With Love: I propose this movie as a class at UCLA...how to take good concepts and talent and make them all turn to shit. -- Kristen Ashley
Alex and Emma: So now Meathead decides he can do Dostoevsky - as a romantic comedy starring Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson. Please kill me. -- Chris Dashiell
All the Real Girls: Lost in a sea of contrived poetics, this film is too superficial and precious to be fully satisfying. -- Howard Schumann
The Last Samurai: Long, pretentious, boring as hell, with Tom Cruise looking like he's trying to take a dump just to squeeze out a tear or two. Oof. -- Sasha Stone
School: Not funny. Poorly made. Seen it before. They had to know all
along it wasn't going to work, even with Will Ferrell gleefully sharing
his hairy ass with the rest of the world.
Die Another Day: So crap it makes the Roger Moore Bonds look good. -- Mark Ashley
Star Trek: Nemesis: Was there a big demand for a bedroom scene between Riker and Counselor Troi? The plot is a lame mixture of Wrath of Khan and "Mini-Me" from Austin Powers. And a franchise goes out with a whimper. -- Chris Dashiell
The Matrix Reloaded: Backwards. And it misfires. -- Don Larsson
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde: Completely throwaway...so ridiculous it's barely worth comment. -- Kristen Ashley
The Good Thief: Not so much bad per se as merely pointless. I
mean, really, did Bob le Flambeur need to be remade? Wasn't Melville's
version good enough?
Cat in the Hat: Choosing some films as turkeys is almost too easy,
but Meyers' still-born rendition of everyone's favorite fedora'd feline
is so bad that not mentioning it would be criminal.
Kill Bill: Swill. -- Chris Dashiell
This is the proof that you should never give a bubble-gum project to
an "art" director. All you end up with is a mish-mash of fancy film techniques
and weak action sequences scattered through a story bogged down by too
the first few shots are worth watching. After that, it's all downhill
fast. The strange thing about this film is that tries to pass by through
its looks -- as if it has something important to say based solely on the
stark imagery. Sure, there are some interesting images...but after a few
minutes of pointlessness and pretentiousness, nobody cares how great it
Sean Penn suffers mystically. Naomi Watts suffers grievously. Benicio Del Toro suffers guiltily. We suffer Oscar-consciously. Needlessly confusing and pointlessly depressing, the film moves back and forth, in and out, deeper and deeper. Now I know what it feels like to be butt-fucked without vaseline for two hours.
-- Rolando Recometa
And this just in: Worst new word: "Quadrilogy" (as in Aliens DVD). Whatever happened to "tetralogy"? By the way, the original Greek plays that were written in groups of four were supposed to be composed of three tragedies and one satire. Does that explain Alien Resurrection?
And I give hearty thanks to those critics who wasted their
time instead of mine on all the films that I didn't mention. It's a dirty
job, folks, so thanks for doing it!
BLINDED BY THE HYPE
So much depends on expectations. Obviously a film of which I have low expectations can easily surprise me, and one of which I have high expectations can easily disappoint. A lot of expectations come from hype. Hype is something hard to escape. A film that isn’t so bad, such as Swimming Pool, can seem a great failure with the expectations from hype. School of Rock can be more enjoyable without taking thought of how inflated its praise is.
There are plenty of horrible films that don’t get much hype, because they are insignificantly bad. Trying to make a list of the worst movies in a year is therefore difficult, because the movies that I know I won't like, I don't see. There's a good chance that this year's worst movies include Boat Trip, Marci X and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, but there's no need for me to go and prove it. I go to films that I expect to be good, and if they aren't, they often seem worse than they actually are. One factor might be faith in a director: as in Rob Reiner’s forgettable Alex and Emma, Neil LaBute’s rote The Shape of Things, or Matthieu Kassovitz’s inept Gothika. Another factor is the desire for mindless entertainment, where the film turns out to be, in the cases of Bad Boys II and Bulletproof Monk, mindlessly self-important.
the cake this year, due to inflated hype, immense event status, high expectations,
faith in its directors, and hope for mindless entertainment, is The
Matrix Revolutions. Even more so than the earlier sequel, The
Matrix Reloaded, the Wachowskis’ flop of a finale had technical
prowess, archetypal storytelling and a lot of action. It also lacked most
of the wonder, the suspense and the intelligence of the original. The
fact that it failed with critics and fans of the series, but still made
money off some cheated people, makes it a far worse picture than any horrible
thing that crept past the radar of pop significance in 2003.