Saturday, December 13, 2008

Top 5 Disappointments of 2008

I'm going to roll out some of my top 5/10/20 lists before the New Year, leading up to my favorite films of the year. This is the first of the series. The following are five films that I was eager to see and while not bad films by any means, each left me terribly disappointed.

note: Valkyrie barely misses the top 5, too bad I wasn't more excited for it in the first place.

#5. (from least-most) Ghost Town

Ricky Gervais is one of my favorite comedians. His British TV shows, The Office and Extras, stand as classics in my mind. I couldn't wait to see how his first job as a lead actor in an American film would go. On top of that I love Greg Kinnear and enjoy David Koepp's writing and directing. I heard great buzz while I was at the Toronto International Film Festival. Although I didn't get a chance to check out there, I went to see it opening night during the wide release. As the film went on I was waiting for it to improve. I kept chuckling here and there, but ultimately kept getting disappointed scene after the scene. My main problem with the film was that it plays it way too safe. I guess expecting normal crude Gervais comedy was too much to ask. The casting choices further hindered the film. While I like Tea Leoni, she has absolutely ZERO chemistry with Gervais. If you get easily offended by the slew of excellent, raunchy comedies this year (Sex Drive, Role Models, Step Brothers, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, Foot Fist Way, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder) I would give this a chance. You may enjoy the cookie-cutter story. Sure the film is cute, with a nice tight screenplay that fulfills what it set out to do, but if you are expecting anything out of the ordinary, skip this film.

#4. Body of Lies

Oh, Ridley Scott. I don't know how I feel about you. In terms of your recent films I loved Black Hawk Down and Matchstick Men, even Kingdom of Heaven. I was underwhelmed by Gladiator and was surprised how bland last year's American Gangster was. Here it is, 2008, Leo's first film since the entertaining Blood Diamond and mob masterpiece; The Departed. I was looking forward to his performance in this film, and he delivered. The problems were elsewhere though. As I noted in my earlier review, the problems I had with last year's American Gangster carry over to this film. I have seen all of this before. It is undoubtedly done well, but the material has been retreaded to death. The best part of the film is Mark Strong, seen in this year's fun gangster romp RocknRolla. He delivers a intense performance as Hani, Leo's go-to man in Jordan. Unfortunately the film stays wrapped up in boring back and forth double crosses with Leo, Crowe and Strong while never really going anywhere. Body of Lies turns out to be a mediocre political thriller that will keep you entertained, but not deliver much to think about.

#3. Miracle at St. Anna

Spike Lee's heist drama, Inside Man, was in my top ten films of 2006. He is a legendary filmmaker that has output some of the most important films of the last 20 years, my favorite being the 1989 classic, Do The Right Thing. How could one not be excited for his next theatrical release, a sprawling WWII epic? Well, turns out there is alot missing. The film has some real promise as it begins with a present-day mystery featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. As we dig deeper to the past, specifically 1944, the problems begin. We tread in scenes that take way longer than necessary to get the point across. For such a long film (160 min.) we never are able to feel the scope Lee intended. It becomes frustrating as the film goes on because there are great moments, they are just very few and far in between. With some tighter editing, and a bit more feeling this could have been a decent WWII film, but instead it just feels like a cheap TV movie.

#2. Quantum of Solace

There is no reason for me to explain why I was excited for this film. It's Bond, James Bond. Unfortunately, after viewing, I wouldn't be surprised if people completely forgot this movie was an addition to the franchise and not a sequel to Crank. It's too bad the latter was better. Note to Marc Forster and Paul Haggis: more action DOES NOT make a movie good. Also, please give us some motivation for actually wanting the villain to fail. The constant widening of his eyes just is not enough for me. I don't even want to go into the reasons why Casino Royale was better, because it is quite apparent. Much of the disappointment comes from the simple fact that this was after that film, and not something like Die Another Day. As a Bond film on its own though, it still falters. Daniel Craig tries hard to give us his best but all the factors around him keep him from doing just that. There is no heart, no soul, no charm, and worst of all, no fun.

#1. Be Kind Rewind

Why, why, why, why was this film not great? I love Michel Gondry, Jack Black, Mos Def, movies, making movies, movies about making movies, and even some freaking Danny Glover. This had all the right ingredients yet it left an awful taste in my mouth. They did get one thing right. The best part of the film is when they make other movies. Gondry uses his wildly inventive mind to create a wealth of different ideas for films. That lasts all of maybe five to ten minutes. What is left is ninety minutes of some of the most boring, uninteresting dialogue of the year. You almost forget Gondry, the brilliant creator of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a modern classic, is behind the camera and the pen. The film meanders around scene after scene until it reaches the most tacked on ending of the year. Let's all hope Gondry puts some more effort in script and direction next time around.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

be Kind Rewind was HILARIOUS when they were making the other movies. Besides that it tried to be too hokie and cute with that queer as fuck ending. Plus Jack Black is by far the most irritating actor in Hollywood and probably to ever be in Hollywood, with the exception of his brilliance in Orange County (where you are supposed to hate the ever living crap out of him) I cannot stand him as an actor.
Casino Royale also bored me so much I have no interest in Quntam of Solace especially that it had crazy hype then came out and no one talked about it.