10 for ’10 – Most Forgettable

21 12 2010

It’s that time of the year when it’s time to put on the retrospective lens and look back on 2010 for what it was, the good and the bad, for better or for worse. To commemorate my first full calendar year of blogging, I decided to write a series I am calling “10 for ’10”, ten top 10 lists celebrating all things 2010. Half will be devoted to the movies, and half will be devoted to the blogging. Obviously, it will culminate on December 31 with my top 10 movies of the year.

To kick off, I’d like to feature a list that’s not your typical year-end top 10 list. Rather than celebrating the best or the worst, this list celebrates mediocrity. There were plenty of movies released this year that were just middling, not earth-shatteringly great yet not horrifically bad. These movies are often left to dry by the end of the year, but it’s time that they get their recognition.

So, without further ado, I present the most forgettable movies of 2010.

The American

Did anything even happen in this movie at all? Thanks to the RunPee app, I missed the big sex scene that was apparently so racy. As for any sort of plot, I’m pretty sure I had forgotten it before I left the theater.

The A-Team

Congratulations, you made a bunch of stuff blow up and freed yourselves from death and imprisonment multiple times.  Too bad you didn’t make this movie back in the ’80s, A-Team, because then it would have been exciting.  Now, it’s standard.  Next…


Who knew that DNA evidence could clear someone wrongly convicted of murder? Try everyone who has looked at the front page of a newspaper in the past two decades. Like every single newspaper headline boasting the triumph of the truth, this movie heads for the back of my mind.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Not even the movie’s out of nowhere gay lovers twist could save this boring, minimalist kidnapping story from dissolving in my mind almost instantly.

Just Wright

Formulaic romantic comedy. Need I say more?

Leap Year

See above.

Morning Glory

I liked this movie a lot better when it was called “The Devil Wears Prada” and had Meryl Streep instead of crotchety old Harrison Ford.

The Other Guys

This Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg collaboration had nothing to make it stand out in either star’s catalog. Neither has a strong or memorable character spouting any quotable lines. Perhaps it’s best that we can forget this movie because I certainly know Farrell is hoping we forget the movies he made before this.  We’ve seen plenty of buddy cop movies done right, and there’s no reason to ever watch it done to mediocrity as it is here.


I have a well-documented distaste for inspirational sports dramas, mainly because they all come down to “this person shouldn’t have won but they worked hard and they were good people so they did win, and we should all learn a lesson.” This horse racing drama diverts a little bit, but it’s so packed with corny lines that I’ll forever group it with those that follow the template.

She’s Out of My League

“Knocked Up” dealt with everything this Jay Baruchel failed star-launching vehicle tried to tackle, only better and with much more humor. I’ll forever consider this a lame rip-off.

REVIEW: Secretariat

13 10 2010

If you had a checklist of everything that a sports movie should have, “Secretariat” would have a check in every box.  One might think that with every t crossed and every i dotted, this would be the perfect entry into the genre.  However, for every reason that it should be great, it winds up being completely average.

For two hours, the movie manages to have the same vitality as the dirt that the horses kick up while running – which is to say that it’s lifeless and boring.  Perhaps the biggest problem “Secretariat” faces is that the same dirt has been trod so many times before.  Face it, the race has been run.

It’s not just in horse movies, either.  Sure, there’s the very similar “Seabiscuit,” but it bears a resemblance to any movie that goes by the playbook.  The same formula meant to bring about buoyant inspiration now manages to incite a completely averse reaction.  There’s only so many of these movies we can have before they all just run together to create white noise, and “Secretariat” is just another also-ran destined to play late nights on the Lifetime and Hallmark channels.

Perhaps the filmmakers thought that the movie was original because it technically doesn’t fit the bill of the underdog story.  Secretariat is a horse bred to win.  His parents are both champions, and everyone who knows anything about horses could predict that he would be something special.  In a somewhat clever twist, the underdog is not the horse but the film’s protagonist, Diane Lane’s Penny Chennery.  Facing financial difficulties around the inheritance of her ailing father’s estate, she banks on one horse to do the nearly impossible: win the Triple Crown.

Yet it’s hard to rally around Lane’s performance because it feels about as fresh as a can of creamed corn.  A strong, independent woman acting independently (and even against at certain times) her husband was unheard of in the 1970s, but Lane deems this unworthy of any sort of attention or importance.  Hidden behind her perfectly settled hair and dolled-up face, Chennery is always incredibly emotionally distant, and in those rare instances that she does show some outward feeling, it feels about as genuine as a slab of fool’s gold.

Sports movies always offer plenty of opportunities to turn a good metaphor, and “Secretariat” has enough to fill an entire motivational speech.  Much of them come courtesy of wasted narration from the mouth of Diane Lane, as if the filmmakers thought they would add something to her character.  They come in excess, in a quantity deserving of the term of endearment gluttony.  I have no problem with employing the simple yet complex art form of metaphors to cater to Middle America, but there’s only a finite amount that can be packed into two hours.  (And for all the Biblical references, they missed the most obvious one in Hebrews 12.)

To bring a movie to life where the ending is already spelled out, there really has to be some element so highly elevated that it can make the sacrifice of time worthwhile.  Despite two Oscar nominated stars, Diane Lane and John Malkovich, and a plot that could really be a winner, watching “Secretariat” is like watching the Kentucky Derby in an empty Churchill Downs.  C

What To Look Forward To in … October 2010

18 09 2010

In less than two weeks, we are headed into October.  More quality fall entertainment, more Oscar contenders.  But really, “The Social Network” leads off the month and it’s all downhill from there.  Sorry, every other movie coming out in my month of birth.  AND PLEASE TAKE THE POLL AT THE END … I blanked and left it off for a few days, but please vote!

October 1

I’ve stated twice that I’m dying to see “The Social Network,” and I’ve predicted it twice now to win Best Picture.  I’m counting on a great movie, and I’m planning on catching the first showing after school on Friday.

“Let Me In” reminds us of a time when vampires were still scary, not sexy.  Chloe Moretz (best known as Hit Girl) plays the blood-sucking child in question in this remake of the 2008 foreign horror flick “Let the Right One In.”  I think subtitles make anything creepier, but Hollywood sees English-language versions as a way to make things more accessible.

I love the book “Freakonomics,” and I think the documentary montage without any particular focus is a perfect complement to the bestseller.  If it’s anything like the book, it will be fascinating and incredibly thought-provoking.  It’s an interesting tactic to put it on iTunes before releasing it in theaters, and I’ve been asking myself whether or not I should wait for the big screen.

And on another note, poor Renee Zellweger has dropped so low as to start doing low-brow horror like “Case 39.”  To think she won an Oscar just 7 years ago…

October 8

Ugh, “Secretariat.”  Inspirational sports movies now give me an averse reaction.  And there’s also more gross horror in 3D with “My Soul to Take.”  Way to sell your soul, Wes Craven.  With the only other wide release being a corny Josh Duhamel-Katherine Heigl romantic comedy, “Life as We Know It,” it looks like I may be seeing “The Social Network” for a second time.

On the indie side of things, I’ll be happy to see some of the offerings.  For example, I’m sure “Inside Job” will be an illuminating (and probably slanted) view of what really went down with the economic meltdown in 2008.

“Stone” looks intense, much like “Brothers” appealed to me this time last year.  With an impressive cast of Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton (Milla Jovovich to a lesser degree as well), it could be a pretty good under-the-radar movie.

Tamara Drewe” has been playing at a lot of film festivals this year to mixed/positive reviews, most of the praise going not to director Stephen Frears but to leading lady Gemma Arterton.  “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” has also been playing film festivals recently albeit to much less success.  Despite the widespread acclaim the filmmakers’ past two movies, “Half Nelson” and “Sugar,” have received, this just hasn’t caught on.  “Nowhere Boy,” the story of John Lennon, premiered at Toronto this week, but I didn’t hear anything about it.  No news is NOT good news at a festival.

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“Secretariat” Poll Results

17 08 2010

I was less than enthused about “Secretariat” in my Oscar Moment. “Kill me NOW,” I wrote.  Sorry, it’s hard to stay impartial when no one is holding you to journalistic ethics.

But after the inclusion of “The Blind Side” (a hopeful anomaly) in last year’s ten, we have to consider that any movie that is about sports and inspirational might be able to strike a cord with the Academy.  So I left a poll at the bottom, asking you whether you thought “Secretariat” would be a Best Picture nominee.

Looks like you all don’t think “Secretariat” will be trod the same path as “The Blind Side” or “Seabiscuit.”  By a definitive margin, the “no way” option won out, two whole votes over the yaysayers.

I sure hope we bet on the right horse.  Yes, the puns will keep coming all the way through awards season.

Oscar Moment: “Secretariat”

21 07 2010

“Secretariat” – it looks like a mix between Best Picture nominees “Seabiscuit” and “The Blind Side.”  Translation: someone kill me NOW!

I have now begun to hold the inspirational sports movie genre in the same regard as the romantic comedy genre, which is to say not highly.  They are so incredibly formulaic that they only serve to inspire groans now.  There’s really no way to spice up the whole “underdog comes out of nowhere and becomes a champion” storyline.  And if “Secretariat” is anything like its trailer, we are in for a story so improbable we can see the ending a mile away.  The thing about movies based on highly publicized true stories is that they don’t really have the chance to build any real suspense.

Yet I must say, the movie has several good horses in the gate for an Oscar run.  First and foremost is Diane Lane, playing the tenacious sports-loving housewife role that won Sandra Bullock an Oscar last year.  The Academy may not fall head over heels for a one-year-old rerun, but they do love Lane.  She has a prior nomination (for 2002’s “Unfaithful”), and Bullock did not have any sort of history with the Academy.  I don’t think the “she deserves it” factor will be very high with only one nomination, yet they could surprise us.

There’s also John Malkovich, the three-time nominee who is overdue for a statue.  He’s been known for his more powerful characters, and it would be strange to see them reward him for a fairly docile performance as Secretariat’s trainer.  But the ways of the Academy are strange, and if there’s a weak field, Malkovich could always squeeze in for Best Supporting Actor.  The category tends to be pretty sentimental; past years have seen winners like Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.

And then there’s the movie itself, which probably wouldn’t have a great chance without ten nominees in the Best Picture category.  Yet out of nowhere, the box office hit and mildly well-reviewed “The Blind Side” stunned on nomination day with a nomination.  That movie overcame its mediocrity by playing well with middle America, who doesn’t want to “get” the pompous artsy fare, and becoming a true word-of-mouth phenomenon.  It did help balance out a field of nominees that included “A Serious Man,” “Precious,” “An Education,” and “The Hurt Locker,” to make the list seem to represent the whole of 2009’s cinematic landscape.  So if “Secretariat” manages to garner good reviews and play well all over America, we can’t count it out.  (And hey, “Seabiscuit” did it with five nominees back in 2003 with half the money, although it did have slightly better reviews and a weak field.)

Then again, after “Seabiscuit,” we saw “Dreamer” with Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning, another horse racing movie which bombed financially and critically.  So there is by no means a steady pattern in Academy taste for sports or horse racing movies.  Let’s just hope they don’t start a trend this year.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actress (Diane Lane)

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (John Malkovich)