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.

Officially in Print!

28 11 2010

This post is coming about two months too late thanks to difficulties with my household scanner, but back in September, my reviews were put into print for the first time!  I submitted two of my reviews to the editor of my school newspaper, and sure enough, they ran them!

So here are my reviews of “Easy A” and “The American” on paper!  Perhaps this is only the beginning…

REVIEW: The American

13 09 2010

Everyone can attest to the fact that “The American” is a beautiful movie to look at. The gorgeous Italian countryside, the charming architecture, and the suave George Clooney coupled with some elegant cinematography make Anton Corbijn’s sophomore directorial venture seem like the film adaptation of a coffee-table book.

But really, Corbijn only wants you too look at the surface of his movie.  Unfortunately, anything beneath that is a virtually void space, and whatever material does still lie down there is incredibly vapid.  There’s nothing wrong with staying all in the visual and never delving into the visceral.  However, a point does exist where being so excruciatingly emotionally reserved just comes off as superficial.

With its paper-thin plot, “The American” could have been a ten-minute movie in the hands of Michael Bay. Clooney gets to play an angst-ridden version of 24‘s Jack Bauer (coincidentally also named Jack), a merciless killer but tender soul.  He leaves comfortable living in Sweden after being discovered to take a vague final assignment building a murder weapon in Italy.

The movie chugs along like molasses for 100 minutes, familiarizing us with Jack’s routine but never Jack himself.  We are kept at such a distance from any sort of emotion that it watching the movie feels like looking at a painting.  It’s an implausibly orderly universe that the characters inhabit, where every house and restaurant is tidily organized and every street is appropriately deserted.  There’s also that same sense of calm and placidity that art-gazing provides; the theater chairs in need of WD-40 wound up being noisier than the movie itself.

An art-house movie that puts the emphasis on making beautiful art rather than pleasing the house is not any sort of criminal act.  Every frame exudes enough precision and expertise to keep all eyes drawn to it.  The problem is that Corbijn tells the story through tactics so subtle that they become obvious.  Before taking up filmmaking, he was an accomplished photographer, and his knack for the still frames is remarkable.  Endowing that same stillness on the silver screen, however, inspires an awe laced with sleepiness and boredom.  B- /

Random Factoid #411

12 09 2010

Okay, Whiffer, I saw “The American.”  Happy now?  A review should be coming Monday or Tuesday.  I don’t intend to spoil my review with this factoid, but I found an article about the movie that inspired today’s post.  After audiences had little good to say about the movie upon release, The Los Angeles Times dared to ask if moviegoers had fallen victim to a misleading advertising campaign.  Here’s Patrick Goldstein:

I can’t say I was surprised by the moviegoer reaction, since the agonizingly slow-moving film was made by Anton Corbijn, the Dutch filmmaker who was best known for directing such upbeat fare as Metallica videos and “Control,” a dark portrait of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis, who committed suicide at age 23. Of course, the average moviegoer didn’t do an IMDB search before heading off to see “The American.” They were propelled into theaters by Clooney’s cool-guy image and the film’s slick TV spots, which sold the picture as a taut, “Michael Clayton”-style thriller.

Of course, there’s more action in the film’s trailer than in virtually the entire movie. But when you’re a Hollywood marketer, if you have a lemon, you make lemonade. Focus Features could have taken a more conventional approach, debuting the picture at a film festival and giving it a platform release, hoping that Clooney’s star power and a few good reviews (after all, the film did get a decent 61 score from Rotten Tomatoes) might scare up some business.

But Focus must have realized from its early screenings that “The American” had little crowd-pleasing appeal. It was an art-house movie all the way. So they cooked up a batch of TV spots that made the film look like a snazzy thriller, played them incessantly on programs with older-guy appeal (like baseball games, which is where I witnessed the advertising bombardment) and gave the film a wide release, figuring they’d get as many moviegoers as possible before word spread that, in terms of Clooney films, this one had a lot more in common with “The Good German” than “Ocean’s Eleven.”

Here’s why I saw the movie: it was a prestige product from George Clooney and an acclaimed art-house filmmaker that I knew little about.  I figured if Clooney chose to be in his movie, there had to be something there.  (Find out tomorrow/Tuesday if there actually was.)

But most Americans probably just looked at the poster/trailer, saw George Clooney and a gun, and assumed that it would be another one of his Hollywood high-octane thrillers.  It’s really not, and many people probably found themselves wondering why they got an art-house movie instead of a thriller.

As a blogger and overall film obsessed person, I’ve never really fallen prey to misleading advertising, largely because I do the research.  I follow a lot of movies from pre-production to release, which lends me a degree of familiarity with the general mood of every movie.  But I can imagine that less well-read people probably find themselves the victims of false marketing.

Is anyone else immune?

“The American” Poll Results

9 09 2010

All I keep hearing about “The American” is that it got a D- CinemaScore average but still managed to take the #1 spot at the box office.  If that’s not a testament to how much America trust George Clooney, I don’t know what is.

Commercial success is nice (although being #1 in September is hardly anything to brag about); however, it doesn’t always mean that the Oscar love is going to start flowing.

In my Oscar Moment on the movie two weeks ago, I sold its awards case based on the respect for Clooney and director Anton Corbijn.  There weren’t any reviews out at the time of posting, but we know now that it hovers around 60%, which is nothing to scoff at by any means.  That’s not exactly prime Oscar territory when a movie isn’t very baity.

Seems like you all weren’t feeling particularly optimistic about the chances of “The American.”  60% said it was heading down the path to obscurity while 40% said it was heading to glory.  Based on the poor audience response and middling box office and critical reception, I’d say the readers are probably right today.

(P.S. – Take “The Social Network” poll … I want more votes for that one!)

Oscar Moment: “The American”

24 08 2010

I really have no idea what to say about “The American,” but I know there has to be something to say.

Looking at the poster, we see a giant George Clooney.  That’s what Focus Features wants you to see because the rest of the poster (and the trailers as well) give you zero clue what the movie is supposed to be about.  He’s an assassin, as we might deduce from the gun, but no peeking at plot has given me any insight into the events of the movie.  Which may be just what Focus wants.  Hey, I’m not complaining about a movie shrouded in mystery.

In the past five years, Clooney has become a dominant force in Oscar season.  With three nominations for acting under his belt since 2005 (four if you count his Best Director nomination); the only people to match that total in the same amount of time are Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, and the legendary Meryl Streep.  So we have to assume that anything Clooney stars in nowadays is an Oscar contender – although look at the mistake we made with “The Men Who Stare At Goats.”  If the Best Actor field is particularly weak this year, the Academy could easily sneak in a familiar face like Clooney.

The cast may become an issue in awards season.  The problem isn’t that the movie stars George Clooney; it’s that the movie stars George Clooney and no one else you’ve ever heard of before.  “The American” is being sold almost entirely on Clooney, a little bit on Corbijn for those whose moviegoing tastes are far enough off the beaten path to recognize his name.  So if Clooney isn’t at the top of his game, the whole movie’s chances may be derailed.

This is just Anton Corbijn’s second film, but he’s been behind the camera for quite a while, making music videos for groups as well known as Nirvana and U2.  Prior to that, he spent time behind a different lens doing music photography.  He still keeps up his first profession, albeit as a hobby, chronicling the production of “The American.”  Corbijn kept up a photo blog during production, posting some really interesting shots.  In the very near future, he will release them in a picture book called “Inside The American.”

His first feature, “Control,” about the lead singer of the band Joy Division, premiered at Cannes in 2007 to great reviews.  It opened theatrically later that year to very respectable critical marks, a 78 on Metacritic and an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Across the pond in Britain, it won Best Film and Best Director among others at their equivalent of the Indie Spirit Awards, the British Independent Film Awards.

Despite these laurels, “Control” didn’t exactly ignite here, failing to earn a release over 30 theaters or a revenue over $1 million.  Not that money really matters that much, especially in the context of a directorial debut.  Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow, made only $3 million with her first film, “Near Dark,” in 1987.

The bar has been set high, at least in terms of quality, for Corbijn’s follow-up.  First films usually don’t receive much notice at the Oscars, the rare exception coming, ironically, for the George Clooney vehicle “Michael Clayton,” which received nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for Tony Gilroy.  Second films, however, have been able to gain traction.  Let’s look at last year’s Best Director nominees and their second films.

  • Winner Kathryn Bigelow made her second film, “Near Dark,” in 1987.  A vampire movie can become a cult favorite, but it’s certainly very hard to take seriously as an Oscar movie.
  • James Cameron made his second film, “The Terminator,” in 1984.  Wildly under-appreciated at the time, it’s now a classic, enshrined in the National Film Registry.
  • Quentin Tarantino made his second film, “Pulp Fiction,” in 1994.  It is considered by some to be a watershed movie in the history of independent film and got Tarantino an Oscar nomination for his directorial work.  The movie also won Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture.
  • Jason Reitman made his second film, “Juno,” in 2007.  The movie was nominated for Best Picture, and Reitman was a surprise announcement for a Best Director nomination.
  • Lee Daniels made his second film, “Precious,” in 2009.  The movie was nominated for Best Picture, and Daniels was nominated for Best Director.

See, it does happen!  Second films have found great success, both for the movie and for the director.  The question is whether “The American” will trod the glorious path in 2010 or march its way into (potentially momentary) obscurity.  There has yet to be a review of the movie, so the path truly is unknown.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actor (George Clooney)

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography

What To Look Forward To in … September 2010

15 08 2010

Weird to think that the circle is complete and I’m back doing my second September preview post!  All strangeness aside, we have emerged from a summer that many people loathed.  Now it’s up to fall, which begins in September, to redeem the year.  With the big film festivals beginning, it’s time for the Oscar hopefuls to hit the stage and make it or break it.

September 1/3

Getting a head start on the weekend is Anton Corbjin’s “The American,” starring George Clooney.  The director has only one other film under his belt, “Control,” which received enough raves that it’s sitting comfortably on my DVR.  Nevertheless, it’s George Clooney’s only movie of awards season 2010, so that makes it worth seeing.  Added bonus is the trailer gives very little of the plot away.

Apparently Robert Rodriguez didn’t get the memo that more is more when it comes to having old people in action movies, as August’s “The Expendables” bloated cast translated into cash.  But “Machete,” with Danny Trejo as the titular swordslinger along with Steven Seagal (tragically overlooked by Sly), Cheech Marin, and Robert DeNiro, still looks pretty fun.  Plus, there’s Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, and America’s favorite jail bait, Lindsay Lohan!

Going the Distance” finds a home in September for Labor Day weekend after August just seemed a little too crowded.

Americans remake foreign movies all the time, but “A Woman A Gun and A Noodle Shop” switches it up on us and remakes an American movie.  The source: The Coen Brothers’ “Blood Simple.”  Should be interesting…

September 10

Haven’t we seen enough “Resident Evil” in the last 8 years?  In case we haven’t, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is here.  I will give the marketing executives credit for the trailer: they get that people can tell phony 3D from real 3D, and they are selling the fact that this is real 3D.

The prospects don’t look much better off the beaten path, either.  “The Virginity Hit” just looks like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” for the YouTube era.

September 15/17

Emma Stone’s “Easy A” looks to make “The Scarlet Letter” much more enjoyable for the juniors at my school who have to read it (I was not among those).  Hopefully this can make a star out of Stone, best known as Jules from “Superbad.”

I have absolutely no idea what to make of the trailer for “The Town” or “Never Let Me Go.”  But with a cast including the likes of Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Ben Affleck for the former, which opens in wide release this weekend, I’m definitely in.  Ditto for the latter which opens in limited release on Wednesday and stars Oscar nominees Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley.

“Devil” looks kind of freaky … but I’m wondering how many viewers Universal lost for this movie after “The Last Airbender” was so poorly received.  Maybe selling the movie based on M. Night Shyamalan wasn’t the best idea…

The weekend also brings Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut, “Jack Goes Boating,” starring he and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan.  It’s a very quirky, melancholy-looking romance.  Hoffman would.

Hey, look, another talking animal movie!  I’ll give “Alpha and Omega” the fact that it has the slight distinction of being Dennis Hopper’s last movie.  Don’t cry; he wouldn’t want us to.

September 22/24

I’m interested in “You Again” because it’s a different kind of high school movie – one where all the students are out of school.  Forced to be around each other, old high school rivals duke it out.  And Betty White watches.  What could be better?

Is “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” a zeitgeist-tapping look at our economy?  Or just Oliver Stone trying to reclaim his glory days?  Carey Mulligan is in it … good reason for me to see it.

Ryan Reynolds inside a coffin for an entire movie?  Will it work?  I want to see “Buried” if for no other reason than to see how they pull it off.

Wednesday sees the latest film from prolific director Woody Allen, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.”  It has a great ensemble cast, but it didn’t get the greatest reviews at Cannes.  We’ll see how this goes.

I lost so much respect for “Legend of the Guardians” when the filmmakers attempted to convince me that their movie about talking owls was comparable to “The Lord of the Rings.”  Talk about a stretch…

What are YOU looking forward to in September?  Planning on going to the movies at all?  Or just clearing out your DVR…