-- Adair Lara
The sort of painful shoehorning this movie indulges in is better suited for a Mike Myers film. I couldn't agree more with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, who said that the film "...reduces the tumult of the last few decades to a virtual-reality theme park." To take the complexity of that time period and reduce it to sight gags for the effect of "Oh, he was there too!" thrills is to insult the people who were actually affecting change. It's easy to draw a line between the generation alive for these events (and coloring their opinion of the movie with nostalgia) who generally like it, and the generation who've only read about them in history books, who generally see it as a cloying, overwrought melodrama. All film relies on human experience for it to relate to its audience, but when a movie spends almost its entire runtime winking and smiling at said audience, it's not worth the pile of accolades heaped on this one.
One way to judge a movie's quality if you aren't sure is to watch its RiffTrax. Were they hilarious? Then it probably wasn't a good movie. And believe me, the RiffTrax for this one were hilarious. A movie that spends almost its entire 86-minute runtime (couldn't even crack an hour and a half worth of plot) building up to a climax that isn't scary, just slightly startling. If you're terrified by things like your car keys falling to the floor or unexplained noises in the middle of the night, never have children. At about 8 different points in the movie, any reasonable audience is pushed past the point of disbelief (and that's granting the movie its basic premise) by things like Katie not just calling the demonologist over Micah's objections, or Micah's stubborn refusal to admit a problem when confronted with the video evidence that he himself set out to capture. Just a painful narrative to watch.
It actually pains me to include this entry, because I rather enjoyed the movie. However, I can still admit that the casting is off, the plot holes are too many to be ignored, and the whole thing takes itself a little too seriously to be a good movie. Yet somehow it is still lauded as one of the best examples of a comic book movie ever. Watch the movie again and I promise that the only performance you'll enjoy is J.K. Simmons as the caricature that is J. Jonah Jameson. Maguire and Dunst couldn't develop chemistry through 3 movies, so obviously don't have it here, and Molina alternates between trying to win an Oscar and playing it so over-the-top and hammy that you get the impression his only exposure to superheroes was through Adam West.
I've never watched a Best Picture winner and forgotten it within a year until Crash. There's a reason it wasn't even nominated for a Golden Globe Best Motion Picture Award, and that's its simplicity. Racism is bad. There, I just saved you 2 hours of this heavy-handed nonsense. It features stories that interweave unbelievably (there must be like 12 people in Los Angeles... and they're all racist) and almost every one features a racist learning the error of their ways. That's a children's book, not a Best Picture. Count me as one of the conspiracy theorists who think it only won over Brokeback Mountain because it gave homophobic voters an alternative social cause to back to shield themselves from criticism when they didn't vote for the superior movie that made them uncomfortable.
It wants to be Bonnie and Clyde, but not even Woody Harrelson's amazing performance (arguably unequalled by him since) can't save it. Perhaps I just don't appreciate the genius of Oliver Stone (see #2), but for a movie that was so predictive of our fame and celebrity-obsessed culture, it was surprising that it had so little to say. It seems completely deserving of its 47% on Rotten Tomatoes: not a bad watch, but nothing to write home about either. Its 74 on Metacritic is the baffling part to me. While I frequently disagree with Roger Ebert's opinion of a movie, I've never been completely flabbergasted by any like I am by his perfect 4/4 rating for NBK. Janet Maslin of The New York Times nailed it when she wrote, "for all its surface passions, Natural Born Killers never digs deep enough to touch the madness of such events, or even to send them up in any surprising way."
What more can I say that I haven't said already? It's a melodramatic, predictable romance that brings nothing new to the table and, fairly or unfairly, I'm blaming for the worthless stream of Nicholas Sparks adaptations we've had to suffer through since. But I've been hammering on this movie enough lately; I won't pile on here.
The movie bombards the audience with cliché after cliché so rapidly that it seems like a tongue-in-cheek spoof of a sports drama you'd see on "South Park" when you read a synopsis. Credit the direction and acting of Clint Eastwood with the narration of Morgan Freeman for pushing those elements past viewers in such a classy way that they didn't notice at the time. It actually won Best Picture, and I firmly believe that in 20 years, this will be seen as a huge mistake on the Academy's part rather than just the slight misstep it is now. The characters are static, exhibiting no actual growth over the course of the movie (Clint Eastwood finally training a woman isn't growth; it's played as lovably-old curmudgeon sexism) and it would be hard to construct a scenario where all the characters end up where we're asked to believe they are at the beginning of the film. For some movies, it would be excusable, but the maker of Mystic River should know better.
Was it visually stunning? Sure. But this thing got nominated for Best Picture and Best Director when it features gigantic plot holes (wait, Michelle Rodriguez disobeyed a direct order, but then is free to roam about the base and set prisoners free, then take her ship back into the fight on the Na'vi's behalf?!) and nothing original. Admittedly groundbreaking visual effects do not make a movie on their own, especially when you're just 40% Dances With Wolves, 40% Ferngully, and 20% Last Samurai (itself a ripoff of Dances With Wolves and Shōgun because Hollywood is like Ouroboros constantly devouring itself to churn out new movies). But hey, at least they left audiences with uncomfortable questions about those hair-tails... The pendulum is swinging back towards "groundbreaking visuals but empty plot-wise" so fast that in a few years, it may look silly to call it "overrated", but at least for right now, it still occupies a few too many Top 10 lists (irony intended).
If we listed a Top Ten of worst movie accents (idea alert!), Al Pacino's Cuban would definitely be on the list. Even so, since it was solidly in the "college man" wheelhouse, it was 3 fantastic hours for them, and 3 hours of directionless excess with no moral beyond "crime doesn't pay" for the rest of us. Sure, the movie produced some great one-liners, but that doesn't make it a classic. When it isn't wallowing in cliché, it's trying to distract from its paper-thin plot with pointlessly over-the-top debauchery. It's not without its merits, but it shows up this high on the Top Ten for being the opposite of Avatar: it keeps being more fondly remembered, and someone needed to remind people that if The Wolf of Wall Street can only get a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes (travesty) then Scarface is utterly undeserving of its 88%.
The story of two Irish brothers exacting revenge on criminals on behalf of God with a memorable turn by Willem Dafoe thrown in. Now once I tell you it views like Michael Bay remade Frailty, and they couldn't even bother to find two actors with the same accents, maybe you'll start to share my astonishment that this seems to have become the new Scarface: poster mandatory for dorm room walls. If your two protagonists are actually going to receive a vision from God telling them to kill wicked men, we actually need to spend a little more than 30 seconds dealing with the ramifications of that. Surely these can't be the only two entrusted with that mission; they'd barely be a drop in the bucket. So did God activate "righteous sleeper cells" all over the world in a modern-day flood, or has He been doing this for a while in an effort to "prune" evil? Likely, those questions nor any other worthwhile ones ever occurred to anyone involved in the production, and instead, God's command was just seen as a cheap way to get to the typical unlimited ammo shootouts they really wanted to film. If that's your thing, check out Shoot 'Em Up. At least it knows what it is.