Fluffyman Presents: Film In Review 2012 (34-24, SPOILERS)
Well its Oscar time once again and I think I have seen enough movies to come up with a list of what I felt were the Best/Worst of this film, but instead of coming up with separate 10 lists for Best/Worst I am going to count down all the films I have seen from this past year, all 34 of them, with the what I write speaking for itself whether they are recommendable or not.
Now for this first batch I’ve decided to go in the order of 24 to 34, because I think it would be much more effective this way to build up to what I consider to be the worst of what I saw all year. I will do the inverse on the next list, where I will start from 23 and build up to #11, and then reveal my Top 10 list of 2012, which may or may not be on consecutive days depending on how much I decide to write on each film.
With that established, let’s do it:
I don’t know if I can really say more than I have in my Quick Review except this wasn’t exactly a home run for Pixar, and I’m really disappointed to hear how it broke down between Pixar and Brenda Chapman, wishing that things might have turned out different instead of a film that is diverging between many tones.
Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut to the big screen has a much better focus on story than what Family Guy has become, and for a good portion of it I did dig what he was going churning out a few very funny moments. Not everything hits the mark though as his bit of crude humor can miss at times, including one cringe-inducing Asian stereotype, and some that dips a little bit into the lame brand of Family Guy cut-aways. It also commits a movie comedy sin and that is making a parody of a comedy scene which in of itself is a parody. Then there are the attempts at sentimentality that feel wholly out of place, in fact felt like they were for a different movie. Still recommendable in some respects that it does try to make the humor really about a man who’s been living with a teddy bear most of his life, but definitely not a stronger examples of comedy I’ve seen this year.
Tim Burton’s return to Claymation in seven years definitely has the same visual flair of its predecessors but nothing really outstanding. The story of a kid named Victor Frankenstein resurrecting his deceased dog had some good intentions, but it is buried beneath a standard story about searching through your heart or something like that. There is also some unremarkability with the movie monster humor which feels like it has been done many times before and better, as well as a finale that is just telegraphed. About the biggest things is a decent voice cast, some really good clay animation and art direction, not to mention little creative bits with regards to monsters. However it doesn’t really stand out to me as the sort of film that homages classic monster movies instead feels like a lot of what we’ve seen.
27. Hotel Transylvania
Main reason I had any interest in this zany animated monster mash was its director: Genndy Tartakovsky. For those not in the know he was the man who gave us Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, the Star Wars: Clone Wars micro-series and the sadly short-lived Sym-Bionic Titan. This being his first feature I was ecstatic to see what he would do with it, but the film itself only seems to take advantage of being directed by him, whilst writing wise it falls short of matching up to it. The film does have a lot energy to it, as there is some obvious Tex Avery inspiration, that also has some stuff akin to Dexter’s Lab in terms of character animation and framing. In terms of hitting any emotional beats I think the relationship between Dracula and his daughter Mavis are the strongest bits. Where it goes wrong is in some of the humor, that goes too juvenile at times, possibly askewing much younger of an audience that would tolerate this. Some of the voice acting is tolerable but others just feel out of place especially David Spade’s Inivisble Man.I also can’t stand the songs in the film which feel like a horrid mash-up of rap and dubstep. Then there is the climax of the film which tries to milk sentimentality for all it’s worth to which it feels less tugging at heartstrings more like outright yanking, if only particularly worth it for a jab at Twilight. Overall though the film isn’t all that bad, but in terms of Genndy’s first feature I was expecting a bit more, though it’s a film that has been through development hell.
However I am ecstatic at what his next project is going to be: Popeye. If there is one person to do the Sailor Man justice, I think it may be Genndy.
Originally this Steven Soderbergh film was going to release before his pandemic fueled all-star effort Contagion but for some reason or another was delayed, reshot and main star Gina Carano’s voice changed, which is not a good sign when this movie is supposed to be a showcase of the MMA fighter as an actor (Though maybe to save the embarrassment of how she actually acts). In spite of having a certain pedigree with Soderbergh, the film feels a paint-by-numbers agent betrayed by her agency thriller, with its highlights being Soderbergh’s great use of hues and the action scenes which do not utilize any form of shaky cam or quick editing, believability helped by Carano not being some rail thin lady that beats large dudes up, she really does come across as intimidating in her stature. I come off though feeling that this was more of a demo reel for Carano than anything, there might have been an impressive cast including Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor, but not really any of them could elevate the material to being just bare-bones. Not much else to say except, I only see a future for Carano if not a whole lot more is required other than fighting, as well this wasn’t exactly a strong film to see when you hear that it’s director is going to retire soon.
29. Men In Black 3
Nearly 10 years after a second installment that gave Caddyshack II a run for its money as a rather mostly unfunny follow-up that forgets what made the fairly amusing first film good to begin with, Barry Sonnenfeld brings the MIB back in time, to one that doesn’t feel as much of a laugh black hole as the second, but still is not without its faults. Here there feels like an actual attempt at trying to diverse itself from its predecessors, that is one thing the time travel gimmick while another is the amusement of seeing someone try to be Tommy Lee Jones and a villain that off the bat almost beats Edgar in the creepy as shit category and provides a pretty big body count to start. There are quite a bit of amusing bits spread throughout, including bits where they poke fun at how less advanced the past MIB is to the present, and Josh Brolin is definitely a good job at making a young Tommy Lee Jones. Rick Baker’s make-up has a welcome comeback as his alien designs once more are the highlight of the film. Where the film does fall apart though is that Boris feels like an undercooked villain, he does come across as menacing and creepy but he doesn’t really do a whole lot to play it up after the intro. Tommy Lee Jones for the minor bits he plays in feels like he is just slumming it up, while it might sort-of work considering the emotional distance between K and J, I get more the feeling the reason why they wrote in the time-travel plot because Jones’ heart wasn’t going to be in it. Then there is when it tries to go for emotional resonance near the end, which feels forced as all hell, and under close inspection doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Still the overall film doesn’t leave me the feeling of absolute void like the second, but honestly, with nearly ten years in the making, it could have been a much more memorable experience.
30. John Carter
This movie’s failure doesn’t stem from the fact that it was an enormous flop and was the start of the Taylor Kitsch Box Office curse, it doesn’t shake from the overall feeling of déjà vu, even with being based on one of the oldest examples of science fiction tropes, this movie feels old school to a fault. Part of a problem is a lack of emotional connection with John Carter and a lack of chemistry with the other characters, particularly the Princess, none of which are given enough depth which maybe would not have been much of a problem if it were a breezy 90-minute adventure film, but a major one when spending over 2 hours with. Not helped by the fact Taylor Kitsch is not a compelling lead actor who seems to grunt his way through, rather than show a whole lot of emotion. The best the film gets away with is some decent visuals and an adorable dog-like alien named Woola, but honestly I don’t see this as some hidden gem that fell from the cracks. It’s really sad considering it comes from Andrew Stanton who gave us Finding Nemo and WALL-E, who was given complete creative control over the film, but I guess since he was more experienced being collaborative with animation, he wasn’t big enough for auteur britches just yet.
31. The Expendables 2
Oh I can expect the onslaught of hate I might get for this, but honestly this and the original are not exciting films. Some people might be excited seeing name action stars blowing away bad guys but honestly I don’t really feel it, it’s boring to see them just standing in full sight of the villains shooting and shooting and shooting. To Con Air director Simon West’s credit he shoots the action much better than Stallone did in the first film but it doesn’t save the tedium nor does it make up for shortcomings that involves characters that I don’t care about, with wholly generic personality traits and groan-inducing winking to the camera moments like the played out Chuck Norris fact meme and actors trading trademark quips. Oh and “Who’s next Rambo?” joke doesn’t make any sense when we’ve been with him (Or at least the actor) the whole movie.
Honestly, the novelty of seeing a bunch of aging action stars coming together has worn off and it hasn’t been a particularly hard effort going into any of them either.
32. REC 3: Genesis
The first REC definitely stood out for me as one of the better examples of the found footage genre, the second wasn’t as fresh, but definitely added some intriguing elements and a memorable cliffhanger. REC 3: Genesis however does not follow up on this, instead goes for an utterly pointless side-story about a wedding gone horribly wrong. It tries to hook in with the whole “found footage” idea being dropped after the first twenty minutes or so in a somewhat self-aware move, but what it goes for after that is completely unremarkable zombie genre fluff. At times the movie tries to strive for something more, more like a deconstructive parody, but those elements feels wholly undercooked to a point by which honestly it reminded me of what better movies I would rather be seeing rather than this mess, the bride wielding a chainsaw not helping matters. By the end of the whole thing, there isn’t really anything added to the series, no new revelations or developments that could have really made an unremarkable 80 minutes worth it, just with the feeling the filmmakers wasted their time trying to branch off the REC name to something else, but honestly, REC 4: Apocalypse should be looking back to what worked with the early films, not for this forgettable junk.
33. The Three Stooges
How do you tarnish a legacy of classic slapstick characters? By writing a whole movie around them that tries to pull together classic Stooge humor, with Farrelly Brother patented crudeness and a paper-thin children’s movie plot that pretty much is similar to the video game. Where the movie works is in the Stooges chemistry, I give major credits to Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamontopolis for their near perfect adaptation of the Stooges mannerisms and routines. I also get a bit of amusement out of seeing Moe making babies out of the cast of the now canceled Jersey Shore. Where it falls apart again is when they try to deviate from it, when they try gross-out or shock humor that feels like oil in water trying to mix up with the Stooges humor, particularly the scene where the Stooges try to do a Spaghetti Western-style duel with peeing babies, which is mildly amusing at first but goes on a little too long.
Then there are the attempts at pulling heartstrings, or enforcing some sort of message into it about how cartoonish violence can have a downside. The characters just don’t have the dynamism to really have much emotional investment in, as well the Orphanage scenes drag the movie down by having some really awful child actors including ones that play younger versions of the Stooges. The Orphanage scenes also have the distinction of wasting two comedic talents, Larry David and Jane Lynch, who are really not given a whole lot of good material to do. The message parts feel particularly forced way of getting the message across to kids about how this is just a movie and that doing these things in real life would have far and wide consequences. The whole thing topped off with a disclaimer at the end made by actors posing as and likely dubbed by the Farrelly Brothers that say that none of this is real and give examples of techniques employed like rubber hammers and poking the forehead instead of the eyes. That really sells what went wrong with this movie, it tried to do many things but forgotten that it should have been one thing, a tribute to classics, but I don’t think this does the legacy of Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp (Maybe Curly Joe, but DEFINITELY not Joe Besser) a service.
No amount of peeing babies or Ash wannabes in wedding dresses or Boring Invincible Heroes can match up to the massive disappointment that this film left me with when I walked out of the IMAX theater. Prometheus stood above (or below) them all in being such an inept, slapdash and overall disappointing effort at trying to add more brevity to the Alien universe. No amount of cool looking visuals, well-done 3D and some alright performances can save this sinking spaceship.
What I expected was an exploration of the origin of humanity and possibly the Xenomorphs by which we so know and love from two great movies, one mediocre, and one fucked up Joss Whedon-penned disaster (No further comment on path-crossings with Predator, though the second still pains me). What I got was a checklist of horror clichés, including stupid humans who are supposed to be experts in their fields, the corrupt executive who doesn’t match Burke in terms of dickery but still seems to be trying too hard to look like an asshole, and the always unwelcome musical scare cord, which wasn’t even used in the first Alien (Way to regress Ridley).
The story itself falls under the weight of its own ambition, with character motivations and actions not matching what we actually witness on-screen and feel very inexplicable. Not a whole lot of resolution brought into the film itself, where it feels obvious they are setting up for the (Thankfully not Damon Lindelof-penned) sequel. While hardly the worst thing associated with the Alien franchise to come out in recent times (Colonial Marines does more injustices itself), it’s not particularly forgivable for being a little less insulting.
Rant To Be Continued...