I’ve still got something ridiculous like 45 more movies released in 2011 in my Netflix queue, but I’ve got to draw the line at some point, and five months into 2012 seems like maybe a good place.  Let’s get this party started.

167.  The Tree of Life

Roger Ebert recently named this film (with a few caveats) as one of the ten greatest films of all time.  So…your mileage may vary.  The thing is, maybe it is high art, meant to be screened on loop in some sort of exhibition hall next to a framed urinal or whatever.  I don’t get art, and I acknowledge that’s my failing as a human being.  But while it is hard to argue The Tree of Life isn’t a movie, in the sense that it is very clearly a series of moving pictures, it isn’t a movie.  According to imdb trivia, there was a movie theater that mixed up the order of the first and second reels of the film and no one realized the error for an entire week.  Which I think speaks to the film’s lack of a coherent structure.  I refuse to believe that a series of abstract images and scenes translates to any sort of meaning other than what you impart onto the film because you want it to be there.  A film can’t be good if you could fall asleep during any point for any length and when you asked what you’d missed, the only accurate response is “nothing.”  Another reason a film can’t be good is if Sean friggin’ Penn is one of your main characters and he has no idea what the heck he’s doing in the movie and thinks it is crappy.

166. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

See, I can hate arthouse and big budget equally!  The Pirates movies bore me terribly.  I suppose it didn’t help that I shlepped out to Tysons so we could see it on an IMAX screen and that the movie ticket cost $20 and that we sat in the first row.  But really, I just don’t understand what this franchise has become.  Maybe it is just too much fantasy for me.  Or maybe that the script, at this point, reads: “Johnny Depp frolicks around.  [insert special effects]   The End.”

165. Hall Pass

I think this dud from the Farrelly brothers about a couple of friends who get a titular “Hall Pass” from their wives to sleep around has gotten derided as being misogynistic.  Which is a completely unfair criticism.  Because this movie doesn’t just hate women, it hates everybody.  It hates life and wants to make you as miserable as it is.  All the characters in the film are atrocious examples of human beings who you don’t want to root for so much as slap in the face repeatedly.  On the positive side of things, Richard Jenkins is great in a glorified cameo (but still a horrific human being), some of the movie uses Cape Cod league baseball as a backdrop, and the film uses the song “Tighten Up”, or so my notes claim.

164.  Take Me Home Tonight

Take Me Home Tonight is known for two reasons: it is where now-husband and wife Chris Pratt and Anna Faris first met, and it was shelved for something like three years (if you believe star Topher Grace it was due to a battle over the depiction of drug use in the film).  Please don’t ever give yourself a third reason by watching this 80s-set turkey.  The premise, one night in the life of a slacker (Grace) working in a video store in his hometown after graduation trying to get the girl of his high school dreams (Teresa Palmer), culminating in a blowout house party, and again, all taking part in the 80s, sounds fantastic.  So it is difficult for me to express how boring and unfunny this movie is.  You watch Parks and Rec, right?  Imagine a movie so poorly constructed that Chris Pratt is playing a straight man whose sole purpose is to rain on Anna Faris’s dreams.  And where he doesn’t get to be Bert Macklin even once.

163.  The Off Hours

A Spirit Awards special.  It was nominated for Cinematography, and as we discussed in our chat, we have absolutely no idea why.  Maybe the nominating committee was impressed that whoever lensed the film didn’t shoot himself trying to figure out how to make a movie where nothing happens look somewhat interesting.  Normally for a poorly thought-out movie like this one, I’ll say it felt like a TV pilot because it sets up some possibly interesting characters that you could see getting into hijinks that are apparently outside the purview of the movie.  But this movie is like a sketch of a TV pilot.  To the film’s credit, it did possibly spawn the line of the year, where, out of nowhere, one character says another character suffers from “cuntitis”.

162.  Wrecked

In this one, Adrien Brody wakes up in a crashed car in the woods with no memory of who he is or how he got there, and the film is about him getting his memory back while he figures out how to escape/survive.  Or, at least, I think so.  At some point, you fall asleep enough times watching the director do nothing but let Brody emote for fifteen straight minutes that you stop caring about the movie.  I love this sort of premise, but the film seems to exist entirely to let Brody fill out his demo reel.  It gets some points for having Caroline Dhavernas, but loses those points right back for not having her in the movie enough.

161.  Bloodworth

Bloodworth was written by character actor W. Earl Brown, adapting from a novel by the recently departed William Gay, so I’m not quite sure who to blame, I hope not Brown, who I’ve liked in other things.  Kris Kristofferson stars as a grizzled man in the general vicinity of death who has come back to the family he walked out on decades ago: his wife (Frances Conroy), three sons (Val Kilmer, Dwight Yoakam, and Brown), and the grandson (Reece Thompson) who hasn’t had a chance to become bitter like the older generation.  And Hilary Duff is in there as Thompson’s love interest.  My problem with the film is that we were never really introduced to the characters, it felt like we were supposed to have gone into the film knowing and caring about them.  Which I didn’t.  Fun cast, though.

160.  Cedar Rapids

Apparently this film was supposed to be funny?  I must have seen the edit without the jokes or something because the only funny bit was Isiah Whitlock, Jr. quoting The Wire in an extremely white boy manner.  Otherwise, yeesh, everything fell flat.  Which is  a shame, because the cast was a lot of fun and featured a lot of funny people.   Maybe Ed Helms wasn’t meant to be a lead?  Anne Heche, nearly unrecognizable, stood out as one of the few interesting bits.  Along with Alia Shawkat at the hooker with a heart of gold.  I was very disappointed with the Spirit Awards for tossing a screenplay nomination this way.

159.  Home for Christmas

I’ll reprint my thoughts from my Film Fest DC roundup:

OK.  When you hear something is like Love Actually, what do you think?  Probably something along the lines of a light, breezy, fun movie with a bunch of interconnected scenes.  Right?  I think that’s fair.  OK.  The very first scene of Home for Christmas ends with a child in the crosshairs of a sniper.  In any case, I disagree pretty strongly with John, here.  I didn’t think the film did a good job at all of eliciting emotions.  And when it did, it used rather cheap ploys.  It it a dark, dismal, drab tale.  Which can be fine, but this film never got past the surface of anything.   Two things I think Love Actually does well is tie the storylines together enough that it makes sense all the different threads were part of the same movie, and make each thread self-sufficient and interesting enough that it could stand on its own.  This movie does neither.  None of the stories go anywhere and they certainly don’t end up together.

158.  Monogamy

We actually received a screener for this film two years ago for the Spirit Awards, but I think it came late and it didn’t help fill out categories, so I didn’t get around to it until 2011, and given its release schedule, I’m counting it.  Chris Messina plays a photographer, because every third movie has to have a main character who it is a photographer.  He does the usual, boring wedding-type stuff, but also has this side business where people pay him to essentially stalk them talking people.  So, yeah.  He’s engaged to Rashida Jones but starts having doubt when he stalks this one lady who likes to masturbate in public.  Because that is totally a sentence that makes sense on any level.  From there, the movie increasingly spirals into inanity.

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