- 1Director: Dennis DuganBUY @ amazon
"Jack and Jill" got all the hype as Adam Sandler's most embarrassing 2011 release, but I had the good sense to avoid that one entirely. Still, this entry from February 2011 was surely as, if not more, reprehensible, unfunny, shrill and obnoxious. Sandler plays an immature bachelor who uses a fake wedding ring to pick up chicks, a strategy that backfires on him when the ring is discovered by his latest conquest, the admittedly beautiful Brooklyn Decker.
This leads to a particularly egregious attempt at a farce, in which Sandler's character must fake not just a failing marriage to his assistant (Jennifer Aniston), but a fake fatherhood to her two horrible children. Honestly, it's like English is the screenwriter's fourth language. It's tone-deaf to a degree that's inexcusable, considering that everyone who appears in the movie has presumably met a few human beings in their lives and carried on a few actual conversations.
The word "desperation" doesn't even begin to cover "Just Go With It," a film that I'd have to suspect most middle-school students would deride as too juvenile and dependent on bathroom humor. I know Sandler makes a killing on each and every one of these sub-sophomoric comedies, but still, only a very cynical person could make this nonsense his life's work. I feel sorry for him.
- 2Director: Jonathan LiebesmanBUY @ amazon
Sort of like a poor man's "Black Hawk Down," but with worse actors, aliens and less compelling shootouts, "Battle: Los Angeles" imagines a firefight between US soldiers and alien invaders in the streets of LA. A potentially winning recipe for an action movie; if only there were a single beat or action sequence of note. Director Jonathan Liebesman goes all Paul Greengrass on us - shaky cam up the ass, and you can't see what's going on at all.
Everything that ISN'T action is similarly woeful. I'm not even sure why filmmakers would bother making gratuitous scenes with soldiers hanging out at the base any more. There is nothing new here - we get the nervous rookie, the shell-shocked vet, the loudmouth from Jersey, the good guy who's gonna get married soon, the green lieutenant straight from the Academy... Sorry, I just bored myself into submission before I could even finish that thought.
Also, they shot the film in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and it looks NOTHING like LA. It's supposed to all be happening in Santa Monica and Culver City, and it's just ridiculous as a depiction of those places.
- 3Director: Catherine HardwickeBUY @ amazon
In this loose adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives in a small village set inside a dark forest. When her town is plagued by werewolf attacks, it becomes clear that Valerie herself is the real target.
To be honest, none of these "updated fairy tale" premises really work on me. It's just a cheap way to flatter the audience - we all "get" the references to classic storybook tropes, but the movie's sort of congratulating us on getting it anyway. This is basically an attempt to "Twilight" the s**t out of the classic Red Riding Hood story (director Hardwicke made the first "Twilight" film), hoping that girls who relate to Bella will also relate to a plucky heroine in a hood whose grandmother may or may not have been replaced by a Big Bad Wolf. It fails on every possible level.
The premise promises both horror and romance, but it settles quickly into a somewhat obvious, though tediously over-written, whodunit. Complications and pointless "twists" keep being added, making the story labored, but it never gets scary, sexy or exciting. "Red Riding Hood" is a turgid, flat exercise, and even after sitting through the entire overblown ordeal, you scarcely feel like you've seen a movie at all. (Plus, the "what big eyes you have..." scene tops my list for the year's most unintentionally campy and lame.)
- 4Director: Michel GondryBUY @ amazon
Another "modern twist" on a classic and iconic character, this attempt to make superhero The Green Hornet somehow relevant to contemporary audiences does the exact opposite. It's a film-length argument for NOT mucking about and altering classic characters to give them an amped-up, modern-day feel. (As if we even NEEDED another reason after "The Spirit.")
"Hornet" feels like it started out as a straight-ahead comic book movie, and then they got about halfway through and realized it wasn't working at all - the heroes were thoroughly unlikable, the story had no momentum, and so forth. So it was morphed into a parody of superhero movies instead. But only Christoph Waltz, as the villain, seems in on the joke (and even so, he's still kind of embarrassing himself.)
He's had his share of detractors for a while, but this is as unlikeable as Seth Rogen has ever been on film, and I'm including his date rape-y mall cop from "Observe and Protect." It's almost as if he were trying to distill all his most unpleasant, pandering, smug qualities into a single role.
The style, costumes/props, settings, effects and action are uniformly silly and ugly. I'm not sure if the otherwise talented Michel Gondry just can't shoot action (none of his films really involve a lot of gunplay or martial arts) or if he just lost interest.
- 5Director: Todd PhillipsBUY @ amazon
The original "Hangover" is no masterpiece, but it does work as a new-ish twist on an old format. (I enjoyed how the standard "frat guy comedy" was melded with essentially a mystery-suspense plot and actually found the first film's conclusion pretty satisfying and clever.) Phillips unwisely decided to essentially recreate the exact same film for the sequel, giving it the exact tired and predictable quality he worked so hard to avoid the first thing out.
Even worse, in an effort to make the sequel "bigger" somehow than the original, he's turned up the mean-spirited cruelty of the humor, apparently in the belief that we liked the characters so much the first time around, we now want to see them punished. The result is loud, obnoxious and horrible, a movie designed to appeal exclusively to 13-year-old bullies.
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