Tuesday, February 5, 2013

MY LEAST FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012


Although 2012 was a pretty good year in cinema, there were still a few films, in my very humble opinion, that didn't quite work out for a variety of reasons with them ranging from being too formulaic to lacking in imagination to simply being downright terrible.

Here are my selections of least favorite from the previous year, in no particular order:

"MOONRISE KINGDOM"

The latest from Wes Anderson, "Moonrise Kingdom" has received plenty of critical praise, big box-office and award recognition including an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for the director and co-writer, Roman Coppola but it's apparent charms were lost on me. I have usually enjoyed his wonderfully eccentric films (with "The Royal Tenenbaums" as one of my all-time favorites) but this story, about a 12 year-old scout (Jared Gilman) who decides to run away with his pen-pal (Kara Hayward) to leave their unhappy homes and live in the New England wilderness, just felt too precious to me.


"THE PAPERBOY"

"The Paperboy", the follow-up to Lee Daniels' acclaimed, "Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire", is an overheated and demented murder mystery set in the deep South in the 1960's. A strong cast (Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey) jumped on board but probably realized too late that they were stuck in a directionless, trashy melodrama that was not worth their time or energy. This could possibly become a future camp classic but the film's ugly undercurrent will not encourage repeat viewings.

"DARK SHADOWS"

Director, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp both loved the late 1960's Gothic soap-opera, "Dark Shadows" so much that they decided to team up to make a feature film as a tribute. However, what they ended up making was a misguided mess that couldn't decide whether to be a comedic horror spoof or a more faithful dramatic retelling with the final results being a very sloppy combination. While the film certainly looks great, it seems like more time was spent getting the visuals and the period details just right than having a coherent script. The talents of an impressive cast which includes Michelle Pffeifer, Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter are utterly wasted. This version of "Dark Shadows" is simply an insult to the memory of this beloved cult program.

"CLOUD ATLAS"

"Cloud Atlas", an ambitious but clumsily executed big-budget art house film by three respected filmmakers, Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") and Lana & Andy Wachowski ("The Matrix") that is just too busy and unfocused. An all-star cast was assembled that features Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent playing multiple characters and wearing very distracting, unconvincing make-up (I can't decide whether Ms Berry as a white woman or Jim Sturgess as an Asian was the worst). As these actors kept popping up with different faces or in different races, it was a gimmick that wore out it's welcome real fast. I really wanted to like this but despite the almost three hour running time, there were just too many ideas trying to be crammed in to the film. Perhaps this might have worked better as a mini-series on HBO or something but as feature film, you just want "Cloud Atlas" to drift out of your memory.

"JOHN CARTER"

Last year, Taylor Kitsch was suppose to be the next big movie star as he headlined three major films with two being very-expensive, Hollywood blockbusters. While his film with Oliver Stone, "Savages" wasn't that bad and a modest success, those other two movies stank-up the theaters. I managed to avoid the summer misfire, "Battleship" (which I'm pretty sure would have found it's way on this list) but not so lucky with "John Carter". Based on the first novel by the creator of "Tarzan", John Carter was a confederate solider who is transported to the planet, Mars where he now has super-strength and gets involved in the battle between two warring cities. This character first appeared in 1917 and the world has changed quite a bit since then. It doesn't seem like anyone bothered to update "John Carter" in any relevant way as the plot, the visual effects and the Martians all feel creaky and out of date.

"ROCK OF AGES"

The box-office smash, "Les Misérables" wasn't the only Broadway musical that made it's way to the silver screen last year. Unfortunately, "Rock of Ages" made an appearance as well. This jukebox play that was built around the classic rock songs from the 1980's might have worked on the stage but as a film, it's just loud, obnoxious noise. Sherrie (Julianne Hough) is just a small town girl arriving in L.A. looking to become a famous singer. After meeting Drew (Diego Boneta), who also want to be a rock star, he helps her gets a job at The Bourbon Room, the famous rock palace run by an aging hippie (Alec Baldwin), while they both wait for their shot at music stardom. However, the bar has to contend with the conservative mayor and his wife (Bryan Cranston and Catherine Zeta-Jones) who want to shut the bar down. The numerous problems begin with two very bland leads and end with too many non-singers trying to sing. The only bright spot is Tom Cruise as rock god, Stacee Jaxx who is clearly having fun and has a surprisingly good singing voice. Alas, he alone can't save this rock & rock nightmare.



"RUBY SPARKS", "LOLA VERSUS"

These two underwhelming, art-house romantic-comedies, "Ruby Sparks" and "Lola Versus" attempt to be wacky and clever but never rise above cloying and trite. "Ruby" is about a successful young novelist (Paul Dano) suffering from writer's block. After given a writing assignment by his therapist, he creates the idea woman on paper who magically comes to life. Zoe Kazan wrote the insufferable script and plays Ruby Sparks, the perfect girlfriend who will do whatever she is written to do.

Greta Gerwig, the latest indie darling, stars as the title character in "Lola" who is devastated after her fiance (Joel Kinnaman) calls off the wedding. She decides to get back in to the dating game but is apparently made more difficult now that she is approaching the very old age of thirty. I don't know what in this incredibly unfunny script, (written by director, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, who co-stars) appealed to this fine cast, which includes Bill Pullman and from "SNL", Jay Pharoah but what I'm most offended about was how "Lola" wastes the talent of the too-long absent from the screen, Debra Winger.



"SPARKLE", "TOTAL RECALL"

Every year, the theaters are littered with remakes of films that end up being uninventive and pointless. I usually try to avoid them but these two titles I couldn't resist. However, after seeing the results, I wish I had. "Sparkle" is the re-telling of the 1976 film about three teenage sisters seeking musical stardom and features the final film appearance of the late pop superstar, Whitney Houston as their stern mother. This film is watchable but unnecessary as there is not a moment that feels fresh or inspired as it even uses most of the music from the original film.

The remake of the 1990 film,"Total Recall" was off to a good start by casting Colin Farrell in the lead but things quickly go downhill from there. The inept script of this sci-fi adventure threw out what little character development there was in the original and simply ramped-up the action which leaves us with nothing more than endless chase sequences and flying punches. The only positive that can be said is that this version takes full advantage of the advancement in visual effects but beyond that, there was no reason for this film to have been made.