The following films have an obvious agenda or are otherwise hopelessly out of touch with common sense (or decency). For lack of a better word these films are pretentious. They pretend to be something they clearly aren't.
Che: Part Two
In 1967, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara leads a small partisan army to fight an ill-fated revolutionary guerrilla war in Bolivia, South America. (135 mins.)
“ If you saw this film and had no real understanding of history or ethics you would get the impression Che Guevara was a morally upstanding humanist, and an intellectual & military strategist par excellence. When in actuality he failed miserably to export his radical politics abroad, ordered the execution of political 'enemies of the state,' and ingratiated himself with Mao Tse Tung (perhaps the most incompetent and embarrassing major world leader of his century). For the sake of his reputation and box-office receipts, the years between Cuba and Bolivia have been wisely omitted. He is an icon whose legitimately interesting flaws & personality (and very life) have been sanitized in order to fit a preconceived and easily digestible ideal. For that reason as much as any, this film is a failure. ” - Tin_ear
“ Most of the evidence in the Loose Change series is largely observational and scientifically unqualified, but five editions in five years hardly implies credibility anyway. Even more inexplicable is the introduction of the 'definitive edition,' which director and writer Dylan Avery feels a need to include fifteen minutes of allusions to other unsupported conspiracy theories. Most damning, is the simple fact that every issue presented is from only one angle. Which is precisely the point. Some of the 'facts' Avery presents have been in truth refuted by experts, while many other examples of 'evidence' offered as proof of a massive CIA conspiracy are anecdotal or unverifiable at best. In nearly 100 minutes there are only two genuinely significant examples given that may imply a need for further investigation. Over six years the film has been whittled down as experts have debunked many of the conspiracy's various minutia one by one; at this rate there may not be enough unexplained anomalies to even warrant a sixth edition. Far from the most bungled 'Truther' documentary (an honor that goes to the even more annoying 911: In Plane Sight [sic]), it is the most persistent. ” - Tin_ear
A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away... (178 mins.)
“ Lars von Trier achieves the bad-art-house-movie trifecta: too long, too pretentious, and obnoxiously political. Von Trier's made no effort to hide the fact he dislikes American culture; the sarcastic closing credit illustrates he has an axe to grind. The narration, spastic camera work, and artsy-fartsy set design are also rather horrid. (To paraphrase Roman Polanski, the camera operator appears to suffer from Parkinson's or is busy masturbating.)
Provoking responses via the most over the top melodrama and pseudo-artistic finger wagging, America serves as the effigy for all humanity's worse tendencies and moral crimes. It is an apparent political statement that can't be bothered to pick an issue or contain an actual idea. Only von Trier could manage to make the Mondo Cane guys look subtle and objective. Maybe that figures, after all, this is the same guy who is more renowned for his awkward sense of humor and grating personality than his body of work. Though Von Trier, a pioneer in the genre of avant-garde shlock, at least had the good sense to leave out the Bjork songs this time. This is a mash-up of several styles and cinematic philosophies, but none of them really work, it's just a mean-spirited, repetitive, ugly piece of $%^*. ” - Tin_ear
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Ben Stein examines the issue of academic freedom and decides that there is none when it comes to the debate over intelligent design. (90 mins.)
“ This 'documentary' can be described as such only in the loosest sense of the definition. There is certainly concern and enough material to make a worthy doc on the effects of political correctness, confirmation bias, and groupthink in academia out there, but this film is too inept to find it. ” - Tin_ear
Cautionary tale features a fictionalized and highly exaggerated take on the use of marijuana. A trio of drug dealers lead innocent teenagers to become addicted to "reefer" cigarettes by holding wild parties with jazz music. (66 mins.)
“ Aka 'Reefer Madness.' The moral of the film is that it is sometimes worth blatantly lying to your children and fellow citizens in order to protect them. Though in the long run the only real dangers of excessive Marijuana use is short term memory loss, orange Cheeto-fingers, and possible infatuation with jam bands. For the most part, almost every young person in America smokes pot at some point, and few become addicted, and nobody ever turned deranged who wasn't already seriously mentally defective. The funniest part is fact the quality of pot from the Sixties is generally laughed at today by potheads, in the Thirties they must have been smoking dog crap. ” - Tin_ear
As an actress starts to adopt the persona of her character in a film, her world starts to become nightmarish and surreal. (180 mins.)
“ David Lynch's Inland Empire might be the most frustrating, futile conceptual film ever made. With an indeciperable plot, undetectable character development, pointless surrealist scenes, grainy and ugly cinematography, a built-in niche fanbase, and the tiresome meta-narrative, this was surely designed with only Cannes judges in mind. For everybody else it is a chore and a cruel joke. And all this is compounded by the fact it is three hours long and probably has to seen at least three times before it makes any semblance of logical sense. Even the cast admitted they had no clue what the film was about (never a good sign), as did most honest critics and viewers. Disguised as deep and innovative 'high art,' Inland Empire is really more a cautionary tale of artistic hubris from a mind out of ideas. Dune didn't end Lynch's career, but this should. Whereas Dune was the story of a naïve, adventurous filmmaker pitted against impossible odds and corporate obligations in an epic production that he was doomed to fail to meet, IE is what happens when a man has too much power, too much freedom. To rate a film this low one must consider its redeeming features, but here one is obliged to ask the question, 'Is there any reason this film needs to exist at all?' ” - Tin_ear
The Birth of a Nation
The American Civil War divides friends and destroys families, but that's nothing compared to the anarchy in the black-ruled South after the war. (165 mins.)
“ It is hard to believe that this movie was based on any kind of fact, but it is supposed to represent the perils of the Reconstructionist period in southern America. Interesting if only for it's technical innovations, this movie is clearly racially motivated. If you watch carefully you can hear (and by that I mean read the intertitles) one of the characters proudly exclaim the phrase 'Aryan birthright.' ” - Tin_ear
A documentary that chronicles Sarah Palin's pre-political life; her tenure as Governor of Alaska, and her time spent as John McCain's running mate.
“ This documentary is generally inauthentic in its insinuation that Palin's credibility problem is anything but self-created. She is depicted as innovative and clever during her reign in Alaska (supposedly 80% approval rating), yet somehow the majority of Americans, even many Republicans, increasingly judge her abilites lacking. This discrepancy is conveniently never adequately elucidated. Furthermore, she is famous for using 'socialism' as an epithet, but in the documentary the main commodity of Alaska (oil) is proudly declared state property by law. Which seems hypocritical to put it mildly.
The stock footage is so generic looking, and musical score & camera work so overly dramatic the whole movie looks like a cheesy Alaskan tourism/campaign advert, which I suppose it is. Even the chapter titles (eg: Act 1: The Servant's Heart - The Seed) are pretentious and cornball. The title itself is especially illogical, for she was defined politically for her defeat then resignation, and all in one year. While perhaps a good fit for Alaska, this documentary seems unable to admit the obvious, Mrs. Palin was just a wide-eyed rube caught in the national headlights for a few months. ” - Tin_ear
V for Vendetta
In a future British tyranny, a shadowy freedom fighter, known only by the alias of "V", plots to overthrow it with the help of a young woman. (132 mins.)
“ Politically it is muddled. As social commentary it is naive and stupid. As art it is derivative and inane. Originally an Orwell rip off for the Eighties, it was revived twenty years later, hoping to feed on anti-war attitudes and the constant kind of unfocused rage that typifies youth and conspiracy buffs. This film is too dumb to realize it is still only the product of an overrated comic book writer and the producers of the even worse Matrix series. The film disregards the successes of non-violent protest for the utterly failed and reprehensible tactics of The Black Panters, KKK, and Baader Meinhof as means of political recognition. The hackneyed film can only comprehend and best articulate the idea of 'fascism' as a vaguely Nazi-esque red and black color scheme, men with facial hair gesticulating wildly on a dais, and police in riot gear -- which is just juvenile and lazy. This is not Bakunin or Goldman, it's fodder for a breed of self-professed 'anarchists' who are essentially illiterate. Even the comic's creator disowned it. Aside being boring and already dated, the film validates its credibility by including Bruce Lee in a halloween mask, and a domino gag that is easily one the dumbest allegorical scenes ever filmed. The real life Guy Fawkes was a bumbling, amoral, religious zealot (part Timothy McVeigh, part 'Underwear bomber') looking to replace one monarchical tyrant for another, a fact likely lost on the majority of the audience and probably the filmmakers. Though, thankfully, I doubt most viewers took it seriously anyway. ” - Tin_ear
Lonely residents of a tornado-stricken Ohio town wander the deserted landscape trying to fulfill their boring, nihilistic lives. (89 mins.)
“ It aspires to a cinema-verite like form, but is actually a rather depressing geek show. It obviously is not a straight forward docudrama, or even sincere fiction, since all the non-actors are picked for their eccentricities and coached to seem as absurd and hillbilly as possible. The townspeople are cartoonishly crude, ignorant, racist, repulsive, or otherwise defective, and all are uniformly comical as they wallow in their backwardness, oblivious they are on the outskirts of civilized society. And no mater what defenders may claim, yes, we are meant to pity them and even despise them. They might as well be lemurs in the monkey house their uncouth strangeness is emphasized so stridently. They are uneducated, unself-conscious poor people, a curiousity for the intended audience of hipsters and film nerds. This is avant-garde slumming at its worst. ” - Tin_ear
An American Carol
An anti-American filmmaker who's out to abolish the July Fourth holiday is visited by three ghosts who try to change his perception of the country. (83 mins.)
“ A quick look at its wikipedia page should tell you everything you need to know. This is preachy, poorly written, right-wing dreck. I refuse to even write another word or expend any more mental energy on its existence. ” - Tin_ear
“ Notable for its climactic interview with a likely Alzheimers-striken Charlton Heston, Moore fails to even capture a worthwhile interview. Instead he tries to paint the same man who risked his career participating in civil rights marches with MLK as some kind of cold-blooded racist. Moore casts himself, yet again, as humble crusader. Truth is, he is a lot like Fox News; he hampers rational discourse and distorts reality. The sheer amount of pandering, diversions, and false humility is evident in scenes meticulously staged and edited for maximum effect. Though his aims are admirable and he makes a few good points, his premises are often faulty. His example of Columbine as representative of gun crime in the US is grossly misleading. His 'culture of fear' theory doesn't explain the bulk of gun crime or correlate with homocide statistics, and actually convienently ignores real social factors behind criminal behavior that can easily be found in a Criminology 101 textbook (which do not include Eisenhower's foriegn policy decisions, Colgate ads, or Dick Clark as factors). I could have placed a few other of Moore's self-centric, logically-oblique movies on this list, but this is the worst. Moore is, and always has been, a poor man's Adam Curtis. ” - Tin_ear
A Man for All Seasons
The story of Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage. (120 mins.)
“ Saving you a history lesson, I'll admit Thomas More was in fact a devout Catholic martyr, who stood up to his king on principle. He was also a fanatic, self-mortifying hypocrite. He censored books, despised free speech, and did little to stop the cruel imprisonment or burning of heretics. He himself was executed by his former master, and later canonized by a grateful Catholic Church. His deeds are far from saintly, however. ” - Tin_ear
Private Joe Bauers, the definition of "average American", is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes five centuries in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed down that he's easily the most intelligent person alive. (84 mins.)
“ I'll take abuse for this, but this movie is dumber than it thinks it is, and if you like it you probably are too. Avoiding a debate on the validity of the 'Savanah Principle,' I'll just say this movie is based on casual assumptions and junk logic. Worse, Idiocracy implicitly panders to a narrow audience and condescends toward others, not really a good combination if you have pretentions towards being a 'biting satire.' Basically everything that is associated with the lower or working classes is considered subhuman. The fact that the film unintentionally paraphrases Francis Galton while attempting to
criticize mainstream American society, albeit without actually taking a stand against anything concrete, pretty much says it all. It is arguably one of the more judgemental movies ever made. That Shakespeare stooped to writing plays for the 'groundlings' is also probably a fact that escapes these film makers' attention. The fact they would equate pop culture with low I.Q. is lazy. The fact they do it it with such oblivion, worse yet.
I like unapologetic political incorrectness but considering its cliched criticisms of consumerism and assumed (?) support of eugenics (limiting the overbreeding of 'dumb people' while advocating more 'smart breeding') I'd say the writers raised ethical and sociological questions they are frankly too ignorant and out of their depth to adequately address in depth. ” - Tin_ear
The Green Berets
Col. Mike Kirby picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese General. (142 mins.)
“ You have to give 'The Duke' credit for trying, but no amount of effort could save this movie or the public's support for The Vietnam War. Informed it is no longer cool to shoot Indians, Wayne switched to another minority. The overall atmosphere of the Vietnam conflict is lost; there is no rampant drug use or any subtlety related to the nature of guerilla warfare. The film doesn't fully explore just how much the South Vietnamese population resented their own government and the US presence. Hell, even McNamara admitted we were interfering in a civil war. The enemy wears matching uniforms, their general lives in a mansion, and the US bombers are always precise with no indiscriminate napalm carpet-bombing. In the end the cynics are converted by witnessing the compassion of the US military. The last thirty minutes are ridiculous. ” - Tin_ear
I'm Not There.
Ruminations on the life of Bob Dylan, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician's life and work. (135 mins.)
“ Like Bob Dylan himself, this movie ambles self-assuredly and with disregard to conventional thinking. That strategy made Dylan an enigmatic legend, but I'm Not There is instead intensely annoying. Some of the troupe of actors, who depict him throughout his life, do a clownish impersonation of Dylan, and the others don't feel the need at all to even attempt a convincing Dylan act, all of them spouting referential, throwaway lines and utter nonsense. I am less sure who the man truly was (and is), and I actually find him less interesting after watching this slick but forgettable mess. Its failed, cryptic profoundity and chic, meaningless allusions to Dylan's most superficial affectations render this movie less an explorative biography than a hollow experiment, or worse, pretentious Oscar-bait. ” - Tin_ear
Good Will Hunting
Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life. (126 mins.)
“ A film so hacky it can only suggest genius through mathematical equations, blue-collar drudgery through mopping floors, and emotion through yelling or weeping. Matt Damon plays Stephen Hawking in James Dean's body, but the most irritating part is that the genius of the title character is noticably equated to his supposedly profound progressive politics. The character played by (and written by) Matt Damon, himself a Harvard student, spouts platitudes from academic Howard Zinn, while he disses students who 'regurgitate' their professors and political jargon. Just one example of the movie being dumber than its own premise. The character arguably operates as an idealized version of Damon himself (a Mary Sue if you will). He broods sexily and intimidates professors with his intellect.
The character never says or does much that would show giftedness, he's just a hunky, know-it-all jerk who apparently has the inexplicable abilities of an autistic savant (but, of course, none of the negative attributes because that would be too difficult to write). He has a complete breakthrough in just a handful of Dr Phil-like therapy sessions despite a lifetime of severe psychological & physical trauma and a possible personality disorder. Yes, only Patch Adams himself can cure the troubled genius that is Matt Damon, I mean Will Hunting.
And this won an Oscar for writing over Boogie Nights. ” - Tin_ear
Super Size Me
While examining the influence of the fast food industry, Morgan Spurlock personally explores the consequences on his health of a diet of solely McDonald's food for one month. (100 mins.)
“ Morgan Spurlock has built a career on making films about fairly benign issues. The only thing worse than his local newscaster approach to investigative journalism is his shameless self-promotion. Fast food is unhealthy, yeah, no kidding. His work, while honest, never fails to elicit a resounding 'duh.' ” - Tin_ear
Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is able to drive the British out of the subcontinent. And the stubborn nature of Jinnah and his commitment towards Pakistan is portrayed. (191 mins.)
“ Gandhi should be respected for preaching tolerance and peaceful resistance, but the man's life was a little more complex than what you read on a plaque. Richard Attenborough's film is so reverential and deferencial that you would think he actually was a demi-god. He had demons, some of which are not so easily glossed over. Where are they? Various critics have argued with some persuasiveness, he was a hypocrite regarding racial issues, impractical regarding WWII, an embittered social-climber turned oppurtunist, a luddite, a naive political amateur, a cultural chauvinist, a sexual 'weirdo,' and a fanatical, vain ascetic. Whether they fit in with the Gandhi myth or not, these are valid, ethically amibiguous aspects of the man's life raised by noted writers and historians which shouldn't be ignored. This film is just politically correct hagiography, it was never intended to be anything but. ” - Tin_ear
In a Napoleonic era insane asylum, an inmate, the irrepressible Marquis De Sade, fights a battle of wills against a tyrannically prudish doctor. (124 mins.)
“ Another case of actual facts being too embarrassing to include. You might not know it from watching this Philip Kaufman biopic, but the real life version of Marquis de Sade was more interested in gang rape, pedophilia, and gluttony than prose and freedom of speech. He would more accurately be depicted by John Wayne Gacy. At this rate you should expect a Charles Manson biopic in ten years, starring Zac Ephrom as the titular crude, over-extended metaphor -- I mean character. ” - Tin_ear
A covert counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell led by Gabriel Shear wants the money to help finance their war against international terrorism, but it's all locked away. Gabriel brings in convicted hacker Stanley Jobson to help him. (99 mins.)
“ Though the John Travolta speech falsely promises a whip smart movie unlike typical 'Hollywood trash,' Swordfish is only mildly more clever than the aforementioned glut of mass-produced, Hollywood, star-vehicle bombs. And in retrospect, no less indistinguishable. The movie features some of the most irritatingly stupid cliches known, among them multiple scruffy yet hip hackers (the main one played by a ripped, tatted-up, shirtless Hugh Jackman) and a plot that involves an out-of-luck felon who only takes 'the toughest job in his life' to be reunited with his long lost daughter. The film doesn't realize how stiflingly pretentious it comes off, but that's the least of its problems. This is not to mention the most memorable scene (or perhaps second most memorable) which apparently takes place at the Roxbury club from the SNL skit circa 1995. The painfully hackneyed hacking montages decimate whatever credibility the film retained. ” - Tin_ear
Rudy has always been told that he was too small to play college football. But he is determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing for Notre Dame. (114 mins.)
“ If I didn't sound like a cynical jerk already, I definitely will now; someone has to state this. Upon a closer look, Rudy's goal is petty, his acheivement is hollow and insignificant, and he really only reaches it through a mixture of convoluted karma and collective pity. This is reminiscent of disabled players who are allowed to play and even score meaningless points in HS sports, with the tacit acceptance by both teams that the final minutes are inconsequential anyway. I personally find this mentality demeaning and counterproductive, but Rudy is not a movie about dignity, afterall (nor apparently historical accuracy). In real life, the annoying title character has gone on to make a career shamelessly selling his inflated moment of notoriety. When Joe Montanta, himself a third-stringer on that same team (who later became a HoF QB) debunked the myth as an exaggeration, he was attacked. Which seems to confirm the bizarre lengths people will go to not just to believe but also perpetuate nonsense and feel-good stories.
Perhaps those of you that don't believe in karma will take note that Notre Dame lost nine straight bowl games after this dorky, self-aggrandizing film was released. A sardonic warning to any potential recruits inspired by this Disney-fied story of mediocrity, and the habitually overexposed football team that spawned it. ” - Tin_ear
A dramatized account of a great Russian naval mutiny and a resulting street demonstration which brought on a police massacre. (75 mins.)
“ The most celebrated piece of propaganda ever made. Politics (and radical politics in particular) has a tendency to kill art when not busy killing real people, however the worst part is the fact that this movie is actually legitimizing a reigme that perpetrated massacres much worse than the pro-Czarist one memoralized here. The film bears little similarity with the actions that actually happened in Odessa, despite the insinuation this is a docudrama. I personally believe the film's true motivation and purpose was to obscure and overshadow an embarrassing anti-Bolshevik, naval uprising at Kronstadt. The fabled montage technique would help the USSR's cabal co-opt history, unscrupulously re-editing and reappropriating a revolution they had hijacked. ('Potemkin' coincidentally is a euphemism for a politically motivated sham to hide uncomfortable truths dating back to the era of Catherine II... a funny aside now, but a bleak irony then.) Any film that crassly cashes in on bloodshed to support one of the most gory governments in the 20th Century is vile, especially when the subtext reads: Joseph Stalin is your savior. Unlike the hare-brained pro-collectivization Earth, which had the bad luck to precede one of the worst state-induced famines of all time, BP was even less unethical. This 'masterpiece' is pseudo-journalistic p.r. Goebbels could drool over. ” - Tin_ear
The true story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison. (121 mins.)
“ The problem with the film lies less in its historical innaccuracy as (the real life protagonist himself admitted) it does with Oliver Stone's cliched portrayals of Turkey/Middle Easterners and prison guards. There was in fact only one sadistic guard, who was not killed by Hayes at all. Hayes' escape from İmralı prison was by sea, not after killing a rapist and stealing the keys. Furthermore, there are literally no good non-Westerners at all in the film, which should rightfully be taken as slander. While he doesn't compliment the Turkish prison system, Hayes has said he actually empathized with the guards. This is part of a larger problem in biographical and historical movies and filmmaking in general, that everything, even stories which are already interesting, have to be remolded to appear more theatrical or audience friendly. And no, he never bit out anyone's tongue. This is not an exposé -- it's exploitation. ” - Tin_ear
Invocation of My Demon Brother
(1969 Short Film)
Experimental short, featuring strobe-like erotic imagery with several shots of the Rolling Stones in performance and an original synthesizer score by Mick Jagger. (12 mins.)
“ Neither creepy nor interesting nor innovative, this is a true turd. Indulgent and silly, this shlocky, trippy horror short by Kenneth Anger is evidence experimental short films as a rule should be ignored as anything but novelties. The 'film' (really just a lot of scrap footage from an earlier satanic-themed short) capitalizes on Mick Jagger's vain rebel self-image (and desperation to branch out into film) and Anger's presumed laziness and adolescent obsession with the devil. Up to this point, Satanism might have actually been frightening, but after, it looks like a rather cheesy fad. This is a home movie, a film project for undergraduates, but not a proper piece of art. The sad part is that Anger has actually made several decent short films before this one. In any case, avoid this at all costs, which considering its obscurity is actually quite easy. ” - Tin_ear
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The story of how an eccentric French shop-keeper and amateur film-maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy... (87 mins.)
“ While the film exposes the banality of the contemporary art scene (a movement illustrated by Shepard Fairey, a liberal dove who hawks $120 branded sweaters and framed posters of a president who keeps Gitmo open and uses robots to kill people never convicted of any crime -- the cognitive dissonance in this film is rich indeed) well, it's the fact that everyone involved in this film is either too disingenuous or clueless to admit that art is and has traditionally always been a luxury good more than a tool of expression that is more notable. Only in modern times has it been appropriated as culture by society at large, usually in the form of kitsch. But 'important' art is still dictated and anointed by elitist tastemakers, whether that is the Medicis, Clement Greenberg, Charles Saatchi, or Christina Aguilera (I wish I was joking).
Avant-garde art is no less capitalistic than tradition art, but with a distinct aura of 'authenticity,' encapsualted here by a fawning LA hipsters and an angelic choir heralding the arrival of Banksy, himself more a persona than a person. More obnoxiously, he is reluctant to admit street art had long been just another marketable fad complete with pr agents and coffee-table books, hardly a medium of social protest. The 'documentary' is also too up its own ass to bother to tell you that all art today is essentially performance art. The march toward demolishing the line between art and lifestyle branding is complete. We are intended to admire savvy guys like Banksy because he casts himself as the voice of reason and political consciousness. Yet as we are compelled to hold Mr. Brainwash (aka MBW) in contempt because he's a naive poseur, MBW's art so flawlessly imitates the modern pop/street art aesthetic it actually functions as a worthy parody. In the end no one could tell the difference, though to Bansky's defense, this film at least aspires toward subtext unlike most of his work. To decry Banksy --- as a betrayed naïf, as the film would like us to view him; a bitter rival, as he more approximately resembles; an insincere hoaxster, as he probably is; or a sell out or a philistine lumpenintelligentsia, as his harsher detractors insist -- is beside the point. He's a hypocrite for criticizing the same snobs, the same soulless industry, and the same brainlessly conformist fanbase that made him the rich and world famous brand he is. ” - Tin_ear
Snakes on a Plane
An FBI agent takes on a plane full of deadly and venomous snakes, deliberately released to kill a witness being flown from Honolulu to Los Angeles to testify against a mob boss. (105 mins.)
“ This film earns a spot on this list for the months of (ultimately) disappointing hype and a cynical marketing campaign. A campaign that continues to this day, flaunting this unwatchable piece of crap as a cult film. While cult films are legitimately eccentric, well-meaning but doomed labors of love, Snakes on a Plane is exactly the opposite. It is a custom cult movie, that is to say a glossy, corporate hoax built around an A-list actor.
Realizing it was utter $%^&, it repackaged itself as a medium-budget satire of real indie horror films, capitalizing on a maligned genre to recoup losses while basically mocking those types of movies. SoaP hyped itself as a postmodern and interactive film experience, downplaying the desperate, viral dupe it turned out to be. In the end, it was a soulless, stupid bore. The basic cable re-dubbing actually captures the hokey cult aesthetic precisely because it's so defensive and random. Even SoaP's celebrated and supposedly 'redeeming' signature line is infinitely inferior and less clever than the worst throwaway puns of a bureaucratic network censor. ” - Tin_ear
“ As much an ode to Orson Welles' skill in hucksterism as Nostradamus' fabled charlatanism, this film is one of the final in Welles' career. Which is a shame, because it is one of his most embarrassing, or perhaps, mercifully his last, if you want to look at it from another angle. Several of the sixteenth century seer's famed predictions featured prominently are blatantly wrong (a catastrophic world war in 1999 is just one), the others merely coincidental. Many of his celebrated 'bullseyes' are less convincing when inspecting the quatrains in full detail. If vagueness isn't enough to condemn them to the ash bin, mistaken predictions should be. The now infamous quatrains that many modern fans claim predict Sept. 11 are omitted, naturally because they were so nonsensical and inaccurate they were useless in predicting anything. Only a small handful of his thousand or so quatrains are actually considered accurate predictions by his supporters, and even those quatrains are striking only out of some base humans desire to seek patterns and make sense of chaos. I think I can make sense of this mess, Orson needed some rent money. ” - Tin_ear
A nurse is put in charge of an actress who can't talk and finds that the actress's persona is melding with hers. (85 mins.)
“ Ingmar Bergman's Persona, unfortunately seems to validate many a casual viewer's belief that art-house films are merely stiflingly pretentious, post-modernist babble. There in lies the tragedy, Bergman gave into the unnecessary fad of ungainly symbolism and experimental gestures popular in the late sixties when he had been churning out conventional masterpieces for decades. Apparently he doesn't realize he doesn't need to remind us of the 'artifice of cinema' when ninety percent of his audience will be forced to read subtitles all while ignoring the Scandinavian-tinged gibberish in b & w. The film is dense, despite its length and sparse design, it's practically as subjective as a rorschach inkblot. As a rule, anytime you need to read a twenty-page Susan Sontag essay to really make sense of a movie, it is probably too academic or too muddled for its own good. All Bergman's films are 'serious,' but this is one of the few that shouldn't be taken seriously. ” - Tin_ear
In this notorious Nazi propaganda historical costume melodrama, a conniving, ambitious Jewish businessman... (98 mins.)
“ Unlike its predecessor Power, also based on the novel of the executed Eighteenth-Century 'court Jew' Joseph Suss Oppenheimer, Jud Suss is noticably less politically correct. That's an understatement; this film was made in Nazi Germany and likely shows the fingerprints of Mr. Goebbels himself (what are the odds I'd mention that man's name twice in one list). You can decide for yourself since it's free on Youtube. But be warned, besides being anti-Semitic it is also largely devoid of artistic merit. I'll spoil the ending anyway, the Jew did it. The Jews always are to blame. ” - Tin_ear
A devastating and heartrending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska. (103 mins.)
“ In retrospect this is the most morbid black comedy ever made. The pathetically delusional, and likely mentally unhinged subject, Tim Treadwell, proudly took little or no precautions to protect himself or his girlfriend. And as one might expect, inevitably was eaten by the bears he claimed to have 'befriended.' It appears in his decades spent in the federal reserves of Alaska, 'protecting' animals, he learned quite little. A self-aggrandizer and animal rights advocate, he ironically helped reinforce a negative image of bears as ruthless, scary killing machines, and nature as a whole as nothing but an egoistic, barbaric game of survival. Werner Herzog arrives shortly after to up the absurdity of the debacle, exploiting the pointless and avoidable carnage, but depriving the audience of the rubbernecking pleasure they surely paid to see, ie the audio recording of the attack. Arguably, there is more to be learned in the lessons of his untimely death than the many wasted living years. This is a tragic farce with ample shame for all, including the director and viewer. I told you this was comedic, didn't I? ” - Tin_ear
Perversion for Profit
George Putnam narrates standing in front of a map of the U.S., using large title cards to establish each topic... (29 mins.)
“ This gem is probably among the greatest of all propaganda films. A 'breast fetish' among American men, really? Who knew? Perversion for Profit, narrated by George Putnam, and financed by a man who later went to prison for selling junk bonds, manages to link skin mags to nefarious conspiracies involving communists, gays, pedophiles (back then considered synonymous with homosexuals), crossdressers, and sadists, all within a brief thirty-minute running time. The narrator's dire warnings, backed up by the presumed expertise of a Harvard professor, 'Dr Sorokin,' attributes almost every negative behavior imaginable to stag pamphlets and muscle magazines. Comical, and sometimes horrifying, this documentary actually does a decent job chronicling the primitive pornography industry and puritanism of a pre-sexually liberated era. ” - Tin_ear
Home movies, photographs, and recited poetry illustrate the life of Tupac Shakur, one of the most beloved, revolutionary, and volatile hip-hop M.Cs. of all time. (112 mins.)
“ Produced by Amaru Entertainment, a company founded by Shakur's mother to distribute his unreleased material, this documentary was surely only designed to rehab Tupac Shakur's image and inflate record sales. Though he claims, as posthumous narrator, redemption and social awareness are major themes in his life and work, real life contradicts that delusional, self-serving assertion (hours before he died, he initiated a gang-related fist fight over jewelry, and then bragged about it).
His life's philosophy was fatalistic and convoluted, his justification for his immature & hypocritical lyrics were not convincing. He thrived on the same stereotypes he claimed to transcend, and he fomented one of the most inane & deadly feuds in music history purely out of ego, but also probably money. And while we see he was a charismatic guy with an introspective side and great backstory, he is largely a fictional creation. Admirers literally build monuments to him, but his legacy is dodgy. ” - Tin_ear
When an American human rights lawyer is assassinated in Belfast, it remains for the man's girlfriend... (108 mins.)
“ Checking off every leftist talking point from the prior two decades, this film nonetheless grounds itself in bitter, immature, conspiratorial fantasies to explain how a politician the filmmakers didn't vote for could possibly get elected. Worse, the film depicts the IRA (the same IRA that killed five people trying to assassinate said elected official five years prior) as mostly innocuous freedom fighters, while painting the British and Unionists as murderous gangsters. Lost amid the thinly-disguised pro-Republican sentiment is the fact the populace of Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted to remain British, thus, rendering the IRA foreign-funded terrorists. Unable to justify the IRA's violence, or more importantly, Republican claims to a united Ireland, Loach can only discredit a British govt to score political points. It's the type of movie where we know the 'good guys' are good because they are constantly shown being harrassed minding their own business, and the 'bad guys' bad because they admit they are corrupt, torture, and kill people. The mingling of deadly current events with a plot this narrow-minded and glib is a little sickening. The core subject matter is complex enough as it is. The film is not even really about 'The Troubles' as much as it is UK politics, as even the director would admit. Invoking the worst Swiftian cliche, there appears no more convenient political fodder for British intellectuals than dead Irish. ” - Tin_ear
A 19th century French aristocrat, notorious for his scathing memoirs about life in Russia, travels through the Russian State Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years. (99 mins.)
“ The film was produced with aid from the Russian Ministry of Culture, a no brainer when you realize this is an elaborate promotional video for the Hermitage Museum. If the director legitimately maintained an interest in exploring the heart of the Russian soul or culture, surely there had to be more interesting and challenging material available to explore than the cursory and picturesque pomp seen here. One longs for the heartfelt earthiness of Tarkovsky after watching this posh mush. Had the director only wished to indulge in documenting the museum itself, a straight forward doc would have sufficed. In this film, characters are babbling mannequins amid lavish scenery, a rather heartless and vapid approach to history. The selling point, the 'single shot,' is a steep price for a muddled, monotonous film. The central premise of the film, Russia's insecurity toward Europe and its slavish attempts to imitate the most stereotypically high-brow aspects of European culture, is unintentionally self-satirized by this film's very own desperate desire to be taken seriously by the modern snobs of Cannes and Venice. Which makes this not just boring and shallow, but also self-defeating. ” - Tin_ear
Everything returns to normal after Chernobyl. That is, everything but art. Most of the great works are lost... (90 mins.)
“ The sheer awfulness of the Dr. Pluggy character is matched only by Godard's delusion he's fit to radically reinterpret the Bard. An already stupid premise is made worse by the fact working knowledge of the original play will not improve your appreciation, as only fragments are used. The film borrows additional lines from other works to further complicate matters; while it may be Shakespeare's title, don't forget whose face is on the poster. As the mutant concept collapsed under the weight of financial restraints, ego, meager acting, self-indulgent cameos, and convoluted metaphors about filmmaking & art, I don't think anyone had the nerve to tell the director the truth. It is an idea so obviously doomed to failure even Norman Mailer thought it ill-advised. Golan-Globus is known for crap, but this film seems inept even by their standards. The editing is obtrusive, as overlapping dialogue, narration, animal noises & other assorted racket render chunks of the movie incomprehensible if not flat out embarrassing ... though I dread to say that it might have been intentional; I theorize Godard might have been suffering a months-long stroke while filming this. Once again proving no one could embarrass themselves in the name of art quite like JLG. ” - Tin_ear
A New Orleans DA discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. (189 mins.)
“ Oliver Stone is the left's answer to Glenn Beck, or Glenn Beck is the right's answer to Stone, more accurately. Either way they're both nuts, and largely irrelevant anyway. This movie is a conspiracist's wet dream. It is needless to point out that JFK is based on heresay and baseless alternative interpretations of history, but never is it explicitly admitted. It is a completely frivolous, intellectually worthless film devoted to a rather overblown and discredited theory. There's a moment of great absurdity -- one of several in JFK -- when our romanticized crusader quotes a line by Hitler about how 'if you tell a big enough lie people will believe it.' A sentiment that seems to encapsulate the conspiracy-theory industry, none more aloof or dishonest than L. Fletcher Prouty, who served both as Stone's advisor on the film and the model for the Mr. X character.
At at over three-hours long, one wonders why the director couldn't have at least edited out the $%^* he knew he blatantly made up to speed up this larded mess. Stone later apologized for unfairly slandering Turkey in his Midnight Express screenplay but has been eerily silent when it comes to apologizing for slandering Clay Shaw twenty years after he was initially slandered and publicly outed by the hack D.A., Garrison. ” - Tin_ear
The theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, who penned Shakespeare's plays. Set against the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I and the Essex rebellion against her. (130 mins.)
“ Had Roland Emmerich intended this purely as a popcorn movie or a parody, this might've worked. But he is all too serious, evident in the opening monologue and a marketing campaign that even distributed literature questioning Shakespeare's authorship to public schools. Fanning the flames of an alternative theory as to the identity of The Bard, the filmmakers raise many unpersuasive anomalilies in the life of the author (something about a bed in a will) while falsifying history elsewhere as it suits them. Of all people, the writer, director, and cast fail to appreciate that the truly incredible aspect of Shakespeare was not his story ideas (for many were adapted straight from antiquity or oral legends) but his skill with dialogue, a knack he surely honed on stage and as a poet. Not content to just tamper with the facts, Shakespeare is depicted as a boob for good measure, based solely on the damning revelation he was only a commoner and never attended college. The film is also horribly melodramatic, on four occasions I counted in which a dramatic line is followed by a crash of lightning, not unlike an episode of Gilligan's Island. But what would one expect from the guy who made Godzilla and 2012? ” - Tin_ear
Following clues to the origin of mankind a team journey across the universe and find a structure on a distant planet containing a monolithic statue of a humanoid head and stone cylinders of alien blood but they soon find they are not alone. (124 mins.)
“ The film is a hodge podge of rehashed allusions from the Alien franchise, some themes of 2001, and a mixture of elements from other sci-fi works. It's hard to pinpoint the most ridiculous moment, but in the eyes of many, the impregnation subplot/abortion scene marks the moment when this charmless film exposes its utter lack of respect for the audience's intelligence.
Despite allegations of being 'deep,' the plot disregards scientific consensus in favor Erich von Däniken's debunked ramblings. This is basically an episode of Ancient Aliens. As committed as it, it annoyingly doesn't even answer its more basic questions, instead inserting crackpot mysticism &/or red herrings; never has a film tried so hard to justify its Bluray release. The franchise is irretrievably damaged. This story is so disappointingly bad, so denuded of credibility, humanity, terror or awe, only Damon Lindelof could have pulled this off. (In an interview Ridley Scott explained the basis of the plot was the Engineers taking revenge for the execution of one of their alien ambassadors, Jesus. Oh, dear.) This is just the foundation of what is a mountain of bad choices. Notably, the only engaging character is the robot. Its stars come off as little more than petulant models (a farcry from the homely yet idiosyncratic Nostromo crew); the 'Engineers' are eight-foot tall Abercrombie and Fitch mannequins whose every action and motivation is pretty much unexplainable. All of which would appear to justify a sequel, if only to flesh out the characters and unanswered questions this film pointlessly created by a producer who shamelessly wanted nothing more than to make Aliens 7 but was smart enough to backdate the story and drop the title and numeral to convince people it was something else. ” - Tin_ear
During a rescue mission into the Amazon rainforest, a professor stumbles across lost film shot by a missing documentary crew. (95 mins.)
“ Cannibal Holocaust's special effects are ingenious, its core concept is decent, and it does contain some memorable moments. But the film is more noteworthy for its phony moralizing, a (fraudulently) ritualistic sexual assault it assumes we are too dumb to recognize as pornography, and lowly justification of another rape by depicting an equally horrific rape later on, some kind of karmic retribution meted out by the 'savages' the film is pretending to not objectify. One popular apology is that the director Ruggero Deodato and his writer Gianfranco Clerici were making a film commenting on the Mondo film genre, media in general, or modern society. But this film has as vulgar habits and dubious ethics filming in the third world as its targets possess; the natives are still props, agony is still meant to titillate. It doesn't work as a spoof or an exposé, instead it is an undisciplined, trashy movie that tries to insist it is has something to say, out of hypocrisy or plain stupidity. It's misanthropic for the sake of not wanting to appear to have nothing to convey on any level. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre proved that horror doesn't need morals or a message, and Dawn of the Dead that exploitation is best limited in the realm of satire. How interesting that in thirty years the found footage genre would come full circle, spawning such minimalist gems as Blair Witch and abysmal derivations as Asylum's indiscriminate turd, Paranormal Entity 2: Gacy House. ” - Tin_ear
Peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer murders his son. (165 mins.)
“ Its most glaring flaw is its general disregard to the nuances and reality of war and history. The Red Coats were not proto-Nazis, the rebellious American colonialists can not be strictly read as 'good guys' just out of nationalism or because they are the underdog. This film as much as any falls into the trap of glorifying the victors and simplifying history and edifying what is basically a revenge tale. The film is rife with too many historical and ethical problems to discuss in full. Despite the fact the story claims to be loosely based upon true events and people (caricatures) it is obvious the writer Ronald Rodat and director Roland Emmerich cherry-picked what would sell the easist to the least critical viewers (which until recently included your humble author). I can only warn people to be very suspicious when they see any flag prominently being used to market a film (sincerely or snarkily). ” - Tin_ear
A young man who was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending three decades in solitary confinement. During this time, his own personality is supplanted by his alter-ego, Charles Bronson. (92 mins.)
“ Promised by an anonymous IMDb review as a 'scathing indictment of celebrity culture,' Bronson ironically delivers just that exposé of the stupidity and bad taste of society; due at least partially to this film's popularity, a petition was held to release Bronson. The biggest dupes/vulgarians are, first and foremost, the filmmakers themselves. Inviting comparisons to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (I know that's the same comparison every reviewer makes, but if the filmmakers are so lazy, why should I make an effort), Bronson's director, Nicolas Refn, notably omits all nagging questions of social and legal ethics in his biopic of 'Britain's most dangerous prisoner.' I wouldn't be surprised if that was the film's tagline and the single, guiding principle of the script. Whereas most adults tolerated Kubrick's artful violence despite its depravity because it set up a deeper comment on society (particularly what degree and purpose incarceration should entail), Refn is comfortable hawking Charles Bronson's lone, asinine aim in life, glorifying his psychopathy. And a boring narcissist he is. After seeing Clockwork Orange I pondered if it was possible or even ethical to try and radically reform violent offenders. After Bronson, if you'd asked me, I'd endorse police brutality. ” - Tin_ear
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral... (88 mins.)
“ While this doc wished nothing more than to push an easily digestible mixture of prototypical 'inspiring' personal narrative, anti-Putinism, and democratic idealism, it failed in two crucial aspects. One, it failed to contradict the band members' claim it did not intentionally attempt to offend Orthodox faithful (regardless of the contrivance and regressiveness of the blasphemy law). And, secondly, it did not refute the band's delusional or ignorant claim that the (overwhelmingly nationalistic and religious) nation is against Putin and supports them. Their very moniker, spelled literally 'Pussy Riot' in Latin not Cyrillic characters, is calculated to provoke the attention not of their fellow citizens but Western audiences. A national disconnect lost on practically everyone in English-language media.
Toward the end someone points out that by singling-out a protest site where they stood no chance of provoking thought or discourse and could only risk offense (in light of Russia's history, that church in particular seems even poorer a target) Pussy Riot actually stood to do more damage to their own cause in the long run, which is probably true. Further they seem either cynical or insincere, implying they had as much right to use the church as a symbolic venue while clearly showing no interest in or respect for the religion. Their insistence that they never expected to be arrested -- though they had been warned by the police before and openly incited insurrection and violence in their lyrics -- also comes across as fraudulent naiveté. If anything is clear, with respect to the group members' history of exhibitionist performance art and crass & inarticulate musical ability, it is that being arrested if not the goal was undeniably the luckiest break they'll ever get in their career. The HBO documentary is a worthy watch as much for exposing the farce that is Russian justice as it is for exposing the farce that is the band Pussy Riot. ” - Tin_ear
The story of James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up boxer who came back to become a champion and an inspiration in the 1930s. (144 mins.)
“ It sort of undermines your film if the antagonist your film builds up as a vile, conscious-less psychopath was in actuality a beloved, guilt-stricken, socially-conscious man. It might make more sense when I tell you this simplistic tale was written by Akiva Goldsman. The same fertile mind behind such masterpieces as I am Legend and Batman & Robin. ” - Tin_ear