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American Cowslip (2009)
One of the worst movies I've seen. All the characters are one-dimensional, the dialog is insipid, and the characters' motivations make no sense at all. The protagonist is an unemployed, agoraphobic junky, who doesn't pay his rent and doesn't think of anybody but himself. He's disgusting, revolting and selfish. He has not a single redeeming quality, yet everyone loves him. Even his landlord, to which he owes several months rent, says that he really likes him. They don't even mind the fact that he goes weeks without bathing. But what's beyond even those absurdities is the cute teenage girl across the street, who is half his age and is madly in love with him. Yeah, this could happen - in a bizarro universe! I didn't laugh once. All the jokes were juvenile, insipid or lame. It was painful to sit through this. I felt embarrassed for the filmmakers. For example, they put trendy, titillating vulgarities like "corn rocket" and "donkey punch" in the mouths of 70 and 80 year-olds. This concept was beaten like a dead horse at least 15 years ago. And now, it's just sad. Every characters' actions are so implausible that the story falls apart because what they're doing is so completely out of character and nonsensical. It's as if a group of 10 year-olds got together and brainstormed for a story - and then threw in some requisite adult swearing. Who is the target audience? It's clearly written for the 10 year-old mind, so why did they make it an R rated movie? Don't waste your time with this trash.
Happy Endings (2005)
Doesn't really work
Happy Endings There was attempt to do something original here, unfortunately, the experiment failed. It's more of a graphic novel with moving pictures than it is a film. We're spoodfed ridiculous amounts of exposition via placards that pop up on the side of the screen like fun bubble facts from a video. And what makes it worse is that it's not an objective, ominipotent narration, but a narration that's written in the spoken vernacular with a definite point of view. If it has a definite point of view, who's writing it? Some mysterious omnipotent subjective narrator that we never meet. And we know it's not God, because of the lame attempts at being clever and funny. And just when you think it can't get worse, the fun facts tell us things in the distant past, the distant future, the characters' thoughts, and even what's going on with the bodily functions of some of the characters. Oh man. The story lines aren't very good either. I could not see Mamie going along with the extortion and the other shanigans that goes on after. I just couldn't suspend my disbelief. Most of the dialog was confusing, implausible or just lame. For example, Lane tells Jude, "I still don't see the problem. In a month, you tell the old guy it's his... and then when you deliver, it's like this really big preemie... that just happens to look like both of them. We're not reinenting the wheel here." Yeah, it's the old have sex with the son, have sex with the father and you don't know who got you pregnant. We all know that routine, right? Who hasn't been down that road? It's so ridiculous. The storyline with the lesbians and male gay couple is not much better. It's way too purposely convoluted. It's like the filmmakers are digging to find ways to unnecessarily complicate the storyline. And then there's the hallmark of trendy and lazy filmmakers - the corny montages set to trendy pop music to tell us how to feel. And the split screen thing seemed like it was only there to show that they could do it. And why was Mamie running willy-nilly at the end? When I heard the title, it made me think of that hackneyed joke about massages and I thought the filmmakers were above referencing a stupid, overplayed joke like that. But, sure enough, that's what they were doing. It reminds me of "Coyote Ugly", another waste of film. Virtually every actor in this film is great, but they can't save a script this absurd. It's just so much schlop.
Nobel Son (2007)
This movie demonstrates everything that's wrong with Hollywood.
The overall story isn't that bad; it's the execution. This movie is filled to the brim with myriad plot holes, implausible situations and dialog, lame humor and laughable attempts at poignancy. And if that's not bad enough, it's also crammed with clichéd sound effects, unrelated trendy music and an array of un-called-for camera tricks and 'cool' editing. There's so much absurd stuff here, it would take me hundreds of pages to explain it all. Almost every aspect of this film is so implausible, that right from the start I could not suspend my disbelief.
It's as if the filmmakers decided to use every cool camera movement and editing that they ever saw and shoehorn it into this movie. That, coupled with the bad music choices, make the tone of this thing jump all over the place. It's disjointed and lacks a unified feel.
Why are the characters introduced with typing across the screen? This is a pathetic cliché that goes back to espionage type movies, so why is it here? Who's documenting the case? This movie doesn't know what it wants to be. It tries desperately to be Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino all rolled into one and it just doesn't work. Barkley narrates at the beginning and end of this movie. If it is supposed to be seen through Barkley's eyes, then we've been cheaply duped, because a ton of stuff has been left out that would have been shown to the audience. You can't have a character narrate and then hide what he sees and hears from the audience. It's a cheap trick.
The tip of the iceberg of plot holes and implausibilities: What is the purpose of the gardener character? He could be removed and the story wouldn't change one bit. And why was he murdered? It seems absurd that they'd kill him just to vacate the apartment. These are supposed to be brilliant people; wasn't there a less illegal, less violent way to accomplish that? And what's with linking OCD with electric cars? The filmmakers often try to make a correlation between things that don't correlate. The Pat Benitar thing was a sad attempt at making a poignant link between the brothers. And how convenient was it that he left City Hall's apartment without his shoes. No one I know has ever been in that much of a hurry. He couldn't just carry them along with his shirt? Like so much of this script it's unbelievably contrived.
If there's been four thumbs taken in the last month wouldn't it be on the news? Wouldn't everybody know about it? And, if so, why is it crucial to send a thumb, to show you mean business, when everyone knows it's probably not the kidnap victim's thumb. And how did they get the Mini-Cooper in the apartment? Where did the brothers meet and plan it all? How did they know about each other? And Eli's dialog about molecules luminescing is over-the-top sophomoric.
Thaddeus spends a significant amount of time telling us how much of a horrible person his father is. Then, instantly, he wants his father to be proud of him and he wants to follow in his footsteps. What? He wants to steal other people's work and mess around with grad students and other people's wives? And Barkley seems like a dork even after we're shown that he's some kind of evil genius. I know a heck of a lot of Phds and not one of them ever played a Gameboy. And his mother is proud that he's an evil genius, because I guess, she's kind of evil too, even though she appears to have lived a successful and upstanding life for the past 50-odd years. Another cheap trick. OK, we get that people aren't all bad or all good. What a revelation. I think I got it when I was ten years old. And just in case we didn't get the message, Barkley actually tells us that during the opening credits.
Fortunately, City Hall lit one hundred candles near her bed on the roof, just in case, she brings home Barkley, virtually a stranger, many hours later. And wouldn't it be funny if Barkley woke up in the morning and stretched, but forgot that he was naked and outdoors in bright sunlight and somebody saw him. Hilarious. If I was twelve years old again. Who's ever heard of moo-shu? I've been eating moo-shi for longer than Barkley's been alive.
And we're spoon-fed embarrassing amounts of exposition: Thaddeus chronicling the gardener's history, Eli's history, etc. And just in case we missed the fact that City hall has done something twisted, don't worry, because right after she does it, a song is played that tells us that she's a twisted girl. And Barkley tells his whole personal situation to a clerk at a café. It's ridiculous. I've never seen such bad exposition. It's just lazy writing it really insults the intelligence of the viewer.
There's the poetry reading place, where predictably, everyone's poetry is ludicrous, except, of course, City Hall's. I mean, this gag's got whiskers on it.
And what's with the twisted logic of Sarah, "I hope it's Barkley's thumb. If it's somebody else's thumb then the kidnapper is a calculating psychopath." So, by that logic, if the kidnapper cuts off Barkley's thumb, then he's a psychopath, just not a calculating one. OK, I'll be on planet earth if anybody needs me.
You can't tell what's going happen because you're not given enough information. They've stacked the deck where you can't possibly figure it out and by the end there's so many ridiculous and implausible situations that you don't care. A mystery must include all the info needed to get it. Otherwise, it's cheap trick, which is what this is.
Fight Club (1999)
Another Emperor's New Clothes
It's amazing that anyone thought this was watch-able, never mind brilliant. The acting, camera work and music are all good, but the story is so absurd, it had me laughing out loud. I can understand that a fight club could come to be, but this story has it wrapped up in anti-consumerism and other heady subjects. It just doesn't fly. Show me one backyard boxing enthusiast with these intellectual ideals. They're in it for the fighting. At least show me how the first fight club member was inducted. Two guys start it and the next thing you know there are a hundred members willing to die for their leader. When did that and happen and how? These are huge unanswered questions and without the answers it makes the whole thing seem so implausible that I could not suspend my disbelief.
The thing about the body organs was shoe-horned in to give some novel-like cohesiveness, but when they transferred it using statements like, "This is Jack's complete lack of surprise," it became a ridiculous sophomoric device. The attempts at humor were embarrassing. It's good to add some humor to lighten the tension, but here the gags seemed to be dropped in from a Farrelly Brothers movie and were so out-of-place that it seemed that the movie had an identity crisis. Also, the gags were childish and weren't funny. Helena Bonham Carter's character was not only completely unbelievable, but also superfluous. The character could be removed and the overall story would not change one bit. So, why is this character here? I found all the characters to be unbelievable and absurd. Their motivations and dialog made little or no sense at all. Sometimes the dialog and narration seemed to be selected just to make a character say something provocative, even if it made no sense. The scenes where Ed Norton was beating himself up was like watching a MST3K episode, only I was filling in the commentary. And near the end we get a bizarre twist that's really just a cheap trick by the filmmaker. I felt cheated because I was led down a path without enough information to put together the reality. In "The Sixth Sense" or "A Beautiful Mind", they left the door open, so at the end you realize all the info was there. In "Fight Club" you are summarily duped. Overall, this film seems like the work of an edgy high school student all style, no substance and a bunch of quirky, edgy characters that couldn't possibly exist.
Reuben, Reuben (1983)
This is a real gem of a movie from the early 80s. The script which is very funny and witty, expertly oscillates between comedy and tragedy. It reminds me of many great John Irving novels. Conti's performance as Gowan McGland, a washed up Scottish poet, is at the heart of this film. Conti's portrayal is so good that I can't think of anyone else doing it. We're charmed by this tragic and comic figure. Kelly McGillis also gives a good performance as the college student who gets mixed up with the world-renowned poet. The relationship is realistic and adult - they both know it will end. What they don't know is the shocking way in which it does end. It's a highly entertaining, thought-provoking and powerful classic. It's mind-boggling that it isn't available on DVD.
My Life Without Me (2003)
Sad, cute - the end
Good acting couldn't save this script. The structure is horrible. There's the inciting incident - she gets cancer, but nothing significant happens after that. Nothing at stake, no rising complications, no real conflict, no climax, no resolution. Essentially, it's a non-story. No ebb and flow of tension and release. It's sad, then it gets sadder, then continued sadness with some Saccharine sweet cuteness, more sadness, more cuteness - the end.
There are some pretentious images throughout. The director makes a point of showing nearly every character smoking like a chimney except the protagonist. OK, we get it. And the image of the glass player seemed weirdly shoe-horned in. What is the significance? It could be removed and nothing at all would change.
And her "bucket list" is ridiculous. She vows to drink and smoke as much as she can. But, she's not a smoker, etc.
The constant narration gave it a book on tape feel. You could probably just listen to this movie and know exactly what's going on. This makes it something other than a film.
They make her out to be an angel - and she does look adorable considering she's only got weeks to live - but she uses a man for a sexual experience and doesn't see her own selfishness when he falls in love with her. And he doesn't mind at all when he finds out the truth. Where does this world exist? As the movie neared the end it became so melodramatic and sappy, it was unbearable.
Igby Goes Down (2002)
The acting, direction and music are very good. But the writing sinks the ship. There's no cause and effect for any of the characters' actions and there are many incredibly implausible situations. It tries so hard to be quirky, cute, poignant and trendy, but there's no substance.
Why would two attractive twenty-something women immediately hop in the sack with a scrawny, whiny seventeen-year-old boy who has nothing to offer. It runs contrary to my experience. I didn't find a single thing he said to be in the least bit witty. And his constant swearing, no matter the company he's in, would probably get his skull cracked in the real world at some point. But here, no one even mentions it. I guess we're supposed to be shocked and amused that everyone is so blasé about it.
All the characters are despicable, especially Igby. Jokes were inserted that had no set up and things happened that had no connection to the story. And there were so many implausible situations it became tiresome. For example, the bit with Mimi sitting on the maid's head. Why? She was having a bad day, so she beat up the maid? It's not funny because it makes no sense. We don't even know the maid. Since there's no set-up, there's no payoff. Also, when Igby is in bed with Sookie, he's says that military school made everything clear to him. She asks, "like what," and he says, "the fight." Then there's a flashback to his father's breakdown in the bathroom - no fight. When Sookie and Igby are in the park, why do the field hockey girls swear like troopers? How does this move the story along? Is it supposed to be funny?
Another preposterous situation is when when he asks Sookie if she's a vegetarian based on the way she roles a joint. Come on. This film had a few nice scenes but I found it hard to swallow that so many people in it thought that Igby was witty and charming. If he was, the film would have worked a lot better, but as it is he's arrogant and dimmed-witted - but in a trendy way.
Quirky and trendy
There are some brilliant scenes in this movie. For example, the walk down the block; using it as a metaphor. Really cool. There are other moments that are great, too.
But what let the air out of the tires was the kids' behavior. It's very hard for me to suspend my disbelief when a 10-year-old or a 6-year-old says something that sounds more like an insightful 35-year-old. I immediately stopped believing and said, "Come on". There are several of these moments and for me, they really hurt this film.
There were other moments that seemed really implausible. Like Christine's reaction to seeing Richard talking to his estranged wife in the store. The woman could have been anybody. Just because he touched her arm and said that he'd call her doesn't mean anything. Why does she jump to her conclusion? And Richard seemed pretty bright, yet he didn't know that he could injure himself by igniting lighter fluid on his body? The atmosphere and soundtrack reminded me of two other films: "Punch Drunk Love" and "Stranger Than Fiction". I found the music so trendy that it was distracting. It was calling attention to itself. But, unlike those other films where just the main character is reflective and kind of in a daze, almost all the characters in this film are that way. They're almost all quirky, reflective and mostly passive.
There were a few ideas that seemed really forced. Like Peter making that pictorial with characters and shoe-horning it in as some sort of poignant connection between everyone. Why would he do it? It seems so inane.
The filmmaker has got some very good ideas, but they're negated with the implausibilities and trendy soundtrack.