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This is a football movie made by people who, if they ever saw a football, would mistake it for hippo shit.  Kevin Costner is the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. His Dad just died. He’s in crisis. He’s a “go with your gut” kind of guy. He has the number 1 pick in the draft. He intends on getting a hot shot quarterback but becomes disenchanted when he learns that the quarterbacks’ teammates didn’t come to his 21st birthday party. Costner is then offered 2 NFL starters and 2 future number 1 draft picks for that number 1 pick. He declines the trade. Instead, he uses the number 1 draft pick to select a linebacker who we have been told “may” be selected 15th. For non-football fans, this is the equivalent of Bill Gates selling his Microsoft shares for a Shetland pony and a wheel of Gouda.  But Costner desires the linebacker because he saw the linebacker get kicked out of a game for giving his dying sister a football after he scored a touchdown.

Nothing I just wrote about the plot is made up.

Then, Costner wheels and deals with other NFL general managers to come out of the draft with 100 draft picks. One general manager is 11 years old. Another releases his bowels when Costner raises his voice during a conference call.  All the others are at risk of dying from swallowing their own tongues.

The movie is about men, and choices, and your instincts and tradition and commitment and respect.  The film also has a minor a romantic subplot between Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner so uncomfortable it has an almost molesty feel. Garner feels it. She damn near makes herself catatonic to get through this travesty. Costner merely looks embarrassed.

This is the anti-Moneyball. This is not merely one of the worst sports films ever made. It’s one of the worst films ever made.  It is so bad, you have to see it.  It’s mandatory.

And it was endorsed by the NFL. When current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walks out to open the draft, the audience erupts in applause.

Which is bullshit.

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There is a certain kind of self satisfied dramedy that can only be written by a child of the affluent, over educated and beleaguered by the misery of his suburban upbringing, yet oh so smitten with its quirky coolness. Tragedy brings this writer into contact with his or her estranged family. Their hypersexualized mother (Jane Fonda) is overbearing and positively lords her “hip for her age” persona over them. One brother is the unreliable, manchild rebel (Adam Driver), one sister (Tina Fey) the angry perfectionist. Then there is the long suffering, stodgy older brother (Corey Stoll) and finally, there is the sarcastic, sad brother (Jason Bateman). What unites them is their fealty to stereotype and ostentatious progressivism, a condescension to every other non-familial character, 80s pop, odd folks from the old neighborhood, the fact that nothing that happens in the story would ever happen in real life, secrets revealed (“Mom’s a lesbian!”; “Dad was a bad businessman!”; “You slept with HIM?”), assigned stem winders, a scene where the sons smoke weed (found in Dad’s jacket!  Crazy!!!!) and heartfelt tributes immediately followed by crass one-liners.

And that is This Is Where I Leave You.

Truly terrible in every way.

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Full disclosure – I came in late, but I saw enough of this obvious, treacly, hackneyed, preachy pile of cornpone to feel safe that I didn’t miss the good part. Hitler is destroying all of Europe’s art. The Monuments Men, each and every one a gentle soul borne of devotion to those things that ennoble us, arrive in Europe to stop him. In the process, they say things like: “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for” and “Who would make sure that the statue of David is still standing or the Mona Lisa is still smiling? Who will protect her?”

It’s not hard to figure what director and co-writer George Clooney was aiming for, an inspiring, old-fashioned period piece that trumpets the virtues of humanity in a world mired in barbarism, updated to include a little wit.  Call it “Band of Oceans 14.”

Clooney fails utterly.  Every character is stock, and the film feels untethered, veering wildly from the cornily comic to the embarrassingly sentimental (the deaths of Downton Abbey master Hugh Bonneville and Jean Judarin from The Artist are laughably operatic).  Bill Murray and Bob Balaban go for some night air, meet a scared German boy-soldier and share a cigarette with him.  Makes you think, right?  Then, Matt Damon, a member of the mission to save the art, steps on a land mine, prompting Clooney to quip, “Why d’you do something like that?”  And then Elliot Gould and Brad Pitt show up and they all have a drink at The Bellagio.

Clooney took a very interesting story and made it a bunch of hooey. Turns out Hitler didn’t order the destruction of art. Now, is Hitler the kind of historical character you actually need to lie about to make him look worse? I submit he is not. But this manifest picture isn’t taking any chances.

 

A banana split, with 2 pounds of cane sugar dumped on top, followed by a generous ladling of chocolate syrup, dropped in a bucket of melted cotton candy and deep fried in maple butter, then put on film.  That is . . .  Love Actually.

The only thing that recommends this monstrosity is Billy Bob Thornton as an American president who is an uncanny mix of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  Even this brief treat is spoiled by his counterpart, British PM Hugh Grant, who apparently reverses relations with the U.S. solely because he caught Thornton feeling up his secretary.

It’s all too precious. Avoid the tooth decay and bellyache, even in the judgment altering season that is Christmas.

2015 Update:  Look, this is a gruesome film, substituting true emotion and pathos with a staggering falsity.  If you ever met anyone in your life anywhere near as quaint and darling as any of the characters in this bucket of marshmallow and melted gumdrops, it’s likely they are an enemy of the state infiltrating our ranks for a low purpose.  Before you feel your heart swoon and your mouth say “awwwwwwww”, run.  Run for your damned life.

2016 Update:

Think about how creepy it would be for a person who long-pined for you to show up at your door with cue cards (one of which has semi nude women on it) to reveal his long held love immediately after you have chosen another.  Keira Knightley seems to think this is charming, but in point of fact, she should have called the cops.  This weirdo is now going to do . . . what, exactly?  Go off to Tahiti because mere proximity to his lost love is too much for him to handle?  Go to his apartment thinking that his gambit may pay off, that Knightley might think to herself, “Hmmmmmm.  He must really love me.”  Hang around, quietly watching . . . waiting . . . hoping.

This scene is emblematic of this stupid film because it trades a sentimental ball of goo moment for what should have been a larger and more generous gesture.

The dude should have simply left Knightley to her new husband and their life, which would have been stoic and laudable.

But nooooooo.  Let’s leave this on a narcissistic, creepy note.

Married women, think of you, at the door, newly betrothed a few weeks.  Your husband’s best friend comes to the door with cue cards and professes his long love for you.  Now, remove the gloppy music and the cobblestones and the holiday lights and Love Actually becomes . . . . Play Misty For Me?  When he says, “Enough.  Enough now,” I sensed menace, that crazy shit was going on in his head.  And frankly, had he gone back in the townhouse and killed them all, it still wouldn’t save this vile film, though it would have been an improvement.

Also, how dumb is the husband?  The boom box is supposed to be a substitute for carolers, but it is a smooth voice with some harmonists and an orchestra.

Bad choice, Keira.  The guy is clearly a moron.

Also, one card says “And at Christmas, you tell the truth.”  That’s ludicrous.  You no more tell the truth at Christmas than on Easter or Arbor Day.  What a putz!

This is all in a line with this dim flick.  Boy Prime Minister Hugh Grant probably effs up policy with the U.S. for decades, and for what?  Because the amalgamation of W and Bill (Billy Bob Thornton, literally the only good thing about this flick) grabbed his secretary’s bum?  Again, big things subordinated to tiny things.

2017 Update:

This year, let’s delve into this kid, so precocious, so darling, and just so articulate!

“Do you really want to know . . . even though you won’t be able to do anything to help . . . the truth is, actually, I’m in love?”

Couldn’t you just eat him . . . . . I mean, eat him up.

The only thing that could make this scene better is if a bunch of shady Eastern European thugs showed up, grabbed the kid, attempted to sell him into white slavery, and Neeson had gotten started on the Taken series quite a bit earlier.

Then, this sweetums might know what is indeed worse than “the total agony of being in love.”

2018 Update:

Let’s talk about the secretary, Prime Minister Hugh Grant’s love interest. She is referred to as “chubby” by another aide and she herself explains that her boyfriend “said no one’d fancy a girl with thighs the size of tree trunks.”

First, I can’t believe this kind of fat shaming allows for enjoyment of this film by any decent person. My God.

Second, I really don’t give a shit about fat shaming. But the woman is not in the slightest bit fat. It is a ridiculous conceit. It makes absolutely no sense. She is buxom, one of the few enjoyable aspects of this filmic turdpile

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So, the film is abusive and retrograde, which I for one will not let stand even at the expense of your enjoyment. Perhaps worse, it doesn’t even know what a fat person looks like. Ridiculous.

2019 Update:

In this years’ entry, let us take up the Martin Freeman-Joanna Page story line.  Apparently, these two meet while playing body doubles on the set of a porn flick.  This seemed absurd, but I did my legwork.  As confirmed by the screenwriter and much of the commentary, they are, indeed, supposed to be on the set of a porn flick.

From what I have heard about pornography, be it hardcore or arty soft core, is that one of its principal economic draws to a producer or an investor is low to non-existent production costs.

Yet, by the looks of the sets and the crew and the fact that there are stand-ins for the actors who will be performing the actual sex act on camera, this appears to be a multi-million dollar production.

Worse, not only are Freeman and Page forced to endure an assistant ordering them to shift mechanical poses and pretend to be having sex, he has them do it in the nude, which would seem completely unnecessary, except, and this is a quote, “lighting and camera want to know when we will actually see the nipples”.

Apparently, the “real” actors are cooling their heels in the green room while the stand-ins work to make the shots just so.

So, for purposes of super cute chit-chat, we are presented with two of the most pathetic characters in film history. They won’t even be receiving wages for having actual sex on camera, but rather, the pay will be for standing in and simulating sex for other people who will be simulating or having sex on camera, i.e., the stars!

What could that amount be?  A couple of quid?

This is a job . . . okay, it’s not a job, because this premise is so mind-boggling lazy and ridiculous, but were it a job, it is one for meth heads.

Not Bilbo Baggins and Joanna Page.

This movie even perverts porn.  Is nothing sacred?

My August: Osage County review elicited an email from my friend and mentee, Xmastime:

worse than this steaming turd

My reply:  “Nothing is worse than that steaming turd.   Osage is a standard, Southern shoutfest, with as much authenticity as Hee HawThe Family Stone, however, is a pat-its-own-back paen to womyn, disabled homosexuals, showy profanity by people wearing flannel, and New England flintiness.  The cancer ravaging Diane Keaton couldn’t come fast enough.  I am pleased to say that its writer director didn’t get another project until 6 years after The Family Stone and that was a Selena Gomez joint.  Justice.”

A grueling, gloppy, false film. A poet father (Sam Shepard) goes missing (and then dies) and the family is summoned to bury him. They proceed to vomit all over each other as the matriarch (Meryl Streep) goads and undermines the lot of them.

It is based in Oklahoma, which elicits exaggerated heartland/Southern accents and theatrical, hokey back-and-forth (Julia Roberts’ “get tough” bit with her mother, Streep, is laughably unconvincing). There are confrontations and serial reveals of family secrets, followed by more wailing and teeth-gnashing, and that’s about the whole of it.

The film is adapted from a stage play, which encourages overacting. Streep and Roberts are particularly culpable, the former not so much in technique but in volume and size. She positively leers at her stupid family, and horns near come out of her head. Naturally, the Academy nominated them both for Oscars, but nobody in their right mind would spend another minute with these women after the mildest of their taunts or insults.  But there this family of dolts sits, taking it just like the audience.

There’s not a genuine moment in this monstrosity.

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When the two major characters of a film attempt suicide in the first scene, by the end of the picture, you’re not supposed to regret their lack of success. The Skeleton Twins is a ragged, cloying, mannered dramedy starring entirely-out-of-their-depth SNL alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as estranged siblings brought together by near tragedy. Wiig is utterly lost here, and all her tics and quivers cannot make up for substance. Hader is a little better, if a facsimile of a gayer Sean Hayes from Will & Grace is the aim.

The siblings are the children of tragedy, their father a suicide and their mother a hackneyed New Age narcissist introduced only to make her children seem noble. They are presented to us as seeming losers who have lost their way and their special bond on the rocky road of life. They come alive in a weirdly incestuous routine of replaying bits and hijinks from their childhood, and the watching (particularly, a drawn out stoned scene featuring Wiig’s HI-larious flatulence and a lip-synch duet brazenly stolen from Bridesmaids, sans humor) is cringeworthy. These two are as likely to be siblings as Olivier and Midler, but as foreign as they seem, the real problem is that they are fundamentally disinteresting to anyone but each other. It’s like spending an evening with two dull people who constantly crack each other up with reference to inside jokes and childhood excesses (burps, farts, hopes and dreams). Um. Check please.

As for the story, it is a lurching mess, serving primarily to highlight ridiculous and arty visuals, such as a slow dance in Halloween costumes that is finger-down-your-throat precious. When nothing happens (the film feels interminable), a character says or does something clunky and overt, and we slog forward. One example: Wiig is unhappy in her marriage to Luke Wilson and surreptitiously takes birth control pills while they are “trying” to get pregnant. Hader tips Wilson off after a HI-larious scene where hetero Wilson takes homo Hader rock climbing, which is funny because . . . gay. The clue? Sometimes my sister hid things when we were kids. And off Wilson goes to find the pills in a basket of decorative soaps.

An awful hipster picture with nary an authentic moment in it. Makes Zach Braff seem like Cassavettes.

This movie is more than bad. It’s an affront to genre, consistency and common sense. It also represents the end of film as art, the shape of things to come. Just as novels will soon give way to comics, movies will give way to . . . . comics.

The sequel pretends at noir but it has no kinship with it save for a string of laugh-out-loud, hard-bitten lines. The worst of the bunch: “I was born at night. Not last night.” Every single line is like that, played deadly straight, as if writers Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller concluded, “You know! The same idiots who have substituted, you know, books for serialized comics are, like, the ones coming to this stupid movie, so why would we try and, you know, make the dialogue anything more than the drivel in the picture book?”

There are three story lines, each more boring than the last. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hot shot gambler who crosses mean Senator Powers Boothe. Jessica Alba is a stripper who crosses mean Senator Powers Boothe. In between, Josh Brolin (taking over for Clive Owen, who screwed the pooch turning down James Bond but made the right call here) gets double-crossed by his ex-wife, Eva Green. Gordon-Levitt beats 4 Kings with 4 Aces and then, ah, who cares? Alba and Brolin enlist madman Mickey Rourke to get them out of jams. That’s the whole of it, except Lady Gaga pops up as a clichéd waitress, following in Madonna’s footsteps yet again. Blood spatters, bodies are dismembered, the ominous score thuds along, and yawns are stifled.

Nothing makes sense. While Rourke blows up an estate, the guards remain unalerted, the easier to chop their heads off. Green seduces a cop (Christopher Meloni) and enlists a crime boss (Stacey Keach, made to look like an ambulatory Jabba the Hut) to invade the part of Sin City run by armed whores clad in Frederick’s of Hollywood because the girls are hiding Brolin. Both entreaties are awkwardly dropped shortly after their introduction. Brolin, healed by the whores, comes back with a newly reconstructed face to exact revenge, except he looks just like he did before, only with a sprightly toupee.

It’s a nasty, stupid, senseless movie. It’s also a little frightening. The first Sin City was a modest success, grossing $70 million domestic on a $40 million budget. It had the benefits of being unique and a little humor. Almost ten years later, they churn this dour turd out, and the budget is $70 million.

Maybe there is hope in the fact that it is getting killed at the box office ($11 million and trickling) but something tells me the Chinese will bail it out.

Death is just like life in Sin City. It always wins.

Actual line.

Not just historically inaccurate, but outright hostile to the facts, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart matches its puerile fantasy with cheezy romance, splatterfest battle scenes, and cartoonish characters (Patrick McGoohan plays King Edward Longshanks as Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Peter Hanley plays his son as if auditioning for La Cage Aux Folles). Then, there is the James Horner score that brings you back to the ye olde highlands of Busch Gardens. Naturally, like Robert Redford and Kevin Costner before him, the Academy honored an actor turned director with an undeserved Best Picture statuette. But Ordinary People and Dances with Wolves are merely pedestrian. Braveheart is bad through and through and often, excruciatingly so.

On the plus side, when you decide to rewrite history, you might as well give William Wallace a haircut straight out of Duran Duran.

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Hungry like the wolf for FREEEEEDOOOMMMMM!!!!!”

Dreadful. The script is so bad that after yet another disaffected, psychotic right winger (Secret Service chief James Woods) tells liberal prez, cool kat Jamie Foxx that the pen is not mightier than the sword, Prez Foxx jabs a pen in his neck (a total rip-off of a Bob Dole move), and then, just to make sure we got it, actually says, “I choose the pen.” Foxx plays the role like he has a plane to catch, and Channing Tatum, as the Secret Service presidential detail wannabe who saves the day, appears to be stifling laughter on more than one occasion. The CGI is atrocious (attack helicopters maneuver around the offices of downtown DC like Mini Coopers in The Italian Job and grenade explosions that do not knock over lecterns and desks in the rooms where they occur produce fireballs visible 10 blocks away). Finally, the double-double at the end is as implausibly stupid in construction as in resolution – both villains are the only two powerful men in Washington who still use pagers. Busted!