Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

 

Stage and Cinema readers
2008 U.S. Film Releases

The Ted McGee List

  

MilkCategory:         The Best

Film:                 Milk

 

Director Gus Van Sant’s brilliant film Milk begins with the casting of the  Castro Street boys by commandeering top talent for all roles. Sean Penn (Harvey Milk) and James Franco (as Milk’s true love Scott Smith) are over the top dazzling and altogether astonishing in their roles giving career performances that should not be missed. Josh Brolin as the Supervisor Assassin Dan White, Diego Luna as Milk’s lover (Jack Lira), Victor Garbor (Mayor Moscone), and Denis O’Hare (state Senator John Briggs) performances are also top shelf and none should be viewed as throw away roles. It is remarkable that all this talent can be in one film and deliver what amounts to maybe the ultimate or gold standard in acting in film individually and as a group. In athletic terms, they left it on the field.

 

Revolutionary RoadCategory:         The Best

Film:                 Revolutionary Road

 

When drawing: To accurately delineate an object draw the surrounding space. In this film beginning with the secondary characters delivering connected performances of subtlety and perfection you really get to know the main characters of April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) and Frank Wheeler (Leonardo Di Caprio) and their disappointments’. Director Sam Mendes makes his bid for all around recognition with Revolutionary Road. There is no emotional stone unturned, and there is no lack of emotion in the inner lives of the characters played in this film. Chase scenes, gun fights, nifty computer generated backgrounds, or super sex scenes are no match for a story where the raw power and gripping duels of ordinary lives struggling to survive the rules of suburban living are being played.

 

Slumdog MillionaireCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Slumdog Millionaire

 

A Divine Comedy;  Slumdog plays at its own pace and is a story well told by Director Danny Boyle who works with this cast brilliantly bringing out the absolute best in their performances’ making Slumdog Millionaire believable to a Western audience, and does not completely abandon the Bollywood and Hindi style of film.

 

 

Snow AngelsCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Snow Angels

 

In this plot of life and love musical chairs, the fatigue of life is wrested from burgeoning love and is the back-phrase to this legato ballad; you do not want to be the one left standing when the music stops. The telling of this tale is done through the lens of an old style view finder snapshot camera. Caught in the daily lives of this small town is the comfort-food life style and stress of the well worn phrase “I Love You”. Cabin fever has settled in on the lives in this boreal landscape, hindered by petty idea’d interests formed with the charm of cottage industry furnishings all too ready to break, for they were crafted to look nice but not last. Life’s feast happens in seasons so make hay early and gather in the harvest before the climate changes and the weather becomes far too harsh and dangerous for simple folk to suffer; Imperishable joy is only a Tin Type.

 

Let The Right One InCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Let The Right One In

 

Step back Dracula, Eli takes over as the beloved neck massager in film. This Swedish neck massage has one or two gory moments to contend with, but it is not a fright film. Tomas Alfredson (Director) and John Ajvide Lundquist (Writer) discover, without visual cheap tricks the life of a young vampire girl trying to exist in a society. Filmed with a smaller budget, this film is not cheaply done. Alfredson puts his money in the right shots without losing the flavor of the rest of the film. At times it doesn’t seem possible for the makers to be able to follow the strict decrees of vampire lore but Alfredson makes it happen with aplomb. It is a wonderful love story up front and is a crafty well told story of the harsh realities of growing up in an unforgiving world where you are either the leader or the host.

 

Gran TorinoCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Gran Torino

 

This is what the film Crash wanted to be. Outside a few minor continuity miscues this film doesn’t make mistakes. There is nothing ambiguous in this film. The only thing one can say in regard to this film is to say to Clint Eastwood, Thank You.

 

 

 

Frost/NixonCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Frost/Nixon

 

If you wish to see solid movie making, excellent and intelligent screenwriting, with brilliant acting at the hands of talented actors and a talented director; Don’t miss Frost/Nixon. This piece of behind the scenes history of this now infamous interview is top shelf.

 

 

 

Happy-Go-LuckyCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Happy-Go-Lucky

 

Joys in life can be where you wish them. This is a well photographed, written, directed, and acted film. Sally Hawkins carries this film and takes the audience on a splendid trip to the land of feeling good about ourselves. I can’t think of a better feel good story out there. I’d like to write more but it is more correct to say it is simply a terrific film.

 

 

I’ve Loved You So LongCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 I’ve Loved You So Long

 

I liked this film even though the production values are not sophisticated. It has no real style other than being spare.  Director Philippe Claudel directs in a plodding way and Writer Philippe Claudel writes in a plodding way. The main Character Juliette as written is far too forced and cheerless to be believable. Claudel tries to write this in the way a “story will reveal itself” as it goes along, the way you’d “peel back an onion” layer by layer, only the characters come across as lost between a Beckett play and Baudelaire poem, for there is little subtle here and not much poetic. This is more of a conversation with a small group of friends around a dinner table drinking French wine.

 

ChangelingCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Changeling

 

Clint Eastwood makes an obvious point in this film on the treatment of women in America in the twenties, and how a man’s word means so much more than a women’s. Ms. Collins is on roller skates in a dress working as a supervisor in the Operators room at the Telephone Company, skating back and forth behind the Operators taking on troubles as they happen. Eastwood’s cinematic symmetry can be seen here; in a very clever way photographs the Operators, all female, as if they are caged Hens game fully clucking in a coop producing eggs for the market, watched from a windowed office by the men who are their superiors, while their hatchlings are being snatched from home, straddled and beheaded in the confines of another chicken coop miles away by other men.

 

Miracle At St. AnnaCategory:         Excellent

Film:                 Miracle At St. Anna

 

Spike Lee is all too often his own worst enemy when making his films. What he preaches borders on a mantra that the White man is the Devil and the Black man remains his procurement and he must learn to fight Whitey at every turn. Often it is difficult to get past this with Mr. Lee. He has a penchant for spitting on all those who are white by casting them as untrue to nature or a biopsy of evil and lacing this theme in his films from beginning to end. Mr. Lee may be one of America’s greatest Film Directors but involves himself in this campaign that often sucks out the strength and splendor from his work. This is still a must see film, but more so, a must read book.

 

The WrestlerCategory:         Good

Film:                 The Wrestler

 

Randy "The Ram" Robinson, wrestler, and Pam “the Cassidy” Lap Dancer stripper cross paths in their dead end lives where their eternal grip on youth has taken them down the short road to nowhere. An aromatic onion in this salad of tears and regret. Mickey Rourke’s hypnotic raw performance rings true from rope bounce to rope bounce. Filmed with a shaky camera.

 

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonCategory:         Good

Film:                 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

 

The Curious Case of taking from the past, refurbishing that and selling it as new. It appears this film is Forrest Gump meets The Confessions of Max Tivoli in it’s telling. Eric Roth (Screenwriter) takes directly from his earlier work Forrest Gump, right down to the obvious use of catch phrases such as “You never know what is around the corner” - or its nephew, and the use of the main character working on boat in the Gulf of Mexico to becoming an accidental war hero. This film is a noticeable highjack of these recent stories and not an adaptation of (or a continuation to clarify) the past. When the film reaches all it can steal from its former self and begins to deal with BB as a middle aged man and youth the film loses interest in itself and quickly sloshes to its obvious end. As a film, this film parallels originality like marketing a new type of Mac’n Cheese or a can of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti Pizza. In the telling of this films story the performances, editing and CGI out shine the Directing and story and are the only reasons this film gets any real recognition.

 

DoubtCategory:         Good

Film:                 Doubt

 

This years best dialogue film. Writer John Patrick Shanley keeps the original idea of his play intact. Something which cannot be overlooked is the casting of Film Stars for the roles instead of the highly awarded and regarded Broadway Play Cast.  The strength of the story relies upon the opening monologue by Father Flynn from his pulpit to his flock and is lost in the film with the use of poor editing; along with the casting this film is a much weaker version of the Broadway play.

 

W.Category:         Good

Film:                 W.

 

There isn’t much to the life of Dubya Bush so how could the film have much substance.  Oliver Stone makes a case in that W is a misunderstood and semi-complicated man who is easily figured out by stating W’s love and need for acceptance by his father motivated him to be something that was clearly not in the realm of his capabilities. W.’s life is an exercise in living off the munificence of his family’s influence, a political parvenu. The film follows W’s life from Yale to just before his second term with the use of flashbacks‘. Most all of W’s flaws are crammed into this two hour piece and are generally handled with humor. America was swindled into electing W.; first as Governor of Texas and then as US President; a man whose opinion was informed by plagiarizing a narrow amount knowledge from everyone around him, in essence a prevarication on his own life and lack of ideals. His early life of evading responsibility in school and in work, has laid barren his future from out of the fecundity of his inheritance providing him with no curiosity for life and no vision for his or any others future in this film.

 

Smart PeopleCategory:         Good

Film:                 Smart People

 

Smart People is a film that tells a story with a writer’s and director’s point of view and told simply. Refreshing! Good ensemble here. The pace of this film may not be for everyone and the political assay’s are upfront, though the moral language is personal it is nonjudgmental.

 

 

 

Married LifeCategory:         Good

Film:                 Married Life

 

Directors Ira Sachs along with co-screenwriter Oren Moverman reflect upon John Bingham’s novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven, with a discerning touch. Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, and Patricia Clarkson along with Rachel McAdams deliver a tale of love and loves poetic sadness with the sharpness of shattered Waterford stemware under bare feet.

 

 

The DuchessCategory:         Good

Film:                 The Duchess

 

Georgiana Spencer the Duchess of Devonshire or could that be Keira Knightley as Diana Spencer Princess of Wales?  A period piece that falls short on who the Duchess really is. Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley are a perfect pair in this film I only wish there was more of them together  along with their lives and moments of living. A ménage of interest but not much discovered. Mr. Dibb takes us into interesting situations in this film and then backs out, giving the appearance of juicy work, but really no depth.

 

brideshead revisitedCategory:         Good

Film:                 Brideshead Revisited

 

The Film is around two hours and is magnificent to watch in every moment. The photography is stunning and the Costuming and Set designs are hand in glove being glorious to unobtrusive without detracting from the story telling. Director Jarrold continues the Waugh sentiment that likens the fall of the Marchmain empire to the collapse of Europe from its lack of spirituality and its thirst for adventure leaving behind the trust in God and his big plan.

 

 

In BrugesCategory:         Good

Film:                 In Bruges

 

A well made film, and a good story. I’d recommend this film to all film goers.

 

 

 

 

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A DayCategory:         Good

Film:                 Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

 

Another good film, though it comes up short in the end.

 

 

 

 

Man On WireCategory:         Good

Film:                 Man On Wire

 

Documentary/dramatic, well done. Surprisingly Captivating.

 

 

 

 

Iron ManCategory:         Good

Film:                 Iron Man

 

This is a personal favorite. Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, Tony Stark. A believable take on a comic book action hero. This film has done what most other comic book characters come to screen life have failed to do; make the character step from real life into action hero and back in a plausible way. Favreau has, in this film, shown he understands the big screen and its affect on the cinema-goer the way very few directors today have. Iron Man is human and has a big heart.

 

The Dark KnightCategory:         Good

Film:                 The Dark Knight

 

There is much story in this film and is edited within and inch of its life, however it remains a complete film. I would compare it to the previous Batman film Batman Begins and will say it doesn’t meet those expectations well, though it is not a disappointment.

 

 

 

Kung Fu PandaCategory:         Good

Film:                 Kung Fu Panda

 

Animated, it was a fun little film and I was surprised by it. I was sure to hate this film based on the history of Most animated stories not told by Pixar or it being a Sylvain Chomet directed piece. The end falls short and preachy but worth the visit.

 

 

 

AustraliaCategory:         Good

Film:                 Australia

 

A big, big picture. It pays homage the American film canon evoking classics like Red River, Big Country, Giant, From Here To Eternity, Father Goose and others including using the theme song from The Wizard of Oz. It is a well acted film and a well told story; it’s just not a great film.

 

 

 

The Bank JobCategory:         Good

Film:                 The Bank Job

 

A very interesting story. A good cast, well acted, well directed, it never loses interest. Based on true events of a robbery in London.

 

 

 

 

Burn After ReadingCategory:         Good

Film:                 Burn After Reading

 

A Cohen Bros. film, an almost whimsy like take on the CIA and its ability to discern what’s real and what’s not. Good performances funny script, some bizarre moments and a good laugh.

 

 

 

Quantum of SolaceCategory:         Good

Film:                 Quantum of Solace

 

This is a continuation of the last Bond film Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is terrific and the effects and chase scenes are well done. There is a darkness to Bond in the refitted and retooled story telling that makes 007 more of an appealing emotionally in touch spy and more accessible to the audience in a unique allegory to Bond’s life in a hunt for the tears amid the seemingly arid indifferent side of a super spy.

 

 

Tropic ThunderCategory:         Average to Good

Film:                 Tropic Thunder

 

Some good performances in this flick; Tom Cruise is the surprise and Robert Downey Jr. superb. This is a spoof film on Rambo and others of the ilk, but I lost interest very quickly when the idea became an exhausted, and very expensive SNL sketch. Plenty of laughs but in the end I was glad it was over.

 

 

Mad MoneyCategory:         Average to Good

Film:                 Mad Money

 

Madcap and silly funny it is not, but humorous and light hearted it is. This remake of the Brit TV film Hot Money does well with the stars working together as an ensemble and the Brassiere Brigade are well choreographed and  it’s clear they are having fun though the talent of lead star Diane Keaton has obviously “jumped the shark”.

 

 

Street KingsCategory:         Average to Good

Film:                 Street Kings

 

Street Kings is a robust muscled-up remake or reworking of Eastwood’s Magnum Force. Keanu Reeves has found his place in films it seems. Who knew it would be in the mold of Eastwood’s famed Dirty Harry cop series? Reeves does a credible enactment of a believable dirty cop with a conscience. Eastwood’s Dirty Harry was much more in tune with his surroundings and work place than this character, however this character ends up feeling truer to his story.  Much like Training Day, deceit is aplenty and violence rules the screen, though it is not overly gratuitous.

 

AppaloosaCategory:         Average to Good

Film:                 Appaloosa

 

A nice attempt, reminding me of The Missouri Breaks without the tension. An odd ending to this film with a smart story line. Not made in the traditional big Hollywood way, a more real take on gun fighting and those who settled west of Ohio building the towns and cities of America.

 

 

Definitely, MaybeCategory:         Average to Good

Film:                 Definitely, Maybe

 

The difficult subject of wanting romance being a single parent is the theme in this piece. This is more of a light comedy for adults instead of the movie you take your under ten crowd to. It was a surprise and I laughed and had a good time watching this film.

 

 

 

TraitorCategory:         Average

Film:                 Traitor

 

This pits Hollywood advertising and what it advertises at odds with a bid to make gold, gilding and gelding ideologies, passing it off as mainstream cinema.  Don Cheadle delivers a soulful performance but to what end? This film is standard operating procedure; identify the good guys from the bad, capture or kill the bad guys and hope none of the good guys get hurt doing it. It is filmed in an conventional way to fit the framework of a thriller.

 

 

LeatherheadsCategory:         Average

Film:                 Leatherheads

 

Sometimes a paddle in a canoe along the lazy river embraced by tranquility, protected from the party noise under low overhanging branches of unhoaxable trees is just what the doctor ordered. Leatherheads tries to capture the beginnings of organized professional football in 1925 America  when the game went from no rules and fun to rules and less interesting. The Marx Brothers (Harpo) showed the zaniness of the game of football in their film Horse Feathers and in comparison it is absolute genius and makes this new Leatherheads to be hardly worth the effort. The cast is efficient with the one exception in Rene Zellweger who is mostly awful.

 

Swing VoteCategory:         Average

Film:                 Swing Vote

 

Porch swing politics. This movie has its flash with some hardy laughs, but mostly it aims for the heart through pedestrian humor and touching moments. Kevin Costner makes for a palatable redneck everyman and drunk named Bud Johnson, though you rarely believe he's too drunk to ever lose control of his life.

 

 

Sex and the CityCategory:         Average

Film:                 Sex and the City

 

I am happy the film has finally arrived. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte remain best of friends; they are fashionable and well fashioned, so all is right with the world. This film is nothing more than a large group of TV episodes jammed together and called a film. The actors in Sex and the City deliver their famous and notorious roles in the same manner as their earlier television life, the writers continued in a similar approach as did the director. The disappointments are that the character’s inner lives did not grow and the revelations are banal and not ground breaking the way this show was in its beginning.

 

War Inc.Category:         Average

Film:                 War Inc.

 

If you hate the Bush Administration and hate stupid government and you like spoofs and smart-aleck film making this is the ticket. It loses itself in the telling, but once invested, John Cusack does a good job of keeping you interested. A kind of Buckaroo Banzai without the heavy duty zaniness.

 

 

 

Pineapple ExpressCategory:         Average

Film:                 Pineapple Express

 

James Franco and Seth Rogen do a fine job in this buddy movie of two pot smokers running from the big dealer and bad cop. It’s wonderfully far-fetched in its idea, but a poorly written script that ends up being more of a Bong hit from a Cheech and Chong sketch looking for a way to find the already decided upon bleary-eyed conclusion. Once at the end of the story where everything comes together, it turns out to be a stale air head stone from too much toking.

 

RocknRollaCategory:         Average

Film:                 RocknRolla

 

Lost in its own insanity though never losing all its humor RocknRolla moves along like an electrocardiogram display connected to a mortally wounded gunshot victim being saved in the local ER. The pulse is weak, flat-lines a little, then there’s the faint pulse followed by a strong pulse only to flat-line in the end. Three Cheers for Tom Wilkinson to a job well done and had this been a terrific film, he’d be mentioned in most award ceremonies.

 

 

The ReaderCategory:         Not So Good

Film:                 The Reader

 

Good performances, bullshit story. Casting talented actors to deliver brooding imperfective characters that attract the sensitive side in its audience does not make a story an honest one nor does it make the argument in a story valid. Using the distance of time to obfuscate the dimensions of an atrocity so massive as the Holocaust to a contemporary audience is in itself a perpetuation of the original wrong. Filmed for visceral responses, this attempt at polishing history and changing the meanings of reference points for the slaying of millions is most insincere.

 

DefianceCategory:         Not So Good

Film:                 Defiance

 

Defiance is based on fact, a true tale of incredible sacrifice and courage by a band of several hundred to over a thousand Polish and Lithuanian Jews who traverse the interior of a great forest bordering on Russia, Lithuania, and Belarus, keeping away from the Germans who would eradicate them if found. Director Zwick tries to build a great story with this march for life by imbuing small triumphs as something different, causing the film to feel empty and false. Mr. Zwick seems to be allergic to telling little stories . Even the enormous talents of Liev Schreiber, and to a certain extent mega star Daniel Craig is just not enough to save this film from Mr. Zwick. The rest of the performers are horrid, living in some emotional world other than a true one. The camera work is staid to cloistered.

 

Death RaceCategory:         Not So Good

Film:                 Death Race

 

There is a warning label at the beginning of the race; however it should be at the beginning of the movie, and it should state in bold lettering “boring violent entertainment, see your doctor should this ennui persist more than 15 minutes”. The performers Ian McShane, Joan Allen, and Jason Statham, play their parts well in this video game come to life conventional prison escaper.

 

 

My Blueberry NightsCategory:         Not So Good

Film:                 My Blueberry Nights

 

Wong Kar-Wai conjures visual mood as well as any filmmaker today. The constant beat of the lost love unrequited squeezes this story forward as one wrings the tooth paste from its tube reaching the inevitable end when a new tube is needed.  Using training-wheels-trainee actress Nora Jones is a curious call, knowing the unfortunate Natalie Portman and the ever so weak David Strathairn are chosen to work with her in so much of the film. Only Rachel Weisz, and Jude Law are worth any film time had there been a decent script to work with outside a series of overly methodical visuals and unimaginative to hokey circumstances dulling the senses the way swallowing one gross of valium tablets could induce.

 

Pride and GloryCategory:         Not Worthy

Film:                 Pride and Glory

 

This troika hauling hackneyed ideas back in to the cinema and putting it on screen is exasperating. Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Noah Emmerich, and the ageless Jon Voight, with all their talents and charisma, strain to give this dead mule life and are ultimately unsuccessful. Though the story line of good cops doing bad things will always conjure an audience by its nature, it’s time this fatigued idea were put to bed or, only allow talented directors to deliver police dramas in this over-saturated genre.

 

Bangkok DangerousCategory:         Not Worthy

Film:                 Bangkok Dangerous

 

Bangkok, Thailand is the backdrop for this psychological mood film with Nicholas Cage. When is it time to get out of the business of being an assassin? How about before you get into it. The story is balanced on Joe's need to do his job as an assassin while completing four contract killings in Thailand for a "bad man", and keeping his history from a simple Thai girl he has teenage type feelings for. Good and Evil are within Joe-The-Assassin’s soul battling it out; Guess which one wins!

 

Body of LiesCategory:         Not Worthy

Film:                 Body of Lies

 

Not a cohesive story. It appears Americans are sated by this type of film, an opportunity to feel better about ourselves, hating and fearing the brown man but embracing the occasional gem amongst them, throwing in some neat espionage ideas so all the while we are able to think to ourselves, I've seen something intellectual so therefore, I am. Ridley Scott puts out these less than pamphlet size discourses of the Modern World in film like Chiclets gum for the brain dead. At one time Scott was a creator of mood and style in film and now he produces nothing more than fright night at the cinema for the gullible. Blow it up, call it American Might, and the popcorn flows.

 

Red BeltCategory:         Not Worthy

Film:                 Redbelt

 

A White Belt! Mamet has pared down his language, less is more, but maybe less engaging. Mamet appears more and more not to trust the American actor to deliver his story through character work and to almost have a hate for the actors he works with and writes for. He allows none the freedom of discovery waylaying the audiences interest in the life of each character. The actors he writes for are limited to his meter much like a bonsai plant without the beauty, corralled in a Mamet nightmare. Joe Mantegna, Tim Allen, are held in check and Ricky Jay is this awful fixture in Mamet films delivering unsalted soda cracker performances time and time again so in conclusion, I can’t recommend anyone watching this film on the premise I don’t hate myself that much and neither should you.

 

WantedCategory:         Not Worthy

Film:                 Wanted

 

Wanting less for more in a story is a good idea when it comes to wanting in Wanted. Superb effects in bending the path of a spent bullet around objects to find the targets bull’s-eye is a fascinating idea, but trying to tie a story to the idea appears to have been most difficult. A dead father who’s alive, now dead or almost because the Loom of life (reading tea leaves on a weaving machine) or death is manipulated into keeping assassins’ working is extremely farfetched even for a bending bullets idea story.

 

 

Transporter 3Category:         Not Worthy

Film:                 Transporter 3

 

Much remains the same in Transporter 3 as it was in the first. Having seen the first in the series, thinking it was worthy of my attention, and so too must I see all sequels. At least that’s how I‘ll justify my going to see this one. The truth is, same story, same chase scenes with a different take, different girl, same dialogue, not the same interest.

 

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianCategory:         Not Worthy

Film:                 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

 

The Lion, the Ice Witch and the War. The same whiny cast is directed in this sequel in such a contemptible way as to deliver a cute war with cute animals and sweet children, precocious beyond their years slicing and dicing the enemy with sugar and magical powers. This is a film caught between delivering an adult theme adventure and a kindergarten magic cute show done by talking furry animals. Alluring it is not.

 

 

Run, Fat Boy, RunCategory:         Yeuch

Film:                 Run Fatboy Run

 

Actors Simon Pegg, Hank Azaria, Thandie Newton, and Dylan Moran give us some very funny skits in this “Made for America” British comedy directed by TV sitcom star David Schwimmer. Sometimes it’s best to let another country’s flair and sensibilities be to themselves and let America flounder in cultural mediocrity by itself instead of hauling our blandness elsewhere and borrowing another country’s talent and call it different. Schwimmer did his very best to minimize the talent he had in front of him in order to dumb down a low brow comedy Simon Pegg and the others could innately deliver and turned it into endearing slop. Sort of, fast food humor, or movie to go. This film ends up being an advertisement for an athletic apparel corp. and I don’t say that lightly. It is a Hawking production geared to sell audiences shoes & clothes and is a blatant and offensive con.

 

Punisher: War ZoneCategory:         Yeuch

Film:                 Punisher: War Zone

 

I deserved every bit of bad movie making I treated myself to. Like its comic book past, "The Punisher" heads down that dead end street of just being a killer anti-hero with little future other than shooting a bunch of bad guys and getting all around him injured or dead, ad nausea.  The film is well lit and poorly acted. The characters step well beyond cliché into laughably inane monotone wood blocks. The secondary roles are far worse and are completely unwatchable so it's a good thing they are killed off one by one or a dozen by dozen. Its was all so unimaginative. Who knows if the writing was any good, what was spoken was so butchered my ears turned off. The direction reminded me of an empty space as a museum display, and all who read the description are left to stand, stare not knowing what to think.

 

Max PayneCategory:         Yeuch

Film:                 Max Payne

 

It's hard to know where a film like this belongs in picking a genre. The performances are stock and the script sometimes falls in line with the best of the brooding anti hero’s animated by DC and Marvel, though hackneyed. Max Payne harkens the films Constantine and Blade, but is not cutting edge or original. The use of blaring body shaking sound is overused and is a gimmick and it doesn’t work. Set in a fake contemporary New York, Director John Moore mixes weather patterns to style the shots; one minute there's a light fluffy snow shower dancing on the screen, the next moment it's raining heavily, then there are deep slush piles for the cars to drive through and then a biting cold for the characters to deal with along with a nice hard packed snow to walk on. These changes in the weather were confusing to the eye which only shows how the editing was to the script was to the story telling.

 

The Secret Life of BeesCategory:         Double Yeuch

Film:                 The Secret Life of Bees

 

I liked this story idea. Too many movie stars needing camera time, too many ideas for how the story should be told and outside of Sophie Okonedo (May Boatwright) you can scrap the rest and start over. I did not like the cloying writing, cloying directing, and worst of all, the cloying acting where every actor was hunting the limelight.

 

The Incredible HulkCategory:         Double Yeuch

Film:                 The Incredible Hulk

 

This version made Ang Lee’s Hulk look the master work it is. This new version has no life and had me looking at my watch every few moments. In comic books, as silly as they seem, the artists/story tellers make sense with their inventions, where the story tellers in this movie think it’s just cartoons with real people so the story line doesn’t really matter. Just shoot high tech scenes and the audience will love it.

 

 

HancockCategory:         Double Yeuch

Film:                 Hancock

 

Will Smith is putting in the hours but is he really putting in his talent? Hancock rolls along in its pedestrian humor, and there are plenty of giggles, however, is this a film you will remember or just another that you went to and were not affected by anything? More of a film to bide your day till you have to make dinner, clean the house, make that dreaded phone call or other. Sort of “cheap fill” in your everyday life coat, that is neither warm nor comforting. It doesn’t insult or eulogize a and it doesn’t inspire; it’s just and hour and a half of being in a vacuum. Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman epitomize the All American life in the land of the Blahs, and along with Will Smith’s character, John Hancock, prop up the American image that we are concerned what others think about us, to a fault.

 

You Don’t Mess With The ZohanCategory:         Triple Yeuch

Film:                 You Don’t Mess With The Zohan

 

Rob Schneider is in this film, and that does not portend good things. This film, though well photographed, is a complete waste of time, with most of its good ideas not well executed. What a yawner! Why this film was ever made is beyond me.

 

 

 

88 MinutesCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 88 Minutes

 

How is it talented actors lend themselves to such turds? This is well beyond my comprehension. Do they actually agree to do these films or are they being blackmailed into doing them. Nothing, and I mean Nothing, can be saved from this film. I was hoping even, to have a good laugh at the expense of this film, but it was too pitiful and contemptuous to make the slightest sad facial gesture. Other than Pacino; the acting was less than reality TV, the story was dreamed up by Martians, the filming was done by mammals with no opposing thumb, the director misread the recipe, the editor’s are beginners from the Institute for the Blind, and the writers should go back to digging graves for squished road kill; and the casting director should never again be allowed to assess talent.

 

Righteous KillCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 Righteous Kill

 

Swill: Canned acting; Canned story; Canned ideas. Refried and old. Director Jon Avnet has a true all-star cast with Pacino, De Niro, Dennehy, and Leguizamo and does nothing with them. He breezes through this story of an investigation into murder in flashes and shards loaded with ideas but never sticking to a full idea losing most themes half way through. The murderer could be anyone of a million people but by the end even the actors and editors are tired of which to choose. In this film the actions of the police detectives are unsound and stupid and most people will find this film to be ridiculous. So I’m guessing, top flight actors looking for paydays in anything; sure they lend credibility to the project, but does the project lend credibility to them? Mr. Avnet turned in two of the three worst films of the year and sadly Al Pacino was in both.

 

Vantage PointCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 Vantage Point

 

Continuity in a film is important for it to remain believable; with so much going on in Vantage Point I would say it is paramount. Great idea and good cast, but in the end it is too much work to watch this film and come away satisfied. Dennis Quad is tremendous and Sigourney Weaver is just magnificent but this film tries too hard telling too many points of view and ultimately gets in its own way. This film does not work well and has overwhelmed the editor, director and audience.

 

The WomenCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 The Women

 

It takes real acting talent to pull off clever writing, and it takes clever character writing from a talented writer to write a film to not be an elongated bad TV sitcom. And on top of that, should a film producer have all that, you’d need a talented and skilled director to pull it all off.  By trying to bring The Women into the 21st Century, Ms. English has sadly given insight to reasons why men would force Burkas on women. I can’t say enough bad things about how wretched the acting in this film is. To remain interested, I tried to figure out what plastic surgery body work each actress had done to themselves, such as Meg Ryan’s newly sculpted visage making her look like the sister of Heath Ledger’s character “The Joker” from Batman, and so on. Writer/Director Ms. English hasn’t a clue.

 

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

 

Not up to snuff, boring and hokey, well photographed with pedestrian dialogue and humor, some of which you’d need to be born in the mid forties to get. Ho-hum. Not the serial Saturday matinee special, one would hope for; not even close.

 

 

 

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon EmperorCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

 

Another film sequel made in ten minutes for an established audience. Brendan Fraser is charming but who cares. The cast knows their characters by rote and it shows. For a popcorn matinee, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better, but not by much. I would not recommend this film, even as a rental.

 

 

Get SmartCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 Get Smart

 

If you have fond memories of the sixties TV show you will be sad to know this film is out there defaming its history. Is Steve Carell one of Hollywood’s Kool-Aid drink actors? Alan Arkin must have pulled his hair out working with actor The Rock.  How could such an easy premise go so wrong? Eeeeyuchh!

 

The Day The Earth Stood StillCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 The Day The Earth Stood Still

 

WOW; how to take a great, very simple Sci-Fi film and remake it into a disjointed affair so that you actually feel like throwing something at the screen. Everything has been done to this film to make it an inane mish-mosh of ideas and film trickery. In it's cleverness the director and writer found everyway to make this into a colossal waste of money and time. The actors: Keanu Reeves plays robotic people with aplomb, Jennifer Connelly plays the same mechanized idea of a women again in film the kid who played the kid should never be aloud to work in film again and the performances get worse from there.

 

Last Chance HarveyCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 Last Chance Harvey

 

Watching Dustin Hoffman and waiting for that one moment when he gazes into the void conveying the dire feelings of his character to us, is a sight worth waiting for. Seeing Dustin Hoffman as he gazes into the void every other moment in a film is like polishing off an extra large box of licorice on a stomach bloated from eating the whole Boston Cream Pie. Dustin Hoffman (Harvey Shine) and Emma Thompson (Kate Walker, who likes to walk) hook up in this day-old lump of pastoral leavings (for the money I guess), telling a love story that is not for the ages. Think of other prosaic romance films like Love Actually or Notting Hill and think, if they could have been written with more syrup and directed a lot less effectively; they too could have been named Last Chance Harvey. This is a film done in short-hand narration, indicative rather than exploratory. Coming in at 1 hr and 40 min’s makes this film 2 hrs too long. I cannot recommend this film to anyone who likes film or has a brain and likes film.

 

BonnevilleCategory:         Truly Awful

Film:                 Bonneville

 

This film has no body and no soul; it is the antithesis of clever, though glib in its presentation giving off the air of a major body of work for three powerhouse actresses only to divine stick-figure characters who caper through a spiritless drama in a vapid story we are to believe is inured from loss and rediscovery. It goes awry from it’s opening scene and searches for a way back only to wallow in stale cliché and ho-hum circumstances. These characters have some forgettable adventures on a one week sojourn, spun with faux introspection and sadness. Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Joan Allen as an ensemble neither know what the other is doing or is about to do. Individually this may be the death knell for three noted careers.

 

NOTEWORTHY

 

Best acting performances of the year by a lead male and female

 

The Very Best

 

Sean Penn Milk

Kate Winslet Revolutionary Road

Sally Hawkins Happy-Go-Lucky

Kristin Scott Thomas I’ve Loved You So Long

 

The Other Bests

 

Leonardo Di Caprio Revolutionary Road

Frank Langella Frost/Nixon

Sam Rockwell Snow Angels

Mickey Rourke The Wrestler

Chris Cooper Married Life

Kate Winslet The Reader

David Kross The Reader

Robert Downey, Jr. Iron Man

Liev Schreiber Defiance

Tom Wilkinson RocknRolla

Robert Downey Jr. Tropic Thunder

Cate Blanchett The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

 

 

Best acting performances of the year in a supporting role male and female:

 

The Very Best

 

Heath Ledger The Dark Knight

James Fanco Milk

Kathryn Hahn Revolutionary Road

Taraji P Henson The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

James Franco Pineapple Express

 

The Other Bests

 

Tom Cruise Tropic Thunder

Kathy Bates Revolutionary Road

David Campbell Revolutionary Road

Michael Shannon Revolutionary Road

Victor Garbor Milk

Emile Hirsch Milk

Josh Brolin Milk

Diego Luna Milk

Dennis O’Hare Milk

Viola Davis Doubt

Patricia Clarkson Married Life

 

 

Best Directors

 

Sam Mendes Revolutionary Road

Gus Van Sant Milk

Ron Howard Frost/Nixon

Danny Boyle Slumdog Millionaire

David Gordon Green Snow Angels

Thomas Alfredson Let The Right One In

Clint Eastwood Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood Changeling

Mike Leigh Happy-Go-Lucky

 

 

Best acting Ensembles:

 

Milk

Revolutionary Road

Married Life

Slumdog Millionaire

Frost/Nixon

Miracle at St Anna

 

 

Best children performances

(It has been a great year for children acting in film and I loathe child performances to the nth degree in most years) and when they were good they were as good as great.

 

the entire cast of simply amazing youth Slumdog Millionaire

Brandon Walters as Nullah Australia

Matteo Sciabardi Miracle at St. Anna

 

 

Films with good stories that didn’t live up to their potential

 

Miracle at St Anna

The Secret Life of Bees

Tropic Thunder

Red Belt

Mad Money

Body of Lies

Run Fat Boy Run

Doubt

 

 

Terrible acting performances by male or female or ensemble

 

Ensemble (all but Wayne Knight) Punisher: War Zone

Steve Carell Get Smart

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Get Smart

Ensemble Bonneville

Ensemble The Women

Ensemble (all but Pacino) 88 Minutes

 

 

The Michael Cimino Heaven’s Gate Award for Worst Director of 2008

 

Jon Avnet

for directing two of the very worst movies of the year

88 Minutes and Righteous Kill

 

 

Mini Bio

 

Ted McGee

 

1. Lives in NYC

2. Sees too many films each year and not enough theatre

3. Favorite films of all time: Night Of The Hunter, followed by Rififi, followed by The Third Man.

4. Least favorite films:  there are too many to list, and besides, once in this group, it doesn’t matter if you’re the ordinary worst or the best of the worst; an example of all time worst films is Chelsea Walls or this years top prize 88 Minutes.

 

 

 

see the 2008 lists of other writers and readers

 

 

 
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