Thursday, 30 January 2014

2013 film countdown, part 7: two and a half mehs

The older films I saw this year were, for the most part, average at worst. I'd say only the last two on this list were films I disliked with any passion, so I'm literally figuratively scraping the bottom of the barrel here.

Pre-2013 films: bottom 5

5) Chloe

A woman (Julianne Moore) suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) on cheating on her and hires a prostitute (Amanda Seyfried) to spy on her.

A drama/quasi-thriller that is very predictable. It has some decent film-making but the plot just does not get very interested. By the second half of the film, you just want it to end already. It probably has more flaws, but that's its biggest crime.

And, really, watching a film starring Liam Neeson where doesn't threaten to hunt down and kill somebody is just an exercise in disappointment.

4) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

What if Abraham Lincoln was secretly a vampire hunter?

Cool concept, right? Except I don't think there was enough going on here to keep me interested the whole way through. I guess it falls into the trap of trying to be too clever and complex in its plot than it really needed to be. Timur Bekmambetov, known for visually stylish action, is kind of wasted here.

3) Snow White and the Huntsman

Speaking of visually stylish yet ultimately dull re-imaginings...

The twist here is that the huntsman sent to kill Snow White ends up saving her and becoming a hero of the story.

Which, I admit, was not hooking me in to begin with. I mean, the Snow White tale does not rate highly in my favourite fairy tales, so it was going to take a lot of convincing for me to like this film. I thought the pacing of the story was poor, and in all it went for at least half an hour too long. There are moments when you wish they'd just get on with the action. And despite the efforts to put a unique spin on a classic tale, the story just devolves into generic fantasy.

I think the visual effects, while a bit inconsistent in quality, looked great at its best. I will note that this movie's visual effects Oscar nomination was the only reason I even watched it, so I was being more critical than usual with that aspect. The acting was another one of the positives--there are some good actors in this, and none lay an egg (figuratively; although none lay one literally, either, not that I'd rule it out with this plot)--but it does nothing to save this from being a boring, sub-standard adventure.

2) Breathless (2012)

New York Herald Tribune! No wait, wrong Breathless.

After finding out her husband has stolen a large sum of money, a Texas housewife kills him in order to keep it all for herself. The problem is that she has to find it first before she gets caught.

I'm not sure I ever gave this film a chance, given it had the gall to use the name of a French New Wave classic. That said, it is a poorly-conceived thriller that enters farce territory with the amount of ridiculous twists it throws at the audience. I guess that was the whole point of it, but all it succeeds in doing with its attempt at cleverness is irritate rather than impress.

1) Goon

Oh boy, this was bad.

Seann William Scott, whose name contains one too many Ns, plays Doug Glatt, a nice but dimwitted bouncer with a talent for fighting. After getting into a fight in the stands during an ice hockey game, he quickly becomes the hero of team, being recruited in the role of enforcer.

I first heard about this film a few years ago when I was looking up info on Kevin Smith's Hit Somebody. That project, which eventually evolved into a miniseries, was similarly about a hockey player whose main skill was fighting. It's based off a great Warren Zevon song of the same name.

Since Hit Somebody kept getting pushed back due to funding issues, Goon overtook it and came out in 2011. Fast forward to the middle of 2013. Hit Somebody was still nowhere on the horizon, so I decided to check this one out. I was a bit unsure about how this would turn out but, unlike Breathless above, I wanted to like this movie because of how much I love hockey. I really tried to like it. But I just couldn't.

The story focuses on Doug's rise through the hockey enforcer ranks and the development of his romantic relationship with Eva, played by Alison Pill. The thing is, none of the story elements are told particularly well. It's meant to be a comedy but the humour is so basic that to call it juvenile would be to devalue those types of jokes and gags. To add to that, none of the characters are really very likeable, but the main character is perhaps the least likeable of all. He's portrayed as such an idiot that there's no sympathy at all for him when he's down on his luck.

I'm really not sure why this film was made. I guess the creators saw what Kevin Smith was doing and wanted to beat him to the punch (get it?). Now, I'm not saying that Kevin Smith came up with the idea of hockey violence in film because it has been done it in the past, a notable example being 1977's Slap Shot, and while I didn't totally love that film, it at least had a good sense of humour. And, I mean, c'mon, Paul Newman. Anyway, my point is, the problem here is not originality, but that the film is so sloppy in almost every respect. I will, however, give it credit for this: it makes you want to eject the disc and beat the crap out of it with a hockey stick.

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