Monday, July 4, 2011

Top Five Movies I Wish I Had Walked Out Of

I am reasonably picky about what movies I go see. You will not see me darkening the door of Transformers 3. I’d rather eat puffed rice cereal exclusively for the rest of the year than pay to sit through Pirates of the Caribbean 4. How did I become this jaded? Easy. I have paid to have my brain assaulted by too many questionable films. Before I came to my senses, I would describe my willingness to sit through bad movies as reasonably high. Ok. Very high. Suffice it to say, I have plunked myself down in front of a few movies that I wish I could unwatch (I will NEVER forgive Todd Phillips for The Hangover II. Never.), but what does it take in order to give a movie the ultimate “screw you”, the walk out?

I wouldn't know. But, here are the top five movies I wish I had walked out of.

5) Across the Universe. This Beatles-themed musical tells the story of (Hey!) Jude, who, in a trip to the USA to find his father, rooms with another guy in an apartment rented from (sexy!) Sadie. He ends up falling in love with his roommate’s sister Lucy (in the sky with diamonds!). They join forces with another roommate, (Dear!) Prudence, living a rad, trippy lifestyle. When her brother gets sent to Vietnam (Uncle Sam wants him so bad), Lucy becomes a radical, driving a wedge between her and Jude. They break up and Jude gets deported. Misery ensues, until Jude is allowed to come back (because all you need is love?) and Lucy serenades him from a rooftop. Because, you know, The Beatles.

The real problem with this movie is that it’s basically playing Mad Libs with the Beatles catalogue, to the point that when “Strawberry Fields Forever” is wedged in, Jude is literally just painting strawberries on a wall. That’s it. You cannot invest in characters that are doing nothing but speaking in Beatles song title puns. Far from wanting them to “Please, Please Me”, you want them to “Get Back”.

4) Garden State. Ok, so I didn’t see this in the theater, but I wish I had just so I could have walked out (technically, I did, since I didn’t actually finish watching it, but this is neither here nor there). Despite this, I feel ok critiquing it simply because at the time it was released, I was about to be a freshman in college, which (I think) is the movie’s intended audience. Unless you know of another group of people who are impressed with themselves for no reason, believe that Dashboard Confessional understands their soul, and despite the fact that people around them perceive their crazy, they insist that they are “just me!” You know, the sorrow is sexy crowd (note: it’s not). Anyway, Zach Braff (scribe and director) travels back to New Jersey for his mother’s funeral, bonds/falls in love(?) with an insufferably annoying quirky Natalie Portman, stops taking his Prozac, and is freed from the “numbness” of his mundane life. They meet “eccentric” characters, have “adventures”, discuss “feelings”. You know, things you can’t do in your regular life. Basically, it’s stock and thin, with nothing but two-dimensional characters (you know, “sad”, “weird”, “lazy”) and a soundtrack that is just as underwhelming as the character development. And a guy shoots flaming arrows for no reason. And Zach Braff can’t swim. It’s symbolic. Gag me.

3) Four Christmases. I blame seeing this movie on a combination of a Thanksgiving Day, tryptophan-induced stupor and a poor recommendation from my brother, who, while spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend’s family, saw this movie and told us that it “wasn’t that bad.” Allow me to disagree, John Cunningham.

Families are weird, right!? I mean, seriously. Weird. How does anyone put up with them? Well, Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn don’t! Instead, they have kinky sex, party extravagantly, and banter! It’s the American dream, right? And, best of all, they aren’t shackled by those people that created them. Instead of spending Christmas with them, the two jaunt on a Caribbean vacation, but when fog grounds their flight, their families see them on TV, know they aren’t inseminating cows in India or whatever story they made up, and thus, Reese and Vince have to visit all four families on the same day. The horror! We have the stereotypical poor family, religious family (complete with the now-ubiquitous foul-mouthed grandparent), the hippie family. All they needed was for one of the parents to have become a homosexual. In any case, after learning simple things about each other, meeting each other’s families for the first time (What, no one had a brunch or something?? Ever?), Vince and Reese break up and get back together in time to learn that they are having a baby, the one thing they never wanted! But, of course they are suddenly ok with it now. Oh, and Vince Vaughn wrestles Jon Favreau. They fall off a roof. It’s hilarious. Or not. Honestly, I think everyone would be better off if they re-released Home Alone every year at Thanksgiving than putting up with that kind of garbage.

2) August Rush. In this film, we meet a pair of twenty-somethings (played by Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), who after a one night stand on a moldy couch, can’t seem to get their lives together, remaining star-crossed for many years. Of course, after their night of uncomfortable all-consuming passion, Keri Russell’s character is pregnant, but through a series of unfortunate events, her father determines that his daughter’s “dream” of becoming a world-class cello player must come first, and manages to have her baby put up for adoption without her knowledge, because you know, dads can do that. The baby grows up to be some sort of musical prodigy, escaping from his orphanage because he needs to “feel the music” and sure that his parents will “find him” and love him or something equally asinine. In any case, through a series of unfortunate events (the least of which being Robin Williams’s presence in this film), he ends up at Julliard, and conducting the New York Philharmonic after instantly learning to read and write music. And what do you know? Keri Russell, world famous (?) cellist is also playing at this event. Even though August doesn’t get to the concert until after Keri plays, all hope is not lost. Miraculously, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (having left his indeterminable million dollar business) is there too, having seen the his true love’s name (that he met and had sex with that one time) they see each other from across the park, smitten in love, and just know that it’s their son up there. And, as if by magic, August turns around, sees them, and he just knows that it’s his parents.

Seriously. That’s what happens. Not only is the story impossible, but the lynchpin is that you are suppose to care about two people who had sex one time and now they’re supposed to be together. I mean, really! Not only that, have either of these two people forgotten how to use a phone book? The internet? EMAIL!? Why, after their missed encounter, do they simply give up looking if they are supposed to be soul mates? I mean, Keri Russell is supposed to be world famous! You are telling me she’s nowhere to be found on the WWW? If you google image my name it finds a picture of me. I imagine that world class cellists are even easier to creep on.

This might be the worst movie of all time, behind my number 1 . . .

1) A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. It was a cloudy July day in 2001, when my friend Sara Gandy and I flipped a coin between seeing this movie and seeing Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Guess what won?

Anyway, I wonder if Dakota Fanning saw this movie and got scared for her own career? I mean, Haley Joel Osment is apparently some sort of drug dealer now, and he didn’t even bother getting naked or gay in a movie to legitimize his career. But anyway, that’s beside the point . . .

A.I. takes place in the near future, and, if I remember correctly, Haley Joel is a robot child that is programmed to love (a precursor to Data’s Star Trekkian emotion chip??) He is bought by a man and woman whose real son is sick, apparently to fill the void? It’s never clear. There is an adjustment period, but eventually, the mom “imprints” on Haley Joel, and swears to be his mommy for all eternity. All is well until her real son is miraculously healed and decides that the evil robot child must die. They attempt to send him back, but when the mother finds out the robot will be destroyed, she leaves him, baby Moses style, in the woods. It’s compassion at its finest. Then Robot-boy meets “Joe the Gigolo” (Jude Law in a typecasted role), a sex robot, and naturally, go looking for the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio because, you know. She’s real? Or it’s terrible symbolism. Either way. Eventually, the two stumble upon Manhattan, underwater and half destroyed, but miraculously, the robot creator is there just hanging out! Score! After finding out that he’s not really special, Robot Boy decides to commit robot suicide by jumping into the ocean (he’s saved by a school of fish. No joke). In sheer frustration, he drives a police mobile into the ocean and gets trapped underwater at Coney Island, saying “Please Blue Fairy, make me a real boy” to the depths. And you think the movie is over. Alas! No! Two thousand years later (still not kidding), future space alien robots save him from the ice and use some hair trapped forever in his Teddy Ruxpin-like toy to bring his mommy back for one day. She reads him a story. Then she dies. And yes, this is effing ridiculous.

There are so many things wrong with this movie that I’m not sure I can list them all here. The robots have to obey, but sometimes not, when it’s convenient for plot. The concepts of love are infantile, with it being no more than just saying “mommy, you’re pretty!” or something of that nature. And let’s not forget the ending, which does absolutely nothing to wrap up whatever theme is going on (but I suppose it is sort of Oedipal?). And Jude Law is a sex robot. Sex. Robot. Awful.

I've sat through a lot of crap. A lot of crap. But these five films live forever as, by far, the worst movies I have ever had the displeasure of seeing in a theater.

Honorable Mentions:

Sweet November
Hangover Part II
Date Movie