by Andrew Mooney
Well, we have the movies I’m actively excited about. This list, well, this list is not that. This is the stuff in the middle. The pudgy flab, that isn’t quite ab, isn’t quite a gut. It’s just there. Neither negative nor positive. The purgatory of summer film, if you will. These are the movies that, when you witness the trailer, everything about the flashing lights and moving shapes pummels your body with messages of “YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED” and yet, you come away with a resounding ‘Meh’. And that ‘meh’ has power. It can come from a place of frustration, the collective sigh of a civilization yearning for more and yet settling for less. These are those movies that, yes, they’re not perfect but they have their pros and their cons. Yes, we can wait until the perfect film will come along and fulfill all of our desperate needs, or we can find Mr. Right Now: The Movie. We can settle for a fling. It doesn’t bring any closure. It doesn’t even bring decent climax. It just passes the time.
For this section, I have rated each film on the internationally standardized ‘Meh’ scale. It ranges from ‘Meh’: nothing too offensive, finely constructed, yet it didn’t build any expectation that it would be anything other than what it would be, to ‘MEEEEEEEEEH, ugh, Meh!’: You know the people here are talented, they have ideas (or had) and yet this thing is a bunch of forgettable by-the-numbers crap. Don’t you remember when you were hot? Young? Ready to take on the world. Now you’re just a haggard mess of an artist, scraping what’s left at the bottom of the molded barrel, searching for that lost youth. And yet, every year it slips ever-more steadily from your grasp until you are nothing more than a husk. Taking up space. Useless. Wasted.
So, here they are:
MOVIES I WILL SEE AND HATE MYSELF
Men in Black 3
Alright, let’s get real for a second. I enjoy Men in Black. Let’s get even realer. I even, wait for it, didn’t mind Men in Black 2. There is something so effortless about Will Smith. About his finely trimmed mustache. About his smile that’s just the right amount of trickster, mixed with the perfect dash Han-Soloian sexiness, sprinkled with just the right of ‘black-person-white-people-aren’t-afraid-of’. I will watch him in pretty much anything. Even Wild Wild West. That’s like a Vegan saying that there’s a sauce so good, they’d eat horse-penis with it. This movie has a few things going for it: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin as a freakishly accurate Tommy Lee Jones and…well, that’s about it. What’s against it? They started shooting without a script. That’s beginning to cook without a recipe…or ingredients…or pots and pans. You’re just some jackass switching a stove on and off.
I’ll see it. I’ll shrug. I’ll say ‘Meh’. Maybe I’ll laugh…I probably won’t cry. It will be effortlessly forgettable…as effortless as Will’s roguish charm. Okay…this is weird. Now I’m blushing. Moving on…
So. Sacha Baron Cohen made a movie. It was called Da Ali G Movie. It was a movie. About Ali G. It had characters. A plot. It had actors in it, many of them good. My 13-year-old self loved it. It loved the gay jokes. It loved the boob jokes. It loved the hilarious misunderstanding of youth/rap culture relegated to London suburbs. As I have previously discussed, my thirteen-year-old self was an ironically sexually frustrated/fucking idiot. That movie is nine levels of awful, each level being a hell of Danterian horror, wrought with the souls of those too far-gone to salvage. We had Albus Dumbledore as the Prime Minister, toiling in a mess of gay/black jokes, stumbling around after drinking marijuana-laced-tea. We had Shakespearean thespian Charles Dance dressed in drag and tied up with leather straps. We had Rhona Mitra…well, we had Rhona Mitra’s breasts. She might have been present, though my thirteen-year-old memory is clouded with a mammary-clogged haze. It was bad.
And then Borat arrived in theaters. Now an immigrant myself, I appreciated the crass dissection of American xenophobia and bigotry. It’s characters were one-dimensional, its humor, like an Israeli brothel, specifically semitic/genital-based. What helped it surpass its basal subject was its use of actual Americans spouting some of the most hateful things I’d ever heard…until the next presidential election. Somehow, Cohen’s schtick managed to unearth the harsh underbelly of American racism, especially at a time where fears of middle eastern terrorists were at a peak. And it had a naked jew-fight in the middle of a conservative convention. I laughed. I cried. I tried to wash the sight of hairy taint from my mind by inserting bleach into my ear. I needed surgery. But it was worth it.
This has parodies of terrible people, Kim Jong Il, Gaddafi, Hussein…you know, dead guys. It’ll explore the hilarious excesses of people drowning in the belief that their very testicles are the second and third coming of Christ. Or whoever. Someone apocalyptic. It also makes light of the US murdering foreign enemies with precision robot strikes (yeah, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to unironically write that sentence during my lifetime…Sky Net is coming). And that’s fine. But it has a plot. And characters. This doesn’t seem to be Baron’s forte. Like a dog with a bone, Cohen plays with his narrative structure, knowing that he needs it, and it’s important, so much so that he has to keep it safe. But fuck if he knows what to do with it. This gets a “meeh”. A light shake of the head and face produced usually by the presence of passed gas.
Snow White and the Huntsman
A few summers before this, while I was still burgeoning with optimism for my life once released from the shackles of my undergraduate degree, I stepped into a movie theater and witnessed a little movie named Star Trek. I’m sure you’ll hear me rant about that film another time. The point is this: the opening to that film is one of the most unfairly affecting pieces of short sci-fi you’ll see gracing the multiplexes any time soon. Captain Kirk’s father, Cameron (this isn’t true, but how hilarious would it be to see Kirk Cameron yell about Jesus in space? Copyright, bitches), sacrifices himself to save his wife and son then becomes the aptly named ‘Captain’. I wasn’t really paying attention to the details because, seriously, this is Star Trek. Give me Han Solo and humanity’s inexplicable ability to understand every language over Spock any day. Anyhoo, sidetracked. The guy playing the Kirk’s dad was a pretty lad named Chris Hemsworth. He was also in Cabin in the Woods and he was fucking great.
He was also in Thor, where that fascinating nuance of a beef-head with actual emotions was sorta, well, ignored. In between his hammer hitting’ stuff, and kissin’ all up in Nat-Port’s facial region, he was about as complex as George Lucas’ artistic intentions. So, let’s move onto the film at hand. Hemsworth is back: good. He plays a beef-cake: bad. Already in the trailer we had more shots of him swinging his
penis axe and flicking his totally-super-manly locks of gold this way and that. We also have K-Stew who has made an entire career out of lip-biting and acting like a sack of lady-meat.
But there’s also Charlize Theron eating people’s hearts. And that creepy-Matrix-mirror thing. Remind me of my Grimm’s, but I’m pretty sure cave trolls, harpies and The Prodigy’s terrible come-back album weren’t a part of the original text. We all know
Bella Snow White isn’t going to die, but what a sweet way to end the saga of Twilight if Charlize Theron ate her fucking heart. I would pay to watch that. Alas, I shall be frustrated, as I am with each film in the glitter-sporting-not-sunlight-fearing whimpy vampire pout-fest when, just before the credits roll, I pray for Wesley Snipes to show up in his Ray Bans and fuck some Cullen shit up. And yet, he doesn’t.
It’ll be pretty (hopefully). It won’t contain Julia Roberts desperately trying to murder her own career with each blinding second of Tarsem Singh’s visual insanity. I’ll watch it. I might heave up a little popcorn. I won’t see K-Stew get viciously disemboweled. Maybe another year when she delves into that inevitable crevasse of her career where she’ll play a murdered stripper trying to figured out who’s semen that was. I might see that.
The Bourne Legacy and The Amazing Spiderman
Alright, alright, neither of these movies look bad, per se. No, both offered the world trailers that actually seemed mildly palatable. Spiderman is taking the darker edge with the tale of Peter Parker’s forays with a radioactive spider (in real life: dead of cancer in months). We get a little of his parent’s history. It’s got Emma Stone (always good even if the film is created in total ignorance of the entire Civil Rights Movement). It’s got Andrew “That’s Right, I ACTUALLY Founded Facebook” Garfield. Also good. It’s even got the wonderfully bizarre, Notting-Hill-dwelling, tight-whitey sporting Rhys Ifans as the lizard. Sure. All of that seems fine. Even The Bourne Legacy has Jeremy “Fuck you, I was in the Hurt Locker” Renner, Joan “Not Rivers” Allen, Rachel “Most Beautiful Woman on the Planet and Sleeping with James Bond, That’s Right” Weisz and Edward “Eh” Norton. It’s even written and directed by Tony Gilroy, the crafter of that George-Clooney-Being-George-Clooney-Being-Someone-Else lawyer-fest Michael Clayton. The pedigree is all there. So, what’s my problem?
Do you remember when original movies used to arrive in theaters? Do you remember the times that the numeral ‘4’ after a title usually meant it was in the malaise-period of the Nightmare on Elm Street series? Do you remember The Fifth Element? That movie was fucking crazy and original. In fact, out of the seventeen movies this year that I’m mentioning, only six are original IPs. What happened? Did Hollywood suddenly go self-human-centipede and begin guzzling its own refuse? We have movies coming out this year based on Battleship. Read that sentence again. And again. Read it until your eyes bleed. One more time.
I have picked these two films to berate, not because they are the worst of the bunch (just wait for Dark Shadows) nor are they particularly egregious. They are boring wastes of time. Spiderman: we already had an entire series of those fucking things about four years ago culminating with the campy-ass-lobotomy-I-will-never-get-back-my-childhood-watching-the-old-cartoon-orgy that was Spiderman 3. And now they’re rebooting it? For what greater purpose? Of course, more money. Of course. But it’s boring. It’s so, so, so boring. Piranha 3DD may be a pile of elephant anus, the likes of which the world has never seen…but it certainly won’t be boring, ladies and gents. Of that, I am sure. Marvel, do something new and good. You’ve done the Avengers. Figure it out.
But you, Mr. Gilroy, you disappoint me. You can write real movies. We’ve seen it. Why settle for a forth-quel? Are you looking to place your work on the same mantle as Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace: How Many Colons Does Lucas Need? What about Saw 4? Or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides? Or Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers, the movie that killed professional granddad of the year Donald Pleasance? Give us something new, you talented bastard. Give us some meat. We’re hungry and we don’t go for fecal matter like the bottom-feeders running some of these studios.
Both movies will be fine. They might be enjoyable. But they are both a waste of time and energy. So, Meh, with a tongue stuck out, at both of you.
Dark Shadows and Savages
Hey guys! Yeah, you guys! You directors. Right, the ones with oscars sitting at home and cult classics on the shelf that will be enjoyed for decades after this. Hey, you remember when you were good? And then do you remember when your careers became less good you went one of two paths, down the route of absolute bat-shit-insanity and the route of by-the-numbers uninspired garbage? And then do you remember waking up in the morning realizing that every one of your good years is gone and you only pump these things out year after year because, honestly, its better than staying home and masturbating? Well I do.
Let’s start with you, Mr. Stone. Congratulations, this is a new movie. Not-congratulations on casting Blake Lively. She’s pretty yes, but about as compelling as See Spot Run once you know the ending (Spoiler: he runs). It’s got Salma Hayek (one of my deepest loves) forced out of her natural comedic brilliance and employed to spice up a role that, if it were cast with the dude it was written for, would be completely unforgettable. It’s got John Travolta. I don’t even need to ridicule that one. It ridicules itself. Oliver…you made Platoon, arguably the best way to witness Willem Dafoe die like Jesus (and that includes The Last Temptation of Christ). You made a movie where Charlie Sheen isn’t terrible. You have bent the rules of the universe and created work that isn’t just good, it’s fucking brilliant. What do we have now? W? Wall Street 2? Oliver, I understand that your ‘schtick’ is being an unrestrained maniac…so do something maniacal again. Yes, Natural Born Killers was, to be kind, a hot mess that could eclipse Lindsay Lohan after a long weekend in Vegas. But at least it was ridiculous. Maybe this will be that and the trailers are just terrible. Maybe. I’m hoping, not just for your sake, but for Juliet Lewis’ career. She needs the help, man. Look at her…she’s a scientologist.
Now onto you, Mr. Burton. Once you were great. You created Edward Scissorhands, the most inspiring biopic of a bondage/hair artist the world has ever seen. You made Beetlejuice, thereby making all children terrified for modern art for the rest of their lives (and bringing the world Winona Ryder, Saks Fifth Ave. aside). When I hopefully have kids, I will force them to watch Nightmare Before Christmas so many goddamn times they’ll be afraid of even asking for Christmas presents, including the pony that, I’m sorry, we just don’t have the space or the income for a stable, I don’t care how much you plea and hug my leg and cry or tell me how you’ll do all the work or that I’m the best dad in the world… Well, alright. But don’t tell your mother. Our secret. Our secret pony.
Sorry. Distracted again. What now, Mr. Burton?
Michael Jackson Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Alice in Lord of the Rings Wonderland? Planet of the Apes starring Mark Wahlberg? Okay, seriously, who thought that was a good idea? I want to know. I’m not leaving until I find out. Because I want to slap some sense back into their stupid…
Anyhoo… Now we are reduced to seeing that golden god of a man, Johnny Depp, follow you once more into the heart of darkness. This isn’t just a remake. Or just a remake of a TV show. It’s a remake of a soap opera. Sure, I could see that maybe working out…if you didn’t rely on base, poorly-timed slap-stick. It won’t be bad. It will be totally useless. It won’t piss anyone off. Nor will anyone remember it. It will be blip in the universe, two hours of completely pointless time, spent switching off one’s brain and allowing the world to trickle by. Hundreds of people worked on this thing, artists, people with ambition. And what is the result? Nothingness. Pure nothingness.
When you look back in time, inevitably forgetting each of these films, you think on the days you were young, the days you were in the best of health, the days you could get into raucous hijinks with college friends… And you’ll think…with all those gifts the world gave me, what did I do?
And you won’t be able to remember. You turn back to your kids/grandkids and you simply answer, “I don’t know. Can’t have been that important.”