Monday, February 25, 2013

In Defense of Bad Films (kind of... they still ARE bad) Jun 15, 2011 2:11AM PST

Congratulations to the 2011 NBA Dallas Mavericks who are not getting the attention they deserve for the win.
Anyway, my dad brought two of what are considered the worst movies of 2010 by many people. from Red Box. Perfect blog opportunity.
Avatar: Last Airbender
Why People Hate it:
- Fans of the series thought it captured none of the magic of the original cartoon series (I can't comment)
- People hated the the 3D (again, can't comment, I watched on DVD)
- Acting was bad
- Story was dull/too serious
- Dialogue was laughable
- Too much exposition (symptom of cramming one season into a movie as a friend has said)
- Action fell flat
- Sets looked a bit too obviously like sets
- M. Night Shamylan directed it
- Casting was racist
Unexpected pros:
- Again, not a viewer of the series, but I thought despite the color difference the main actors looked fairly close to what the cartoon looked like from what I've seen
- I actually thought, minus Appa (the thing from Neverending Story that gained some weight), the special effects were quite good, specifically the water bending.
- I also thought the race to get the Avatar between Aasif Mandvi (who I thought was actually convincing as a villain) and the kid from Slumdog Millionaire (ditto) was an interesting plot point. Especially the strict yet vaguely loving father who banished his son for being a pussy aspect. Yeah, the Fire Nation are huge dicks minus the uncle, but that actually made them quite a bit more interesting than the heroes for me. Actually, the uncle, who isn't really a bad guy, is probably the most attractive character in this thing.
- I'm a big sucker for the aesthetic of icy settings, and the Northern Water Temple looked pretty cool to me
- The Fire Nation King really looks like the idealized portrait of an ancient non-white king, from his round face and big nose... ok, this one's a bit weird, but I was impressed with the casting here.
Why it's still a bad movie:
- The actors outside the Fire Nation ARE pretty terrible, and given some boring dialogue and exposition to spout, ESPECIALLY Noah Antwiler, who plays Aang. Ahng? Whatever. The point is, where other actors might be bad, his performance actually takes you out of the movie significantly.
- The sets, especially the Earth Nation, really do look like sets. The impoverished towns of Earth benders really just look like a single road of sand. Probably because that's what they are.
- Continuous tracking shots during an action scene are a dumb move, and really bring attention to soldiers who could easily fight back, but are standing there because it's part of their coreography
- While the story was actually not altogether uninteresting, it was paced a bit slow, with only a couple attempts at humor and bland action sequences thrown in. I do like the villains and uncle, but that's not enough to get me through.
Overall: It's nowhere near as bad as people told me it was. It's just a dull movie with some noticeable flaws, but some decent characters, set design and special effects. Then again, maybe that's why people dislike it so much. It's not so bad it's good, and I really didn't feel that much of anything after watching it, aside from "that wasn't that bad... it's just kind of there."
Cop Out
Why people... well dislike it, I don't know if anybody really loves the buddy cop genre enough to hate this the way fans of Avatar hated that movie; I guess I'll take it upon myself to "hate" it, since it's nowhere close to as great as Hot Fuzz (one of my all-time favorite movies)... yeah... I guess:
- it's a comedy with few laughs (this is in bold because it's kind of the most important thing)
- the action, what little there was, was not all that great
- it's a generic buddy-cop movie
- it hits you over the head with the references it makes to other movies, i.e. literally spelling out for you what references it's making
- Kevin Smith directed it, but didn't write it
Unexpected pros:
- Sean William Scott is the best part of this movie. Not Tracy Morgan, Sean William-Scott. He's meant to be annoying, but a thief with an underlying good heart, prankster attitude, a knowledge of parkour, and seems to be having fun being a criminal? By far the most interesting character, by far gets the biggest laughs (what little there are)
- The "one last job/let's do this to get back on the force we were kicked off of due to incompetence" story is given a BIT of a twist in that it mainly involves a baseball card. Doesn't change the fact Bruce Willis is a hardass who wants the best for his daughter and that the villain is a Mexican drug dealer, but the baseball card and the dealer's baseball obsession add SOME mildly original elements to it.
- Gabriella is hot. She's also a tough, virtuous woman, but she's also incredibly sexy. A plus.
- I don't know if it was Smith, but there are a couple nerd references like "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" snuck in
- The Italian mother who won't swear in front of her son, but will bust a cap is also more interesting than Morgan and Willis
- I actually thought Kevin Smith directed this well. I feel like the script was definitely the bigger problem, not him. Even the tiny action scenes are a hell of a lot better than anything I'd have thought self-described masturbating stoner Smith could pull off, and at least more interesting to watch than the Avatar action scenes, minus the climax of Avatar, which had some decent stuff going for it.
Why it's still a bad movie:
- Recent homophobic comments aside (and let's be real here, there's an obvious overtone of homophobia in many, but especially straight black male comedians' acts, just look at Eddie Murphy in the 80s; but stabbing in the head? bit much, though he has done a good PR job since apparently, agreeing to do an ad for GLAAD... moving on from the blog within a blog) Tracy Morgan is likeable... usually when he's over the top. He's still likeable here, but he definitely feels muted from what he does on SNL and 30 Rock. It would be even more unbelievable if he acted as zany as he does in those shows, but for God's sake have more fun with him. I wanted him crazier.
- Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis, and that was my favorite part of Sin City, but that was because it was a mostly depraved movie and he was the only decent guy in it. Funny how I spent most of this blog talking about how villains and criminals were more interesting, yet in a movie that's filled with just crudeness, the good guy was more interesting. Both the movie Sin City, and the subject of villains are way more inteesting than Bruce Willis as a cop.
- It really does hit you over the head with film references, and it's extremely lazy writing.
- Again, it only got a few chuckles from me.
Overall: More enjoyable than Last Airbender, but that's not saying much. Like Avatar, it leaves you with an empty feeling of "yup that movie exists... don't really care."
So, I guess all I can say now is... Blue Valentine is kind of hilarious with how much it bludgeons you with how depressing it's trying to be. It's seriously a portrait of what people hate about indie films, from the too-dull scoring to the pretentiousness with which it presents its own sadness. Yet, it also has very good performances and believable dialogue, and actually left an impression on me.
My impression was that a dramatic film had me laughing at its own pretentiousness that was captured on what looked in many instances like semi-professional camcorder footage in closed spaces, but it still at least left an impression on me, and the acting and dialogue were impressive. Hell, it even had quite a few more intentional laughs than Cop Out.
So my question is, is a movie bad because it's just clearly poorly made, or because it's competently made but fails to really mean anything to the viewer?
Is even an impression of "REALLY?! Are you serious?" like I got from the hyper-depressing one-thing-after-another Blue Valentine better than nothing much, really?

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