Saturday, December 15, 2012

5 films in 2012 that everybody liked but I did not (so far)

The word 'overrated' had become my swear word.But sometimes I swear so I used that word when I had a conversation. But in the context of cinema or any other medium in pop culture, the word had been tossed around like a ball of yarn, that it had really lost its meaning. First thing is that it means that something has been told way beyond its buzz or just a movie that I didn't really enjoy, but everybody else did. My use of the word is around both categories and for me that survived a truly busy and dreadful year of finals, bipolar disorder, I will now declare thee the movies I saw in 2012 that I really could not stand while everybody eats it up. Speaking of busy, I have not seen every movie out this year so movies that a lot of people drool over like Looper, The Hunger Games, Holy Motors and The Master, and films like Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook  or Zero Dark Thirty aren't out until next year, so they cannot make this list either.

Remember, not all of these movies are terrible, some are actually good. You'll never know.

Also keep in mind that with this post, I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy it because do whatever you want with these movies. But I will rip them apart and your fanboyism will be in shreds

5. American Reunion
I didn't laugh at this movie once. The hat I spun while watching this was much more entertaining than this. Then again, it's coming from a boy who didn't saw the last three American Pie movies. But I want to address this movie here for one word that grinds my teeth: nostalgia. Even though it has a 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, every reviewer have noted the movie's yearning for nostalgia. For me that isn't a good thing because it's a pathetic excuse to give a movie of any genre particularly comedy a slight pass, right next to "leave your brain at the door" and "you're a critic yada, yada, yada".

American Reunion is absolutely lazy and even not seeing the films, I could figure out how the movie is arranged. Jason Biggs is so uncomfortable with his sexuality that by this era, he became a dad and married Lily Eriksen that he constantly mugs in front of the camera and WHAT A SHOCK, we see his wiener; Sean William Scott is a man-child and yet treats people like crap; we get his mom.... you get the drill. These plots are not memorable in this or any of the other films and yet the general audience give this a pass for rehashed and forceful comedies. No wonder studios are trying so hard to cash in by making another teen movie from the 80s like Bill and Ted, Wayne's World, etc. It's a movie that everybody at the time they were growing up,  but not they were grewing up with.

4. The Avengers
Every time I hear a person who didn't dislike this movie, I always assume its some high brow snob who basically hated anything mainstream for absolutely no reason other than to hate a product that is incredibly well-liked. But the more I think about this movie, the more I find  out that this is a film with the most generic story told in every superhero film in the biggest crossover movie imaginable. While I do like the movie's action, I do not like how the movie is played out. So here are my issues:
  1. Loki. He's the most generic villain in this movie and while I can understand how he has a grudge against his brother Thor, I still don't understand why he wants to take over the world. And the stinger in the end doesn't mean anything.
  2. Speaking of Thor, how come he isn't fleshed out? Or Iron Man or Captain America. When do they actually change
  3. This is too comedic. I don't really think a Marvel film like The Avengers should be too serious a la The Dark Knight trilogy. But the bits where it was considered comedic is poorly-timed and unexpected. Going back to point 1 is that SPOILER Loki gets slammed by Hulk, out of nowhere.The movie ends
  4. If Nick Fury was supposed to be leading the Avengers, why doesn't he do anything? All we see is him carrying a bazooka that is all
  5. It is simply the same story told in every superhero movie. A person with powers is gathered to some place, has to save the world from a dude who wants to take over the world, group defeats him, THE END.
With that said, The Avengers isn't terrible by any means. I would admit that the movie paid off in the final act and there was at least some way to flesh out Black Widow giving her a backstory that puts an almighty interest into the movie. So don't get me wrong with this film. It's still enjoyable, one or more times. But is it one of the greatest superhero movies ever? No. That's like saying calling The Black Keys one of the greatest rock bands of all time because it's too sudden to say that. The Dark Knight wasn't declared the greatest movie of its genre too early or too late, since it was perfectly timed in its release and there was so much expertise and effort brought in. Speaking of The Dark Knight...

3. The Dark Knight Rises
...what's better than having its successor on the list. The Dark Knight Rises was disappointing. More disappointing than Prometheus because this movie is launched on extremely high expectations while Prometheus was meant to be new and establish a franchise that would have the potential to entertain. The one nitpick that people have for Christopher Nolan's film is that while it's complex as a whole, it's actually empty within, emotionally and conceptually. They are correct because if I have to criticize The Dark Knight Rises for anything it would be for being extremely bloated for 146 minutes containing so many inconsistencies, fragile subtexts about the rich vs. the poor and running too much time. The many contradictions this movie contains include Bane and Selina Kyle's motivations and a nuclear bomb that could be diffused in minutes by an engineering company (say Cobol). Not to mention that the story is repetitive and once the Batman decides to put the blame on himself with the most in genuine line trying to be meaningful it ultimately loses subtlety left from The Dark Knight
2. The Amazing Spider-man
The most unnessary remake of the year. And I mean this is a remake of the first Spider-man. Director Marc Webb is good at avoiding genre tropes like in 500 Days of Summer, but here he is just shooting a scene-by-scene and plot-on-plot of the first time we ever see Peter Parker. What makes me cringe is how much so many people are making excuses in defending this movie while piling on Sam Raimi's, which I think was a more remarkable trilogy than this film will ever be. He's less whiny than Tobey Macguire's Peter Parker, the story is better, it's character driven whatsoever, just so they can try to protect a movie that was made by Sony so they can have the excuse to keep it ever since Batman Begins had existed.

Here's the main plot:

Peter Parker gets bullied in school ---> Gains interest from potential girlfriend ---> Bitten by a spider ---> turns into Spider-man, gains next enemy ---> (meanwhile) hard-working man gets fired, then turned into a villain -> threatens New York City -> Peter Parker saves the day and gets the girl of his dream. THE END. Does that sound familiar?

But my big deal with this film is perhaps for the first time in the franchise, Peter Parker is so unidentifiable. Not that he's unlikeable, but perhaps there's nothing to define his personality. First he's grief-stricken, then he's lonely, then he play against other people's actions even they do treat him like crap, followed by being smart and becoming an inventor. All of this shows that the guy is suffering from a huge case of frequent mood swings every five minutes. So therefore the film is emotionally rushed once it attempts to be driven through character and for one thing Andrew Garfield is totally miscast. For Raimi's Spider-Man, at least they capture the spirit of him becoming a superhero and have reserved his friendliness. Now that movie will forever be a punchline on the internet. Emma Stone who is Peter's love interest Gwen Stacy is just the love interest or the stereotypical girl next door. That's all it is to her character. The design main villain Lizard is so terrible and non-threatening while his motivations are rather undefined. With this whole list, I'm done with superhero movies being so innovative and creative. The more defenses I hear from people about this movie, especially that excuse of how it must follow the standards of the comics... what comic?...The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #532? One More Day? I'll go for the latter because seriously... who gives a rat's ass on what comic it's based on? Comic book readers, yes. But me? No. Just no.

Also, for the next Amazing Spider-Man, please don't make the entire movie a Twilight-styled love triangle with Peter and Mary Jane who is now going to be played by Shailene Woodley and Gwen Stacy. Will you?

1. Cabin in the Woods
When I first heard about Cabin in the Woods, it was nothing but praise for this movie. Huge strong praise coming in everywhere from festivals, critics and more importantly the rabid fanbase of Joss Whedon, who is the producer. It still baffles me that people liked it but it also baffles me that people just hated it (hell, it scored a C- Cinemascore from the masses) because they don't put the most cohesive and logical reasoning of their dislike over this movie as they expect a normal horror flick.

In my review of Cabin in the Woods I downright loathed it and I concluded that it was pretentious and that it wasn't a gamechanger. I got told off by the people who loved it, one of them calling me "butthurt" and despite that, I still stand by what I said. But it wasn't for the reasons why nobody could enjoy it. It wasn't because it isn't scary and it wasn't because I didn't get what I was getting. I could go through my problems with this flick one by one.

Firstly the characters are one-dimensional and the acting is terrible with the exception of Richard Jenkins who provides the only silver lining in this film. They lack focus and once the technicians and the surviving people meet, they don't communicate or confront them on why they are being slaughtered until the final frames of the film.

But this isn't the reason why I couldn't like the movie. The reason is that it's so full of itself. The movie has way too much concept and ideas, so what's left is to throw out tired horror cliches to the audience showing how clever they know about the genre and how much they think it is funny to make fun of it. I understand this, but for Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, it's painting a disdain upon the audience's patience, which I have already lost after I thought about this movie through. So for me, I think there's zero restraint on what they could or couldn't do. Cabin in the Woods is extremely postmodern because it's a pastiche of everything you know about horror. Same with Pulp Fiction, which is postmodern because it's a series of vignettes paid off along with elements borrowed from classic pop culture. My gripe with that concept is that it's on the thin edge of being self-indulgent when there's a misstep within or there is an aspect totally lacking in the film's execution. It's self indulgent if it relies too much on being postmodern. I could love Pulp Fiction so much if there was an actual consistency and connection between plotlines resulting in me not knowing what it's about. Cabin in the Woods however is practically a gimmick movie bringing the plot device of real world vs surreal world while deconstructing many of the horror tropes, but Goddard and Whedon are too focused on making fun of the latter that the film has ultimately lost a sense of focus and more into delving to much into a supposed subtext for the sake of comedy. It's pretty tongue in cheek in its sense of humor along with trying to become meta. But the plot is so uneven and once it reaches the final 30 seconds, it becomes downright insulting. First as a critique into the Hollywood standardisation of any genre, then the mind of the mass audience as if it was directed and written by Charlie Kaufman and then a movie about the apocalypse. See what I mean?

To prove my point, I'll give you an example of where the film could work on that kind of self-awareness while parodying a certain genre and still be funny. Last month I saw Seven Psychopaths and it's a brilliant film, because one character was aware about serial killer tropes and trying to avoid it using them while writing his screenplay but the film ultimately plays off the movie being a serial killer film with a striking sense of black humor. Another example is Adaptation where Charlie Kaufman portrays himself being a self-loathing storyteller trying to adapt a book with no story. It was meta, but it plays off characters who are based on actual people still currently living. That movie had great performances, was hilarious in its unpredictable story and was critical of Hollywood screenwriting standards and more importantly it had restraint. And that's what Cabin in the Woods, in comparison with these films, lack. A lack of subtlety because Goddard and Whedon basically annoys us with how meta the film is and how clever we are for being "one-of-a-kind" for 95 minutes.

I just couldn't go behind the film's intentions because it thinks it so smart but ultimately alienating the audience. It wasn't because they're idiots and they prefer Transformers or Paranormal Activity over this, it's because the movie is so cynical and the more you think about the film, the more it just makes you angry thinking about it. That's why I called this pretentious because it's incredibly self-indulgent, relies too much on a current artistic critical theory and as a whole it just doesn't add up. That's why I don't see this as the much hyped game changer and overall the film's execution serves as just false significance. So repeating from what I've initially said, this could have been much better.

Thankfully I am not the only person who wasn't jumping the bandwagon in liking this movie. I know that Noah Antwiler (Spoony) of The Spoony Experiment who angrily tweeted about it and anime reviewer Hope Chapman (JesuOtaku) got downright baffled about the film's intentions, and as much as her review of the film is so detailed, I completely agree with it. Full review:

It is as excruciatingly vapid as Cosmopolis or nonsensical as The Dark Knight Rises and it's a film I would never want to watch again in my entire life. And this is how I feel about the film. I am the Benson who gets a hissy fit after being thrown by trash. And this film is Rigby.

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