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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bunsnip Most Overrated Movies of 2007

It's the moment you've all been waiting for: I've finally gotten around to completing my 2007 movie list! We began with the Bunsnip Best Movies of 2007, then moved to the Bunsnip Worst Movies of 2007, and now we finish with the Bunsnip Most Overrated Movies of 2007. Prepare to bask in overratedess!



Sometimes movie critics and audiences are quite taken with a film that really isn't that good. It might not be bad, either, but it's not worth raving about, purchasing, or even seeing more than once. Some of these films will receive Academy Awards and Golden Globes, only to be forgotten a few years down the road when people realize that they really weren't THAT good after all. Former Best Picture winner Crash comes to mind. That's one of the most overrated movies I've ever seen. It won accolades because it was emotionally manipulative, and emotionally manipulative films are best at fooling people into thinking they are brilliant. But how many of you out there actually own this film or have watched it more than once? My bet is not many.

Hopefully, with a little discussion and critical analysis, we can nip this overrating business in the buns! So here are the Bunsnip Most Overrated Movies of 2007, in no particular order of overratedness:


1) Once (2007)
Once tells the story of an Irishman who spends most of his time writing guitar-based pop music and playing it on the street for pocket change. One evening, after passionately belting out one of his tunes, the Irishman is greeted with the applause of a Czech woman who stopped to listen to his music. As they converse, it comes out that the Irishman is a vacuum repairman by day, and it just so happens that the Czech woman has a vacuum in need of repair. Irishman agrees to look at Czech woman's vacuum the following day. He does, then takes her up to his bedroom above the shop and awkwardly asks her if she'd like to stay the night, which she declines. When he sees her on the street another day, Irishman apologizes for his forwardness and the pair start up a friendship. Czech woman reveals that she is married to a man back in the Czech Republic, and that she has a child from that relationship. She also reveals her own musical skills at the piano. Irishman backs off his advances and the movie turns into a musically repetitive showing of the two recording songs together.

This movie was a darling of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. But I think it is misunderstood as being a story about love. The movie's slogan is, "How often do you find the right person? Once." Which is cute, really, but that's not what this story is about. There is a tenable lack of chemistry between the pair, and every moment that tries to push romantic tension between the two feels forced. At best, this story is one of friendship, but it doesn't even pull that off very convincingly.

The movie is really about finding your passion and following your dreams, but it fails to follow through with this theme when the storyline is all but abandoned halfway through and replaced by long sequences of the pair tediously playing and recording the same five or so songs over and over again.

I have a feeling that Once will be like most pop albums: immediately popular and successful in the beginning, but forgotten over time.




2) Pirates of the Caribbean 3: Dead Man's Chest (2007)
I am of the minority opinion that both the second and third movies in this franchise shouldn't have been made. The first movie had a very succinct and well-told beginning, middle, and end, and there was no need to continue the story. But sometimes movie makers don't know when to quit (maybe they can't see past the dollars sign in front of their eyes). Anyway, this movie picks up where the second one left off (which effectively just makes this the second half of the second movie -- another reason why the franchise thing is a bad idea: movies are often left without a distinct beginning, middle, and end).

This is usually the part where I give a brief synopsis of the movie's plot, but honestly, I can't really remember much. I remember Jack Sparrow being in the land of the dead (aka, Davy Jones' Locker [not sure why]) (afka, the Salt Flats of Utah). The crew of the Black Pearl, including Miss Swan and Orlando Bloom, must rescue Sparrow for some reason.

And I remember that the voodoo witch Calypso turns into a giant goddess, and creates a whirlpool to suck in the Black Pearl and one or two other ships. And then fighting and shooting of cannons ensues in the whirlpool, for much longer than you would think ships could circle a whirlpool without falling into the hole in the middle.

And then, Bloom sacrifices his life in order to save his father, because he loves him more than he loves his wife. Romantic hearts everywhere are beating wildly at this heroic display of misplaced affection. Then Bloom must take over Davy Jones' ship and remain at sea forever, except that he may set foot on land once every ten years to have sex with his wife. (You gotta know she's gonna get it from somewhere else in the interim.)

The best part? This whole once-every-ten-years-you-may-have-sex-with-your-wife thing was stolen from another story. I came across this other story not long after seeing the movie, but unfortunately, I can't remember what it is or where I found it. Even so the concept is not original.

Overall, the worst thing about this movie is that the plot was too convoluted, and the characters were not steadfast in their motivations, so you never knew whom to root for, and really didn't care. For one of the highest grossing movies of 2007, I would have expected much more.



3) Pan's Labyrinth (2007)
A young girl and her pregnant mother go to live in the household of a Spanish Captain, who is fighting against a band of rebels in the time period following the Spanish Civil War. The girl's mother grows increasingly ill as the pregnancy progresses. A servant of the household is spying for the rebels. And the girl begins receiving visitations from a mythical Faun, who believes that the girl is the princess of the underworld, and that she is destined to return and rule the kingdom.

The Faun charges the girl with three tasks which she must accomplish to reenter the kingdom. The girl completes the first two tasks, but disobeys the Faun's strict orders on the second task, and barely escapes with her life. The Faun refuses to give the girl the third task. But he provides her with a mandrake root to help cure her mother's illness, which seems to work, until the Captain discovers the girl tending to the root, and her mother throws it in the fire, after which time she goes into labor and dies in childbirth.

The Faun returns and offers the girl one last chance to complete the final task. She is to steal her baby brother and meet him in the center of the labyrinthine
garden. So the girl drugs the Captain, and kidnaps her brother, fleeing into the garden. The Captain groggily chases after them. In the center of the garden, the girl meets the Faun, who tells her that the way into the kingdom is to spill innocent blood. But the girl refuses to harm her baby brother. The Faun disappears, then the Captain catches up with the girl, and shoots her, then steals her baby brother. Outside the garden, the Captain meets the rebel house servant, who takes the baby and kills the Captain. When she rushes to the girl, her blood is spilling around the center of the garden, and the girl sees herself in the kingdom, now crowned princess, and then she dies. It is unclear whether the fantasy realm was all in her head or not.

This movie was billed as being a fantasy spectacular, but in actuality, it was rather light on the fantasy and rather heavy on the bleak reality. Perhaps this was a desired contrast, but it was the most disappointing thing about the film to me. It also featured very graphically violent scenes, such as the Captain literally beating in the face of a supposed rebel, who was actually just a rabbit hunter. Overall, my expectations for this film were not met, and I was rather surprised at the way local reviewers (e.g. Jeremy Matthews of IN Magazine) gushed over the film for months. It really wasn't THAT good.



4) Reign Over Me (2007)
Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle were college roommates long ago. One day, when Cheadle sees Sandler ride by on his moped, he chases him down, but Sandler seems not to remember who Cheadle is, because he has blocked out much of his past as a way of dealing with the death of his wife and children. However, this self-inflicted amnesia mostly just makes Sandler act retarded -- something he is very good at, but that's not a desired trait in this movie.

For some reason, Cheadle is drawn to hanging out with Sandler and neglecting his wife, and together the two act like a couple of 11 year old boys. Then Sandler gets into some legal dispute with his ex-in-laws, god remembers why,
but the judge says that Sandler is obviously going through some profound changes (like devolving into a retarded ape), and then Cheadle apologizes to his wife, and the story finally ends with the possibility of Sandler hooking up with one of Cheadle's psych/dentistry (can't remember which) patients who earlier tried to blackmail Cheadle into a sexual harassment suit.

Maybe this movie should have been on the Bunsnip Worst Movies of 2007 list, what with how stupid that synopsis makes the movie sound. And in truth, I'm not sure that Reign Over Me did particularly well in the box office (though that is DEFINITELY not a reliable indicator of a good movie). But they tried to sell the movie as being some deep, meaningful movie, when really it was a poorly written attempt at emotional manipulation, which was not effective since Sandler's and Cheadle's ho-hum performances made it very difficult to care about the characters. This movie will soon be forgotten forever, if it hasn't been already.




5) 28 Weeks Later (2007)
The zombie-producing rage-virus of 28 Days Later has been eradicated within the confines of parts of London, so the British Military lets people back into the safe area to live. The opening sequences of the film show a man and woman sequestered in their house. They talk about how lucky it is that their kids are away at camp. But when zombies attack the house, the man ends up running away while his wife is attacked by zombies. Fast forward 28 weeks later, and the man has a security job in the newly re-opened London, which gives him clearance to special areas. His two kids join him in London, and together they mourn the loss of their mother. Then the daughter, feeling homesick, decides it would be a good idea to take her brother on a nice little trip outside the safe zone to visit their house that has been ravaged by zombies. Much to their surprise, they find their mother alive, though terribly wounded. Scientists within the safe zone puzzle over the mother's lack of zombie-qualities, despite exposure to the virus. Turns out she is immune, but can still carry and transmit the virus. The father uses his security clearance to access his wife, kisses her on the mouth, and contracts the virus through her saliva. He then brutally eats his wife to death and then escapes into the compound where the virus is transmitted like wildfire. Death, destruction, carpet bombing, a stupid scene with a helicopter chopping up zombies, and utter despair ensue.

The worst thing about this movie is that it wouldn't exist if the characters didn't behave in a continually stupid fashion: after seeing the utter state of oblivion London had been left in, what would compel the kids to venture out of the safety zone except a severe mental deficiency? Likewise, having seen his own wife attacked by zombies, and knowing that it isn't a very smart idea to enter the quarantined chamber (why his security clearance would even allow him into the quarantined area is another example of stupidity that should have been avoided in this film), why on earth would the man think it prudent to visit his wife, let alone allow bodily fluids to intermingle?

I have no patience for movies that rely on the stupidity of their characters for plot development. At least in the first film, the characters behaved rationally, and some died, but only as a result of unlucky circumstances. This movie is far inferior to the first, and not worth seeing.



6) I Am Legend (2007)
A virus that turns people into blood-thirsty night crawlers has completely depopulated Manhattan, save one sole survivor: Will Smith. The virus started out as a cure for cancer, but somehow started turning people into contestants for the Mr. Orc Universe contest. (Seriously, all the vampires look like super-buff Orc men -- what's up with that?) Smith plays a scientist who has somehow developed an immunity to the disease, and is working on a cure for the virus by capturing vampires and testing compounds on them in his basement.

His lone companion is a dog, who accompanies Smith on his daily routine, which involves hunting gazelle and avoiding lions. (Where did all these African animals come from? How about some North American animals, eh?) He also talks to mannequins, and actually goes through the routine of borrowing and returning videos from a rental store. But at night, the creatures come out.... Will Smith save the human race?

I Am Legend is a remake of the 60's Charlton Heston flick Omega Man, which is in turn a remake of the earlier The Last Man on Earth, which is an adaptation of the book I Am Legend. While I have neither read the book nor seen The Last Man on Earth, I have seen Omega Man, and, surprised as I am to like a Charlton Heston movie better than a Will Smith movie, that is the case here. I Am Legend is an exposition-light version of Omega Man. It focuses on stunning CGI transformations of Manhattan, but is hard pressed to get the audience interested in the story and characters. My main reaction to this film was apathy and a slight nauseated feeling in my stomach.





7) Michael Clayton (2007)

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an attorney in a law firm who specializes in cleaning up the messy situations of his clients. When one of the firm's partners (Tom Wilkinson) decides to strip naked in a deposition and declare his lust for the deponent, Clayton is called in to calm the waters. When Wilkinson ends up dead in an apparent suicide, Clayton discovers that Wilkinson had uncovered a damning secret concerning one of the firm's clients. Beginning to think that Wilkinson might have been murdered in a cover-up, Clayton begins to investigate, and finds out that his own life may be in jeopardy.

That doesn't sound like a bad plot for a movie, does it? No it's actually pretty decent, and could have been really excellent. In fact, parts of this movie were excellent: the performances were great all around; the visual style was stunning. But on the whole, this movie was extremely slow moving and boring, and though it felt at times like it was trying to be a thriller, ultimately there was nothing thrilling about the anticlimactic revelations in the film. The beginning sequences gave off the impression that we were in for an interesting ride, but the end result was a movie that felt much longer than it actually was and that moved too slowly to maintain interest. I'm surprised Michael Clayton rated as highly as it did with reviewers and moviegoers. Maybe people are fooled by great acting and filming, but that is not enough to save this boring film.



8) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) was once a young London barber with a different name, a young beautiful wife, and a baby daughter. But a town politician (Alan Rickman) had his eyes on Todd's beautiful wife, so he falsely sent Todd to prison, raped Todd's wife, and then adopted Todd's daughter. When Todd is released from prison, he returns to London to seek revenge on Rickman, and begins a partnership with a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) with a run-down meat pie shop.

Todd opens a barber shop upstairs from the pie shop, and the pair begin stuffing pies with the fruits of Todd's murderous revenge. Meanwhile, a comrade of Todd's from the ship which brought him back to London spies Todd's daughter captive in the Rickman household, and vows to steal her away (how romantic...). The plan is for the best, though, since Rickman gets the notion that it would be a fine idea to marry his adopted daughter.

This was a difficult film to put on my overrated list, because in truth, it was finely acted and beautifully sung (who knew about Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman, of all people?) The sets were also marvelous. But in the end, I felt very unfulfilled. Even in sad movies, I wish to feel like I received something from the film. But all I received from Sweeney Todd was nausea and a hesitancy towards meat pies. I wonder if I would feel differently had they laid off all the graphic splattering of blood and slitting of throats. Maybe if they had turned the camera away at the right moments, I would have loved this movie. As it is, though, I have to give it overrated status.


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8 comments:

Sovknight said...

New Bunsnip... yay!

I read through your blog and I understand most of your points. I do disagree on a few however. I happen to think Crash was one of the better movies I've ever seen, and it surprised me at the time. I thought I might like it, but I ended up loving it. Sure, it was a bit heavy-handed, but I thought it was well conceived and brilliant. I also really enjoyed Pan's Labyrinth, also I do mostly agree with the points you make about it.

Good post.

Sra said...

Here's the thing about Crash: I thought it was way too over the top and cliche with the racial thing. I know that was supposed to be the main theme of the film, but I thought it was shoving the matter in your face too much; like I say: emotionally manipulative. That's not to say the performances weren't good; they were, but the film wasn't well executed. Perhaps that's what you mean by "heavy-handed", though, so maybe we agree in essence, even though you liked the movie and I didn't.

Pan's Labyrinth was difficult for me to write about. In fact, that's the main reason for the great delay in my posting this: as I was summarizing the film, I kept saying to myself that the concept was so good, and in summarizing, the movie sounds like it had to have been awesome. And then I thought, maybe I just missed the brilliance somewhere, so I needed to think about it a lot. But in the end, I was disappointed in the film, didn't have my expectations met and ultimately really didn't like the movie. I stand by my assertion that the film could have been brilliant if it played more on the fantasy side and less on the dark and depressing reality.

Thanks so much for your comment!

Katie Peterson said...

Here here! I agree with your assessment of Reign Over Me whole-heartedly. That film took emotional manipulation to a whole new level when it threw 9-11 into the mix (I guess there was that World Trade Center movie, but who even saw that?). However, I feel I must defend Pan's Labyrinth. I can see why you were disappointed - you love fantasy films and thought that's what you would be watching. But, consider the film from the point of view of someone who loves films about dark and depressing reality (as reality can often be). Whether the fantasy aspect was supposed to be real or in Ofelia's head is irrelevant. This was a film about how we get by. Now you know that I know relatively little about the dark and depressing, but there are times that are too much to bear, even for me. How do we cope? Mercedes fought against The Man, tooth and nail, Ofelia's mother ran into the arms of a bad man, in hopes of finding some security and Ofelia retreated into a world of fantasy and there found her solace. I will admit that the film was too graphic for my taste, but I appreciate that the film makers were trying to establish a night-marish reality. The acting, language, setting, cinematography and costume were all beautiful. What could be disappointing about that? Come on, get on the Pan's Labyrinth bandwagon!

Sra said...

I must say, Katie, as far as defenses of Pan's Labyrinth go, yours is the most compelling I've heard. I really like your perspective, and appreciate your comment. Methods of coping with bleak reality does seem to be a prevalent theme.

Maybe someday I will watch the movie again with fresh eyes, knowing that my original expectations were off-base, and then maybe I will see the movie differently.

But until then, I remain disappointed. :(

Sra said...

I must say, Katie, as far as defenses of Pan's Labyrinth go, yours is the most compelling I've heard. I really like your perspective, and appreciate your comment. Methods of coping with bleak reality does seem to be a prevalent theme.

Maybe someday I will watch the movie again with fresh eyes, knowing that my original expectations were off-base, and then maybe I will see the movie differently.

But until then, I remain disappointed. :(

Sra said...

Here's the thing about Crash: I thought it was way too over the top and cliche with the racial thing. I know that was supposed to be the main theme of the film, but I thought it was shoving the matter in your face too much; like I say: emotionally manipulative. That's not to say the performances weren't good; they were, but the film wasn't well executed. Perhaps that's what you mean by "heavy-handed", though, so maybe we agree in essence, even though you liked the movie and I didn't.

Pan's Labyrinth was difficult for me to write about. In fact, that's the main reason for the great delay in my posting this: as I was summarizing the film, I kept saying to myself that the concept was so good, and in summarizing, the movie sounds like it had to have been awesome. And then I thought, maybe I just missed the brilliance somewhere, so I needed to think about it a lot. But in the end, I was disappointed in the film, didn't have my expectations met and ultimately really didn't like the movie. I stand by my assertion that the film could have been brilliant if it played more on the fantasy side and less on the dark and depressing reality.

Thanks so much for your comment!

Sovknight said...

New Bunsnip... yay!

I read through your blog and I understand most of your points. I do disagree on a few however. I happen to think Crash was one of the better movies I've ever seen, and it surprised me at the time. I thought I might like it, but I ended up loving it. Sure, it was a bit heavy-handed, but I thought it was well conceived and brilliant. I also really enjoyed Pan's Labyrinth, also I do mostly agree with the points you make about it.

Good post.

Katie Peterson said...

Here here! I agree with your assessment of Reign Over Me whole-heartedly. That film took emotional manipulation to a whole new level when it threw 9-11 into the mix (I guess there was that World Trade Center movie, but who even saw that?). However, I feel I must defend Pan's Labyrinth. I can see why you were disappointed - you love fantasy films and thought that's what you would be watching. But, consider the film from the point of view of someone who loves films about dark and depressing reality (as reality can often be). Whether the fantasy aspect was supposed to be real or in Ofelia's head is irrelevant. This was a film about how we get by. Now you know that I know relatively little about the dark and depressing, but there are times that are too much to bear, even for me. How do we cope? Mercedes fought against The Man, tooth and nail, Ofelia's mother ran into the arms of a bad man, in hopes of finding some security and Ofelia retreated into a world of fantasy and there found her solace. I will admit that the film was too graphic for my taste, but I appreciate that the film makers were trying to establish a night-marish reality. The acting, language, setting, cinematography and costume were all beautiful. What could be disappointing about that? Come on, get on the Pan's Labyrinth bandwagon!

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