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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


At the "meh-vies" 2005

Best of 2005 movie lists. In the last few weeks they've appeared in just about every newspaper, magazine, website, blog and info-tainment show in the country. But what about the movies that shot for excellence only to tumble back to Earth in flaming balls of mediocrity? Why don't they get their own list at the end of the year?

To make up for this glaring oversight, Welcome to Blog is proud to present the movies that received the most "mehs" from audiences in 2005. You may not agree that all of these films belong here but, hey, that's what best, worst and otherwise movie lists are designed to do: piss you off.

If you're not a fan of SPOILERS, now would be a good time to stop reading this.

Broken Flowers: Bill Murray bags Sharon Stone and...what else happened in this movie? Oh, yeah, NOTHING! Murray spends 90 minutes with a blank stare on his face as his character half-heartedly tracks down five former lovers that may or may not be the mother of his long lost son. We're supposed to believe that a man who dresses entirely in track suits with absolutely no charisma or personality to speak of is a "Don Juan" capable of seducing every woman he comes into contact with? Working in the "computer business" must have earned him enough cash to buy the most powerful bottle of Spanish Fly on the planet. The endless shots of Murray sitting on his couch and an impossibly tedious first act further bog down a film that should have been another "Lost in Translation." Sometimes images and long pauses can speak a thousand words. In the case of "Broken Flowers," they don't say anything at all. Nonetheless, the ending is admittedly great, as is the sequence in the pet physic's office.

The Corpse Bride: A stop-motion film about necrophillia for kids of all ages. What could possibly go wrong? Besides the obvious, plenty. The songs were banal and unmemorable, the jokes were tepid and the film contained too many characters without enough screentime. Plus, the damn thing was twenty minutes too short. That said, it's still a stop motion film about necrophillia for kids of all ages, which automatically earns itself a bung-load of points for sheer gal. The fact that Tim Burton landed funding for "The Corpse Bride" should convince us all that his soul has a spot waiting for it on Satan's mantel.

The Aristocrats: So all the best comedians in the United States got together with Siegfried and Roy, er, executive producer Penn Jillette to obsess over...a joke with the world's lamest punchline. Each of them puts their own creative twist on the gag but, frankly, after an hour all the poop and incest stuff gets a wee bit boring. The jerky digital camera work doesn't help matters. Worst of all, the comedians' variations aren't all that different from one another. Worth the price of admission though? Watching once squeaky-clean TV dad Bob Saget throw out a million obscenities and disgust even himself as he rolls through his version of the joke.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Cut out all the scenes about Wonka's daddy issues and it's almost the exact same movie as the original (but without the trippy sequence in the tunnel). But it still had murderous squirrels and enough sense to leave "Cheer Up, Charlie" in the Gene Wilder version.

Lords of Dogtown: No one saw it and the critics all asked, "Why was this movie made given the existence of 'Dogtown and Z Boys." Since those involved created a subculture that just about every kid born after 1985 is still obsessing over, there's plenty of material here to go around. Director Catherine Hardwicke took the right approach. She involved the originals and shot them from the waist down as they did some of the stunts, used '70s film stock along with an era-appropriate soundtrack and gave Tony Hawk a cameo as an astronaut that falls on his ass after attempting to ride a skateboard in literal moon boots. Plus, Heth Ledger is great as an over-the-hill surf surf bum that watches his life fall further apart as the film's moppets ascend to greatness. But the moppets are the problem. They're portrayed as a bunch of brats and become even more unlikable once they start scoring promotional deals.

March of the Penguins: The cinematography is breathtaking and the producers managed to make the lives of birds that stubbornly insist on living in the Arctic somewhat interesting. Still, this is a nature documentary and no one should be expected to pay cash money to watch this sort of thing in a theater. All those wannabe Chilly Willys belong in middle school science classes, not in the cinemaplex. And how dare the filmmakers include shots of adorable animals slowly buckling under the weight of Mother Nature's cruel bitch-slaps! I'll admit it, "March of the Penguins" gave me nightmares. Not the bits with the dying birds but all those shots of their unbearably cute kids running around in the snow like idiots. The horror!

King Kong: An hour-long chase scene filled with scenes of a 50-foot tall simian pounding the hell out of dinosaurs- it's every full-blooded American male's dream to see this sort of thing unfold on the silver screen. But did we really need a solid hour of incredibly dull exposition to get to the goods? And was it really necessary for Peter Jackson to further indulge himself by letting Kong go ice skating in Central Park? This is a movie about a big monkey beating the crap out of everything in sight, not "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Sin City: This movie could been a comic book masterpiece. It had everything. Boobs. Benecio del Toro. Boobs. Guns. Mickey Rourke investing a hammy performance of a lifetime. Boobs. Explosions. Boobs. Severed heads with grenades wedged in the mouth. Oh, and, boobs. Unfortunately, Robert Rodriguez's short-comings as director insistent on doing everything himself dragged "Sin City" down several notches. The editing in the first half is cut too fast and many of the actors are either miscast or look like they're rushing through their lines in order to get away from the green screen and back to the catering table.

Worst of all is Clive Owen, who emotes like he took too many notes while attending the Duchovny, Ford and Costner Acting School. The use of color in the film is inconsistent and annoying. Some of the explosions are in blazing red and orange, others are black and white. Blood for some characters is red, black or white for others. Bruce Willis' character wanders into a strip club where every patron is still partially colorized for no apparent reason. While film students may already be writing essays about the hidden subtext behind the use of color in "Sin City" and what it all means, I already know the answer: jack squat. Rodriguez had an April '05 release date to make and things got sloppy. Oh, and Elijah Wood looks like he's still five years old, Josh Harnett plays the least convincing hitman in the history of cinema, the movie takes place in the '40s but everyone still uses cell phones and drives Ferraris and Jessica Alba shows up to play one of, if not the only female character that doesn't take her clothes off. Pffffft.

Walk the Line: The producers had the right idea: A film about a country legend that has his tainted soul saved by good ol' God and, as Huey Lewis might put it, the power of love. Everyone involved is perfect for their roles and, yes, Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar for his portrayal. The scene where Cash watches his dreams of stardom crumble in a Sun Records studio before he pulls himself together and belts out "Folsom Prison Blues" is a classic movie moment. Still, "Walk the Line" looks and behaves like a made-for-Vh1 biopic. At his worst moments, Phoenix's Cash is your typical bad-boy country star with an unhealthy appetite for amphetamines.

While the real Cash was never as crazy as the persona he adopted for the stage, the film still leaves some great material on the floor. For example, the time the real Cash got into a fight with an old oak tree full of bees and another when he took too many pills and drove a jeep through a minefield (source: Cash's 1975 biography "Man in Black"). It's pretty hard to make a movie about Johnny Cash and have it turn out boring. Congrats, filmmakers! "Walk the Line" should have been handed to someone like Oliver Stone. I would have preferred to a see a "Doors" treatment of Cash's life...hallucinatory drug sequences and all. Just imagine the "Ring of Fire" scene.

And the most "meh" movie of the year is...

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith: "Goddamit" is a word that perfectly sums it all up. After the first two prequels no one was expecting George Lucas to come up with anything better than a mediocre part three. 75% of this film is as bad as the first two. There's the awful rescue scene at the beginning and Obi Wan's cringe-worthy "another happy landing" line. Then Lucas brought back Chewbacca to do absolutely nothing worthwhile. Then he turned R2D2 into an invincible Swiss Army Knife. Then he gave Yoda an adorable ET-style spaceship. Then he made Ewan McGregor ride around on a giant lizard for ten minutes. Then he included that perpetually-hacking "General Grievous" alien/robot thing. And, of course Lucas' coup de gras: after the love of his life is killed and he realizes he's a pawn in a plot to bring the universe to its knees, Anakin emerges as Darth Vader and let's out a cliched "NOOOOOOOO!" instead of trying to crush the Emperor's trachea with his Force powers. How cool would that have been? He realizes he's been played for the fool and cuts loose only to have the Emperor cut him down to size? Afterwards, Darth humbly accepts his role as the lap dog of a galactic tyrant. I'm telling you, this would have been great.

But, on the other hand, there's the moment of silence between Padme and Anakin before he runs off to meet his destiny. And that scene in the opera house. And the duel between Yoda and the Emperor in the Galactic Senate chambers. And that final shot of the twin sunsets that perfectly ties the two trilogies together and brought a tear to every geek's eye. I'd been looking forward to seeing this movie since that long ago day when my father took me to see "Return of the Jedi" at the Washington Square Cinemas. I wish "Revenge of the Sith" had been fucking awful instead of what it is, twenty minutes of space opera greatness wrapped in half-hearted crapulence not worthy of a Sci-Fi Channel Original Picture.

Meh, I say! Meh! MEH!

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