We veer ever closer towards the tail-end of the Nineties with another batch of ill-advised films which either were not made for me, or which were made precisely for me but fell far from giving me the happies. It’s a nice balance of mainstream films and offbeat foreign films which fewer readers will be aware of.
Open Water is one of those horror movies for people who don’t like horror movies. It’s also complete shit. I’m always on the look out for a good shark movie. I say ‘good’, but what I really mean is ‘a movie where a bunch of idiots are eaten’. Open Water takes a more realistic approach – it’s supposed to be more drama, more tragedy than horror, but the problem, or one of the problems is, that in a shitty shark movie at least we know they shitty characters are going to be picked off one by one. Here we have to watch them bob up and down for 90 minutes contemplating nothing before we fade to black. Every so often there’s a splash in the water, or a fin passes by. I get what they tried to do with this, to make us feel up and close the terror of being lost in the ocean and surrounded by sharks. But I felt nothing close to fear, or empathy, or caring for any of it. It failed to draw me in, and mostly I kept thinking how cool it would be to be in a film like this, to be out there in the ocean, swimming, and arsing about with sharks.
Every year or so Britain comes up with a piece of shit comedy which breaks through to the mainstream. Every one of them is terrible. This one exists and dies entirely on its premise – a bunch of old women get their baps out. If that’s your cup of tea, enjoy.
Stephen King’s works don’t always translate well to film. Even some of the more simple stories don’t even work. When you have shit weasels, aliens, and King’s fondness for magic handicapped folks you have your work cut out to make anything out of it. I love King, and I’ll watch any of his adaptations. This is the worst of the bunch. Not Graveyard Shift, not any of the Children Of The Corn Movies, not Golden Years – this. Everybody involved drops several rungs in my ladder of estimation – Morgan Freeman, Jason Lee, Olyphant, Jane – some of whom are King regulars. But Damien Lewis… I don’t know what movie he thought he was in but if this had been the first thing he’s been in I guarantee it would be his only credit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse performance in my life. The curious thing is, while the book is definitely a remake of IT in all but name (Pennywise even shows up at one point) you can see someone talented making a decent flick or mini-series out of it. It wouldn’t be amazing, but it might be entertaining enough for the low bar I’d set. This slithers far below that far and right up its own ass.
In The Cut
The movie which was billed as bringing back Meg Ryan, or finally showing what a powerhouse dramatic performer she could be. Really? Really? I’m sure can be fine, with the right material, but has she ever really been good? In anything? I’ll give her The Doors, in which she had little to do, and as ‘the woman’ in Top Gun, Inner Space, Armed And Dangerous, she’s adequate. Most known for terrible romantic comedies, this was a step out of the shadows for her, into something darker. And once again, she’s fine. It could have been anyone. The film is just another proceedural thriller with a slight saucy edge, but it’s more Indecent Behaviour than Basic Instinct. It’s hardly surprising with the overrated Jane Campion at the helm. Mark Ruffalo shows up too!
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Or, The Avengers prequel. Or, the film so bad it ended Stephen Norrington and Sean Connery’s careers. Or, the film so bad Alan Moore refuses to acknowledge its existence. Or, the film so bad it belongs in an abandoned banshee’s naval. Or, the film so bad its mother ignores its phone calls. Or…. you get the idea.
Lost In Translation
I think this may have been the movie which prompted me to admit to myself that I didn’t really like Bill Murray. I still like plenty of his movies, and I still like him in them, but his shtick wears very thin very quickly for me. I feel about Lost In Translation the way people feel about The Godfather III. It’s well made, looks swell, it has a bunch of famous faces, but it’s as far from a pleasurable viewing experience as you can get without having someone talk to their mates on the phone throughout. It’s another example of me not getting the swelling of praise it received – it’s an anti-romantic comedy, except that it is a romantic comedy through and through, and as far as dramas go nothing of import or relevance happens. I get that’s half the point, but what I don’t get is why nobody else was left so uncaring by the end of it. It’s insulting, borderline racist, and like many comedies of this type I don’t think it garnered a single grin on my behalf. For stuff like this to work its magic on me, I have to like, or at least tolerate the people involved. I don’t. Why should I care about entitled, soulless harpies? I don’t care about them or about any of it, and for that reason it’s one more forgettable movie which could as easily have been made by a nobody rather than the child of a somebody, and starring people you’ve never heard of.
We didn’t just get one dodgy Brit Rom-Com this year – we got two! And shock of shocks, they’re both drivel. Perhaps the worst slight this film caused the public at large is that it’s going to continue to be shoved down our throats every Christmas. There are boundless amounts of fantastic British comedy just waiting to be discovered worldwide, but it’s shite like this which we are fraudulently known for.
Once Upon A Time In Mexico
El Mariachi was great. Desperado is fantastic. This final part in the trilogy is depressingly poor. Rodriguez films follow a very simple pattern – the less money he has, the better the movie is. This should have been a no brainer, continuing the adventures of Banderas and Hayak, but it brings in a host of new characters who take the focus away from the characters we actually give a shit about, and they drop much of the action and wit which made the first two kinetic delights. The film is worth it for one thing only – the Mexican or Mexican’t line – and that’s not even that funny.
Save The Green Planet!
Another film I was dearly looking forward to after loving Shin Ha-kyun in Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, this film is worth watching just because it’s almost impossible to describe. Right up my alley in terms of all encompassing weirdness, it does take a darker turn towards the end but unfortunately by that point I’d mostly tuned out. It’s another case of me getting hyped up and ultimately being disappointed. I still like it and revisit it, and it still makes me laugh and cringe – it’s really good, unique, but I’ve no idea how I could recommend it to or how to sell it. Just the sheer amount of wonderful stuff coming from South Korea at this time meant that this one didn’t measure up when I thought it would.
Battle Royale 2
If we’re going to talk about hype and disappointment, then BR2 has to top my list. Considering the first film remains my favourite movie of the last twenty years, its sequel had a lot to live up to, When visionary director Kinji Fukasaku died mid-filming, my doubts began to creep in. I was already skeptical about a sequel in the first place but given my love for the first one, surely the second couldn’t truly be bad. It’s not. It’s not bad at all. But it is more bloated, less action packed, not as funny, more of a dig at American politics and culture than Japanese, and it dispenses with much of the heart and innocence of the first. Crucially, it shoves the heroes of the first movie into the background and instead we get a more faceless batch of kids and adults, topped off by Riki Takeuchi – never one for subtlety but here dialed up to fifty seven. It’s not afraid to court controversy – it’s opening scene depicting the annihilation of ‘twin towers’ if you will, and placing the viewer alongside the terrorists, and ending with our protagonists fleeing to Afghanistan… it’s trying to say something potent but doesn’t really know how. The tension is certainly lacking and its best moments are when the people we actually paid to see show up. I just wish they had have gone in a completely different direction with the story.
Let us know in the comments your take on the movies above, and which films of 2003 would make your list!