Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2005!

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So 2005 is another one of those years where I forgot a bunch of movies I love and didn’t include them in my original list – silly boy. I’m going to update it to 11 – adding a new film which should have knocked Land Of The Dead off the list first time round. The order doesn’t really matter anyway. In my almosts, I’m adding a few of the great films I forgot about too,

Corpse Bride is that rare ‘modern’ Tim Burton movie which reminds us that he can be a great filmmaker when he’s doing his own thing. It’s just creepy enough to make the kids snuggle up to you on the sofa, but not scary enough to give them nightmares. It has the Tim Burton look and style, and is enjoyable for the whole family. The Devil’s Rejects is also fun for the whole family, if your family are inbred murderers of the Texan variety. It’s probably still Rob Zombie’s most enjoyable movie and the distilled prime example of everything he is as a filmmaker – that Southern vibe, that 70s grindhouse look and style, sadistic characters, sick humour, and lashings of violence. It’s a sequel to House Of A Thousand Corpses – but you don’t really need to have seen it first, though it’s good too. A History Of Violence is Cronenberg, so it should be one any film fan’s list regardless. It takes him in a fresh new direction from his body horror roots, acting more like a twisting drama filled with secrets. Viggo Mortensen firmly leaves Aragorn behind with a chilling performance in this one, and everybody else is good.

Serenity was Joss Whedon’s first bash at big screen stardom, a fan-pleasing coda to the short-running Firefly. I’m not as huge a fan of the show as most, but the film is a fun watch. Election is Johnnie To’s finest work, almost up there with Infernal Affairs but focuses more on the criminal underbelly than twists and double-crosses. It’s another must watch once you get into Hong Kong cinema.

11. Noroi (Japan) Koji Shiraishi

Found footage and creepy Japanese long-haired shenanigans – that’s possibly a hard-sell. I know plenty of horror fans who dislike one or both of those sub-genres but usually I persuade them to watch by saying that while found-footage it isn’t run around the woods nausea inducing, and while there are long-haired shenanigans they are not of the Ringu or Ju-On variety. On top of that, the director had a history within the found footage genre to the extent that by the time he made Noroi he was savvy enough to deliver the unexpected, and he would go on to make the notoriously nasty Grotesque. 

Noroi follows a film-maker and documentary expert on the paranormal who is working on his latest show – investigating a curse and a number of people who claim to be embroiled in different types of paranormal activity. We see his capturing of these incidents and over time the word, or name ‘Kagutaba’ comes up repeatedly. Without getting into spoilers, the stories are somehow connected and a sordid history of abortions, theft, murder and all sorts of goodness oozes out. It’s a film which doesn’t go near jump-scares or obvious answers but instead succeeds because it’s so unnerving and goes places where few films dare to tread. It’s also one where you need to watch all the way to the end for some mid-credits extras. If you want a J-Horror film which doesn’t fit the mold and which hardly anyone knows of, you can’t do much better than Noroi. 

10: Land Of The Dead (US) George A Romero

Back to our original Top Ten – I was as hyped as anyone when it was announced that Romero was returning to the genre he created, decades after. So it’s not as good as his first three Dead movies, but it’s still a fun ride, and it’s still political. Moving the action to a more familiar location (of sorts) it’s set in the present day in a world which has learned to survive alongside the walking dead. Quite understandably, the wealthy are still safe from most of the problems the rest of the world face, living in skyscrapers while everyone else slums it on the streets, protected by the military, the average gun-toting civvy, and by a convenient river acting as a moat. Dennis Hopper is one such rich guy, hamming it up in one of his most amusing final roles, while John Leguizamo and Simon Baker play two soldiers who make dangerous journeys in a Mad Max style souped up vehicle for medical supplies and more. Leguizamo shines as the opposing force to Hopper’s white politician and there are a slew of in-jokes and cameos to enjoy. Mostly it’s an excuse to give Romero a big budget and let a master do what he pleases. In the wake of The Walking Dead it does feel a little like 1 series of that show condensed into a single movie, but it’s also a thank you to the fans.

9: Hostel (US) Eli Roth

I feel very much that this is the one film most likely to drop off my list when I get around to seeing more movies from this year. Eli Roth is always hit and miss for me – his humour is usually very misjudged though generally the ideas are sound. Hostel is notorious as a standard bearer for torture porn – an excuse to cut up nameless nobodies for our entertainment. There’s  much to be said in support and opposition to that statement, the obvious political asides being as simple as using the template as a satire on US Imperialism and as an extreme reaction to the torture tactics used by terrorists, military, and government alike. While I won’t say Hostel is clever, I will say it’s not as dumb as most people think. It’s just a bloody good time which takes mainstream US brutality to new levels as it follows a group of Millennial backpackers who are captured in Europe and find themselves as unwilling guinea pigs in some sort of Millionaire-led murder business. Basically, if you have enough money, you can pay to hurt and kill another human in whatever way you please – with our protagonists being the victims. There’s plenty of blood and to Roth’s credit the first half of the movie is spent trying to get to know these people. There’s not a lot to know about them, but at least they’re not standard slasher fodder.

8: A Bittersweet Life (SK) Kim Jee Woon

A Bittersweet Life is another prime example of the sort of boundary pushing film Hollywood used to make but seems to have given up on in lieu of treading increasingly safe and tame waters. The plot of the film itself is safe, tame – a hitman is employed by his boss to kill the boss’s cheating girlfriend, and he refuses. Stuff happens. What raises it is the fact that Kim Jee Woon directs – expanding upon his eye for detail and grim truths as exemplified in his previous film A Tale Of Two Sisters. He has found a niche in capturing breathtakingly beautiful shots against horrifying or violent backdrops and situations, and he rarely cares for conventions. Throw in Lee Byung-hun as the hitman with a change of heart who keeps everything grounded. Like any number of South Korean movies from this period – it’s a must-see.

7: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

The final entry in Park’s esteemed trilogy is maybe the weakest, probably my least favourite, but still head and shoulders over 90% of what was released this year. It may be the most accomplished and beautiful of the bunch. Like the first two films it is presented as a straightforwards revenge story, but as revenge is never clean there are plenty of twists and complexities. It follows a woman (Lee Young-ae) as a woman just released from prison for a murder she didn’t commit, and her quest to hunt down the real perp. Starting out as a seemingly reformed model prisoner due to newfound spirituality, we slide down her rabbit hole and are dragged along another characteristically grim tale. As with the above entry – this one demands your attention.

6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (US) Shane Black

Without knowing it for much of my life, Shane Black had been one of my favourite people for most of my life. Predator has been an all time favourite of mine for as long as I can remember but in my younger days, while I knew the character names, I really only remembered Arnie’s name when it came to the cast. Later he would three further all time favourites – The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and Last Action Hero. It wasn’t until I started to think about how movies were made and who made them that I began to connect the dots. Of course by that point he had dropped off the face of the planet, seemingly to never return. Then  it was announced he would be directing his first film – this is the result. There’s no way I wasn’t going to at least enjoy this, but it’s a typically incisive, funny, violent story with the usual macho leanings upgraded for a new decade. It’s great to see Val Kilmer back on screen, it was a launch pad for Downey Jr to get back on track. It’s more of a Noir than anything he had done till that point, but his trademark writing keeps it unique as 100% Black.

5: The Descent (UK) Neil Marshall

Neil Marshall had gained my attention a few years earlier with his debut Dog Soldiers – an adventurous werewolf movie with more comparisons to Aliens than any Universal classic. The Descent drops much of the fun of that movie, dispenses with the more macho influences, and instead gives us one of the most tense, atmospheric, and claustrophobic movies in recent years. It’s the best of a spate of similar sounding movies from the period which saw a group of travelers going into some sort of underground world and meeting with various mishaps. Where this one differs is with its reliance on character and emotion – yes it’s a film about being trapped underground, yes it’s a film about the monstrous creatures which you may find once trapped, but it’s also a film about grief and guilt, about escape and resilience, about friendship and loss. Marshall also wisely makes the first half of the movie simply about these women, their fears and motivations, and their struggles to keep it together once they head into hell. It’s a shock then when the first creature does appear, and the film takes on a new edge. My only complaint remains that the cast are too similar in features which can make distinguishing them in the gloom problematic first time around.

4: The 40 Year Old Virgin (US) Judd Apatow

Much of the comedies which have been successful this decade and up till present day haven’t worked for me, either descending or focusing on bro-bullshit or because the dialogue is delivered in this faux unscripted manner. Or simply because they’re not very funny. Judd Apatow sometimes strikes the right balance between juvenile humour and honesty, a blend smoothed out by likable performers and a solid script. The 40 Year Old Virgin is probably my favourite of his movies with plenty of zingers and a more refined Carrell who doesn’t need to do his whole straight man-The Office-shouty shtick. For the most part. Of course the usual Apatow pals show up in supporting roles but the clincher is having Catherine Keener as the object of Carrell’s affections.

3: Revenge Of The Sith (US) George Lucas

For a while it seemed like this was the end – the culmination of Lucas’s grand plan. Since then Disney has released another 15 Star Wars movies and has plans for another 83. Per year. Jokes! Revenge Of The Sith, is easily the best of the prequels. It’s not without its faults, with Padme being reduced to a birth vessel and the whole not being as emotionally powerful as it should have been. I think that’s more of a fault with how the trilogy was laid out, with casting from the outset, and an overburdened script that was never set up to allow us to scream, cheer, and cry. But still, it has some of the best action of the whole series, it does feel like the collapse of good and the success of evil, and Ian McDiarmud deserved an Oscar nomination at the very least for his performance.

2: Sin City (US) Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino

The benchmark for visually unique and authentic comic book movies, Sin City nails the tone, look, and dialogue of Miller’s series – a collage of disturbing and violent and sexually charged intersecting stories which truly does feel like flicking through the ragged pages of a seedy comic you picked up on a whim for a few bucks before the last metro home. Rodriquez and Tarantino both do their thang and pull together a terrific ensemble, including such repulsive and creepy creations as whatever the hell Elijah Wood and Nick Stahl are supposed to be. It’s a mixture of pulp, thriller, action, with obvious twisted noir principles, swept along with a cool, detached pace.

1: Batman Begins (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

It’s in my Top Movies Of The Decade post, so if you want to read my thoughts, go check it.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

Let us know your picks in the comments!

Honor And Glory

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Well there you have it. I’ve finally done it; I’ve watched the greatest movie ever made. Honor And Glory holds that title and it is a film of many contradictions – an 80s action movie made in the 90s; a Cynthia Rothrock vehicle which she is barely in; a martial arts film in which it looks like the fights were choreographed by a Tory MP; a film which made me laugh more than any comedy of the last ten years; a film made with such ineptitude that those who made The Room watched it and shook their heads in shame. Stop whatever you’re doing now and find it. Go, watch it now. I’ll wait.

See? What did I tell you? WTF was that? Where do we even begin? I watched Cynthia Rothrock movies when I was a kid, though I really only remember the China O’Brien series. She was hot, cool, and could kick ass – pretty much the only things I was interested back then. She made a bunch of films with similar titles to what JCVD was making in those days, if not outright sequels – Rapid Fire, Tiger Claws, No Retreat No Surrender 2. It must have been difficult trying to make her way in those days, to make a legitimate case as a leading lady, an action heroine. If there hasn’t been a documentary made about her, then someone needs to get on that. Honor And Glory opens with a very unusual scene – one which seems less strange as the movie moves from weird to bizarre to buck nuts with each passing minute. Starting out in Hong Kong, where Rothrock is on some sort of FBI mission (is that even allowed), she is attacked by some guy while getting a drink. Hey, isn’t that Liu Kang? Yes, yes it is, but it’s okay he’s a good guy in this film too, he was just keeping Rothrock on her toes. Turns out he’s a detective called Dragon Lee, because Bruce Nunchucks was already taken. After watching this I just had to start taking notes about all the wonderful, ludicrous crap which was happening. Those notes make up much of what follows below, but it got to the point where I was pausing the movie every thirty seconds to write something down so I eventually gave up. If it hasn’t been done already, someone needs to do a scene by scene essay on this monstrosity.

What was the budget of this thing – twenty bucks? It looks like it has been shot with the sort of home camcorder my parents got so they could record me refusing to take part in any of the party games at my 8th Birthday. The film moves to America for one of the most hilariously bad acted scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing – and it was a pleasure. There’s a group of, I think, military top brass meeting to discuss a major security incident which could have world-destroying consequences, yet they appear to be conducting this game-changer in a reconstituted broom closet. Believe me, I wouldn’t trust any of these guys with closing my fridge properly, never mind the safety of the free world. Each actor seems to have the same voice, the same delivery. I wouldn’t be surprised if they realised they needed some plot establishing scene and literally grabbed the first 6 guys they found walking by, stuck them in a room, and got them to read the lines.

We then get an even funnier scene where some random disgruntled onlooker attacks a News Reporter by throwing a can of Dr Pepper at her. Why couldn’t she be like everyone else and just yell ‘fuck her right in the pussy’ like everyone else? The ill-flavoured soda tin flies through the air, going nowhere near Joyce The Reporter, yet Joyce somehow kicks the can without looking behind her and it flies back and hits the perp in the face. I rewound five times and laughed every time. Then they have a full blown ninja-off in the parking lot, complete with hilarious sound effects – each blow accompanied by a tornado woosh of air and landing with a boom John Bonham would have been proud off. Why the hell aren’t her friends helping her out? Once the fight is over they nonchalantly appear and say something like ‘lets go Joyce’ as if these brawls are a daily occurrence. Oh, Joyce and Rothrock are sisters – we know this because they also have a fight in a parking lot, juggling a set of car keys enthusiastically between each others’ ankles.

Next we meet the big bad, whose first appearance I annotated with ‘who’s this coked-up loon-bag’? It’s another boardroom scene, but somehow worse (better) than the previous one. Here is the next section of notes I jotted down – they speak for themselves: WTF is wit the jaunty kids sitcom soundtrack. The ‘World’s Greatest Bodyguard’ looks like a rejected MC Hammer dancer – why is he cupping his cock, scared it’s gone AWOL again? The bad guy praises him, then admonishes him in the quickest cock tease to cock block switch I’ve ever seen. We’re 13 minutes in and I’ve already laughed more than I did during the entire Hangover Trilogy. So Rothrock is looking into illegal arms dealing, Joyce is a reporter investigating the corrupt loonbag Jason Slade, and their dad in somehow involved too? Fuck knows.

As terrific as all this is, we haven’t yet met Mickey – taking over from Burgess Meredith as ‘best character ever called Mickey’. Why isn’t Mickey in every movie ever? I no longer care about whatever story this film is failing to tell, I just want The Adventures Of Mickey, as he stumbles from one well-meaning mishap to the next, getting the shit beaten out of him by whoever he meets. He even drives a KITT! Why there wasn’t a spin-off series about him is the greatest crime of the 20th Century. This was his only film-role? For shame. After his introduction, surely the film will go downhill. No, we get some scenes of the top brass being killed along with bizarre dialogue like ‘consider this your resignation’. Did that guy even work for you? Why even say that, just pull the trigger. Why refer to these guys as The Three Stooges – there’s only two of them! We are treated to the most caring, relaxed neck-break in cinema history – the dude’s just sort of nuzzled and has his throat caressed for a few seconds, then he’s dead. He blinks after he dies too.

We get some more vital time with Mickey as he sits eating lunch, talking to himself, but getting the words wrong. He grabs a camcorder, hops into KITT and goes to do his own bit of sleuthing for reasons unannounced. I hope he doesn’t get caught because he sure as shit won’t be able to talk his way out of it. Then again, he’s an amateur and seems to be filming a gate closing. More scenes and notes: There’s a sped up kata scene, the most awkward doorstep scene I’ve ever been party to (and I’ve kissed girls on their doorsteps in front of their dads). Cynthia beats up Mickey (!) only to be reminded that she actually knows him (!) and says ‘oh, sorry Mickey, lets go inside for a party’, to which he replies ‘that’s ok’ in super chipper mode. Have any of these writers or actors ever actually met a human? Look at Slade, standing there fondling his balls and drinking a Heineken. Ooh, an original Q-Bert arcade machine, that’s probably worth a few bob. We get to the final showdown, and it’s Slade and some Japanese guy whose entirely personality is encapsulated by the fact that he holds a coin, but they’re fucked because they’re up against Cynthia Rothrock, Liu Kang, fake Eddie Murphy, and a woman in a blue trenchcoat. There’s fisticuffs. It ends. The film features neither Honor nor Glory.

Just in case you were thinking all of this magic was the product of an untrained director being let loose on the streets with a bunch of cameras and equipment he’d never seen before, a quick look at Imdb provides some startling results. I didn’t recognise the director’s name – Godfrey Hall is a name more reminiscent of a Key Grip from the 60s who’d worked his way up on British crime capers. But it’s a fake – it’s really Godfrey Ho, a name I did recognise as someone who made a tonne of action movies in the 80s, especially dubious knock-offs. Just to give you an idea of his pedigree – in 1986 he made the classic Ninja Terminator and followed that up with 16 more movies. In 1986 alone. Yes, 17 films in one year, 14 of which have the word Ninja in the title. In other words, 1986 was a slow year for Ho so in 1987 he completed 24 features, and not to be outdone,  in 88 he was particularly inspired and made 39 films. Fellow movie bloggers out there – why not run a Godfrey Ho blogathon? I fucking dare you.

Well, that about does it. I’m fairly positive that is the most that anyone has ever written about Honor And Glory – this review is probably longer than the script. Though I imagine this is the sort of film which will have a dedicated fanbase who write and vlog about it all the time.

 

The Highest Rated Movies I Don’t Like – IMDb Edition!

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s me again, back with another rambling ramble about movies. In previous posts I visited famous film graveyard Rotten Tomatoes and harped on about the fact that too many modern (last 5 years) movies occupy their most highly rated spots, and how some of my favourite films ever were slapped with a rating less than 50%, 40%, or in some cases 1%. That’s fine – everyone knows scoring is a nonsense, as subjective as the movies themselves. Everyone knows that my scoring system (click the link, you know you wanna) is better and will become the gold standard once I’m dead and no-one can pay me for it.

There’s me rambling again. It’s a problem. And a charm. A Charmblem? There you go, a new word which describes an action or behaviour which is at once charming and problematic. I bet I don’t get credit for creating that either. On to the much more reputable Internet Movie Database, a site I have been using and abusing since 2000. Remember the forums? Those were great. One of the IMDb’s most popular pages has always been its Top 250. There used to be wonderfully pointless fights in the forums over keeping either The Godfather or The Shawshank Redemption on the number one spot. It’s hilarious that people would spend so much time on such trivial matters (he says while furiously typing yet another post on the subject) and it’s all so silly – it should be Terminator 2 at Number 1. People would argue over scoring campaigns, people giving deliberately bad scores to great movies just to see it drop down some arbitrary ranking. People get so defensive over these products which don’t care about them. It’s the same way with videogames – Nintendo versus Sega, Sony vs Microsoft, Spectrum vs Commodore. My response has always been the same – what brand of toaster/microwave do you have? Do you care if mine is better/faster/cleaner than your one? No, so why should you care about this? You’re a consumer, nothing more. The Product and the Business and the Owners don’t give a shit about you.

Having said that, I did always enjoy pissing off the Fight Club and The Usual Suspects fans. They were so easy to troll and they were so precious and defensive about their films that they would threaten with death anyone who dared to give a score less than 9. Kevin Spacey fans were the worst… well who’s laughing now? Certainly not Mr Spacey – he of See No Evil, Hear No Evil fame. It has been a while since I checked the IMDb Top 250. I can only imagine there are a lot more Christopher Nolan and Marvel movies there now, but I imagine there will still be more older, more foreign movies. I don’t think the frothing rabid geek army cares enough about the IMdb to ruin it – they only like their ‘new toys’, and ‘new’ the IMDb ain’t. So in this post I’m going to look at the movies in the IMDb Top 250 which I don’t like. Then I’ll do the same (opposite?) for their lowest scoring movies. Why? Why do you think – I’m drunk.

I had a moment there where I wondered if they even had a Top 250 anymore, but phew, they do. Maybe they don’t have a low rating list anymore? Lets worry about that later. What immediately strikes me at first glance is that there is a whole host of movies I haven’t seen and probably never will. There seems to have been an influx of Indian movies onto the list. Gangs Of Wassypur is at 250 and I’ve never heard of it. Bollywood or Indian movies in general I know almost nothing about, beyond the fact that the few I’ve seen I haven’t liked. 247 is another Indian entry I know nothing of, while another – Rang De Basanti is in at 218 – above the likes of The Terminator, The Wizard Of Oz, Jaws, and The Exorcist. Interesting.

Okay, at number 189, one place above Stand By Me, is the overrated and underrated Into The Wild – the true story of a privileged bin-lid who decided to decided to go ‘On The Road’ into the wilderness in search of… himself? Something? Either way, he gets eaten by a bear, so it’s all good.  Or maybe he ate a leaf and got poisoned? All the same. I say it’s overrated because this gets a lot of critical and cult acclaim, but it’s just not very good. Good performances and soundtrack, nice scenery, but man what a knob the central character is. It’s underrated in that I don’t think many people know it exists and it should be seen so more people can form an opinion of it, but it’s just not for me. It annoyed me too much and I see the central story as little different from those click-bait articles about people taking a selfie while hanging over the edge of The Grand Canyon before falling to their deaths.

At 181 is David Fincher’s comedy Gone Girl. Yes, I think it’s a comedy. That’s the only way I can take it seriously. For a director as brilliant as Fincher, it takes all of my favourite hallmarks of his and flushes them down the drain and replaces them with monotone visuals, insipid characters, and bland drama wrapped up in a mystery less engaging than me wondering where my other sock is (spoiler alert – it was in the drawer ALL ALONG). I get why people like it – it’s mainstream. But to the extent that it’s included among the best movies ever? Nope.

In an incredibly similar vein are my feelings towards Shutter Island. I was excited when I saw Scorsese was making a horror film and after watching Shutter Island I’m still waiting for him to make a horror film. This was nothing more than an extended Tales From The Darkside episode, with added blandness and an ending I’d already predicted before I’d pushed the play button. I could ‘go there’ with Gone With The Wind but I think that would be pointless – it’s undoubtedly a great achievement and a significant moment in history which I respect – it’s just not a favourite. I could go into No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood – both films I think are impressively overrated but I can probably wait until I get around to their Oscar posts in the future.

At 152 is Room, a film I believe I reviewed here, the basic summary of which being that it’s good, but a little meh, and I don’t believe in any way it needs to be considered as one of the best 200 movies ever. At 151 is V For Vendetta – a film which I consider to be more or less a complete mess. Beyond some select visuals, there’s nothing here of interest. At 142 is Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels, another film I can’t stand but then I’m biased against all that Cockney Gangster wank. A Beautiful Mind at 141 I didn’t care for, same goes for Some Like It Hot at 117. I really don’t like that one, in fact. Snatch is at 104 – more Cockney gangster wank. At 87 is Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – a film by all accounts I should have enjoyed, but again think it is an overrated heap. American Beauty is at 69, a film I liked, but not nearly enough to consider it within even my top twenty movies of that year. The Dark Knight Rises is at 67 – seriously? It’s clearly the weakest of the trilogy and nowhere near on a par with Burton’s first film – did I enjoy it? Hell yeah, but no chance this is one of the best films ever – and it’s one spot higher than Aliens? Da phuk outta here.

Django Unchained didn’t do much for me – it’s at 61 for some reason. Then we get a pile of other Indian movies and recent movies I haven’t seen yet, but can only assume they are not ‘better’ than Alien, Vertigo, or Full Metal Jacket. Into the top thirty and there’s nothing I don’t like. There’s plenty I don’t agree with – Inception is not the 14th best movie ever, Fight Club is not the 10th best movie ever, City Of God should not be above A New Hope, but that’s not why we’re here. Hopefully a few of my outbursts have made you angry. Or surprised you. I don’t know. Like I said before, feel free to like what you like. Even share what you like and encourage others to check those films out. But don’t force your opinion upon others and expect them to feel the same way. There is no Best Movie Ever, only what made a lot of money, what was liked by a bunch of people, what is still talked about years after the fact, what had an influence on something or someone else.

Let us know in the comments what popular or critically acclaimed movies you don’t like. Next time, I check out the lowest rated movies. It’ll be fun.

The Highest Rated Movies I Don’t Like – Rotten Tomatoes Edition

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Greetings, Glancers! If you follow any dedicated movie blog or fan page or podcast, forum, or website regularly, you’ve probably seen various posts and comments discussing the variance between what critics say is good (or bad) and what fans say is good (or bad). This is a time honoured disparity – critics and the general public have been disagreeing about what they should consume since time began – the general consensus being that critics are snobbish and elite and only like a film if it’s old/foreign/arty/low-budget, while the general public are a bunch of ignorant sheep who only enjoy whatever the largest corporations feed to them, generally new/Hollywood only/formulaic/high-budget films. It’s a load of balls of course, with a few pubes of truth pricking out. As I’ve pointed out before, each individual viewer can be broadly categorized, but we all have our own baggage of likes, dislikes, preferences which mean that – surprise surprise – movies, music, TV, books etc are subjective.

There are key differences between the critic and the general viewer, regardless of how voracious the general viewer is. Firstly, it is historically true that critics have had greater access to a wider array of films than anyone else. With the advent of the internet and streaming you would expect that distinction to disintegrate. I assumed it would have faded more by now, but it remains true that the general public is less adventurous than the critic and sticks to what they know, or what they like. Secondly, critics get paid to watch and critique movies – the general audience pays to watch and in most cases don’t get paid to talk about them. That relates to point 1 – the general public have to part with their hard earned cash to watch a movie, so why take the risk of forking over a handful of money if there’s a risky unknown quantity? We are more likely to spend our money on something there is a high likelihood we’ll enjoy.

Thirdly, film criticism is a discipline you are taught and learn. It isn’t the case that you can simply watch a bunch of movies and call yourself a critic – no, you’re a fan. A critic begins with watching movies, with the love of doing so, but takes it multiple steps further to learn about every aspect of film-making, but also film history, and criticism itself. You can’t be a critic without gaining the relevant knowledge and experience, whether that is through a University course or some other path of education. Even then, simply completing a BA in Film Studies may not be enough – you have to be good, you have to follow the rules, or be a master of the rules so that you know how and when to bend or break them. I admit I don’t know much about Rotten Tomatoes so I can’t say for sure how good, or how accurate the actual critics whose scores are used for the site are, but I can only assume they have the skills, knowledge, and experience which the general audience does not have.

I don’t consider myself a critic, in any way shape or form. I have a degree in English Literature, and within that degree I covered multiple film modules, multiple criticism modules, read endless texts on both subjects, but that doesn’t mean I’m anything more than a fan. A knowledgeable one, sure. Most of the movie blogs I follow, some of which are claimed to be run by critics, are not run by critics – they are fans like me. Some much more knowledgeable about films and about criticism than I am, others much less so. In each case the common denominator is that we all like what we like. That’s the way it should be. Don’t think that just because a film has a super high critical or audience score that you’ll automatically like it, or that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t. Likewise, we should never feel guilty about enjoying something which is critically and/or commercially panned – like what you like. Some of the highest rated movies of all time are musicals – generally speaking I can’t stand musicals. The critical part of me can detach personal preference and speak from a technical perspective, from a perspective of cultural significance, but that’s abandoning the most important part of consuming art and entertainment – how does it make you feel? How much do you enjoy it. It’s part of the reason I don’t do scores – scores are basically meaningless – and it’s part of the reason I came up with the Nightman Scoring System (c), as an attempt to replace personal bias with a more generic critical eye while not necessary having critical skills.

All of that leads to the purpose of this post – I’m going to look at some of the most popular websites and publications of the modern age, look at their mostly highly and lowly rated films, and select a few of the ones I disagree with. Namely, those in the top 100 which I didn’t enjoy, and those at the bottom which I did. As people we like to both bitch and moan when we encounter something we disagree with, and we like to indulge in confirmation bias by seeking our and finding those lists and people who pick the same movies we would pick. That proves you’re right, right!? No, it just proves that someone somewhere likes something you do. The purpose of these posts is neither to bitch and moan nor a search for affinity in this endless void we call home. It’s scratching an itch, it’s because I’m curious to see what others think and if I’m aligned to the zeitgeist. It’s allowing me to see that zeitgeist, because usually I don’t care about what is popular or what is not and I rarely if ever look at sites like Rotten Tomatoes. They are the subject of today’s post, and I’ll be looking at their Top 100 Highest Rated Movies – all Genres – as of April 8th 2019.

At first glance the list does seem a little silly – definitely catered towards the general public rather than the critic. In over 100 years of Cinema, 47 of ‘the most highly rated films of all time’ were released in the last nine years (seven of the top ten released in the last four years). Yes, 47 of the best 100 movies of all time came out since 2010. It’s objectively false and it says more about the people who use the site than the films themselves. If you’re a regular here, you likely know my viewing habits aren’t usual – I typically only catch up to most new movies when they’re 3, 4, 5 years old. What that means is that a large chunk of those 47 movies I haven’t seen – maybe they are some of the best movies of all time, as unlikely as that seems.

Remember, if I have my critical hat on then I am dividing up a film’s score into roughly 20 categories, ranging from commercial power to cultural influence to technical skill so it is difficult to gauge how ‘good’ a film is until a certain amount of time has passed. We’re not doing that today though, so lets just take the numbers and films as they are. There are movies here I enjoyed, or even loved, but I wouldn’t consider them to be the best or most highly rated movies of all time but lets start working my way through the list to find films I didn’t like. If I genuinely find none, then it’ll be films I found average.

At number 87, we have Finding Nemo. Did I like Finding Nemo? Sure – but I didn’t enjoy it any more than any number of straight to DVD animated fare. It looks fine, I imagine when it was first released the visuals had more of an impact, but the story, the characters, the voices – none of these things captured me in the same way as my favourite Disney movies. I understand I’m not the target audience for this film and by the time all of these CG animated movies were being made I had all but stepped away from watching any animation. Once my kids were of an age where they could actually watch a movie, I was excited as I had more than 10 years worth of apparently great animated movies to catch up on, from Disney, Dreamworks, Illumination, Pixar etc. Yet many of the most highly rated ones haven’t done anything for me, beyond being a simple, happy diversion. Finding Nemo is one of those – it’s little more than just okay. For me.

12 Years A Slave is a movie I did like, but wasn’t in any way wowed by. I think most of that is down to how much I love Roots and this seemed like Roots-lite. Strong performances, great direction, but again it didn’t knock me over like a film considered the 45th highest rated film of all time should. I’m mainly picking it because I’m over the halfway mark and haven’t found any others I don’t like – plenty I haven’t seen and assume I won’t like, but I can’t count those. Argo jumps in at number 44, and this one I really didn’t get. It’s not an overly interesting story, it’s embellished for dramatic purposes within an inch of its life without ever becoming dramatic or tense, and it feels like ‘one of those Oscar movies’ designed for no purpose beyond winning the Oscar. It’s not bad – it’s just boring, predictable, and hits every ‘seen it all before’ box I can think of.

Singin’ In The Rain. The first musical. One of the most famous and successful musicals of all time, from the Golden Age of Cinema. But it’s balls. It’s so iconic that no-one actually remembers what the film is about – just Gene Kelly splashing about in the gutter with an umbrella. It’s actually about the film business itself, and we know Hollywood loves movies about itself. But it’s a romantic comedy, it’s a musical, and those two things almost never work for me unless there’s something unique or personal to me. I understand why so many people love it of course, I’m not that obtuse, but there’s nothing here for me beyond saying I’ve seen it.

Casablanca is heralded as one of the best movies of all time. I’m the one idiot who goes against the grain. I just don’t like it very much. I like most of the cast, but I like their other films more. I don’t like the music, I don’t think much of the story, and I can’t stand the dialogue. ‘Here’s looking at you, kid?’ What the balls does that even mean? Why does Rick say it roughly four hundred times during the film? Shots fired, eh?

Dunkirk… I really should like it, right? I do, but it’s not as good as I hoped it would be. In the end it feels more like an experiment than a movie. I’ve seen it once, and unlike most of Nolan’s other work, it’s not one I feel the need to ever watch again. The performances, in most cases, don’t get room to breathe and while I understand that it’s an ensemble about soldiers and ordinary people being forced into extraordinary acts, it strangely didn’t move me. I liked it, but more as a critic than a fan, and I value fan preference more highly.

ET strangely endures over time. It’s the sentimentality and the music and the creature design all combined with that timeless 80s quality made at a time when Spielberg was at his best. Yet, I enjoy the pretty terrible Mac And Me more. Mac And Me is not a good film, ET is, but that doesn’t change how I feel. I don’t have anything bad to say about ET – it’s just one I feel was overrated at the time and has continued to be unnecessarily successful over time.

Get Out is the sixth most highly rated movie of all time. I liked Get Out, a lot actually, but not to this extent. That’s saying it’s better than The Exorcist, The Shining, Halloween, Dawn Of The Dead, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and that’s just within the horror genre. It’s not better than any of those films, and it’s still too recent to truly gauge how good it is. Then, bizarrely at number 2, is Lady Bird. The second best movie of all time? For me it probably wasn’t even the second best movie released that month. It’s one of the few movies on the list I have reviewed on the blog and while I think it is a nice, sweet, modern coming of age story, I don’t think it comes close to films like Stand By Me or Lucas, or The Kings Of Summer. 

There we go, quite a few surprises I would assume, especially for regular visitors to my blog who may assume I love all the classics. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate any of these – life’s too short to hate movies, but neither is there any I strongly dislike. Singin In The Rain is probably the closest to a strong dislike, mainly because of my misgivings about musicals, but as I mentioned above I understand why it is so beloved, versus something like Lady Bird which I liked, but don’t understand why it has so much love. What does any of this mean? Not a lot really – it tells me that most users and reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes are overly invested in new movies, which I kind of knew anyway, while reinforcing my belief that you should stretch your viewing net as far and wide as possible – backwards in time and across the globe – to find movies to enjoy.

Next time up, I’ll take a look at some of the lowest rated movies and find out if I enjoy any of those. For now, let us know in the comments which highly rated movies (according to RT or otherwise) you disagree with or don’t like!