Kyle’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2017

 

2017 is over, and as we hang for a moment on some of the best movies to come out of 2017, we must also take minute to recognize the stinkers. The real poopoo.

And there were a lot of stinkers. Here, today, I’ve put together my list of the ten films that I felt are the worst of the year. Keep in mind:

  • I didn’t see every bad movie in 2017. This is a list of the worst films I saw. I didn’t see The Emoji Movie. I just…I couldn’t.
  • This list includes films that were downright bad, but I also placed them on the list if they had wasted potential or were overall disappointing.

Alright, let’s get this over with…

 

(Dis)Honorable Mentions

The Mummy

The Mummy isn’t an absolutely terrible movie. My biggest frustration is that it has wasted potential and puts the cart before the horse. This movie isn’t a mummy movie. It’s like one of those prequel comic books that studios release before their actual movie. It suffers from being too much world-building when it should just be a good movie. Leave the world-building for post-credits scenes for now. It’s not a bad thing to use the Marvel model. But instead, they threw a bunch of shit at the wall to see what stuck. The other problem? This isn’t a horror film. It’s an action film. If you are doing a Dark Universe, make it scary or at least unnerving. This is a Tom Cruise vehicle that drives right off the cliff. And I’m pissed, because the Dark Universe can work.

 

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde’s action set pieces are some of the best I’ve seen all year. The problem is when the action starts. Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton is underdeveloped, it has too many villains (and not a single one compelling in the slightest), it’s twist is underserved, and the framing device is far more interesting than the story it is framing. The style works and the music choices make for a fun time, but when the spy plot doesn’t earn its reveals, it’s a big waste from start to finish, and this director and cast deserve a whole lot better than this.

 

  1. Rings

-I saw Rings early last year, and you know, there are some good scenes. Like 1% of the movie. The rest is convoluted boring dreck that isn’t scary, doesn’t update the mythology, and worst it all, doesn’t make any damn sense! Three opening scenes and none of them really work. A twist-ish of an ending that wasn’t interesting (and it was in the trailer). The plot points are clichés taken from better films and Samara isn’t compelling. It also ran on forever. Forever. Forever…Rings was, from beginning to end, a terrible movie, one that should’ve stayed unreleased.

 

  1. Snatched

-The cardinal sin of Snatched is that it’s just plain unfunny. I recall giggling slightly at the film’s final joke, and that gleefulness may have just been my knowledge that the film was coming to a close. I love Goldie Hawn but she gets overshadowed by the far less funny Amy Schumer. Overall, I waited for Snatched to get good. I waited a long time. But the movie was so strung together by a dull plot and unlikable characters that my waiting didn’t get me anywhere. Snatched is disappointingly unfunny.

 

  1. Rough Night

-Not only is Rough Night unfunny, it is a shell of a better plotline. We’ve seen this played out before in films like The Hangover and Very Bad Things, but those movies were funny. Rough Night is a rough watch because the story sets itself up for comedy that never shows up. Scarlett Johansson is woefully miscast and it almost feels like she is aware of that as she constantly appears bored. The rest of the cast play flat friend archetypes. Rough Night never seems to work and some of the comedy is so bad it feels cringe-worthy at times. It just doesn’t work.

 

  1. Fifty Shades Darker

Fifty Shades Darker learns nothing from its predecessor. It is supposed to be this erotic masterpiece of passion and sensuality, and it is so boring. The chemistry is virtually nonexistent, the plot has been done better in soap operas, and the ending. Dear God, the ending is so bad. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, as the rest of the film was nothing to be happy about, but I felt as though James Foley on board as director was at least a good sign. Foley gets nothing to do with a shit screenplay from Niall Leonard based on a shit book from E.L. James. Garbage.

 

  1. Sleepless

Even Jamie Foxx couldn’t keep his mouth shut about how bad Sleepless is. For the sheer number of solid actors in this film, the movie is just…awful. I can’t blame you if you have no idea that Sleepless was even a movie in 2017, but it was, and I suffered through it so you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome. Maybe the film would be even marginally likable if at least one character were marginally likable. Dirty cops, broken families, and a flat villain. I always say that you don’t need to have likable characters if they are at least interesting. Well, guess what? No one is that interesting here either. Skip it.

 

  1. The Bye Bye Man

The Bye Bye Man wastes Doug Jones. That’s just about the worst thing you can do. Doug Jones is magnificent, and when The Bye Bye Man is actually oscreen, he is pretty menacing, but a cliché, boring, laughably bad screenplay is the building block for your horror film, you are set up for failure. The first scene in the film is somewhat compelling, and then you put the pieces together, and then you hate it. Lastly, who the hell came up with this title? What a stupid creature name! Ugh.

 

  1. Rock Dog

-I remember nothing of Rock Dog. Good for me, bad for the film. Seriously, I recall thinking to myself the whole time that this was a shitty knockoff of Kubo and the Two Strings, and I sat there for far too long as the film sputtered and died in front of me. I have nothing more to say.

 

  1. Before I Fall

Before I Fall might be one of the funniest movies of the year. That being said, the comedy comes from all the serious parts of the film, and the moments meant to bring lightheartedness to the film are ugh-worthy. This poorly-plotted and simple take on the Groundhog Day/Edge of Tomorrow model is so melodramatic that I couldn’t sit still in my theater seat. I wanted so desperately for the film to be over. No one is likeable/no one is interesting.

 

  1. The Abduction of Jennifer Grayson

-The way this little indie portrays Stockholm Syndrome borders on the offensive, and that’s coming from a guy who is never offended. This shockingly stupid film stars James Duval of Independence Day fame. Oh, you don’t recognize his name? Yeah, there’s a reason for that. I watched The Abduction of Jennifer Grayson before going on a long trip out of town, and the trip felt like it took up less of my time than this movie. When you tuck yourself in at night, be thankful that you haven’t seen this pile of shit.

 

  1. All Eyez on Me

-Well, more proof that just because you look the part doesn’t mean you can act the part. All Eyez on Me runs over the two-hour mark but it feels like a Tupac miniseries that someone scrunched into a film and then dropped a deuce on. There is nothing to say of merit to this movie. Yes, Tupac uses an iPhone in this 90s-set biopic. Yes, Jada Pinkett Smith called out the film’s historical inaccuracy. Yes, it has cars from the 2000s in it. Beyond all the issues with the film from a technical aspect, I was flat-out bored from beginning to end here, and there’s not a single piece of this movie that would make it commendable. It’s the worst film of 2017.

 

 

So there it is. These are the worst films of 2017. I’m glad that’s over.

Is there something missing here? What did you think was the worst film of 2017? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

American Made (2017)

Director: Doug Liman

Cast: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright

Screenplay: Gary Spinelli

115 mins. Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.

 

After The Mummy, is Tom Cruise (Top Gun, Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation) back on track?

American Made is the true story of Barry Seal (Cruise), a pilot who worked for TWA until the CIA came calling in the form of the mysterious Agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina, mother!). Then, he works for the CIA until Pablo Escobar and company come calling. Then, he works for Pablo Escobar, the CIA, and himself as he attempts to swindle just about everyone with his faux delivery company. And Barry Seal is the man who delivers, as long as he keeps the biggest secrets from his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright, 21 & Over, TV’s Marry Me).

I had little to no real expectation for American Made. I respect Tom Cruise, but outside of Mission: Impossible, I haven’t been reeling for much from the star recently. Well, I’m glad to have been wrong. Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) directed the hell out of this movie, capturing a true tonally strong sense of the late 70s/early 80s. From the moment the film starts, we get an injection of VHS tape fuzz running over the titles and from Barry’s self-recorded confessional tapes.  With all the globetrotting in the film, Liman presents a handy-dandy map of all of it to make more sense to the viewers, and it works well. Every scene in the film had care for the tone and feel.

Tom Cruise was great as the lead. He plays Barry Seal with a king of genius stupidity that echoes throughout the accidental shenanigans he finds himself in. The voice he uses is pretty solid, but you can tell he really isn’t putting the pieces together until it’s too late. In fact, he seems to be just barely skating by on luck.

Though Cruise holds much of the attention, the supporting players turn in some really enjoyable work. I’m referring specifically to Domhnall Gleeson and Caleb Landry Jones, who plays Barry’s brother-in-law JB. Gleeson is smarmy and sleazy in all the right moments and from the moment JB enters the picture, you know exactly who he is, what kind of trouble he’s about to cause, and how much you are going to hate him. All compliments, of course.

American Made is a fine film, reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street at times, and perfectly enjoyable. Its one true flaw is that it seems to go on too long, though I’m not quite sure where to cut it down. It just feels bloated even though its pace is so swift. All in all, there isn’t much to hate in a film like this, and it’s a nice opportunity to learn more about America’s estranged past.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen American Made yet? What did you think? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Box Office Report: Triple Threat Duking for #1, Flatliners is D.O.A.

Who can say for certain which film will come out on top this weekend. The contenders are:

-Doug Liman’s newest film American Made, starring Tom Cruise,

-Matthew Vaughn’s sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and

-Andy Muschietti’s It, based on the Stephen King novel.

While American Made is a newcomer to this weekend, it hasn’t been making the splash many thought it could. This could be due to the poor reception to The Mummy, which also starred Cruise. The shift in the film world around blockbuster stars no longer having the kind of pull they once could. Director Liman has been working over two decades but doesn’t have the household name approval despite acclaim for his more recent work like Edge of Tomorrow.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle opened to lukewarm reception last weekend with many saying it was a major step down for the franchise from the universally loved first installment.

It is currently in its fourth weekend but continues to be a strong contender. Domestically, It is the fifth highest-grossing film of 2017 (the highest-grossing R-rated film) and the nation is currently on a King Renaissance, so there is no stopping this juggernaut.

All three films have been heading for roughly $16.5 million, and I’ve seen both American Made and It and enjoyed both, so I’m curious to see which one will walk away the victor here, but it is quite clear that the sequel to Flatliners, aptly-named Flatliners, will have a very weak opening weekend. The film, starring Ellen Page and Diego Luna, is dying in cinemas. Currently sitting at a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, it isn’t surprising that the film is struggling considering the nonexistent marketing campaign for the film and the lack of press screenings. I mean, c’mon, even The Emoji Movie has defenders. Flatliners is currently trending to make $6 million this weekend.

What do you think? What film(s) are you seeing this weekend? Let me know/drop that comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Doug Liman Talks Leaving Gambit

In a recent interview with Collider, director Doug Liman talked about his reasons for leaving the X-Men film Gambit. Liman, who is currently promoting his newest film The Wall, said:

“I never formed a connection. Many of these movies, I don’t have the connection on day one, but I find the connection. I just never found it. I don’t always find a connection. I want to make a movie that, if anybody else made it, it would be different.”

Liman continued to describe that his version of Swingers portrayed Vince Vaughn’s character Trent as a likable character and that someone else making that film perhaps wouldn’t have made it the same way. This served as the primary reason for Liman’s departure from the project.

I would rather see Doug Liman’s take on Justice League Dark to his take on Gambit, but this stems from a personal confusion as to the appeal of Gambit. I just don’t see Gambit getting his own film and I agree that it will take someone who has a real love for the character to bring that to the screen.

Thankfully, Liman has plenty of interesting projects on the way like the sequel to Edge of Tomorrow and the aforementioned Justice League Dark, and I’m excited to see The Wall.

What do you think? Who should helm Gambit? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[St. Patrick’s Day] In Bruges (2008)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ciaran Hinds, Clemence Poesy, Jeremie Renier

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh

107 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language and some drug use.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay

 

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to take a look back at a favorite film of mine from an excellent Irish writer/director, Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths). The film is In Bruges.

Ray (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and his partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson, Edge of Tomorrow, Assassin’s Creed) are two hitmen hiding out in the small town of Bruges in Belgium after Ray accidentally shot and killed a child on the job. What’s wrong with Bruges? Seemingly nothing, but, as Ray points out, it’s fucking Bruges. The small peaceful town has a strange way about it, and Ray soon discovers that there is a larger reason they’ve been sent to Bruges by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The LEGO Batman Movie) in this charming bloodbath.

In Bruges is, simply put, spectacular. From the performances of its main cast (in particular, Colin Farrell puts out the best work of his career) to the man behind the camera, everything is spot on. Farrell and Gleeson share some truly wonderful dialogue-driven scenes and when Fiennes shows up, the film only gets better and better.

McDonagh has an eye for dialogue and a visual sense of beauty in darkness, and he shows it here in his first feature (I also recommend checking out the shit-crazy Seven Psychopaths from the director if you get a chance). His focus on characters and real comedy derived from interesting experiences and moments make the film a completely unique thrill-ride.

In Bruges is just damn incredible. My love for it extends back to a screenwriting study I did on the film some years back, and I find that I continue to admire its pitch-perfect writing and tone upon each viewing. The film’s one problem, if there has to be one, is that it slogs a tiny bit in the second act, but trust me when I say that it doesn’t really hurt the film at all. I highly recommend watching In Bruges today or, hell, any day.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

*** Just a side note, In Bruges registers 1.18 “fucks” per minutes. SO yeah, the film is rated R for language.

[Early Review] Before I Fall (2017)

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Director: Ry Russo-Young

Cast: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Elena Kampouris, Diego Boneta, Jennifer Beals, Liv Hewson

Screenplay: Maria Maggenti

99 mins. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving drinking, sexuality, bullying, some violent images, and language-all involving teens.

 

Before I Fall is a new young adult drama that premiered at Sundance last month and is set for a wide release on March 3rd.I got the chance to see it yesterday, and it was everything I thought it would be, which in this case isn’t exactly a compliment.

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Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch, Dirty Grandpa, Everybody Wants Some!!) is a popular senior who is on her way to graduation. She has a close-knit clique of girls, a jock boyfriend, and a perfect life. That is, until she dies in a horrible car accident. Then, Samantha wakes up like nothing had ever happened. Soon, she discovers that she is reliving the same day over and over again. Sam needs to put the pieces together and make the best day she can in order to correct the passage of time and right the wrongs of her life.

I should begin with my frustrations at the screening I attended. Upon leaving, I overheard another guest exclaim “Wow! That was so unique! The coolest idea for a movie ever!” She wasn’t kidding, too. This was the most cliché film I’ve seen in a long time! Not only did a similarly structures Edge of Tomorrow come out just a few years back, but has anyone heard of Groundhog Day! Come on! Setting this film in February didn’t help as it only sought to remind me why Groundhog Day was better.

Before I Fall had Zero likable characters, Zero interesting plot points, and Zero redeemable qualities. Sam is not someone I’m rooting for, her motivations were not clear at several points, and her catharsis is neither earned nor sensible in the slightest. The entirety of the film is a meandering slog which didn’t make its repeating day any better.

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“My thoughts exactly, napping background student. My thoughts exactly…”

 

Before I Fall might be the worst movie of 2017 were it not for the performances, which are not good but at least exceed worse fair like Rings and The Bye Bye Man. You can do better than this film. A lot better. Big skips from this reviewer.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Mission: Impossible (1996)

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Director: Brian DePalma

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave

Screenplay: David Koepp, Robert Towne

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence.

 

Adaptations of popular television series are really tough. How do you condense the best parts of a multi-season run into 90 minutes? How can it be done? Some successful versions, like 21 Jump Street, poke fun at the silliness of the source material. Others, like Mission: Impossible, drastically change the series direction while holding up its most important rules.

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Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow) has run into a bit of trouble on his newest mission to recover the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) non-official cover, or NOC, list. His entire team has been attacked and Ethan has become framed for the attack. Without long-time team leader Jim Phelps (Jon Voight, TV’s Ray Donovan, Heat) to help protect him, Ethan is now the target of a manhunt set in motion by Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny, TV’s Revenge, The A-Team), and now, with the help of two disavowed IMF agents, Franz Krieger (Jean Reno, Leon: The Professional, Hector and the Search for Happiness) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction, Jamesy Boy), Ethan is out to discover who wants him dead and who has the NOC list.

Mission: Impossible has a somewhat confusing plotline. There is a lot happening all at once, mostly due to the fact that the film went into production without a finished screenplay. Screenwriters David Koepp and Robert Towne were disappointed in the finished product. The original cast of the TV show (of which the film is a sequel) chose not to reprise their roles because they felt that the film was a bastardizing of their beloved property.

I personally found the finished product to be one of the more enjoyable espionage films of the 1990s. Tom Cruise solidified himself as a bona fide action star in a role where he doesn’t fire a gun the entire film. Jon Voight is a great man to take over the role of Jim Phelps from original television actor Peter Graves, who disliked Phelps’ portrayal in the story. I also really liked Reno, Rhames (who would become a staple of the series much like Cruise himself) and Czerny.

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Mission: Impossible contains some truly iconic moments both for the franchise and the action genre in general. The only part of the film that truly irks me is the opening credits (to be fair, I love the opening credits, but the decision to montage important plot points throughout the now-iconic score and opening bothers the hell out of me, but it continues throughout the entire franchise). This is one Tom Cruise property that I can’t wait to see every time there is new installment (except for the second film, but we’ll get to that later).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] War of the Worlds (2005)

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Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins

Screenplay: Josh Friedman, David Koepp

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln) has always been an alien fanboy at heart. Periodically throughout his career, he continues to return to the genre of the extraterrestrial. He even owned a copy of Orson Welles’ original radio play for War of the Worlds. After many attempts to get a story off the ground, Spielberg was eventually able to do so in 2005.

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Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow) isn’t all that great of a father. He loves his kids, but he just doesn’t really know them. His daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning, Coraline, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2) and son Robbie (Justin Chatwin, TV’s Shameless, The Invisible) don’t enjoy staying with him. But when the Earth is attacked by forces from beneath and beyond the planet’s surface, Ray is forced to grow up and become the father he is supposed to be as the family evades invading extraterrestrials who want the world for themselves.

This is a very different film for Steven Spielberg. For starters, the plot runs in a very different way. Rather than unfolding as the film progresses and evolving based on the character choices, War of the Worlds is much more of an action onslaught like previous fare Mad Max: Fury Road. The plot is revealed rather quickly and then takes a step back to the high action spectacle that unfolds for our hero. It was new terrain for the filmmaker.

Tom Cruise does his best to play to his character’s weaknesses here. He isn’t entirely a likable guy but when greatness is thrust upon him, Ray needs to step up and protect those around him from harm. Dakota Fanning plays Rachel to the truest understanding that a nervous child would have during these events. Unfortunately, she is rather annoying in this film. I get that you’re scared, but she is always screaming! Then there’s Justin Chatwin, who has more of his father in him than he realizes as he is conflicted in what he thinks makes a man. Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, I, Frankenstein) gives serviceable work as the ex-Mrs. Ferrier and Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Welcome to Me) gives one of the best albeit small performances I’ve seen from the actor.

War of the Worlds benefits from having Spielberg’s terrific flair for capturing events on film. The sequences are well put together, so much so that you miss some of the inconsistencies in the flow of the film. The sound mixing and editing, for which the film was nominated for an Oscar, are also booming. The invader ships, or Tripods as they are referred, make this unsettling sound as they destroy humanity. That, mixed with the top notch visual effects, give this film a unique flavor and an intensity that continue throughout its runtime.

I wasn’t all that impressed with John William’s score here as it comes off as more sounds mixed into the film than a bona fide music track.

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I can completely get why some didn’t enjoy War of the Worlds. Many called out the underwhelming ending, which is actually taken from the source material and considered one of the best endings ever. I enjoyed, but perhaps the reason is that I knew this was the ending going in. I think without the great irony of the film is that by knowing the ending, it makes it better but not necessarily as thrilling, but by not knowing the ending, it feels like a cop out but is entertaining throughout. My suggestion to best enjoy the film is to read the book first (seriously, this is me suggesting that you read, and that will anger some of you). The film doesn’t necessarily follow the novel’s story at all, but it retains the key themes that should enrich your viewing experience.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

 

Nightcrawler (2014)

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Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton

Screenplay: Dan Gilroy

117 mins. Rated R for violence including graphic images, and for language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay

 

In Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, Nightcrawler, we meet Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko, Accidental Love), a severe sociopath looking for something to be great at. When he comes across a collision on the highway, he meets Joe Loder (Bill Paxton, Titanic, Edge of Tomorrow), a man who makes his living being the first man on the scene with a camera, ready to sell his footage to the highest bidding news outlet. He is a nightcrawler. Louis Bloom takes his specific and strange set of skills to this new obsession, and a new fascination in Nina Romina (Rene Russo, Outbreak, Thor: The Dark World), a woman who takes interest in Louis’ footage. As Bloom falls deeper and deeper into fractured sanity, his skills improve, and his methods evolve with truly terrifying results.

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Gyllenhaal is completely unnerving as Bloom here, and his mental transformation is almost more impressive than his physical transformation, and Bloom’s arc is very much like the car crash which ignites his passion: something horrifying to witness, but impossible to look away. He is met on his playing field by Russo’s Romina, an aging ex-anchor who very much misses the limelight. She uses Bloom as he uses her. There is something creepily affectionate about their relationship. Paxton provides a likability to his unlikable Joe Loder. These are characters we don’t like, but we can’t stop viewing.

Gilroy’s cinematography could use some work. The film doesn’t move in the way it should. The pacing doesn’t have the beats it should to make the film flow right. The film’s score complements Gyllenhaal’s performance well. In fact, the entirety of the film exists to turn you away from it. The whole film is enjoyable once but not a film I could watch again.

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Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is a moody character study. Men like Bloom exist, and that is perhaps the most terrifying takeaway from this film. Gyllenhaal deserves recognition for once again proving that he is at the top of his game and is the reason his character is so unlikably likable.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] Into the Woods (2014)

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Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp

Screenplay: James Lapine

125 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Meryl Streep) [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

I truly enjoy Stephen Sondheim’s work, especially Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods. However, do I truly enjoy Disney’s Into the Woods adaptation from director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides)? The answer is quite simple: No, I did not.

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Several classic fairytales come to a head as these classic characters enter a magical wood. A mysterious Witch (Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada, The Giver) has sent a cursed Baker (James Corden, Begin Again, The Three Musketeers) on a mission to collect several magical items to lift a spell that causes him to be infertile, as his Wife (Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow, The Wind Rises) follows in tow. One of the items is a slipper that belongs to the enchanted Cinderella (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, Cake). Another is a cow belonging to Jack, a boy who needs to sell the cow at market for more than mere beans. Then there is the red cloak belong to Little Red Riding Hood. Finally, hair belonging to Rapunzel. As each tale interweaves with the others, tragedy seems likely to follow.

First of all, I want to discuss the plot and the changes made to it. It hurt. It hurt the film badly. Needless to say, it makes some characters entirely useless. Literally, Rapunzel’s story could have been wiped away without any recognizable notice, other than the loss of a great song featuring Rapunzel’s Prince and Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine, Star Trek, Horrible Bosses 2). The story just kept going without any of the intensity of the original musical. Characters are written away in unseen ways and have no consequence on the film. I hate that many of the darker elements completely disappear while others are handled so haphazardly that it gnawed away at me for the entirety of the film.

Meryl Streep gives an insanely wild performance as the Witch, breaking the actresses’ “No-Witch Policy” for the sake of being one of the most fun characters in the ensemble. Emily Blunt is fun and fantastic but underutilized. James Corden is terrific as the Baker. Chris Pine works hilarious magic, as is Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Mortdecai) as the Wolf following Red Riding Hood.  Anna Kendrick, while usually great, is horribly miscast as Cinderella. I think the cast here has done good work but can’t seem to get in the correct tone for the film, which is ultimately what the changes to the film caused.

I disagree completely with Oscar Nomination for Production Design. The wood scenes all look so much alike that it is hard to place any of the characters in their current positions. The costumes are nice but the sets all look like they came out of a Lifetime movie (not a compliment).

The pacing here just felt like the story had too many endings due to the plot and tone shifts.

The music had a few great arrangements to it, but many songs fall flat with no clear-cut direction anymore.

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Sadly, Into the Woods is too many good qualities shaped and shifted by Disney to fit a particular mold, and it softens the impact completely. For your money, see the original musical live and enjoy what this story is actually about, rather than a Disneyfied pile of “stuff.”

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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