Kyle’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2016

 

Yes, we survived 2016. We made it! And as painful as 2016 was, there was a lot of great films released.

There were also a lot of stinkers. Here, today, I’ve compiled my list for the Top Ten Worst Films released in 2016. Keep in mind:

  • This list could and should be longer. There was a lot of crap to wade through in 2016, and…
  • I didn’t see every bad movie in 2016. This is a list of the worst films I saw. I didn’t see Gods of Egypt, so you won’t see it here.

Alright, let’s not wait any longer. Here we go:

 

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  1. Race

Race is a movie that shouldn’t be on this list. But it is. Why? It’s boring, it’s cliché, it’s predictable, and worst of all, it shows signs that it could’ve been terrific. What do I mean? The scenes depicting the actual sport of track and field were great, and they pulled me in. Then, the rest of it pulled me right back out. The performances were disappointing because the script was all over the place, and it just didn’t work.

 

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  1. Zoolander No. 2

Zoolander isn’t a great movie as it is, but it was still leagues ahead of this bloated sluggish sequel which pits Derek Zoolander and Hansel against a strange and sinister conspiracy to kill the most beautiful people. There was one scene that made me chuckle involving Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and the stuff with Kiefer Sutherland and Sting was great, but there are all these moving parts that just stunk, worst of all is a stupid side-plot involving Derek’s son played by Cyrus Arnold. Zoolander No. 2 is a sequel that proves that maybe we should just let things lie and stop requesting sequels to comedies that are past their prime.

 

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  1. Batman: The Killing Joke

How do you mess this one up? To this point? The Killing Joke is a great graphic novel, and the adaptation for it is not so much. First of all, I found the prologue featuring Batgirl to be filler. I agree that in adapting the novel to the screen, you can do extra scenes that pump up the story, but nothing in that first twenty minutes or so really mattered. It was awful. Once the film started, things improved, but not by much as it squandered its production of a poorly paced film that kind of just falls apart. I wanted more from this, and I thought we’d get it. Sadly, The Killing Joke is not what it should be.

 

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  1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Martin Freeman is great in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The rest of the movie is sloggish and unwaveringly disappointing. I didn’t really connect to any of the characters, I didn’t care about their journeys. I didn’t really find investment anywhere, and that just ruined any chance of enjoying the film which runs on far too long without finding a purpose for its existence. Extremely disappointing.

 

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  1. The Huntsman: Winter’s War

I didn’t love Snow White and the Huntsman, but I saw potential in it. When I heard a pre/sequel of sorts was being crafted with Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption fame, I was overjoyed and curious. Then, he left the project, and the screenplay was “retouched” and some random director was found to fill the shoes, and the movie…sucked! It was so terrible. I tried several times to force myself into it, but there is nothing of value in this film. It adds nothing to the mythos and instead comes off as terribly assembled. Heck, it wastes Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron. There is nothing of merit here.

 

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  1. Criminal

I should’ve known Criminal was going to be bad. It’s poster and trailers did nothing to excite me. Kevin Costner isn’t really trying anymore.  But there is such an interesting cast put to this film that I gave it a try anyway. That was a poor decision. Criminal is convoluted and contrived, but none of that matters as much as how absolutely boring it is. I couldn’t wait for the runtime to end so I could get up and run from my seat.

 

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  1. Marauders

Marauders, like Criminal, is just flat-out boring. Even Bruce Willis looks bored (granted, he usually does). Marauders plays itself for its twist, and the twist isn’t even good. Beyond Christopher Meloni, who I usually enjoy, the best performance comes from Dave Bautista (no rudeness to Bautista, but he seems the only performer committed to trying here). Marauders had a limited release and for a good reason. It is truly…awful.

 

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  1. The Boss

After Tammy, someone should tell Melissa McCarthy that we’re kind of done now. The Boss, directed by McCarthy’s husband, is boring, bland, stupid, and unlikable. McCarthy again plays the same character we’ve come to know and disdain, but somehow finds a way to make us truly hate her. The Boss is by and far the worst comedy of 2016.

 

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  1. Miracles from Heaven

Don’t tell me that I don’t like religious movies. I don’t like garbage movies. Miracles from Heaven is a garbage movie, pandering to the worst of film. Films can inspire and give hope, but not from excessively depressing plots and horrible writing. Miracles from Heaven is just lucky that it will fade into obscurity and end up the last feature on a 10-movie set you’ll find in the bargain bins of your local Wal-Mart.

 

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  1. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, delivers some dread in I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, but it becomes very apparent within minutes, the film doesn’t have a story or a compelling character to walk us through it. There is nothing truly frightening about this film, and the worst part of it all…it is so unrelentingly boring. I shudder only at the thought of this film being suggested to me on Netflix for the rest of my life. That’s the real horror here.

 

So there you have it. The worst of the worst of 2016. Thank God that’s over with.

Is there something missing? Let me know. What did you think was the worst film of 2016?

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 30th Birthday!] Highlander (1986)

 

Director: Russell Mulcahy

Cast: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, Roxanne Hart

Screenplay: Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson

116 mins. Rated R for strong action violence, a scene of sexuality and some language.

 

Wow, 30 years since Highlander. 30 years since the Princes of the Universe. Damn.

Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert, Mortal Kombat, Hail, Caesar!) is an Immortal, a being destined to live forever in search of the illustrious “Prize.” The only way to die is to be killed by another Immortal. He has lived for hundreds of years, trained by mentor Ramirez (Sean Connery, Dr. No, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and is being hunted by an Immortal of pure evil called the Kurgan (Clancy Brown, TV’s Spongebob Squarepants, The Shawshank Redemption). Now, a beautiful cop named Brenda (Roxanne Hart, Letters of Iwo Jima, License to Wed) is hot on his trail in an attempt to discover exactly who or what he is.

I really wish I had more time to describe this film.

I absolutely love the lore behind the original Highlander. Christopher Lambert, who learned English just in time to portray Connor, is a terrific and very likable lead. He is matched by the majestic and goofy Sean Connery having a ton of fun as the Egyptian Immortal Ramirez. Clancy Brown is terrifying, oozing creep factor.

This is arguably Russell Mulcahy’s (TV’s Teen Wolf, Resident Evil: Extinction) most visually stunning film. The imagery is filled with gorgeous landscapes, sweeping battle scenes, and beautifully shot moments.

The soundtrack from Queen is intense and wondrous and fits this film so perfectly. Each song matches the tone of the scene just right.

Highlander is just right, and while the film has a few pacing issues early on, overall it is just an absolute blast to watch. It has the ability to pull me in and make me watch it multiple times in one sitting. It is just a fun time, pure and simple.

 

4.5/5

-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.

 

Lucy (2014)

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Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-Sik, Amr Waked

Screenplay: Luc Besson

89 mins. Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality.

 

Lucy, the new film from occasional visionary Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Family) is the tale of a young woman who becomes more than human thanks to an experimental drug and a situation she couldn’t have imagined falling into. Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) is Lucy, who has become a drug carrier to appease her boyfriend. When the drug she is delivering ends up in her bloodstream it awakens her full brain capacity and starts turning her into the Star-Child. You remember Star-Child, right? From 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yeah, well, this movie kind of just rips that off, but don’t worry, there are also bits of Limitless in there, too.

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Luc Besson’s major fault as a filmmaker is that he comes up with great ideas, but sometimes, he is a bit late to the game, and when he does get there, he can’t always formulate the ideas into a workable piece of art. Not all his films are like that, but it is a trend I am starting to see with the writer-director.

Scarlett Johansson is reduced to playing an unemotional machine by Act II, which depletes all the emotional resonance that she is capable of. Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Dolphin Tale 2) is relegated to reading out of a textbook for the entirety of the film as Professor Norman. Really, the only character I found myself even marginally connecting to by the midpoint of the film is Pierre (Amr Waked, Syriana, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), a cop caught up in Lucy’s mission to ascend to the next plane, and even he isn’t given enough fleshed-out time to really do anything.

The visuals are cool but they feel like they’ve been taken from better films. The screenplay (which took nine years to get off the ground) doesn’t offer anything new to the genre and just sort of falls flat.

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I wanted to like Lucy, but Lucy just didn’t like me back. Near the end, like Johansson’s previous Under the Skin, the film started to win me back, but it was too little too late for me. There are better films that play with these themes, so experience one of them instead.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight (1995)

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Director: Ernest R. Dickerson

Cast: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Thomas Haden Church, CCH Pounder, John Kassir

Screenplay: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, Mark Bishop

92 mins. Rated R for gore, horror violence, sexuality and language.

 

Only a series like Tales from the Crypt can make a joke about going postal into a plot point. Seriously.

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It’s been twenty years since the first in a planned (but cancelled) trilogy of Tales from the Crypt films was released in theaters. Demon Knight is the story of an age-old battle between good and evil, following Brayker (William Sadler, The Shawshank Redemption, Machete Kills), a man who has lived far past his years, as he is hunted throughout the forgotten roads of western civilization by a being known only as The Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption). Brayker is in possession of a mystical relic, a key, and The Collector will stop at nothing to retrieve it. As Brayker holds up in an old church turned into a motel, owner Irene (CCH Pounder, TV’s NCIS: New Orleans, Avatar) fears he is dangerous and accidentally brings The Collector right to their door. Now, Brayker, Irene, and the rest of the motel residents, including ex-con Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith, TV’s Gotham, Collateral) and Roach (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways, Heaven is for Real), a guy just looking for a good time, to stop The Collector from unleashing hell on Earth in this full-length tale told by the menacing Crypt Keeper (John Kassir, Pocahontas, The Smurfs 2).

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It is tough to judge a film based on campiness when camp is the overall goal in mind. The movie is goofy, but has a solidly enjoyable screenplay, though it gets a little muddled at the end. Some of the rules created don’t exactly make sense (kind of like Gremlins, you don’t really need to care). The performances are all loopily over-the-top, sometimes too much so. This whole movie exists to service the fans, and half of them weren’t even serviced all in all. I happened to enjoy it, but I agree that it may have worked better as a longer episode rather than a feature. I will say, though, it’s still a pretty damn fun time.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

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Director: Peter Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Karen Duffy, Mike Starr, Charles Rocket, Victoria Rowell, Teri Garr

Screenplay: Peter Farrelly, Bennett Yellin, Bobby Farrelly

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for off-color humor.

 

1994 was a very good year for films. I may have already discussed this, but I feel like I need to reiterate. 1994 was one of the best years for films in history. From a critical standpoint, we had such classics as Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump. From a comedy standpoint, audiences received a hilarious turkey (or triple play) from Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kick-Ass 2) with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber. It was a great year.

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Dumb & Dumber is a bit of a comedy enigma. The film is far too stupid and outlandish to be good, and yet it is one of the most incredibly perfect comedies ever constructed.

Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) is an idiot. He has just fallen in love at first sight with a woman he doesn’t even know named Mary (Lauren Holly, TV’s NCIS, Spirited Away) and when he finds a briefcase she has lost in an airport terminal, he vows to return it to her. He enlists dog groomer and best friend Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels, TV’s The Newsroom, Good Night and Good Luck) who, like Lloyd, is an idiot, to help him in his quest and make a new name for themselves in the land of opportunity, Aspen. The trouble is, Mary didn’t lose her briefcase, and Lloyd and Harry have entangled themselves in a plot more menacing than either could have anticipated.

The film is made by its performances. Everybody in this movie plays it straight to the book except Carrey and Daniels, and it is made all the more goofy than it should be. We have some incredible supporting work from Mike Starr (TV’s The Young and the Restless, GoodFellas) as a hitman trying to take our lovable morons out of the picture. There is also the terrific late actor Charles Rocket (Dances with Wolves, Hocus Pocus) who is a family friend of Mary’s.

There are some truly laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners that keep this film at the forefront of fans’ minds long after viewing for the zillionth time. I still cringe at the encounter that the dumb-dumbs have with local law enforcement after getting discovered with an open bottle. I still giggle everytime the guy in the diner yells “Kick his ass, Seabass!” and I still find a happy place every time Seabass tries to get revenge on Lloyd in the bathroom stall of a gas station.

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To make a long story short, or for that matter, a smart story dumb, Dumb and Dumber is a perfect comedy that belongs in a hall of fame alongside other greats like Tommy Boy and Animal House. It stands the test of time even after twenty years and I can see it living on another few decades.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transcendence (2014)

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Director: Wally Pfister

Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman

Screenplay: Jack Paglan

119 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality.

 

When longtime visual perfectionist Wally Pfister decided to make his directorial debut on a project produced by colleague and master filmmaker Christopher Nolan, I think I wet my pants in excitement. And why not? The film, Transcendence, seemed all too perfect to fail. The screenplay was part of a shortlist of amazing unproduced screenplays floating around Hollywood. The director had proven himself visually. It had an all-star cast at the front lines of major players in the business. It couldn’t fail, right? Then, reviews started coming in. The film immediately dropped down to “rotten” on the famous tomatometer, and I started to get concerned. Finally, my chance to see the film came, and I knew I had to form an opinion all my own.

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I saw it. Oh, I saw it.

Transcendence is the story of the Casters, Will (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Tusk) and Evelyn (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige, Iron Man 3). Will is dying, and Evelyn will do anything to save him. So when Will comes up with a controversial theory concerning crossing his living mind with a technological super-computer in order to leave his withering body of flesh to exist amongst cyberspace. Longtime friend Max (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind, The Avengers) helps the Casters achieve their goal only to second-guess his decision when Will’s mind wants more input. As Will’s consciousness continues to expand into new avenues of human psyche, a more horrifying truth comes to light for Evelyn: is this thing still her husband anymore, and if not, what has it become?

I want to like this movie so much. I really do. It has fine performances and the dialogue isn’t bad. The real issue of the movie is the pacing. After the first third of Transcendence, it slows the hell down. Seriously. There is a whole middle of this movie that has stuff going on but doesn’t feel important, which leads to an underwhelming ending trying to be deeper than it is. There are issues.

After Will’s consciousness begins learning and becoming something greater than itself, we see him experimenting with humans to progress both humans and itself, but I didn’t feel the stakes. I knew they were there, but I just didn’t find myself caring about them, which disappointed me. Maybe if the film pulled me in more, I would have found myself rooting for a solution, but Evelyn Caster doesn’t take up the lead as far as cathartic characters go. I wanted her to figure out what we had all figured out, but it took too long. On the other hand, Max has entrenched himself with known terrorists to try exposing this experiment to the public, so he wasn’t as likable either. Then you get Cillian Murphy (TV’s Peaky Blinders, Inception) and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Dolphin Tale 2), who play Agent Buchanan and Joseph Tagger. Seriously, who the hell are these guys and why do I care about them. They bare no weight whatsoever on the plot or anything going on. They merely observe. They just exist. Why? Exactly. These roles seemed more like a favor to Pfister than anything else. Yeah, I liked The Dark Knight trilogy too, but I wouldn’t take an easily worthless character to show my affection.

Then, there is the ending. It tries to be the ending to Inception or perhaps The Dark Knight Rises. It tries to compel its viewership into discussing exactly what happened. The problem here is that it feels so forced. It feels shoehorned when it could’ve been a simple explanation of what Max thinks happened without trying to imply anything. Just let us have the info that we have attained and let us use that for watercooler talk. Instead, the film leaves a dry taste on the tongue that leads to simply nothingness.

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I want to love this movie. There are so many parts of it that I do love. Many of the actors turn in fine work, and I didn’t have any issues with the visual presentation of the film, but I think good ol’ Wally needs to learn about pacing.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Wally Pfister’s Transcendence? Did you login or shut down? Let me know!

 

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004)

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Director: Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne

Cast: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Roger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Tambor, Alec Baldwin, David Hasselhoff

Screenplay: Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Stephen Hillenburg, Kent Osborne, Aaron Springer, Paul Tibbitt

87 mins. Rated PG for some mild crude humor.

 

I think every generation has some children’s entertainment that earlier and later generations just wouldn’t quite understand. It’s for the same reason that older generation thinks that kids’ music these days aren’t good, while I can simultaneously play music that I love around younger folks today and they don’t like it either. It just existed in the right time and couldn’t have in any other.

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I think that holds about as true as ever with Spongebob Squarepants. It just couldn’t have happened at any other time. But it did happen. It still is happening. There have even been two movies (the sequel is coming in 2015). Today, I’m going to discuss the first film, which celebrates 10 years of release today. I actually remember seeing it in the theater way back when. I think my buddy and I were the oldest people in the theater that weren’t parents. And that was okay. We laughed at the right times. We even cried at the right times (totally serious here). When I got out of that theater, I felt like I had learned something incredible about myself. The lesson in The Spongebob Squarepants Movie is simple, yes, but also incredible important to people finding themselves being forced to grow up when they just aren’t ready.

Spongebob Squarepants (Tom Kenny, TV’s CatDog, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) is dreaming of his new promotion running the Krusty Krab 2, the new restaurant opened by his boss Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown, The Shawshank Redemption, When the Game Stands Tall). The only problem is Mr. Krabs didn’t give him the promotion; he gave it to Spongebob’s coworker Squidward (Roger Bumpass, Monsters, Inc., The haunted World of El Superbeasto). Meanwhile, the evil nemesis Plankton (Mr. Lawrence, TV’s Rocko’s Modern Life) has discovered Plan Z, the only plan he hasn’t tried to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula, and has enacted it by stealing the crown of King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor, The Hangover, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas). Mr. Krabs has been framed for the theft, and King Neptune isn’t a forgiving man/fish/whatever. So now, Spongebob, with the help of Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke, The Artist, The Babymakers), Neptune’s daughter Mindy (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy), and the ever-incredible David Hasselhoff (as himself, Click, The Devil’s Carnival: Alleluia!), needs to become a man to “Get the Crown, Save the Town, and Mr. Krabs!” But there is evil on their way as well, as Bounty Hunter Dennis (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Blue Jasmine) has been deployed to stop them.

First of all, I love that this movie, much like the show, rides the line of batty and tragic. There are definite moments when our heroes face certain death and I honestly started tearing up. Spongebob is such a nice and caring character, and his friendship with Patrick Star is one of the guiding reasons he is able to keep going when he feels at his lowest.

The guest voices from Johansson, Tambor, and Baldwin are what helps create the atmosphere here. These are talented and seasoned performers delivering this goofy and lovable script.

The animation takes a leap in the movie as well, and still looks pretty good ten years later.

Let’s not forget the music. There isn’t a musical’s worth of musical numbers, but when they do pop up, they are incredible and rattle around in the brain long afterward.

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All in all, I’ve seen a lot of people give Spongebob Squarepants, his series, and his films a lot of flak for the lack of lessons and learning, and I say to them, no, there are lessons and warm characters and just a lot of good ol’ wackiness to keep one happy. Don’t fault the show for trying to have fun. Same thing here, this movie is a ton of fun.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Frankenstein (1994)

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese, Aidan Quinn

Screenplay: Steph Lady, Frank Darabont

123 mins. Rated R for horrific images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Makeup

 

After the commercial and critical success that was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, the decision was made to revisit another gothic horror classic novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Coppola made the decision to pass directorial duties to the talented Shakespearian director/performer Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Cinderella), something he would later in life admittedly regret, but we will get to that later.

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Frankenstein 1994 is closer to Shelley’s original novel than its 1931 counterpart, showing the story of Victor Frankenstein (played by Branagh) and his making of the iconic Creature (Robert De Niro, GoodFellas, Grudge Match), much to the tragedy of friend Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce, Amadeus, Jumper) and love Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club, Burton and Taylor).

Frankenstein suffers from a crisis of identity. On one hand, it is trying to be a gothic horror filled with a mixture of dark realism and fantastical surrealism; on the other hand, it is too much Shakespeare. Branagh seems to have difficulty playing to anything other than Shakespeare, with a series of over-the-top performances and exaggerated jubilation during the happy moments. I just couldn’t believe the events of this film as actually realistically happening.

De Niro dominates this film with his portrayal of The Creature. He studied stroke victims and other medical cases where speech patterns can be fractured in his line delivery. He becomes a tragic figure in cinema, a man who is ultimately an angry boy with a conflict of adult attraction and childhood longing for understanding. I could watch this movie just for Robert De Niro.

The rest of the cast really struggles here with giving viewers something to attach themselves to. Nobody can decide the tone and mood of a picture like this. I’m not saying the film is a complete failure, but it certainly has more detachers than strengths.

The screenplay is pretty strong here, delivered by Steph Lady (Doctor Dolittle) and Frank Darabont (TV’s The Walking Dead, The Shawshank Redemption). I enjoy the addition of unique steps in the creation of Frankenstein’s monster; this film has electric eels rather than the toted lighting. That being said, Frankenstein’s obsession with lighting in the beginning now makes less sense and has less impact on the actual movie.

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I would say that Frankenstein isn’t a worthless movie, but it has unnecessary conflict behind the scenes that reduces the tension in front of the camera. Coppola agreed that the film was scary and that Branagh completely mishandles the picture, and I can’t say my opinion differs.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, click here.

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