Kyle’s Ten Worst Films of 2021

I debated a bit about doing a Worst Films list this year. I avoided it last year, mainly because I only saw 30 movies from 2020 by the end of the year. 2020 sucked enough as it was, and I just didn’t feel like piling on, and I wasn’t sure I’d bring it back, but I was convinced by another critic who said that part of discussing the movies you love means being able to discuss the movies you didn’t love.

Making a movie is hard. It’s really hard. I’m sure if I made a movie every year, it would show up on the bottom list of at least one person. Film is subjective.

We’re going to break down the worst films of last year, to me. I’m going to showcase the movies that just didn’t work for me and try to explain what about them didn’t work. The best kind of criticism is constructive, so let’s get started on the movies that failed to connect with me as a film fan.

Just a few notes, once again, because we have to say this or someone will inevitable Not Get It:

  • I didn’t see every movie that came out in 2021. I saw a considerable number, but movies escape and, to be honest, I didn’t go out of my way to see movies that were not well-reviewed by my peers or movies that I didn’t have an interest in.
  • This is my personal list. You may have liked some of these movies. I just didn’t. Subjectivity is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? If you disagree with one of my picks, drop a comment defending the movie. I love the discussion.
  • I still have not seen The Emoji Movie from 2017. Deal with it.

Let’s get started…

  1. Space Jam: A New Legacy
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy makes a great argument for why the first film is actually pretty great. The original Michael Jordan-led Space Jam is fun and nostalgic but not a great film by any stretch. It just has that lighting-in-a-bottle weirdness that fused a popular NBA star with the Looney Tunes and somehow made it watchable. Seeing this long-awaited sequel just showcases all the ways that the original film surprisingly works. A New Legacy is one of those films that just makes you scratch your head more than anything. It’s a piece of studio-created 115-minute merchandising reel that just shows off a lot of IP, but does nothing interesting with them, and the IP sidelines the Looney Tunes, almost like WB didn’t have faith in them to begin with. Add to that a LeBron James in the lead role with zero charisma (something that Jordan had in abundance) and the film just bores. Also, the actual basketball has no tension or stakes because there are all these Style Points where players get extra points for looking cool. The fact that Warner Bros is the ultimate enemy here is really funny though, as A New Legacy lit up the studio before The Matrix Resurrections stepped in to finish the job. I haven’t even mentioned the weird IP characters in the crowd. When you have someone who isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the Mr. Freeze that is from Batman & Robin in the crowd, who is that for? Wouldn’t WB own the rights to his portrayal of the character within their Serververse? I mean, the logistics of the in-universe logic are head-scratching, and who was the target audience for putting the nuns from Ken Russell’s The Devils in this film? WB won’t even release The Devils, yet they’ll put reference to it in a family film. I’m just so confused by it all.
  1. Night of the Animated Dead
  • I had a lot of faith in this one. It had the Warner Bros Animation stamp of approval (and the animated DC stuff is quite good), and it was a new stylized retelling of a classic horror zombie film. I’m just frustrated by the budgetary choices on this one. They mostly reused George A. Romero’s classic script about a group of people holed up in a farmhouse as the dead rise to devour the living, so no money spent there. So why spend money getting recognizable names to do the voice and spend literally pennies to actually animate the damned thing? This is one of the ugliest-looking movies. Perhaps the point of the film was a meta-commentary on zombies because the finished product is a soulless cash-grab. I kind of love that Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain so that anyone can go in and do their take on the timeless story, but the poster sells a style that the movie cannot deliver, and there isn’t a notable win in any place throughout the film. Mostly, I’m mad I spent 10 bucks to see it. This is one that could’ve been so much more.
  1. Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
  • Cash-grab might be one of the themes for this list. The idea of the Paranormal Activity franchise returning seemed like a really great thing. Saw returned this year as well, so it’s only natural to bring back the other powerhouse horror franchise from the 2000s. They even had Christopher Landon writing the script and William Eubank (Underwater) directing, so the pieces looked in place. It also had a new setting with new characters but seemed, at least on the surface, to have some surprising connections to the original mythos. Alas, this didn’t happen. Next of Kin was Paranormal Activity in-name-only, a found-footage film that frequently ignores the rules of found-footage with a lackluster plot, uninspired characters, and an ending that falls flat, but more than that, I was hoping this film would have some way of further expanding on the mythology that fans have come to love, but Next of Kin doesn’t really do anything with its run time that would merit remembering. I…was…bored. Not a great sign for a horror movie, and Next of Kin is probably the worst of its franchise.
  1. The Ice Road
  • Jonathan Hensleigh has written some great movies, and he even directed one in 2004’s The Punisher, but this is a far cry from those films. The Ice Road, a Netflix film, is one of the many Liam Neeson-led action movies that, in recent years, almost seem to just run together into an amorphous blob of terribility. Don’t get me wrong, I pride myself on being one of the first to openly praise the excellent revenge-action film Taken, the first Neeson action film of this ilk, and I stand by it (and the second one isn’t all that bad either), but it’s been more than ten years since that film, and the mileage that has been made out of this type of movie has sputtered and come to a stop. These are paycheck movies, and The Ice Road, which started out promising, just became another throwaway. I hadn’t seen an action movie about Ice Road Truckers, and with Laurence Fishburne in tow, I felt like I was set up for something good, but then the film takes a slippery turn into absurdity with a weird betrayal heist subplot that takes over the entire movie and completely lost me. This was an all-around disappointment.
  1. Cry Macho
  • This is starting to feel like a Warner Bros hit job but let me explain. I didn’t go to the theater for the first 5 months of the year, and I don’t search out bad movies, but I didn’t want to miss out on theatrical-at-home with HBO Max. WB released some incredible movies last year, but they released some crap as well, and I couldn’t put off watching them or they would disappear from the service, so I watched them. I watched them all, and the one that was the toughest to get through (though not the worst one of all, as you’ll soon find) was Clint Eastwood’s newest film Cry Macho. This one appeared out of nowhere, with little fanfare and there’s a reason for that. It’s horrible. Eastwood had kind of sworn off Westerns after Unforgiven, a Western that deconstructed the aging cowboy archetype, and he should not have returned. This is a boring, slogging movie that doesn’t amount to anything worth conversing about. Eastwood’s Mike is a former rodeo star bringing his ex-boss’s son back from Mexico, and it felt like the worst parts of Eastwood’s recent fare mixed with a half-assed Rambo: Last Blood sequel, and none of it works. Normally, I can see what Eastwood is trying to do with his lesser movies, but I’m at a loss here. There’s a reason no one is talking about Cry Macho.
  1. Reminiscence
  • Reminiscence could’ve been great. It had an interesting concept, a unique plot device that could lead us to interesting narrative choices, and a nicely stacked cast of strong performers, but Reminiscence, the first feature from writer Lisa Joy, trips over itself throughout the entirety of the run time. This machine that uses memories could’ve been used to tell us a story through memories, but instead, we get a lackluster plot that became more groanworthy with every new reveal. I get that Hugh Jackman’s Nick Bannister is supposed to be a noir hero, but his voice-over didn’t add anything. I get that he’s an addict, but his addiction to Rebecca Ferguson’s Mae (an understandable addiction if there ever was one) goes nowhere interesting. There are a lot of Nolan-esque ideas at play here, but Joy doesn’t use them well, and the problems stem from an uneven and bland script, unfortunately. I got wasted-potential vibes similar to Transcendence here, but that film was more watchable in its convolutions.
  1. Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Here’s an IP all the kids were clamoring for. Sorry to say, Clifford just might not be viable right now. Add to that, a creative team that constructed a silly narrative based on getting just three things right: he’s a dog, he’s big, and he’s red. They got that right, too, but nothing else. The narrative places our villain as a guy who is looking to solve world hunger, so obviously he’s the bad guy, and we get saddled with an uninteresting niece/uncle relationship that’s without laughs and without heart in equal measure. To top it all off, the most boring element of the whole film is Clifford. He had no personality, no character, and I know it is weird to get all mad at a dog, but Clifford should feel like a character in his own movie. They had an opportunity to use that Dog’s Purpose/Dog’s Journey/Dog’s Way Home technique of dog inner-monologue quite nicely here, but they didn’t, and the movie ended up a dud. Stick to Martin Short’s Clifford, a true classic.
  1. Zola
  • There are quite a few people that feel very different than I on the subject of Zola. I’ve seen it on “Best Of” lists a few times this year from a few people I tend to be in agreement with. The nicest thing I can say is that it’s a little bonkers and definitely a unique vision for a director, but for me, very little actually worked in this movie. I really liked Colman Domingo and a few other smaller characters peppered throughout, but this movie bored me and, to be frank, annoyed the shit out of me at times as well. I can’t say much more than that, but if this director comes out with another film, I’ll give it a try. When it comes to the story of Zola, the tweet thread is much faster read and a whole lot better.
  1. Tom & Jerry
  • The last, and certainly the worst, of the WB travesties of 2021 on this list, Tom & Jerry was just another attempt at taking IP that kids are less familiar with today and throwing CGI versions of them into real life. I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this one, but with Chloe Grace Moretz as the lead human, I felt like maybe there was something unexpected at play here. Turns out, I was wrong. Tom & Jerry is just another one of these movies where the humans are given too much to do and none of it is entertaining while, at the same time, we have CG blobs causing generic havoc in a given location.
  1. Outside the Wire
  • All the other movies on this list are ones that I could sit through if my wife or family or friends wanted to watch. Outside the Wire, a Netflix movie you probably haven’t heard of, is one I can’t even recall anything good about. This was, if I remember correctly, the first 2021 film I saw last year, and I was bored to tears. I had to pause multiple times to get up and walk away because what I was subjected to was just plain boring. Nothing internally offensive here, just a boring movie that wastes a solid enough premise and an interesting cast on a movie that seems to have a checklist of cliches and plot contrivances, seemingly trying to accomplish them all in one sitting. I’m sorry to say that Outside the Wire is my least-favorite movie of the year.

So there you have it. These are my least-favorite movies of the year. Thank goodness that’s over. Now, let’s get onto better things.

What were you least favorite movies of 2021? Let me know down in the comments!

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 28 – The Collection (2012)

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Director: Marcus Dunstan

Cast: Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Randall Archer, Lee Tergesen

Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan

82 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and brief nudity.

 

The 2009 film The Collector was written as a prequel to Saw, but when the producers vetoed that option, it became The Collector. While The Collector had its moments, it had just as many faults. Director Marcus Dunstan seems to have learned from his mistakes for the 2012 sequel The Collection, a highly stylized game of cat and mouse which sees Arkin (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, Transcendence) escaping from the clutches of The Collector (Randall Archer). Immediately after, Arkin is enlisted by Lucello (Lee Tergesen, Monster, Red Tails) and his boss Mr. Peters (Christopher McDonald, Requiem for a Dream, About Last Night) to find Peters’ daughter Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick, The Social Network, Before We Go), the Collector’s newest claim. When they get to the slasher’s lair, they discover that the Collector has a few more tricks in store for them.

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I’m not going to tell you that The Collection is a perfect horror film. It has faults, but it takes a major step up from its predecessor. Arkin has become a much more likable lead, having evolved from his criminal ways. The addition of equally likable Elena and Lucello, we have several characters that we care about. We want to see them live. When they fall into danger, I genuinely wanted them to survive.

I enjoyed the Collector’s background and the extensive look at how he operates as a serial killer, and though I agree that his lair and the traps he sets seem almost like he has second sight, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough, you can find fun here.

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The Collection won’t be for everyone. The film has a lot of detractors, but fans of the original will find a lot to like. Its creative team has evolved in the three years between the films, and it looks good for future endeavors.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Marcus Dunstan’s The Collector, click here.

July 2015 Preview

 

Wow. Jurassic World, nice job in June. But July is flat-out huge. There are so many major releases and highly anticipated films on the way to a theater near you. So let’s jump in and see what there is to all this mess of movies.

Obligatory Note: Again, I haven’t seen these films at the time of this post. This is merely a discussion based on my abilities to read these films from the outside, and I’m good at it, too, so take it with a grain of salt, and if you see something different, let me know!

 

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Faith of Our Fathers

I’m not really going to get into this film very much. These “Christian” film releases in recent years have all been just terrible. I’m not saying anything about the religion, so don’t put me in that bucket. I’m a religious person by trade, but these films are terribly made. They aren’t well-written. They aren’t well-acted. They aren’t well-directed. They just aren’t good. This one will likely not change that.

 

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Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike was a critical success due to Steven Soderbergh. It was a financial success due to Channing Tatum and his merry men of male dancers. Soderbergh isn’t returning to direct this sequel, but he is editing and providing cinematography duties to director Gregory Jacobs. I don’t think Magic Mike XXL will deliver on the same critical aspects that the original had, but I happen to think that Channing Tatum’s abilities to carry a film as well as provide high-level pelvic thrusting should bring the sequel to moderate financial success.

 

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Terminator Genisys

Now for the people that won’t be seeing Faith of Our Fathers or Magic Mike XXL. Finally, after hopping around several studios, the Terminator franchise has arrived once again with Terminator Genisys. This film reboots the franchise in a similar way to last month’s Jurassic World, while not retconning the previous films but really focusing on staying true to the original. I love the idea of revisiting the original film in a way similar to the Star Trek franchise, and I think it stays organic to the rhythm of where the series has been heading. Really, it’s the only logical step to take the franchise. Do I think it looks good? Not sure. I think it looks interesting, but this film’s visual effects were not ready when the first trailer released, and I’m not sure if they ever did get finished. I want to like it. I want to. I just can’t say I know it is going to be great.

 

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Amy

The Amy Winehouse documentary doesn’t seem interesting to me. I never found her life to be all that exciting to learn about. I didn’t care for her music, and I can’t say I was surprised when her addiction caught up to her. Skip.

 

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The Gallows

The Gallows is a new found-footage (damn) horror film about a school play titled The Gallows that accidentally resulted in the death of a student during its initial run 22 years back. Now, the school wants to get the play up and going, and several students realize that some stories are best kept from being told. I like this idea but I’m already playing out all the horrible ways that this film will be represented. There are ways to make this film the right way, but I don’t see it happening the right way.

 

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Minions

Minions is the newest property in the Despicable Me franchise. It is presented as a prequel focused on Gru’s minions years before he meets them. Looking at the trailer, I actually really like this film for more than the cute factor. It has a truly morbid sense of style that I think it embraces this morbidity quite well for a film like this. I see definite potential here.

 

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Self/Less

Self/Less is a remake of the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Seconds and is directed by Tarsem Singh. In it, Ben Kingsley plays a man dying of cancer who has his consciousness transferred into the body of a younger healthier man played by Ryan Reynolds. I like the idea, but I’m concerned about the possible connections I was making with Limitless and Transcendence. Elements of this idea have cropped up before to mixed results.

 

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Ant-Man

Well, if you thought selling Guardians of the Galaxy was tough, try selling Ant-Man, the newest member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hoping to build on the success of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, Ant-Man has an interesting style to it, focusing on creating a fun superhero film to take the franchise back from the seriousness that has been building in the recent films. It looks like a lot of film, but many are aware of the film’s troubles past with previous director Edgar Wright and especially off of Joss Whedon’s personal implosion following the release of the second Avengers film, people will be wary of this one, but I hope it brings people in to at least give it a try.

 

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Mr. Holmes

Ian McKellan is perfectly cast as the 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in 1947. It isn’t related to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes series or the CBS series Elementary. It also appears to be a much more calculated piece, very much like the original series of stories from Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Holmes will be a critical hit, I know it was much loved when it screened at BIFF back in February.

 

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Trainwreck

I like Judd Apatow. I do not like Amy Schumer. He directed. She starred and wrote. I’m not going to waste my time.

 

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Paper Towns

I didn’t see A Fault in Our Stars. I’m sure it was fine. I don’t like when an author’s adaptation is successful, every other property is picked up immediately and thrown at the screen. The same thing happened with Gillian Flynn after Gone Girl. I think Paper Towns actually sounds pretty interesting and I will be seeing it.

 

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Southpaw

Man, Jake Gyllenhaal really wants an Oscar! In Southpaw, Gyllenhaal’s transformation into boxer Billy Hope who is unable to get out of the world of boxing to spend more time with his family. When tragedy strikes, Hope discovers that boxing is all he knows. From an outside perspective, these types of movies become great character pieces but not exactly great films. I foresee Gyllenhaal’s nomination but not much else.

 

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Pixels

I know you want to like Pixels. I want to like Pixels. I know I’m not going to like Pixels. I get the feeling you won’t like Pixels. Damn Pixels.

 

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Vacation

I have a lot of hope that the reboot to Vacation will reinvigorate this franchise. The idea of Vacation is eternal, especially when you keep the family line of the Griswolds with the ever-evolving dynamic with the children. It looks hilarious, too.

 

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The fifth Mission: Impossible follows in the franchise of three other great action pics and also Mission: Impossible 2. In Rogue Nation, we get the whole team together for another romping globe-trotting pic that sets Ethan Hunt and his team against the Syndicate. This film adds a level of vengeance and finality to the film even though I know that Tom Cruise isn’t finished with this series. I hope Christopher McQuarrie can handle this series and keep it alive because I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

 

So there you have it, here is your final tally.

Best Bets: Minions, Ant-Man, Mr. Holmes, Vacation, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

On the Bubble: Magic Mike XXL, Terminator Genisys, The Gallows, Self/Less, Paper Towns, Southpaw

Likely Misses: Faith of Our Fathers, Amy, Trainwreck, Pixels

 

So what do you think? What are you most excited to see this month and why? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Mortdecai (2015)

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Director: David Koepp

Cast: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum

Screenplay: Eric Aronson

107 mins. Rated R for some language and sexual material.

 

When Mortdecai’s first trailer was released, I was confused. I thought the movie looked horrible, but I couldn’t place why so many people would join this film. I thought to myself, “There has to be a reason” when it turned out that the film just plain isn’t good.

Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) und seine Frau Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) - Copyright: David Appleby

Mortdecai (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Into the Woods) is an art collector with a fascination with growing a perfect ‘stache. His relationship with wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow, Iron Man 3, Contagion) becomes strained when he is tasked with finding a missing rare piece of artwork by MI5 agent Martland (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, Last Days in the Desert) who just happens to be in love with Johanna. Now, with the help of his personal handyman Jock (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind, Transcendence), Mortdecai has to track down the culprit who stole the missing painting.

This film looks so cheap that I’m sure it would have been a VOD release had it not been for the star-studded cast who just butchers these roles. Johnny Depp’s performance is so annoying I didn’t even bother listening to the dialogue after a while. Paltrow’s accent work flops around like a fish on dry land. I did rather enjoy Paul Bettany’s Jock and the extended cameo from Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but overall the performances are cringe-worthy to the extreme.

Director David Koepp (Premium Rush, Ghost Town) proves that maybe he should just sit behind a desk and write stuff for better filmmakers. Seriously, how did he think this was going to be any good? I laughed maybe twice and I think they both came from me guessing what would happen next.

I think the most interesting piece of style in the film comes from the wacky transitions as they traverse the globe and the problem with them is that they don’t exactly fit every time they are used.

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Mortdecai is an incredibly disappointing film that seeks to become the Johnny Depp Goofy Hour that actually lasts 107 minutes. Very few elements here even work and they work even less when smashed together. I didn’t like it. I really didn’t like it. I’m fairly sure you won’t like it.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think about Mortdecai? Have you seen it? Did it steal your attention or was it artless? Let me know!

 

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 15th Birthday!] Sleepy Hollow (1999)

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Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci

Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker

105 mins. Rated R for graphic horror violence and gore, and for a scene of sexuality.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design

 

I remember reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as a kid. I remember the way it made me feel. It was a very unhappy and dreary story, as was expected to be. I remember my excitement at hearing that there was a new film version coming along in 1999. It was a new film from director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Dark Shadows), with whom I was already familiar with at a young age. I remember finding the film to be very different than the original story, much more convoluted than it needed to be. I wasn’t a great big fan of the film, though I remembered that it had several some really great moments. I thought I would look back on the film for its 15th anniversary and see if I felt any different about it.

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As it turns out, I still find numerous flaws with the film, but I feel as though it has aged very nicely over the past fifteen years.

It’s the story of Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Transcendence) as he hunts down a murderer in Sleepy Hollow who lops his victim’s heads off. Along the way, he meets Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci, Monster, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax), a woman he develops an emotional connection to even though she may have more to her past than he knows. The townspeople believe that the murders are being committed by The Headless Horseman, a mythical being who has been birthed from Hell to avenge his death.

This film looks pretty damn good for its age. I still find the lighting to be too little during some of the more menacing action sequences. I think it could use a bit more light in its scenes. I like Johnny Depp, pre-overused by Tim Burton here. Christina Ricci returns to the genre that made her famous in The Addams Family. I find her inert sensuality and innocence brings chilling ambience to her performance here. Then there’s Christopher Walken, who gets a lot less screentime as The Headless Horseman, but all the seem, he gives one of the most iconic and terrifying performances I have ever seen here. He is almost monstrous and beastly even as a humanoid spirit.

I also enjoyed the cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki here. He definitely deserved the nomination from making this film feel like a Hammer film and gives homage to even older films of the horror genre.

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Of all the films in the Burton canon, this one feels more like the Burton we know and doesn’t tread very much new territory, but overall, I enjoy the film much more now, and part of that has to do with the awesome soundtrack and the screenplay from Andrew Kevin Walker (even with an uncredited rewrite that messed with the pacing a bit). Tim Burton has done better, but he has also done worse, and Sleepy Hollow exists somewhere in the middle.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 5 – The Collector (2009)

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Director: Marcus Dunstan

Cast: Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernandez, Karley Scott Collins, Madeline Zima, Robert Wisdom

Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan

90 mins. Rated R for pervasive sadistic bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

 

In The Collector, petty crook Arkin (Josh Stewart, The Dark Knight Rises, Transcendence) breaks into the house of the Chase family to steal enough property to pay off his debts to loan shark Roy (Robert Wisdom, TV’s Nashville, Face/Off). While inside, he comes across the realization that the Chase family is at home with him, each one trapped by a sadistic killer, The Collector (Juan Fernandez, A Man Apart, In Hell), who plans on kidnapping one of them, and killing the rest.

The Collector is the feature directorial debut of Marcus Dunstan, who wrote the script with frequent screenwriting partner Patrick Melton (Saw IV, Piranha 3DD). The plot of the film is intriguing but ultimately unrealized based  on the budgetary difficulties that the production team fought. The cast in the film seem to have no actually characters to be, especially Arkin, an unlikable lead who is known only for theft in the first act of the film. Tough to feel for a character like that. The Chase family is made up of cookie-cutter family members including rich husband, adoring wife, precious child, and whorish daughter. The character of The Collector is interesting, but I feel like as an audience, I need a motive. I need some understanding for why. On one level, though, it works pretty good not to know. I understand a sequel was released, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

The lighting in the film is another fault. I hate a movie that can’t seem to brighten up the visuals occasionally. This film is just plain too dark.

Something interesting I discovered about The Collector is that it was originally a prequel to Saw. The two writers behind the screenplay also penned the latter four Saw entries, and when the idea for a prequel was turned down, the script was rewritten as a new film. I would be very intrigued to read the proposed Saw prequel, being a major fans of the franchise.

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Ultimately, The Collector is a mildly enjoyable time if you aren’t expecting too much in terms of finer film qualities. Stay for the post-credits scene.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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