Archives for posts with tag: 1 out of 5

This is one of those productions which really makes me wonder how the economics of it could possibly work. Costumes are lush, the cast is frankly amazing, and it can’t have been cheap. But it’s awful. The writing is insulting and incoherent, the battle scenes are worse than nothing, and the directors have no idea how to get their actors to resemble human beings. And since it ran on TV, presumably it had no real way to recoup the outlay? How does this happen?

We open with Catherine’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) marriage. Mel Ferrer is the priest! She is marrying the heir to the Russian throne, who is a non-entity with smallpox scars. Apparently he’s also incapable in the bedroom, so the Empress (Jeanne Moreau of blessed memory) recruits some slab of a nobleman (Craig McLachlan) as stud. Catherine falls heavily, has a kid whom we won’t see again, and is disappointed when this chap turns out to be gross.

MV5BMjA2Nzg4MTg4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDc1NjkxMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_Then she launches a coup against her husband, the circumstances of which are not clear. That is: I didn’t already know them, and this production did not help me. Brian Blessed and Ian Richardson are there being sinister, but to what purpose it is impossible to say. The army seems to be important, and she has an affair with some guy called Orlov (Mark McGann), whose main skill seems to consist of being so manly he must use a pocketknife to unlace a corset.

Eventually Potemkin (Paul McGann) shows up, and they shout at each other and sleep together and he acquires a stylish facial scar. Approximately two dozen Ottomans make trouble, and Petersburg totters. Meanwhile some peasant (John Rhys Davies) pretends to the throne and both Catherine and Potemkin have a lot of angst about it.

Everyone in this production deserved better. I’m almost mad I watched it.

Stray observations:

  • Yes, the actors who play Orlov and Potemkin are brothers, and there’s actually a third brother as well, and yes, it is jarring. Orlov basically looks like a slightly coarsened Potemkin, and they’re both called Grigory.

Directors: Marvin J. Chomsky, John Goldsmith
Rating: tame TV
Length: 100 minutes
Score: 1/5

“Spunky, badly-dressed woman teaches well-heeled man how to feel” is my least favorite genre of film, because for some reason I’m not sure it’s better to run roughshod over other people’s lives even if you do it with a smile and dumb tights.

This one is even worse than usual.

In a MV5BMTQ2NjE4NDE2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwNDE5NzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_twist of fate, posh banker Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) wisely doesn’t take his motorcycle to work in the rain, and is hit by someone else and paralyzed. He moves back in with his parents in a tiny town, and of course his girlfriend leaves him for his best friend. He lets himself get scruffy and gets his kicks by doing a “My Left Foot” bit to unsuspecting strangers. You suspect he may have been kind of a douche all along.

His mother Camilla (Janet McTeer) is at her wits’ end, and hires as a companion a local young woman, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke). She has just lost her job in a café, where she is relentlessly sweet to the little old ladies who eat there. Her family is short on money, but she has an inexhaustible supply of perfectly coordinated, whimsically bright outfits, including innumerably flashy pairs of Mary Janes. Naturally, despite her humble background and her father’s unemployment and her sister’s single motherhood, she approaches all problems with boundless, uncomprehending optimism. Her boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis, of Neville Longbottom + puberty = surprise fame) is a runner, and cartoonishly dense, of course.

Well, you know how this goes. Will’s parents (Charles Dance is his father) don’t know how to cope with their son’s pain and despair, because they’re rich and don’t know how to love, and are willing to take him to Dignitas after a period of adjustment. Lou, though–she and her good attitude can work wonders! Between that blind glee and the broad shoulders of the Australian physio Nate (Stephen Peacocke), they paint the town red. They even go to the ex-girlfriend’s wedding together, and have a great time. Joanna Lumley is there, for thirty seconds.

But here’s the kicker: even working-class sincerity and butterfly hair clips might not cure paraplegia. And it’s really not appealing to watch Lou lecture Will about how selfish he is when she refuses to listen to him, ever. It’s gross, in fact.

Also: women? You can have a personality and even be generous and caring while still having a grasp of reality and maybe owning a grey dress or a black pair of shoes.

Director: Thea Sharrock
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes
Score: 1/5

It’s good that Dakota Blue Richards has figured out what to do with her life and has a solid gig on “Endeavour,” because the beginning of her career was a series of bad fantasy movies in which she was an irritating child, first Golden Compass and then this, and Secret of Moonacre is even worse than Golden Compass. I’m guessing the original book wasn’t much cop, either.

Maria Merryweather (Richards) is a Victorian orphan, and her father left her debts and a magic book. Her governess, Miss Heliotrope (Juliet Stevenson), takes her to live with her uncle Benjamin (Ioan Gruffudd) in the country. He has an enormous and beautiful house, bad manners, and unexplained misery. Maria is obnoxious and inevitably gets lost in the great big forest where Uncle Benjamin has expressly forbidden her to go.

MV5BMjIzMTM3MjY0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTA0MzQ4Mw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_The magic book tells Maria about a longstanding curse on the area, which is called Moonacre. Some witch (Natasha McElhone) had some magic pearls, and the two families (the De Noirs, which I am not making up, and the Merryweathers) want control of them, so there are five hundred years of Capulet-Montague nonsense and when the next moon rises the whole place will fall in the sea, I think. Tim Curry is the current head De Noir, and his minions or possibly sons are emo steampunk morons. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but also some things are over-explained. And there’s a big dog that sometimes turns into a black lion.

There are a lot of tiny dumb things–how Maria’s bustle and train are just the frame with no fabric, how Juliet Stevenson is ludicrously under- and mis-used, the possible love story of Maria with a De Noir son/minion–but they get lost under the giant pile of stupidity.

Director: Gabor Csupo
Rating: PG & PG-13
Length: 103 minutes
Score: 1/5

To be fair to this movie, I didn’t see all of it, couldn’t hear it at all, and I may have been napping while I got a mani-pedi for large swaths of it. That may be the reason it got a one rather than a nil out of five. I’m definitely sure I don’t want to know more about it.

A Chinese general raises a long-dead emperor for purposes I’m not aware of. This long-dead emperor is played by Jet Li because I guess Jet Li also must pay the bills. Rick (Brendan Fraser) and his wife (not played by Rachel Weisz this time but instead Maria Bello) are trying to find Shangri-La, I think. They do, anyhow. They bring their son, named something other (Luke Ford), and, of course, John Hannah.

The son meets a girl, Lin (Isabella Leong), and eventually we find out that she is the immortal daughter of Michelle Yeoh, who guards the fountain of youth(?) in Shangri-La. Naturally Jet Li needs to find the fountain to be brought fully back to life and regain his ability to turn into a three-headed dragon. Which he does, and also raises the famous army of terra cotta soldiers to fight….something. It looks pretty cool, I won’t lie.

But Michelle Yeoh’s long-dead husband then also raises a zombie army to fight the terra cotta soldiers so we’re back at square one? But I think Rick’s kid finds out how to love or something, after a long series of mildly to moderately gross firearm/genital jokes.

Also, there are yetis, but they’re on our side.

Director: Rob Cohen
Rating: PG-13
Length: 112 minutes
Score: 1/5

This movie is both painfully earnest and technically bad. It’s like somebody tried to make The Young Victoria from the other side of empire but had never heard anyone have a conversation or seen a movie. The pacing is atrocious, the dialogue is heavy on exposition and light on verisimilitude, and the message clocks you in the face.

Now, lack of subtlety would be all right if it weren’t incoherent and a little insulting. Admittedly few people are particularly familiar with the circumstances around the annexation of Hawai’i. Clunky speeches and cartoonishly evil nutcases are not the answer. Historical movies exist, even movies about colonial shenanigans. Take cues from a good one; they don’t have to consist entirely of awkward monologues. And if you want to emphasize Ka’iulani’s political boldness, spend less time on her romantic life.

The storyline, such as it is, is fairly classic. Hawai’i is facing American domination, and the young princess (Q’Orianka Kilcher) finds herself being educated in England with MV5BMTY2NDcwNjM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTE4ODE0Mw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_a friend of her father’s, Theophilus Davies (Julian Glover, who presumably had poker debts). He has a son, Clive (Shaun Evans), and a daughter, Alice (Tamzin Merchant). Clive serves the excellent purpose of falling in love with Ka’iulani, standing up for her to comically stilted snobs, and then funking it when life gets tricky. Alice is there as a contrast to everyone else in England, who is horrible. Letters come at the most opportune of moments, people find their voices just when they’re about to be shouted down, Ka’iulani is so candid and kindly that people just don’t know how to deal with her… It’s like a storybook written by a moron. A sincere, well-meaning moron.

The cast does its best with the material, but that isn’t a lot. So much is left on the table–Ka’iulani died less than a year after the annexation, presumably of heartbreak. Why not include that, for real emotional weight, rather than the silly teenage soppiness? Why not spend more time with her splendid aunt, the Queen (Leo Anderson Akana)? Why not address how she’s spent most of the film away from Hawai’i, and how that might be complicated?

Director: Marc Forby
Rating: PG
Length: 97 minutes
Score: 1/5

You are probably thinking, “What possessed you to watch a rom-com, starring Katherine Heigl, about a lesbian wedding?”

I’m not sure, and I regret it.

It’s not a complicated story: Jenny (Heigl) wants to marry Kitty (Alexis Bledel), but her family (Tom Wilkinson, Linda Emond, Grace Gummer) doesn’t know she’s gay. There are some bumps.

And you probably have some other questions, like:

  • Why is Tom Wilkinson in this movie?
  • Why doesn’t Kitty have a personality?
  • Why does everybody’s character jag wildly between ludicrous bigotry and tearful humanity?
  • Why is everyone in this movie with the possible exception of Jenny’s brother (Matthew Metzger, probably) just the biggest dillweed?
  • Why can’t Grace Gummer water a lawn without having a heavy-handed epiphany?

I counted zero laughs.

Director: Mary Agnes Donoghue
Rating: PG-13
Length: 94 minutes
Score: 1/5

This is another one of those movies where people tell you it’s a romantic comedy but literally zero funny things happen in it. It is also so 90s. And not just because it has Joe Fiennes in it.

Martha (Monica Potter) leaves somewhere in the midwest in desperation on the first flight anywhere. Daniel (Tom Hollander) is a record executive on her flight to London, and falls for her, setting her up in a fancy hotel and sending her flowers. Frank (Rufus Sewell) is a failed actor and alcoholic who runs into her by chance the next day and as far as I can tell mostly just creeps the living hell out of her for several hours. Laurence (Fiennes) teaches rich women how to play bridge, and Martha falls for him.

The twist? Daniel, Frank, and Laurence are childhood friends. Daniel and Frank fight over Martha like children; Laurence actually likes her and she actually likes him, but because Laurence is the only person in this movie who isn’t a complete sociopath, he feels bad about stealing her from his friends, and hies himself to a psychiatrist (Ray Winstone).

That’s the movie. It’s insane and terrible. Martha is dumb, irritating, and badly dressed (even by the standards of 1998). Her sad past is underdeveloped but actually kind of alarming. It goes nowhere, obviously. Frank isn’t a cute troubled artist, he’s just the worst. Daniel has even worse clothes than Martha, and is a pushy jerk. Laurence seems like he might be all right, but doesn’t speak enough for you to tell. See? The 90s: bad blond dye-jobs, unexplained grittiness, and dudes who are supposed to come off as sensitive but instead are clearly emotionally stunted. Moodiness is not the culmination of personality.

There are no laughs, and my favorite parts were spotting a young Stephen Mangan at Frank’s audition and Rob Brydon driving a bus(!) at the airport.

Director: Nick Hamm
Rating: R
Length: 98 minutes
Score: 1/5

Maybe I wasn’t in the mood? Maybe I just can’t be bothered with Chris Pratt outside “Parks and Rec”? Maybe I’m sick of Lee Pace in roles where he wears unattractive make-up? Maybe the extremely specific kind of nostalgia this movie attempts to motivate is not mine? Maybe the bottom of the Marvel barrel isn’t actually that compelling? Maybe I don’t enjoy being emotionally manipulated with the subtlety of a sledgehammer-wielding ogre? Maybe je m’ennuie COMPLETEMENT de wisecracking bands of heroic misfits? Yeah, for sure that one.

This movie made me dumber, and I didn’t even enjoy it along the way.

Stray observations:

  • am glad that Hollywood admits what a ratface Bradley Cooper is.
  • Does anyone even try to act in this movie? Is the dialogue even workable?

Directors: James Gunn
Rating: PG-13
Length: 121 minutes
Score: 1/5

I keep oscillating between 1/5 and 2/5 for a score for this movie, because while it wasn’t any good at all, it also wasn’t actively bad, so 1/5 seems mean, but it was also really not any good. And probably other people aren’t quite as keen on James D’Arcy looking tense in a naval uniform, so that doesn’t get a free point.

In WWII, radar happened, and it is the subject of many excellent movies and even better quips (see, for instance, the charming exchange from Battle of Britain: “So I tell the cabinet that you’re trusting in radar and praying to God, is that right?” “More accurately the other way ’round. Trusting in God and praying for radar.”). And, in that grand tradition, Age of Heroes is about commandos sent to Norway to take out a German radar installation, I’m pretty sure.

Danny Dyer saves some of his men in the retreat towards Dunkirk, but then is sent to prison for desertion because of a misunderstanding or simple nastiness on the part of a superior officer. Sean Bean ignores the pleas of his pregnant wife to lead a commando unit (helpfully made up of men from Danny Dyer’s military jail and also some random Scandinavian-born American, which is where Askel Hennie comes in).  John Dagleish has to go with the commandos to Norway as the radar expert, but is largely useless for anything else. Our old friend and the only character whose name I learned, and that only because I already knew it, Ian Fleming (Mr. D’Arcy), is stressed out in the cabinet war rooms.

So they go to Norway and it’s cold and John Dagleish is useless and their contact has maybe gone dark or is maybe dead or is definitely a girl. Nazis are very unpleasant, to a point that seems cartoonish but is probably accurate. At this point the movie loses shape entirely, but not out of attempts at realism, just out of carelessness. All the set-up–explaining radar, commandos, intelligence services, geography–falls by the wayside in a welter of bad dialogue and worse pacing. Danny Dyer is, I think, meant to be conflicted and confused, but he comes off as dense and ineffectual. Which is not great, for a titular hero.

Commandos are fascinating, and I daresay a good film treatment of Fleming’s war service could exist and perhaps already does, but this isn’t it. (Neither is Any Human Heart, in which he figures as a minor character but which I couldn’t even finish watching, it was so dire.) Accounts of the early part of the war are usually depressing–Battle of Britain ends with a collective, near-despairing shrug–but this one is also just bad.

Oh, and, of course Sean Bean dies.

Director: Adrian Vitoria
Rating: NR
Length: 90 minutes
Score: 1/5

Well, this movie is obviously garbage. I mean, it’s a made-for-TV Christmas movie, and it actually has the word “princess” in the title. You are definitely only watching it if you loved “Outlander” and are confused and saddened by the comparative dearth of stuff that has Sam Heughan in it.

That said (and no, I’m not going to turn around and tell you this is, you know, good), this has some charming bits. Briefly, Jules (Katie McGrath) is stuck raising her orphaned niece and nephew in Buffalo. The tricky thing is that her deceased brother-in-law was a fictional nobleman from fictional European duchy or other implausible kind of state, disowned by his father upon marrying Jules’s sister. Jules loses her job (in an antique store), but fortunately the father’s butler arrives to invite the three strays for Christmas, to (I am not making this up) Castlebury Hall. This father, of course, is played by Roger Moore, who looks rough. His other son, Ashton (Sam Heughan), is around and engaged to a horrible woman and just begging to be stolen away by a down-to-earth American. I don’t need to tell you what happens.

Both the writing and the acting are godawful. Roger Moore skates by because his face hardly moves any more, and Sam Heughan is passable because he gives it the old college try and is extremely handsome, but poor Katie McGrath is kind of bad at American accents and looks distractingly almost like Keira Knightley, which ends up being all you can see. Also she is saddled with truly catastrophic dialogue and the disadvantage of acting opposite terrible child actors.  Only the staff at Castle*snort*bury Hall are at all charming, if also slightly caricaturish.

It is dire.

Stray observations:

  • It may be worth it to watch Roger Moore nonsensically accuse the awful fiancée of being “all fur coat and no knickers.”
  • Why Buffalo?
  • It claims to be a comedy, but…it’s not.

Director: Michael Damian
Rating: TV-G
Length: 91 minutes
Score: 1/5