Overrated Movies

I ran across this list of Premiere’s 20 Most Overrated Movies:

1. American Beauty
2. Chicago
3. Clerks
4. Fantasia
5. Field of Dreams
6. Chariots of Fire
7. Good Will Hunting
8. Forrest Gump
9. Jules and Jim
10. A Beautiful Mind
11. Monster’s Ball
12. Moonstruck
13. Mystic River
14. Nashville
15. The Wizard of Oz
16. An American in Paris
17. Easy Rider
18. The Red Shoes
19. 2001: A Space Odyssey
20. Gone with the Wind

Most of the 11 on the list that I’ve seen, it’s been so long that I can’t really objectively evaluate them without being affected by nostalgia. Field of Dreams, Forrest Gump, and Chariots of Fire I remember being decent but I really don’t have much desire to watch them again so that may be a sign that I’m just nostalgic about them. Good Will Hunting is the one that I’d flat out disagree with. 2001 and American Beauty are the two I’d agree with the most. In particular, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that’s really passionate about 2001. Seems like a movie that people are only inclined to like because Roger Ebert said it was good. It has to be one of the most boring sci-fi movies ever made.

So what movies would you add to this list? And, what are some underrated movies to you?

Here’s some additional overrated ones for me:

  • David Lynch Movies: Weird does not equal good. I don’t think movies should be painful to watch.
  • Gladiator: Best picture? It was an all right action movie, but was it really that much better than, say, Troy?
  • Godfather II: If it didn’t happen to be the sequel to what’s widely regarded as the best movie of all-time, there’s no way it would have been nominated for best picture, let alone win it. Pretty average movie that would have been a forgotten 70s movie.
  • Rebel Without a Cause: Completely unbelievable. Click here for my detailed review.
  • Rocky: There might be a good scene or two, but overall this movie is slow and pretty unbelievable. One of those movies that I remembered being good as a kid, but when I watched it again several years ago it was boring and not that great of a plot.
  • Shrek 2: The original Shrek was pretty good and should have been the beginning and end of the series. Instead, they pretty much rehashed the plot of the original and repackaged in a much less entertaining movie. Only thing I remember being funny about this movie was when a Starbucks got destroyed and a bunch of people ran out only to cross the street right back into another Starbucks.
  • Star Wars: This may seem like blasphemy, but I think the amount of fanfare and recognition the series gets is totally out of line with how good the actual plot is.
  • Titanic: Top grossing movie of all-time? Is it really anywhere near the greatest love story of all-time? How many people do you know that have watched it in, say, the last five years?

Some of my underrated movies:

  • Adaptation: Original, but weird, plot that I found fantastic.
  • Before Sunrise and Before Sunset: Two of the best romance movies that most people have never seen.
  • Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind: One of the more original love stories you’ll ever watch.
  • A Few Good Men: I watched this a couple of years ago and it was even better than I remembered it. Has to be one of the best courtroom movies ever.
  • Hero: The Jet Li movie from a few years ago has a great plot and just a fantastic ending.
  • Kung-Fu Hustle: Another kung-fu movie that does an absolutely marvelous job of mixing in comedy.
  • L.A. Confidential:Great film noir plot.
  • Minority Report: Solid sci-fi movie that’s in the same league with the original Matrix (sans the fight scenes).
  • Shakespeare in Love: The best romantic comedy ever.

Movies Year in Review

My favorite movies I saw in 2006:

  1. Little Miss Sunshine (2006): Funny, touching, original, has Steve Carrell. What more can you ask for? My favorite movie that I saw this year. I don’t want to overhype it too much because you could be let down, but it’s an entertaining movie.
  2. Thank You for Smoking (2006): Tongue-in-cheek movie about a tobacco lobbyist whose knack in life is convincing the world that cigarettes are good. Pretty funny.
  3. United 93 (2006): Best imaginable movie about what happened on 9/11. Very factual and apolitical. Very emotional, but you’ll probably make it through without crying.
  4. The Grizzly Man (2005): If you’ve ever watched the Discovery Channel, you’ve probably seen David Treadwell who lived among the grizzlies and was eventually killed by them. This documentary chronicles his life and death.
  5. Devil Wears Prada (2006): Surprisingly good story about an intern that goes to work for the “boss-from-hell” in the fashion industry. Entertaining, original story that touches on the balance between work and life and the choices we make in this domain.
  6. Inside Man (2006): Just a well-done heist thriller by Spike Lee. Keeps you entertained and guessing what’s happening.
  7. Cars (2006): Pretty good as far as animated movies go.
  8. Serenity (2005): A good sci-fi sequel to the cancelled Firefly TV series.
  9. Being John Malkovich (1999): If you like Charlie Kaufman movies (e.g., Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Adaptation) then you’ll like this. Otherwise, you’ll feel that you just wasted a couple hours of your life.
  10. Red Eye (2005): A well-done thriller involving a daughter taken hostage on a plane in order to get to her father. Not excessively violent; more suspenseful.

My least favorite movies I saw in 2006:

  1. Broken Flowers (2005): One of those movies where you keep saying, “I know it’s not going to end like that” and then it ends like that with no closure whatsoever.
  2. The Whale and the Squid (2005): If you’re just too happy one day and want to experience the emotional trauma of your parents cheating on each other and going through a divorce, then watch this.
  3. Deliverance (1972): If you’re just too happy one day and want a disturbing image of backwood hillbillies attacking some unfortunate dude, then watch this.
  4. The Stand (1994): Based on the Stephen King book that is supposed to be an apocalyptic battle between good and evil after a plague strikes earth. Comes across as boring, long, and contrived in this adaptation.
  5. Ned Kelly (2003): We rented this one because we’d always talk about Ned Kelly when we went to eat at the restaurant in Urbana by the same name. Pretty boring and predictable look at the life of the Australian outlaw.
  6. Proof (2005): Kind of like a Beautiful Mind except not that good.
  7. X-Men 3 (2006): Just not as good as the previous two movies and gets really weird with the whole Jean Grey as the ultimate mutant thing.

My favorite TV shows on DVD that I saw in 2006:

  1. Entourage (Seasons 1 and 2) (2004-05): What would happen if one of your best friends made it big an Hollywood and brought you and several others in his entourage along to enjoy. Great comedy/drama series from HBO. Jeremy Piven as the agent is the most entertaining of all the characters. (Very much R-rated)
  2. Firefly (Season 1) (2002): Probably the best sci-fi series of the decade and was, unfortunately, cancelled by FOX after only one season.
  3. Weeds (Season 1 and 2) (2005-06): Dark comedy from Showtime about a mother who decides to start dealing weed in suburban California to maintain her family’s standard of living when her husband unexpectedly dies. (Very much R-rated)
  4. The 4400 (Seasons 1 and 2) (2004-05): Pretty good sci-fi series from USA about a group of 4400 that we abducted over a 50 year period and then suddenly returned one day without any aging and an eclectic mix of special powers.
  5. Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season 1-5) (2000-05): Kind of a R-rated version of Seinfeld from HBO. It stars Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld, as himself. Pretty entertaining, though it’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes gets completely ridiculous.

Other movies that I saw in 2006 (most were pretty decent): 8 Mile (2002), Animal House (1978), Cache (2005), Capote (2005), Casino Royale (2006), The Chronicles of Narnia (2005), The Conversation (1974), Curious George (2006), Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2006), Empire Falls (2005), Fever Pitch (2005), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), I Heart Huckabees (2004), Ice Age (2002), March of the Penguins (2005), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005), Murderball (2005), A Prairie Home Companion (2006), Superman Returns (2006), Syriana (2005), Talladega Nights (2006), Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), V is for Vendetta (2006), Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), Wedding Crashers (2005), Wordplay (2006).

On My Mind

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    Some of the things I’ll miss most about Champaign (other than friends, of course): the Central time zone (man, that extra hour is nice for sporting events), Curtis Orchard (pretty much the idyllic midwest experience), four way stops on four lane roads (never seen them elsewhere), my window-office at work (even though it’s shared, it’ll probably be at least a decade before I have a chance at one of these again), our ultimate frisbee group (just the right skill and competition level for us), the MTD (has to be one of the best public transit systems in a city of 100K), free network channels from a satellite feed (since there’s no way I’m paying for cable unless it’s available ala mode…we’re stuck with the joys of antenna reception from here on out), Papa Del’s and Za’s (the best thick-crust pizza and cheap Italian around), the University’s “hole-y” cows (some experiment where they cut holes in the side of living cows so they have a window to their stomach), the library (just a great system and inventory…because of them, I’ve probably only made two trips to Blockbuster in the past year), Chief Illiniwek (the only halftime show I actually stayed to watch…virtually always better than the actual game), Illini basketball (they’re just adored within the community…being here at the same time as Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams was just a wonderful experience), and regional Big Ten college football coverage (it was pretty much like having a season pass for Ohio State football).

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    Some of the things I won’t miss about Champaign: the wind and cold (with the wind, it’s like Old Man Winter kicking you while you’re down), Illini football (after teasing me with a BCS bowl my first year here, they pretty much went off the deep end), the Chief debate (if only people were as passionate about, say, reducing the child illegitimacy rate), the political choices (other than Barack Obama and his successor, Peter Fitzgerald, Illinois seems turn out its politicians from The Factory of Craptacularity and Corruption), the potholes (it can be like maneuvering a landmine field in the winter), the smell from the South Farms (when the wind blows, it stinks), and the campus rec center (inconvenient parking and hours when school isn’t in session…some unnecessary and frivolous renovations).

  • Why in the heck does Adobe Reader require like three system reboots to upgrade itself? It’s for viewing freakin’ documents! Truly a software engineering marvel.
  • RockyXXXVIII.jpg

    “My hope is that people that have screened it have enjoyed it and say, ‘You know what? It’s not as bad as you think.’ “ That’s Sylvester Stallone on the new Rocky Balboa movie. What other job can you get paid millions and for your performance review say, “I hope my work wasn’t as bad as you expected.”

  • Interesting story on how Bear Bryant’s son effectively vetoed a coaching hire that could have made UAB a potential in-state competitor to the Crimson Tide. In retrospect, I can’t help but think the Tide and their incompetent hiring system deserved the treatment they got from Mike Price and Coach Fran.
  • I’ll bet the new pickup line for China’s white dolphins is, “You know you’d better come back to my place tonight so we can try to the species to that we’re functionally extinct and all”.
  • Some great Office clips: (1) If Prison Mike doesn’t scare you straight, then there’s no hope for keeping you ou of prison. (2) If only we all had a Future Dwight for protection.

Three Good Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen

Murderball: Awesome documentary about wheelchair rugby (the title is the slang name for the sport). The basic idea is these paraplegics get these like $3000 wheelchairs that basically act like battering rams. Then, on a basketball court, the goal is essentially to get the ball from one end of the court to the other while the other team basically plays kill the man with the ball (a running joke is, “What’s the worst that could happen to us…are we going to break our necks again?”). Evidently, Canada and the US have quite the bitter rivalry in the sport and the film follows the teams between two world championships in the sport. So, the storyline is very interesting…never a dull moment. Aside from the game, I learned a lot about paraplegics in general, how the operate, what they can and cannot do. There was one guy who had no arms and no legs, but could drive a car with some special braces!

Red Eye: Kind of like a good old Hitchcock movie with a character trapped in a thriller and you cringing throughout hoping that she gets away. Yea, I know it’s a plot that’s been done to death, but this movie just happens to do it very well. A hotel manager finds herself stuck on a plane caught up in an assassination attempt with her father as collateral. The movie is relatively realistic…definitely not so unbelievable that it becomes unenjoyable. It keeps you thinking throughout, “Now, if I were in this situation, what would I do to get out of it?”. The bad guy is Cillian Murphy, who played the Scarecrow in Batman Begins. He just great in these roles as the creepy guy who seems nice enough on the surface but is, at any given time, about 10 seconds away from getting medieval on your hiney. Murphy’s bound to be the Gary Oldman of the next generation.

Grizzly Man: Just your typical documentary about, stop me when you’ve heard this one, man gets messed up in drugs and alcohol, man has spiritual awakening while visiting grizzlies in Alaska and quits his addictions cold turkey, man spends every summer living with the grizzlies and treating them like big pets, man gets progressively kooky, man ends up getting torn to shreds by the grizzlies (not really a spoiler because you learn all of this in the first ten minutes of the movie if you haven’t already seen the story on the Discovery Channel). It’s just such a wild story that you can’t help but watch in awe for the entire duration of the movie. It’s not too gross…just a few descriptions of the attack by the coroner…no visuals. The R-rating comes mainly from this F-bomb tirade that Timothy Treadwell goes into at one point about the park service during a monologue. Treadwell would make movies while he was with the grizzlies, so there’s lots of beautiful cinematography from the Alaskan mountains.

In the end, you don’t really feel a lot of sympathy for Treadwell because you get the sense it’s kind of the way he would have wanted to go and that he had to realize his entire life was on a collision course to such an event. Unfortunately, his girlfriend was killed in the attack as well. Apparently, in 2003, they were leaving for the summer, but Treadwell got in a debate at the airport with a clerk and decided that he was fed up with the human world and headed back to the grizzlies. However, being late in the season, most of the grizzlies with which he was familiar had left for hibernation and the more wild bears from the interior had moved to his usual spot. You can kind of fill in the blanks from there. During the attack, his camera was on, but the lens cap was on. So, one of the more emotional parts of the movie just shows the director’s reaction as he listens to this audio tape (owned by some of Treadwell’s friends and never released to the public). Some of the more amazing footage that Treadwell captured before dying includes two bears fighting over a girl bear. You realize that these bears are truly modern day monsters as they go at each other. If you see one movie from this list, make it this one as a I guarantee that you will sit there spellbound for an hour and half and be telling people about it for the next week.

And, I got to throw in one movie that you probably haven’t seen and you should just avoid. That would be Broken Flowers. Let me start by saying that I actually enjoyed Lost in Translation (“Lip my stockings! Lip my stockings!”). This movie exceeds even that in slow scenes and ambiguous endings to the point that it just becomes unenjoyable. The movie could have been cut down to about 20 minutes if they took out all the scenes of Bill Murray just driving his car through the country or awkwardly sitting in silence. And, the movie has what has to be one of the most gratuitous nudity scenes in quite sometime with virtually no rhyme or reason. And, I’ll just go ahead an say it (spoiler warning): after spending the whole movie searching for clues about his son, Bill Murray comes up completely empty, just standing in the middle of the road as the camera pans around his face. Whoopty-do. Can I have those two hours of my life back? The bad thing is, if you’re not forewarned, the movie is just interesting enough to keep you watching until the very end before you realize the entire film was a waste of your time.

If anyone else has seen any of these movies, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of them.

Orson Scott Card: Best Sci-Fi Movie Ever

Orson Scott Card, one of the top five Mormon science fiction writers alive today, offers his review of the new movie Serenity.

Well, guess what.

It’s great.

I’m not going to say it’s the best science fiction movie, ever.

Oh, wait. Yes I am.

Because for me, a great film — sci-fi or otherwise — comes down to relationships and moral decisions. How people are with each other, how they build communities, what they sacrifice for the sake of others, what they mean when they think of a decision as right vs. wrong.

So here’s what I have to say about Serenity:

This is the kind of movie that I have always intended Ender’s Game to be (though the plots are not at all similar).

And this is as good a movie as I always hoped Ender’s Game would be.

And I’ll tell you this right now: If Ender’s Game can’t be this kind of movie, and this good a movie, then I want it never to be made.

I’d rather just watch Serenity again.

Having never really gotten into Firefly…I hadn’t planned on making a point to see Serenity, but I guess it just shot to the top of my movies to see.

Al Michaels Should Stick to Football Commentary

Last night on Monday Night Football, ABC had Geena Davis in the booth promoting her new TV show. To introduce her, Al Michaels referred to her as, I kid you not, “one of the most accomplished actress of a generation”. Nothing against Geena and her film achievements, but does anyone honestly believe that introduction outside of Geena Davis’ immediate family? Has anyone seen her starring in a major motion picture in the past decade? I dare say it’s pretty much been a downward spiral into mediocrity since Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own.

Review: Crash

Crash was recommended to me by a professor and grad student at a conference a while back. The film is kind of like a collection of intertwined short stories dealing largely with the stereotypes people make about others. Good movie…it challenges a lot of people’s pre-conceived notions and has an interesting plot.

My Score: 85%
Tomatometer: 77%

Review: Startup.com

Yet another documentary, Startup.com is about two friends (one of whom looks a lot like The Rock) that start govWorks.com during the high of the Internet boom, get millions in VC funding, and end up busting all in the course of less than two years. It’s pretty entertaining to see the whole process you’ve probably heard so much about up close. The film is interesting because you see all the highs and lows they go through as well incredible stress and pressure from the Silicon Valley environment. And, of course, in the end it’s all about their friendship. Not excellent, but definitely worth checking out.

My Score: 70%
Tomatometer: 93%

Review: Hoop Dreams

People always say to me, “when you get to the NBA, don’t forget about me.” Well, I should’ve said back, “if I don’t make it to the NBA, don’t you forget about me.”

That quote comes from high school basketball phenom William Gates in Hoop Dreams. This is one of those movies I’ve been meaning to watch for year and finally got around to doing it. It’s a documentary that follows Gates and Arthur Agee through their entire high school careers in Chicago as highly touted basketball recruits.

It goes much deeper than the sport as it follows their families as well…both being from the inner-city where basketball seems to be viewed as the only ticket to a better life. The fact that it’s all real-life makes the film very moving. When Agee’s family gets their power shut off or Arthur gives a crying William a hug after a particularly tough loss, you know it’s not just something out of some screen writer’s imagination.

Hoop Dreams is much better than most all other sports movies. Think something like Friday Night Lights, but about ten times as good (in fairness to Friday Night Lights, the book was much better than the movie). In real-life, you don’t always get the fairy book ending with a chance at the championship, but you do get a moving story.

One thing this movie makes you appreciate is editing. Even though, it’s almost three hours long, the film moves at a great pace and keeps your interest the entire time. There’s no telling how many hours of film the makers had to go over to put this together, but they did an amazing job.

This is really a movie that transcends film. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen…so it’s gotta get as close to perfect as I’ll ever give. If you’ve never seen Hoop Dreams, go rent it and you won’t be disappointed.

My Score: 99%
Tomatometer: 97%

Review: The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Compliments of some of our most awesome friends, Will and Valerie, we went to see The 40-Year-Old Virgin last weekend (Thanks!). You really have to do two separate reviews for this movie: one for those who don’t mind crude humor and another for those that do. And by crude, I mean this movie makes American Pie look like Finding Nemo by comparison. For the latter group, the review is easy…avoid at all costs. You’ll find yourself not enjoying the movie about…oh…one scene into the movie. Casting Steve Carell in the title role was the perfect pick…he’s great for the mild-mannered, likable character. Actually, the entire cast of characters fits very well in the movie. The movie does an amazing job of keeping the audience laughing pretty much for its entire duration. The jokes are crude, but they are pretty original and funny (and, many times, rather gross). At the end of the movie, the audience at our theatre applauded, which makes absolutely no sense because, I did a scan of the theatre and, surprisingly, neither Steve Carell nor any of the other cast members was in attendance. So unless they thought the dude running the projector was exceptional, I really don’t see why you would applaud at a movie where none of the cast is attending. The Age of Aquarius dance number at the end of the movie is hilarious and about the only non-crude laugh in the entire movie.

My Score (Not Considering Crudeness): 88%
My Score (Considering Crudeness): 1%
Tomatometer: 87%

Maybe Crappiness is More Damaging Than Piracy

The NY Times has an article that makes me optimistic that the movie industry is more willing to adapt to the digital age than the recording industry. Consumers are no longer biting for the inferior products:

“Part of this is the fact that the movies may not have lived up to the expectations of the audience, not just in this year, but in years prior,” said Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had some flops this summer, including the science fiction action movie “Stealth” and the romantic comedy “Bewitched.” “Audiences have gotten smart to the marketing, and they can smell the good ones from the bad ones at a distance.”

In previous years, he said, “you could still count on enough people to come whether you failed at entertaining them or not, out of habit, or boredom, or a desire to get out of the house. You had a little bit of backstop.” With competition from video games, hundreds of television channels and DVD’s, that’s no longer the case, he said.

To compound this effect, I think information propagates much quicker and widespread than ever before as well. In the past, you would have to go on the recommendations of a couple of well-known critics and the word-of-mouth from several of your friends of the course of weeks. Nowadays, the day a movie comes out, you can already get an aggregate reading from hundreds of critics and thousands of movie-goers about how good the movie is.

And, the comparative advantage of going to the theatre as opposed to watching at home has decreased significantly:

Warren Lieberfarb, a former Warner Brothers executive who was a main advocate of the DVD in the early 90’s, warned that going to the movies had become too expensive over all, given the excellent quality of home theater. “It’s not just the DVD. It’s not just the DVD window,” he said. “It’s the flat-panel television and the sound system, with the DVD option, that has radically changed the quality of the in-home experience. The home theater has arrived.” As a result, he said, “you have to change the business model of the movie business.”

No doubt about this one. For a couple to go to the movie costs almost $20, plus about half an hour of driving round-trip, sitting through annoying commercials before the movie, and putting up with those aggravating anti-piracy dots that they randomly inject into the movie (I guess most people don’t notice these, but I find them noticeable). By contrast, renting a movie costs $3 and there’s a Blockbuster within walking distance for us. The major downside is you have to wait six months for the movie to come out on video.

Review: Rebel Without a Cause

We watched Rebel Without a Cause last night. I didn’t find it to be that great of a movie. I get the whole “looking for a father” theme, but the plot is just completely unbelievable. Basically, in the course of one day, the new kid (James Dean) gets in a knife fight with the school bully, competes with the bully in a game of chicken, and the bully runs off the cliff and dies. But wait, there’s more. Rather than mourn for the guy, his friends and girlfriend basically carry on as if nothing ever happened. The girlfriend and James Dean end up falling in love that same night. Then, the bully’s friends come looking for James Dean and a shoot-out occurs, again on that same night. And you thought James Bond was unrealistic.

My Score: 40%
Tomatometer: 93%

Review: Kung Fu Hustle

We watched Kung Fu Hustle the other night. I’d highly recommend it. The first five minutes are a bit sketchy, but once you get past that, it’s very entertaining. The fight scenes are great and I liked the music a lot. The plot is rather unique and throws in a lot of humorous elements as well as unexpected heroes and villains. It’s up there with Hero as a great, recent Chinese movie. And, it maintains the perfect track record that, at some point, every Chinese-subtitled movie I’ve ever watched involves people fighting while flying through the air.

My Score: 83%
Tomatometer: 89%

Okie Noodling

So, the other day I was at a friend’s place and he started playing this DVD that he’d got from Blockbuster online. The DVD was Okie Noodling, a documentary about noodling in Oklahoma.

For those of you unfamiliar with noodling (a.k.a., grappling, hogging, hand fishing), it basically consists of the following. You walk into some muddy water where catfish live, use your hands to try to find a catfish hole, get it to open its mouth, reach in, and (if all goes well) pull the fish out. Some of the hazards include water moccasins, mistaking beavers or muskrats for catfish (you can’t see what you’re grabbing), and, in the worst case, getting your arm stuck and drowning.

For me the best part had to be the interviews with one of the legends of the sport, “Catfish” Rider. Rider tells us about how he goes noodling under some old pieces of a road that could collapse at any time and trap him. Why noodle here instead of some place safer…he never really goes into that. What really made me laugh was when Rider tells us about how he decided to get out of the national spotlight a few years ago (evidently, he was on Letterman), to get focus full-time on his love of noodling. And yes, “Catfish” Rider looks and talks exactly like you’d picture him.

I was shocked to learn that no Academy Award nominations were forthcoming for this excellent documentary! If you get a chance, I highly recommend watching it. I’m serious about this…it’s an hour or so of non-stop entertainment.

80’s flashback…

Little Monsters

Today my brother and I had an 80’s flashback and watched one of our favorite childhood movies, Little Monsters. It was still funny just like I remembered it, although I don’t remember it having all those bad words. I can’t believe our parents let us watch that! ๐Ÿ™‚