I love you Melanie. Just not your film.
I generally like to bust out the optimism here on Scriptshadow. There are too many people bringing others down in this business. “You can’t do this.” “You can’t do that.” Everything, according to these folks, is terrible. The truth is, the people who make it in this business are the people who ignore the naysayers – who don’t get caught up in the negativity. That being said, I’m a moviegoer just like everyone else. And while I respect the fact that thousands of man-hours were put into these pieces of entertainment, I’m just as mad as anyone when the product I paid for is junk. So I’ve reserved one day of the year to air out my frustrations. I should note that I haven’t seen “In Time” or “My Sister’s Retarded” (or whatever that Adam Sandler movie is called), both of which I hear are beyond terrible. And of course any year with a Transformers movie means that movie is automatically number 1 – so I won’t even bother putting it on the list. As for the rest of these films, each of them took my breath away. As in, I almost died of boredom watching them. Beware of what follows. It gets ugly.
10) Win-Win – Maybe Win-Win shouldn’t be on this list. It’s a competently made film with some okay moments. But I’m including it because it was the most average film I saw all year. And “average” can sometimes be worse than “bad.” I’ve had a problem with McCarthy’s films for awhile now, never quite understanding all the love they got, but going along with it because they were independent and Rotten Tomatoes always seemed to give them high scores. I figured it was my fault I didn’t like them. But after this movie, I’m not falling for it anymore. The narrative in Win-Win is all over the place. The central relationship between the boy and the coach is uninspired. I’m not even sure what the motivation of our protagonist is. To win a wrestling championship? I don’t get the sense that’d change his life in any way. So where are the stakes? The kid is boring. The grandfather scam is okay but ultimately unsatisfying. The mom stuff is cliché. There’s just nothing to grab onto here. It feels like one giant exploratory first draft.
9) Everything Must Go – I can't tell you how much it pains me to put this on my list. For those readers new to the site, Everything Must Go was my favorite script a couple of years ago. I thought it was such a clever story - the idea of this guy being kicked out of his house, forced to live on his lawn with all his “stuff,” then realizing that stuff was a symbol of his past and that in order to move on, he would have to get rid of it all, which he does in a yard sale. Unfortunately, I can't remember a movie where the performances were as dead as this one. The kid was boring. Will Ferrell was boring. Even the captivating Rebecca Hall seemed confused. Like “Am I supposed to like you or just be a helpful pregnant neighbor?” It was as if the entire cast was sleepwalking through the movie. And when your entire movie takes place in one location, the performances need to be amazing. I learned a lot from this film. Unless you’re writing a thriller or a horror film, be wary of placing your movie in a single location.
8) Cowboys And Aliens – Here’s a question for you. Who wins in a fight? Cowboys? Or Aliens? No wait, let me be more specific. Who wins in a fight? People 140 years less advanced than us? Or aliens 1 million years more advanced than us? Hmmm, let me think about that for a second. I don’t know. It’s a tough call. I mean the cowboys do have horses. Oh yeah, wait. THE ALIENS DO! But apparently the producers of this movie thought this was some sort of even battle, not realizing that any rational person would realize that if the Cowboys won, it would only be because the writers cheated. But that wasn't this script’s only problem. The writers decided to write a movie where nothing happens for 60 minutes. I mean seriously. What happens in the first hour of this movie? The highlight for me in this film was realizing that one of the actors was Captain Hadley from The Shawshank Redemption.
7) No Strings Attached – Look, Ashton Kutcher seems like a nice guy. No, really, he does. And I’m not even mad at him for cheating on Demi Moore. But come on. This guy cannot act to save his Twitter Account. When you then combine his talents with Natalie Portman, who is to rom-coms what Snooki is to book clubs, you get the abomination that is No Strings Attached. Not only do these two look uncomfortable in their own skin, but they have zero chemistry together. No. They have negative chemistry together. Is it possible to have negative chemistry? I’m going to look that up because if not, we may have just made a major scientific discovery. Which would mean at least something good came of this film. It didn’t help that Liz Merriwether’s original script was sanitized down to a faux-edgy piece of fluff. Natalie, I love you. But stay away from anything resembling comedy. Ashton, I love you, but stay away from anything resembling movies.
6) The Dilemma – I just…I just don’t know what to say about this terrible film. Actually, I do. How is it that you can overlook a story flaw so big, it eclipsed the sun the day the final draft was turned in? A movie about whether a guy should tell his best friend that his wife is cheating on him? That’s not a movie. That's a subplot. That's a scene. But if you think you're going to keep an audience's interest for an entire film with that sort of secondary conflict, you need to be sent to screenwriter jail. No chance of parole. This is a movie! The conflict has to be bigger!! Our main character’s girlfriend is the one who has to be cheating. But even if you don't take that into account, it still doesn't make sense. Should you tell your best friend that his girlfriend is cheating on him or not? Hmmmmmm…um YEAH! You should. Movie over. And on top of all this we have to endure Vince Vaughn and Kevin James bumping into things for 90 minutes. Here’s a dilemma for you. Do you tell an established producer that the movie he’s about to make is going to be terrible?
5) Happythankyoumoreplease– Oh Josh Radnor. I still remember the day I read your script. I still remember thinking how beautiful the writing was, how amazing the characters were, how original the story was. Yeah, it was a bit self-congratulatory in places. But overall, I was amazed by your talent as a screenwriter. And then you had to go and direct the film even though you’d apparently never picked up a camera before. Long shot, close up, close up. Long shot, close up, close up. All that was missing was a wind-up bolex and 3 reels of 8mm black and white film. I can't remember a single moment where a character was actually moving. Everybody always seemed to be sitting down in small rooms. And then of course there was the…..duh duh DUHHHHH…. COUPLE OF DEATH! I will never forget that couple, the way they argued over and over again about the same thing. About how depressed they looked. About how depressing they were. Those scenes were so torturous that I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from them. R.I.P. The Couple Of Death. R.I.P. Happythankyoumoreplease.
4) Somewhere – Look, I’m all for experimental film…WHEN YOU’RE A FILM STUDENT. But when you’re asking people to pay ten bucks for your movie, a cohesive storyline is required. Or a goal. Or a purpose. Or a point. “Somewhere” is a film that feels cobbled together from random dailies and rehearsal takes. Isn’t one of the first things you learn as a writer to cut out all the boring parts? When you start putting theme and symbolism and experimentation ahead of entertainment, you’re playing with fire in a fireworks factory. People will only travel down that path for so long before they start asking where you’re going. Coppola better be careful. She’s quietly directing herself out of the business. The title to this film is appropriate: “Somewhere.” Unfortunately, neither the director nor the audience knew where.
3) Sanctum - James Cameron should be ashamed of himself for producing and supporting this crap. What disappoints me so much is that Cameron understands the value of story. He made his living as a screenwriter before he became a filmmaker, and while it's not his biggest strength, he’s pretty darn good at it. So why, then, does NOTHING HAPPEN IN THE FIRST 50 MINUTES OF THIS MOVIE??? I remember a 7 minute helicopter landing scene. I remember 20 minutes of people radioing each other back and forth in a cave about NOTHING. There was no main character as far as I could tell. No point to any of the action. It’s never good when nearly a full hour into the film you’re still asking the question, “What is this movie *about*?” I mean I could’ve improved this script by 1000% had you just given me 30 minutes. If your movie revolves around a mysterious and fascinating cave, then DON’T ALREADY START in the cave. We have to go in there together. Discover it together. Build some actual suspense. Where’s the fun in everybody already being inside? And you know what? I actually would’ve been okay with this IF the reason for it was so we could jump right into the story. Except we get there, then listen to people radio each other back and forth for 50 MINUTES! So the whole point to starting late isn’t even taken advantage of. I wish somebody would’ve pushed me into this cave also.
2) Beginners – No no no. Make it end. The memories of this film still burn inside of my brain. Pretentious. So pretentious. Have not seen a movie this pretentious since film school. Subtitles whenever the dog talks. Make it stop. Entire movie told out of order for no other reason than the writer wanting to be weird and different. 83 year old father coming out and going to clubs that play house music so he can pick up 30 year old men. Non-stop voice over telling us insignificant things or stuff we already know. 83 year old newly gay father is also dying of cancer. Of course he is! We must make this indie and different and as pretentious as possible! No story here. Just a writer trying to be “deep” and different for different’s sake. Sometimes random images would flash across the screen. Because of the pretentiousness. They hadn’t hit the quota yet so they had to keep going. This movie was a cinematic fatwa. The only reason it isn’t number one on my list is because of Melanie Laurent who was as cute as a jelly bean. Thank you Melanie for saving me from a boredom coma.
1) Skyline – Sometimes Redbox sends me codes for free movies. I used one to get Skyline. I still want a refund. Apparently a couple of visual effects wizards figured they’d skimp on screenplay costs and, what the hell, WRITE THIS MOVIE THEMSELVES. As a result, we get 47 scenes in a hotel room that I’m pretty sure were the same scene from 47 different angles. Oh, and 5 scenes where they peek outside and see aliens. I couldn’t begin to tell you what the plot was here. Some guy is staying at a hotel. Maybe he’s an actor. His friends come by. I think one of them just won a Ferrari in a game show or something. Game Show Ferrari Guy gets mad at our hero because, um, well because it’s a movie and people get mad at each other in movies. People’s faces turn blue sometimes because, um, room service sucks? I have no idea. Note to aspiring filmmakers out there. Not anyone can write a script. Find some money and pay someone who knows what they’re doing. At the very least your movie will be coherent.
Oh man. I really needed that. Those were some pretty awful movies. But stay tuned for tomorrow when Happy Carson returns. My 15 favorite movies of the year, which I promise will contain some surprises. See you then. :)