So here's the second half. THE MEDIOCRE TO BAD LIST. Think of this as an expanded "Worst-of" list, in that it also includes the stuff I only sort of liked and didn't completely hate in addition to the boring and flat-out bad.
TWO AND A HALF STAR FILMS:
51. The Wolf Man
The first two Wolf sequences are excellent, furiously gory moments of gothic horror. However, a number of forced-in jump scares and the father/son subplot, especially the way that cumulates, prevent this good movie from being a great one. A superior cut obviously existed in the editing room at one point but, frustratingly, that’s not the movie we got.
52. My Soul to Take
Wes Craven brings a lot of his early nineties goofiness to this one. The plot is melodramatic and the killer’s weak, but the surprisingly relatable characters make this one far better then expected. The kills are also pretty cool. I liked this one, condor puppet and all.
The looping time cycle is such an interesting premise that it allows the movie to get away with a lot, like characters making foolish decisions or inconsistent behavior from an other solid lead performance. The musical score is haunting even if the “You can’t escape fate” thematics are worn out by the end.
54. The Girl Who Played with Fire
The mystery is nowhere near as captivating as in the first film and Blomkvist continues to drag the story down. Lisbeth kicks a lot of ass, there are a number of surprisingly good fight scenes, and the story does come to a satisfying conclusion. Also, that lesbian scene is hot.
55. Pig Hunt
As a character-oriented horror flick, it’s okay. As an over-the-top homage to hicksploitation/outdoors survivalist thrillers, it’s really good, with some great meat hook and dune buggy, dirt bike action. As a killer pig movie, it’s distracting and underwhelming.
I like that it took time to develop its cast of characters, I like the homage-laden score, and several action scenes are really well done. But it lacks those “Hell yeah!” moments a fan boy flick like this needs. It takes forever to get rolling, its really interesting ideas (like the Pred-on-Pred war) are underdeveloped, and the CGI is embarrassingly bad.
57. Survival of the Dead
Holy shit, a George Romero zombie movie that’s actually fun! The sociological messages are still here, but they take a back seat to amusing characters, breezy pacing, and zombie related violence. It isn’t perfect but it’s good to know that Romero is taking himself less seriously these days.
When it focuses on its money concept, the idea of showing a zombie film from the perspective of the zombie, it’s really successful, offering a stark, new angle on a worn-out genre. When any of the subplots take center stage, the movie drags. The shaky-cam direction, way too dark night shoots, and extraneous last ten minutes further keep this one from soaring.
59. The Runaways
The story goes through all the typical rock band biopic clichés so, as usual, it’s all about the performances: Michael Shannon totally walks away with the show. Defying all expectations, Kristen Stewert is actually pretty good while Dakota Fanning is never believable for one minute.
60. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Captures what it’s like being a loser in middle school honestly. (But without all the swearing and causal homophobia, of course.) It’s too cartoony at times and once the friendship plot takes over, the formula falls in place and the movie looses most of its spunk. If the filmmakers weren’t so committed to convention this could’ve been something special, instead of just another kid’s flick.
61. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief
I like the idea of modernizing Greek mythology and the action/special effects/cameo laden cast are uniformly solid. But that episodic, set-piece oriented story, typical comic relief shenanigans, and weak finale makes this yet another Potter-inspired young-adult fantasy franchise non-starter.
62. Alice in Wonderland
They’ve transformed Lewis Carroll’s absurdist fairy tale into an epic action/adventure fantasy franchise-launcher. Boring. Burton shows none of his usual style and Depp’s performance is lazy. Luckily, the rest of the cast is strong and, once you settle in, the movie becomes an okay popcorn muncher.
63. The Human Centipede
Not as sick, twisted, insane, perverse, or weird as I hoped. It’s a competently made shock flick but the completely demented lead performance from Dieter Laser (Great name!) and the outrageous premise are the only outstanding aspects.
Not a fan of the director, so I checked this out because of the promise of Amanda Seyfried nudity. (There’s a lot.) The first hour is nice piece of slow-burn eroticism but there’s too much contrived drama before the end and the resolution is silly. Good cast, though.
65. Puppet Master: Axis of Evil
Give Charlie Band some credit. He actually put some effort into this. It still has a really cheap look to it and there should have been way more puppet action, but the surprisingly character oriented story shows they were at least trying. I hate the cliffhanging ending though.
TWO STAR FILMS:
A world inhabited only by vampires necessitates clever ideas. Amusing, sight-gag style conveniences are shown off. After the plot gets rolling, the movie becomes a typical horror/action flick with a muddled ending. But, in a “Twilight” world, I’ll take what I can get. At least these vampires fucking kill people. There’s a lot of blood in this movie.
67. The Crazies
This movie sure loves shooting people unexpectedly at the height of suspense. It does it four times. While being a competently directed and acted film with several strong moments, this movie failed to hold my attention or really make me care at any point in its runtime.
68. Clash of the Titans
Peruses is a kinda ineffectual hero, since someone else provides him with everything he needs. (That he’s played by Sam “Charisma Void” Worthington doesn’t help.) The pacing is off, the characters thin, and the otherwise competent direction shifts into Zack Snyder country a few times. But as a monster-filled special effects set-piece delivery system, this one fairs okay.
69. The Lovely Bones
Awesome scenes are immediately offset by awful ones. The scenes focused on generating suspense are the most successful, while clumsy narrative devices stifle the story’s forward momentum.
70. Tron: Legacy
The light-cycle scene is pretty cool and the visuals are impressive at first, but the movie quickly fades into self-serious drudgery. The clumsy story, lousy pacing, repetitive musical score, and overlong runtime sneak any awe the visual effects might generate.
71. Jonah Hex
Josh Brolin is really good as the title character. I kinda’ wish they’d make a sequel just so he could be Hex in a better movie. Megan Fox is useless, the story’s shoddy, and the movie is pretty stupid, all things considered. But it’s nowhere near as bad as I heard. It’s actually almost fun in a really simple, senseless way.
This supernatural locked room mystery tries to cast each character as a potential red herring, but it cheats with an obvious twist ending. The heavy-handed dialogue mentions coincidence and forgiveness a lot, lazily spelling out the themes. The cast is decent but, since this movie is all bluster and no muster, the characters are only given back stories, not personalities.
73. A Nightmare on Elm Street
Jackie Earle Haley is a sinister, pissed-off Freddy and exactly one nightmare scene is pretty clever. The rest of the movie is completely mediocre. The jump scares, bad CGI blood, total lack of atmosphere, bad make-up design, and lousy attempts to top the original don’t do nearly the amount of damage to this remake as the inconsistent, sloppy script and terrible climax.
I have a lot of patience for low-key, character-oriented horror movies, but this one was a little too slow even for me. While it captures the sense of isolation and social awkwardness a person like Tony would feel, you can’t really escape the fact that not a whole lot happens here and there doesn’t seem to be much of a point.
75. The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
Boy, Zack Synder sure loves slo-mo, even in animation! The movie works when it focuses on its group of five main characters. However, the huge cast, elaborate mythology, uninteresting story, and sluggish pacing weakens any interest the viewer might have.
Decent characterization and performances are striving to escape from the typical mumblecore quagmire of suck, what with its disinterest in plot and pacing. Even abortion is treated in a completely laid-back, lackadaisical fashion. The dog is the only likable character.
77. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Jay Baruchel is funny but the rest plays like a bad mix of “Harry Potter,” “National Treasure,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The characters spent most of the movie spouting exposition and chasing after a MacGuffin with a silly name.
78. Robin Hood
By focusing on political conspiracies in favor of Robin and his Merry Men being a band of rich-robbing-poor-giving badasses, it removes the fun from the premise. Moreover, this is a middling attempt to launch a franchise, by leaving all the interesting, fun stuff out so they can use it in a sequel that will probably never get made.
A “Phantom of the Opera”-style gothic romance that is too sympathetic to the monster. His submissive, erudite tone never makes him threatening. The rest of the cast isn’t developed. The theatrical dialogue is a big problem. This is a well-made film, nicely shot especially considering a tiny budget, with the seed of a good story. I can’t say I liked it but its creative team has potential.
80. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
You know a movie’s bad when it effectively undoes most of its own plot before it’s over. Saddled with a convoluted mythology and melodramatic slow-motion obsessed direction, this can’t even provide the low expectations of a video game based summer action/adventure film. Some of the set design is pretty and Gyllenhall and Arterton have some decent chemistry.
81. Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever
It succeeds in out grossing the original in at least two scenes. But this doesn’t feel like a “Cabin Fever” sequel. There’s no cabin and the focus is on fast acting projectile vomiting instead of slowly working flesh eating diseases. The surreal humor is missing too. The great indie movie cast is really the only thing worth seeing here.
82. Repo Men
The story follows a very clear formula, the action scenes are well-done but feel out of place, the romantic subplot is anemic, and you see the twist ending coming a mile away. The movie’s all over the place tonally and can’t decide if it’s an action movie, a black comedy, a character study, or a health care satire.
83. 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams
Much goofier, cheesier, and cheaper then the first. While part one was campy, number two is a full blown gag comedy. If taken as a slightly more polished Troma film, it fares okay. But that doesn’t really make up for how uneven, disjointed, and poorly paced this is.
ONE AND A HALF STAR FILMS:
84. The Last Airbender
The writing is abysmal, featuring lots of broad exposition, showing-not-telling, painfully stupid dialogue, and a cheating deus ex machina. The child actors are incompetent and even the good actors are dragged down by the awful writing. The special effects are pretty good. I’ve never seen the cartoon, but it wouldn’t even have to try to be better then this mess.
85. The Experiment
Oh gee, an American remake of a foreign film that strips the story of all its subtleties and nuances. In addition to being louder, stupider, and crasser then the original, it also rushes the story, barreling straight into stuff instead of going for a slow burn thrill that gets under your skin.
86. Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
For kids only. Completely simple, playing through on all the expected puns and gags. It’s never painful, just boring. It’s obvious the filmmakers knew kids were the target audience so they put nothing but the minimal amount of effort in. They barely cared and that’s painfully obvious.
87. Cop Out
Go back to Jersey, Silent Bob. It’s the only thing you do well. Tracy Morgan and Sean William Scott are extremely annoying, Bruce Willis and the story never once try, and the dialogue is aggressively bad. The score sounds like something out of an 8-bit video game. This movie sucks.
ONE STAR FILMS:
88. The Descent: Part 2
Goes out of its way not to follow the original’s lead. It focuses on jump scares over prolonged intensity. The cave looks far more like a movie set then previously. The supporting characters are either forgettable or jerkasses. The gore looks fake as hell. In the final ten minutes, the movie gets progressively more eye-rollingly asinine and insultingly stupid.
Nothing is ever scary when scored to techno music. Here’s a direct-to-video film that makes all the mistakes: Overreliance on voiceover, sloppy writing, incoherent direction, crappy CGI, sex positions that don’t seem even remotely possible… If you’re looking for shit, this one has it all.
So that was 2010! So, what up this year, 2011? Well, coming immediately will be my 2011 Preview, in which I will discuss my most anticipated films of the present year. Following that, my full review of Disney's "Tangled" for my Disney Report Card will be coming soon. I'm having trouble finishing it. My Oscar Nomination report will be up as soon as the nominations are announced, which will naturally be followed by another attempt at a live-blog during the actual show in March.
Beyond that? I honestly don't know. Which Director's Report Card I post next has more to do with which ever one I finish next. I know I promised a Mario Bava Report Card back in October. Truthfully, that's just one of several different reports that might make it up first. Can't really tell there. In order to fill the spaces between, I plan on posting more Single Reviews of new films, older films, and whatever catches my fancy. What might also appear soon are more rants and essays about films and the film industry in general. I'm also considering a new project, in which I will pick a favorite actor of mine and then sit down and watch three of their films, picked at random.
Until next time, see you around!