2011: The Year in Review Pt. I

Let me begin by saying that, as with my past four collegiate years, the city of Madison has once again thrust its obstinate hamlet directly up my rectum and prevented me from seeing a depressingly large number of 2011’s films.  Unlike, well virtually any self-respecting metropolitan area, downtown Madison decided to bulldoze the only easily-accessible theater on campus in favor of a Waco-inspired mini-mall/apartment complex that eliminates the need for residents to ever go outside.  So while I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to cross University to get from Quizno’s to hot yoga on Tuesdays, I’m still crossing my fingers for a more reasonably-priced alternative to the $35 cab ride to the AMC Star in Fitchburg.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Fitchburg is in Moose Jaw County anyway.  Go Badgers.
Rather than participate in the futility that would be adding my two shits to the heaping pile of “Best Of” lists, think of this as more of a Surprises & Letdowns kind of thing.  I’m convinced this is much more fun than guessing which overly-sentimental release AMPAS will award Best Picture to this year.  Besides, this better lends itself to pessimism anyway.
The Letdowns:

 

Honorable Mention: Man on Wire (James Marsh)
Yes, I’m aware this came out three years ago, but it deserves a mention for just how devastating the viewing experience was.  One part documentary, one part art house, one part heist film, and all parts snooze fest, Man on Wire is about as pleasant to watch as My Winnipeg.
This pleasant.
What’s noteworthy is that director James Marsh takes the story of a man’s high-wire walk between the WTC towers–a feat as impressive as it is insane–and actually makes it boring.  What should be a nerve-wracking account of one man’s fuckingly-bat-shit-crazy idea has its tension completely drained through awkward character introductions and recurring flashback segments that feel more like a string of reenactments from an episode of America’s Most Wanted.
None of this is to say Philippe Petit’s wire-walk (with the absence of a safety net) isn’t impressive or deserving of documentation.  Au contraire.  At the very least, it deserves better than this.
3. Immortals (Tarsem)
I’ve read that Tarsem’s 2000 thriller The Cell is little more than a series of horrifying visuals, so it makes sense that the visuals he’s crafted in Immortals are the standout highlight amongst what is unquestionably a horrifying, Heraclean pile of shit.
At best, Immortals could have been an inventive imagining of Theseus and his quest to end King Hyperion’s mass slaughter across all of Greece.  At its worst, it could have been a shameless 300 copycat, yet another addition to the utterly sapped genre of sword-and-sandal epics.  But Immortals is neither of those.  It attempts to tell a story, but immediately stumbles out of the gate with a hilariously overwrought John Hurt voiceover, croaking out to the audience as a warning of the impending shittiness to come.
From its threadbare plot to the obvious dialogue (much of which sounds like it was recycled straight from leftover Attack of the Clones scraps), the film raises far too many questions and then proceeds to answer none of them.  Why do we care about these characters?  Why do the Gods break their own rules?  Why didn’t we sneak into Puss in Boots?
2. Paul (Greg Mottola)
Like the mildly hilarious Talladega Nights and the mildly horrible Strange Wilderness, Paul joins the ranks of films whose funniest scenes were exploited at every conceivable marketing opportunity.  I am, of course, referring to the moment where a Seth Rogen-voiced alien resurrects a dead bird only to gobble it up.  I can understand the need to give away half the film in a trailer when it’s warranted, but Universal could’ve gotten away with simply listing the cast:
This March…
Simon Pegg
Nick Frost
Kristen Wiig
Jason Bateman
Bill Hader
Jane Lynch
…with Sigourney Weaver
…and Seth Rogen
Paul
 
Boom.  You don’t even need coherent sentences in that.  In theory, the hilarity this cast promised should have been enough.  Unfortunately Paul plain fails to live up to its potential, comedic or otherwise.  All the more depressing is Mottola’s involvement, having directed Superbad and the criminally unappreciated Adventureland.  Seriously, if you can manage to make Kristen Stewart attractive in spite of the disenchanting concavity that is her rear end, that’s as good as an Oscar in my book.While the nods to hard sci-fi are likely appreciated by fans of Asimov and “Terror Bird” alike, Paul feels more like the unrated version of E.T.  It’s almost tragically appropriate then that Pegg and Frost’s script, a tribute to the obsessions of geekdom and fan fiction, feels less like an original property and more like a sloppy valentine.

1. Green Lantern (Martin Campbell)

Now I’ve already written the equivalent of a young adult series making fun of this, but Green Lantern takes this year’s crown for biggest disappointment, if not for what it is then certainly for what it foretells.

As with Mr. Mottola, Martin Campbell’s resume precedes him.  Having directed two of the best Bond films in the past twenty years as well as unfastening the awesome carnal power that is Catherine Zeta-Jones, Campbell is no stranger to quality boobs action.  So with 70+ years of story material and a superhero whose power hinges on the strength of his imagination, Green Lantern should’ve been the ultimate creative sandbox.  Instead, its dull script merely goes through the expected action beats and is a gigantic waste of both Mark Strong and Peter Skarsgaard’s talents.  Perhaps its most flagrant sin is somehow making Ryan Reynolds neither funny nor charming.

The real bitch of Green Lantern is just how F’ed DC superhero movies are likely to be.  Next summer, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises aren’t competing for anything other than how many times they can get fanboys kicked out of theaters for public indecency.  And that’s because Disney and Warner Bros. already know who’s going to have the last laugh.

Marvel Studios has contracts for future films with Robert Downey, Jr. and Chrises Evans and Hemsworth, with a crap-ton of sequel potential guaranteed in each character. Actually now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure Marvel Studios has some sort of strict no-resolution policy in their endings.  Better cliffhanger that shit.

To top it off, there’s no way we’re not going to get like fifteen more Avengers sequels.  Add to that the very real possibility of more Hulk movies as well as Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Nick Fury spin-offs and the future looks pretty good for Marvel Studios.  Plus, if Edgar Wright’s proposed Ant-Man ever gets out of production Hell, it will absolutely be the most hilarious comic book movie this side of The Spirit.

On the other side of the universe, Warner Bros. has whatever else they can squeeze out of Hal Jordan and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel in 2012, a reboot that promises more CGI than you can shake a jimmer stick at.  Sure, The Dark Knight Rises is (likely) going to make more money next year, but that just hastens the need to follow up with a worthy Batman reboot.  Good luuuuuuck.

Regardless of what 2012 has in store, you now have absolutely no reason to visit a comics shop in your lifetime.

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1 Comment

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One response to “2011: The Year in Review Pt. I

  1. Oh man, I can't believe you got talked into going to Immortals. What a shit show.

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