8. Twixt (Francis Ford Coppola)
In Twixt, a once famous writer meets a creepy sheriff in a small town and gets involved in the murder mystery of a young girl he sees in his dreams.
Twixt incorporates film noir with a very eerie, out of date narration, and sinister music. At times it feels like a student film with obvious blue filter night sequences, occasional bad CGI backdrops, split screen conversations, and tilted angles. The effect is a supposed dream state you might find in a David Lynch film, but it feels more cheesy than artsy.
The story is an overly cliche one; a once successful writer hits rock bottom and is looking for a comeback. Hall Baltimore, played by Val Kilmer, makes an unworthy protagonist the viewer has no desire to root for. Even if the visuals prove sometimes interesting, the story is not. Kilmer himself seems bored. Some scenes are drawn out way too long, especially conversations between Baltimore and his muse, Edgar Allen Poe.
Francis Ford Coppola has directed some of the greatest films in cinema history, and has proven he can work with dark material with such films as Apocalypse Now and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. With Twixt he comes nowhere close to the masterpieces he turned out earlier in his career.
9. Jersey Boys (Clint Eastwood)
Jersey Boys, based on the stage play, tells the story of how four guys from New Jersey rose to become the Four Seasons. The viewer observes all the great songs they created, and hardships they endured as well.
Clint Eastwood brings the same raw, beautiful, and moody look to Jersey Boys he brought to Mystic River, but it is not the right fit for a musical. The fun parts are the songs by the Four Seasons. The viewer anxiously awaits the next musical number, and exposition scenes are simply no fun to watch. The movie is slow because it does not bring the same fast paced energy as the play. With the exception of the songs, the tone in Eastwoood’s world feels flat. The spark that existed in his other recent, gritty works like Gran Torino, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Milion Dollar Baby does not exist here.
The movie gets more depressing as it goes, and the end does not leave the viewer satisfied. Instead one is left with an awkward feeling as the film attempts to recapture the magic of the musical, but it’s just sad.
10. Domino (Tony Scott)
Domino tells the story of Domino Harvey, a rich British girl who decided to become a bounty hunter.
Directed by Tony Scott, the movie appears to be having a stroke. The strobe/flashing effect (forwards or backwards at different speeds), and repeated dialogue is sure to leave one with a headache. The shaky camera work doesn’t help either. The movie jumps all over the place from present, to near past, to way, way back and in whatever order Scott decides. Kiera Knightly (Domino) narrates and as cool as her accent is, you wish she would just shut up once in awhile, so you could enjoy the movie.
Tony Scott knows how to present good action on screen. He has proven this with Top Gun, True Romance and Unstoppable. Domino looks like a flashy Michael Bay music video, but without the explosions. This would be better as a cool, experimental short film. Thanks to the style, the viewer has no idea what’s going on. The plot isn’t visible in all the excessive violence and sex.
11. The Da Vinci Code (Ron Howard)
A murder at the Louvre sends Professor Robert Langdon on the search for the world’s deepest religious secret ever.
The Da Vinci Code is very faithful to the book and therein lies the problem. The film is too wordy, which doesn’t translate well to the silver screen. The clever story just does not work well on film. There is so much explaining to do in long conversations, pointless flashbacks, and while reading ancient scripts. All of this exposition from Tom Hanks is not enjoyable to watch.
Unfortunately there is no chemistry between Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, both whom have proven to be great actors. Although Ian McKellen is fun to watch, he cannot play off Hanks or Tautou, because they give him nothing in return.
With Apollo 13, Ron Howard kept audiences on the edge of their seats with scenes full of tension. The action scenes in The Da Vinci Code are not exciting and they should be, since it is a thriller. It’s interesting enough to watch the first time, but not again.
12. Hollywood Ending (Woody Allen)
A one time great director is offered a picture to reclaim his glory, the only problem is the stress takes away his eyesight. He can’t afford to walk away, so he has to make the movie blind.
Hollywood Ending has Woody Allen playing himself at his worst as a filmmaker and as a human being. There’s only so much of his stammering one can stand and most of his jokes fall flat. The film is just not funny, and filled with awkward moments.
The premise is a fun one, but scenes go on for too long just so Allan can get a few lame jokes in, or so he can remind the the audience for the 100th time what a narcissistic genius he is. Each scene has no more than three shots. That may be Allen’s style, but here it just seems like lazy filmmaking.
Hollywood Ending is simply a vehicle for Allen to talk about himself, and all the problems that can arise on a film set. Allen has said that he makes movies for himself and not the audience, and this movie certainly proves it.
13. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
In Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, Jedi nights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn discover a boy, Anakin Skywalker, who they believe will bring balance to the force.
George Lucas is a master of visual effects, but he relies on them too much instead of focusing on character, which Episode I desperately lacks.
The movie’s heart should be in its characters. Probably the most disappointing part of Episode I is Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker. Armed with only the wooden dialogue Lucas provides, his performance is so off putting that one cannot believe this boy grows up to be Darth Vader. Then there’s Jar Jar Binks, who has to be one of the most annoying characters in cinema and makes countless immature jokes throughout the film.
The film isn’t all bad. The climax, especially the lightsaber battle, is pretty awesome. The plot proves confusing, but it doesn’t matter since the viewer is distracted by the countless visual effects: aliens, space stations, planets, and even Jar Jar. George Lucas has proven he is a great director with Star Wars, American Graffiti, even THX-1138, but he does not bring that energy to Episode I.
14. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola)
Marie Antoinette follows the story of Queen Marie Antoinette from her marriage to Louis XVI to her tragic downfall.
The message you take away from the film is that Marie Antoinette was just an all American girl; losing her friends after marriage, giving up her childhood dog, complimenting other women’s shoes, crashing parties, and drinking too much.
Director Sofia Coppola has recreated a gorgeous world, but in doing so has also created certain elements which bring the viewer out of that world. For example, Kirsten Dunst, who plays Antoinette, retains her American accent for some reason. Maybe it didn’t matter to Coppola, but it proves irritating. Coppola’s use of modern music in the film is an interesting creative choice, but it feels off in certain places.
The movie is incredibly beautiful to look at with great costumes and sets, but the story moves slow. There are echoes of Barry Lyndon and Jean Luc Godard’s style of filmmaking. Marie Antoinette looks too much in love with itself. Again, this could have been the director’s choice. Sofia Coppola loves exploring other cultures as shown with Marie Antoinette and Lost in Translation, but she succeeded in creating so much more depth in the latter.
15. Hulk (Ang Lee)
Scientist Bruce Banner has an accident with gamma radiation which make him turn into a giant green monster when he’s angry.
With Hulk, Ang Lee makes some breathtaking visual choices that give one the sense of great things to come (example: Life of Pi), but the special effects for the actual Hulk are disappointing. In this post Gollum world, we expect more. The Hulk would be so much more interesting and believable if he wasn’t so enormous. The bigger he is, the more bloated and fake he looks, especially during the interminable action sequences.
The movie plays like a comic book with shots overlapping each other and many split screens. It’s an interesting style choice, but it gets distracting after awhile. It looks like it was edited on Powerpoint, and reminds the viewer that they are watching a movie. Ang Lee made a bold stylistic choice in the making of Hulk and at times he pulls it off, but one wishes he put so much energy into making his lead characters as fascinating.
Author Bio: Born and bred in Portland, Oregon, Rollyn Stafford loves the city of roses and hopes to continue acting and directing films there in the future. He has appeared in numerous films such as Victoria’s Exorcism, Romance, and Poison, as well as appearing on NBC’s GRIMM. Besides directing short films, Mr. Stafford teaches chess and computer coding to after school kids.