6. Passengers (2016)
“Passengers” (2016) is one of the films that could have been a great study and exploration of loneliness and love. The story follows Jim Preston in a spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people, where he has a malfunction in its sleep chambers that causes him to wake 90 years before his destination. This amazing story with all its potential has been reduced to a naive romantic arc where the elements of sci-fi serve the purpose of creating a visually stunning atmosphere for the two characters’ unrealistic relationship.
“Passengers” is not a bad film; it delivers beautiful scenery and art decoration with sensual music and atmosphere, but it was on the edge of being something great, something that follows Tarkovsky’s “Solaris.” The script and the way they chose to tell the story did not support the great full-of-potential mood, with the characters being so superficial with childish dialogue that pleases only teenagers. “Passengers” had all the elements and tools to explore concepts like the human soul, mortality, love, and existentialism. Supported with beautifully crafted CGI and a big budget, they chose to look the other way and ignore the potential of the story and minimize it to a superficial romantic arc, wasting the chance to make a modern masterpiece.
7. Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
From the director of “Nightcrawler” and starring a bunch of the best actors currently working in Hollywood, including Jake Gyllenhaal, John Malkovich, and Rene Russo. “Velvet Buzzsaw” tells a horror story, similar to “Final Destination,” set in the world of modern art in Los Angeles, with pleasing artistic set decoration and design, and the story itself revolves around the state of modern art and its value.
It has elements of horror, aesthetics, and revenge, and the film’s cast is one of the finest, with Netflix behind it and an amazing technical staff. But with all of this, the film is poorly edited, poorly written, and it doesn’t use proper music to elevate the scenes and dialogues; the film feels like a b-film or a music video. The story is gripping but presented in a very superficial approach; it doesn’t own itself to anything and it ends up being boring. Malkovich is in the film for very limited scenes that make the audience wonder what he’s doing in the film at all. The rest of the cast is mediocre because they didn’t have much in the screenplay to work with.
“Velvet Buzzsaw” has lots of problems but it looks like it had lots of potential as well, because it does look good, with its artistic mood and its suspenseful and ghostly story. The film is a disappointment; it’s not what one would expect from the names that deliver it. It should have been a suspenseful satirical dark horror about art and the modern art scene, but it’s nothing but a half-cooked “Final Destination” copycat that lacks depth and doesn’t own its genre but still benefits from it.
8. The Monuments Men (2014)
“The Monuments Men” is one of those heroic stories that always find the appeal and love of the audience, with a skillful cast of some of the most brilliant actors working nowadays. Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and the French Academy Award winner, Jean Dujardin, with George Clooney who wrote and directed the film.
The story, which was based on real events, follows an Allied group in the midst of World War II tasked with finding and saving historical artifacts and monuments before the Nazis steal or destroy them. These kinds of stories that signify the high value of art and culturally important pieces in the time of war are the kinds of stories we rarely see; not only does it deal with the aspects and importance of art and its value, it is also a true story of how these statues are some of the many faces of civilization, and the importance of culture versus the horrors of war.
The film does a fair job in creating the World War II mood upon which the events are set, with acceptable and proper performances, yet the film’s narrative fails are unfulfilling and feel unnecessarily long; the film tone is heavy and can be boring at times, despite the interesting story and the beautiful mood. “The Monuments Men” lacks the spark that widens the audience’s eyes; some of the characters are poorly written, which makes the structure of the film weak and superficial. The film can be entertaining despite its flaws, due to the fascination of its story and beauty of its atmosphere. But such a story deserves a more satisfying film than one that feels like a World War II-based “Ocean’s Eleven” sequel wannabe.
9. Live by Night (2016)
Based on a novel by the writer of “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “Shutter Island,” directed by Ben Affleck, who also directed “Gone Baby Gone,” “Argo” and “The Town,” and a story set in the roaring ‘20s between the mafia, alcohol, gangsters, and corrupt cops. What could go wrong? The film had all the elements of being a decent crime film with its story and its mood. “Live by Night” was one of those movies that had a gripping story that was properly realized, with good performances and fully crafted to be “good,” but there’s a flaw – it’s very hard to put a hand on why this film is hard to watch.
First of all, it feels lengthy, and that is probably because of the many events and characters in the film, and the many aspects and side stories and how it all connects. The characters, for some reason, lack the appeal to follow and observe; it lacks the intimacy of similar crime sagas that build its world on likable characters and their choices. The film tries to mimic other organized crime films and ends up with the film lost.
The film’s story is rich and layered, filled with so many interesting watchable elements, but the film is way too quiet in dealing with those aspects. It lacks the craziness and the energetic power of mafia films; the impressive cast and the beautiful visuals are lost midway without reaching a destination. “Live by Night” is not a bad or awful film; it’s watchable, filled with really good action moments and gripping stories of mafia and outlaws, but it feels incomplete, feels stuck at some level, whereas in the next level it would have been a masterpiece.
10. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (2019)
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is accused of glorifying the notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy. The film tells a story based on a book by Bundy’s girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall, following the story of the notorious killer from the perspective of Liz who didn’t believe he did any of the crimes he did. The film stars Zac Efron as Bundy, who makes the audience feel like Bundy is playing Efron; the aim to use Efron’s charm and charisma to represent Bundy’s charisma was perplexing.
The whole concept of treating the film as a “The Wolf of Wall Street” style of presenting one of the most significant killers in history is annoying; the whole concept aimed by the filmmaker to make the audience relate to Bundy’s actions in the film and presenting him as likable is unsettling. Yet it’s not the problem with this concept, because there’s a very thin line between making the character of a serial killer likable in a “dangerous way” and making him likable like a “charming prince.”
It’s not a bad film; it’s crafted in a very good approach and is generally good to look at and the events are gripping and watchable, but it lacks that sense of danger and psychotic nature, and it lacks the intensity of serial killer films. It’s childish and poorly edited and Efron delivers a very charming performance, but the nature of how the film presents the events and the character is absurd and mainly focuses on the character’s charm, aside from the fact that the film lacks the psychological aspects of the character or doesn’t even try to answer or expose psychologically the mysterious attraction and toxic magnetism that Bundy had.
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is a film about a serial killer, but it lacks the essential elements that make it a proper serial killer film, trying to convince the audience that the film is about everything else except the serial killer, yet it even fails in this. The story needs to be treated in a more serious and nonsectarian way; the film needed to set a tone and follow it, but it ended it up perplexing and losing itself between the reality of the story, the performances, the confusing writing, and the different approaches and perspectives that the film was trying to achieve.