Check out hip Ellen Page with her hoodie and striped knee socks, drinking Sunny D out of the carton while talking on her hamburger phone! She's much cooler than you: she scoffs at the sight of something lame like a couple with a framed photo of each other. It makes her grin out the side of her mouth and spew some kind of absurd mouth diarrhea like "pork swords!" and "honest to blog!" Honest to blog? I know they're supposed to be from Minnesota but I don't remember people in Fargo calling each other "homeskillet." I mean this shit might fly if it were purposely goofy like the cheerleader lingo in Bring It On, but sausage berries flipswitch who enjoys listening to people talk like that? Not to mention the lingo that's just planted into the alleged "teen speak." "Shenanigans?" Where did she come up with such a crazy word? And how come they left out "hoopla," "schmorgazboard" and "holyvaginal plug Jersey toll?"
I'm well aware of the anti-Juno train: I hopped on the first time I saw a preview and requested an upgrade to sleeping car by the time Page and Michael Cera had finished crooning doe-eyed at each other. In fact I can't understand why everyone (besides ultrasound technicians) isn't horribly offended by this critical darling. Beyond its psuedo-coolness (Monster A Go-Go is not better than Suspiria!) and untouchable burrito blaster of a heroine, the movie is full of useless side characters like a creepy Jennifer Garner (slumping this year next to her husband's slam dunk), a virtually unused Michael Cera (he eats tic tacs! That's so, holy shit! It's crazy!) and poor JK Simmons as "poopy working class dad" who seems to have wandered in from Little Miss Sunshine.
On the one hand the movie turns itshipster sneakers on conventional morals and values, yet like Jason Reitman's first feature Thank You for Smoking it wants to have its cake and eat it too (sorry, I'll Juno-ize that...it wants to toss its fanny pack yet have ample storage for fruit pies dillwiener!) It doesn't want to be overly pro-life so there's a hilarious foreign kid protesting at the clinic. It doesn't want Juno to seem like she cares enough to keep the kid, yet carefully sets up the premise so that her giving it up is a noble gesture. And so on and so on, lots of two-way screenwriting. I'd say Diablo Cody should go back to exotic dancing, but she's not very attractive. That's something for Roger Ebert to fantasize about as he helps this mularky (ooh, hip/anti-hip word!) ride the "indie" flavor of the month train to inevitable obscurity.
4. The Number 23
Wait a minute! This is the sixteenth movie I'm writing about! It's the seventh-to-last entry on my "worst" list: 16 and 7 is 23! Joel Schumacher made D.C. Cab in 1984: 2007 minus 1984 is 23! Co-star Danny Huston directed Mia Sara in The Maddening, which was released in 1999 on April 19: 4/19 23! The 1998 film 23, which hasn't been acknowledged anywhere by anyone in relation to this shitfest, was made in Germany: there are 11 letters in "Adolf Hitler," and 12 letters in "Fuhrerbunker," which equals 23! The number threecomes right after the number two. 2..3 23!
Anyway, Schumacher's Bug for Dummies gets a special mention for failing even to suck the way it was supposed to suck: it was fun mocking the preview, but the movie wasn't nearly as fun as it was very, very stupid, one of those movies that has math in it and therefore considers itself instantly smart. What I expected was to just watch Jim Carrey going ape shit over the number - pulling out his extra teeth until he has only 23, maybe murdering anyone aged 23 or stalking Michael Jordan because his jersey is cursed - but it's just some stupid revolving plot with twists and reveals that don't make any sense. How did this book know about a murder he committed? Oh he wrote it. And of course it's nowhere near the "heart-wrenching odyssey into paranoia" the unshowered and therefore serious Carrey promises in the trailer. Number movies in general didn't fare well last year (except 3:10 to Yuma) but Schumacher's incomprehensible mess is gayer than 300 and more ridiculous than 1401 (3x4=12, +11=23!) The only thing missing from the movie before it digresses into complete idiocy is a literal gigantic number 23 chasing Carrey down a flight of stairs or something, like in an animated sequence. Hopefully when it finally caught up to him, it would force him to take a bath.
5 . Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
That'sright: it was such a good year, I actually had to go out and pay money specifically to see a bad movie! And I can't help feeling like got my money's worth: it was so good to see Charlie Kaufman-acolyte Zach Helm go from instant critical darling with Stranger Than Fiction to living joke by trying to rip off Roald Dahl, inventing a whimsical wonderland run by a fabtabulous foreman of his own. Dustin Hoffman plays the magical toymaker who wants to make the children happy while simultaneously stopping his military brother from manufacturing weapons in the factory and marketing them to the kiddies. One of the military guys is played by LL Cool J. Oh wait a minute...that's Barry Levinson's Toys. But this might as well be Toys, with Hoffman as a 240-year old magical toymaker who frolics around with a goofy lisp and whacked out hair trying to save his amazement outlet. This kind of thing is always a hopeless shambles: if you can't come up with a genuinely creative and exciting world, don't try to pass off some stupid effects camp fueled by actor's awed reactions and set a puffy-haired child molester loose in it. I don't know, maybe I'm being too hard on the movie, I'm sure Fred Claus was worse.
6. The Tracey Fragments
I guess I could have spent the last 2 hours of the Toronto Film Festival watching reality shows set in the porno industry (they eat that shit up in the Great White North), but I figured I came all the way to see some movies so I'll see one more, no matter what it is. Serves me right, but I've got no regrets. It would be, appropriately, a Canadian movie, one that uses split screen montage as empty as Lumet's tricks in Devil are successful. Ellen Page, here given the chance to misplay a persecuted teenager, rides around in the back of a bus looking totally bummed out man. Her parents just don't understand, and her shrink totally doesn't get her. But it's ok because, once again, she's much better than everybody else. She says things like "shut your cunt mouth cocksucker" instead of "cheese-banana shut yer frickin' gob" because she's playing edgy this time instead of hip/cutesy/retarded. Speaking of the dialogue, I've read that the script has been praised for its "shocking use of obscenities," but I can't imagine the movie came up with as many as I did after walking out of it. Broken Social Scene contributed to this disaster, squandering the good grace I afforded them after scoring Half Nelson.
I'vegone off enough about what is and isn't a proper "grindhouse" movie, how true exploitation films are defined by their featurelessness and obscurity, and that exploitation/cult films are made by audiences not studios. I like those movies too, doesn't mean I'm going to churn out some schlock called Video Nasty starring Josh Lucas and Sco-Jo that costs $50 million and talk in interviews about how important those movies are to our culture, man. So instead let's focus on the product itself: without peer the most amateurish screenplay of 2007, endless scenes of girls yacking on about things no girl on earth is interested in (certainly not good looking girls) while very little else is actually going on. You've got to respect Tarantino's devotion to his favorite trash movies, his ode to all those tantalizing scenes in exploitation films past where characters barter over a used car for twenty minutes. That scene in the diner (the one that felt like Kevin Smith directing the beginning of Reservoir Dogs) made me literally scream aloud in the theater for it to be over (I was the only one there, shockingly.) Kurt Russell could have brought so much to Stuntman Mike, but as written the character isn't so much a horror heavy as an oafish bore. And that final "twist," after the underwhelming chase scene, where it turns into a Russ Meyer movie is such a "girl power!" sellout there's no way to take the whole project seriously for all its "shitty print CG" intentional scratches and glitches.
8. 14e Arrondissement
Turnsout Alexander Payne doesn't need two hours, or his partner in crime Jim Taylor, to perpetrate his particular brand of mean, unfunny satire of dumb American schlubs. He's perfectly capable of doing it in five minutes, as in his closing segment of the collectively "meh" collaboration Paris, Je T'aime. While other directors used the project to produce vignettes set in classy Parisian locales, Payne took the film's title at face value and produced a pointless short about a doofus falling in love with the City of Love during a lonely trip abroad. The evil white trash mom from Million Dollar Baby walks aimlessly around Paris like a catatonic walrus, all the while narrating her cleverly inane travelogue in bad French. Hilarious! I don't know why actors submit themselves to Payne's vapid, condescended-to characters, but I guess she at least got a nice free trip to Paris. Good for her. Also for those paying attention this is technically the third Natalie Portman movie to make it onto this year's "worst" list. Instead of complaining about being forced to do the nudity, she should kiss Wes Anderson and Jason Schwarzmann for being asked to appear in Hotel Chevalier. Don't worry, she's directing a segment for the Je T'aime follow-up New York I Love You, for which they managed to snag Fatih Akin...and Brett Ratner.)
9. The Brave One
I wasn't aware that Neil Jordan was responsible for this (and I obviously was, or I never would've given it a thought) I wouldn't have any idea who made it. Or rather I would have assumed it was directed by Jodie Foster, as every movie she's starred in post-Silence of the Lambs has felt exactly the same: a feature-length jeans commercial obsessed with the tight features of its the middle-aged queen of vulnerable butch. After the weirdly unmotivated murder of her beau, she buys a gun and starts looking for criminals to cap in the heartless city. She even pulls a Bernard Goetz on the subway, but the novelty of Foster becoming Travis Bickle wears off fast and we're left with mopey Jodie spilling her wounded heart out to listeners from her bitter platform at a talk radio station while Terrance Howard leads around Nicky Katt, featured in a thankless role, as cops from a magical police department that has jurisdiction in all five boroughs. The ending of this shockingly pro-vigilantism fluff made me throw my hands up. The similar Death Wish-redux Death Sentence may have been over the top, but at least it was more honest, and did not include a scene of Kevin Bacon looking at the cello-playing ghost of his lover and saying "You left a hole in me "
10. The Walker
The Walker! My eyes twinkled when I first saw it listed in the TIFF schedule. Paul Schrader, humiliated after what was announced as his retirement film (the Exorcist prequel) was unceremoniously shelved and re-shot, has made a comeback! I speculated what it might be about: memories of Walking Tall and Alex Cox's Walker got me thinking about a man yeah, a tough motherfucker walking down a street, perhaps with a shotgun at his side! Where's this walker going, and who's going to be seeing the business end of that fowling piece? Premature predictions of this being his first all-out masterpiece in 30 years swam through my head.
Turns out, it's time formore tough love. The Walker is like Infamous except with Woody Harrelson in the Truman Capote role, and no story about massacre and redemption and literary responsibility. I mean look at the poster for this movie. This poster says, if you couldn't wait for the movie where a foppish Woody Harrelson plays bridge with old women, the wait is over! True, there is a crime mystery plot, but it's strictly "Murder She Wrote." Schrader, up to five years ago, used to be intested in subjects that were interesting. Now it feels like he's just happy to still be in the game, though with material like this he's just barely staying above water. For some reason Kenneth Anger gets thanked in the credits, which I guess would count as the best part of the movie. Definitely Schrader's second worst move of the year, the first including Into the Wild among his top films of 2007. Oh Schrader not Wild, anything but Wild!
Special Recognition for sucky-ness
Rob Zombie's Halloween
It was such a surprisingly remarkable year for western remakes, it actually feels good to get back to being deeply offended by typically bad horror retoolings. Almost. While this one wasn't as offensive as Michael Bay's raping of 'Saw, it's almost a more superlative travesty considering what a fan of John Carpenter Zombie claims to be. But even moreso for its grotesquely overwritten characters, blood-splatteringly bad dialogue and gut-rending ignorance of simple logic (why is Loomis still the only one going after Michael Myers, portrayed in Zombie's movie as an infamous butcher who killed seven people to escape a high-security mental institution? It made more sense when he could just miraculously drive out of there. It would have been a nice touch if they had at least kicked in the line: "What makes you think he's going to slaughter lots of people?" "He was doing very welllast night!")
The appeal of the original Shape is that he's just that:an abstraction, a faceless demon that came out of nowhere to kill and kill again. The original portrayed "the night he came home," but Zombie's film feels the need to take us all back for a very special episode of "The Wonder Years" in which little Mikey wears KISS T-shirts and tortures tiny woodland creatures while "Love Hurts" plays. What Zombie has done is, he's taken the scene in the Bay's 'Saw remake where Leatherface sees the chainsaw in the slaughterhouse for the first time... and made it an hour long. It's shocking that little Mike doesn't sit down at a piano and casually start figuring out the keys of the "Halloween" theme. Whereas things like the Hitcher remake are clearly a case of recycling movies Hollywood assumes everyone's forgotten, this is a case of the director raising a flag, declaring "And now I, Rob Zombie, shall make my bold mark on Halloween! Forget everything you know about Halloween, this is Halloween!" I'm not too broken up about it: I like the original, but it's probably not even in my top five Carpenters. Just stay away from Big Trouble, Hollywood and Rob Zombie!
You know what is worthwhile about this wasted effort? The outtakes. "This canary has been raped!"
And of course there's The Devil's Chair. If you ever see an ad asking "Would you like to SIT...in The Devil's Chair?" Well I would advise against it.
The Most Over-rated