Director:Christopher Nolan Starring:Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
People will most likely withhold voting for this list due to the inclusion of The Dark Knight because basically everyone in the world loves it and the notion of someone not succumbing to the hype must be unimaginable. But I don't care. Because the truth is, I find The Dark Knight to be vastly overrated.
First, a disclaimer: when I first saw the movie on opening day in 2008, I fell in love. Hence my resoundingly positive review here on Listal. But it was the hype that killed it for me. It became hard to watch the movie because of the hype, and now when I watch the movie I notice that it's flawed in ways difficult to ignore.
The main problem for me is the "realism" style the movie seems to be embracing, and all the problems which stem from this. For starters, why would you want a more realistic Batman? Why is a movie brilliant if it's "gritty and realistic"? Another word for "realistic" is BORING! Gotham City has been transformed into a bland cityscape. In Burton's original Batman movies, Gotham City was a character in itself, and the enthralling imagery was one of the greatest assets of those movies. With nothing like that here, The Dark Knight is simply flavourless.
In addition to this, the "realism" approach is thrown to the wind on more than one occasion. For instance, the Joker's scheme going exactly to plan is preposterous. And consider this: how can the Joker have an entire hospital rigged with explosives? Considering the enormous explosion, there'd have to be explosives practically everywhere in the hospital. No nurses, patients or anyone noticed bombs being planted? Nobody noticed the bombs while going about their daily business? Come the fuck on!! Another good example is the explosives on the ships. The ships weren't inspected before departing, as per protocol? Oh, wait, I forgot, everybody is on the Joker's payroll. *rolls eyes*
And then there's the PG-13 rating which hinders the realism approach. There's no blood. When the Joker has a knife in this guy's mouth, we don't see what happens to the guy - there's an awkward cut and suddenly he's dead? Okay then... This could be forgivable if it were possible to decipher stuff that happens, but moments like these are baffling.
Added to this, there's connective tissue that's missing. For instance, the Joker crashes a party, gets Batman to come out to play, and throws Rachel out the window. Batman saves her, and then it seems everything is peachy and the movie moves onto the next scene. Um, what happened to the Joker and his crew? They're still up there at the party, ya know. Did they just leave? If so, why? A "perfect" superhero movie would not be marred by such holes.
The Dark Knight also has a rather convoluted storyline that drags on for too long and makes little sense when you think about it. After the amazing opening sequence, much of that creativity quickly dissipates into flashy action, questionable characters, endless narrative gyrations, and glorified sadistic violence. By about three quarters of the way through the picture, I wasn't sure what was happening or why, and by the time the conclusion rolled around, I was scratching my head wondering when the string of anticlimaxes was finally going to end.
Honestly, the only things that were amazing about the movie were Heath Ledger as the Joker (though he was not Oscar-worthy) and Chris Nolan's direction. Everything else is distinctly mediocre – Christian Bale's acting (his Batman voice is atrocious), everyone else's acting (nobody else was a standout, let's face it), all the subplots, and so on. It's a highly flawed script that was brought to life really well by Nolan. That's The Dark Knight in a nutshell.
A lot of people are going to say "You like (insert movie title here) more then TDK?! You have no credibility". Truth is, I can enjoy a movie like, say, The Expendables or Predator because there are no pretensions: they are fun action rides pulled off with consummate skill. Yet, TDK is hindered by pretensions. It wants to explore all these themes and it tries to be deep, but it isn't deep. Maybe some viewers appreciated the film's sentiments on dual personalities, its treatment of antiheroes, its exploration of vigilantism, its 9/11 references, its seeming opposition to unregulated surveillance, and so on, but I found most of these topics superfluous and rather superficially glossed over. A million bucks to anyone who can tell me how TDK is deep.
Bottom line is, I like this movie and I appreciate the craftsmanship, I just don't love it. I don't hate the movie per se - I hate the hype & acclaim.
Oh and one more thing. Here are some thoughts about the movie from a mate. This is one of the best short reviews of this film ever. The Dark Knight took everything that was good from Batman Begins, threw it out, and replaced it with a weight of self importance that made it both boring and clumsy.
The pacing was bad, the balance between the villains was bad, the psychology used by Joker on Dent to turn him evil was ridiculous.
And Ledger was a frikkin' FAIL as the Joker. The Joker is not Jimmy Gagney, or Richard Nixon with a bad hair day, so why Ledger swings from one bad impression to other I have no idea; but it doesnt work.
The Dark Knight Rises (snigger), had better trim the overblown pretentions that Nolan is rapidly becoming known for, and give us a Batman movie made by Chris Nolan, not a Chris Nolan movie that happens to have Batman in it.
Director:Christopher Nolan Starring:Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard
I wrote a perfectly good review covering the major faults of Inception, but if you can't be bothered reading my balanced critique of the movie, I'll outline the major faults here for you. In a nutshell: Despite the technical virtuosity, the conceptual scope and the phenomenal visuals, Inception is as emotionally stimulating as an early-morning lecture, and it's hampered by a number of issues.
In order to ensure that a viewer will not get lost throughout the movie, writer-director Chris Nolan went to great lengths to explain all of the plot complexities, yet in doing so the writer-neglected neglected a vital human element. Out of all the characters, only Cobb is adequately developed - and even then it's only through him grieving the loss of his wife. Meanwhile, the rest of the characters are one-dimensional plot fodder that lack pasts, backgrounds, arcs, and more than a couple of character traits. They're just names with faces. In a movie like Inception, characters must have personality. All of the greatest action heroes (John McClane, Rocky Balboa, Luke Skywalker, etc) are interesting and fun to be in the company of. Inception, on the other hand, features bland, forgettable and generic empty ciphers that at no point evoke a modicum of emotion.
In response to the criticism, people usually say "What if Cobb was dreaming the whole time?". To that I say, "What if he wasn't?". Mind-fucking the audience is no excuse to overlook basic tenets of movie-making.
Meanwhile, the film is unbelievably verbose, as all aspects of the plot are explained in laborious detail. The chatter is unnecessarily long-winded and at times uninteresting, which disrupts the pace. Most of the first hour is devoted to uninspired exposition, keeping the film dangerously monotone as dialogue unfolds in a clunky fashion that betrays the breathtaking visuals. Without an outrageous pace or any characters worth legitimately caring about, Inception is unable to entirely capitalise upon its potential.
Added to this, Inception is not as smart as it wants to be. Case in point: it's clear the characters can dream up a weapon of their choosing at any given time (as evidenced on a few occasions). Thus, while Cobb's team are being attacked, why didn't any of them dream up a bazooka, or a powerful machine gun turret? Furthermore, how can Cobb pull his late wife into literally all of his dreams? Recurring dreams do exist, but to this extent is ludicrous - an inexcusable leap in basic logic that nobody explains.
Additionally, how often have you woken up from a dream to realise that said dream made no sense? Landscapes constantly shift in ways that make sense in a dream, but are not coherent when you ponder them after awakening. Dreams feature constant abstractions and surrealistic touches, but Inception barely acknowledges this - every dreamscape is too vivid. The dreamscapes are also devoid of subversiveness, and, most critically, of brazen creativity, both of which are essential for the visualisation of dreams.
As with The Dark Knight, I like and appreciate Inception, but the hype forced me to look closer and notice all of its flaws.
Director:Quentin Tarantino Starring:Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger
Frankly, I feel guilty for not liking this film as much as everyone else, making it a worthy and logical entry on this list. I've seen this movie on more than one occasion, yet I just don't understand the acclaim and adoration it continues to receive. Clocking in at approximately 150 minutes, this is an unforgivably leisurely, almost glacial feature that loses its way in the thickets of alternative history and dialogue. Most importantly, this is not a movie about history or war, or anything of substance or meaning - it's a movie about movies & influences. For all its visual bravura and sporadic bursts of brilliance, it simply feels trivial.
Nominally, Inglourious Basterds is about the titular troupe of commandos conducting raids throughout occupied France. But in actuality, the movie is a self-indulgent compilation of Tarantino's inspirations. In fact the Basterds themselves hardly appear in the film since Tarantino instead continues to obsess over wronged females seeking bloody vengeance (a trend he started with Jackie Brown, then exhausted with Kill Bill and Death Proof). The short screen-time of the Basterds would be more forgivable if they were replaced with interesting characters. Alas, the film spends more time with a bunch of boring, cardboard characters as a substitute. By the time all the multiple plot strands interlace for the finale, it's tough to care about what happens to any of the characters.
Tarantino has never been one to be succinct when he can masturbate through endless pages of self-indulgent, referential dialogue. The basic formula for a chapter is simple: a pointlessly long conversation takes place that acts as a precursor to a short burst of violence. The problem with this formula is that the dialogue rarely offers any effective characterisation...it's all gratuitous filler without any relevance to the story instead. (At one stage, characters converse for at least 40 minutes before they're all gunned down. And the point of that was...?) Each segment drags on for far too long until you no longer care about who's in danger or what's at stake. The necessity of such excessive chatting is especially questionable when the outcome is predictable. Put simply, the film is just in need of discipline.
Somewhere in the midst of the overstuffed Inglourious Basterds lies two very enjoyable movies - an enjoyable, 89-minute slice of exploitation cinema and a potent war drama. When merged together, the result is two main stories connected by contrivances. While I can appreciate and at times enjoy what Tarantino has achieved here (there are flashes of brilliance, make no mistake), it's just too flawed.
And look, it's not like I don't know who I'm dealing with - I love most of Tarantino's movies. But that doesn't excuse the needlessly lengthy chatter, the lack of character development, and the generally cardboard characters.
Director:Coen Brothers Starring:Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid, Philip Moon
Jesus, I look around and honestly get the distinct impression that I'm the only person who was disenchanted by this movie. I love The Coen Brothers. I love the cast. I love the concept. And yet, I did not like the movie at all. This is a dreary, unfunny, virtually unwatchable film. Its diminutive plot exists as a paltry excuse to showcase off-the-wall character vignettes as the actors stroll through strange scenarios. Normally, slender plots can be overlooked if there's sufficient fun to be had. In the case of The Big Lebowski, though, the film grows tedious very quickly.
I never laughed out loud...the film merely provoked a few subdued chortles. Lines such as "Obviously, you're not a golfer" among others have become venerated by ardent fans, but they come across as random, and are desperately missing a context. Aside from a handful of amusing lines courtesy of the impeccable John Goodman, there is nothing "hilarious" about this drab, excruciating, unfunny black comedy. The lack of plot or - genuine momentum, for that matter - is ostensibly concealed by drawn-out, Busby Berkeley-style dream sequences. With this in mind, The Big Lebowski is a classic exercise in self-indulgence - plenty of impressive style to behold, with zero substance to complement it. Why viewers lap up this twaddle and worship it like the second coming is possibly the biggest mystery I've encountered in all my years of movie-watching.
All in all, the Coen Brothers missed the mark by a country mile with The Big Lebowski. Maybe I just don't "get" this type of humour, or maybe it simply isn't to my taste. Nevertheless, after three agonising viewings (and despite my love for other films created by the Coen Brothers, such as Fargo and Burn After Reading) I still can't find much value in this particular film.
Director:John Lee Hancock Starring:Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens, Adriane Lenox, Kathy Bates
This film has a 7.7/10 user rating on IMDb. It scored a Best Picture nominated at the Oscars over brilliant movies like Public Enemies and Moon. Yet, it's a piece of shit.
In essence, the entire story here seems to be more of a caricature than an accurate portrayal of a true story. The Blind Side gives lip service to the sports-history context, but opts to concentrate on Oher's story without actually concentrating on the man himself. John Lee Hancock has instead reworked the story into a star vehicle for Bullock, whose hard-charging Leigh Anne is shown off, admired and allowed to steal every scene. As a matter of fact, Oher is more or less incidental to a story that's framed less around him and more around the family that adopts him and pushes him to success.
Oher is a spectre in his own tale: a one-dimensional "big lug with a heart" caricature whose sole purpose in the narrative is to make his benefactors feel better about themselves. The narrative may concern Oher's life being turned around, but the story is about how encountering Michael made his adoptive mother a more enlightened, socially-aware human being. What the fuck?!
All of The Blind Side's many other sins - the trite, artificial sentiment, the generic structure, and the overall "feel-good" aura of the whole enterprise - could be forgiven if only it was effective, but it's about as effective as run-of-the-mill, sanitised Disney fluff (which is hardly surprising, since Hancock is also responsible for The Rookie). The film never ventures below the surface - Hancock shows a series of kind acts but never delves into the ramifications of the actions of the Tuohys or explores more complicated socioeconomic issues. It's clear that Oher's early life, with a crack-addict mother and an absentee father, must have been very difficult, but these powerful aspects of the story are glossed over in favour of a more conventional movie for easier mass consumption.
What's more unforgivable are the out-of-nowhere "what the fuck?!" scenes featuring events that never happened but are included for the sake of formula. At one stage, for instance, Oher defeats a bunch of neighbourhood crack dealers using his bare hands even though they all have guns. It's like something out of a Jason Statham action movie. Later on, Bullock's Leigh Anne goes all Erin Brokovich on the same crack dealers, and defeats them through sheer force of word. Added to this, there are several embarrassingly cheesy moments that seem directly lifted from Disney movies.
By eluding the deeper issues of the tale, Hancock has only crafted a feel-good, crowd-pleasing quick-hit aimed at the mass market. While it may be serviceable in this way, it's frustrating to consider what the source material could've been in defter hands.
Director:Yimou Zhang Starring:Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang, Daoming Chen, Donnie Yen, Liu Zhong Yuan, Zheng Tia Yong
I will no doubt get a lot of flaming for including Hero on the list as well, but I might as well be honest. Nothing worse than pretending to like a movie for the sake of appearances.
While I appreciate the stunning visuals of Hero, I found the entire movie to be a fucking incomprehensible mess. Don't give me the "you don't get it because you weren't paying attention" excuse. Even then, it's still the movie's fault because it was too boring for me to be bothered to follow.
The problem is that the dialogue appears to be cryptic, and it's difficult to discern what's happening and why. The film shows us many different angles of something that happened, but there's no linear progression. It's not like there are a bunch of people in a room telling their version of events in a way that's easy to understand... Instead, there's a jumble of cryptic dialogue and vignettes, and I just couldn't follow it.
Director:Ang Lee Starring:Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang, Sihung Lung, Pei-pei Cheng, Fa Zeng Li
Everywhere I look, people praise this movie to the skies as if it's the second coming. Critics and movie-watchers alike seem to adore it. I watched this movie three times just in case I simply missed something, but I still don't get why the film is so loved...
For starters, the blatantly obvious wirework immediately takes me out of any scene. People complain about over-the-top action in American action movies, but this film is absolutely no different. The characters fight while literally flying. It's stupid. In addition, the plot is uninteresting and the dialogue is dumb background noise. Once again, people complain about terrible scripts in American action movies, but Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is no better at all.
Director:Martin Scorsese Starring:Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana, Mario Gallo
I'll make this a little easier and use a few extracts from Variety's review of the movie:
Martin Scorsese makes pictures about the kinds of people you wouldn't want to know. In his mostly b&w biopic of middleweight boxing champ Jake La Motta, "Raging Bull," the La Motta character played by Robert De Niro is one of the most repugnant and unlikeable screen protagonists in some time.
As in other Scorsese pix, the director excels at whipping up an emotional storm but seems unaware that there is any need for quieter, more introspective moments in drama. Every scene is all-out hysteria. This bravura tendency makes the boxing scenes so viscerally intense that the viewer will be almost reeling, but Scorsese unfortunately shoots every other kind of scene as it's a boxing match too.
Schrader's fascination with self-destructive characters, and his ability to make them compellingly real, give Scorsese and De Niro some scenes of high emotional voltage to work with, such as when La Motta acts out his insane jealousy of his wife, but Scorsese never makes credible why a woman would put up with such incredible abuse for so long. The inarticulate performance of newcomer Cathy Moriarty (simply laughable trying to be passed off as a teenager), who has an interesting sullen quality when she remains silent, never adequately fills in the blanks of the character.
Still, the film has its moments. Just as a whole, I find Raging Bull to be completely overrated.
Director:Terrence Malick Starring:Colin Farrell, Q'orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis
The New World is an irritatingly lengthy, unfocused, pretentious, irretrievably boring mound of elephant dung supposedly disguised as "true cinematic art". While Malick presents visually arresting cinematography and eye-catching scenery, there's a gargantuan lack of focus when it comes to a solid story or narrative. This unfocused story results in a disjointed, mindless, nonsensical, shallow succession of shots passed off as a movie. This is an abysmal film that runs at roughly 150 minutes, yet honestly feels like 4 hours!
The script jumps from one scene to another with HUGE plot holes and unforgivable gaps in the timeline. The New World is so difficult to get into because it's impossible to follow with a non-existent plot driving the proceedings. I was constantly wondering what just happened and more importantly WHY?! To me, it seemed every shot was as unnecessary as the one preceding it. Malick appears to be so self-deluded that he's under the false impression that his stunning visuals create a masterpiece. Predictably, his loyal fans appear to take his side. But in the long run, films are made to tell an important story and/or to entertain. The New World suffers so severely because it doesn't tell a story...it doesn't even have a story! It's certainly not a slice of entertainment either. The result is a ponderously-paced film with a transparent story that's incoherent beyond all comprehension.
The love story feels so artificial as well. It's supposed to be beautiful, but the payoff at the end is simply not worth your time. It's a build-up to absolutely nothing! Furthermore, there is no hook to keep an audience engaged. We're dropped into a world we have no prior knowledge of and are expected to lap it up effortlessly. There is just no spark!
It's crucial to note a number of things regarding Malick's army of fanboys. These fans appear to worship the man and every frame he produces. They are convinced that Malick is the final word in filmmaking...the guardian of movie genius. Worse yet, they're under the embarrassing false impression that anyone who doesn't share their enthusiasm for the director's work must be a churlish Michael Bay fan. The fact of the matter is that Malick fans are unable to provide adequate reasoning or articulate illumination on what makes The New World a "cinematic masterpiece". Instead they opt for childish and shallow statements...proving that they are lacking as much genuine depth as Malick's cinematic creations. Their insulting pomposity also states that anyone who doesn't like The New World is just an "average movie watcher" as opposed to a "real lover of cinema". These fans place so much faith in their opinions, which of course are impeccable and so much superior to the opinions of others.
Frankly, The New World appears to be one of those movies that people like for the sake of appearances - because they want to seem like intelligent movie-watchers. But seriously, fuck that shit. I hated this fucking movie with every bone in my body, and I will not pretend to like it for any reason.
Director:Ang Lee Starring:Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Randy Quaid, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Valerie Planche, David Trimble, Victor Reyes
Virtually everything that has been written about Brokeback Mountain calls it a groundbreaking, beautiful film, mostly because it's the first movie to combine the Western genre with a gay romance. Unfortunately, these honourable intentions are not enough to make Brokeback Mountain a great movie, or even a good one. Though it may be a radical idea to combine two such opposing genres, the actual result is too clumsy and sluggish to be worth much outside its "groundbreaking" status. Its forced drama, rickety character development, and lethargic pacing makes it a chore to watch.
The film is so unconvincing. We never quite believe that Ennis and Jack actually have the feelings for one another that the movie keeps telling us they have. I blame this not on the performances, but on the story itself. The screenplay, by Larry McMurtry and frequent McMurtry collaborator Diana Ossana, never lets us see the relationship develop to the point of true romance. It's more physical. All the times over the years that Ennis sneaks out to be with Jack, the feeling is that of a booty call. Their longings for each other seem less of the heart and more of the genitals. And it's hard to make a "Love Story For the Ages" about a couple of fuck buddies.
There's stuff to like about this movie - the visuals are quite stunning, there are fine performances from supporting players such as Randy Quaid and Linda Cardellini, and Gustavo Santaolalla's musical score is achingly beautiful. However, there's a lot more to dislike. It's a hackneyed, underdeveloped melodrama disguised as serious art house fare.
The film's supporters have compared it to a tragic, unrequited romance like Titanic, but the dynamic here, with Jack continually pushing and Ennis continually pulling away, does not strike the same note, not by a long shot. In Titanic, the lovers occupied a cozy center spot within a large, historical disaster, and director James Cameron could further the story by juggling back and forth between the two. In Brokeback Mountain, Lee is plunged into a single storyline with no interesting background; he responds by hammering the same notes over and over.
The list is pretty self-explanatory. There are movies out there which are highly acclaimed, but I just cannot see the magic within them.
In other words, I believe these movies are overrated. But there are so many "Overrated" lists out there, so I decided to be a little different... And, for that matter, far less conceited.