Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Picks and Pans, Part I

After a recent discussion with a friend over whether a recommended movie was worth seeing, I reflected upon the hours and hours I've wasted on movies that friends and movie critics recommended.

A movie can be "good" or "memorable" or "worthwhile" or "a piece of rotting fish flesh" depending on your point of view, of course. Movies are the cosmic crap shoot. We've all sat through movies that a friend loved only to go "huh????" Here are a few clunkers that someone thought I should see that haunt me to this day.

Top pick in this category would have to be Midnight Express.

After the birth of my third child, my spouse and I were in that awake at weird hours, tied-to-the-house phase where you watch virtually every movie you can. Sending Steve out to get a movie for what turned out to be the last time he ever had that job, I asked for something "light," a comedy perhaps? This is the verbatim direction I gave my beloved:

"How about the Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin comedy where Robert is a bail bondsman and Grodin is being transported across the country, Midnight something or other??? Can't remember the name, ask someone?"

Instead of Midnight Run, a light buddy comedy with two well known actors, my beloved came home with Midnight Express, a horrific Turkish prison torture film. After watching roughly 8 seconds of Midnight Express, I said, I don't think I see Robert De Niro or Charles Grodin.

He: Just wait and see.

Me: Did you ask someone for the funny one???

He: No, this was all they had.

Me: Oh my God Steve, I think I know what happens here and I'm not up for this kind of mental torture. Plus, this soundtrack really sucks.

He: Let's just watch it 'cause its on everyone's best list, kind of a classic. Besides, I'm not running out again. Give it a chance.

Official Synopsis: A roughly a four hour film of a young man getting raped and tortured every 12 minutes in a Turkish prison where he received a life sentence for the despicable offense of popping an Advil in public to the creative score of a sitar plucking one note over and over and over.

Midnight Express was horrendous and awful. And to this day, when I hear a sitar, I have PTSD over this horrible movie. Yes, it is on a lot of people's classic list and maybe there was Oscar talk at the time. But I must be the opEd from the masses and advise you to avoid this like the head lice. Hands Down this is The Worst Movie I Ever Saw that Other People Thought Was Brilliant. The only redeeming thing about this movie is I finally got the Airplane joke: Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

Closely followed by my number 2 pick of movies resembling number a "number 2" or "Big Job,"

Another suggestion by my husband because of all of the "Cultural references" that came from that film. You can see why I pulled his Blockbuster card?

Official Synopsis: Burt Reynolds wears a weird pleather vest with a bunch of friends on a fishing trip in a river in a foreign country when the buddies get separated and assaulted by.......oh well, let's just say I've never been able to look at Ned Beatty again after this horrific film.

In Steve's defense, we were entertained by a lively round of Dueling Banjos, a song that when I hear it now, I develop and uncontrollable twitch in my left eye. Spoiler alert: That song is the single "cultural reference." Nothing else redeeming about this film. Horrific, terrifying Second Place Worst Film I've Ever Seen that Other People Thought was Great.

In a sad case of Mistaken Identity, my friend Tony, a Sandra Bullock Fan, recommended 28 Days. I'm not a big fan of Sandra, but in my days of newborn baby, I craved light, funny, forgettable entertainment with attractive lead actors that would not have subtitles and Sandra always delivers on those fronts. What Tony didn't mention is that there is a Zombie Virus Feel Bad flick with a very similar name that would confuse Steve at Blockbuster yet again. Forget pulling his rental card, I'm moving towards restricting his driver's license. And that brings us to number 3 on the list: 28 Days Later:

Official Synopsis: British Zombies bleed from their eyes as they troll the Earth looking for other Zombies to rumble with. That's pretty much it. Oh yeah, it is also 13 hours long.

After intense treatment at a Sleep Disorder Clinic, I was able to put this movie behind me, until my sister Anja recommended I am Legend, a Will Smith remake of the earlier British Film. I'm going to group this one with another well respected zombie virus Armageddon tale, Children of Men, where the civilization is ending as no one can have a baby. Horrific, depressing , dark and sad, and other people thought they were good.

An Oscar Winner that made me cry, not in a good way, is The English Patient.

Synopsis: This is also a British Zombie film, but set in the desert. The duration of this film is about 7 hours. I should have known when they handed out hemorrhoid cream with my ticket stub that this was a time investment above and beyond. Worse yet, we arrived kind of late and had to sit in the front row at the Downer before they fixed the chairs. For non-Eastsiders, the Downer Theater's old chairs use to pitch you forward at a 79 degree angle. The only way to hold yourself in your seat was to anchor your shoes in the official Theater Floor Goo and brace your knees on the seat in front of you. Not so easy in the front row. Also, this film was set alternately in a cave and in the desert giving you the full 3-D Imax effects if you were lucky enough to be glued to a front row seat. I have never been so cold and thirsty in my life. I hated this movie, thought Ralph Fiennes was a Zombie and had I not been cemented to the floor, would have walked out.

Honorable Mention for Bad Film Made Worse by Viewing in the Old Downer Theater: Hoffa

Synopsis: This is also a Zombie movie where the Zombies are Teamsters. Jack Nicholson sticks cotton balls under his top lip and alternately mumbles and shouts incoherently for four hours. Then gets murdered. Understandably. Also, I saw this one in the Downer Theater in January before they had heat. And to be fair to Jack, I did nod off.

This is an ongoing list and I invite you to post your Movie that Other People Thought was Brilliant that I think was a Horrible Piece of Elephant Poo Infected with a Zombie Virus. The only rule is this: don't post movies that you knew were Elephant Poo Infected with a Zombie Virus when you rented them like the third Indiana Jones and Godfather III, Oliver Stone's JFK or basically anything else by Oliver Stone (Oliver Stone was the Screenwriter for Midnight Express). Some food for thought would be: Trainspotting, As Good as it Gets, No Country for Old Men, Lord of the Rings, There Will be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (spoiler alert in the flippin' title Hollywood???), Requiem for a Dream, and I think Jenny has already dissected Rachel Getting Married so let's leave that one alone.