We suspect most of you have had a film moment like some of those we’re about to discuss. It’s when you come out of a widely-praised movie, and simply sit there trying to fathom what all the fuss is about. We asked our writers to pick the film that falls into that category for them. And as you’re about to find out, there were some surprising choices…
Moon (2009) Luke Savage
I know I’m in the minority here. Everyone loves it, there’s the Sam Rockwell-deserves-an-Oscar-nomination campaign that gives it even more street cred, and Duncan Jones has just picked up a BAFTA for outstanding debut by a UK filmmaker.
And it’s not like I hate it. It just didn’t excite me, which is what I like my sci-fi to do. It will have done that for others (hence all the hullabaloo), but for me the most striking British sci-fi debut of the last year was in the criminally overlooked Exam. I saw it the same month as Moon, and while Exam relied on none-too-subtle debts to Cube and Saw (amongst others), it was carried off with a confidence, and studded with hints of a ravaged future, that thrilled me much more than Moon.
There’s no doubting Jones did an impressive job on a small budget, even if those miniatures looked a bit too miniature at times. But it felt like a short film stretched out to feature length without enough to keep me interested, and a flat final third after that big reveal.
It did, however, have the best table tennis match scene I’ve seen for ages and a nice Rockwell beard. Those were the highlights for me.
The Hangover (2009)Julian Whitley
Perhaps not the most obvious of choices when it comes to the subject of overrated films, but cast your mind back to last year, and it would seem that The Hangover was pretty much ubiquitous. A surprise box office hit, The Hangover, was equally lauded with critical acclaim and innumerable awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Comedy. However, it’s practically unfathomable to see why.
The Hangover – the tale of a group of smug, vain lads-on-tour types in Vegas on a stag night gone wrong – trots out every Sin City cliché imaginable. From a shotgun wedding to a tabletop dancer, to the inevitable gambling sequence, virtually every second of this hackneyed mess is completely derivative.
It doesn’t help that the plot is pretty much non-existent. OK, so the film is framed by the whole ‘groom-goes-missing-the-day-before-his-wedding’ shtick. However, for the most part, The Hangover consists of a serious of trite, unconnected vignettes, distasteful stereotypes, barely concealed misogyny and staggeringly shoehorned celebrity cameos, all mashed together in a failed attempt to create at least some semblance of narrative cohesion.
Offensive both thematically and cinematically, this is a hangover that can never be cured.
V For Vendetta (2005)Ron Hogan
Every so often, a movie comes along that’s perfectly constructed, well-acted, and downright timeless in its execution. V For Vendetta is not one of these movies. Well, actually, half of it is fairly good, and then the other half is bloated, stupid, cluttered with bad CGI, and as pompous as the fat guy V murders in the shower. The only reason I can think of that people were so enamored with this movie when it came out was because A) this was before everyone realized that the Wachowski siblings were actually awful writers and B) George W. Bush was President of the United States.
If there’s ever been a movie that has benefited so much from a particular period in history and a particular mindset, I can’t think of one. That’s got to be the only reason people rate this movie so highly. The dialog is inane at best, clunky and artificial at worst. The political philosophy is about as smart as The Matrix‘s take on Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, and just as clumsy. The action scenes are blurry, the special effects are terrible, and, of course, it’s a horribly gutless liberal-lite adaptation of Moore’s original anarchist comic.
The English Patient (1996)Carley Tauchert
There is an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine finds herself almost on the fringes of society because he admits to not liking the film The English Patient and, although I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was the worst film I have ever seen, it does fall into the overrated bucket.
Heaped with awards left right and centre it became the movie to see in 1996, but after watching it I just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. The film itself felt overly long, with a plot that doesn’t know if it wants to be a mystery or a romance, and the relationships between the main characters were more muted than passionate, which lead to me losing interest very quickly.
The cast is solid enough, but Ralph Fiennes actually started to annoy me by the end of the movie with his lack of attachment to the piece and being almost robotic-like in his responses. I can in many ways see where they were going with this movie, but it just does not live up to its obvious predecessor, Casablanca. The one redeeming feature it does have, however, is stunningly beautiful cinematography, but even that can’t hold your interest forever.
I’m with Elaine on this one!
There Will Be Blood (2007)Gaye Birch
“I… drink… your… milkshake! I drink it up!” I’ll give this film this, and this only: Daniel Day-Lewis is one of few actors who could say those lines and have them become a new classic, iconic catchphrase quotation of our age. The fact that it’s insane milky dribble doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference.
This Academy Award-winning film left me with nothing more than confirmation that Mr Day-Lewis is a very talented man, as he’s shown in everything I’ve seen him in. But the film left me unimpressed.
The introduction of a false long lost brother midway through seemed a crowbarred afterthought attempt to stir the movie when it was stagnating and the Daniel Plainview character was hard to care about with his rambling speeches and bizarre behaviour that was treated as normal by almost everyone around him.
I laughed at the ending, not the intended emotion, I’m sure. And the fact that no one felt it necessary to even attempt to age Paul Dano’s Eli Sunday with makeup or a wig showed me the film didn’t give a damn about its audience.
There was a storm of online acclaim for the film on forums, most of which praised it in flowery terms about its character-driven narrative and exquisite (yeah, it was very good shots of plains) cinematography. Yet, these same people sought help from fellow gushing admirers about whether Paul and Eli Sunday were, in fact, twins or if one was delusional with multiple personality disorder, and they debated ad nauseum what the “I’m finished” line signified, among other curiosities.
To my mind, if those kinds of questions are rampant, you haven’t done your job of telling the story.
The Mist (2007)Glen Chapman
Now, it’s hardly like I’m shooting one of cinemas sacred cows here, but I understand that this is a film that a lot of people hold in high regard. The film received a five star review here and in Simon’s top ten Stephen King adaptations many of the good readers of this site left comments regarding the omission of The Mist from the list. I’m not saying that people are wrong to like this film, far from it, just that I don’t get the love for it.
There were a couple of things I liked about the movie: the death of a certain character (I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see someone die in a film!) and the finale, which was quite brilliant and took me by surprise. Aside from that, though, I really didn’t enjoy the film at all.
The lack of any particularly likeable characters is often a major hurdle for me and here a combination of poor performances and the ridiculous ways in which the characters acted made it difficult to care if they became beast fodder. Once the beasts were revealed, in all their shoddy CGI glory, any feelings of tension that I felt early in the film disappeared quickly.
I understand that the budget was cut in order to keep the ending, which goes some way to explain the shoddy effects. There are, of course, elements of social commentary in the film that, personally, I didn’t think worked very well at all. Clearly, it’s too highbrow for me.
(Richard Curtis Trilogy) Four Weddings, Notting Hill and Love Actually (1994 – 2003)Robert McLaughlin
I like Richard Curtis, I really do. He has produced some of the best written sitcoms this country has ever seen. And his witty upper middle class banter, clumsy mumblings and awkward characters are written to always raise a smile when Rowan Atkinson, Dawn French or Roger Lloyd-Pack delivers them to a round of canned laughter on a Sunday evening. However, I just cannot see the appeal of that same humour on a big screen and, as such, cannot see the appeal of Curtis’ ‘Notting Hill’ trilogy.
When it came out, Four Weddings seemed cool, fun, witty and of its time, but blimey, has it dated badly. To be fair, I can see the appeal somewhat of the first movie and admit I enjoyed it when it came out and laughed a few times, and even with the aged haircuts and foppish-ness overload there is still some fun to be had. However, I feel that it should have been left alone as a one off, not as the first of a trilogy of films of diminishing returns, both laugh-wise and originality.
I don’t even mind that the films give a romantic notion of London or that they are strewn with Curtis-isms (daft characters, dotty aunts, and mad uncles and such) but it seems that Notting Hill and Love Actually are, in fact, two films made up with the bits left over on his hard drive when he was writing Four Weddings.
The characters are archetypical, carbon cut-outs of everything we saw before and, while it was funny once, after the third time having to endure free-spirited dithering toffs miscommunicating and fumbling around, the act got very tiresome.
My wife loves all three, but really I cannot see the appeal. Especially Love Actually, which is the most sanctimonious sugar-coated piece of candyfloss fluff ever to hit our screens. Even the great Alan Rickman cannot save us from nearly two hours of self satisfying smugness and teeth grindingly vile vomit inducing sets of romantic escapades and shenanigans.
And the least said about Rhys Ifans gurning his way through Notting Hill, the better.
Star Wars (1977)Karl Hodge
The film I’ve chosen not only begat six of the worst science fiction movies of all time, but became a blueprint for every awful science fiction film that followed. Including Avatar.
I am, of course, talking about Star Wars. I would rather sit down to a steaming bowl of decaying rat’s knackers than watch that fleck of asinine putrescence ever again.
There is nothing redeeming about it. Not Harrison Ford’s glib turn as Han Solo or Carrie Fisher’s wooden reading of Leia. Not R2D2 or Alec Guinness slumming it drunkenly in Tunisia. These are the best things about Star Wars, and they are still heinous.
There are many terrible elements I might catalogue in Star Wars: the turgid, comic book narrative, the cloth-eared dialogue, the pedestrian plotting, the black and white treatment of good and evil, the random and sketchy plundering of eastern philosophies, the crap aliens, the plank-like acting, the fact that it takes itself so bloody seriously, the lack of all sense, the overall plain stupidity of it, the charisma vacuum that is Luke Skywalker…
But the very worst thing about Star Wars is how much this movie is loved by men of a certain age. Their first transformative memory of filmic narrative is not Ben Braddock’s seduction at the hands of Mrs Robinson, or a schoolyard slowly filling with crazed birds. It’s not a pram trundling down the Odessa Steps. It is, instead, a 91 centimetre model of an Imperial Star Destroyer rumbling over their heads.
Frozen like Han Solo in Empire, this image remains immutable, sacred, the 12 year old boy inside them forever locked in shock and awe. And there’s no arguing with them. Star Wars is their Citizen Kane. It has come to define the brainless expectations of at least two subsequent generations, happy now to chow down on one two-hour chunk of hollow spectacle after another.
Star Wars isn’t just an overrated film, it’s the film that destroyed cinema.
The Matrix (1999) Simon Brew
Crikey, I’m not going to come out of this well. I write this not as flame-bait, not to try and make a name for myself, nor to deliberately swim against the crowd. It’s just I was, well, bored stiff by The Matrix. I was pumped up for it, too: opening night, slap-bang in the middle of the cinema, desperately wanted to be impressed. And while I certainly was impressed by the ideas, the style and the action, I found the film – and I can’t believe I’m saying this myself – really quite dull.
I figured I must have been having a bad bay. So when the DVD came out, I had it day of release, ready to admit I’d got it wrong first time. But I felt the same way. Heck, I’ve gone through the film again in high definition since, but I’m really struggling to find much to enjoy. It feels like a film that I’m supposed to like – especially when writing for this site – rather than one that I actually do.
It’s hard to pinpont why it didn’t work for me, as the subject matter is slap-bang in my field of interest. Perhaps it was the fact that it worked more as a technical showcase for me than as an action movie. Maybe it didn’t help that it kick-started changes in the action genre that I don’t think have served it well at all. Perhaps it was everyone taking it all so damn seriously. I really wish I could tell you. But when the credits rolled on The Matrix for the third time of watching, I simply had to conclude that I’d been watching the science fiction equivalent of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I can understand and appreciate why others like it, and I have no quarrel with that at all. But it’s a film that to this day leaves me completely cold.
Mulholland Drive (2001)Rupert de Paula
There was only ever one choice for this feature, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. But then I’ve never been the hugest David Lynch fan, preferring his earlier, more accessible, films like The Elephant Man and Wild At Heart. I also harbour a rather embarrassing guilty pleasure love for Dune, but that’s another feature.
For many, not only is Mulholland Drive Lynch’s masterpiece but one of the very best films of the Noughties – beautiful, subversive, erotic and unsettling. An immersive experience that perfectly captures Lynch’s obsession with dream logic, the centrepiece of his psychedelic oeuvre.
Yeah, I get all that, but still, it’s boring as sin. I watched it once and thought, ‘Well that was rubbish. Absolute tosh from front to back.’ A lot of people have the same feelings towards Kubrick’s 2001 – conversely, a film I adore.
A re-watch of Mulholland Drive has nestled somewhere near the middle of my To Do list for years, just above finally watching Ran all the way through. But until that day, which still seems as elusive as ever, Mulholland Drive will always be my biggest ‘meh’ movie.
Leave your suggestions in the comments…!