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Recently Not Enjoyed


Sometimes I wonder if I should have a link section for things I’ve recently hated. If you track what I’m reading or watching at all, you can infer which things didn’t impress me because they never make the “Recently Enjoyed” list.

After ten years of reviewing movies, I really didn’t want to get into doing that on this blog. Sure, I like to talk about interesting films, great sleepers, and, of course, the never-ending Taylor Fest 2010, but the time has long passed for me to spend hours reporting on every single thing I digest.

On the other hand, I’ve found myself met with more than the usual share of disappointment lately. I’ve stumbled on a few pleasant surprises (Hogfather, for one, and I don’t even remember how I found it), but I’ve also started countless movies and shows only to shut them off within fifteen minutes. And that’s being generous. Having seen so many movies in my lifetime, and having screened film-festival submissions, I know right away whether a title is up my alley—which isn’t necessarily the same as being “good” or “bad.” I have a soft spot for plenty of awful things, and sometimes I can see that a production is solid … but somehow just not right for me.

Being in the process of querying agents for my novel, I can totally understand how they’re able to pass on a book after reading just the first five pages. Or even one. It’s a spider-sense you earn after years of massive exposure to the gamut of creative quality. And let’s face it, agents, like employers assessing job applications, are hit with a mind-bending number of submissions. Mostly terrible ones, too.

The thing about being a film critic is that you have to keep going even when you dislike something. You can’t just walk out after ten minutes and then write a fair review. So, not being a critic any longer, I have the great freedom to cease watching whenever I like. I just wish I didn’t have to do it so often. It doesn’t help that there’s so much now available via streaming media. I’m addicted to Netflix’s “Instant” viewing but also cursed by it. The same feature that allows me to revisit the entire Buffy/Angel oeuvre in back-to-back episode sessions is the one that also puts thousands of mediocre titles at my fingertips for reckless and spontaneous sampling.

Currently, I’m watching Space: Above and Beyond, a short-lived sci-fi series from 1995 that bears some resemblance to the revamped Battlestar Galactica in its mix of space-military milieu and “what is humanity” theming. It’s less spectacular and engrossing than Galactica, but I have to give it credit for pre-dating the feel and social/combat/theming mix by a decade. The dialogue is nowhere near as good, and it gets a bit corny at times, but it’s definitely recommendable for genre fans. And maybe it came out too early …

On the other hand, here is a list of things I’ve seen lately that didn’t make the cut. I put them on via streaming—or worse, waited for the DVD to arrive, put it into the player, and couldn’t watch the whole thing. Viewer be warned.

Jim Henson’s Storyteller: Don’t hate me, I just found it too silly, and a bit annoying. I lasted 15 minutes.
Ink: This was like a bad film-festival submission. 20 mins.
Pathfinder: I really wanted to like it. People do. I was bored. 20 mins.
Augustus: Mediocre. Pedestrian. Maybe I’m spoiled by HBO’s vivid lustiness. 15 mins.
Aelita, Queen of Mars: Too esoteric for me at the time. And don’t misunderstand my complaint. I can get behind a ’20s silent flick. I just saw the restored Metropolis at the Castro recently, but I would have fallen asleep watching Aelita, I know it. 10 mins.
Pandorum: This was just too low-craft for me. I’m fine with low-budget, but it wasn’t convincing. When the critters showed up, I thought I might start to enjoy it, but no. Totally low-rent Alien-type flick. Instead of watching Pandorum, go for Cargo, a sci-fi sleeper in the “trapped in space with a deadly thing” mode. It’s feels as low-budget, but it’s much creepier. And better. 20 mins.
Brothers: Not awful, just not compelling. I did watch the whole film. It was worth that.
Pillars of the Earth: Another one that bored me and got the 15-minute axe.
All the Pretty Horses: Another one I wanted to like but couldn’t finish. And I am very patient. This one should have gotten me, but it didn’t. I slogged through twenty, painful, guilty-for-skipping-anything-Cormac McCarthy-related minutes.
Pennies from Heaven: Wanting to give Dennis Potter his due, I watched it all, but the lip-synching really bothered me. I understand the concept and appreciate it, but I didn’t really enjoy the film. And if there’s one consistency about musicals, regardless of up-or-down tone, they should be enjoyable.
Taken: I guess my expectations were too high on this one. It was suspenseful, and I can see why people like it, but the whole premise left a nasty taste in my mouth. I could say the same about pretty much any revenge movie, so take that with a grain.
Percy Jackson: Bad pacing. Hated what they did with Annabeth.
Under Milk Wood: Only for experimental-film/Dylan Thomas fans. It isn’t really a movie, more like an art piece/study. Richard Burton’s reading is, however, divine. It’s worth listening to the first twenty minutes for his voice alone, but I can’t recommend it as a movie. It’s a also not truly an “Elizabeth Taylor movie,” despite her second-spot billing. She’s barely in it.
The Agony and the Ecstacy: To be fair, I will probably go back to this one, but the 12-minute educational intro is just mind-numbing and not what I was after in a glossy Charlton Heston pic. I am sure the drama is more compelling. I just lost my mind waiting for it to start.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


From → Movies, Ponderings

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