Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Worst Movies of 2007 Face/Off! (Results)

If you're wondering why the slight delay in this, it's not that I'm really crappy with numbers, but that I've spent the past two days playing Guitar Hero III (until I got as far as Cherub Rock on Hard and gave up, weeping), Super Mario Galaxy (a masterpiece), and John Woo's Stranglehold, which is not the best game ever made, but is the best gaming sequel to a legendary action movie masterpiece featuring Chow Yun Fat and cameo appearances by John Woo ever made, and as such is fully deserving of my time. As for the two movies, the scoring is as arbitrary as before, but with them I hope to give a sense of what watching both movies was like. Both movies are glossy and dumb, but only one will end up in my collection of bad movies.

I Know Who Killed Me

Cast: Lindsay Lohan: -7
Neal McDonough: -2
Julia Ormond: 1
Brian Geraghty: -4
Donovan Scott: -9
Paula Marshall: 4
Total: -17

A justifiably crappy score, with the professionals doing their best to keep things afloat while the director fiddles, and the amateurs running around putting even bigger holes in the boat. The filmboat. ::sigh:: Darn metaphors! All that said, bonus points for casting the likeable Paula Marshall in a smaller role. She's been notoriously bad at getting a job on shows that don't get cancelled mid-season or earlier, and I'm hoping that turning up in crud like this is the bottom of a curve and now her prospects will improve. Donovan Scott plays the sheriff of Bluetown, and though he's only in a couple of scenes, he's appalling, like a benevolent, Santa-like version of the sheriff in The Blair Witch Project 2: Post-Modernism Go Boom. Thank Crom Sivertson and Hammond had no idea what to do with the police, otherwise he would have been in it more.

Plot elements specific to these films:
Unintentional humour unsullied by nasty taste from subject matter: -4
Coherence: -1
Economical use of flashbacks: -1
Delivery of big audience-baiting moments: -6
Subtle use of motifs: -8
Avoidance of deus ex machina: 4

Total: -16

If you see this film, or have seen this film, then you know that that -8 for motifs is more than justified. There's no need to go on about the colour scheme any more, or the fact that I found it hard to laugh at due to the sleaziness (though the robot bits of Lohan certainly kept us entertained, but I will add that for all the incompetence on show, at least the film had an interesting internal logic (when it eschewed the nonsensical flashbacks). It was a definitely interesting idea, and had been worked out fairly well, at least at the script stage. Can you tell I'm trying to find something good to say about it? Erm, the strip club seemed like it was run fairly efficiently?

Miscellaneous:
Originality: 2
Liveliness: -3
Enthusiasm for project: 5
Avoidance of cliche: -7
Unique Selling Points: 3
Production values: 3
Total: 3

Finally, some positive numbers! A particularly good one for enthusiasm, because I believe Sivertson thought this was the big ticket, the stepping stone into the big time, and tried very hard to make an impression, throwing in semi-nudity and torture and colour and sex and look at me look at me I'm making a big movie bigger than anything Lucky McKee ever did! Unfortunately, it's crap. Still, again I have to take my hat off for the surprising payoff to the mystery.

I Know Who Killed Me overall total = -30

While Sivertson has managed to create a slasher thriller that has some kind of ambition, the sheer cynicism of it wrecks the project entirely. Who knows if Hammond's script could have been salvaged if given to someone who knows how to hold back on the symbolism, not to mention thinking twice about casting someone whose real life does not bear up well to comparisons with the main character's life. I just couldn't get past the sleaziness of the project; casting Lohan might have seemed like a great idea at the time, but in retrospect it's as if Sivertson and his cohorts were picking the last bits of dignity from the corpse of Lohan's career. As I said before, I really do hope this is not the case, and she can make a comeback. And not wear blue. With her pale skin, it really isn't her colour.

D-War

Cast: Jason Behr: -7
Amanda Brooks: -8
Robert Forster: 2
Chris Mulkey: -4
Craig Robinson: 1
Michael Shamus Wiles: -5
Total: -21

Dear God, where to begin? Only Craig Robinson and Robert Forster stand out at all here, and even then it's a close call. Forster in particular is asked to do some pretty silly things (meditating in mid-air, comedically faking a heart attack, pretending to be a martial-arts wizard), and phones it in pretty badly. Behr and Brooks, however, don't even manage that. Behr has zero charisma, and Brooks looks somnabulent, angry, frustrated, and disgusted with herself for getting the part. It's a monumentally feeble performance. I guess she has very little to work with, and might have been directed to act like someone who had just woken up whenever Shim said action, but I don't see why. As for Michael Shamus Wiles as Evil General, he was passably evil, in a pantomimey way. He was also okay at pretending to be in charge of a bunch of people. However, if the antagonist of your film is a big serpent, you really need to have a interesting human character to boo and hiss at, but he had no chemistry. You know, this film is so false and so empty it seems weird to judge it in this way. Did the actors hit their marks? I guess so. Did they fluff their lines? Not on the takes they used. That's as much as you could hope for.

Plot elements specific to these films:
Unintentional humour unsullied by nasty taste from subject matter: 8
Coherence: -7
Economical use of flashbacks: -5
Delivery of big audience-baiting moments: 6
Subtle use of motifs: 0
Avoidance of deus ex machina: -9

Total = -7

I think it was fairly obvious from the fact that I wrote twice as much about this film that I enjoyed it much more than I Know Who Killed Me. I laughed from beginning to end, mostly because I couldn't believe how inept it was. In a normal studio situation surely someone would have realised that the script was unusable, and have other writers come in. Here Shim was fully in charge with no oversight, and the result has to be seen to be believed. Robert McKee's theories of storytelling annoy as many people as they delight, but this is proof that he's onto something. Shim breaks almost all of McKee's rules, not because he has mastered them, but because he has no idea what they are, and has merely cobbled together bits from other films and stuck them together in some kind of order that resembles the movies he's stolen them from. As much as any writer should watch Chinatown or Casablanca (and my personal choice, Midnight Run), they should also see something like this, because it's a total failure, primarily because of the non-plot. Still, the big action scenes, the wow moments he built everything around, are wonderful. I may have hated most of the plotting and acting, but when a pilot pulled out a gun and started shooting at the dragon hanging off the side of his helicopter, I went a little crazy with excitement. Only some poor effects and filming ruin it, but still, for a dragon fan, it's the nuts.

Miscellaneous:
Originality: 0
Liveliness: 3
Enthusiasm for project: 5
Avoidance of cliche: -6
Unique Selling Points: 4
Production values: 6
Total = 12

For all of his ineptitude, Shim (seen here impersonating Ricky Gervais) knows how to cover his back with some actual talent. He hired Bruckheimer/Bay regular Steve Jablonsky to handle the soundtrack, and Mark Mangini to work on sound design (he did some great work on The Mist this year, in a monster movie two-fer). They do good work here, and it definitely helps Shim create the illusion that he knows what he's doing, but even a little attention to what's going on shows him up as a chancer. His previous movie, Yonggary, was such a catastrophic flop and disaster (after he promised to turn the Korean film industry into a powerhouse to rival Hollywood) that he had to get it right this time. Seems he figured he could do that by filming in L.A. with an American crew, which is a hell of a screw-you to Korean filmmakers. Anyone who has seen recent Korean movies knows there are some incredibly talented people there, and Shim should have been alerted to the fact that even when you take a holiday, you can't take a holiday from yourself. Or something. What I'm trying to say is, Hyung-Rae Shim, your movies are always going to be shit until you fire yourself. Don't blame the caterers. We can tell who messed up.

D-War overall total = -16

So there you go. I Know Who Killed Me gets the lowest score, so can be safely filed in the Awful Bad Movie file. It's silly, it's pretentious, it's dreary, and it features some horrible performances from people who have a horrible aura of desperation around them that would sour you on the movie even if it wasn't so nasty. D-War, on the other hand, is a big silly disaster, with film-student errors, egregious plotholes, Saturday-morning-serial acting, and a huge FX blowout featuring monsters fighting the military. If you watch it in the wrong frame of mind you might think I'm mad for recommending it, but watch it with a bunch of friends knowing full well you're going to be watching a big turd of a movie, and it's up there with Dreamcatcher and Albert Pyun's Ticker. I hated it so much I loved it. And now, I'm going to see if I can find an Evil General action figure online. Wish me luck!

8 comments:

johnilf said...

Ticker!!! oh my god!! do you remember when we watched it? I truly despise that film... not like 'Dreamcatcher...haha it is really bad im laughing' but like damn this is bad im actually cringing. Remember that tracking shot which ended with a couple of lighting stands in shot and the infamous Dennis Hopper and the back projection debacle? WOW, im flood with memory in the style of the matrix.

johnilf said...

Damn, im still shaking my head.

johnilf said...

shocking.

Jaredan said...

I remember us rewinding Ticker in a "Hold on, did that really just happen?" moment.
Add the 6 foot 4 inch bald bodybuilder as Seagal's double and you have comedic genius.
And who can forget the crouching over the desk due to the sloping roof of the attic, the cop working at the ironing board, Hopper's intangible accent?

Jaw-swingingly potent stuff.

johnilf said...

just shocking

Admiral Neck said...

Stop crying, little Ilf. You think that movie's bad, you should see Out For A Kill (I thoroughly recommend it to both of you). That shit is diabolical.

You should also read Vern's authoritative Seagalology. He is kinder to Ticker than he should be, but he picks up on most of the things we noticed, especially the back projection shot. Go to Vern's website (I'll add it to the blogroll in a moment) and get that book (it's also available as a download). It's genius.

Admiral Neck said...

Balls! I just checked and Seagalogy (as it is actually known) has been removed from Lulu, but will be back later in the year in a new edition. I'll keep you posted.

johnilf said...

I am well aware of Seagalology and very much looking forward to reading it but Ticker makes a mockery of the industry i work in, the basic does and dont's are broken. You can look into Seagals squinty fat eyes and see he is not all there, you can read his mind and it says 'just a few more more shitty films and im out of this shitty Sony contract'. I weep for him sometimes but when the tears are about to appear i think about his musical performance at the Robin 2 in Tipton and, in particular, his 'dance' and the tears of sorrow turn to tears of joy.