Top 10 Overrated Movies

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After my recent Top 10 Hated Movies list, I bet you were all curious what movies I either disliked or at least found overrated. If a movie is on this list, that doesn’t mean I disliked the movie. It means it wasn’t worth its hype or praise. Here we go!

10) Charlie & the Chocolate Factory  (2005) – This was one of my favorite books as a kid and I love the Gene Wilder version. This one? Terrible. Johnny Depp overdoes portraying Willy Wonka as an insubordinate, parent-hating sociopath, and there was no charm or magic to the script. The Chocolate Factory in the original was fun and whimsical. The Chocolate Factory in this one looks like a bad drug trip, and this version is unnecessarily cruel.

9) The King’s Speech (2010) – The King’s Speech won Best Picture and Original Screenplay at the 2011 Academy Awards. What’s the plot? A man (Colin Firth) filled with great potential needs to seek therapy so he can face his fears, inspiring his washed-up therapist (Geoffrey Rush) in the process. Sound familiar? Well, it should because this is nothing more than a well-polished remake of Good Will Hunting (1997). The Social NetworkBlack SwanThe Fighter, and Inception all lost Best Picture to this rehash?

8) The Kids are All Right (2010) – I found The Kids are All Right to be a nasty movie filled with unlikable characters. The only characters worth caring about were the kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutchison). The main couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are terrible people with Bening being a selfish, high-strung workaholic and Moore sleeping with a man out of spite. It’s implied these two work through their problems, but personally, they both could have done better.

7) They Live (1988) – Full disclaimer – I love John Carpenter’s movies and consider him one of my favorite directors, but I can’t stand They Live. Yes, Roddy Piper and Keith David have an amazing fight scene, but Carpenter got carried away spouting his political views. There are way too many redundant jabs at the news and Republicans, and the self-indulgent “screw you” Carpenter gives critics in the end doesn’t work very well. It could have worked as either an action movie or a satire, but not both.

6) The Tree of Life (2011) – Critics praised it as one of the most beautiful and epic movies about life. Yet Sean Penn didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing in this movie, and neither did I. People still think Terrence Malick is a great director? He’s not if his actors don’t know what they’re supposed to do. The only scenes I liked were the scenes with the kids torn between Jessica Chastain (their mom) and Brad Pitt (their harsh father). Both actors are exceptional, but Malick doesn’t have a lot of restraint, so it’s hard to tell what the point was in this movie.

5) Cars (2006) – Pixar set high standards with their concepts through Toy Story (1995), Monster’s Inc. (2001), and The Incredible’s (2004), but Cars is just too damn simple to enjoy. It doesn’t feel like a Pixar movie at all, but more a Dreamworks animation (hacks) movie. It’s also a formulaic plot – the top celebrity is at the bottom and must work his way back to the top? Pixar movies should have at least a little more imagination than talking cars (which was done in a series of commercials), and a celebrity story.

4) The Gift (2015) – I originally gave The Gift a favorable review last summer, but it’s one where I changed my mind over time. Joel Edgerton wrote and directed this thriller, casting himself as a psycho stalker named Gordo. He wants revenge against a successful and handsome high school friend (Jason Bateman), dragging his wife (Rebecca Hall) into his own scheme. It’s an unpleasant experience with an ending that’s over-the-top, unbalanced, and plain disgusting. It also rips off Oldboy (2004), which was brilliant. I love twisted thrillers, but Edgerton’s self-indulgent rape fantasy could have been more if it had some class.

3) Life of Pi (2012) – So, let me get this straight: A man tells another man a story that he was stranded on a raft with a tiger until they landed on shores, was rescued, gave a statement that he was actually on a raft with a racist, murderous chef who murdered his family? And depending which story you believe determines whether or not you believe in God? Okay… Not buying what you’re selling.

2) Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) – All Star Trek Into Darkness is, is just a rehash of Star Trek II and some of the greatest episodes, with a small dose of Indiana Jones. Narrative-wise, it feels like a fan film rather than a refreshing installment like its predecessor was. However, I still enjoy this one because of Cumberbatch.

1) Snowpiercer (2014) – Why does everyone love this movie and say it’s a sci-fi masterpiece? Yes, the production design, cinematography, action sequences, and acting are great, but that doesn’t excuse its bad pacing, plot holes, and pretentious conclusion. The plot is like any other dystopian tale – a lower-class hero leads a revolution against the upper class for equality aboard a train during an ice age. But it ends with basically everyone dying? Also, things seem to be too frustratingly convenient. How does the imprisoned engineer (Song Kang-ho) know the snow is melting if he was locked in solitary for so long? How do the enforcers enter the back car without the protein bar maker noticing them?  None of this is explained clearly, which is a pet peeve in science fiction.

And those are my top 10 overrated movies! Thanks for reading! What movie do you think is overrated?

“Midnight Special”

It’s very rare these days we get a film that’s so original and mysterious, we’ll be thinking about it for days. “Midnight Special” is that kind of film!

We follow Roy (Michael Shannon), who’s rescued his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) from a dangerous cult led by Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard). With the help of his ex-wife Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), Roy will do anything to make sure Alton reaches a specific destination.

Complications arise when Alton demonstrates great, majestic powers that can alter the world, attracting not only the cult’s attention, but the government’s, as well.

“Midnight Special” is writer/director Jeff Nichols’s fourth film. He’s also brought us great indie gems such as the psychological horror film “Take Shelter”, and the coming-of-age crime drama “Mud”. “Midnight Special” is nearly as great as those two, combining a thrilling sci-fi tale with an emotional family character study.

Roy, Alton, Lucas, and Sarah are a family on the road. Roy cares for Alton deeply and would die to protect him, Sarah’s given a second chance to act as Alton’s mother and doesn’t take it for granted, and Lucas takes on the role of the cool uncle.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The dynamic between the trio is moving with Roy and Sarah hesitant to give up Alton, despite knowing his extraordinary fate. Lucas, on the other hand, knows from the start that taking Alton to his destination is the right, and acts as his loyal bodyguard.

The cast’s performances are often quiet, but expressive. Shannon and Edgerton in particular give the best performances and are empathetic characters, expressing emotions of fear, wonder, and guilt. Dunst is just as good, while newcomer Lieberher delivers a wonderful performance. I normally don’t like kid actors, but he knocks it out of the park .

The mysteries of “Midnight Special” demand time to analyze and interpret after first viewing. We get some beautiful visuals and suspenseful sequences that emphasize Alton’s true powers, but that’s all we need. There’s no exposition tool characters here to tell us everything like in “Inception” or “The Matrix”!

The only thing that’s not well-developed is the cult. We get to know Calvin in the first ten minutes, but then he disappears for the rest of the movie. We don’t know the cult’s motives or why Roy left, and that can be frustrating since they are our antagonists.

I can forgive that flaw because the point of the movie is the relationship between Roy and Alton. Once Alton tells Roy he doesn’t have to worry about him and Roy replies with, “I like worrying about you,” we understand that this is a father-and-son movie.

Nichols wrote this movie as both a tribute to John Carpenter and his newborn child, thus “Midnight Special” feels personal without being too self-indulgent. When was the last time you saw a movie execute that?

Grade: A-

“Black Mass”

Well, I guess all I can say about “Black Mass” is it’s good to see Johnny Depp actually acting again… Nah, I have more to say than that!

“Black Mass” is director Scott Cooper’s (“Crazy Heart” (2009), “Out of the Furnace” (2013)) third film, and it’s a standard true crime tale of James “Whitey” Bulger. Bulger was the most notorious gangster in South Boston who used his status as an informant to not only take down a rival faction, but to get away with his myriad of crimes.

Depp plays Bulger in his hundredth makeup-fueled role, but unlike the last six movies he’s been in, Depp is acting here! Depp disappears into his role as Bulger and is terrifying, funny, and charismatic. He also leads an all-star supporting cast of solid performances.

Joel Edgerton continues to prove his talent as Bulger’s corrupt FBI agent friend, John Connolly. Connolly is currently serving a 40-year sentence for being Bulger’s accomplice and in this movie, Edgerton portrays Connolly as a man full of regret for his actions. We also get some solid work from Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”), and Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) as suspicious Connolly’s FBI colleagues, Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger’s politician brother, and the underrated Peter Sarsgaard as an unhinged business associate of Bulger’s.

Sadly, a reviving performance from Depp and this cast isn’t enough to make up for a flawed script. The problem with a lot of true crime stories such as “Black Mass” or last year’s “Foxcatcher” (sorry, I found it boring) is that they focus on a fascinating criminal, but show us the least interesting part of the story. I didn’t want to know about Connolly’s struggles covering his own ass; I wanted to know more about Bulger’s struggles covering his!

The first half of the film is strong and we see Bulger as a dangerous and respected criminal who’s levelheaded about his own crimes. By the end of the first hour, we see what drove him overboard. At the second hour, “Black Mass” transitions into a standard police drama. We could have learned more about Bulger’s estranged relationship with his brother, but instead were stuck watching Connolly protect his job and marriage.

We’ll likely see Depp walk into the upcoming award season, but he’s ultimately the most redeemable quality of an otherwise generic and uneven film.

Grade: C+

“The Gift”

What makes Joel Edgerton’s (“Warrior” (2011)) directorial debut so admirable is his subtle development and revelation of horrific secrets. It’s also the film with this year’s most polarizing ending.

Edgerton writes, directs, and co-stars in “The Gift” as Gordo, A seemingly friendly loner who runs into an old acquaintance named Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall), and offers his friendship. He sends them a bottle of wine, some goldfish, and window cleaner, but Simon is immediately unnerved and tells Gordo to leave them alone. He regrets it when Gordo subtly makes his life a living hell while Robyn starts to question her husband as a person.

“The Gift” is a twisted tale of revenge and karma that defies all the stalker thriller’s cliches and audiences’ expectations. It remains distinct from other thrillers because the focus isn’t on the creeper’s agenda, but on seeing Simon and Robyn’s true colors. Gordo is merely an instigator in tearing apart Simon and Robyn’s marriage. The more harm Gordo does, the more we learn how morally corrupt Simon is and how unhappy Robyn is.

Hall and Bateman carry “The Gift” and add some emotional punches to this movie. Hall is very believable as the fragile and troubled Robyn while Bateman disappears into his role as Simon, a corporate sociopath. Through shots of their facial expressions and their realistic delivery, I completely bought into their troubled relationship.

SPOILER ALERT (Seriously, this will ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it).

Edgerton is very restrained and unsettling as Gordo. While his vengeful actions are satisfying at first, I found his video involving Robyn was an insult to injury for Simon and plain disgusting; especially if you believe Gordo did what he implied (though, I personally don’t)!

Putting the uncharacteristically ending aside, “The Gift” is an otherwise brilliant mumblecore thriller featuring Bateman and Hall’s best work. They’re the stars here and seeing the story primarily from Robyn’s perspective is a breath of fresh air.

Grade: N/A