Top 5: Robert Downey, Jr.

So The Avengers — one of the most highly anticipated movies in recent years — comes out today. Judging only by the trailers and promos, it does not look very good at all and I remain indifferent to even seeing Joss Whedon’s Marvel Comics early summer blockbuster, even if it does co-star the stunning Scarlett Johansson. The film also marks the return of the character of Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) played by none other than 47 year-old Robert Downey, Jr., one of America’s most talented, if not complex actors of his generation.

His resume is a long and impressive one, appearing in films for pretty much his entire life – since age 5 actually, when he had a role in his father’s film Pound. If you blinked, you missed his stint on TV’s Saturday Night Live in 1985. He is usually associated with the 80’s “Brat Pack” gang for appearing in movies like Pretty in Pink, Tuff Turf, and The Pick-Up Artist – though I never really put him in that group. Of course he has had his troubles with the law and his drug addictions have been well-documented and publicized. But he has still managed to come out in the most spectacular of fashions – with 2008 bringing him to rock star/blockbuster status. Things were going so well for Downey that he even made it on The Time 100, Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world. Makes the word ‘comeback’ sound like a ridiculous understatement. In fact, his popularity seems to be growing the last few years. Anyway, with the release of The Avengers, I thought it would be a fitting time to list what I find to be Robert Downey, Jr.’s Top 5 performances thus far. As always, these are not a list of the best films he has been in – I am strictly looking at performance:

5. Zodiac (2007)

I have no problems with saying I did not enjoy this film, despite my admiration for director David Fincher and its appearance on a multitude of Top 10 lists of that year. I had problems with the script and its dreary pacing. Plus, as I’ve said before, it’s always a bit sad and painful to watch poor Jake try his heart out to less than adequate results. Having said that, I cannot deny Downey’s impressive performance here in which he plays newspaper crime reporter Paul Avery who begins to share information with a political cartoonist, as the two try to decode letters that have been sent to the paper by who they believe to be the Zodiac Killer. Downey almost always plays characters with tremendous egos with little humility and there is no exception here. But it is his performance that kept me (at least somewhat) interested. His sarcastic sense of humor helps this otherwise bleak film and he manages to wear the style and mannerisms of a beat reporter in effortless fashion.

4. Tropic Thunder (2008)

You may laugh at and mock me, but I don’t care. If I had a vote, it would have gone to Downey over the late Heath Ledger (I know – blasphemy!) for playing five-time Oscar-winning Australian Kirk Lazarus in this intelligent and amazingly funny Ben Stiller comedy. I know his casting here raised some eyebrows initially, but Downey does comedy extremely well, partly because he plays it completely straight. His Lazarus gets a pigmentation alteration surgery to play a black sergeant in a Vietnam film. What makes it even funnier is that, because he is such a dedicated Method actor, he refuses to break character while filming and only speaks in “Black English.” As Stiller’s acting rival, Downey is nothing short of hysterical. A brave role for him to take on and he was rewarded with his 2nd Oscar nomination for doing so (which, as we all know, he should have won). You see? Going full retard, can pay off Robert!

3. Less Than Zero (1987)

A very 1980’s look at the culture of the spoiled and the young in Los Angeles based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. The film surely has its many flaws and looks pretty dated by today’s standards, but one shining light in it is Downey’s performance as Julian, a young drug addict disintegrating before our very eyes. The movie’s portrait of drug use does seem genuine and at times, downright scary. The same can be said of what Downey does here….his commendable knack for making you laugh one moment and feel incredible sadness the next is clearly on display in this film that really cemented him as a true player in Hollywood. He played some great supporting roles before this (Back to School, Weird Science) and made the most of his screen time. But this truly made him legit and opened everyone’s eyes. Today, when people think of this movie, they first think of Downey’s harrowing and intense work. It should also be noted that it is so easy to fall into the hole of going over-the-top when playing such a character (as many often do)…but I see a lot of subtlety in his work here.

2. Iron Man (2008)

When I first learned that Downey would be starring as a superhero in Jon Favreau’s mega-blockbuster, I thought it a very peculiar casting choice to say the very least. I just didn’t see it — and I am sure many others felt the very same way. But after years of being very successful in film and TV, this is where Mr. Downey hit gold. Now it’s next-to impossible to think of Tony Stark and not picture the the brash Thespian. Tony Stark is an ego-maniac, and we love him anyway. He is eccentric, brilliant, self-promoting, cocky, sarcastic, and courageous. Downey is a master at playing these quirky and gregarious characters – but what makes him so special is that he is also able to show us the vulnerable and the frightened. Whoever thought of casting him at the center of the Hollywood heavyweight surely has more foresight than me. The first Iron Man flick worked in so many ways (unlike the obligatory sequel which was weighed down by an unfocused script), and Downey was indeed a huge part of that. He said of landing the role: “I prepared for the screen test so feverishly that I literally made it impossible for anybody to do a better job.” Whatever he did worked — and he has brought life to one of the more fascinating superheroes to come to the silver screen.

1. Chaplin (1992)

This selection is a no-brainer for me, even with Downey’s many great performances. You can count the number of geniuses who have worked in film on one, perhaps two hands — and Charles Chaplin is indeed one of them. Talk about enormous shoes to fill. Richard Attenborough’s movie left a lot to be desired, but you can’t say that about Downey and his efforts…he gives a tour de force performance and unlike anything he had ever done to that point. Of the project, Downey stated it was, “The biggest humiliation I’ve ever experienced. It was like winning the lottery, then going to prison. I realized that nothing that had worked for me before was going to work here.”  Downey does a brilliant job at not only nailing the monumental moments, but also, at capturing the tiniest of Chaplin’s nuances. He received his first Oscar nomination for his work here and solidified his stature as a leading man. Watch the video below — it is the magical (albeit fictional) moment when Chaplin experiences a life-changing epiphany and creates one of film’s most iconic characters – The Little Tramp. It is a wonder to watch and it gives you just a small glimmer of the masterful work Downey does here. Watch his eyes, his body language, the brows…it’s remarkable work. His best to date, in my opinion. But with the roll he is on, there is no telling what he’ll come up with next.

A quick P.S. — I loved Mr. Downey’s work in Short Cuts, Natural Born Killers, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and especially Wonder Boys…but as always, 5 slots goes by way too quickly.

Top 5 Tuesday: Rotten Remakes

I think most film buffs approach remakes with glaring skepticism. And why wouldn’t we? Most remakes turn out to be pure crap – trying to rebuild/rehash a movie that was perfectly fine to begin with. Successful ones (True Grit, Let Me In, Scarface, The Ten Commandments) are few and far between. This year, we have two that are nothing short of sacrilegious (we already had Arthur, which falls into that very same category). As a product of growing up in the 1980’s (which I am not at all proud of), there is absolutely no reason why we need another Footloose. Yes, the 1984 film is completely dated, campy and oh-so 80’s – but that is part of its charm. This remake, which is based on the stage musical, looks to be a train wreck. And shame on you, Mr. Dennis Quaid for being a part of this…you’re better than that. We also have the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to look forward to – and thank God because it has been over a full year since the original! David Fincher is an accomplished director with loads of talent – so it is shocking to see that he would rather regurgitate someone else’s work rather than bringing us something new and exciting this holiday season. Chances are I will not see either one. I usually stay far away from these remakes, mainly out of loyalty to the original. I can’t give Fincher’s film my $10. Sorry, there’s no way. I’d feel too dirty.

So in the spirit of remakes that should never be made – I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Top 5 Tuesday to five truly shitty remakes. Now, mind you, I haven’t seen all that many. On principle alone, I will look the other way more often than not. I could never cash in any dignity I might have to see remakes like Arthur (2011), The Stepford Wives (2004), Death at A Funeral (2010), or The Women (2008).  I have heard how horrendous they are and I don’t need to waste my time. But here are 5 that I was unfortunate enough to have seen. Please feel free to share your own!

5. Planet of the Apes (2001)

I have to say – I didn’t mind Tim Burton’s remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I enjoyed his Alice in Wonderland too. But this? This was uncalled for. All of the impressive make-up and special effects could not hide the fact that this was a total wash. And the terrible ending? Burton himself said that it wasn’t supposed to make any sense, and to me, that is inexcusable. It strikes me as very odd that most of these abysmal remakes tend to be of classic films that do not need another treatment. That is surely the case here, as the 1968 original starring Charlton Heston is a sci-fi classic. A fine cast assembled here – but the film is too self-involved with its heavy make-up and the story goes every which way. A terrible screenplay in fact – with none of the insight, irony and impact of its predecessor.

4. The Pink Panther (2006)

I will say that I admire Steve Martin – as a comedian, a writer, and as an actor, I have great respect for him. He seems like one very smart guy. But even smart guys make dumb mistakes. This is one of them. I am not a huge fan of the original films starring the enormously talented Peter Sellers, but I have always had a fond appreciation for them. Sellers brought a subtlety to the infamous role of Inspector Clouseau that was quite charming to viewers – we rooted for him, we were always on his side, and yes, many feel in love with this character. This was due obviously to Sellers’ approach, but also Blake Edwards. In this tragic remake, the only thing “funny” about it seems to be Steve Martin doing the French accent without any of the charm or wit of the original films. Everything is so grossly over-the-top and extremely childish in its comedic approach. Yes, the film made money and because of that, garnered an unworthy sequel – a sad statement in itself about what Americans are willing to go and see in the theaters. This may not be the travesty that was Son of the Pink Panther (1993), but it remains unoriginal, unimaginative, and worse yet, unfunny.

3. The Wicker Man (2006)

The original 1973 thriller is a cult classic and is still held in pretty high esteem. With good reason – it was friggin’ creepy! This Neil LaBute remake was just friggin’ funny – and not in a good way at all! Very reminiscent of Wiseau’s The Room. LaBute has potential as a filmmaker, but he hit all the wrong buttons on this one. And Nicolas Cage? Yeah, that guy who once took home an Oscar…he is nothing short of laughable in this. Cage can be really really good (Matchstick Men, Adaptation) or he can be really really bad (insert any of his action flicks here) – but in The Wicker Man, he is simply embarrassing. Every time he yells or begins to lose it here, it is funny to watch, especially when he points a gun at Rose and proclaims, “Step away from the bike!” This is bad stuff, people. It makes for a funny “comedy,” but that surely was not LaBute’s intention – and for that, this goes down as a futile faux pas.

2. Psycho (1998) 

Isn’t the point of attempting to direct a remake to bring one’s own unique vision to the work? To enhance the original somehow? To add one’s own artistic sensibilities? Not for hit-or-miss director Gus Van Sant who decided to re-create an American classic by simply doing a shot-for-shot version of the original. In English class this is called plagiarism. In movieland, it should be called lazy and insipid. First, why even attempt to remake a staple in cinematic history directed by the man known by many as “the master of suspense.” This was an embarrassment and nothing short of pointless. Van Sant was able to assemble a fine cast for his needless experiment, but that didn’t help at all. Critic Leonard Maltin hit it dead-on when he called the movie, “an insult, rather than a tribute to a landmark film.”

1. Swept Away (2002)

I’ve walked out of a movie theater only a handful of times in my life. This was one of them. In my defense, I was “forced” to go and I went unwillingly, knowing of the atrocity which waited for me. And I took my seat — and watched. But I simply couldn’t take it anymore – the pretentiousness, the silliness, the arrogance, the boredom. I had to get up and get out. And really – should I have expected anything more from director Guy Ritchie? What made the original 1974 film (directed by Lina Wertmueller) so amazingly effective was that it managed to make a significant statement as to social classes in society in a very controversial way. It was also sexy and romantic with two remarkably talented lead stars (Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato). Viewed by many as being somewhat misogynistic (which I totally disagree with), I always found it fascinating that it was directed by a woman. This remake was a vanity project from start to finish and never should have been attempted, especially with Madonna in the lead role. She was a disaster. And I don’t give her most of the blame – this is all Ritchie’s inadequacies, as writer and director of this miscarriage.

And 4 More for Good Measure — Because These Stunk Too!

Poseidon (2006)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Sabrina (1995)
Gloria (1999)

The God-Awful Trailer for Fincher’s Upcoming Film

I suppose I should preface this post by declaring (yet again) that I thought Niels Arden Oplev’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was the best movie to come out in 2010. The two installments that followed were mediocre at best, never really carrying the emotional or dramatic impact of the original. Now (of course) here comes the American version, set for release later this year and directed by the very talented David Fincher. I won’t even get into asking why this film needed to be made when we all had the opportunity to see the original film…just last year. Is Fincher (and all of Hollywood for that matter) hard up on finding new material? Are producers so cowardly that they need to remake a proven commodity rather than take a chance on a new and original idea?

But never mind all of that. The trailer for this new American version was recently released and I must ask…how shitty is this??!! The 90+ second trailer is a mish-mash collage of quickly edited clips set to the music of Trent Reznor and Karen O doing a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigration Song.” If you are not familiar with the books or the Swedish films, you have absolutely no idea what the movie is about. The trailer attempts to be dark, mysterious, violent, cool, and “hip” — but it’s nothing short of a mess. It caps off with the very tacky and campy tagline: “The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas.” Really, people? This is what they pay you big bucks for?

Listen, the cast is an impressive one and Fincher is an accomplished filmmaker. I’m not proclaiming that the film is going to be terrible. I just think that millions of dollars could have been put to much more productive use. It’s a shame our country feels the need to “one-up” the work of others on a continal basis. Shame on Fincher for taking this project on – and shame on all of those involved. If this trailer is any indication, we’re in for a car wreck of a movie. Give it a watch — and tell me what you think.

Oscar Nominations 2011: My Thoughts

The nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced early this morning and, like most years, it seemed to be quite the ho-hum affair – very few surprises, many who were snubbed, and even more who won a nomination thanks in part to fervent studio campaigning and “bandwagon word-of-mouth” via the blitzkrieg that is the media. Though it doesn’t lead the pack in nominations garnered, David Fincher’s The Social Network looks to be the early odds-on favorite – and though I thought it was a very good film, I can’t help but think how lucky it is to be released in what was yet another weak year in motion pictures. I look at the titles of the 120+ films I have screened so far this year (and still a few I must soon see) and see many good films that made their way to movie screens in 2010. What I fail to see are many great films released. One, two….three? Does anyone see three? Can I get a three? Anyone? [insert cricket noise here] It seems to me, to be indicative of last year and the recent years that preceded it – a bunch of solid, quality films and very few truly remarkable ones.

In any case, I thought I would share with you my immediate reactions to the list of nominations for this year’s Oscar. Please feel free to comment and leave your own thoughts on the Oscar race.

And let’s be real. All of these Awards ceremonies, the gluttony of presentations we see with each new year are just fodder…they really don’t mean very much at all…To be honest, it is all just meaningless filler – that is, until my own prestigious Magic Lantern Award nominations are announced! The most distinguished always makes the final entrance – and, if I may say, that holds true here as well. I will make sure to post the 1st Annual Magic Lantern Awards noms within 7-10 days. Sorry for the delay – I just need to make sure and see a few more select films.

OK, enough. My quick reactions to the Oscar noms:

What is the point of having a category for the ‘Best Animated Feature’ if you are just going to consider these films for the ‘Best Picture’ category? It seems to me that nominating Toy Story 3 for ‘Best Picture’ is an absolute waste – and completely unfair to a number of films that were very deserving of the 10th slot. We all know how this plays out anyway – no chance in hell of winning ‘Best Picture,’ but a shoo-in to win the Animated category.

I was afraid that Jesse Eisenberg would win a ‘Best Actor’ nom and sure enough, he did. Eisenberg did what he always does in the very same manner. He just happened to do it in a critically acclaimed film. What’s next? Michael Cera gets a nod for the one role he doesn’t wear a hoodie for?

Kudos to the voters for remembering and honoring much smaller/lesser seen films that deserve recognition such as: Jacki Warner’s chilling performance in Animal Kingdom, John Hawkes’ terrific work in Winter’s Bone, the intriguing documentary Waste Land, the very nice costume designs in the otherwise lackluster I Am Love, the impressive art direction and costumes in Alice in Wonderland.

Did Robert Duvall do or say something to piss Hollywood off at some point? His performance in Get Low was one of the year’s best and I thought, a shoo-in for a ‘Best Actor’ nom. Seems a shame that James Franco and Eisenberg get these slots. Don’t worry, Bob…there’s always the Magic Lantern nomination soon coming.

Speaking of James Franco – it has crossed my mind that if he were not co-hosting the Oscars this year, he would not have been voted in for ‘Best Actor.’ So he cut off an arm. Big deal. Not many stand-out performers by lead actors this year, but I can think of 5 better right off the bat. And while on the topic of hosts – this odd experiment of Franco and Anne Hathaway has boring flop written all over it.

Thank you voters for not encouraging the pretentiousness of Christopher Nolan with a ‘Best Director’ nomination. It’s bad enough the film is nominated for Picture (though certainly deserving of its Cinematography and Art Direction nominations). Thank God it was left out of the Editing category too – because that could have used some chopping up.

I saw Rabbit Hole (good) and Blue Valentine (not so good). Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams give good performances. That’s it. Good. So many others are far more deserving this year – we nominate male leads in foreign films…why not Hye-ja Kim (Mother) or Noomi Rapace for giving the year’s gutsiest performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The omission of Rapace is this year’s biggest snub. And, Annette Bening surely deserves a nomination here – they just picked the wrong film to nominate her from.

I am thrilled to see little-seen The Illusionist nominated in the ‘Best Animated Film’ category. But where the hell is the absolutely charming and intelligent My Dog Tulip? The film has received nothing but praise and they only nominate three films anyway. Seems to be a glaring omission from here. Gorgeous animation, wonderful narration by Christopher Plummer and one of the year’s smarter films.

Jeff Bridges. That is all.

Looks like comedies get left out in the cold again. It’s tough to squeeze them in, I understand – but in looking at all of the nominations – there aren’t a lot of laughs going around. City Island, Kick-Ass, Wonderful World, Please Give are all fine films…just couldn’t break through here. I know I piss all over the Golden Globes, but maybe the Oscars should start thinking of having a ‘Best Comedic Film’ category. Something to mull over, at least.

I still strongly believe there needs to be an award for “Best Performance by a Child.” There always seems to be a few solid performances given by actors under the age of 16. It is my belief that the work of a young child of say, 12 should not be compared to the work of an actor with years of experience and training. This would also avoid the whole Tatum O’Neal and Anna Paquin disasters. The Academy made the smart step in creating a category for animated films – this needs to be the next step. Chloe Moretz was too good this year to be excluded and Ms. Hailee Steinfeld (who was wonderful in True Grit) should not be going up against the multi-layered talents of Helena Bonham-Carter and Melissa Leo.

We’ll see how the race takes shape over the next few weeks. The King’s Speech made a mighty statement by winning the most nominations, perhaps putting a small dent in the momentum of The Social Network. Right now, it seems like a 2-horse race, but again…we’ll see how the media’s influence starts to shape the outcome.

As always, I am looking forward to watching the telecast, despite the inane choice in hosts and predictable ‘Best Picture’ nominations.

Next Up – The Magic Lantern Award Nominations!!!

You know…the real shit!

Peter Eramo Reviews: “The Social Network”

Near the very end of David Fincher’s, The Social Network, Ms. Marilyn Delpy (Rashida Jones) stops at the door on her way out, gives an empathetic look at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and says, “You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.” But that isn’t an accurate statement at all. Zuckerberg is very much an asshole – at least, as he is portrayed in this thought-provoking biographical drama about the inception and meteoric rise of the Facebook website…and the legal ramifications that followed shortly thereafter.

This proper “A-hole” label is made palpably clear in the very first scene of the film, when we see him arguing with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), and he tells her she doesn’t need to study because she goes to B.U. It is more evident as we watch Zuckerberg throughout the film dealing with various people – classmates, colleagues, women, attorneys, administration, et al. And yes, it’s illustrated when we see the new business cards that he had specially made which read, “I’m CEO, bitch.” In Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay (based on the Ben Mezrich book, The Accidental Billionaires), Mark Zuckerberg is a computer nerd who desperately seeks the approval of everyone; a terribly insecure young man always on the outside looking in – with tremendous ambition and no social skills whatsoever. He is arrogant, obnoxious, a “punk” (as it reads in one of the film’s billboards)…a social misfit. It is no wonder that the real Mr. Zuckerberg wanted no part in the making of this movie and has since rebuffed the events dramatized in it.

What we are seeing here is, in a sense, two stories being told simultaneously. The first of which is the creation of the Facebook website, which begins in Zuckerberg’s dorm room on the Harvard campus in 2003. He is ferociously blogging about his disastrous evening with Erica; insulting her online for all to see. This is the woman who will haunt him for many years to follow, as we see in the film’s very last scene. He comes up with a clever programming idea for the students on campus to participate in, which becomes insanely popular overnight. This idea will later lead to the much larger design of the Facebook networking website. The second story, which really works only to narrate the events of Story #1, is the initial legal proceedings against Zuckerberg as he is being sued for millions and millions of dollars. Again, Zuckerberg acts as if this is just some burdensome errand he must run for the day – like picking up a friend at the airport – and it is this kind of depiction that keeps the audience from having any sympathy for him whatsoever.

Despite the anti-Zuckerberg sentiment, the film works. The story of the beginning stages of Facebook – and Zuckerberg’s relationship with CFO Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and later, Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) is too compelling not to. Unlike most Sorkin screenplays that play off too much like melodramatic TV and filled with cheesy lines, this script flows much more naturally. The back-and-forth of both stories keeps the pace moving and it never lulls off. The score – by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – stands out and suits the mood of each scene very well. Garfield’s performance is a fine one and he is the one character we truly end up feeling for – he looks so tormented when sitting opposite the man he is suing. As the source of money and “business side” for Zuckerberg’s venture, he is pushed to the wayside when the flashy Parker shows up on the scene and seduces Zuckerberg into a West Coast life of investors, women, and margaritas. We get the sense that Saverin was the only real friend Zuckerberg ever had, and Garfield makes that believable. Timberlake adds a lot of flavor to Parker and is well cast, playing the opposition to Saverin admirably. The very limited Eisenberg does what he is supposed to do, I suppose, but little else. He has shown in past films that he can play the neurotic, quick-tongued, quirky, deadpan-delivery young man – and that’s pretty much what he does here, without adding anything to help us understand his reasoning.

Despite what others may have written, the film is not about Facebook. Sure it takes place in a time where social networking was starting to take off and is a solid representation of our lives in the digital age. But really, you can substitute any other business enterprise here for Facebook and get the same story. The themes of loyalty, money, friendship, trust and ambition are what this story is all about — and all showcased well in Fincher’s film.

I won ‘t pretend to know anything about the origins of Facebook – who came up with the idea, who stole from whom and who should have credit. I wish I did know because then I could compare the real story with The Social Network, which takes a lot of artistic license with the facts, I am sure. I can only go by what the movie portrays and that is of a young man who took the ideas of others and went off on his own – only to pay millions and millions of dollars (“a speeding ticket”) for doing so. I’m not crazy about the underlying idea that he went through this all to impress a woman — I find that a bit far-fetched…but it doesn’t keep this from being a smart and entertaining film that, because of its central themes, I think will hold up well years from now when Facebook becomes a “Oh, you remember that? So 2009!”

Rating:   
Year:        2010
Director: David Fincher

Weekend Humor: “The Social Network”

In honor of the upcoming release (10/1) of the widely anticipated David Fincher film, The Social Network, I thought this would be a pretty appropriate video to post this weekend. As you know, the film tells the story about the birth of the insanely popular Facebook website. I stumbled across this video that spoofs the motion picture and does a pretty good job at citing all of the annoyances that come with being on the Facebook website (pokes, relationship status, FarmVille, and “what the hell do I do with an electronic drink?!”). The “critic quotes” are very funny too. Lots of good-looking movies finally starting to come out so enjoy and have a great weekend!!!

FaceBook: The Socially Challenged Network

Peter Eramo’s Personal Pet Peeves

Now how’s that for alliteration…hmm???

I like to think that when it comes to movies, I’m a pretty open-minded kind of guy. I will go to see just about any movie (given my current mood) whether its genre is science fiction, horror, foreign, documentary, silly comedy – even certain musicals that look to be worth the time and money (though those are rare and hard to come by). But we all have our pet peeves when it comes to certain aspects of a movie that keep us from plunking down our $10 to see it (because so-and-so directed it or so-and-so was in it). For example, how many times have you heard the following exchange:

“Did you see [fill in the blank]?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Really?! Why not?”
“Oh…I just can’t stand watching him.”

And you know what? That person has every right to feel this way. It’s your $10 and you have the right to spend it any way you damn well like.

Now there are certain actors (Daniel Day-Lewis, Al Pacino, Jeff Bridges) who, no matter what the reviews and public reception have been, I will go out to the theatres, put down my money and see. We all have them. Same for directors. If David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, P.T. Anderson, Oliver Stone or Woody Allen (though he has been testing my patience for the past decade or so) make a movie, then guess what? I’m going out to see it!

So I am looking at the newspaper trying to find a movie to see – and I notice there is almost nothing out there! I look online for the onslaught of summer movies on the horizon and scheduled for release (as soon as this week) and still, I see nothing but slim pickings. My interest is not at all piqued. Now I’m just generalizing here, but all I see is a bunch of movies that look like they were made with only one idea in mind: to take your money. Sequels that don’t deserve one, films based on bad television shows, remakes of films that were perfectly fine in the first place…all coming out. In the spirit of this thinking, I came up with a concise list of my own personal pet peeves – certain aspects of a particular film that will usually (but not all of the time) keep me from seeing it and in turn, I decide to spend my $10 on something else…like a good book – or crack. Here are just a few of my pet peeves, in no particular order:

PET PEEVE #1: Any Film With Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay Listed as Director

These two have decided long ago that they pretty much have little or nothing to say to their viewers other than provide meaningless explosions, rail-thin plot lines and costly (though at times impressive) action sequences. “2012,” “Godzilla,” “The Island, “Armageddon” “Pearl Harbor“? I’ll just stick that $10 back in my pocket, thank you.

PET PEEVE #2: American Movies Based on Very Good Foreign Films

I recently read that David Fincher is slated to direct the American version of the brilliant 4-star “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and I nearly wept. Why does this film need a remake so soon? Because too many Americans are completely ignorant and refuse to engage in the dreaded S-word…subtitles. Now of course there are a handful of exceptions, but there are too many embarrassing, needless remakes of these fine films. Examples that support my luminous pet peeve are:

– “Swept Away” (Guy Ritchie’s slap in the face to the fantastic Italian film)
– “Diabolique” from the masterful 1955 French film, “Les Diaboliques
– “Death at a Funeral” (now in theatres just two years after the brilliantly funny original of the same name. Do yourself a favor and rent the British film. It is hilarious! Was this remake absolutely necessary? Shame on you, Neil LaBute.)
– “Brothers” based on the powerful Danish film “Brodre

And there are many, many more. I think “Oldboy” is in the works for a bastardized American version too. In fact, many well made Korean and Japanese films have been retooled for the Hollywood machine and ruined in the process. I don’t want to piss people off more than I have in a previous list of mine, but you can include “The Departed” on this list. That’s right…Deal with it…

PET PEEVE #3: The Dreaded “Hit List”

Not that I don’t enjoy a good action flick, but I do tend to avoid the ones with names like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vin Diesel, Gerard Butler, Dolph Lundgren (yeah, he’s still around), Steven Seagal and Jason Statham attached to them. Call me a movie snob…but I can find much more stimulating, edifying ways of spending my 90 minutes. One side note…I thought “JCVD” was a decent film.

PET PEEVE #4: Video Games Should Stay on our Playstations and X-Boxes

Any movie where studio execs said, “Yeah, that’s a popular video game! Make that into a movie!!!” I generally ignore. I love my PlayStation 3 and enjoy playing all of my sports games, but has any of these ever made for a good feature length film?! Let me jog your memory for ya: “Resident Evil,” “Max Payne,” “Street Fighter,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Doom,” and yes, the ever-brilliant “Super Mario Brothers.” Oh, Dennis Hopper….it was difficult, but all is forgiven. Just get well.

PET PEEVE #5: Nasty, Inept DNA

I don’t know what was in their water as children, but if a Gyllenhaal is attached to a project, I will oftentimes chuckle and then forget about it. I will admit that it can at times be fun to watch Jake Gyllenhaal struggle his way through a scene and try his little heart out, but more times than not, it’s usually just downright sad. Think of the car wreck that everyone on the road slows down to see…that’s the Gyllenhaal siblings! I will admit that Maggie Gyllenhaal has actually made some strong decisions (“Secretary,” “Happy Endings,” and “Adaptation“), but for me, it’s just ever-so-difficult to watch her. As for her brother, I think all hope is lost. He’s one box-office dud after another, and you know what? There’s a reason! Look at that joke of a film due out, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” — even the trailer looks awful.

Seth MacFarlane, creator of “The Family Guy” pretty much nailed it with the following brief scene. Give it a quick listen. It has the two siblings arguing with their father over who is “more off-putting.” Terrific….

I’m More Off-Putting! Gyllenhaal Scene

PET PEEVE #6: Shocking (Shitty) Sequels

Speaking of abysmal trailers, have you seen the one for the 4th installment of Shrek??? After the original, this franchise has gone steadily downhill. The third was even worse than the second and if this new frivolous trailer is any indication, “Shrek Forever After” will continue the predictable pattern. As a rule, I tend to avoid any sequel that has already shown a significant decline (“Spiderman 3” anyone?) or is so obviously made for purely monetary purposes. Though the originals may be very good (perhaps even the second as well), Hollywood execs will always “jump the shark” until it is quite clear that all possible profits have already been sapped and the audiences finally show that they’ve had enough by not going to the theatre. A fourth “Beverly Hills Cop“?! Tough times, Eddie? Let’s keep spewing out sophomoric Fockers films too. The only “Ocean” movie worth anything was the very amusing “Ocean’s 11” — please, stop, Mr. Soderbergh. I didn’t see the last Indiana Jones movie, and you know what? I sleep quite well. Most horror film franchises fall victim (like that pun) to this: “Saw,” “Halloween,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (uh, was that remake required?), “Friday the 13th,” “Scream,” etc. I understand that they are what they are — that they are not meant to be these enlightening, insightful films. I get that. But this is my pet peeve list and I choose to look elsewhere for my movie buck. “Sex and the City 2“? Were there really that many unanswered questions to the first one? At least Disney has the decency to release these “lesser” films on DVD and not take up valuable screen time.

PET PEEVE #7: Two Words — Michael Moore

I love documentary films. The problem is that, despite public opinion, Mr. Moore is not a documentary filmmaker. He editorializes and tries to manipulate your independent thinking with carefully calculated editing, insinuating music choices and of course, his own slanted commentary on a particular subject. This has nothing to do with whether or not I agree with his political views. The guy just doesn’t make documentaries. Period. If I want someone’s political opinion, I’ll read an op-ed piece. A good documentary explores a specific topic, shows all sides of said topic and lets the viewer come up with his/her own opinion. Most times, the filmmaker is never even seen or heard, but Moore loves putting his mug in front of the camera way too much. Trust me, if you want to see the work of real documentary filmmakers, you look to the fascinating work of Frederick Wiseman, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, and yes, Ken Burns. Moore loves the spotlight, you can clearly tell. I also love his abrupt about face on Ralph Nader — from vehemently supporting him to publically crucifying him. Classy move, big guy. You will never get my $10.

Peter Eramo Asks: What Movie are You MOST Excited to see This Year?

With “Iron Man 2” opening on May 7th, the 2010 Summer Blockbuster Season is officially under way. However, with “Clash of the Titans” already released, you may argue the fact that the Season has already begun. Be that as it may, there are a number of movies coming out this year with high box-office expectations…not unlike any other year in Hollywood. The litany of sequels, big-budget action films, and remakes are upon us…with a few films coming out by the more “seasoned” directors like David Fincher and the Coen Brothers for good measure.

I want to know what movie YOU are most looking forward to this year. Yeah, I know there’s plenty of them to choose from, but you only get one choice.

I am hoping to make the poll feature a regular feature on this blog in the hopes of making it much more interactive. Let me know your thoughts here! Take the poll…

What Movie Are You MOST Excited to See This Year???
The Green Hornet (w/ Seth Rogan)
Toy Story (from Pixar)
Iron Man 2 (w/ Robert Downey, Jr.)
Inception (Christopher Nolan’s latest)
Robin Hood (w/ Russell Crowe)
Salt (w/ Angelina Jolie)
Shrek Forever After (yes, another one)
Grown Ups (w/ Adam Sandler)
The Last Airbender (M. Night Shyamalan’s latest)
Black Hole (David Fincher’s latest)
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part I
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (w/ Kristen Stewart)
Eat Pray Love (w/ Julia Roberts)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Stone’s sequel)
True Grit (Coen Bros. remake starring ‘The Dude’ Jeff Bridges)
The A-Team (w/ Liam Neeson & Bradley Cooper)
What the Hell?! My Choice Isn’t Listed Here!

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