I still have some movies to see in the next week or so before I feel comfortable issuing a top 10 list. So I’ll start my year-end lists with a less vital but enjoyable topic: my five most overrated films of the year.
American Gangster – You can read my objections here. But I would emphasize my biggest objection – that it fails to do a single thing new within the gangland genre. There's a difference between being derivative and using similar cinematic language to discuss a topic or theme. This is just derivative.
The Bourne Ultimatum – The Bourne series helped awaken the action movie from its late nineties, early oughts CGI slumber, returning gritty fistfights and a more character-driven plotline. Yet it’s clear from this entry that it’s been overtaken by Batman and James Bond. Bourne does not share the same level of ethical complexity; the moral environment tilts so wildly to his side, with the faintest of lip service to its opposite. Essentially, Bourne can do no wrong. Additionally, the set pieces are repetitive individually and collectively. And when Marlon Brando wakes sweating in his bed clothes, I just assume he’s been dreaming of a Matt Damon-Julia Stiles pairing.
Eastern Promises – Eastern Promises wastes a charismatic performance from Naomi Watts, whose role fractures and diminishes as the movie progresses. David Cronenberg is always fascinating, but sometimes his studious sensibility leads to a certain theoretical coldness in his films. I got over that feeling while watching A History of Violence. Not here.
Knocked-Up – There’s a simple reason that Judd Apatow movies are so popular. They pay off. People shelling out $20 on a date don’t have to worry about failing to be entertained. He’s an insurance policy with a word processor. But when I watch a Wes Anderson film, good or bad, I think, what a wonderful ode to the French cinema. When I watch Apatow’s films, I try to remember what obscure sitcom he wrote for. Its admirers feel the need to make labored arguments about its deep human understanding. I would rather they just appreciate it for what it is.
Spiderman 3 – Here’s a film that I panned, and I still feel like I was generous to it. The film is so calculatedly teen-age to be almost unwatchable without uncontrollably texting to distract yourself. In what movie does a villain (Sandman) go from trying to pound the hero into nothing to apologizing for all his sins in the space of a few minutes? And then Spidey just forgives him and lets him blow out to the wind. That example places the film’s mentality as at the level of a Friday-afternoon filmstrip. in a genre that’s getting more mature and sophisticated. How it got a positive rating Tomato Meter rating, I’ll never know.