Generally we are a positive blog, usually talking about our favorite things and not going too critical or negative. Yet, it’s much more fun to be bad and there is certainly no shortage of bad things out there to comment on. It is also much easier just to rip something. Sometimes I think we need that cathartic moment of admonishing something we paid good money to see. So, one blog article in that vain, that we have wanted to write for a long time is our least favorite bad movies made by good directors, so here they are…
I saw a lot of movies when I was younger and although bad movies pissed me off, when you are older and have less time and are more careful with your money a bad movie makes me crazy, so I try to be selective. When a good director puts out a movie you expect it to be good. On the flip side should a good director be allowed to put out a stinker once in his life’s work? Maybe? Either way, I am going to hold them accountable, since it’s my time and money.
Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes (2001)
Tim Burton is a pretty good director, he has his own unique style that no one has copied. He has made some really good films that I love, Beetlejuice, Batman and Edward Scissorhands to name a few, He has also done some movies I don’t enjoy despite their popularity, some (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland) even ruined my favorite childhood books. His worst film though is clearly Planet of the Apes. I love all things Planet of the Apes, all five original films, the TV series and even the cartoon series so I was pumped for this film when it was released. I figured with new technology this film could exceed the original but unfortunately, movies need more than makeup and effects to be good. Mark Wahlberg was the wrong choice to replace Charlton Heston, as the crash-landed astronaut, he is bland, emotionless and stiff, he also refused to wear a loincloth because he wanted to not be remembered as an underwear model but a serious actor, I guess the clothes make that difference. Even his name was uninspired Leo Davidson, ugh. Charlton Heston has a cameo as Zaius and repeats a line from the original. I hate when reboots, remakes, sequels feel the need to pull a George Lucas and have characters utter a phrase from the original film (it happens another time in this as well). If you are going to redo a film make it your own, come up with your own iconic lines. Speaking of the script, it’s a mess, it is kind of more in line with Pierre Boulle’s Monkey Planet novel that this is from but the ending made no sense. Supposedly it was left that way for a sequel although Tim Burton has claimed he would rather jump out of a window than do a sequel. Tim Roth, who plays the villain, also said that after watching the film several times he still does not understand the ending. The social satire from the original is gone. The human/monkey kiss is just unnaturally awful. Rick Baker and Colleen Atwood’s work on this film is its redeeming quality, makeup and costumes were done really well. I honestly believed the series was dead after this and so did Mark Wahlberg as he believed it had set the franchise back a bit, luckily the latest reboot has been great and I can’t wait to see the third one. At least these films take the concept and completely reinvent it, it’s not part new and part homage like Burton’s.
Bonus: In the poster above doesn’t Wahlberg look like he is thinking, “Please get me out of this movie”? A completely phoned-in performance. Below I have included the Honest Trailer from Screen Junkies to further highlight how bad this film is, it’s worth a look, funny stuff.
MG: For some reason I thought this was “ok” when I first left the theater after seeing this, but to paraphrase Martellus Bennett in Pulp Fiction, “it’s far from ‘Ok'”. Generally speaking, I’ve enjoyed Burton’s films, although I watched some of Batman Returns recently, and that might qualify for this post. If everyone involved with Apes was embarrassed by it, why didn’t they change it? Burton doesn’t seem well suited to the reboot, as he also got ripped for Dark Shadows, even though I didn’t think it was that bad.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Steven Spielberg is the best director on my list hands down. Yet, I could name at least three terrible movies he has done, 1941, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I could write a book about Crystal Skull but I just can’t revisit that atrocity so I went with another mess, The Lost World. So a little history, Michael Crichton writes the great book Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg makes the film of the same name, which is a great film. The film is a blockbuster. Michael Crichton who has never written a sequel decides to not only write a sequel but write it based on the movie not his original book, so spoiler alert Ian Malcolm who dies in the book, is back. So then Spielberg also not much of a sequel maker turns the book very loosely into the movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The book synopsis actually sounds like it could be a good movie but when I say loosely based I mean loosely based. This movie is awful, as is the third one, but at least that one is not done by Oscar Winning director Steven Spielberg. The only main character back is Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm, who is awesome in the first film but should not be the main character, he is totally wasted and boring. I will not bore you with the plot but he ends up on the island looking for his scientist girlfriend played by Oscar Winner Julianne Moore. Their group is battling against another group who is trying to bring dinosaurs back to the mainland. People run, scream, die, cars hang off cliffs, a lot of repeating of the first film. Did I tell you Ian Malcolm has a young daughter that somehow stows away and also ends up on the island? And in one of the most notorious scenes of all time uses her gymnastic skills to kick a raptor out a window. It’s as bad as it sounds. Then when you think it’s done, a T-Rex ends up in San Diego, trying to get into the Game of Thrones panel at Comic-Con, no doubt. More killing, more nonsense, then the movie is over and we can demand our money back. To see Steven Spielberg do a movie being derivative of himself is depressing, luckily he made some great movies since to make up for this cash grab piece of garbage, I am pretending Crystal Skull never happened and I blame half of that on George Lucas anyway. This was a lazy sequel and if you listen to Spielberg’s words, he is not proud of it either.
Bonus: Vince Vaughn is in this and is as boring as hell. I wanted him to be Trent from Swingers, “You know what you are? You’re like a big raptor with claws and with fangs”.
MG: I read the book sequel, and it was decent, but this film is a travesty. The sense of wonder that made the first film enjoyable is gone and replaced with a mean-spirited tone that makes this a labor to watch. Spielberg can definitely let himself get lazy on certain films. Besides the three films you mentioned, he’s had others that weren’t bombs but fell short – such as A.I., War of the Worlds, War Horse, and the way overrated Lincoln.
Coming off Best Picture nominated Good Will Hunting and the cult hits My Own Private Idaho and To Die For, Gus Van Sant was poised to become the next iconic director but he made the movie that for me killed that dream, a shot for shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest hit Psycho. It’s not an exact replica as there were some anachronisms that had to be accounted for but it’s damn close. Looking back in hindsight the powers that be claim it was an art house experiment but it certainly wasn’t marketed that way. I saw this in the theater and being a huge Hitchcock fan I wanted to see it, not sure what I was expecting, but it was not good. There is no point for it, I saw this before and it was better, just a waste of money and time. Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore coming up off their riveting performances in The Lost World star along with Anne Heche in the Janet Leigh role. Vaughn is totally miscast as Norman Bates. I am not against remakes or reboots but this one makes no sense. This is something film students might try on a dare, not Oscar-nominated directors. If you want to remake a Hitchcock film or use his themes, you can, I mean he remade his own film The Man Who Knew Too Much but at least try to do something interesting with it. Brian DePalma who was heavily influenced by Hitchcock pulled off Dressed to Kill and Body Double – two movies that have Psycho and Rear Window elements all over them but without being an exact replica and they are decent films as well. Hitchcock was arguably one of the best directors of all-time and to do this to Psycho is inexcusable, it’s a bigger crime than Psycho 2, 3, and 4, at least the hacks that made those films were trying something different. I also hear that the TV Show Bates Motel about Norman Bates as a kid is pretty good. Who would ever watch this movie again? Van Sant pretty much went back to making small independent films after this failure.
Bonus: I wanted Vaughn to be Trent from Swingers, “A boy’s best friend is his mother, baby!” I love Swingers!
MG: To touch on our last post, I forgot how waylaid Vaugn’s career had gone, and how Wedding Crashers really was a “comeback” for him. In this film, a reboot once again is a poor fit for an auteur like Van Sant. I didn’t hate this film, but it was unnecessary. I get the appeal for a director to remake (refilm?) a beloved classic, but if you can’t bring something new to the table, what is the point? It’s like repainting Van Gogh’s Starry Night or something.
I agree, that as you get older and free time is much less, you try to be more selective with the films you watch, especially theatrically. Now with all the great shows on Netflix, HBO, etc. it’s even harder to keep up with the good stuff. I’ve always put a lot of stock in director’s reputation when it comes to choosing which films to see, and it burns that much more when one of my favorite directors drops a bomb on me. Here are some of the more painful memories.
Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! (2009)
Maybe the exclamation point in the title should have been my first warning. I doubt many people even saw this film, which is a good thing, but I was angry after seeing this. Film critics and the industry absolutely fawn over Soderbergh, and I would agree he’s made many excellent films. My favorites are Sex, Lies and Videotape, The Limey, Traffic and even Erin Brockovich. However, after 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven, his resume starts to get dodgy, though you’d never know it from any film reviews. Solaris (2002) was a snooze-fest, the Ocean’s sequels are merely average, and then came The Informant! starring Matt Damon. If only his ridiculous mustache was the worst part of the film. Soderbergh tries to serve up an ultra-dry, black comedy, but instead of funny it’s more akin to a steak that’s been left on the grill for an hour. Right from the start, the tone feels off in this corporate-espionage tale about corn derivatives. Damon comes across like a desperate stand-up comic that can’t get anyone to laugh in the club. It’s too bad, because the talented supporting cast, including Tony Hale (trying his hardest to make his scenes work), Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, and Thomas F. Wilson (just wanted to mention “Biff” in another blog post), among others, put in a good effort, but just can’t put out the dumpster fire.
Bonus: Commercially, Soderbergh bounced back with Magic Mike (2012), and Contagion (2011) was a good film, but I’m interested to see if he can pull off a successful comedy with Logan Lucky, which stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and (in the trailer) a crazed Daniel Craig and comes out in a few weeks.
DJ: Never a huge fan of Soderbergh, just couldn’t get into his work, but do like The Limey. Never saw this movie and it sounds like a good thing. I honestly thought he retired for good, bummer.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005)
I loved Jackson’s breakout film Heavenly Creatures (1994), which introduced us to the amazing Kate Winslet, and what he did with Lord of the Rings was a towering achievement. Is that enough to call him a “great director”? Well, after Return of The King won Best Picture AND he won Best Director, the anticipation for his next film was monumental…and he chose to reboot King Kong. I feel like this was a similar move to Gus Van Sant- letting himself get carried away with a personal favorite that ought to have been left alone. Granted, commercially this film did very well, it received a number of positive reviews and I personally know people that loved it. To me, this was an indulgent and bloated film, not only due to the 3 hr, 21 min runtime. It started with poor casting – Jack Black was annoying, Naomi Watts, who I really liked at the time, was a poor fit for the apple of Kong’s eye, and Adrien Brody was boring. To those that liked the film, go back and watch it again and see if you can endure the hour-long battle on the island against the CGI prehistoric bugs. This scene is a perfect example of director indulgence, as it references a deleted scene from the original 1933 Kong film where the crew falls into a pit of giant bugs and spiders. The scene was cut due to audience members running out of the theater in horror, and supposedly the cutscene has never been found. Hey, great to reference and a cool trivia bit, but not at the expense of pacing and interesting storytelling. Jackson usually gets ripped for his next film, The Lovely Bones (2009), which I have not seen, and his return to Middle Earth for The Hobbit Trilogy (further indulgence) was just ok. I would love to see him get back to doing something great.
Bonus: Jackson was paid $20 million to direct the film – the highest pre-production salary every paid to a director, although Christopher Nolan has now matched that amount for Dunkirk.
DJ: Another one I have not seen, thankfully and I love King Kong, the original and even the 70’s version but just couldn’t sit through this. LOTR was awesome but to your point he took that success and engaged in overindulgence. He needs to step back and refocus on something good. Why did The Hobbit need to be three films?
Steven Spielberg & Stanley Kubrick’s AI (2001)
Ok, I wasn’t going to gang up on Spielberg, because I like most of his stuff, but this is a film of his that bugs me, and in some ways, for me, is worse than Lost World. I recently watched some of this and it does not hold up well at all. Everyone loved Haley Joel Osment in the Sixth Sense, but sorry, he’s not good in this and never was good in anything after. Then again, maybe it was Spielberg’s direction that made his character so annoying and unlikable. The only one in this film that is enjoyable to watch is Jude Law’s robot gigolo. Fundamentally, though, the entire premise of this film is seriously flawed, and Kubrick shares as much of the blame for that, since he spent 12 years trying to develop it. The majority of the screen time is about robots looking like, “feeling”, and even replacing humans, not about artificial intelligence, which needs no “body” to exist. In fact, we saw this in Kubrick’s own film 32 years earlier, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which included a well-crafted storyline about artificial intelligence via HAL, the computer program that became self-aware, and homicidal. Watching AI again, I found the pacing tedious, the acting wooden, and the thematic message rather juvenile. Overall, it just has a weirdness to it, which critic Leonard Maltin said was “a curious and uncomfortable hybrid of Kubrick and Spielberg sensibilities”. Lastly, it’s vision of the future was hardly prescient, and with another 14 years having passed, seems even more off-base. Perhaps this would have been better if Kubrick had lived longer and done it himself, but it still probably would have been his worst film.
Bonus: Spielberg rewrote a good portion of the screenplay, the first time he had a writing credit on a film since Poltergeist in 1982. Some blame Spielberg for creating a sentimental ending, but he and others who worked on the film insist that the ending was faithful to Kubrick’s vision.
DJ: Here is one I have seen and I totally forgot about it. Osment never did much after, relagated to Entourage. I didn’t hate this movie but it’s not good. I hated The Lost World and Crystal Skull way worse.