7 Ways To Tell If A Movie Is Crap (plus one more)


I’ve walked out of only two movies in my life: Roman Polanski’s Macbeth and You’ve Got Mail.  (I’ll just let that sink in for a minute.)  Anyway, it’s not that I’ve endured that many bad movies; it’s just that, over the years, I’ve learned how to pick ’em.   So before you make the popcorn, settle into your ass groove on the sofa and let iTunes scam you for another $4.99, here are seven ways (plus one) to tell if a movie is going to be crap.
DISCLAIMER:  These are only guidelines.  They work most of the time, but there are some exceptions.

The 4th Movie In A Franchise — By the time the studios get to #4, the stories are lame, the actors are tired, the directors are bored (if they’re even still there) and the FX is gratuitous and over the top.  These are name recognition cash grabs; stay away from them! There are two notable exceptions: Star Trek: The Journey Home and Thunderball.  (FYI, Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t count. It had a different cast.)

Movies Made From 60s/70s/80s TV Programs — Movie producers know Baby Boomers (and their adult children) have money, and they desperately want to get their mitts on it.  So, they tap into the nostalgia of an aging population who think they’re still cool.  They trot out a familiar name, rework the original story (with all the catch phrases) and hire some actors with little or no self respect.  These movies are unadulterated trash, but the studios don’t care ’cause they’re guaranteed a couple of million profit on name recognition alone.  (FYI, Star Trek doesn’t count.  It had the same cast.)

Movies Made From Video Games — This is just a dumbass idea.  The potential audience for these movies are gamers who — wait for it! — PLAY video games.  They don’t watch video games play themselves.  D’uh!  The rest of us, non-gamers, have heard of the title, but we have no idea what’s going on, who the Lizard People are, what everybody’s fighting about and why all the nuns have machine guns.

Classic Remakes — There ought to be a law against taking wonderful old movies and ruining them with CGI.

Old Men — If a movie features an old megastar trying to be funny, chances are good he won’t be.  What you’re going to get is Viagra jokes, some boobs, at least one reference to substance abuse and a weirdo relationship that’s a cross between necro- and pedo- philia.  NEWS FLASH — Hot 20-something chicks don’t normally go for old men.  Trust me! I know what I’m talking about.

Too Many Old Men — If the average age of your ensemble cast is over 70,  this is a bad movie. I don’t care if the old buggers want to rob a bank, go on a road trip, look for their lost youth, skydive, hunt for treasure, find the girl of their dreams, take down an evil dictator, save the world, go to space ….  God, just shoot me in the head!  Doesn’t anybody in Hollywood retire anymore?

Bad Actors — Some actors make bad movies — all the time.  For example, Ashton Kutcher has never made a good movie.  (He hasn’t even come close.)  Then there’s Kevin James, Megan Fox, Tyler Perry, Jai Courtney, Jessica Alba, etc., etc., etc.  I’m sure there’s a list of these losers somewhere.  Anyway, when you see any one of this worthless crew in a movie, save your money and go do a crossword puzzle.

And finally:

Adam Sandler, Nicholas Cage and Johnny Depp — Adam Sandler movies are so bad they’re actually in a class of their own.  Cage had his moments — ten years ago. And I have no idea what the hell happened to Johnny Depp.

I Call Bullshit (Movie Edition)

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This is movie season and I love movies.  However, movie people — writers, producers, directors and such — keep making storyline mistakes that just drive me crazy.  And these aren’t those little esoteric anachronisms that Internet nerds wet their pants over.
(“In Back To the Future, are we expected to believe that Marty McFly can play a Gibson ES 345 guitar in 1955 when they weren’t even produced until 1958?”  Guys!  Relax!  You’ve already accepted the premise that Doc. Brown built a time machine!)

No, it’s not dumb crap like that.  It’s major plot devices that are just plain wrong — good old-fashioned, common-sense wrong.  And I’m 100% certain that movie people know they’re wrong, and they either think the rest of us are idiots, or they don’t give a tinker’s dam what we think.  Let me demonstrate.

Defibrillators do not revive the dead.  Any first year medical school student will tell you that when the patient’s little beep machine goes flatline, the guy’s dead.   End of story.   Nailing him with 50,000 volts isn’t going to bring him back to life; it’s going to cook him!

There is no oxygen in space — none.  Therefore, regardless of how many times you hit the alien ship with phasers, lasers, blasters or proton torpedoes, it’s not gonna explode.  Explosions need oxygen.  Without oxygen, you’re breaking Einstein’s First Theory of You’re A Dumbass.

Airport security doesn’t work that way.  You cannot leave your car parked at the front door of a major international airport and go running across the concourse, chasing the girl of your dreams.  If — IF? — the cops don’t shoot your ass, the best you can hope for is you’ll be tackled by two (or more) burly security guards and get a Full Monty cavity search at what’s commonly called an “undisclosed location.”  And they’re definitely going to tow your car — and probably blow it up in a controlled explosion.

Nobody gets that high.  I don’t care what Seth Rogen says; smoking marijuana will not leave you passed out on a beach, in a different town, holding a koala bear and wearing nothing but a hockey helmet and your girlfriend’s underwear.  Smoke that much dope and you’ll end up hopelessly interested in the length of your toes.

Computer hacking doesn’t work better if you type faster.

I’m no expert, but having sex with your bra on has got to be uncomfortable.  Plus, how horny do you have to be not to take 5 seconds to unhook a bra — especially given the obsession our society has with breasts?  (Just sayin’!)

And there are tons more.  Don’t even get me started on what guns can and cannot do.  But my very favourite is:

Anybody who’s ever driven to work in a major urban centre will tell you a high-speed car chase through the streets of London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles or Lincoln, Nebraska is impossible — not just improbable — impossible.  There are too many cars and not enough roads.  In fact, the average speed in any major city is under 15 kilometres an hour (10 mph in the USA.)  Now hear this, James Bond, Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt: if you’re at all serious about getting away from the bad guys, try a bicycle!

A Few Words About Movies

filmPeople get old; there’s no sense in getting all pissy about it.  First of all, there are tons of benefits, like a seat on the bus. Second, you’re way smarter (in most cases) than you were at 25; and third, most importantly, the alternative is a total bummer.  However, there is one tragic downside to getting old.  And since this is Cannes Film Festival Week, I thought I’d point it out.
If you live long enough, you get to see a lot of movies more than once.

Some would say this is a good thing.  For example, I’ve seen Casablanca so many times I know the dialogue — all of it — and I’ve never regretted the time spent.  But, believe me, there is a darker side.


1 — The M. Night Shyamalan Effect
You just shouldn’t watch some movies more than once.  These are the twisty ones that leave you gasping at the end, with your mouth open.   I’m looking at you, The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense and The Crying Game.  These are fantastic films, and sometimes you might think you’d like to see them again.  Don’t!  Watching a surprise ending movie twice is like trying to lose your virginity — a second time.  When you know what’s about to happen, it’s just not the same.

2 — OMG! What a piece of trash!
Some movies have added significance because we saw them at a particular time and place in our life.  (Puberty, third dates and your sophomore year in college are notorious for this.)  The problem is when you see them again, you realize they’re crap.  In this case, disappointment is the least of your worries because, invariably, you also remember the stupid stuff you did because of the feel-good contact high.  Like the time you went to see Two Of A Kind with Matthew Stilwell’s roommate Veronica Thompson (not their real names) and it felt totally cool ’cause it was right after Grease and had a decent sound track.  But then you went home and slept together — ’cause somebody said “It’s over between us.” Except it wasn’t, and then you had to spend the entire semester trying to get rid of those two psychos.  Er — uh — anyway, stuff like that can happen, and every time that movie comes back on TV, ya hate yourself — all over again.

But the very worst is:

3 — The damn thing still doesn’t end the way it’s supposed to.
In any good movie, you start cheering for the characters.   It’s perfectly natural.  You want Sean Astin to play in the big game, Kirsten Dunst to fall in love with Toby Maguire and somebody — ANYBODY — to finally kill that bastard with the British accent.  However, sometimes, despite all the emotional currency you have invested in the film, it all goes sideways.  This happens because writers are dicks.  They take perverse pleasure in writing a perfectly great script and then toying with us.  For example, we all know that Scarlett Johansson is way too flaky for anything long-term with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.  Okay, fine!  But what about Rebecca Hall (the real story’s about her, anyway) so why doesn’t she give it a go?  She’s a way better fit in that relationship — totally more interesting.  Besides, she wants to, he wants her to, I want her to, my wife wants her to and Penelope Cruz doesn’t care.  But, no!  She settles for Chris Messina, gets on the plane and commits herself to a life of perpetual beige.  WTF?  Every time I see that movie, I think “God, Vicky!  Juan Antonio’s standing right there.  What’s your problem?”  Woody Allen, you’re such an asshole.