While critics busy themselves tearing down very worthy movies, there are some films they all flock to like sheep. An equal mix of box-office juggernauts and Oscar-bait, these are almost always uniformly prestige pictures by big names that barely deserve attention, let alone praise to the heavens.
Here are ten films (with totally unjustified Rotten Tomatoes score) that don't deliver, despite those film snobs' reviews.
Having read the script prior to seeing the film, we can say that something clearly got lost in translation, as on the page Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti western take on slavery had depth and excitement on the level of "Inglourious Basterds." The finished product starts off promising, with great buddy chemistry between Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, but devolves into a disingenuous (and literal) mess in the third act. Like "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" before it, Tarantino squanders character in service of a bloodbath, mistaking squibs for emotions and n-words for punctuation marks. The biggest disappointment of the year.
With all due respect to Steven Spielberg, a true American master in every sense of the word, he coulda done better. This talky talk-a-thon is rife with great character work and has an appropriate sense of gravitas, but it never truly gets to the heart of matters. Granted, this is not at "Amistad" levels of historical boredom, but it's dull nonetheless. Also, as good Daniel Day-Lewis is, we still think Liam Neeson could have owned as Honest Abe if Spielberg hadn't dragged his feet for so long.
Tim Burton must stop. After decades of remakes, sequels, adaptations, more remakes and trading card adaptations, the goth maestro is finally remaking his own films. If you told us a decade ago that he was going to make a black-and-white stop motion animated movie in his "unique" (mostly stolen from Edward Gorey) style, we might have been tickled pink, but now we're just seeing red. Take a sabbatical and find yourself again, Tim, 'cause this is turning into the cinematic equivalent of Andy Warhol painting pictures of soup cans.
Why, god? Christopher Nolan could have put a bow on things with 2008's "The Dark Knight," but no, he and Warners needed that Batman Trilogy box set on the shelves for Christmas. As a result, we get this baffling superhero concoction that plays out as a silly James Bond escapade with capes and countless head-scratching moments: Why does Batman burn his symbol in the bridge? How does a hard punch fix a broken back? Why did Gotham send ALL its cops into the tunnels? Who took Bane's inhaler?
Ang Lee made a perfectly serviceable adaptation of Yann Martel's pretentious yarn about finding God in yourself, blah blah blah. So much of the book was about internal soul searching, something that all the CGI in the universe can't impart to viewers. The visuals are resplendent, but fishing while drunk has the same effect and costs less than a 3-D ticket. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, ("Amelie"), who was originally attached to direct, would no doubt have turned in something far more visually bold and less vanilla.
Paul Thomas Anderson's study of post-war trauma and psychological brinksmanship between a psychotic vet (Joaquin Phoenix) and a New Age fraud (Philip Seymour Hoffman) looked like an Oscar front-runner a few months ago but has turned into an also-ran. Maybe that's because it's not nearly as searing an indictment of $cientology as it should have been, or perhaps Anderson needs a stronger story spine to hang his intense actor workshops on.
Gary Ross, who made the fantastic "Pleasantville" in 1998, knows a thing or two about oppressive societies, but he stumbled while dipping his toe into Suzanne Collins's brave/banal new world of undercooked teen romance and overwrought dystopia. Right away, the casting of twenty-something Jennifer Lawrence took away all the power of forcing children to battle to the death. Anyone under 14 who doesn't know every beat of this story before it happens needs to turn in their movie-going badge, and anyone who got motion sickness from the overzealous shaky cam should get free Tums for a year.
Shaky cam strikes again in this terminally overhyped indie that may have made for an enjoyable discovery when it first played at the Sundance Film Festival. The film itself looks like someone gave it a golden shower, if you know what we mean. You can practically smell the mud and piss and rust that colors this unpleasant post-Katrina Louisiana world, but that atmosphere would have been made more palatable if it didn't look like it was shot by someone with hand tremors. Many compared this to the works of Terrence Malick or David Gordon Green, but both of those gentlemen know how to screw a camera to a frickin' dolly.
What is happening over at Pixar? Has the death of Steve Jobs and former brain trust member Joe Ranft left them high and dry in the creativity department? It's bad enough that they're churning out sequels like there's no tomorrow, but they also have to go for the generic Disney princess dollar? The animation, action and characterization in this story of a daughter whose mother is turned into a bear is all fine, but not up to Pixar par. Meanwhile, Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" displayed the kind of ingenuity their Pixar siblings used to have the monopoly on. "Brave" is as safe as it gets.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has had an awesome year; he was the best part of "The Dark Knight Rises," a standout in an overcrowded "Lincoln" and absolutely killed it as a Bruce Willis doppelganger in "Looper." Somewhere amid that victory tour he stopped over for "Premium Rush," this garbage dumpster of a movie that gives you every generic action movie cliché in the book, only on bikes instead of cars. We would like to see the version where JGL has to messenger the only copy of David Koepp's hack script to the studio, only to have it accidentally fall down a sewer grate along the way.