By Robin E. Simmons
As singled out in this column over the last several weeks, we’ve had a treasure trove of exceptional films in 2014. But there were also a passel of movies that were disappointing, but not awful. There’s INTERSTELLAR, the first third was gripping and then came the confusing, tiresome, cosmic lectures interspersed with not so majestic images. Kubrick’s did it much better and with little dialogue! I think of UNBROKEN and its two hours of on-screen torture and the two seconds of redemption in the end credits. AMERICAN SNIPER, so nicely crafted and acted but a supremely sad tale of a gifted but troubled killer in a misbegotten war. A very similar theme was done so much better in HURT LOCKER. Let’s be very clear here, just because a movie makes a billion dollars does not mean it’s very good. Yes, I’m talking about TRANSORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION. Loud and chaotic and, yes, artfully made, but an unnecessary film if ever there was one. On the other hand, it was a successful heist in which giant robots ripped the wallet out of your pocket. Just beware — another one is in the works. And, please explain to me what the hell’s going on in INHERENT VICE? I was hoping to re-experience 70’s Venice Beach culture in a dark comedy as the great movie trailer so successfully teased, but I came away from the screening scratching my head. Maybe Pynchon’s is not adaptable for the screen. At least not by the cult fave director P.T. Anderson. Have you yet blithely wandered INTO THE WOODS, perhaps lured by Meryl Streep’s wicked witch poster or the TV teaser’s delightful singing stars? Well, did you get your holiday fuzzies or a migraine? Can you whistle one of the many tunes? No? Sondheim for the uninitiated can be a bitch. Yes, it’s great looking and the stars are fine, but it’s a long, tedious slog through the forest. And then there are the truly bad films like THE EXPENDABLES 3 (AARP should be in the title somewhere), A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (an utterly humorless western fail from Seth McFarland), ANNIE (no sour notes, just a flat update of the Depression-era musical from Will Smith and Jay-Z), WINTER’S TALE (big talent wallows in time travel gibberish with Satan and a dying girl in 1916 NYC), LEGEND OF HURCULES (not Brett Ratner’s watchable version with “The Rock,” but Renny Harlen’ misfire), TAMMY (Melissa McCarthy’s hugely embarrassing vanity production with hubby at the helm), SEX TAPE (Jason Siegel and Cameron Diaz are wasted on great premise but grimly stupid screenplay), TRANSCENDENCE (anti-tech terrorists take down Johnny Depp when he becomes a computer). Space does not allow for a fuller list. Just know this is but a sampler. However, there is one more title that deserves special mention — and the widest ridicule, as a shoo-in for the absolute worst movie of 2014!
Words fail in trying to describe this inept piece of God-awful trash that assumes there’s an evangelical Christian fundamentalist based audience ripe for exploitation. This bigger budget remake of the 2000 Kirk Cameron direct-to-DVD movie based on the book Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins is so bad it’s actually bad.
Aside from the morality of such an enterprise (allegedly from so-called Christian producers), there’s also the huge theological issue that the word “rapture” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. And the concept itself is not endorsed by mainstream, legitimate religious scholars who have an understanding of the linguistics and metaphors of New Testament scripture.
I won’t waste your time with a detailed recounting of the absurdly silly plot. Something about true believers who suddenly vanish from the earth and the chaos that follows. The movie itself is tedious and boring in the extreme. However, if one watches it in the right state of mind (wink, wink), it offers loads of unintentional laughs. But even so, the only thought that keeps intruding is: under what circumstances did Nicolas Cage sign on for this? Is he a secret believer in the doomsday message? Or was the check so huge he couldn’t say No? Or did he see it as high art. You know, some sort of parody or farce like Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE? I wish I could answer those burning questions for those of us who still want to believe in Cage’s crazy gift.
My guess is that nearly all the $20 million budget went to Oscar© winner Cage with only $100K for the cheap effects and other extras (like cast and crew salaries, post-production, music, etc.).
Life is short. It’s such a shame to waste it on bad movies. I’m happy to be of service in the pursuit of good movies because movies really do matter. They are our most shared human experience. The stories we tell ourselves are a reflection of the collective narrative of who we are.