Jam packed slate of movies this week. There’s a little something for everyone. We’ve got a Nicholas Sparks for the sappy. Animated for the kids. Another supernatural romance for the teeny-bopper crowd and John McClane for all the true blue, red-blooded Americans out there.
Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.
A Good Day to Die Hard
“Just a fly in the ointment, Hans. A monkey in the wrench. A pain the ass.” - John McClane
It’d be easy to say John McClane is a hero’s hero, the little guy who steps up and saves the day for no other reason than an overwhelming need for virtue and justice. On the surface he’s the righter of wrongs, foiling a number of terrorist plots through perseverance, brains, a rather itchy trigger finger and as he claims, being a pain in the ass or a nuisance. But that’s a little too simple. Unlike other heroees who are spurred into action by those in need, McClane is often already firmly embedded in the problem by unrelated circumstance or because he’s been called into the fray intentionally by the “bad guy”. I find this fascinating. He really has no corollary in the cinematic world. Rare is the reoccurring protagonist who consistently wants nothing to do with the problem, but nevertheless feels compelled to become part of the solution (at times to diminishing returns).
Which must make a guy like McClane really question his role in the universe. At what point does he begin wondering whether his mere presence in a location is the actual catalyst for disaster. How many terroristic situations can occur before he sees himself as the constant rather than a “pain in the ass” variable? That’s enough of a conundrum to make a guy act a little crazy, or act like John McClane.
In A Good Day to Die Hard it’s a little more of the same, with McClane traveling to Russia to help his son out of a jam. Lo and behold, an incident breaks out, this time centered on little Jack getting all grown up and channeling that inner-McClane sense of “problem” that usually ends with an obscenely high terrorist body count. But it isn’t really like-father-like-son because Jack’s actions appear aggressive and antagonistic whereas Pops is more reactionary. Maybe that’ll make them a good “team”.
What began in Nakatomi Towers has turned John McClane into something of an American icon, in many ways the modern day cowboy (he’s partial to Roy Rogers). And the franchise continues to succeed because McClane’s hero-by-circumstance persona plays perfectly even as the plots escalate and become more and more ridiculous. He started by saving an office building, then an airport, then a city, then the country and now possibly the world. All because he just happened to “be around” when it happened.
The franchise has, on the whole, resonated well with critics. The four installments, Die Hard (94%), Die Hard 2 (66%), Die Hard 3: With a Vengeance (52%), Live Free or Die Hard (81%) fluctuate between “great” and “pretty good” which is never easy over the long haul. I think the latest scores near the bottom edge of the Die Hard range simply because consistency is tough and, really, can the same things keep happening to the same guy? Yippee-ki-yay mother [email protected]#$er. The Rotten Watch for A Good Day to Die Hard is
If I was still sitting in Mr. Eickhoff’s second period AP American History my head would be on a total swivel, constantly scanning for that close-to-hot, but just a tick off center brooder in the back of the room. The guy or gal the other kids are always whispering about, but secretly fear, who makes the hair on the back of your neck prickle up. Because while the rest of the class is casting aspersions, claiming the kid’s “weird”, I’d be making friends and possibly even falling in love. See there’s a high probability that kid has some badass supernatural power. I’ve seen enough movies to know. Even if they’re using it for evil, I don’t care. I’ve always been a follower, and if you’re going to hitch a wagon to a star, it might as well be the vampire/witch/werewolf/alien. They have the most interesting lives and high school is a [email protected]#$ing drag.
Take Beautiful Creatures for example. Based on the novel of the same name, the film plays on the cheesy and misguided, puberty-driven, romantic ideals of 12-15 year olds, who all see themselves as outcasts in some respect or another. Just another in a growing line of angst-y high school love stories with a supernatural bent. That’s not to say it looks bad--I actually think critics might enjoy this, unlike its Twilight predecessor (a franchise that fluctuated between 50% and 25% throughout its run). Unlike Bella and Edward’s love affair this movie appears to have a modicum of cinematic value.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You-23% Freedom Writers-69%) this movie tells the story of, you guessed it, a small town with supernatural secrets. Ethan and Lena are teenagers falling in love, part of a larger magical world, struggling in a battle between good and evil, getting all of their angst out in a big way. But I think more critics like than pan it. And watch out for those “misfits” in the back of the room, they can probably turn you into a frog if they felt the urge. The Rotten Watch for Beautiful Creatures is
Speaking of small towns, if you’re living in one and lucky enough to make it out of high school without pissing off the town’s freaky occult then congrats, because now you’re about to enter a Nicholas Sparks-based love story. (This is if we take movies as hard and fast truth, which I do.) These small towns are filled with romance, sometimes forbidden love, with characters who love and lose and are now looking to love again. Sometimes they have secrets. Sometimes they are gravely ill. Most times they work some blue collar-type jobs that allow for plenty of sweaty veneers. Bodies of water are usually involved. And usually these towns have about four relevant single people (the protagonist, the love interest, the close friend and the antagonist), all of whom are incredibly good looking. Welcome to Nicholas Sparks’ world.
And honestly, who really cares what this movie is about. But if you do I’ll hit the plot beats real quick. Josh Duhamel is a good looking widower with kids. Julianne Hough is a hot newcomer with secrets. They both walk around looking hot. Sometimes they take shirts off. Duhamel fixes a bike for her showing everyone he’s a “hands on” kind of dude. Hough’s secret catches up with her, but don’t worry, it doesn’t really affect her hotness in any way. In the end everyone goes down in a blazing firefight that leaves the whole town a bloody mess of carnage and dashed love (At least I think that’s what happens, I haven’t seen the film yet.) Director Lasse Hallstrom has experience tackling a Sparks-ian sapfest with Dear John (28%). In fact, Sparks-based movies fall into a fairly predictable range. Others include The Last Song (19%), Nights in Rodanthe (31%), A Walk to Remember (27%), The Notebook (52%) and The Lucky One (20%). There’s really no reason to believe this will suddenly be the outlier of the bunch. Let’s play it safe. The Rotten Watch for Safe Haven is
Escape From Planet Earth
I was going to open this section claiming that if there was a wiki page for “Production Hell”, Escape from Planet Earth would be one of the lead examples, floundering for the better part of six years struggling to get into theaters. Then I looked and realized there is such a page, development hell and this movie isn’t on it. But it probably should be. It’s involved the Weinsteins, lawsuits over proceeds, multiple rewrites, and Brendan Fraser (not really a direct problem, but he’s rarely involved in anything good).
Now it’ll finally see the light of the theater, in all of it’s 3D computer animated “glory”. It centers around a group of aliens attempting to escape from Area 51, a holding area for hilarious and cute extra-terrestrials. Not being a huge fan of the animated fare, and being older than seven, this movie has little juice around the Rotten Offices. And honestly, the struggle it took to get out to theaters is probably a bad sign for its critical chances. Rare is the quality flick that can’t get completed.
Animated features don’t often outright bomb. I don’t think this will either. But with the amount of quality pumped out by Pixar and Dreamworks, the animated bar is set fairly high. I doubt this comes into that class. The Rotten Watch for Escape From Planet Earth is
Which Rotten movie will have the highest final Tomatometer score?
Recapping last week:
Totally blew it on Identity Thief (Predicted: 52% Actual: 24%). Should have seen the writing on the wall here, but I got caught up in my affinity for Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman as well as how badly I originally whiffed on Horrible Bosses. Those factors clouded my judgment to a certain degree, bumping up the prediction and leaving it wildly out of range. I should have seen a lackluster comedy, heavy on hijinks and light on substance.
On the other hand, Side Effects (Predicted: 78% Actual: 85%) adds another win to the resume. Steven Soderbergh goes into his “hiatus” with another critical darling. Too bad he’s taking a break. He’s one of the few directors who puts out a consistently superior product.
Next time around the skies darken and a snitch is about. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!