Yes, I’m leading with JUSTIN BIEBER for curb appeal. Can you blame me? So while I’m at it, I might as well come clean to curating an end of year list for more-or-less the same reasons. Now that’s out of the way, I think these five films had unmet potential. Really! All they needed was a bit of love in the story department (yes, that’s a writer-centric view). Doubts? I’ll make you a Belieber.
Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, that manic guy from Always Sunny. On cast alone, this one should have been worth at least a few chuckles. It wasn’t. The improv-y vibe was undermined by the totally implausible notion of three otherwise likable guys all wanting to murder their bosses in cold blood. A better idea would have been to have them muse aloud about their revenge fantasies, only to have some psychotically misguided third party unexpectedly try to carry them out (paging Zach G). Imagine the comedic irony of trying to save the boss you hate from the murderer you inadvertently enabled? Then the story would have explored the responsibility we have for our darker thoughts. Deep, huh? Oh, given Jennifer Aniston played a seductress, she definitely should have done a Horrible Bosses nude scene, her hot body clock is surely nearing the MILFing hour.
Would you take a pill to focus the untapped power of your mind, even if it had…dire consequences? Well, most Ivy Leaguers would. I’m not sure if the creators of Limitless have heard of Adderall, but put that aside. Limitless relies on more leaps of faith than Christianity. Yet, its worst sin might be failing to leverage the increasingly relevant topic of artificial enhancement. (Actually, the overt use of color correction and vivid close-ups of Bradley Cooper‘s soulful eyes are
fucking annoying too, but lets stick to (the) story.)
Surprisingly, Limitless isn’t a cautionary tale. (Spoiler alert) Young Blue Eyes never learns his lesson, rather to cheat nature more effectively. Even if true to life, we glean no insights since its impossible to relate to his relentless smarminess. I reckon the best bet here would have been to go the Flowers for Algernon / Lawnmower Man / Crayon in Homer Simpson’s Brain route, where the burden of infinite promise becomes unbearable to the point of the protagonist reverting to their “primitive” state. Except, I would have killed off Bradley, just because he deserves it.
3. Never Say Never
I see a lot of movies on planes I wouldn’t otherwise
at gunpoint. In fact, I think this is a whole genre of film. Never Say Never (NSN) was one of them, though not entirely disappointing. It was basically a performance piece punctuated with bio-pic elements. What’s interesting is that Justin, who was discovered on YouTube, is truly a product of social media. The weak point of NSN was the artificial raising stakes storyline, “Will JB’s voice recover for his first Madison Square Gardens show?”…”What if Bieb’s hair gel gives out?” They should have taken the plunge and gone all Catfish, raising the question as to if Justin is essentially a marketing construct and, if so, what that means to the very concept of reality (for pre-teen girls). Then bait the awards folk by leaving it open ended. Note: Even at 17, Justin still looks like a lesbian.
2. Midnight in Paris
Woody’s romantic-shenanigan-travelogue Vicky Cristina Barcelona wasn’t half bad. So I was actually looking forward to Midnight in Paris. Alas, it ended up being the cinematic equivalent of drunk-on-absinthe/pretense Owen Wilson spitting in my mouth (I long for the days when he was riding a Razor scooter in Zoolander, “It’s that damn Hansel! He’s so hot right now!”) Surprisingly, the premise of Midnight wasn’t the culprit. Rather, the kicker was that the era-hopping machinations resulted in the revelation that – wait for it – the grass is always greener.
Midnight’s saving grace is that, as always, Woody cast world class
talent muses, including my former celebrity crush, Marion Cotillard, and my upcoming one, Léa Seydoux. It almost makes you want to become a legendary, celebrated “auteur” (which is a French word, as is Léa).
Back to Midnight, I would have gone the grandfather paradox time travel route. The
undoubtedly horrible book Owen’s character seeks feedback on from Golden Age luminaries ends up polluting their minds so much he torpedoes the course of literary history. Gertrude Stein, ashamed of being a fellow Yankee, flees Paris and Hemmingway prematurely commits suicide before writing his last great works. So Hansel has to come to terms with the fact that his crappy, self-indulgent novel is toxic and, eventually, abandon it for the betterment of art. Then, in a case of life imitating celluloid, real-world Owen renounces acting, unless its related to Bottle Rocket.
1. No Strings Attached/Friends With Benefits
Think about it. The only two stars to crossover from That 70s Show (on which they happened to play a couple) headline separate parallel-developed features about friends who
bone cross the line as lovers. Anyhow, No Strings Attached is definitely the lamer of the offerings. I blame: 1/ Natalie Portman. Ever since Garden State, I’ve suspected her acting is one-note. Watching her character fall apart in No Strings Attached was curiously similar to her performance in V for Vendetta, Thor, even Black Swan (which I dug). However, that wouldn’t have mattered as much if it weren’t for… 2/ Speaking from experience, actually having a friend with benefits NEVER WORKS. This is one of the few universal truths. So both movies follow the same arc. The buddies hook up, get along, disintegrate when feelings arise, finally realize they are meant for each other and give it a go as a real couple (after the fact spoiler alert because you knew it anyhow).
The solution? Go meta. No Benefits Attached follows two sitcom stars who find Hollywood success only to be cast in different versions of the same movie BUT have actually been in a clandestine relationship ever since their days as a TV couple! You know it’s true.