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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Worst Actors - Chris Tucker

Chris Tucker being just horrible in the Fifth Element.
Following my outrage over Adam Sandler’s existence, I wanted to do a quick, simpler article reflecting on the diminutive career of one of the most annoying performers of the millennial era.  Well, referring to the career of Chris Tucker as “millennial” may be pushing it.  Still, he did appear in a few films post-2000…  Like I said: A quick article… Yeah, right.

Chris Tucker’s most notable early performance was in the popular comedy Friday.  The movie was okay, not awful, but Tucker himself stood out.  The bug-eyes, loud-mouthed shrieking, his flamboyance, the boisterousness of his performance... I’m not sure what clicked with audiences but something did, at least for a while.  He gained a little more notoriety in a supporting performance in the Hughes Brother’s Dead Presidents, a heist film about a war vet trying to make ends meet on the streets.  The movie was met with mixed reviews, as was the Hughes’ other ode to ghetto life, Menace II Society. Both films were criticized by some for supposedly glorifying street violence.  Chris Tucker was obviously not up to the task of maintaining such a controversial track record, so he went back to playing the loudmouth comic relief roles that got him started.

The Fifth Element was a change of form for filmmaker Luc Besson, whose previous works like La Femme Nikita and Leon: The Professional were tough, gritty and risque.  The Fifth Element, on the other hand, was more of a fun sci-fi romp.  It was good… for the most part.  Yet, it did have one glaring issue: Chris Tucker was in it.  Now, I do not mean that he is in it for a few scenes then forgotten about.  No, he is a major character in the story despite having demonstrably nothing to do with the plot.  The Fifth Element has a cast member named “Tricky”.  His actually named on the credit roll is Tricky... and Chris Tucker is out acted by this guy.  This is the level of talent we’re dealing with here.

The Fifth Element bombed at the box office but did get some new life on home video and has since earned an admirable cult following.  Still, Chris Tucker was not deterred, obviously, as he went on to star in the comedy Money Talks alongside Charlie Sheen, who was already more or less a wash-out at the time.   Together, Tucker and Sheen were about as captivating as two Big Brother contestants that are locked in a room and given a double-dose of Ritalin.  The movie was boring, lame and all-around unsuccessful, despite making its meager $25 million budget back… barely.  However, the film’s director, Brett Ratner, was not done with Tucker yet.  First, however, Chris Tucker had to appear in his obligatory good movie.

This good movie is not something that is simply likable like the Wedding Singer.  No, Chris Tucker had the balls to be in one of the single best movies of the 90’s: Jackie Brown.  Quentin Tarantino’s throwback of a suspense flick starring former blaxploitation princess Pam Grier was a slam dunk.  However, I am more than happy to say that Chris Tucker’s part in this film was particularly small, only amounting to a few seconds of screen time, so I don’t have to give him any credit for it!  HA!  This is the point where a majority of people had almost forgotten Chris Tucker entirely.  He was still acting fairly regularly but most of his roles since Friday were either small, or in movies nobody saw.  That changed in 1998.  

Remember when I mentioned that Brett Ratner was not done with Tucker?  Well, here is the culmination of that “filmmaker’s” misplaced confidence.  The early 90’s saw a sudden stateside resurgence in the popularity of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, most notably in the form of a growing interest in superstar Jackie Chan.  He had already released a number of his homeland successes re-dubbed in English for American audiences and they did well... for the most part.  So, by the late 90’s, the Hong Kong action hero realized he could make significantly more money in U.S. productions, and he did just that. A majority of Chan’s American successes so far had been from Hong Kong filmmaker Stanely Tong. However, in order to garner further favor with American audiences, Chan’s big move would require him to work more with Hollywood producers, directors and actors, and this move was the birth of the absolutely brain-melting Rush Hour.  

Brett Ratner’s style has always been something along the lines of: Film a bunch of action crap and edit in lots of shots of stars swinging, sliding, screaming and hurdling about.  His style is chaotic and actually, very uninteresting.  There is often literally so much going on that your brain just sort of tunes most of it out, and one finds themselves ultimately bored.  I can best compare a Brett Ratner film to one of those 3D Magic Eye prints from the 90’s.  Once you learn to see the sailboat, it is kind of cool. Yet, no matter how seemingly-awesome what you are seeing really is, eventually you get tired of it and find yourself wanting to do something productive with your time. I think Willam went on to be a Neo-Nazi (double-movie-reference!).

Rush Hour is a special level of bad because it featured Chris Tucker at his worst and Jackie Chan at his most unintelligible.  Chan was trying in this load of crap but the shame on the veteran action star’s face is palpable throughout the film.  This is accentuated by the fact that Chris Tucker ultimately dominates much of the movie.  Between bouts of not being able to understand half of Jackie Chan’s dialogue (a problem addressed in the movie as a gag) and Tucker being an obnoxious douchebag through the entire film, I just felt bitter.  Add to that Chris Tucker’s actual lines, which are just back-to-back ethnic jokes at Chan’s expense, referencing numerous unfunny racist stereotypes that Hollywood still seems convinced are worthy of screen time.  If the roles were reversed, and Chan was commenting endlessly about Tucker’s race, somehow I don’t see this movie having as many fans.

So that’s Tucker’s legacy.  Yep, that's pretty much it.  In 2001, Tucker and Chan reunited for the obligatory Rush Hour sequel (because the first film made money).  It was the same movie except this time Tucker goes to Hong Kong!  Oh-ho, ZANY!  We get more lame references to Chan’s poor English, Tucker’s aggravating and chauvinistic lasciviousness, and a complete and total waste of Ziyi Zhang, which is just unforgivable.  Her appearance in Rush Hour 2 is best compared to Jet Li’s in Lethal Weapon 4.  She has no lines. She just does her villain-thing, has one lame fight scene at the climax and then is out of the movie.  Pathetic!

Rush Hour 3 was released in 2007 to generally-negative reception.  It barely cleared a profit.  I did not see it, so I cannot comment on it.  I just had no interest after the first two, and apparently neither did most people.  So, now here we are, Chris Tucker has had three film appearances since 2001.  He was in Silver Lining’s Playbook in 2012, which I found to be only an okay entry from rising filmmaker David O. Russell, and IMDB has Tucker listed in a rumored future role in Rush Hour 4.  Given that Rush Hour 3 barely broke even, I don’t really see a third sequel happening.  However, I have been wrong before.  The way I see it, by the time Rush Hour 2 came out, the public at large had pretty much forgotten about Chris Tucker.  Now, history has shown us that an actor can make a major comeback pretty quickly, so you never know.  Still, I don’t see this happening with this mostly-forgotten has-been.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Worst Actors - Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry.
Tyler Perry has had a rough life.  I empathize with him, but I will not and cannot let that background effect my opinion of his work. I have heard, from one member of, one of Tyler Perry’s films compared to a minstrel show.  I found this to be a little extreme, but I do respect those guys and enjoy their opinions, and I can see how one can view his over-the-top, cliche-driven storytelling as more than a little offensive.

Tyler Perry escaped his rough upbringing and his reportedly abusive father to become a writer.  He was inspired by Oprah… I guess.  Now, go ahead and call me a skeptic, but Oprah more or less made this man, so I would not put it past her to fabricate some sort of influence on her part to take some credit for his “success”.  I’m not making any accusations, but I smell bullshit somewhere, and it’s not me.  I checked.  Twice.

Perry’s rise seemed far too rapid to be truly organic.  You hear about writers and filmmakers struggling in the indie scene for years before breaking out, yet Tyler Perry went from playwright to writer, director and star of major motion pictures in just under seven years.  Somebody was pulling some strings somewhere.  It certainly is not because he is the next Quentin Tarantino (who is not that great of an actor either, but is a stellar filmmaker); No, I attribute it more to a brush of luck and more than a little help from "someone" with a lot of influence.  

Perry’s first line of films were straight-to-video but were rather successful.  Services like Netflix and Vudu had not yet made video stores entirely irrelevant, so independent releases were still getting rated by rentals.  Perry entered the scene with his trademark character: the old-school, loudmouth matriarch Madea.  Madea’s Family Reunion is… well, it’s horrendous.  We get lots of typical jokes at characters' expense, mixed with heavy-handed family drama, likely stemming from Perry’s own life experiences.

Tyler Perry has been quite successful at pandering to a family-values black audience. This is a fine goal as a number of filmmakers made good careers out of pandering. However, there is still something about Perry’s own unique blend of dull, one dimensional writing, bland bored-as-all-hell acting and his utter refusal to not be the center of attention in any one scene, despite his complete lack of charisma, that makes him an easy target for detractors.  He wants recognition.  Oh, he’s recognizable, but not for the reasons he wishes.

Tyler Perry has maintained a certain level of financial success over the years, with his Madea movies still bringing in revenue and his supporting performances subsidizing his less successful ventures.  However, in 2007 we saw just how bad things could get.  Why Did I Get Married? is one of Perry’s stories he wrote very early on, adapted to stage and then rewrote for the big screen.  Of course, he has top-billing in this steaming heap and he takes 100% of the blame for just how absolutely awful this movie is.  This dull, boring, self-indulgent piece of crap was meant to be a strong piece of introspection, but turned out to be a big hanging piece of something else.  We are supposed to empathize and sympathize, but the characters in the story are indistinguishable from one another. This is due to Perry’s obvious inability to write for characters outside of his limited experiences, and thus they are all mere reflections of himself.  This further accentuates his arrogance, which shines in every role and every line of dialogue.

Tyler Perry’s next big attempt at depth was the film For Colored Girls, which is kind of like poorly-dramatized, all-black Vagina Monologues. However, we do not hear the words of women with strong feminist views, espousing gender equality, vulnerability and strength in mixed scenes. No, instead we get a commentary on social justice and a heavy-handed slap across the face if you do not fall into the film's very narrow market demographic.  Just listen to a freaking Beyonce album instead. It's shorter and, surprisingly, a lot less painful. There was no demand for this film to reach a mass audience, and the reception was overwhelmingly negative.  

The failure of For Colored Girls sent Perry straight back to the video market.  He continued to get limited theatrical releases on some of his films. Why Did I Get Married Too? was a tremendous flop of a movie that was more or less the same as the original and Perry was just as bland and boring in this film as ever.  Things looked almost over for Perry, but, for some strange reason, he was able to get a series of television shows lined up for TBS.  He would occasionally make cameo appearances as Madea on utterly bland, forgettable and meaningless family sitcoms like House of Payne and Meet the Browns (Hell, even the names scream “We are not even trying here”).  Still, things did not look good for Perry for several years.  

Still, somebody with a lot of money apparently likes this guy as he was able to land intermittent roles in major movies like Star Trek and Alex Cross.  He sucked in Star Trek (of course) but Alex Cross itself deserves some examination   Another trait Perry is often pegged with is his expression.  The one expression.  I have heard it described as an odd smile but to me it’s more like amused bewilderment.  He is so captivated by the fact that he is acting alongside people way more talented than him that he just cannot keep himself composed.  Perry spends the entirety of Alex Cross with this dumbass look on his face, as if he just thought of something really funny, but is trying to hold it in so as not to seem like a complete ass.  That, or he is perpetually constipated, either one is definitely possible.  Factor in the fact that the character of Alex Cross was cemented on film by none other than Morgan-FREAKING-Freeman and you can just see the embarrassing juxtaposition here.  Look at Along Came a Spider. Not one of Freeman’s better films, but he was still good in it.  Now, compare his performances as an aging-but-super-intelligent detective to that of Perry’s, which resembles a DMV worker about to close out his shift for a week’s vacation: bored but just a little happy that things are looking up.

What is worse is that Perry shows no signs of slowing down.  Even after a far-too-brief career rut, he has managed to maintain a degree of success in film, major or otherwise.  He’s also apparently still doing plays as well, so we have a lot of his bland, insipid, beige-ass writing and acting to look forward to in the future.  Yaaaaay... (said with all of the enthusiasm of a Tyler Perry character).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Worst Actors - Adam Sandler: Part 2

Adam Sandler
By 1999, Adam Sandler was showing his age.  Well, I mean his face was, but he still acted like an adolescent asshole in most of his movies. Still, he wasn’t really doing anything particularly major for a while.  Bid Daddy happened.  People watched it, they shrugged and then went on with their lives.  Adam Sandler, at this point, had to have been feeling the looming cloud of irrelevance.  

As the year 2000 came around, and the world didn’t end, Y2K became a punchline and Adam Sandler’s career was a relic of a bygone decade, the once-notable performer was trying to get a taste of two worlds.  He had seen a number of comedians do well in dramatic roles, and Sandler himself began to follow this trend. He started appearing in mediocre dramas in which he shows some growth as an actor, following each one up with a truly obnoxious piece-of-garbage comedy.  

Little Nicky has the distinction of being not only one of Sandler’s worst films, but also of being a comedy that really just killed comedies in general for me.  Upon leaving Little Nicky I found myself contemplating things.  I was wondering what life meant.  Questioning my very being.  I remember a vast cumulonimbus cloud hovering onerously in the sky, like it just wanted to turn into a giant anvil and crush everything under it.  I was wrong, of course.  It was just a pretty nasty thunderstorm.  One that resulted in some damage. I thought, hell, Little Nicky was so bad that God is trying to kill us for watching it.  

The continued existence of a career for Sandler has been one of the most amazing and confusing anomalies in film history.  Audiences have a tendency to be rather unforgiving when a movie sucks.  A lot of careers have been destroyed because of one bad movie.  Sandler had several yet, people still bought tickets!  By this time, Adam Sandler himself had started his own production company, Happy Madison, an amalgamation of two of his earlier films (I suppose Airhead Overboard was too on-the-nose).  I took this as a personal insult.  He was actively pitching his other movies in the one terrible movie he just sold!

Sandler continued to act regularly.   One more serious film (Spanglish, Reign Over Me, Punch Drunk Love) alongside several awful overflowing septic tanks (Anger Management, 50 First Dates, Eight Crazy Nights).  This was the pattern for a while, but then… I don’t know.  I think Adam Sandler may have a brain tumor or something.

2007 brought us I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.  Sandler was no stranger to homophobic comedy, with the occasional gay stereotype or a stab about a guy “getting a little too close” here or there, but this movie was pretty much over the line.  The premise involved two firefighters pretending to be in a domestic partnership to earn benefits.  This forces them to pretend to be a gay couple through the movie, despite just about everyone HAVING to know they aren’t gay.  Oh, forget it.  The ruse is shallow and the movie was offensive and stupid.

Chuck and Larry, however, saw a new chapter in Sandler’s career.  He began starring in more and more over-produced tripe under the Happy Madison label, still giving his various untalented friends like Kevin James and Rob Scheider work.  But outside of that, his movies became more and more aggressive with their… badness.  I can’t really place it, but somehow, Adam Sandler found a way to get WORSE!

Post-2007, Adam Sandler began hiding his badness behind other actors.  Appearing in movies like Funny People and Grown Ups.  Funny People at least had the benefit of having a talented writer and director at the helm in Judd Apatow.  He was also giving a supporting performance to Seth Rogen, who worked well in the movie and Sandler’s character seemed to be something of a sort of parody of his own real-life career, starring in dreadful high-concept garbage much to the dread of the characters in the movie.  Grown Ups was… a little different.

Grown Ups is bad in a far more cynical way.  Most of his worst films have Sandler himself either trying too hard or failing at a concept that wouldn’t have worked even if the people starring in the movie had the chops to pull it off in the first place.  Grown Ups has Adam Sandler paling around with old friends, doing stuff.  That’s it.  We get lots of lame dialogue and Kevin James falling over stuff, but nothing really happens in the movie.  It is bad and Sandler probably knows it and just does not care.

Now, despite every bitter, angry thing I have said about Adam Sandler up to this point, even I could not believe what was right around the corner.  In 2011, Adam Sandler would give us his single worst performance yet.  Jack and Jill was so awful, so absolutely terrible, that I would have sworn that his was it for Happy Madison.  I could have bet that he would spend the rest of his career voicing straight-to-video childrens' animated movies and appearing on some celebrity reality show.  I cannot believe I was wrong.  I mean, think about this, people!  We gave a number of good performers the boot for one bad movie!  ONE!  What is wrong with this country!?  How, does one follow up Jack and Jill, in one of the single worst performances in major Hollywood history, with an actual career!?  I’ll tell you how!  With a comedy about child rape!

I mean it when I say, even I didn’t think he’d go there.  But he did.  Oh, yessir, he did.  That’s My Boy has to be a low point in comic writing.  Compared to smart discussions about forbidden romance in Manhattan, or the shockingly disturbing take on lust in American Beauty, Sandler has taken an already touchy subject and drew phallic symbols all over it!  The movie goes so far as to actually SHOW the already heavily-implied statutory rape at one point.  I’m not crazy right?  People still willingly give this guy their money?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!?!?!

I ask that with all sincerity.  This guy still has movies lined up.  He’s still relevant.  Why?  What are you, the viewing audience, getting from Adam Sandler that is so special?  I can give you dozens of mediocre comedies from the 70’s and 80’s that are at least ten times better than anything he has put out in the last two and a half decades, so why does he still have fans!? AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!


Okay. I'm okay. I need... a change of scenery. An actor that sucks but... One that doesn't make my blood pressure go up when I think about him. I'll be back again with another rant against people far richer and more successful than me and this time, I'll try not to be so... emotional...

Worst Actors - Adam Sandler: Part 1

Adam Sandler's stupid fucking horse face
We’re in this one for the long haul, folks.  A MULTI-PARTER!

Saturday Night Live has been a successful springboard for many comedic performers since its premiere in 1975.  The original cast launched such notable comics of the 70’s and beyond as Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and… (ahem) Eddie Murphy… (ahem, ahem…  You’ll be seeing that name again soon...).  So, a show this popular, that has been this successful at launching a-list careers is bound to have a knack for finding the freshest young comedic talent out there, right?

The mid-to-late 80’s were not good to Saturday Night.  After a famously-devastating sixth season that saw the first year without founding producer Lorne Michaels as well as interruption by a Writer’s Guild strike, SNL struggled to find its legs again.  Still, late night mainstay pressed on and by 1985, the show was revitalized with comic power-players like Robert Downey, Jr., and Dennis Miller.  Still, even after a full five years, favor was still wobbling due primarily to behind-the-scenes conflicts and a lack of cast chemistry.  Fans only remember the great sketches, not the bad or mediocre, and despite a heavy dose of individual talent, the cast as a whole was having trouble landing heavily recognizable and cheer-worthy characters like it was in the 70’s.  This led to yet another… overhaul of sorts.

The beloved series was almost entirely recast and by the late 80’s new rising talents like Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman and Mike Meyers joined the ill-fated show.  It turned out to be the right move and SNL was a big hit again.  Then… something happened.  For the sixteenth season, in 1990, the cast was retooled again, as well as expanded.  During the season, various roll-over cast members from the 80’s were steadily being replaced by new performers, and mid-season, in 1991, one such performer, a young jokester named Adam Sandler, was brought on.

Sandler was never really a heavy-hitter on SNL.  Compared to powerhouse players like Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey and Chris Rock, Sandler just kind of floated in the background.  His most notable contribution to the show was Operaman and.. well… the less said about THAT the better.  Sandler’s comic style tended to baffle people more than anything else.  His odd vocalizations, baby talk, o-face expressions and obnoxious tone more or less highlighted his contributions to SNL, which mostly came down to bit parts.  Sandler spent roughly three years like this until 1994, when he got to use a large chunk of the popular Weekend Update segment to perform “The Chanukah Song”.  This was a turning point in his career.  

It is important to note that even before his hiring on SNL, Sandler had been bouncing around the big and small screen and also appeared in a few motion picture productions from SNL’s producer, Lorne Michaels.  Sandler’s first recognized appearance to the mass audience was that of a recurring bit character on the mega-hit 80’s family sitcom The Cosby Show.  The character, named Smitty, appeared off and on for roughly one season as a friend to teenager Theo Huxtable.  Around this same time he gave us a little taste of the future with Going Overboard.

To call Going Overboard one of the worst comedies of the 80’s does not even begin to cover it.  It is, without a doubt, one of the most miserable, joyless, unfunny works I’ve ever seen.  If that is not bad enough, Going Overboard is not even close to Sandler’s worst.  No, that is yet to come.  Still, suffice it to say that Sandler trying to play sincere and funny in a movie that is both narcissistic (another trait we will see over and over from Sandler),and immensely unfunny is quite sad indeed.  

During the last few years of his SNL run, Sandler continued to appear in movies such as Lorne Michael's production of Coneheads, which was a huge exercise in mediocrity, and Airheads, a bland comedy about a hair metal band holding workers at a radio station hostage to get airplay.  Consider, for a moment, a fake hair metal band, post-Nirvana, ranting about the direction music is going, when just about every song on the soundtrack is an ear-bleeding mess.  The only saving grace of this film is a fair performance by veteran performer Joe Mantegna.

It was shortly after this dry spell that Sandler got his first top-billing role in Billy Madison.  I can go on all day about this movie, but I’ll leave it at this.  Billy Madison is one of those movies that, for some strange reason, has maintained a degree of credibility among people around my age.  The Gen-Xers who absorbed the 90’s like it was some sort of skin infection seem to still remember the movie with a certain level of fondness.  I have great nostalgia for the 90’s, but Billy Madison is one of those.. examples, of how nostalgia goggles are not only blinding, but embarrassing… for everyone.

He followed this up in 1996 with Happy Gilmore… which was WORSE!  Happy Gilmore is such a shameless sellout of a movie, filled with Sandler's trademark self-aggrandizement, despite having virtually the same plot as Happy Gilmore (out-of-place misfit goes to school/plays golf and takes down a bad dude who is rude to people).  Still, forget that for a minute.  Consider that we, as an audience, are supposed to root for this guy.  The guy that gets into a fistfight with an elderly Bob Barker (in one of Sandler’s trademark favor-cameos) and tries to sell us Subway sandwiches throughout the entire movie.  

Around this time, people were starting to.. catch on.  Sandler was turning out to not only be a tremendously untalented performer, but he was also willing to whore himself out to any company willing to stick their brand in his movies.  Keep in mind that his films do make money at the box office, but a large share of his profits come JUST from product placement.  So even if his film is a huge flop, as many of them were and will be in the future, he still benefits by being a big-screen pitchman.  Now, I don’t mind pushing products to sell them, but the pervasiveness of product placement in Sandler’s movies is an example of some of the most shameless shilling since Nintendo and Universal Studios in the Wizard.

Now, the very same year that Happy Gilmore was inflicted on audiences, Sandler showed up in another completely forgotten piece of trash called Bulletproof, alongside In Living Color veteran Damon Wayans.  Bulletproof doesn’t matter.  It left no impact on audiences, or even the careers of its stars, so I will not dwell on it.  No, unfortunately, much to my utter dismay, I have to talk about an Adam Sanlder vehicle I actually like.  The ONLY one I actually like.  Sandler kind disappeared for a few years in the mid-90’s.  He did some standup (that nobody cared about) and then made a big movie comeback in 1998.

The Wedding Singer was an 80’s love-fest with a heartwarming, simple romance and a freaking awesome soundtrack.  Also, there was the shocking fact that Sandler was… actually good in it.  He was not required to do much mind you, but he had a sincerity and warmth that you need to pull off a performance like that.  The Wedding Singer was in the vein of a lot of comedies around the same time.  Jim Carrey was showing his chops in the excellent film the Truman Show and comedy as a whole was starting to take a different turn mood-wise thanks to the influence of filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Todd Solondz.  To stay relevant, Sandler had to evolve.  The loud, pushy persona just would not cut it anymore… right..?

Ho, boy.  Okay.  In my high school years, I used a lot of self-deprecation as a sort of defense mechanism.  "People can’t make fun of me if I’m willing to make fun of myself," I felt, and it turned out to often be true.  Also, me being a tremendous smartass, I often laid out some deafening one-liners and insults to my fellow students, which was more often met with laughs and “Oh! SNAP!”’s rather than slugs to the face.  This was, as I said, because I did not take myself too seriously and this led me to be able to be honest in a more indirect way, masking my arrogance (all teens are arrogant) with sarcasm.  I was also one of about eight white students in my entire school, so being a little jokey supposedly helped to ease the tension that I was told I should have felt, though I really didn’t.  

A movie called the Waterboy came out in the later months of 1998, and some teens thought it clever to compare me to the lead character, not for any particular reason except that I was white, though this did not last long, primarily due to the fact that by the time the movie actually came out, a vast majority of people, including many of my classmates, hated it.  So, one could attribute my vast hatred for the Waterboy to the five weeks or so that it was funny to laugh at my expense, but I would argue otherwise.  I find it, instead, much more plausible that the Waterboy is a dreadful, soulless, witless, escaped experiment that somehow mutated and slogged and flowed through the public consciousness like a chlamydia outbreak at a commune in the late 60’s.  I cannot emphasize this enough. I find nothing redeemable about the Waterboy.  It is, and I am being 100% serious here, one of the worst movies I have ever seen.  I will watch North, Battlefield Earth and Son of the Mask simultaneously, on a LOOP before I willingly sit through one second of the Waterboy again.

It was, about this time, that I begin to grow a tremendous hatred for Adam Sandler as a performer.  I was still, at least for the time, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I mean, I liked the Wedding Singer enough that I was willing to make an exception.  Maybe things will not be this bad again…

Continued in part 2

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Worst Actors - Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone
Here’s another Oscar-nominee!  Sylvester Stallone earned Best Performance and Best Screenplay nominations for the 1976 film Rocky.  Pretty much the entirety of Stallone’s career since this film has been an unmitigated disaster.  However, with the occasional, anomalous gem like the enjoyable Demolition Man or the unintentionally-comic Rocky IV, he has managed to keep his credibility quite high.  So, what in the Hell is that all about?

Sylvester Stallone holds a distinction of creating a number of iconic film characters very early in his career.  This is rare, and admirable.  Thus, it is impossible to deny Sly Stallone’s talent.  However, he is the victim of the failed studio system and has became more and more of a product, losing, piece by piece, any of the charisma and blue-collar charm that made him a likable, flawed, every man hero in Rocky.  

The American public began to see a precursor to what will become Stallone’s defining character archetype (the badass who will do anything it takes) in the 1981 crime thriller Nighthawks, a movie that revels in Regan-era politics and heavy-handed, far-right, tough justice  It is a really, really stupid movie, notorious for justifying police corruption and violence based solely on the idea that the audience knows the guys they are after are bad, therefore it’s okay.  We would see a repeat of these ideals in the 1986 disaster Cobra.  

1987 is considered one of the worst years in film history (you’ll probably be hearing that a lot in this series and in future articles), and for Stallone, it is one of the most embarrassing years of his career.  In the tried and true theory that Hollywood will make a movie out of literally anything, we got Over the Top, a movie about competitive arm wrestling.  It sucked.  The general consensus was negative before anyone even really saw the movie, and in a year that gave us The Secret of My Success, Leonard Part 6, the Garbage Pail Kids and Ishtar, believe me when I say that Over the Top maybe the single dumbest major Hollywood movie of 1987.

The entirety of the 90’s were bad for Stallone, and even the aforementioned Demolition Man, despite being fun, is by no means a great film.  Oscar, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Rocky V, the Specialist and Judge Dredd are all examples of the absolute worst of Stallone’s career.  Also, there is his notorious and laughable quirk of playing characters with really stupid names like Joe Tonto, Ray Quick, John Spartan, Lincoln Hawk and Cosmo Carboni.  However, he lacks the goofy charisma and schlocky charm of a truly entertaining action-exploitation performance we would get from the likes of Pierre Kirby or Reb Brown in performances that would justify such silly names.

Another major issue with Stallone is, despite his likability in many performances on screen, he is one of those actors that is always more or less the same.  You will never see him disappear into a role like Gary Oldman, Kenneth Branagh or Ian McKellan.  Instead, you will always see the actor, never the character.  The only example of this is, of course, Rocky, and I think that is really the problem with Stallone’s career as a whole.  He peaked too soon.

We see this happening a lot in Hollywood.  A promising young star will rise to greatness so fast, that there is no where else to go but down.  It does not help that many of these performers end up in action or comedy roles, which, for the most part, are bad.  Very, very bad.  Stallone’s career was further impeded by his apparent resistance to evolve as an actor.  Former action superstars like Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood have spent their aged years starring in movies that were quieter, in roles that have been more challenging.  This has led to them being mostly successful despite being older (recent Die Hard sequels notwithstanding).  Stallone, on the other hand, shows no signs of slowing down to aim for a stronger character performance, still wanting to strut his stuff in CGI-filled action tripe.

Stallone did take a break for comedies in the early 90’s, but this did not end well.  I think this was the point where he said to himself, “Well, I’m never trying THAT again.” and just went back to performances his audience would have expected from him.  Still, time has not been good to Stallone’s career.  As he grew in popularity, he fell victim to a number of Hollywood trends that only seem to snake in those unfortunate enough to be at the canopy of the Hollywood jungle, like a thick rain of a flock of migrating birds’ droppings.  The specific trend I am referring to is the early-to-mid 90’s push by Hollywood to seem to want to emasculate every major alpha male superstar created in the 80’s.  I am not entirely sure where this trend came from, or why it became so big (none of these movies were good), but Stallone stepped right into this steaming pile, and nobody was there to hand him a stick or anything, it just festered on the bottom of his career.  Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was so bad that it actually was more or less unanimous in its presence on worst of the year lists for 1992 and generally ranks high among the worst films of the 90’s.  Despite following this movie up with the successful, more traditional actioner Cliffhanger in 1993, Stallone basically set out the rest of 90’s.  He appeared in a few movies here or there, but most were unsuccessful.  

Still, Stallone held on to much of his credibility until Judge Dredd became the stone around his neck.  He has never been able to recover, as much as he has tried, from this looming cloud of a movie.  What’s worse is the success and praise of a second attempt at a Dredd movie recently, which has brought the nightmare back for Stallone as many people spent a majority of the discussion of the new movie mocking Stallone’s older version.  Not to say this endless public humiliation is not deserved.  Judge Dredd was his big bomb.  A movie so bad, that it pretty much sunk his career permanently.  

He made a few attempts at a comeback with failures like Get Carter, Driven and the shamefully squandered potential of Cop Land, and then spent several years following a rough late-90’s run into the new millennium with head-hanging desperate straight-to-video roles and a shockingly awful performance in the epically-bad Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, where he plays the villain.  Since then, he has spent his career trying to revitalize old characters in Rocky Balboa and the Rambo reboot, hoping, seemingly in vain, to inject some good will in an audience he has spent three decades disappointing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Worst Actors - Robin Williams

Mid-90's Williams;
So what does it mean to be one of the best actors among a slew of terrible A-list performers?  Well, I will give Robin Williams credit.  He does have some good performances under his belt.  The Dead Poets Society, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting are all good movies, and he was good in them.  However, when Robin Williams is not kept under control, and is given even a pittance of creative freedom, he can send a movie right off of the rails.  Williams’ manic and spastic behavior is common knowledge and part of his persona, and his notoriously embarrassing TV interviews in 1980’s and 90’s are the stuff of legend.  Robin Williams is, when kept under close control, able to perform, but his typical acting style is more like that of a nine year old cocaine addict with Tourette syndrome.  This was evident early on during his run on Mork & Mindy, a popular TV sitcom in which he performs alongside a subdued and underacting (bad acting) Pam Dawber, which makes him seem even more off-kilter and crazed.  

The performer he was most directly compared to for several years was that of Andy Kaufman, a comic talent who specialized in never really keeping the audience in on the joke, and who was actually quite brilliant in his ability to be deceptively entertaining.  Kaufman and Williams were both notable for playing comparatively crazy characters around the same time, but while Kaufman’s character on Taxi was reserved for supporting scenes and generally kept on a short leash, Williams was generally let loose on the set.  The same went for the total disaster that was Popeye.  A musical mess that should not of happened, was destined to fail from conception, and has become one of the most notably awful and costly bombs in film history.  

Through the 80’s, Williams appeared in one failure after another, from Club Paradise to Moscow on the Hudson, Williams once-promising career was beginning to look like a terrible mistake.  Then in 1989, he appeared in Dead Poet’s Society, an okay Oscar-bait film, one for which the Academy took said bait.  Dead Poet’s Society’s director, the sporadically-working, but consistently-good Peter Weir has a knack for squeezing surprisingly high-quality performances out of otherwise mediocre actors and, for some reason, this movie pushed Williams back into the public consciousness after a much-deserved career decline.  Then came the 90’s.  

The 90’s were a strange roller coaster for Williams.  The 1990 comedy Cadillac Man was a return to form for Williams, and despite his occasional attempt at drama, Williams maintained a steady career push in comedy.  1992’s Aladdin, released at the height of the Disney Renaissance was undeniably a turning point in his career as this performance’s success led him down a path towards slapsticky tripe, and the success of Hook the previous year had provided what would become the Williams formula for much of the 90's, schticky comedy slathered with heavy-handed family-focused schmaltz.  Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Toys, Jack, and Flubber are all prime examples of the Williams formula at its worst, and, once again, by the late 90’s his career was in decline despite a few mid-decade successes such as Jumanji and the Birdcage.  Then, in a case of history repeating itself, Williams struck gold again with the critical success of Good Will Hunting, a good movie with a couple of good performances that rode the wave of a truly awful film year in 1997. This would be the last seriously-good role in Williams’ career.  

Since the late 90’s, It has been one epic disaster after another, with the occasional drama mixed in as if to shout “HEY!!! SEE!!?!?  I’M STILL AN ACTOR!!!”, but it really has not been enough.  He has not struck gold since Good Will Hunting and, despite a few Oscar-bait flops like the heinous Jakob the Liar and the disgustingly self-indulgent and grotesque World’s Greatest Dad, Williams has maintained a safe spot in the A-list.  The lame and squandered Night at the Museum movies as well as a few steaming piles like RV and Grown Ups will be Williams’ legacy.  

So, why is he on this list?  One of the principal factors I am taking into consideration is the disparity between the best and worst performances of an actor.  Williams has proven he has chops and can carry a good movie, however he puts way too much stock in his manic comic performances and has an uncanny ability to pick the worst screenplays bouncing between major producers and studios.  For this alone, Williams deserves to be recognized as a lost cause in major cinema.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Worst Actors - An Introduction

Before I begin, I would like to thank readers for engaging and enjoying Godfrey Ho Appreciation Month this year. I was sick for about a week and a half, so I missed a lot writing and I know I'm not exactly... consistent. This is something I'm working to change as I would like to get more articles out there more consistently. I spent a couple weeks away from the series but by the time I felt like writing again, I just needed a change of scenery. Plus, I need to keep some movies available for Godfrey Ho Month next year, sure he has plenty, but not all of them are exactly easy to find. That said...

This new series is going to be… harsh.  The Hollywood A-list is a place of honor for any actor.  Most actors who work in film never achieve the level of influence, value and credibility one would think is required to attain this prestigious distinction among peers.  Now, if you were able to maintain a straight face while reading those last few sentences, then congratulations, you fell for it.

The “A-List”, is branding.  Much like a delicious Angus cow, a Hollywood actor is a product.  They are the pretty face on the poster that gets the viewing audience to fill empty theater seats.  The reason why opening weekend is so heavily scrutinized over the rest of a theatrical run is because the movie is being sold to us long before its release, and the one thing used to push a movie more than any other is the cast.

So, who decides who an A-List actor is?  It all comes down to value.  You will not, in 2013, see Christian Slater getting as much for a role as, say, Ryan Gosling, nor would he deserve that level of pay.  This is because the value of an actor (based on past contract negotiations and the overall budget of a film) being even considered for a role has more value to a film than its screenwriter, its director or (in some cases) its source material.  The general moviegoing audience does not develop a relationship with a filmmaker the way a more enthusiastic and engaged filmgoer does.  No, they focus on the actors.  The result of this is a number of notably awful performers getting a little too much credit for their success.

Now, that said, even the greatest actors have bad films under their belt.  And, as casual film fans are quick to elevate an actor for a good performance or good movie, they are just as quick to cast one aside for appearing in a hot mess.  Many of the most famous bad performances of all time (John Travolta in Battlefield Earth and John Wayne in the Conqueror, for instance) are also visible demarcation points in respected careers.  You can often easily trace the exact point where a notable performer’s status went from respected to laughing stock and it can usually be  narrowed down to a period of a few years.  

All of the actors to be featured in this series have fallen in their own way.  Some of these Hollywood  (mostly former) A-listers have won Oscars, a symbol that once meant something, but now is really about as “honorable” and meaningful to a film or performer’s credibility as a TV Guide interview.  The Academy Awards has become just another venue for Hollywood to sell their product, and it usually blows.  

So, who do I chose for this series, and how did I choose them?  It was not a scientific process by any means.  No, this list is purely emotional.  I am writing this in response to the rising consensus that film fans such as myself should lower our standards to meet those of everyone else.  Are my standards high?  I don’t know.  I like a lot of movies myself that I would not exactly consider to be “great movies” but are certainly entertaining.  I have found enjoyment in many films in many genres and I could not tell you where I draw a line.  I can give examples.  Holy crap can I give examples, but I could not quantify what I find to be “good” or “bad” in a purely general sense.  

I want to note that this started as a Top 10, but I found myself ordering a list with a resigned sigh.  It just did not seem possible or even reasonable for me to pick from the massive scrap heap of formerly famous people for just a few names to focus on, which is why I decided to make this an ongoing thing.  There are a couple of things that need to be said before this series begins.  First, I do not dislike all of these performers.  One of the things I take into strong consideration is how far their star fell.  I could have gone with a list of actors like many of the “worst actors” lists online, featuring names like Hayden Christensen or Miley Cyrus, and while they are bad… really, really bad…  I wanted to go with people that had a run that is or was prominent, impactful and successful outside of a niche.  Or, if I did go with an actor that was only known for a handful of movies or one role it had to be an epically bad one.  Yes, Anakin Skywalker and Hannah Montana are terrible characters and yes, they are badly acted, but I’m trying to weigh just how much impact these characters will have on the public consciousness at  large, and I don’t really see it.  

I’ll be posting entries in this series periodically, with the title “Worst Actor”.  I will do everything I can to justify my decision for them making this series.  I will not just feature a name and a picture to troll their fans (assuming they have any).  I will try to be calculating, and reasonable.  “Try” being the applicable word.  So without further ado, the next article will be my first entry in this series.  Stay posted for more updates in the days and weeks to come.