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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Worst Actors - Eddie Murphy: Part 1

Just... Terrifying.
As discussed in a previous article observing the career of Adam Sandler, SNL has been successful at turning out major Holywood stars.  Still, as is often the case, its successes are outweighed by its failures.  A vast majority of SNL performers have their run on the show, then fade away, rarely to be heard from again.  However, about once every generation or so, the series has one huge, breakout star.  In the disastrous 1980-1981 season, a young African American comedian joined the Not Ready for Primetime Players and became one of the show's biggest successes, seemingly overnight.  

Eddie Murphy’s run on SNL was a combination of classic hits and a few rare misses.  I would contend he is easily in the top ten best cast members of the shows history, most notably for his hilarious Buckwheat sketches (Buckwheat sings the hits in-particular) and what is arguably my single favorite sketch in the entire series’ history: White Like Eddie Murphy, in which Murphy (as himself) goes undercover to see what the world is like as a white man.  If you haven’t seen this, it is on YouTube, and it is amazing!

So, it sounds like this is so-far pretty positive, right?  Well, like many of the performers that have been and will be on this list,  Eddie Murphy’s career did not start getting really bad until later.  He started off as an edgy, funny comedian coming off a period in the 1970’s of comedy that was either overtly slapstick, or wry and self-aware.  There was really not too many comedies being released that held that nice middle ground.  The most successful comedies were more low-key (for the most part), as was the case with Harold and Maude and The Last Picture Show, then came SNL.  SNL’s contribution to comedy was essential.  It shocked, it broke down barriers, it put black and female comedians on even ground with their white male counterparts, and it addressed social mores and taboos with gusto.  It was brazen, and that is what made it great.

Eddie Murphy wanted to be a pop star... Isn't that cute?
After three successful seasons on SNL, Eddie Murphy was already a Hollywood hit-maker.  48 Hours and Trading Places (my favorite Eddie Murphy comedy) were both released during his time on the sketch comedy show, and both were successful.  He began a pretty remarkable run in the 1980’s, racking up hits with Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America and Harlem Nights.  However, as the 90’s came around, there was this strange washout of the 80’s, as though everybody wanted to just forget it happened.  Shows like Saved By the Bell tried to keep the neon pink, big hair and bubblegum pop alive, but I always hated that show, and I know more than a few other people who did as well.  No, the early 90’s had a cultural split.  Generation X took over and with them there was a new generation of comedies like Clerks and Dazed and Confused.  80’s film culture was more or less dead at this point. Most of the A-list comic actors of the 80’s had to adapt or fade away.  Tom Hanks and Robert Downey, Jr. became bonafide dramatic performers to cope, and they have had many successes since, but for the most part, things were not looking good for comic talents out of the 80’s.  Eddie Murphy was arguably the biggest start to fall due to this trend, coming off of a truly stellar run, he just stopped being good.  Another 48 Hours, Boomerang and The Distinguished Gentleman were all critical failures but moderate successes at the Box Office.  Then came 1994… oh, boy.

I would say that 1994 was the big turning-point in Eddie Murphy’s career.  It was a point at which he became cynical, and just started taking roles I guess he thought would earn him the most money.  Beverly Hills Cop III was one of the worst sequels of the 90’s.  It had a ton of hype surrounding it.  It was directed by John Landis, who also helmed such greats as The Kentucky Fried Movie, An American Werewolf in London, the aforementioned Trading Places, and Animal House.  It also was Eddie Murphy’s return to action comedies, which had been long-awaited by fans, and it was a well-needed respite from the hard drama that was good, but still saturating in the early-to-mid-90’s.

The movie came out, and just about everyone agreed it sucked.  The plot about a giant mascot theme park (ala, Disney) as the front for car theft and counterfeiting rings was about as interesting as it sounds.  The theme park setting was a clever idea, but not really used to any effect and Eddie Murphy just seemed bored.  Shortly after the film’s release, cast and crew began leaking bytes that Eddie Murphy was basically a pompous ass during the entire production, exercising typical Hollywood spoiled-brat behavior and a refusal to cooperate with Landis.  Murphy reportedly wanted to play the role straight, as though Axel Foley had grown up and out of his famous “wise-ass” persona.  Landis himself said that he believed Murphy was trying to make himself competitive with rising stars like Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes, casting aside his old comic stylings.  The result was a bland, boring comedy that did not have one funny or inspirational moment.  Landis said he “knew the script wasn’t any good” but he operated in hopes that improvisation and comic talent would help the movie rise above its weak screenplay.  It did not, mainly because the comedy just was not there.

Eddie Murphy had a little trouble getting roles after Beverly Hills Cop III.  He hit a slump that he would never be able to climb out of.  His films were still major releases, mind you, and they were still successful, but remember that whole thing about being more dramatic?  Well, that was a load of crap.  I chalk that up to Eddie Murphy just being an ass when he said that because he followed up Cop III with Vampire in Brooklyn, a lame horror/comedy that was severely-lacking in the qualities of both genres.  

He then, most likely out of desperation, signed on with Disney.  Disney has long been a career-killer and Eddie Murphy, though surviving Disney’s terrible run since the late 90’s (The occasionally-good Pixar movie notwithstanding), has never fully recovered.  His first film with the Disney crap-factory was the massive hit the Nutty Professor.  I hated this movie.  A lot of people found it funny but I found it obnoxious and just, well.. noxious.  Eddie Murphy can be a lot to take in, so when he’s playing multiple farting family members in fat suits spouting out annoying, loud shtick, I just want to find a high ledge and leap.  The main premise of the movie is fine, a fat: lonely doctor invents a serum that turns him into a slender player.  In the original, Jerry Lewis went from a nerdy dork to a player but, by the 90’s, Eddie Murphy was far too arrogant to play a nerdy dork, right?  Well, his character Sherman Klump (I HATE that name, by the way), was not really nerdy, just shy and embarrassed by his weight.  So, no, it isn’t the same thing.  I did not like the original Nutty Professor, and I certainly did not like the remake.

He followed that up with Metro, a by-the-numbers action comedy in the vein of Beverly Hills Cop.  It was alright.  It was certainly better than Beverly Hills Cops II and III.  Still, it was not a change to form for Murphy.  He voiced the loud-mouthed dragon Mushu in Mulan and went on to star in another dreadful Disney remake: Dr. Doolittle.

Talking animals!  Am I right?  Easy money!  Disney has long been the source for pure Hollywood cynicism and boy it does not get any more cynical than Dr. Doolittle.  This film preys on family audiences with the idea that, if we have animals run around and dub actors voices in the background, it will be funny, right?  No.  It wasn’t funny.  Still, because it was Disney, it starred Eddie Murphy, and it was a recognizable title for adults with kids, it made money.  This is exactly why Disney went through this remake binge with The Nutty Professor, Dr. Doolittle, and Flubber: Because the older audience of that time, who grew up on the originals, had kids now, and Disney was going to try to milk them for all they had while doing as little work as necessary.  Remember, at this time, Pixar was still young and Disney had not yet started to fully take credit for the fresh studio’s hard work.  Also, with Studio Ghibli still around the corner, Disney’s claim to animation dominance was sort of fading.  It was okay though, in a few years they would be able to consistently take credit (and money) from talented studios, stick their overblown logo before the film, and claim it as their own.  Disney!

Murphy went through a relatively uninteresting period after Dr. Doolittle.  He began to star in odd comedies like Bowfinger and Holy Man.  These movies were not good, and they represented a bland, soulless brand of Hollywood cinema.  They utilized the stick-popular-actors-together-on-screen and mixed that with the ebony-and-ivory formula, generating truly uninspired and uninteresting cinematic nothingness.  What’s worse is, they were essentially the same movie.  Eddie Murphy is a naive black outcast of some sort, who is exploited by a white guy who wants to use him to star in a movie/sell products through his ad agency.  There was very little to distinguish these two films, and very little to hold anyone’s interest.

Murphy starred in Life alongside Martin Lawrence, in which he and Lawrence play wrongfully-convicted men sentenced to life in a black prison in the first half of the 20th century.  It was another nothing movie.  It was, I think, meant to be a sort of spoof of the Shawshank Redemption, only it was a few years too late and played too straight.  It tried to be serious at times and these scenes just bogged the movie down in lame melodrama.

He premiered his short-lived animated TV series the P.J.’s about an apartment building superintendent, and starred in the dreadful Nutty Professor 2, which centered more on the Klump family than the actual plot.  It was terrible.  Showtime followed, which was another nothing comedy about cops working together while being filmed for a reality show.  It was bad and his co-star Robert De Niro just looked like he was sleepwalking through this tripe.

This ends part 1.  If it seems that I sort of knocked out a large chunk really fast, it is because I did.  Eddie Murphy’s 90’s run was bad, but nobody could have seen what was right around the corner.  We have yet to explore the darkest depths of this fallen star’s worst performances, so standby for the next post where we take a look at, in one single article, some of the worst comedies ever made by Hollywood.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Worst Actors - Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Each era of film has a few performers who have a degree of popularity for a short time, then burn out really fast.  We saw this with the unfortunate career of Bobcat Goldthwait, who spent the remainder of his run after the 80’s writing off-kilter black comedies, but remained out of the limelight.  Then there was Pauly Shore, whom I previously covered.  His time in the spotlight lasted only a few years, but seemed like an eternity.  However, there is one flash-in-the-pan actor that has fascinated me for just over a decade.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. was a rising star in the 90’s due, in part, to his early role in the 1991 drama Boyz n the Hood, directed by the talented-yet-often-misguided John Singleton.  I found Boyz n the Hood to be an excellent exploration of the life of teens with various upbringings in the Los Angeles ghetto featuring particularly-superb performances by Laurence Fishburne and Morris Chestnut.  The film was universally critically-successful, and earned Singleton two Oscar nominations: one for Best Original Screenplay, and one for Best Director.  What is even more impressive is that the movie made back almost ten times its $6 million-dollar budget, making it one of the most successful films of the 90’s in terms of budget-to-gross ratio.

After his initial surprise success, he had a period of lesser roles for a few years.  He had a run as a recurring character in the hit series MacGuyver and went on to star in the first of many bombs of his career, the 1992 mess Gladiator.  No, this is not the excellent 2000 film starring Russel Crowe, this is the OTHER Gladiator from the 90’s.  The story centers on two boxers caught in an illegal, underground fighting ladder.  It was ignored by audiences, mocked by critics and failed to perform at the Box Office.  Over the last ten years or so, Gladiator has gained somewhat of a cult following, though I still find the film to be mostly-bland, badly-acted and poorly-edited.

He had a supporting role in the excellent 1992 film A Few Good Men, and this kept him in the limelight, but a series of career missteps would start him down a path of ultimate collapse.  The first one was a mostly-forgotten, uninspired, 1994 retread called Lightning Jack, in which Paul Hogan literally plays Crocodile Dundee in the Old West, except he is most definitely not Crocodile Dundee, he is Lightning Jack!  This movie was astounding.  It was such a cynical, pointless piece of crap and nobody involved seemed to really care about it.  Despite having a large role in the movie, Gooding was mostly unrecognized due to the film’s very limited success.

He starred in the sloppy-yet-entertaining Wolfgang Petersen thriller Outbreak in 1995.  It was a smaller role, as he was being pushed more and more into the background, a career trend we will see him reliving in the future.  The movie overall was not bad, just a little off.  A fictional viral outbreak of Ebola hits a small U.S. town after a monkey escapes captivity and attacks a young girl, infecting her.  The CDC and Army get involved and we get a very localized, yet chilling apocalyptic scenario.  The flaws of the film come out in the form of cliched evil political characters and lazy performances by Renee Russo and Dustin Hoffman, who are both carried by supporting roles from Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman.

He then moved on to the bland-as-hell 1995 TV Drama from HBO Pictures, The Tuskegee Airmen.  It was stoic, conventional, and really just about as entertaining as being told the captivating story concisely by a cliche-spewing, dull-voiced professor.  The film had an ugly, grey look to it too, obviously trying to give the film some age and create a tone of being in another time, but the lack of color just made this movie kind of hideous.  Still, nobody saw this next project coming, nor could they have anticipated Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s massive success that would come as a result.  

In 1995, the Cameron Crowe-directed Jerry Maguire was released.  At the time, Tom Cruise was pretty much a guarantee of any film’s success, but Jerry Maguire surprised everyone by being not just a traditional romantic drama, but an superb character study.  In the film, Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays a young football star who puts his career on the line as he owes his fame and his shot at greatness to a single sports agent, the titular Jerry Maguire.  In the film, his now-famous line, “Show me the money!” was screamed over the phone enthusiastically.   The scenes where Cruise and Gooding, Jr. were acting off of each other were excellent, though the movie did tend to slow a little when it shifted focus to the softer romantic moments.  Still, it is one of the best movies of the 90’s and a must see for anyone who is interested in a drama that is both true-to-life and a little heartwarming.  The most significant result of Jerry Maguire was Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar win.  This Oscar victory fueled his career straight into the Stratosphere, then it entered the Mesosphere, lost momentum, then came plummeting back down to Earth in a giant ball of fire.

Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s career decline is one of the most rapid, shocking failures in the history of the film industry.  The young actor still showed much promise, but, for some reason, everything just went South.  This was likely due a couple major contributing factors.  The first was the fact that Cuba Gooding, Jr. rose to stardom during one of the worst periods in movie history, the late-90’s-to-early-2000’s.  Sure, there were some great movies from this time, but there was also a lot of crap which paved the way for a third independent film revolution in the mid 2000’s.  Another contributing factor, I believe, is Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s tendency to pick movies that are accessible to most audiences instead of challenging roles, going for the I-liked-that-movie-so-I-should-like-this-one route.  Many of his choices are either heavy-handed cloned dramas or by-the-numbers comedies.  There really was nothing in between.  These extremes prove to result in a general lack of success for their lead performers if they remain trapped in this particular rut for too long.

After Jerry Maguire, Gooding, Jr.’s next major role was the successful comedy As Good As it Gets, a romance film aimed at an audience of middle-aged-to-older women.  The film centers around several varying characters who bond over a tragedy.  It is not a bad film per se, it just lacked any real motivation or direction, relying too much on the typical romantic drama tropes we have seen time and again in significantly better films.  The movie was directed by James L. Brooks, who has had a wide career spanning movies, television and even work writing for video games.  His most significant work was his run as a writer and producer on such mega-hit TV series such as Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi and the Simpsons.  Still, for Cuba Gooding, Jr., he had already plateaued, and it was all downhill from here.

His next major film was the Robin Williams drama What Dreams May Come.  The movie was a strangely Nihilistic exploration of the afterlife, where, after the death of two children, a doctor played by Williams’ dies tragically while trying to save others in an accident.   He finds himself in heaven where he is met by old friends (who are actually his children in disguise.. for some reason)  who guide him and help him come to terms with his new, very permanent existence.  His heaven is inside his mind’s creation of a world inspired by a painting his wife did for him before his sudden death.  Meanwhile, his widowed love, tormented by the cycle of loss commits suicide, which leads her to a grim fate.  Bent on crossing the afterlife to find his lost love, Williams’ character takes a sort of Faustian adventure through beautifully-designed worlds.  What Dreams May Come was not exactly a bad movie.  It was more confused, I would say.  There are a number of things that do not make sense, like why his children disguise themselves as old colleagues and acquaintances, and why this afterlife has no mention or exploration of God or the existence thereof.  We see his wife, because she commits suicide, is sent “somewhere else”, and when we see it, we find her trapped in a lone house at the bottom of an enormous dome of an upside-down church.  Is this Hell?  Purgatory?  Why, if he is in some sort of Heaven of his own creation, is he unable to drink tea without it being paint?  Why?  A lot of the elements in this movie made no sense, and were never addressed.  The writers played it safe, never straying into one dogmatic territory over another, treading this strange middle line and, as a result, failing to paint a proper picture of this world we’re supposed to accept.  

Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s performance in What Dreams May Come was bad.  He spends a majority of the first act spouting exposition and driving the plot forward with uninteresting mythos disguised as revelation.  As the plot meanders about, waiting for the wife to off herself so the story can actually start, he focuses on getting William’s character grounded, failing constantly.  The film is really joyless too, despite obviously trying to be a reassuring fable of the afterlife, and this is not helped by Gooding, Jr.’s bland delivery.

His next major entry was the 1999 film Instinct, which is a bad, baaaad film.  This, at least in my opinion, is probably the point where people were starting to realize something was going really wrong in Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s career.  Instinct is a lazy, unoriginal mess of a movie about a psychologist, played by Cuba, who wants to reach an introverted, traumatized anthropologist who was driven back to primal instincts after spending years living with gorillas only to see them slaughtered by poachers.  The interviews are slow, repetitive and boring and the remainder of the film is padded out with bad, cliched, drama in a prison for the mentally insane.  So, if you have not already guessed: it’s Silence of the Lambs meets Cuckoo’s Nest, and I am not the first person to make that comparison.

Everything about Instinct is calculated to form the most perfect blend of dramatic tension for the folks out there that have never seen a movie.  It reeks of being written-by-committee and has studio stains all over it.  It is a shallow, ugly film that plays on the emotions with manipulative moments and a cartoonishly-villainous prison staff, who seem to only exist to torment the souls we see trapped inside.  The ending of the movie is so pandering and stupid that I was just astonished.  This film came out about the time that I was starting to develop a more discriminating taste in films, and when I saw it I was captivated by how little thought actually went into it.  

The next few projects ranged in quality, from a terrible bomb (Chill Factor) to a mediocre attempt at a military drama (Men of Honor).  Cuba Gooding, Jr. was finding it impossible to live up to the hype that surrounded him just a few years before.  He followed these two films up with the overstuffed Jerry Zucker comedy Rat Race, a movie about groups of buffoons doing slapstick across the country for a chance at a windfall price, hosted by a team of gambling billionaires.  Essentially, the movie was a remake of the 1965 comedy The Great Race, which itself was the original inspiration for Hanna Barbera's Wacky Races cartoon series.  I know Rat Race has fans, and that is fine, there are certainly worse comedies out there (Cuba Gooding, Jr. would go on to star in a few of them), but I was never a fan of most of the performers that headline the film, so I just found it to be a desperate and lazy movie, filled with lots of mugging and screaming.  

Rat Race began a series of comedy bombs for Cuba Gooding, Jr.  The next major film he appeared in was the absolutely awful Snow Dogs, about a man who inherits a sled dog team.  In the film we see the once-heralded actor planting over-the-top expressions into the camera while seemingly-sadistic dogs appear to torture him.  It was a bad movie.  This was no surprise to film fans though as the movie was from director Brian Levant, one of the worst filmmakers working in major cinema and his typical buddy-style slapstick permeates this piece of Disney garbage. I am going to spotlight one more movie here, because he has been in a large number of films since Snow Dogs, but most of them are not even worth mentioning.  

His follow up to Snow Dogs was sort of the nail in the coffin for Cuba Gooding, Jr’s A-List run.  Boat Trip was so bad, so much of an epic fail, that I wonder if it was actually on purpose...  Seriously.  I cannot pinpoint a motivation for this now, but I don’t think anyone could or would want to make a comedy this bad without wanting to hurt someone’s career.  I’m not pointing any fingers, but something amiss had to have been up with this.  Boat Trip follows the exploits of two straight men hoping to pick up chicks who accidentally end up on a gay cruise trip.  The movie is filled with abounding homophobia and then has the nerve, as many of these films do, to try to back off on it in the end, as though we’re supposed to except that these two jerks learned some sort of lesson.  It is tremendously unfunny movie too, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. is out-acted by the astoundingly-awful Horatio Sanz!  That is how far he fell.

From here Cuba Gooding Jr., would go on to star in the football flick Radio, which is an emotionally-manipulative sports drama.  Then he spent most of his career up to present day staying safely in smaller parts in lesser movies.  He starred in the purely-evil Daddy Day Camp and had a minor role in the good film American Gangster, but his Box Office prominence was over.  He would continue to appear in limited release dramas and thrillers and has spent his entire career since the mid-2000’s trying to regain some recognition from fans, and failing every time.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. is the epitome of wasted talent.  He showed promise, then got cynical.  He took what he was offered and obviously had terrible taste in screenplays, picking dramas that I assume the thought were poignant, and comedies that he had to have known were losers.  It is a shame because, early on, I wanted to like Cuba Gooding, Jr., but his poor role choices just made it impossible for me to do so.  You cannot spend your time in movies making films that you think will get you an Oscar, because about 90% of the time, the movies that are trying to be Oscar-bait, are really just disasters.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Worst Actors - Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf is pretending to be sorry about
ruining the 80's for everyone.
There are a few of actors that are currently working that, when I know they are involved with a film project, I avoid like the plague.  I have covered a few of these already but while I do really dislike actors like Adam Sandler and Katherine Heigl, I have seen movies that feature them that I have liked.  This is not the case with Shia LaBeouf, a former-child-star-turned-professional-douchebag who ranks high on my list (maybe even the very top) of the worst A-list performers of all time. It is really hard for me to pinpoint what it is specifically that I find so ineffective or flat out annoying about “The Beef”.  I can definitely point out what I did not like about his various performances.  It maybe his annoying behavior on screen, his voice, the fact that he is incapable of closing is freaking mouth!.. I do not know for sure what it is specifically, though. I wasn’t aware of LaBeouf as an actor until a few years into his career.  Still, I will start at the beginning with this guy, because I think it goes to the point of why he should be avoided like the plague.

Shia LaBeouf got his start in single-episode cameos in various TV shows like ER, the excellent-but-short-lived series Freaks and Geeks, and the X-Files.  He appeared in a few kids movies but none that were particularly notable (that is unless you count the re-release-dub of Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind).  His first recognized, lead role was on the Disney series Even Stevens, a show I have never seen and this I wear this fact as a badge of honor.

Shia LaBeouf is enjoying his time at a commune focused
on the worship of shawarma and the band Rusted Root.
During his three-year run on Even Stevens, LaBeouf slowly began a rise in mainstream cinema, though all of the movies he was in were bad.  It started with the family movie Holes, based on the book by Louis Sachar.  The story involves a boy named Stanley who is wrongfully-convicted of theft and as punishment, chooses a work camp over jail time  When he gets there he and the other kids are forced by a corrupt warden (Sigourney Weaver) to dig countless holes in search of buried treasure.  The movie goes deeper than this primary plot with some intrigue about a family curse, but that does not alter the fact that the acting, by everyone in-general and LaBeouf in-particular, here was bad.  The movie was praised for its story but with film, story is only part of the larger equation.  

After Holes, LaBeouf had small parts in two dreadful sequels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.  Both films are famous for their badness, so I don’t think I’m breaking anyone’s hearts by simply calling them pieces of trash.  Still, unfortunately, LaBeouf kept on trucking.  He had a role in the by-the-numbers and mostly-ignored golf sports drama The Greatest Game Ever Played and a part in the dreadful action flick Constantine.

His next major movie was the film adaptation of Isaac Asimov's series of shorts: I, Robot.  The Hollywood adaptation of this thought-provoking examination of man creating life and his will being exacted on said life is a butchering to say the least.  Action movie cliches abound in this hot mess.  There are tons of ugly CGI explosions, Will Smith defying the laws of physics and LaBeouf, in a smaller part, shouting and screaming his lines.  I guess people really liked that screaming because that would become his default acting mode from here on out.

Disturbia, released in 2007, was a shallow, uninteresting Rear Window knock-off.  I would like to point out that some genius over at Dreamworks thought this perpetually-dumbfounded-looking, droning ass was a replacement for James Stewart.  Just.. let that sink in for a moment.  Disturbia was bad, but successful.  Somewhere along the lines the film’s success was attributed to LaBeouf and this put him over the top in the eyes of Hollywood.  However, in spite of Disturbia’s success, LaBeouf was already lined up for his worst role to date… and boy-oh-boy is it a doozie!

Shia LaBeouf's career simulator.
The idea for a live-action Transformers movie had been floating around Hollywood for a while.  There were project pitches, press releases and rumors going back as early as the mid-90’s but it seemed like every time one party was interested, they could not get a producer, writer, director, or any combination thereof, to sign on.  Well, in 2007, long-suffering fans finally got the movie they had waited roughly two decades for.  The initial buzz was huge.  Steven Spielberg was lined-up to produce, the original Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, was cast to voice the Autobot leader… and that’s pretty much where the excitement wore off for a lot of people.  A majority of the early fan-rage came out in flames when Michael Bay was announced as the director.  Bay’s distinct… style (?) … is widely regarded as one of the most horrid wastes of film imaginable.  Bay spent much of the 90’s working with blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer, but that partnership ended shortly after Bad Boys II tanked.

Michael Bay flooded Transformers with his trademark: unnecessary comic relief.  These gag “characters” became more central to the “story” than the titular Transformers.  Countless sex gags, toilet humor and stupefying slapstick dominated every scene and every time the movie started to feel grandiose and epic, something utterly idiotic would happen, completely wasting what little effort was made to give the film a mythos.  Michael Bay owns about 80% of blame for this failure.  Spielberg gets 10% for his now-commonplace hands-off, just-sit-back-and-make-money approach and the other 10% falls on the cast.  Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam is thoroughly unlikable.  He talks to everyone like they’re pieces of crap, he screams at the heroes, he shouts every line with a guttural droll that makes him sound like he just tripped over puberty and he spends scene-after-scene standing around with his mouth agape, as though there is a stage hand off-screen who is there to toss him Cheetos between takes.  LaBeouf’s Sam, being the lead in this franchise, is the character we are meant to relate most to, yet he is so badly-written and such a tremendous asshole in all three movies that there is just no way I can.  I cannot see myself cheering this guy on.  He is the only guy in the history of the world who would actually be pissed at the fact that he got a nice car from his dad that also happens to transform into a freaking giant robot.  Am I missing something here? What is worse is I think this character was actually meant to be a Michael Bay proxy! (I feel so unclean right now)

Now, as much as I hated Transformers, I had to see LaBeouf’s next movie.  The Indiana Jones franchise is easily one of  my favorite film series.  Issues I had with Temple of Doom aside, the character of Indiana Jones is an iconic, important film character.  So, I was legitimately excited about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Then I actually saw it.

I was mad about Transformers, but I did not go into the theater expecting greatness.  At the very minimum I expected to be moderately-entertained.  So, imagine my surprise when I saw this piece of ASS!  Kingdom is the worst sequel to any quality film franchise I have ever seen.  I hate it more than the Star Wars Prequels, more than Rocky V, more than Alien: Resurrection. I hate this movie more than any of them.  Indy 4 is a complete betrayal plagued by indifference from the creative team and a money-grubbing George Lucas’ talentless hands scraping all over this bastard project.  Every little moment of awfulness in this movie reminds me why I hate major Hollywood.  It is everything bad about modern films in one, ugly, unimaginative, boring mess.  

LaBeouf is just terrible in his crap.  We see him swing through trees with CGI monkeys, get hit in the groin by tree limbs, shout incoherently and then, after all of this, they have the inflated, bright-red BALLS to give him Indy’s hat!  GO TO ALL OF THE HELLS!!!  Fan rage about this movie is nothing fresh or clever, I know.  It has been documented, and repeated, and removed, and reported and perma-banned.  Yet, you will not find a sane, intelligent defender of this movie.  Still, if you do, against all odds, please make sure this person cannot procreate.  Do everything you can as the fate of humanity just may depend on a single makeshift sterilization.  

With all the rage I felt over the crushing of a childhood icon, I still found the Transformers sequels to actually be worse!  Worse than Indiana Jones 4, people!!!  The second film, Revenge of the Fallen, suffered delays due to a WGA strike, which forced Bay himself to ultimately touch up the remaining scenes in the unfinished script.  Needless to say, Bay is no Walt Whitman, and when his awful, awful additions were put to screen, it became almost unanimous that Michael Bay was a shoo-in for a Razzie.. and he got one!  In fact, Bay was nominated for a Razzie for his directorial work on all three Transformers films, but Revenge of the Fallen was the only one to win.  I’m not going to dwell too much on Revenge of the Fallen’s endless misogyny and racist “humor” as that has been well-covered in hundreds of reviews online, but Revenge of the Fallen deserves its title as the worst of three entirely awful films.

Dark of the Moon followed shortly after and was met with equal derision from fans and critics, but, like its predecessors, it made money.  Dark of the Moon was not as bad as the other two, if only due to it cutting back somewhat on the sexism and racism and the recasting of the vacant Megan Fox with the still-bland-but-slightly-better Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  The movie held on to Revenge of the Fallen’s co-writer Ehren Kruger but without Bay’s “additions” the screenplay was a little better.  It wasn’t good!  Not by a long shot! Cut me some slack, though, as I’m trying to dig a little gold nugget out of three turds here… it is not an easy or pleasant task.  

The reception of the Transformers movies was mixed.  They were widely successful, but fans of the original series (myself included) hated them and Shia LaBeouf was right in the middle for me.  Yeah, I hate Michael Bay.  I would call him dirt, except I kind of like dirt a little more than Bay.  Still, I cannot, and will not let LaBeouf off the hook for these movies.  If I called his performances as Sam “awful”, that would be dishonest, because I really could not believe a film character could be this bad.  Johnny from the Room is Rhett Butler by comparison.  I would take Halle Berry as Jinx in Die Another Day (coming soon, by the way) acting alongside Victoria Jackson in a stadium full of drunk vuvuzela players over Sam-I-Wish-His-Herpes-had-Syphilis-Witwicky any day!  He is, at least in my book, a strong contender for the worst character in any major movie in film history, and yes, he just may rank worse than Bella Swan or.. GASP!!! Jar-Jar Binks!

Okay… Deep breaths...

I cannot really comment on any other later performances in LaBeouf’s career for two reasons:  One: he has not had many roles of note since Transformers 3, and two: After seeing the Three Films of the Darkest Depths of Cinema HELL I could not take anymore of this talentless nothing of an actor.  I have seen good actors give bad performances.  I have seen terrible actors give good performances.  However,  I have not, out of all the films I have seen spanning over a hundred years of cinema, seen a major, A-list, Hollywood actor act as bad as I have seen from LaBeouf in ANY of his roles.  He is one of the worst actors I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing perform, and I am not the only person who feels that way.  At least, so it seems, people are catching on, as studios have been passing him up on major roles since the Transformers and Indiana Jones fiascoes.