I like pretty much every film I see. I’m easily pleased. I watch “Power Rangers: The Movie” and “Bio-Dome” quite regularly. My favourite film is “Transformers”. I like Tom Arnold and Pauley Shore. I am an idiot. So it takes a lot for me to dislike a film, and it especially annoys me when everyone else likes it. This happened a few times over the last decade (it happened a great deal more the other way around) and as a result I’ve compiled what I believe to be the ten most overrated genre films released between 2000 and 2009.
(“Bio-Dome” is AMAZING. Shut up.)
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Man: Hey, you wanna go and see “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”? It’s a new martial arts film.
Man 2: Yeah, I really like martial arts movies, like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Mortal Kombat”.
***AFTER THE FILM***
Man 2: That was the most AMAZING martial arts film I’ve ever seen.
Man: No it wasn’t.
Man 2: Yeah it was, it had words at the bottom of the screen and everything. That well-known martial artist Chow Yun Fat was in it! He was better than when he was in “Romeo Must Die”!
Man: Please be quiet.
Man 2: Shhhhhh, everyone will think I’m dumb if I say I didn’t like it. IT WAS IN CHINESE.
Now I’m not saying “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” isn’t a good film, because it is. It’s just not a good martial arts film. It was so hyped-up and over-lauded probably because a majority of the western audience hadn’t ever seen a true Asian martial arts film before. This was possibly down to the fact that this was one of the first major internationally released Asian martial arts films – and all the western world had were Van Damme and Seagal as true representations of martial arts cinema.
So when The Twinkle-Toes Troupe™ ran across water and fought on a branch, everyone went insane. I remember telling everyone that they needed to check out Jet Li’s 90s stuff and Jackie Chan’s 80s films if they wanted a great example of the martial arts genre, but no-one listened and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” became the most critically-acclaimed martial arts movie of all time.
The wuxia pian sub-genre had been around for ages anyway, with older, better examples remaining largely unseen by international audiences, therefore allowing “Crouching Tiger” to seem so refreshing. In a further blow to the martial arts genre, it also led even Chinese filmmakers to jump on the ‘Americans love flying Asian people’ bandwagon and internationally-released films that had great potential like “Hero” (Jet Li vs. Donnie Yen) ended up as exercises in wire-heavy “Crouching Tiger” clones.
However, it IS quite good if you want to see Zhang Ziyi in a wet T-shirt.
What the critics said: With more action than all the “Lethal Weapons” combined and more heart-swelling humanity than “The English Patient”, “Crouching Tiger” manages to please all of the people, all of the time. Miss it and you’re avoiding cinema at its very best. – Total Film
2. Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007)
I really really like Quentin Tarantino. I just don’t like his films. Many of them are overlong and self-indulgent (apart from “Pulp Fiction” – which is phenomenal). It’s a shame because I love watching any interview with him, as his over-enthusiasm and vast knowledge of film make him come across as someone who really cares about cinema – he also seems like a really nice guy.
Which is why I still had my hopes held high for “Grindhouse”, as it seemed like Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were making a movie especially for me. Now I knew Rodriguez’s half would be amazing – and it was – but I still held out for Tarantino’s “Death Proof”, crossing my fingers that he’d pull out all the stops and deliver.
He did! Luckily I love Kurt Russell and I love it even more when he’s relegated to the background while a really annoying group of women talk about NOTHING. I love it more when another really annoying group of women talk about nothing for even longer a second time later on! I really REALLY like watching annoying women sit around talking – that’s why my favourite film is “Sex and the City” and why I sometimes dress up as a woman and sneak into diners to talk about shoes and clothes and what movies Quentin Tarantino likes all while making sure Kurt Russell isn’t allowed anywhere near me. Thanks Quentin, you made my day!
Still, pretty darn sweet car chase in it. Got to wait about an hour and a half (I saw the film in its full-length version), but I’ll admit it’s rather good.
What the critics said: Seriously entertaining American filmmaking and definitely not the half-serious pastiche it could easily have been. No seatbelt, no airbag, no nuthin’ — just Tarantino driving wildly under the influence. – Empire
3. Martyrs (2008)
One of the most boring horror movies I’ve seen, “Martyrs” was heralded as the benchmark against which all subsequent genre flicks should be measured. I’m not entirely sure why though, as to me it was a reprehensible, pseudo-philosophical, needlessly violent and tedious horror movie that failed to mix arteries with arthouse.
Upon hearing the director reveal that he didn’t have an ending in sight when he began making the movie, the hasty feel of the tacked-on conclusion made sense. I couldn’t see any reason for the unnecessary brutality that preceded the faux-finale and the whole film smacked of ‘Let’s make a really violent horror movie that’ll make everyone puke’ before ‘Wait, we need a reason for this violence’ and then ‘But we’ve already made half the film’ and finally ‘Back in five minutes, I’ll just knock up some crap, no-one will notice’.
Pretty sure that’s the exact conversation that occurred.
What the critics said: Defying all boundaries, Martyrs relentlessly dishes the visceral pain and emerges as a work of not just ceaseless terror but also gravity and beauty. – Total Film
4. Diary of the Dead (2007)
Woman’s voiceover: If you are viewing this tape, you probably know the situation. The world has been overrun by the living dead and the end is nigh. I made this tape in order to show you how it began. You may notice that me and my friends all act really strangely, it is because we are low-rent actors. Did I mention I put some crap music on it? I don’t know why I did that. You may also note that whenever the battery was running low on the camera, it appears on screen – this is a fault with the tape and I am currently trying to get it fixed. Oh by the way this is all about YouTube or something, I mean I’m really clutching at straws now. Anyway, enjoy – you probably won’t though.
I think that by the time “Diary of the Dead” was released, George Romero’s name had become synonymous with great movies to such an extent that when he made it the critics loved it by default. It wasn’t a patch on his previous zombie films (even “Land of the Dead”, which I quite enjoyed), and was a really lazy attempt at injecting new life (and social commentary) into the sub-genre – it had even been done before, in the superior “Zombie Diaries” from the U.K.
All in all, a massive disappointment that hopefully won’t reflect the quality of the upcoming “Survival of the Dead”. Come on George, you can do it.
What the critics said: After forty years Romero’s incisive wit and inventiveness are still intact, making “Diary of the Dead” an enjoyable and often gripping film and a small beacon of hope in a genre that’s becoming increasingly dominated by turgid remakes and tedious ‘torture-porn’ sequels. – Electric Sheep
5 & 6. Kill Bill 1 & 2 (2003/2004)
More of Quentin Tarantino getting everyone excited and then failing to deliver. Granted, I quite enjoyed “Kill Bill”, but it could have been so much better, and it definitely wasn’t as good as the critics made out. The main problem with it was that if Tarantino wanted to make an homage to martial arts films, then why use someone who has no martial arts training to be the star? I’ve nothing against Uma Thurman, but she’s no screen fighter and the amateurish nature of her fight scenes was all too apparent. At least the Japanese uncensored version righted some of the wrongs.
Still, “Kill Bill” was a masterpiece compared to “Kill Bill 2”.
After such an action-packed first outing, why would anyone want to sit through Uma Thurman talking about NOTHING (there’s a theme here) for AGES. This is not the film (or the genre) for endless exposition, and even if it was, at least make it interesting. By this point in Tarantino’s career he clearly realised that he could pretty much make whatever film he wanted and people would still go and see it, and critics would still love it. So that’s what he did.
The one thing I did like about “Kill Bill 2” though, is that after you’ve waited over four hours through two films, there’s no fight scene with Bill at the end. That genre cliché better shut its mouth. Glad Tarantino did that because I HATE fight scenes in martial arts films.
What the critics said: what’s incredible is how the director suffuses everything – costumes, performances, blade-flashing editing and hallucinatory sound design – with something compelling. – The Guardian (Kill Bill)
But this is all one film, and now that we see it whole, it’s greater than its two parts; Tarantino remains the most brilliantly oddball filmmaker of his generation, and this is one of the best films of the year. – Roger Ebert (Kill Bill 2)
7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
“Hellboy” was fantastic, it had everything a successful comic-book movie needs: strong performances (Ron Perlman and Doug Jones particularly), great special effects, an engaging story and many exhilarating action sequences.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” was fantastic, it had everything a successful fantasy movie needs: strong performances (Ivana Baquero and Doug Jones particularly), great special effects, an engaging story and a thoroughly immersive atmosphere.
Now I don’t know who told Guillermo del Toro that mixing the two films together would be a good idea, because it wasn’t. Making “Hellboy II: The Golden Let-Down” into a nursery-rhyme was a misstep of the highest order and transformed the franchise from its darker, more adult first instalment into something you’re more likely to see on children’s television.
Still at least someone had the common sense to put Luke Goss in it.
What the critics said: As much Tolkien’s baby as Mignola’s, this has more heart and humour than most fantasy films can dream of. Hellaciously good. – Empire
8. Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
20th Century Fox Executive: So, Die Hard 4, no-one wants to see that right?
Len Wiseman: Yeah they do, BRUCE WILLIS IS BACK YO!
20th Century Fox Executive: So why is this worth making?
Wiseman: Errr, Bruce Willis is chased by a helicopter? And then he crashes a car into the helicopter?
Work Experience guy: Why would he do that? Is he out of bullets or something?
Work Experience guy: Umm, can I put in some ideas?
Wiseman: Yeah go on then.
Work Experience guy: Bruce Willis could ride on the back of a jetplane?
Wiseman: Go on…
Work Experience guy: We could have Maggie Q play an invincible robot?
Wiseman: Hmmm, we can’t make her a robot, but we’ll still make her invincible.
Work Experience guy: We could make it really shit?
Wiseman: Sweet idea, I’ll get to work on that.
20th Century Fox Executive: Same.
Work Experience guy: BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL!!! (or something along these lines)
What the critics said: Wary of authority, principled, more than willing to take a few hard knocks, Willis’ John McClane, with that sly, sideways smile, is like an old acquaintance you don’t mind running into. He may be older and balder, but he’s none the worse for the wear. And he can still take a punch. – Salon
9. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
I didn’t mind the thing that a lot of people didn’t like about it (I don’t want to reveal what it is if you haven’t seen it), but I did mind quite a few other things.
The film started out well, Harrison was back on form, Shia LaBeouf was in it (this is always good in my book*), we’ve got an effectively traditional villain in Kate Blanchett and there’s a few old-school Spielberg action sequences to thrust the story into motion.
Then it all gets chased by a huge boulder downhill. It not only gets boring, but when there is action, it’s at many points unremarkable, and at others completely implausible. Now I know the previous Indiana Jones films aren’t known for their authenticity, but at least they provided a genuine sense of peril – in “Crystal Skull” everyone is invincible. The car-chase through the forest is the main culprit, with everyone seemingly a student of Neo and a master in the art of bullet-dodging, and the less said about the car jumping off the cliff and landing on a conveniently placed tree, the better. If you’re going to mess with physics, at least go all out like “Wanted” did.
P.S. By the finale everything has eaten batshit and gone insane. I didn’t mind that too much though. FOR I LIKE TO EAT THE SHIT OF BATS.
What the critics said: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is no “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but if you look at the long, tired history other sequels made years after the initial magic had faded – “Rocky Balboa,” “The Phantom Menace,” “The Barkleys of Broadway” – this has to rank among the respectable entries. – San Francisco Chronicle
10. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
“The Matrix” was one of the best science-fiction films of recent times and it truly redefined action cinema; whether through its mixing of philosophy and spectacle or through its ingenious use of special effects. The Wachowski brothers should have left it there, but they followed it with “The Matrix Reloaded”. Sure enough, the trailers did their job and made it look fantastic, but all was lost when it was finally released.
The Wachowskis had gone so far into believing what they were writing was a masterpiece that they neglected to realise that they were writing for people other than themselves. When you make a film, you have to bear in mind that other people are going to watch it. They didn’t. The “Architect” scene was the worst offender – with so much bogus philosophical babble that even Keanu Reeves looked confused – and ultimately the film ended up like a boring University lecture about a made up subject.
AMAZING fight scenes though.
It is worth mentioning however, that luckily by the time “The Matrix Revolutions” was released, pretty much everyone realised that the trilogy had entirely run its course.
What the critics said: It all adds up to 138 minutes of very high-quality entertainment: and it’s not often the time whizzes by as entertainingly as this. – The Guardian
*My second book is ‘Why Shia LaBeouf is good in films such as “Transformers”’