Not As Good As Advertised

What movie is not as good as advertised? Due to all the hype, this failed to match the buzz. Could be a blockbuster or an Oscar contender. Anything drop the ball?

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My wife and I hated Ex Machina. We’re apparently the only two.

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Make that three.

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Pearl Harbor.

As a WWII buff, with Pearl Harbor being one of my specialties, I was SO FREAKING HYPED when I saw the first trailer. It looked so good! I was on tenterhooks to see this thing!

Then I did, and my poor friend had to put up with me smacking his arm and hissing, “That’s ALL WRONG!” multiple times AND dealing with my bemoaning the whole drive from the theater. The actual attack sequence was amazing…the rest of it stunk like it had been fished out of the Bog of Eternal Stench.

Bonus story: one of my visits to the Arizona Memorial, someone asked about Pearl Harbor and the ranger – no joke – rolled his eyes hard and said, “We HATE that movie.”

Preach, brother.

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To be clear, Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor (2001)? Starring Ben Affleck? My late stepdad repeatedly chimed on how the Zeros were too stacked together when flying over Hawaii in the trailer and the movie. It always bothered him. Funny. The movie hasn’t the best reputation and I’d nominate that for Not As Bad As Advertised personally. Especially the Director’s Cut which is sizably better I might add.

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I despise this movie as well for all these reasons and more. We are not alone though. I don’t know of another film that was so miserable as to inspire a song in another movie about how much it sucks.

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Which is WHY it probably fits nicer in Not As Bad As Advertised. Pearl Harbor (2001) never had good attention or appreciation pouring out that I recall.

Titanic (1997). It won an Oscar and it’s not even the third best film about the sinking of the Titanic. Much like Pearl Harbor (2001) it is a tired and implausible Harlequin romance love triangle story impressed over historical events to give it an undeserved cachet as a blockbuster with broad appeal. Yes, the young girls liked it, but young girls like tired and implausible Harlequin romance love triangle stories. That doesn’t mean it deserved an award called “Best Picture.”

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When I saw it I wondered, is that it? It didn’t differentiate itself from any other dime-a-dozen, direct to video, “intellectual” SF flicks. I think I would regard it more highly if my more cynical interpretation was true, that Ava was a psychopathic AI adapting and learning to pull one over on her savior, but the director has explicitly shot this down. Evidently the sincere surface reading is the intended one.

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To me it felt like sci-fi made by the type of person who tells everyone how much they hate sci-fi.

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Agreed. The contempt is dripping off it.

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“This isn’t your stupid sci-fi with spaceships and explosions! This is a serious work of art for people like me, an intellectual.”

Whenever I see that I know to believe the opposite of what they’re telling me. Same as when someone tries to make themselves sound like a smart deep-reader by saying, “but the real story is…” Yeah, I learned about themes and subtext in school too.

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This might upset some people:

E.T. the Exterrestrial (1982)

Behind all the hype and the slick packaging, there is really nothing to it other than appeal to emotion: AWWWW. IMO, this is why the efforts to copy it like Mac and Me fail so miserably. Under all the frosting, there is no there there.

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Bridesmaids (2011). A watershed in comedy spawning so many foul-mouthed larks it’s hard to count. I nod to its craft, effectiveness, and casting and second Paul Feig arrived on the scene with this. I couldn’t really get into it and regard this as a modern classic even if I cringe at the kind of levity it invited. The sensation of the taboo dwarfed any characterization or story I enjoyed and thus it’s Not As Good As Advertised.

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Actually we’ll have to agree to disagree Raymond. I would pick none other than Titanic (1997) to win in 97. A Herculean undertaking I deem a masterpiece. Intimate, meticulous, exceptionally cast, and emotionally disarming whenever I encounter it. It made stars of Kate and Leo and for good reason. Everyone knows its name and this runs a few cold. It endures as an institution and movie most return to gladly. You can’t please everyone but Titanic is a film that nearly does.

It didn’t please me at all. He tried to make the romantic plot as big a story as a giant ship sinking and it just didn’t work for me.

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The “there there” is Steven Spielberg. Nuff said.

Anything with Meryl Streep doing an accent. Streep’s dialogue is the Emperor’s New Clothes of 1980’s and 90’s film. She’s not good at accents and PR flacks disguised as critics telling us over and over she is didn’t change this. All the hype just made it worse, because she continued to be cast in roles requiring accents. Everyone had to pretend it wasn’t nails on chalkboard grating, like watching your tone-deaf niece sing a solo at a school pageant or the mobster’s girlfriend in Bullets Over Broadway. When she takes a breath and tries to tell us she’s from somewhere other than New Jersey it distracts from the entire film.

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Fair enough. You’re not alone. Nothing sings to 100 percent of humanity. The fawning of it and public reaction back then made many including my best friend resist seeing it. The romance raging via an action director caught several off guard. The writing and world Cameron weaved is identifiable and one with his cinema. How you weigh Titanic (1997) aligns to how you view him. Is he a flavor of the month, one-trick pony, or a true blue virtuoso of technology? Where you land colors where the ship sinks. So to speak.

I grade a production on what it tries to do and whether it achieves it. Cameron once told a Fox executive he planned on making Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic. And Win, Lose, or Draw, this is what translated to the big screen. Next? Is this notion living and breathing in action? Yes. Is it moving? To me? Yes. Enough that I tear up whenever I put it in. Transcendent? To me, most of Hollywood in 98, and its millions of fans? Yes. Enduring? It’s now in the National Film Registry and is favorably regarded far more than it’s not.

The romance paired together with the event is the central ask. If you can’t accept that than the movie won’t work for you. If you can? Then it will.

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