Monday, 17 January 2011

Suprisingly watchable 'bad' movies

There are normally five new movies to satellite on Sky's Premiere Channel each week, as I have bemoaned previously -- the bemoaning generally relates to their overall quality and the fact that I have previously viewed most of the better ones. I hadn't seen any of this week's offerings, of which I have now watched four. One was a cheesy animation, "Planet Hulk (2010) -- the less said the better -- and the one which was meant to be the best of the bunch, "The Book of Eli" (2009) from the Hughes Brothers, starring the Denzel, was I found barely tolerable, with its post-apocalyptic sepia landscapes and equally muddled action; in fact I had all I could do to stay awake.

That left two 2009 films neither of which seemed the least bit promising: "Gentlemen Broncos" and "Did you Hear About the Morgans?" I knew virtually nothing about the former other than its being by the Utah-based director Jared Hess and unlike much of the world I found neither his debut film "Napoleon Dynamite" (2004) nor his second film "Nacho Libre" even remotely entertaining. Just because something is quirky doesn't necessarily mean that it is funny. Yet this effort -- and I've yet to work out the relevance of its title -- was albeit a generally awful movie, not without its amusing moments. Michael Angarano, whom I positively hated in the 2008 Jackie Chan/Jet Li confection "The Forbidden Kingdom" is actually pretty believable as the rather sweet high school would-be sci-fi writer whose (frankly amateurish) novel is swiped by a bumptious successful author in need of new material. That role is taken by Jemaine Clement, half of the popular New Zealand comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, playing a pretentious swine who is easy to hate. Angarano's mom is played by Jennifer Coolidge, a would-be nightgown designer of some of the unsexiest lingerie ever; she is no longer the original MILF, but still very likeable in her goofy sincerity. The rest of the eclectic cast including Sam Rockwell and Mike White are of disturbingly variable talent, but don't totally distract from the silliness of the plot. The fact that Clement's so-called improvements to the stolen manuscript result in equally remarkably awful science fiction -- the two scenarios are acted out in part during the movie, with Rockwell eschewing the ridiculous hero originally called Bronco -- add a layer of humour to the proceedings. I wouldn't choose to see this film ever again, but it was relatively painless.

As for the 'Morgans' movie, I had read a number of reviews, all of which seemed to agree that the film was really, really bad and that there was no chemistry whatsoever between its leads Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. They play an estranged high-powered, New York-based couple who witness a gangland murder and who, as potential witnesses, are given protective custody in the back-of-beyond plains of Wyoming. The gist of the scenario is how their exposure to the simple delights and down-to-earthiness of the good folk there helps them to reconcile and to face up to their marital difficulties. Yuck, and double yuck. While I would be the first to agree that Parker and Grant make a totally unbelievable couple and while I find her preening presence more and more difficult to take seriously in her films, Grant retains the boyish charm with which he made his name. Although he keeps threatening to stop making movies -- especially ones as potentially stupid as this one -- his dry sense of humour and way with a sarcastic line still work and still make me chuckle. The local couple with whom the fish-out-of-water New Yorkers are billeted is played by folksy sheriff Sam Elliott and his gun-toting wife Mary Steenbergen, two remarkably likeable actors, and an additional reason why this film is not quite the disaster that it might have been. However, I can well understand why its reviews were as lukewarm as they were.

That leaves the fifth film to come, Andy Serkis as Ian Dury in "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" (2009). Can't say that I am looking forward to this with bated breath, but as the above comments prove, you never know in advance just how the mood will take you while actually watching a movie.
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