FILM GAGS: The worst of 2019
Two thousand nineteen offered some historically great films: “1917,” “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Marriage Story,” to name a few.
The reality is that for every great film made, there are dozens worthy of rotten tomatoes. Endless remakes, reboots and needless franchise installments. The latter, like many an animated film created to enthrall tiny minds, is really just a money-mechanism for marking tie-in merchandise.
So here, is my list of movie crud. Good luck wiping it off your shoe. Or your wallet.
Walt Disney’s frozen head is probably spinning on a “Lazy Susan” somewhere in the entrails of Hollywood with the live-action remake of the 1994 animated classic, “The Lion King.” Sure, some people liked it. But why do we have to make animated movies out of live-action masterpieces? And vice-versa? Thank heavens they haven’t marched out a live version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” In these modern times, the title alone would be box-office venom, unless Mel Brooks was directing. (Sample song line: “Hey Snow White, don’t be a fidget/Come down here and kiss a … tiny person.”) And why isn’t’ it ‘dwarves’? One scarf plus one scarf is two scarves; but I digress. Director Jon Favreau had his hands full with this remake, since directing an actual lion is a lot like being chased by one. Or to look at it another way: You’re on a horse and a lion is chasing you. You spot a giraffe up ahead. What do you do? Get off the carousel. With the new “Lion King,” Favreau is trying to elicit raw emotion out of the animal kingdom, instead of letting the illustrators do it with better effect. Even technology couldn’t save this bad ventriloquist act.
With surges of bad acting in “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” even the late D-list actress Sharon Tate herself would probably be chagrined. A nasty picture with the one-two punch of bad intentions and bad taste, “Haunting” is an alternative historic version of the Tate-LaBianca murders. Sadistic and gratuitous. If I want to see that, I can just turn on Fox news.
With “Cats,” you’re probably wondering why the T.S. Elliot-inspired/Andrew Lloyd Webber play didn’t get the Tinseltown treatment years ago. Simple: because it would be a cat-astrophe. A starry-eyed spectacle with Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, James Corden and Taylor Swift, “Cats” featured digitalized human-kitty hybrids that are just plain creepy. I would however, adjust the lyrics of “Memory,” from the musical, ever so slightly: “Midnight, this film wreaks of cat litter, you can bet I am bitter, could have gone to the mall/ For all that’s holy, please get me the hell out of her now/I just coughed up- belch- a gross fur ball.”
In “Rambo: Last Blood,” an ancient Sylvester Stallone goes back to shake the money tree one last time (we should hope.) What’s next? “Rambo: The Prostate Exam”? Stallone’s recreational superhero John J. Rambo looks like he could have used some of “Cats” special events, even if they were ghastly at best. “Last Blood” sends Rambo south of the border to seek revenge on Mexican sex-traffickers. Like an old man driving for miles with his left turn-signal blinking, Stallone mutters undecipherable lines like he’s asking for more rice pudding at the home. And for Rambo himself? This is character assassination.
Poor John Travolta. For every “Pulp Fiction,” comeback, he makes movies like “Fanatic.” Barbarino has lost his mojo. Tony Manero can’t dance anymore. And Danny Zucko now has a bad combover. Here, Travolta plays a developmentally challenged man-child, so annoyed at his favorite movie star’s boorish behavior towards him, that he takes him hostage. This isn’t just Z-grade garbage, it’s insulting. The once A-lister Travolta roams around a not-so-glitzy Hollywood, simpering with an undisclosed behavioral tick that gives idiot savants everywhere a bad reputation. Travolta needs a new agent and a defibrillation from Quentin Tarentino, STAT.
Nicolas Cage plays a big-game hunter in “Primal,” and he’s not even the resident nutjob. The crazy dude in this flick is Kevin Durand, although John Malkovich does show up with his “Con-Air” acting instruction manual, so crazy knows many places. Sadly, there’s no “Put the bunny back in the box,” here. But there is a digitally mastered albino jaguar. If Steven Segal’s “Under Siege,” could be crossed with “Shakespeare in the Park,” “Primal” would still be dumb as a box of hammers. Consider this one of the Oscar-winning Cage’s signature paycheck vehicles. And that Oscar? I think I saw it on Ebay.
Finally, there’s Keanu Reeves in “Replicas.” Reeves had a pretty good year otherwise, with memorable turns in “Toy Story 4,” and “John Wick 3.” Pray to the movie gods that there will not be a “Replicas 2.” Here, Reeves plays a sad/mad scientist, who clones his family into androids after a terrible accident. And I thought the movie itself was the terrible accident. Asking Reeves to stretch his acting muscles into playing a scientist, is like asking Stallone for speech lessons
“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Colostomy Bag Adventure,” is looking better and better.