2010 Worst Film Week Movie Review Worst Film Weeks

Movie Review – Jumanji, United 93 & Talladega Nights

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Today we welcome special guest reviewer Robert Nowotny to fernbyfilms.com, a fellow film connoisseur and purveyor of his own opinions across at Friend Site, Need To Vent. Robert gladly accepted my challenge to write something about the films he hated, and I was most impressed when he came up with three! One of these choices is destined to be highly controversial, I’ll admit, but that’s what we’re here for, to debate the merits of film. Before I let Robert vent his spleen about cinematic travesties, I’d like to thank him for his contribution here, and point you towards his website should you feel the desire to read more of his work.

And so, without further ado, here’s Roberts thoughts on Jumanji, United 93, and Talladega Nights.

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– Summary –

Director :  Joe Johnson
Year Of Release :  1995
Principal Cast :  Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, David Alan Grier, Jonathan Hyde, Bebe Neuwirth, Adam Hann-Byrd, Laura Bell Bundy, Malcolm Stewart, Annabel Kershaw, Patricia Clarkson.
Approx Running Time :  104 Minutes
Synopsis: A young boy opens up a world of adventure when an enchanted board-game suddenly whisks them into a world where the jungle comes alive!

**********************

Jumanji is just one of many disasters produced by Interscope Communications, a company that has released more crap over the years than Ex-Lax.
Fresh on the heels of the pathetic Operation Dumbo Drop and the downright disgusting The Tie That Binds, Executive Producers Ted Field and Robert W. Cort decided to roll the dice one last time before 1995 came to a close. Talk about a couple of Hollywood Turkeys—I’m referring to both the films and the bozos behind them.
In Jumanji the premise, essentially Stephen King meets Milton Bradley, might have merit had it been undertaken by anyone else with access to a camera—Beavis and Butt-Head included. Based on the 1981 book by children’s author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, Jumanji tells the tale of a mysterious board game in which every roll of the dice leads to horrific consequences. And, according to screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor and Jim Strain, this is a game that must be 100 percent completed before any players are permitted to quit. Although there’s no exit strategy allowed while playing this deadly game, those unfortunate to be viewing this mess do have the ability to walk away at any time. The sooner the better…
The big attraction, of course, is Robin Williams. His fans will be severely disappointed. Playing a part so bland that anyone (R. C. Slocum, Schimmel Bladehorn, even Neville Chamberland) could have been chosen without losing a beat—Jumanji simply doesn’t allow Williams to showcase one iota of his immense talent. Creatively, there hasn’t been a bigger casting error since the Dorf On Fishing video series.
Among the dire consequences which bombard the board game and its players are giant mosquitoes (although it should be noted that anyone from Houston would hardly take notice), a gang of unruly monkeys, a lion in need of a nap, a monsoon, an earthquake and a stampede of creatures that I first mistook to be housing developers and real estate agents on their way to the Texas Hill Country. Upon closer examination I realized these blurred and non-thinking animals were supposed to be rhinoceroses, elephants, zebras and, believe it or not, a giant pelican or two. Suffice it to say that all the money spent on these not-so-special effects rival the Halliburton contract for lack of value received.
Not to be outdone, Director of Photography Thomas Ackerman treats us to a painfully long out-of-focus shot of Bonnie Hunt standing in her doorway. But the most unbelievable gaffe of all takes place when Robin Williams drives away in a hardtop (with a powered sunroof no less) and in a few scenes later he screeches to a halt in a convertible. Give the continuity people some credit, at least this second car was the same basic model and colour.
As a game, Jumanji is more distasteful than playing spin the bottle with Leona Helmsley and Tammi Faye Baker. As a movie, Jumanji is more inept than last year’s Democratic presidential campaign. As a critic, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to the many flaws within this case of celluloid cellulite. Alas, it’s time for me to cease my finger pointing for fear of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
3-Star
***
Okay Robert, you laid bare your thoughts on Jumanji, so what’s next? Robert responds with vitriol reserved for critically acclaimed United 93, the story of the plane and passengers who crashed in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11.
***
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– Summary –

Director :  Paul Greengrass
Year Of Release :  2006
Principal Cast :  Khalid Abdalla, Christian Clemenson, Cheyenne Jackson, JJ Johnson, Sarmed al-Samarri, David Alan Basche, Omar Bedouni, Jamie Harding, Gary Commock, Olivia Thirlby.
Approx Running Time :  110 Minutes
Synopsis:  An account of the bravery of the passengers of United Flight 93, hijacked above American soil on 9/11.

**********************

It is almost a full twenty-four hours since I left the Marketplace Theatre in New Braunfels after seeing United 93.

I am still shaking.

Yes, I continue to shake uncontrollably from this intense experience—but the cause is not for any of the reasons you might logically assume.

To begin with, my trembling has nothing to do with the inherent nature of the story. When it comes to a deeply visceral screening experience you can find about as much emotional intensity in an old Sky King rerun.

Nor is my malady a result of witnessing once again just how inept and incompetent the US military, the FAA and this nation’s government was on 9/11. For example, hours pass by and, ultimately, a grand total of four jet fighters are scrambled. Yes—only four jets can even get into the air—and two of these were unarmed. You’ll normally find that many zipping past at the opening ceremonies of a NASCAR event each weekend. It’s enough to make the average person quiver like an aspen leaf; but this is old news and it isn’t the cause of my current woes either.

Finally, let me reassure you that my spasms are not a debilitating reaction to observing every passenger’s cell phone working perfectly and without interruption as their Boeing 757 rockets along at over 550 miles per hour, across several states and at altitudes ranging from 33,000′ down to 3,000′ and less. This technological accomplishment is singularly unfathomable to me, but I have elected not to dwell on my personal cell phone experiences and so the cause of my present condition lies elsewhere.

You see, the real reason for my ongoing involuntary twitching lies solely with Director of Photography Barry Ackroyd’s unrestrained cinema verite style of filming that has the camera shaking more violently than Nancy Pelosi’s vibrator. Not even fans of The Blair Witch Project could possibly appreciate the excessive jerkiness, in-your-face-but-out-of-focus cinematography found not only in the not-so-friendly skies, but also on the ground, in the terminal, even in the NORAD bunker. Ninety plus minutes of wide screen, uninterrupted visual chaos will leave you shaking, too.

I find it fitting that Cinematographer Ackroyd’s next project will be an Irish/UK co-production titled The Wind That Shakes The Barley. What do you want to bet he wears a self-winding watch?

4-Star

 

 

 

***
Okay, that’s going to set the cat among the pigeons. For the finale, Robert lets fly at perennial idiotkind (the opposite of wunderkind, and a word I’ve invented just now) Will Ferrell, in Talladega Nights.
***
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– Summary –

Director :  Adam McKay
Year Of Release :  2006
Principal Cast :  Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Gary Cole, Jane Lynch, Amy Adams, Andy Richter, David Koechner, Ian Roberts, Jack McBrayer, Pat Hingle, Greg Germann, Molly Shannon, Ted Manson, Rob Riggle.
Approx Running Time :  108 Minutes
Synopsis:  Ricky Bobby is a race-car driver who wants to go fast. Amidst the turmoil of his personal life, his sponsor troubles and his kids, he suddenly finds a new driver on the circuit who threatens to put him out to pasture.

**********************

Talladega Nights is a bigger mess than a wetback’s morning constitutional.
For those of you who believe that Will Ferrell is the best thing since sliced bread (in this case Wonder Bread) you will surely be disappointed. Even Sacha Baron Cohen comes across as flat as Ann Coulter’s chest. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
For starters, the chicken fried cornpone script is so atrociously bad I am positive that “Coo Coo” Marlin is black flaggin’ it in his grave. Co-writer Adam McKay’s direction is so haphazard Boss Hogg should throw him in the hoosegow. And the editing, credited to Brent White, is so lethargic and poorly paced one had better watch this film wearing Lisa Nowak-endorsed diapers; you honestly think this NASCAR narcosis will NEVER end. The same is true for the incessant product placements.
Someone’s mammy once said that if you can’t say at least one good thing then you should keep your trap shut. With this in mind I will heap a bit of praise on the aptly named Leslie Bibb who is so infectiously hot that I actually needed one (a bib that is) to corral my slobber every time she was on the screen. Egads, Bubba, this is a girlie worth watching; everything else is literally the pits.
1-Star
Righto, so you’ve read Robert’s thoughts on these films: now’s the time to let us know what YOU think! Fire away in the comments below!!!

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I can't agree or disagree with the reviewer's thoughts on United 93 as I haven't seen the film. But I have no plans to see the film and that's the problem. What was the need to make a film about such tragic events. I can't understand it. I know how I'll feel throughout it because I know all about the events – everyone does. So why would I bother watching it?

    • I completely disagree with Roberts summation of United 93, having seen the film and considering it to be a wonderful work of art, and a testament to human bravery under circumstances nobody should ever have to deal with. While United 93 isn't a film you can "enjoy" in the true sense of the word, the film is a low-key doco-style attempt to explore the actions of those people on that plane, what they had to deal with and how they stepped up when it counted. The same argument can be levelled at Oliver Stones World trade Centre (which wasn't as good a film, but worthy of a look). That aside, Roberts aversion to the shaky-cam style of United 93 is prevalent amongst the films critics, so your appreciation for it can be weighed on your appreciation for films such as Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project.

      I guess your persepective on films dealing with tragic events, in this case 9/11, depends on whether you're a glass-half-empty or full kind of person. Some people never want to relive or explore what happened, how it happened and why, while others need to explore their grief and sorrow in other ways, to gain some sort of understanding over the inexplicable. The half-empty people will say that a film like this shouldn't ever be made, since it's just regurgitating a tragedy, while the half-full people would say that showing how people overcome such adversity can lead to a greater understanding of ourselves. Much like the victims, many of whom will spend a very long time dealing with these events in therapy and whatnot, exploring said events can often lead to acceptance of them, and then the ability to move on. Each argument, however, is a personal one, and each is equally valid.

      I think films like this are made less for "entertainment" purposes, and more for "understanding" purposes.

      Why make a film about such tragic events? Especially so soon after the fact? People need heroes, I guess. People need to know that in the midst of the horror of such enormous tragedies (9/11, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the London Bombings etc etc) that the good in humanity will endure. That's the way I think about it anyway.

  2. Personally, i'm a huge fan of "United 93"… Greengrass handles "faux documentary" extremely well, as he proved with "Bloody Sunday". While i get the problem of the "hand-cam", it didn't bug me in this movie. In Greengrass's "Green Zone", however, the shaky camera ruined the movie for me. Go figure.

    • I haven't seen Green Zone yet (I have iton my PC ready to watch after we've finished moving house!) but I'm generally okay with the shaky-cam style filmmaking: Bourne Supermacy & Ultimatum were nowhere near as hard to watch as Bloody Sunday (a great film for those who've not seen it, it comes with my highest recommendation!) but I can understand how some people get put off by it.

  3. I don't think it's a problem with exploring a tragic event to understand why, what, where, and how. I would consider watching a documentary on the subject and have watched several about 9/11. My problem is with Hollywood's need to profit from the tragedy.

    • @ Dan, yeah that's a fair point. I disagree with Hollywood trying to make money from a tragedy, but then, if they can't make a movie about ANY tragedy, they'd make a lot fewer films. Although, in hindsight, maybe that might have stopped Michael Bay making Pearl Harbor. I think it's a fine line between exploiting a tragedy for financial gain, and making a movie to honour the victims of said tragedy. Often, people take the view that whenever Hollywood get involved, it's cynically exploitative, which probably isn't far from the truth. In the case of United 93, I believe it's less about the financial success and more about giving a voice to the numerous victims.

      @ Al – I agree, I enjoyed the fact that the cast of United 93 were all unknowns, if not actual participants in the event; it did indeed give an level of authenticity you'd not find had Angelina Jolie been on-screen.

  4. i totally get your point, Dan, and i'm the same. i think what set "United 93" apart for me was that it's a small production, almost an art film, and there are no real big name actors in it (or at least they weren't big name when the film was made). The movie really touched me and i found it very powerful. i had goosebumps watching the credits when they went over the performers from the military bases and control towers (this is from imdb):

    Thomas Roberts … Himself

    Ben Sliney … Himself

    Tobin Miller … Himself

    Rich Sullivan … Himself

    Tony Smith … Himself

    James Fox … Himself (as Major James Fox)

    Shawna Fox … Herself – Senior ID Tech (as Staff Sgt. Shawna Fox)

    Jeremy Powell … Himself (as 1st Lt. Jeremy Powell)

    Greg Callahan … Himself

    Rick Tepper … Himself

    A huge percentage of the "actors" were the people who were really in those chairs on 9/11 and that gives the movie a chilling authenticity.

  5. I appreciate everyone's comments. I acknowledge that UNITED 93 is certainly a controversial choice for a "Worst Films Week List." Having said this, I stand by my (minority) opinion. I wonder what comments we would have received if I had listed FORREST GUMP instead??? Yes, I hated FORREST GUMP also…

We want to hear from you!!! Leave us your thoughts here!!!

A long time friend of Fernby Films, Robert Nowotny's an American author, politicical candidate and cowboy hat wearer. Robert hails from the great state of Texas, where he writes on his own blog Need To Vent, and previously penned reviews for Movie Smackdown. He's often sent us material for Worst Film Week, because there's one thing Bob likes better than wearing a nice cowboy hat, it's watching a shitty film and writing about it. For more of Robert's reviews, visit his site by clicking the link to Need To Vent in our sidebar.

Movie Review – Jumanji, United 93 & Talladega Nights

by Robert Nowotny
11
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