Five Movies That Try Hard Yet Still End Up As Terrible

Here are five movies that try hard but to no avail and so are rated terrible for the effort.

Napoleon Dynamite – 1 Star (Terrible)

Napoleon Dynamite is a nerd in high school who tries to make sense of his life amid a cast of almost totally dysfunctional people. As near as I could tell, there was exactly one normal person in the film.

This film relies on some corny humor to carry it along, but it lacks a central writing flaw in order to gain any shred of competence: the central character in the movie (Napoleon Dynamite, played by Jon Heder) is a nerd that is simply not likeable.

The only honest psychological reaction in the movie is the standing ovation at the end, after Napoleon’s dance skit. I would not pay to see this movie again, and am not a better person for having seen it.

Incredibly, Napoleon Dynamite actually won some lightweight honors, like Best Comedy by the Golden Trailer Awards, Best Movie by the MTV Movie Awards, and three nods for Movie Dance Scene, Movie Hissy Fit, and Comedy by the Teen Choice Awards (I mean, does anyone else have a hissy fit award?).

The Academy and its Oscars (which actually matter) ignored this film like they would a moral code (in other words, as if it was never made).

Napoleon Dynamite is a “cult” film and remains very popular with the younger set; seniors like myself are hardly impressed.

I believe the chief problem with this film is we find Jared Hess, the director, also shares the writing credits (if you can call them that) with Jerusha Hess (I assume a relation). When directors become writers and writers become directors the results are seldom good, as evidenced here.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico – 1 Star (Terrible)

An All Star cast of Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp and Salma Hayek fails to deliver in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Only one word can describe this pitiful attempt at a movie: terrible, just terrible.

These stars were suckered into this one, as it has a bad script, bad directing, bad production, bad make-up and nonsense fight scenes. I grow ill just thinking about how disappointing it was.

Oh, did I mention that the director of this fiasco, Robert Rodriguez, also pulled down the writing credits in this film, and pulled down the film in the process (perhaps he thought he was on track to win Oscars for both efforts; the Academy thought otherwise). Awards for this effort: nada.

Notebook, The – 1 Star (Terrible)

The Notebook is a classic drama about relationships. A wealthy girl has a youthful fling with a poor boy. Her parents try to break up her relationship, and she must decide to follow her heart or follow her family and its wealth. Later, she makes the right choice, and when she is much older, suffers dementia.

The focus of the story is here, at her worst, with her husband reading to her from a notebook, hoping for a miracle that will bring her faculties back to normal. This movie has a beautiful, peaceful, gorgeous opening sunset scene that is gripping, and remains in my mind as the best part of the film.

Notebook never really has a chance to become a good film because of terrible sound management; there are too many key moments in the film where you simply cannot hear the sound, and this is inexcusable in such emotional turmoil.

Normally, when my remote sound key is on 7, it is loud at my house. There are parts in this film where I had to click it up to 23 to hear, and even then it was muffled as the actors had poor diction. A competent movie production team would never have released this film without fixing the volume and quality of the movie’s soundtrack. It is a shame, the movie had potential but will never see the light of day.

Notebook did come with a credible cast of James Garner, Gena Rowlands and Rachel McAdams, and did earn no less than 8 Teen Choice Awards (not Oscars), which was hardly enough to push it to a better result.

Of Human Bondage – 1 Star (Terrible)

Based on W. Somerset Maugham’s novel about a well bred professional’s obsession with a common slut with pretend morals. This film, made in 1934, stars Leslie Howard and Bette Davis, and we are certainly thankful that moviemaking has come such a long way since then.

The Prince and the Showgirl – 1 Star (Terrible)

A showgirl (Marilyn Monroe) and a stuffy prince (Laurence Olivier) work through an unlikely romance.

The Prince and the Showgirl, made in 1957, is best left in 1957; it was too easy to tell that some of the background scenes were paintings.

The most interesting thing in the film was Marilyn Monroe cast with long blonde hair (it was early in her career). Her famous pictures as a glamour girl never showed her with long hair.

I only bring these five movies to your attention so you are not smitten with mediocrity when you sit down to enjoy your movie rental choice. My forewarning is useless, of course, should you invest in any of these films.

Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley

Why Disney’s “Frozen” Is a Bad Movie

I just finished watching the popular Disney movie, “Frozen”, for the second time. The hype surrounding the movie was obnoxious and everyone was saying that, “‘Frozen’ is one of the best movies of all time.” Watching it my first time around, it wasn’t great; the bar was set pretty high and my expectations didn’t meet up to the reality of the movie. But after my second time watching it, it has solidified in my brain that this movie is one of the worst Disney has ever produced.

There’s actually a funny history surrounding this movie. Walt Disney wanted to make this movie all the way back in 1943. “Frozen” was supposed to be Disney’s adaptation of the popular fairy tale, “The Snow Queen”, written by Hans Christian Anderson (Get it? Hans, Kristoff, Anna, Sven. Good job, Disney). “The Snow Queen” actually has, what would be Elsa, as the villain. They decided they couldn’t create the movie in the 40s because they couldn’t find a way to adapt it to a modern audience. They tried again in the late 1990s, but the project was scrapped when one of the head animators on the project, Glen Keane, quit. In 2010, they scrapped it again because they still couldn’t find a way to make the story work. Then, in 2011, they finally decided on making Anna the younger sister of the Snow Queen, which was enough for them to create “Frozen”.

“Frozen” was directed by Chris Buck (known for “Tarzan”) and Jennifer Lee (known for “Wreck-it-Ralph”). The bar was set pretty high for me seeing as both those movies were well above the standards of a “kid’s movie”. The story was going to be just like the fairy tale, but then, Christophe Beck composed the hit song, “Let it Go”. The production team went crazy; instead of trying to fit the song into the movie, they rewrote the entire plot and Elsa’s entire character to fit the song. I have never heard of an entire movie being changed to fit one song. Because of this, it’s blatantly obvious that no one could decide on anything in this movie. Since Elsa isn’t the antagonist, there really was no real evil force. The Duke of Weaselton is brought up to be the villain in the beginning when he states, “Open those gates so I may unlock your secrets and exploit your riches. Did I say that out loud?” Why do you want to unlock the secrets and exploit their riches?

The Duke has absolutely no development to the point where he doesn’t even have a name. He barely even gets screen time. So if he isn’t the villain, who is? Well, in the last 15 minutes of the movie, Anna’s fiance, Prince Hans, is brought up to be the villain, stating he wants to rule a kingdom and he can’t because of his 12 other brothers. This comes out of absolutely nowhere. There were no hints, no evil glances, no sidebars or monologues, nothing. He even gives out blankets and hot soup to every person in the kingdom of Airendale. Prince Hans even says, he will protect Airendale because Anna left him in charge and “will not hesitate to protect Airendale from treason” when the Duke states he wants to take over. I can’t stand it when they get so lazy as to just throw in a villain at the last few minutes because they couldn’t actually bring up a real villain. Prince Hans states that he wanted to take over and he was going to kill Elsa and all this other crap, but Elsa was just about to be killed and he saved her life. Why would he save her life if he wanted her dead? None of it made sense and it irked me the entire movie.

Frozen recycles animation and character models from their previous hit, “Tangled”. The main characters, Elsa and Anna, use the same exact model as Rapunzel from “Tangled”. This controversy has been huge around the internet, calling Disney “lazy” and the such. Personally, I was okay with this. Disney is known for recycling animations (which can be seen here). Even though it was really strange that Elsa and Anna had the same exact face and body structure and the only difference between them were the freckles and their hair, it didn’t bother me too much. But, during the coronation scene, Elsa says to Anna, “You look beautiful.” Pretty ironic if you ask me.

The movie starts off with Elsa and Anna playing together with Elsa’s ice magic. It’s cute at first, but then Elsa strikes Anna in her head and they have to “thaw out the ice” or something along those lines. So they ask the trolls to heal her and they wipe Anna’s memories of Elsa having magic. Then, they lock the castle doors so no one can ever see Elsa and lock Elsa away in her room to never speak to her sister again. This is where it all starts to go downhill. None of it made sense. Why would you wipe Anna’s memories of Elsa having magic? If it was easily fixed, why not just explain to her that they can’t play with Elsa’s magic anymore because it’s out of hand? She would’ve known the consequences afterwards. It’s like if you touch a hot stove; you’re curious, you touch it, you burn yourself, you never touch it again. The fear solidifies subconsciously. Even if you could explain why she needed her memories erased, why was Anna locked inside the castle doors too? Anna had no recollection of the events, even at the end of the movie, so why was Anna being punished for something Elsa did? They could have easily allowed her to talk to the townsfolk and have a good time outside the castle while Elsa was locked away.

There’s this motif throughout the movie about locked doors; they lock the castle doors, Anna knocks on Elsa’s door and she never answers, Anna and Prince Hans sing the song, “Love is an Open Door”, Anna says to Elsa, “All you know is how to shut people out.” I found the motif pretty clever until they forced it down my throat. When Anna reaches the ice castle, she knocks on the door. When the door opens, she says, “Well that’s a first.” It’s a giant punch in the chest when you think you’ve analyzed a motif and you can go on and on about how amazing the directors were for putting it in there, but then the directors hold your hand and forcefully say, “Hey! This a motif! You should totally love us for this!” I would’ve been okay with it too if they just didn’t put that one line in the movie. When you read a book and you analyze it, the author is trying to let you come to the conclusion yourself and let you discuss it. It’s the same with movies. There was no need to forcefully tell us that this was a motif. Doing so was actually counterproductive. It popped my bubble.

This lead me to the question, “Why was Anna the main character?” Here’s a checklist of every plot-moving event in the movie:

Elsa strikes Anna so they have to lock the castle gates and Elsa can never talk to anyone ever again
Elsa is becoming queen
The entire kingdom gets frozen over because of Elsa
Elsa arguably has the best song in the entire movie
Anna has to find Elsa so that Elsa can save the entire kingdom
Hans has to kill Elsa to become king

Everything centers around Elsa. So why have Anna be the main character? Anna didn’t have any real character development in the movie while Elsa was completely fleshed out in every scene that she’s in. Just watch the scene from her song, “Let It Go”The entire song is about her “letting go” of her fear and coming to terms with her powers and being herself. This would’ve made a for a better plot; a woman finally coming to terms with herself, society trying to shut her down, and her fight to be accepted as who she is. Instead, it’s about Anna trying to find her sister so her sister can save the kingdom. It’s like Phil being the main character of Hercules or Mushu being the main character for Mulan. It doesn’t make any sense. Anna isn’t as interesting as Elsa. Sure, she’s funny and relate-able, but that could easily have been Elsa. Everyone can relate to not fitting into the social norms. So I reiterate, why have Anna be the main character?

Speaking of Anna, they said the only way to save her was “one true act of love”. There were many “true acts of love.” Kristoff bringing her to the trolls, Olaf giving her that pep talk, Kristoff bringing her to Hans to save her. All of these were “true acts of love”, but none of them counted because it didn’t “fit the dynamic of sisterhood.” The whole dynamic between Elsa and Anna felt so forced to the point where I stopped caring halfway through the movie. Mostly because Anna doesn’t actually evolve as a character until the very end of the movie. Even then, the development isn’t that major.Olaf is another thing that felt so force-fed. It was cute that the snowman Elsa and Anna created when they were young became a real living being and helped Anna out on her quest, but he didn’t do much. At all. He sings a song about the summer, makes a ton of jokes, gives Anna a pep talk at the end of the movie, more jokes, then that’s it. He doesn’t really face much adversity, making him extremely 1 dimensional. It’s obvious they put him in there just to be cute and to target a wider audience. There’s a test that I use to explain 1 dimensional characters; if you can replace the character with a lamp, and the plot could still advance, then the character didn’t need to be there. I promise you, if you watch the movie again and follow that test, you’ll understand exactly what I saying. What’s worse is that he could’ve actually been a catalyst to Anna regaining her memories of her sister and finally realizing why she feels the way she does. But instead, he’s nothing but a comedic relief that has no part in the plot whatsoever.

The whole movie and plot felt so rushed and like no one could agree on anything. From the villains to the plot to the characters; it’s all rushed. It felt like they said, “Hey, “Tangled” was great! Let’s just take the stuff we used from “Tangled” and get this movie off our checklist after 70 years.” But, there is one thing that did surprise me; the soundtrack. The music was phenomenal. Every song felt very broadway-esque and fit the scenes perfectly. “Let It Go”, “Love is an Open Door”, and all the rest of the songs made my heart soar and gave me hope for the next Disney titles to have music on par with the classics like “Mulan” or “The Lion King”.

And that’s my opinion on Disney’s “Frozen”. Honestly, this movie was just plain bad. I say, wait for it to go on Broadway and see it there. I firmly believe that the Broadway musical will be light-years better than this atrocity. They’ll have more time for production, more time to explain and develop their characters and plots, and the effects will be really sick. I can’t wait to see how they bring up Elsa’s Ice Castle! If you don’t agree with any of my points, do feel free to leave a comment with your opinion! Unless you’re gonna argue that this movie wasn’t targeted to my demographic and that it was “made for kids”. I will then point you in the directions of the masterpieces known as “Tangled”, “The Lion King”, “Mulan”, “Brave”, and almost every other Disney movie before this. I would love to see what everyone else thought of the movie!

Top Ten Military Movies 2000-2009

Ready for a fight? Want to watch the best war movies that debuted in the past nine years? Here are the Real Military Network’s pick for the best War films of the past nine years:

1. Gladiator (2000): For the quintessential story of a Roman soldier, the fictional General Maximus Decimus Meridius played by Russell Crowe, who journeys from a General who led legions in battle, to a slave, to a gladiator who defied an Emperor. The opening battle scene is one of the most dramatic ancient Roman war scenes ever filmed.

2. Taegukgi (2004): This Korean made film is the “Saving Private Ryan” of the Republic of Korea and worth your time. It vividly portrays the Korean war (1950-1953), with superbly crafted battle scenes, from perspective of both South and North Koreans.

3. 300 (2007): Highly stylized, but exhilarating, this film depicts the passion and fury of the famous stand of the Spartan 300 against the Persians at narrow pass at Thermopylae. Thermopylae is an important battles to the development of western culture and this is a must see war film to understand why the story of the 300 Spartans resonates to this day.

4. The Alamo (2004): As much as I respect John Wayne movies, this is, bar none, the best Alamo movie ever made. Most historians agree that “The Alamo (2004)” is the most accurate depiction the battle for the beleaguered Texan fortress ever filmed. It is also the most dramatic.

5. “Flags of Our Fathers” (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006): For an excellent depiction of the ferocity of the fighting for Iwo Jima (1944) and for showing both sides of the battle.

6. Kingdom of Heaven (2005), for superb battle scenes of the Crusades and the depiction of the Battle (Siege) of Jerusalem.

7. Enemy at the Gates (2001), depiction of the Battle of Stalingrad; for the depiction of the dramatic and monumental Battle for Stalingrad, 1942-1943.

8. The War (in Russian: ?????) (2002) , for its graphic depiction of modern combat in Chechnya during the second Chechen War 1999-2000. This film provides accurate insights to the corrupt Chechen militia, incompetent Russian Army, and the Russian’s careless attitude concerning the plight of their soldiers who were captured by the Chechens. The film was made in Russia, but was produced in Russian and English.

9. Napoleon (2002) (TV mini-series): For an exciting view of Napoleonic Warfare. The first episode dramatically depicts young Napoleon’s first Italian campaign and his heroic leadership at the Battle of Arcole. This mini-series also depicts the Battles of Eylau, Austerlitz, Waterloo and the retreat from Russia.

10. The Great Raid (2005), for telling a forgotten story of great courage by a group of US Army Rangers who rescue U.S. and Pilipino POWs from a Japanese prison camp during WWII.

Honorable Mentions:

1. The Lost Battalion (2001), for the only WWII war movie of substance created within the 2000-2009 time period.

2. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), for brining to life the tactics of naval warfare during the Napoleonic Wars.

3. Saints and Soldiers (2003) for an excellent tale about the Battle of the Bulge during WWII, (December 1944)

4. Hannibal – Rome’s Worst Nightmare (2006), this BBC TV depiction of the Second Punic War). The epic battle of Carthage and Rome is dramatically shown in this excellent film.

5. The Patriot (2000), depiction of the American Revolution and particularly for the depiction of the tactics used in the final battle, which is based on the Battle of Cowpens. In the Patriot, Mel Gibson plays the Benjamin Martin, a character loosely modeled after Francis Marion, the famous Southern militia leader known as the Swamp Fox.