Movie Defender Archives

Box, The by Matt Wedge – October 1, 2010
When people ask me about writer-director Richard Kelly’s films, my advice is unfailingly consistent: Donnie Darko is a masterpiece, Southland Tales is to be avoided at all costs, and The Box takes an insanely unfair amount of scorn for a film that creates such a brilliantly realized tone of inevitable doom.

Broken Lizard’s Club Dread by Matt Wedge – February 25, 2011
The result was a film that was funny without going for the obvious jokes that the Scary Movie franchise had already poached numerous times over. But critics bashed its straight-faced approach to comedy and audiences stayed away in droves, turned off by bad word-of-mouth that the film was just as much a horror film as it was a comedy.

Cell, The by Matt Wedge – December 13, 2010
The Cell is the type of movie I should hate. The regular criticism against it is that it relies on its astounding visuals to cover up a deficient story that was cobbled together from bits and pieces of other films. This is mostly true. But the visuals on display are so intricate they — and the surprisingly good performances by the cast — elevate the film beyond its derivative story to something resembling an art film by way of a serial killer thriller.

Death to Smoochy by Matt Wedge – July 15, 2011
This is a hell of a lot of plot for a first act and that’s without even getting into the Irish Mafia outfit that takes a special interest in Sheldon’s continued success and well-being. Admittedly, the film teeters on the edge of a cliff, ready to fall into the abyss of satirical overkill before something unexpected happens: Sheldon grows from a one-note hippie joke into a character worth rooting for. In the midst of the aggressive cynicism and heavy-handed satirical jokes, Sheldon becomes a likable, somewhat too earnest protagonist whose quest to improve the world goes from being mocked to encouraged, a surprising turn for a movie directed by the ever-subversive Danny DeVito.

Domino by Matt Wedge – September 3, 2010
Over the years, critics have complained that Tony Scott makes the same movie over and over. This is essentially true. He always values style over story. His films often end with a violent shootout between several characters. His editing and shooting style seems to be inspired by the ADD-riddled mind of a twelve-year-old boy. Still, I find it difficult to fault a filmmaker for having a consistency of vision. Scott’s vision may be excessively silly and mainstream, but you always know when he has directed a film. This is something you cannot say about other mainstream, studio filmmakers (with the possible exception of Michael Bay). It’s for this reason that I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Scott’s films. No matter the subject matter, they are always an experience and usually entertaining. Such is the case with Domino.

Doomsday by Matt Wedge – November 26, 2010
Film critics are often accused of being snobs. When we collectively bash a mainstream studio picture that seemingly everyone else just loves, we are seen as being stuffy and out of touch with people who just want to be entertained. More often than not, this is untrue. When a film gets a collective beatdown by the critical community, it’s usually for a very good reason. Let’s face it, if mass popularity was the yardstick by which quality was measured, the Scary Movie films would be considered classic works of art. It’s for this reason that we have critics. We often act as the vocal minority explaining why the latest Twilight movie isn’t the greatest use of film since Orson Welles uttered, “Rosebud.” But very occasionally — I stress the words “very occasionally” — film critics are snobs.

Heaven’s Gate by D. B. Bates – August 6, 2010
Has a more notorious film than Heaven’s Gate ever been made? Michael Cimino’s follow-up to a masterpiece, 1978’s The Deer Hunter, was plagued by budget problems and negative press from day one. A disastrous early screening at an unwieldy 330 minutes was so reviled by those who screened it, Cimino himself begged for more time to edit it to a manageable length. The 150-minute cut released into theatres several weeks later received some of the worst reviews any movie has ever received in the history of the medium.

Hudson Hawk by Matt Wedge – July 9, 2010
Right up front, let me get this out of the way: Hudson Hawk is not a good movie. In fact, it’s a spectacularly stupid movie featuring a mess of a story riddled with plot holes and silly one-liners. Like many of the films we will feature on The Movie Defender, it’s easy to understand why critics would beat up on the film. But Hudson Hawk is not an attempt to create high art. It’s a Joel Silver production starring Bruce Willis. The only thing that matters when we are talking about a film of that pedigree is the answer to the question: Is it entertaining? And it is with this quality that the film redeems itself, clocking in a surprisingly high number of laughs per minute.

I Know Who Killed Me by Matt Wedge – June 25, 2010
It’s incredibly easy to see the flaws in a movie like I Know Who Killed Me. The script by Jeff Hammond is ludicrous, riddled with plot holes, bad dialogue and leaden attempts at psychological trickery. The lead performance by Lindsay Lohan in a dual role is shaky at best, leading to some bad line readings that only highlight the worst of the inept dialogue. But what is interesting to me about reviews of the film is that not only did critics spend most of their time wagging their fingers in misplaced fits of moral outrage at Lohan’s off-screen behavior, they turned a blind eye to the fact that, in the middle of a summer blockbuster season, a studio film made an honest attempt to stand out from the crowd. While it’s easy to consider it an overall failure, the over-the-top, anything-goes tone the film achieves puts it in the good company of so trashy they’re entertaining films like Wild Things and Basic Instinct. Don’t get me wrong — the film is not a misunderstood classic, but there’s plenty about it to recommend if you can look past the obvious flaws.

Meet Dave by D. B. Bates – December 3, 2010
Meet Dave is a pleasant surprise: a frequently funny, family-oriented sci-fi comedy boasting two of Murphy’s best performances (as captain and “ship”) since his dual role in 1999’s Bowfinger. First, he plays the stone-faced captain of a Nilian ship. Nilians are tiny creatures who look conveniently like humans but, like Vulcans, aren’t quite tapped into their emotions. They bury everything in a patriotic fervor and dedication to duty above all else. Their starship, as it happens, is shaped exactly like The Captain, in order to blend in with the strange human beings. Ostensibly, the plot revolves around the crew’s search for a mysterious orb that will allow them to drain Earth’s oceans and collect the salt, which on Nil is a highly valuable energy source. That’s merely an excuse for some of the oddest fish-out-of-water comedy ever committed to film.

Postal by D. B. Bates – January 7, 2011
When Matt challenged himself to endure the Uwe Boll film Rampage, his revelation that Boll had made yet another awful film didn’t surprise me in the least. However, I felt compelled to defend his one and only decent film — 2007’s Postal, a cheerfully offensive, simple-minded but incredibly funny satire of the culture of stupidity and apathy that has slowly overtaken the American populous. Like a lot of gag-a-second comedies, not every joke works, but there’s always one that hits right after a miss. It also demonstrates that Boll’s problems as a filmmaker stem more from his chosen genre (schlocky, horror-action video game adaptations) than a true lack of talent.

Postman, The by D. B. Bates – November 5, 2010
Ah, The Postman: The butt of so many late-’90s topical jokes, it makes Ishtar look like Citizen Kane. Ironically, Kenneth Turan’s dyspeptic description of the film as “Mad Max directed by Frank Capra” is dead-on — but I consider that a positive. The Postman boasts a winning combination of ambition, sentiment, idealism, and insanity. Some three-hour films are a chore to sit through, but The Postman breezes through its runtime, brimming with a unique cinematic voice and offbeat charm usually lacking in big-budget studio fare.

Silent Hill by Matt Wedge – January 26, 2011
Silent Hill actually did decent business when factoring in the worldwide numbers, so it technically doesn’t meet all of the requirements of a traditional Movie Defender write up, but it did take a whipping from the critics, currently sitting at a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. At the same time, its IMDB user rating is a respectable 6.5. Obviously, this wouldn’t be the first time that a film is embraced by the public while being trashed by the critical community. And, as I’ve often pointed out, in most of those cases, the critics are right (yes, I realize this makes me sound like a snob, but I can live with it). But Silent Hill is one of those rare cases where the general moviegoing public is right and critics missed the boat.