Random Thoughts: What critical darlings you can’t sing praises of?

Happy Tuesday, readers!

Critics everywhere seem to fall all over themselves in declaring The Hurt Locker a landmark movie-making achievement, giving director Kathryn Bigelow one major award after another, which in and of itself is a record as she’s the first female director who’ve won some of these awards. I finally saw it this past weekend – with my my expectation set quite high given all the positive buzz – and well, for the life of me, I can’t figure what’s all the fuss is about.

As I started working on my review, I kept thinking how underwhelming it was. I mean, I thought it was just okay… you could even say it’s a good film, but a milestone? Hmmm, I don’t know about that. I guess this isn’t the first time I disagree with the critics, a couple other recent movies that I had really high hopes for didn’t quite deliver: Up and Bright Star (read my full review). I don’t know if I’ll ever get to writing a full review for The Hurt Locker and Up, but let me just say that despite some great scenes and performances that perhaps merit some acknowledgments, overall I don’t think they’re worth all the critical praises (both of them are almost 100% fresh on rottentomatoes!) and all the awards they’ve reaped.

Let’s talk about The Hurt Locker as it’s still fresh in my mind. Castor at Anomalous Material highlighted some of the preposterous scenarios in the movie, which practically echoes the sentiments voiced in this Huffington Post article. Now, I don’t claim to know much about military facts, so my critique is more about how the movie’s done and whether it works as an engaging/stimulating cinematic experience for me. The answer to that is not quite. In the end, it just didn’t leave that big of an impression on me. Sure it’s got some intense, edge-of-your-seat thrills, but I didn’t come away forming any emotional attachment with any of the major characters (in fact, I was easily distracted by the cameos of big-name actors such as Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes). For instance, I have no idea why the protagonist was indulging in such risky behavior (somewhat recklessly at times as he risked his fellow soldiers’ lives), is it because he’s addicted to the adrenaline rush of war (like the opening line of the movie suggested) or was there something more? I find that another war-themed movie that shares a similar sense of realism and grittiness, District 9, tugs at my heart strings more. Somehow I felt more ‘connected’ to and thus care more for Sharlto Copley’s Wikus than Jeremy Renner’s James, it’s that bond with the character that I find lacking in The Hurt Locker.

Hmmm, I guess that’s a cliff-notes version of my review. What I meant to do with this post is to pose this question to you readers: what critically-acclaimed movie(s) have you seen lately that are somewhat of a letdown? Whether the hype is from film critics/bloggers or perhaps the movie is from your favorite genre or by a director you love, so you’ve been somewhat predisposed to liking. And, on the flip side, are there movie the critics trashed that you actually like? Let’s hear it!

35 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: What critical darlings you can’t sing praises of?

  1. eap

    I had the same feeling after seeing Up in the Air. I felt it was a fine, entertaining movie — and of course who doesn’t love George Clooney — but certainly not up to the hype.

    1. Well I for one don’t love George Clooney he..he.. but I actually quite like the film because of the story and the two actresses’ performance (Anna Kendrick and Vera Fermiga). But yeah, it’s not spectacular by any means. Inglourious Basterds on the other hand, I thought that was superb. Have you seen it, Liz?

  2. Samantha

    I don’t think I’ve seen any lately – but let’s talk about some older ones : American Beauty (yawn), Magnolia (yawn, although Tom Cruise was surprisingly good), Boogie Nights (YAWN, couldn’t even finish it.)

    Oh look! Kevin Spacey playing a sarcastic slacker! What a stretch. Magnolia was 188 minutes of Paul Thomas Anderson beating us over the head with how deep he is/was. Boogie Nights was just amazingly boring. None of the characters were interesting or sympathetic, and it really seemed to just be an exercise in taking drug use and lots of sex and making it “arty”. Pass

    …But that’s just my opinion. 🙂

    1. I haven’t seen Magnolia nor Boogie Nights, but American Beauty, yeah I don’t think it was THAT good, certainly not Oscar-worthy. The Insider AND Russell Crowe were robbed at the Oscar that year, I mean Crowe’s performance as Jeffrey Wigand is years away from Spacey’s, and it’s way better than his own Oscar-winning turn as Maximus in Gladiator. So, how about critically-panned flicks, is there one you actually like, Sam?

      1. Samantha

        Ha! I didn’t mention Crowe being robbed by Spacey, but you know I was thinking it.

        As for something I love that got critically panned (more or less)…

        A Good Year. NOBODY liked that movie. I’m pretty sure they were watching something different. It is charming, funny, beautifully filmed, and the performances (Crowe, Cotillard, Cornish, DUH) are excellent. But it got pretty much panned, seemingly for no other reason than that people were weirded out by Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott doing a soft movie. They are all idiots. I own it. It’s one of my favorite RC movies, and if you know me, you know that’s really saying something.

        1. I haven’t seen ‘A Good Year,’ not sure why, but now that you mention it, especially with Cotillard AND Cornish, both fine actresses, I have to give it a shot. I don’t know why some people can’t think outside the box and always expect the same kind of thing from certain actors/directors, that’s just idiotic like you said. Actors are supposed to be chameleons aren’t they, I mean I wouldn’t want Crowe to do Gladiator-type roles every single time just ’cause he’s great doing it. I think the same happened to ‘P.S. I love you,’ people give Gerry Butler grief for playing ‘soft’ after his bad-ass role in ‘300.’

          1. Samantha

            Let me know what you think if/when you get around to it. I really love it and watch it often. You can’t say that all of RC’s films are the kind to see over and over again, but this one definitely is.

  3. PrairieGirl

    Crazy Heart. Jeff Bridges (Bad Blake) performance is certainly Oscar-worthy. He plays drunk and down-and-out so well it hurts to keep watching him. In fact, I think his role was over-written. I mean how many times do you need to see him vomit or pass out before you get the hint that he’s got a problem? Not as much as we have to watch. So that leaves little left for the rest of the characters. Don’t know why his love interest (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is the least bit interested in him, don’t know why one minute Colin Firth is his musical rival, and then the next they are suddenly best friends again. So just like you felt about The Hurt Locker, rtm, there’s very little in this film to get you to care about any of the other characters. So not matter how well Bridges acting was, the rest of the film just kinda hangs with a strands of loose ends.

    1. I didn’t have much interest in seeing that one, so I’m going to take your word for it. I do like Maggie Gyllenhaal though, hmmm… I didn’t know Colin Firth is in Crazy Heart, too? Are you sure? He’s nominated for Best Actor Oscar, too, for A Single Man.

      1. PrairieGirl

        Sorry, my bad, it’s Colin Farrell, not Firth. I know you like Maggie, but I’m not sure she’s worth seeing in this film.

        1. Ha..ha.. you won’t be the first that confuse the two, Corinne did the exact same thing just the other day. I didn’t know Farrell was in that one, either. Well in any case, no, I don’t think any one of the actors would entice me to watch this one, btw, GB played a pretty compelling alcoholic in The Jury, too, remember? I was really impressed given the fact that he’s a recovering alcoholic himself at the time he did the movie.

  4. toomey2k9

    I remember going to see “Happiness” and waiting for the moment that touched all the critics…I’m still waiting. I guess it’s that the title is ironic but I’m not sure I need an hour and a half of the opposite of happiness to hammer that home.

    1. I haven’t seen that one, but I remember reading some reviews that basically echoed your sentiment. I guess we can say the same thing about the star of that movie: overrated.

  5. I just watched that movie a couple of days ago and havent written a review on it yet because im not sure what to think of it. I would have never seen it if it wasnt for all the great reviews and if I had, I dont think i would have thought much of it. Its a good movie but great? Groundbreaking? I dont know…

    1. Exactly, Vanessa. As the end credits rolled, my hubby and I sort of looked at each other and shrugged. Boy, now I’m REALLY rooting for Inglourious Basterds to win Best Picture. Or even AVATAR!

  6. Thanks for the shout out Ruth. I was certainly disappointed by the complete lack of accuracy in this movie but when you point that out, most people give you the “it’s a movie” excuse. Is it too much to have a realistic movie given all the knowledge that is around. Any Billy Joe can go on Google and read some extremely complex scientific papers but they can’t even get basic military stuff right?

    1. My pleasure, Castor! I’m also guilty of the ‘it’s a movie’ excuse too from time to time, but it’s less of an ‘offense’ if the story is clearly fictitious, with made up characters and situation, but THL is almost striving for reality, yet seems to deliberately ignore facts for the sake of cheap thrills, like you said in your review. Oh well, like I said, it’s not a bad movie, just not THAT good.

    1. PrairieGirl

      Hi Katie, so agree with you about LIT. I love Bill Murray, and was expecting to love this movie, but by the time it (finally!) ended, I just thought, “What was the point?”

    2. Ah, Lost in Translation, what a polarizing film that is. I can see why people loathe it, but I don’t think it received such a high praise the way THL does now. One thing for sure, Bill Murray is a much better actor than Jeremy Renner!

  7. diana

    Hi there. I was wondering if any of you have seen Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep. I think she’s a great actor, no question about it. But Oscar nomination, ehm, is it because she is thel Streep? I had really hard time keep my eyes open during the movie. Any thoughts? Thanks.

    1. I saw it, Na, and I got to admit she was great as Julia Child but I feel that we’ve seen other equally-great performances from her before, so why not give the nod to somebody else, y’know? The movie itself is just ok, not great, but at least it didn’t make me sleepy like it did to you 🙂 Thanks for the comment, girlfriend!

  8. JO

    I have heard some great reviews about this movie but haven’t seen it yet so can’t make a decent comment either way. I enjoy reading what you have to say about the film as I don’t always agree with the critics either. This is a movie that looks like it could be hard to watch so I have been putting it off and may just take your word for it. Nice critic though.

    By the way has anyone seen the movie Precious?

    1. PrairieGirl

      Haven’t seen Precious yet, but don’t think I want to. I’m sure the acting by Monique and the newcomer actress who plays the lead is as good as everyone is saying, but the last thing I want to see is a movie about an exceptionally abusive parent, no matter how good the acting.

    2. I think Hurt Locker is still worth-seeing, I’m not totally dismissing it, just didn’t think it was spectacular, that’s all.

      I haven’t seen Precious, either, J. I have the same feeling as PrairieGirl on this. It’ll just depress me too much. I wanted to see The Road as well but I think I’ll end up bawling my eyes out, I mean life’s hard enough as it is… But I still might check it out one day just out of curiosity.

  9. Julie Tan

    I’ve got one! Pelham 123 starring John Travolta and Denzel Washington- great actors but the storyline is weak and kinda boring and predictable! I actually had high expectation of the movie due to critics review….oh well….

    1. Hi Jul, I did see Pelham. It’s ok, I only saw it because of the two leads, but overall it’s not bad. But then again the critics didn’t embrace this one as much as they did Hurt Locker, so I didn’t watch it with super high expectation. Thanks for commenting, girl!

    1. I’m the same way, too, Liz, I literally had to get out of the room several times during some of the really tense scenes. But it’s really worth seeing, I especially enjoy the dialog & the use of multiple languages in the movie.

  10. Interesting post…

    Drop me an email, I’d love to talk about HURT LOCKER (my thoughts would go on much too long for a blog comment).


    1. Oh boy… I don’t know if I’m up for discussing Hurt Locker at length, but ok I’ll email you 🙂 I hope you’re not ‘offended’ in any way by this given that you love THL. As I said in one of the comments before, it’s still worth a watch.

  11. vony

    Julie and Julia, story wise is okay.. but it’s boring !! Inceptions, I like it, but it gave me a headache. :)) I like Tron : Legacy, but it need more action and more deeper plot ?

  12. Great post, Ruth. I agree with you. I don’t get what the fuss is about when it comes to The Hurt Locker and its massive load of awards. I have to disagree with the Renner thing, though. I think he’s fantastic. Other recent critical darlings that I just can’t get behind are Precious (save for Mo’Nique’s INCREDIBLE performance), The Avengers and War Horse.

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