RottenTomatoes.com has been a miracle for someone like me, who takes in movies like other people take in food and oxygen. Being able to get a consensus rating for films before I go to see them is a big help sometimes in deciding what to see. Especially since they give both a critics' consensus and an audiences' consensus.
But using the site has also done something else for me. It has steadily eroded my faith in the intelligence of movie critics.
The more reviews I've read, the more I've cringed. I see patterns emerging. I see critics who'll gush over the most transparently manufactured Oscar Bait. I see them make excuses for inexcusably lazy, mediocre movies, especially ones aimed at children. I see them base their reviews off of other reviewers, instead of what they're supposed to be reviewing. I see them trash a movie that everyone else likes just to look 'edgy'. I see them fawn over old 'classics' that don't hold up today. And I see them give snotty reviews because a film didn't give them exactly what they expected out of it. ARRRRRRRGH.
Anyway, here are some movies that I've seen get royally shit on, and in my opinion, for unfair reasons. I admit, I am a forgiving guy when it comes to entertainment. But I do my best to judge movies based on 'Does this accomplish what it intends to do?'. If it does, or at least tries its heart out, then I usually like it. Here's some films I seem to be alone in liking.
(BTW, yes I know they're all recent. But then again, RottenTomatoes hasn't been around forever.)
10. Devil (2010) Tomatometer score: 51% I was actually surprised to check RottenTomatoes and find that this one's got a score as high as it does. I remember people tearing it apart. I remember it being the punchline of jokes. And of course, a lot of that has to do with the mistaken assumption that it's an M. Night Shyamalan movie. He's become a punchline nowadays, due to his movies steadily decreasing in quality (although the suicide scenes in The Happening were goddamn hilarious). With Devil, all he did was come up with the story. It's written and directed by other dudes.
Another reason I think this one fared badly? People were watching it wrong. While this movie has a twist, it is unimportant. You wanna know who the Devil is? It's the old lady. Yes, I just committed a mortal sin by spoiling a movie. But I think it's justified here. If you spend the whole film fixated on the twist, you miss the actual story, which I think is an interesting one. The film is really about a cop coming to grips with a situation (people dying in an elevator) which he cannot solve by any means he understands. There are things in this film that seem like bad coincidences, until eventually you realize that everything is happening exactly as planned.
Plus, it has an opening scene that, for some reason, really unnerves me. Dunno why. However, I think this one is more 'interesting' than 'good', which is why it's only number ten.
9. Eagle Eye (2008) Tomatometer score: 28% I saw the word 'preposterous' pop up so many times in reviews of this film that I thought critics had to have been comparing notes. Yet what I liked about it was how much sense it made.
Now, this is a Shia LeBeouf film. If you hate him, you'll hate this; fair enough. (Me? I have no problem with him. He was great in Disturbia and Holes.) To be honest, you are going to have to ignore some pretty goofy-ass over-the-top action movie stuff to enjoy this film the way it deserves. Because every critic seems to have reviewed this movie as an action flick. And as an action flick, it's sub par. But as a sci fi flick, which is what it's SUPPOSED to be, it has some brilliant writing.
There's a scene in the beginning where Shia's on a train coming home, and on the news the anchor mentions that today the government gave itself the ability to use anyone's cell phone as a listening device at any time for any reason. And no one in the train car gives the slightest shit. Now THAT is satire. When I saw that, I realized this was a movie I needed to pay attention to.
I love a villain with a good motivation, and this movie has a doozy. Critics howled over how overcomplicated the villain's plot is, without ever realizing something incredibly simple: all the crazy, convoluted things that happen in this film were not planned out ahead of time. The villain is constantly changing their plan as they go along, adapting to every new circumstance. When do you ever see that in a film!? And when you finally find out their motivation, it's chilling because they are 100% correct. Chillingly, heartlessly correct. Watch it and see.
8. The Amityville Horror (2005) Tomatometer score: 24% Here's a movie where I want you to do the exact opposite of what I suggested with the last one. With this movie, you can pretty much ignore everything but the characters. This film feels like it was shat out without thought by a studio that just wanted to produce a mediocre little CGI-laden horror film that would bring in a smidge more than its budget. Except the actors decided to sabotage the film by turning in really good performances.
Seriously, everyone's good in this. They don't have to be, but they are. Ryan Reynolds is goddamn creepy, because you watch him slowly turn from a stepfather who is doing his best to love his children, into an absolute monster. There's a scene where he's chopping wood with his stepson that made my skin crawl. Plus, the normally-forgettable role of the cute little girl is played by the too-amazing-for-her-age Chloe Grace Moretz. Yeah, Hit Girl. She takes a nothing role and acts her fucking heart out with it.
So, laugh at the ultra cheap computer effects and the pointlessly overexplained revelations about the house. Watch this for a damn good performance of a family going through hell. (Also, there's a cute little ghost girl in it who has a scene so badass I dare not say a single word but FINGER.)
7. The Box (2009) Tomatometer score: 45% I guess I can understand people not liking this film for it being too complicated. It is complicated. But if you're willing to devote some attention and brainpower to it, it is absolutely worth it. This is a film made by the guy who did Donnie Darko. It's just as bizarro and filled with brain twisting sci-fi ideas, yet it's also achingly personal and sad. It has a unique, misty, dreamlike look to it too.
The setup comes from a Twilight Zone episode: a woman is given a box with a button on it, and told by a mysterious stranger that if she pushes it, she'll get one million dollars, and someone she does not know will die. The twist ending where the Twilight Zone episode ended is where this movie really begins. The movie delves into who is behind the box, why they're doing this, the consequences of making the wrong choice, the faults of human mortality, and whether or not we are inherently doomed as a species. It may take several viewings, but as 'Rube Goldberg' as this film gets, I honestly think everything in it is explained. Watch it once to be shocked by where it goes, then watch it again to see how everything led there.
6. Miss March (2009) Tomatometer score: 5% Have you ever seen any episodes of The Whitest Kids U Know? They're a sketch comedy quintet who do very subversive, meta-type humor. It's not for everyone. Which is why it was especially stupid for a movie studio to come to two of its stars with a repulsively mediocre gross-out buddy comedy script and ask them to direct it. At first they refused. But then they got drunk and realized how fun it would be to intentionally sabotage it. (The movie Hot Rod happened the same way, BTW.)
This movie is itself a giant joke. It is a parody of a godawful comedy, disguised as what it is. That means the humor is either subtle as heck, or crossing the line twice. If you've seen crappy-ass comedies about college guys on a road trip trying to get pussy and having wacky adventures, you will recognize every cliche they mercilessly fart on. This is not a serious film. It's two guys making a terrible movie while laughing their asses off that they're getting paid to make a terrible movie. Personally, I love watching stupid movies made by smart people. Maybe I'm weird.
Plus, it has a character named Horsedick.MPEG. He is a rapper. He has a hit single named "Suck My Dick While I Fuck Your Ass". If you don't see the beauty in that, this movie is not for you.
5. In Time (2011) Tomatometer score: 39% Yes, this came out just days ago, but I honestly think it deserves its place on this list. My blood boiled when I read the reviews, seeing every last one of them miss the entire point of the movie.
It's an ALLEGORY, goddammit! Is that too hard a concept for your brain to handle? No? Then congratulations, you are smarter than a movie critic. It seems stupidly obvious, but apparently it isn't. In this movie time literally is money. This movie is an economics lesson cleverly disguised as a sci-fi action flick so people will go see it.
I often see people discussing complicated topics in a way that suggests they think everyone else knows just as much about the subject as they do. When it comes to economics, I know almost nothing. Yet this movie took some very complicated concepts and made them comprehensible to me. This movie conveys its message effectively to the people who most need to learn it. And miraculously, it doesn't condescend either. It assumes you are smart enough to follow the metaphor. It simplifies ideas without dumbing them down.
Simply put, if you don't quite know what the Occupy Wall Street protests are about, go see this movie and you'll understand everything. I am completely serious. It shows you the immorality of a system where a few have more than they could ever use, while most are living day to day and dying in the streets. Even more impressively, it knows where to place blame. The bad guys are the people who knowingly keep the system going; not the people who are given shitty wages to perpetuate it, or even those who benefit from it by an accident of birth. I love it when the more I think about a movie afterwards, the more I keep noticing little details that impress me.
Plus, the cars are really cool-looking.
4. The Matrix Revolutions (2003) Tomatometer score: 36% Let's get this out of the way: I HATED this movie when I first saw it. I felt betrayed by it. The first Matrix changed the way movies looked forever. The second one was badmouthed for its weak story, but I understood that it was all building up to something (plus the action sequences are beyond excellent). Then the third film comes along and seems to piss on everything we liked about the first two. It's action scenes are weak, and it seems like no one in it will shut up about philosophy.
Except that, years later, when I decided to give it another chance, I made the accidentally perfect decision to watch it and Matrix Reloaded back-to-back in one sitting.
Suddenly, I LOVED Revolutions.
Everything made sense now. Imagine hearing half of a joke, then waiting till next year to hear the other half. Will it be funny? Of course not. The Matrix Trilogy is simply not a trilogy: It's two movies, one of which happens to be extremely long. Watching both halves together creates a complete movie. I remembered all the setup from Reloaded, so it all paid off in Revolutions. And yes, some of the action scenes are still weak. But I realized they aren't the point. This movie has a ton of philosophy in it. Deep stuff that Hollywood normally never touches. If you pay attention to it instead of just waiting for them to do more bullet-time fighting, it's mind-blowing. Even if I may not agree with the movie's Buddhist-themed morals, I admire how different they are from what we usually see. In what other action movie can you think of where the hero realizes that the only way to win his greatest battle is to stop fighting it?
(BTW, I still hate that they killed Trinity. I understand the purpose it served in the story, but it still felt contrived. If she had to die, I would have much rather seen her go out fighting in a blaze of ballsiness.)
3. Freddy Got Fingered (2001) Tomatometer score: 11% You are meant to hate this movie. That is the most important thing about it.
I understood as soon as I started watching it that it was intended as a work of Dada art. Or if that's too obscure for you, Tom Green was trolling every movie critic in America, and he got exactly the reaction he wanted.
Don't believe me? Think about it. That was his entire schtick. Not since Andy Kaufman has a performer so thoroughly embraced the concept of 'punish your audience'. Back when FGF came out, there were a ton of dumbass comedies that all tried to out-shock each other in the gross humor department. Tom Green advertised his film as more of the same, then proceeded to screw every single person who bought a ticket.
This movie is designed to frustrate your expectations. Whenever you see a typical setup, Tom kicks the seat out from under you and does something either cringingly unfunny or genuinely nauseating. The humor in the movie is knowing what it's making fun of. Knowing that it's being nails-on-a-chalkboard irritating on purpose. Every critic loathed this movie with a passion, and Tom Green just giggled. Notice that on the movie poster, he's composing a shot, but looking at us. Our reaction is the real movie.
Want proof that this was brilliant faux-awfulness instead of real awfulness? When Freddy is sent to a state home for sexually abused children, in one scene we see them watching TV. What's on? The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That is fucking genius.
2. Speed Racer (2008) Tomatometer score: 38% How can anyone not like this movie? HOW can anyone not like this movie!? If you're elderly or epileptic, then fine; I understand. But I loved the everliving heck out of this film. I was blown away by it. It turned me into a grinning little kid again.
Every critic who said this film's plot was too complicated is stupid. Every critic who said this film focuses too much on the special effects and not on the characters is stupid. This movie is as heartfelt and straightforward as any I've ever seen. It has a cartoon's sense of reality and morality. If you can't get in tune with that, then oh well. But I could. Yes, it's a world where people drive insanely futuristic cars that can defy physics, but the characters in it take it seriously because it's their world.
Beyond that, the amount of heart and soul poured into this movie is astronomical. Its creativity is off the charts. Yet it respects the original cartoon so much it even duplicates a few scenes shot-for-shot. Yeah, it's hard to tell what's going on sometimes, but I never had any trouble following the story, and I suspect a kid wouldn't either. I swear, there are colors in this movie that had never existed before anywhere in the galaxy. The vehicles are brain-damagingly awesome. The casting is perfect. The dialogue is smart. The music is exuberant. The final race is the most nerve-explodingly exciting adrenaline rush I think I've ever seen.
But you can ignore all that, because none of it matters. What does matter? When I saw this in the theater, during the final race a little boy in the back jumped out of his seat and yelled, "Go Speed!!!" Really. He is the only critic whose opinion on this film matters, I think.
1. Sucker Punch (2011) Tomatometer score: 23% People who hate this movie are fucktards.
I said it and I'm not apologizing. Sucker Punch has to be the most misunderstood movie I've ever seen. I froth at the mouth when I read reviews for it. Even the good ones! ALL of them miss the mark. NONE of them see past the visuals to what the movie's actually about. For fuck's sakes, virtually every criticism I see of this movie is what THE MOVIE ITSELF IS TRYING TO CRITICIZE!!!
If this movie is a failure, it's only real failing is its inability to effectively convey its message. And yes, I admit that's kind of a huge failing. I'm a guy who watches a lot of movies, and not to brag, but I rarely have any trouble at all understanding them. With Sucker Punch, I did have to do some reading about it afterwards before I got it. But when I did, I spent hours going over every inch of it in my mind, shitting myself from seeing just how deep the rabbit hole went.
I'm going to spoil some things here because it'll be easier to understand Sucker Punch if you know some stuff beforehand. First off, the trailers were a lure that worked too well. The insane action sequences were meant to draw in exactly the kind of audience the movie was most harshly criticizing. Unfortunately, critics seem to have focused only on the visuals and ignored everything else.
The action sequences are all meaningless. Literally. This movie is about Hollywood's treatment of women, using disassociation from reality as a technique. Baby Doll, the main character, is sent to a mental hospital by her unimaginably evil father. Unable to deal with her trauma, she reimagines the asylum as a brothel, making the sexual abuse of the patients by the staff more palatable. Baby Doll discovers that she has a gift for dance, and is soon dancing to distract the staff so she and four other girls can make an escape. But in her mind, Baby Doll's dancing becomes a series of fantastic sci-fi worlds, all jumbled up like dreams. And that's all they are. In the end, her dreams; her dances, do not save them. They accomplish nothing.
Critics said this movie did not empower women. That it was just a bunch of scantily-clad women jumping about, doing 'action grrl' stuff while their tits flopped around. YES. THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT. The point is that these kinds of roles for women offer the illusion of empowerment, nothing more. It's no different than pole dancing, the director is saying. And while men leer at Baby Doll during her dances, the audience leers at her during her action fantasies. This movie is an enormous middle finger to juvenile nerds. Sadly, the hollow, spectacle-without-substance action scenes were enjoyed unironically by the very people the movie was trying to piss off.
And the ending... Jesus Christ, it is a mindfuck of unfathomable proportions. Fair warning: 'Sucker Punch' is a very appropriate title.
Maybe Zak Snyder just assumed everyone was smarter than they were. My hunch is that he had a ton of ideas for Sucker Punch, then made the film in a white heat before he fully understood them and how to effectively convey them. If he'd spent a few years reworking the script, this could have been a masterpiece. It's still a movie that is desperately trying to say something that its audience does not want to hear. And just for trying, I think it deserves recognition.
Bonus: My Soul To Take (2010) Tomatometer score: 9% This didn't make the list because it really is a bad movie. But it is a bad movie so jaw droppingly strange that you really ought to give it a chance.
This is a movie Wes Craven spent five years on, and it seems impossible. It is more uneven than an ocean of mashed potatoes. There are characters who have surprising depth and interesting personalities, yet who say bizarrely inhuman lines of dialogue. There's a slasher who feels thrown in as an afterthought, even though the movie's supposedly about him. There is a scene with a condor costume that seriously must be seen to be believed. There is a genuinely surprising plot twist that had no relevance to the plot whatsoever.The ending is about twenty minutes of nothing but expository dialogue, and yet I thought it was genuinely gripping and suspenseful.
Just an example: One character is a girl who eats, sleeps and breathes Jesus. You know exactly how this character will act from all the times she's shown up in other movies. Except you don't. Here, she's sunny and forgiving and completely sincere. I absolutely loved her. That boggles my damn mind.
It's like with Sucker Punch: Wes seems to have had a gajillion ideas for this thing, but he threw them all together in a blender. He needed someone to help him co-write this thing. Watching it is fascinating for the potential it has, and all the weird, weird, weird things it does instead.
This is what eventually convinced me to see it:
In one scene, the rapey jock guy is talking to his cheerleader girlfriend on the phone. She owes him a favor, so he says, "How 'bout a blowjob?"
She replies, "How 'bout I have my dog bite it off and bury it in my backyard?"
Then, after she hangs up, the jock guy stares off into the fourth wall and says, completely deadpan, "How big is your backyard?"
WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUCK!?!?
(If you guys want me to, I might do a list of my top 10 critically-acclaimed films I couldn't give a crap about.)