The Movies We Hated In 2012

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My colleague Hillary Weston and I see a lot of movies. Sure, we both loved a bunch of movies this year, such as the delightful Moonrise Kingdom, the biting Bachelorette, the lovely Beasts of the Southern Wild. But there were a few that we downright hated. While we don’t always agree on which movies were, in fact, the worst, here’s a brief list of the films from this year that drove us into fits of fury.

Prometheus

Ridley Scott’s sort-of-prequel to Alien left me with more questions than answers. For example, why did they hire Guy Pearce to play an old man instead of, I dunno, an actual old person? Would that automated surgery machine take my health insurance? What’s Michael Fassbender’s daily caloric intake? (It must not be too high.) What I did take away was this: there is no way that this has anything to do with Scott’s original masterpiece other than casually tossing around “Alien prequel” will gain a lot of buzz. I couldn’t have explained the plot of this movie five minutes after leaving the theater, and I had thankfully forgotten Prometheus until I decided to come up with the worst movies I’d seen this year. So there you have it, folks: Prometheus is completely forgettable until you try your best to think of things that are horrifically bad.—TC

To Rome With Love

Oh Woody, how I love thee. But just because you have spent your entire career putting out film after film—back to back every year for what seems like an entire century now—doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be so sloppy. Honestly, I doubt he even liked it, as even Allen’s character felt like someone doing a bad impression of himself. (Larry David, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell have all played better Woody Allens.) And don’t even both trying to find anything intelligent or redeeming about the women that populate the picture. Ellen Page’s boyish waif seductress was, to borrow a term in just about every one of his movies, "a pseudo intellectual" who was both manipulative and hollow; Greta Gerwig was an oblivious and passive goof who was supposed to be an intellectual but looked like an witless idiot; Alison Pill’s character was about as bland and lifeless as the canvas pants they wrongly put her in; and even the brilliant and beautiful Judy Davis had absolutely nothing to work with. The whole Penelope Cruz hooker storyline was absurd and a narrative bore, the Roberto Benigni "comedic" meditation on celebrity and the ego was unbearable to watch, and the father-turned-opera-singer sideline was no better than this Flintstones episode. By far the best part of the film was when I left to get a jumbo box of M&Ms and had to spend five minutes searching for the candy attendant. —HW

Silver Linings Playbook

There’s at least one movie released every Oscar season that everyone but me seems to like. This year, David O. Russell’s choppy mess of a movie fills the Little Miss Sunshine slot. Furthermore, this is the first movie that has ever forced me to leave the theater early. What did I hate most? The over-the-top quirkiness of the script? The propensity for each character to explain his or her madness rather than convey them with their actions? The fact the last thirty minutes are better than the first hour-and-a-half, at least according to every person I know who claims I cannot judge it solely on the first two-thirds of the film? (Go watch The Godfather and try to tell me the same thing, folks.) I’ve never been so grateful for Jessica Chastain, who will surely quash Jennifer Lawrence’s shot at an Oscar next spring. —TC

Lola Versus

After seeing Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’s sophomore effort, I recall writing down a few initial thoughts: "This movie has little to no genuine feeling. The dialogue was trite. The characters were like posed mannequins in an Anthropologie window attempting to tell a joke." And the worst part: even the wonderful and talented Greta Gerwig as Lola and a score by Fall On Your Sword could not save this shallow attempt at an anti-typical romantic comedy. The filmmakers are both young, intelligent people who have lived in New York for years, but I have to wonder: have they ever spoken to other humans? Every moment was contrived and two-dimensional, and it was filled with pathetic portrayals of wallowing that weren’t even accurate save for the lovelorn title character’s affinity for binge drinking and sleeping with people she would later regret. Lola chastises herself, saying "I know I’m slutty, but I’m a good person," even though it’s made clear that her ex was the only person she had slept with until they broke up, and then she sleeps with two other guys. Even the sparse scenes with her ex have absolutely no chemistry, and neither character exhibit qualities that would make you root for them not to wind up alone. All in all, it’s a film that apparently takes place in New York, but not a New York you’ve ever seen. —HW

The Dark Knight Rises

Here’s the thing: I knew I would hate this. But I had to see it, because to completely avoid the movie blockbuster of the summer would prove my own ineptitude at being a blogger. (And, as a blogger, it is my duty to share my opinions.) Christopher Nolan finally wrapped up his dour Batman trilogy with an overwrought political epic complete with as many of The Christopher Nolan Players as possible. Christian Bale brooding? Check. Tom Hardy being gay-question-mark? Yup. Marion Cotilliard for no particular reason? Uh huh. And leave it to Nolan to even strip away all the fun from Catwoman, who, as played by Anne Hathaway, is more like an old, unenthused tabby who only occasionally gets to ride some stupidly overdesigned motorcycle. Don’t get me started on the fact that it took a good forty-five minutes for Batman to actually show up; it was less of a superhero movie and more of a chance for Christopher Nolan and co-writer/brother Jonathan to an Oscar-clip monologue to every single character. —TC

The Paperboy

I don’t know why I expected more from the guy who interpolated shots of incestuous rape with images of bacon sizzling on a griddle in Precious, but I can say without wavering that The Paperboy was not just my least favorite film of the year—it’s also the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I’m all for a piece of well-made trash, but no amount of scrubbing would reveal a diamond under those layers and layers of shit. It’s misogynistic, homophobic, exploitative all around, and relies on the popular opinion that the South is a cesspool of murder, rape, racism, alligators—things that can only take place down there. And something must be said when Macy Gray delivers the best performance in a cast made up of Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, and Scott Glenn. —TC

Less People Wanted To See ‘That’s My Boy’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ Than Expected

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That’s My Boy already looked terrible from the poster, but bad Photoshop alone couldn’t have accounted for its performance at the box office this weekend. Despite Adam Sandler’s perpetual stardom, the co-vehicle for Andy Samberg opened in fifth place, with earnings of only $13 million dollars. Vulture reports that this makes That’s My Boy Sandler’s lowest-performing opening weekend for a comedy in 15 years.

Meanwhile, America’s interest in Tom Cruise playing novelty roles seems to have diminished. Rock of Ages didn’t come out on top, either, opening in third place with $15.1 million. The Cruise-helmed classic rock musical didn’t quite find its voice, or its audience.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted remained on top with $35.5 million, while Prometheus came in second with $20.2 million. Snow White and the Huntsman rounded out the top five, just passing That’s My Boy with $13.8 million.

We can now continue to have a little more faith in American moviegoers.

Movies Opening This Weekend, In Order Of How Much We Like Their Trailers

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Some people judge a movie based on reviews, other will go see something just because it features a favorite actor. Here, we’re judging this weekend’s offerings based solely on what we see in the trailers and ranking them accordingly.

Prometheus: What more could you want from a movie? Space travel, disaster, Ridley Scott and a stellar cast, including the fantastical Noomi Rapace, make this the trailer to beat this weekend. And it’s going to own the box office, so there’s also that.

Bel Ami: Does this movie, featuring Robert Pattinson as a social-climbing ladies’ man in ancientish Paris, look good? Not really. Does the trailer get us excited? Absolutely. There’s no way that two hours of this powdered-wig seduction would hold our attention, but for a few minutes it’s exciting enough to rank highly.

Dark Horse: The latest from Todd Solondz looks funny, offbeat and perhaps less I-need-a-shower-after-this than his previous work. And even though Selma Blair kind of looks like Katie Holmes is trying to escape from her face, this coming attraction definitely does its job.

Safety Not Guaranteed: Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass can sell almost any movie, and this Seattle-based caper about a guy who thinks he’s discovered the secret to time travel doesn’t need a whole lot of help in that category. This movie doesn’t look like it’s going to scratch our blockbuster itch, but if Prometheus is sold out, we’d definitely sneak in.

Lola Versus: We love Greta Gerwig, we really do, but there’s something a bit too post-rom-com about this movie, from the looks of the trailer, to draw us in. Ask again when it’s on TV on a rainy Sunday afternoon, but chances are we won’t be rushing to the multiplex.

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding: Unless you’re taking your mom to the movies for, uh, Father’s Day, no way.

A History of ‘Prometheus’ Trailers

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Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, an Aliens precursor, won’t be out until Friday, but anticipation is building—in no small part thanks to bits and pieces released on the web. Today’s tidbit is one of the most interesting of them all. A two-minute featurette has dropped explaining how the film’s namesake spaceship was designed.

Featuring interviews with production designers, the films writers and stars like Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, the clip reveals not only the thinking behind the way the spaceship was designed, but also shows off some never-before-seen footage of the film.

This isn’t the first bit that Scott and his band of merry moviemaker have dropped for us, however. There was the first trailer, which dropped last year and got tongues wagging immediately about the still-far-off film.

There was the second, twice as long trailer that hit in March.

The international trailer also dropped in March.

And a series of featurettes and cast interviews has been trickling out slowly ever since, all adding up to what filmmakers surely hope is a huge, Avengers-style opening weekend. Considering what we’ve seen so far, it’s not at all impossible.

Now Spinning on Hollywood’s Remake Carousel: ‘The Mummy’

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We all remember The Mummy, I hope, the monster franchise starring Brendan Fraser’s goofy emoting and a pre-Oscar Rachel Weisz. There were three of them, and two of them were pretty alright. But now there will be a fourth Mummy movie, a completely new reboot courtesy of Jon Spaihts, who co-wrote Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Spaihts will write the script and Sean Daniel, who produced the other three Mummy movies (and The Scorpion King, that Rock-starring spinoff), will return as producer. "I see it as the sort of opportunity I had with Prometheus: to go back to a franchise’s roots in dark, scary source material and simultaneously open it up to an epic scale we haven’t seen before," Spaihts said to Variety, and hey, fair enough. 100% less melting Jet Lis will rejuvenate any dormant franchise.

As goofy it may seem to reboot a movie that came out 13 years ago, it’s part of Hollywood’s growing attention deficit disorder: franchises like X-Men and Spider-Man have gone back to the well less than a decade after their last installment, and we’re seeing other re-adaptations like Total Recall (first shot in 1990) slowly leak out into the release schedule. But what better story could they tell than the sad saga of Imhotep and Ankh-sun-Amun, those murderous star-crossed lovers? I get teary thinking about how they never had a fair chance. Here’s hoping for a cameo from Fraser, hopefully in a bar when he turns to whoever the new hero is and says, with a derisive sneer, "Mummies! I hate mummies!"

Watch the Full Length Trailer for ‘Prometheus’

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Ridley Scott’s Prometheus got its full length trailer premier at WonderCon yesterday.  For those who zone out at anything high-budget sci-fi, don’t click away so fast.  The flick functions as a sort of prequel to Alien and has got some major star power with Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, and a surprisingly (disappointingly) clothed Michael Fassbender as part of a team that sets out to uncover the origins of mankind and ends up going to battle with interstellar creatures. Tagline: “In space, something can hear you scream.”

Prometheus hits theaters June 8th.

Idris Elba to Play Time-Traveling Astronomer (Sort of) in New TV Show

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Fresh off his Golden Globe win for Luther, Idris Elba is busy working on his next TV project: the miniseries Ascension, which "revolves around the history of astronomy and mankind’s impulse for the stars," as Deadline reports. Elba will play two characters: "the Egyptian polymath Imhotep in 3000 B.C., as well as a brilliant astronomer in the near future." So he’ll be time traveling in a sense, cutting between eras to demonstrate something ambitious about the human will. Heady stuff. It’ll be written by acclaimed comic book scribe Warren Ellis (Red, Transmetropolitan) and co-produced by Elba Vivek J. Tiwary (The Fifth Beatle).

Ellis has quite the the flair for the sci-fi fantastic, which combined with Elba’s more-than-solid acting chops should make Ascension a must-watch right off the bat. The producers might want to do some creative reworking on Elba’s name, though — Imhotep is the same name as the villain of The Mummy (who was not played by Billy Zane, did you know that?), and there may be some residual brand confusion between the two (even though the Imhotep Elba will be playing was actually a real guy, and not a psychotic mummy priest). Or maybe not, since The Mummy Returns came out over a decade ago and was kind of a silly movie to begin with. Ascension is currently being shopped around British networks, but you can see Elba in this summer’s Prometheus.

‘Prometheus’ Is Totally an ‘Alien’ Prequel

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The first real trailer for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, dropped today, and it’s like a checklist of cool stuff: people yelling, people screaming, some space ships, explosions, and Charlize Theron in a towel. There are a bunch of ominous looking locales (never trust a giant head made out of stone), as well as the most foreboding tagline of all time: "They went looking for our beginning. What they found could be our end." Shivers!

By the way, it’s absolutely an Alien prequel. Scott and the producers have been coy about it, but there’s some tell-tale evidence sprinkled throughout the trailer. Some clues: There’s a split second shot of the famous "space jockey" chair from Alien at the :39 mark. The lettering on "Prometheus" slowly fades in line by line, just like the lettering did in Alien. So, mystery solved. 

The Original ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,’ Noomi Rapace Puts Lisbeth Salander Behind Her

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Noomi Rapace is staring at a spot right above my head and speaking excitedly. Her every movement is magnified—her eyes swell and recede, the color leeches from her tousled bob, and her hair goes momentarily white. She’s wearing what looks to be a violet sweater, though it’s hard to tell. It’s 3pm here in New York, which means it’s 9pm in Stockholm, where Rapace lives. Our Skype windows are doing some weird things. I barely recognize her. Not because of the bad connection, but because she’s smiling.

Like most, I’m used to seeing a scowl—and sensory organs studded with no small amount of metal. Since 2009, Rapace has been all but synonymous with Lisbeth Salander, the punked-out hacker-heroine featured in the Swedish/Danish film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. “I felt like she lived in me,” Rapace says of her motorcycle-riding, vengeance-seeking alter ego. “My Lisbeth was my Lisbeth. I gave her my life and my soul for one-and-a-half years, and then I was finished.” She sighs, her face double-framed by her living room door and my computer screen. “I’m so done with her.”
 
While the rest of the crew popped champagne bottles and toasted to the films’ final take, Rapace puked in a soundstage bathroom. “My whole body was just kind of throwing Lisbeth out of me,” she says. Rapace spent the next week feeling traumatized and disembodied, her face still full of holes, mohawk collapsed. “I was like, I don’t know who I am anymore!” she adds, pushing a few strands of hair away from her face to reveal a pair of earrings. They are long, chainlike, and affixed to her lobes with golden talons. “It’s almost like you’re coming out of a…” She struggles for a moment, trying to articulate what it’s like to exorcize a fictional character. The earrings twinkle. “It’s like you’ve loaned yourself to someone else.”
 
With the release of two big-budget crowd-pleasers this December, Rapace will get to relinquish Lisbeth for good, though she only stars in one of them—as a conspiratorial soothsayer alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The film hits theaters just five days before American director David Fincher unveils his frenetically hyped adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Rapace will get to watch someone else suff er the many indignities foisted upon Lisbeth Salander—all while she herself rides the wave of her first Hollywood blockbuster.
 
Subways and skyscrapers are already plastered with the steely profile of Rooney Mara, the young woman who plays Lisbeth in Fincher’s film, and who—nose ringed and properly Manic Panicked—bears an uncanny resemblance to Rapace. Some fans might think it unfair—or at least, typical—that Rapace’s Lisbeth will be supplanted in the public imagination by a younger, glossier, American version (Rapace is 32; Mara, who graced the November cover of Vogue, is 25), but Rapace seems downright thankful for Mara, who could very well be her best defense against typecasting—the bane of any good actor blessed and cursed by a career-making role. “I’m pretty sure that they will do something completely different with her,” she says.
 
Rapace is only in Stockholm for a single night. She has just returned from London, where she was promoting Sherlock Holmes, and she’s leaving in the morning for Italy. In the year-plus since Millennium wrapped, she’s taken on an array of roles, all proof that she’s no one-hit wonder. She recently starred in two Scandinavian indies: Pernilla August’s domestic drama, Beyond, which won this year’s Nordic Council Film Prize and was submitted as Sweden’s 2011 Oscars entry; and Pål Sletaune’s horror film, Babycall, which was an official selection at the International Rome Film Festival. Her biggest star turn yet—in Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel, Prometheus, due out in June—is still a ways off . It still might be too soon to tell if Rapace will become Tinseltown’s hot new European import—the next Penelope Cruz or Marion Cotillard—but it doesn’t seem far-fetched. “I think she’ll have a big shot,” says legendary Hollywood producer Joel Silver, who worked with Rapace on Sherlock Holmes. “I think she’ll have a giant career.”
 
Hollywood has always loved a good Swedish bombshell (see: Anita Ekberg, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, not to mention Ingmar Bergman’s never-ending string of paramours), but Rapace transforms herself too drastically in her roles to be considered a sexpot. And she’s hardly a typical Swede. She isn’t repressed. She isn’t blonde. Her bone structure is more Slavic than Scandinavian (her cheekbones alone could score a contract with IMG). Rapace’s late father, a Spaniard from whom she was estranged, worked as a flamenco singer, and she spent much of her childhood in Iceland. By the age of 15, she had moved  alone to Stockholm to study acting. Rapace doesn’t really think of herself as a Swede. She says she feels more like an alien.
 
At the moment, Rapace isn’t filming anything, but she’s reading scripts and meeting with directors, as well as getting ready to buy an apartment in London and beginning work on a new project that will bring her to New York. She has traveled every week since August, but if anyone is resilient to grueling migratory patterns, it’s her. “I’m not sentimental at all,” she says. “I don’t have a home that is my home.” If it weren’t for family, it seems like she might not visit Stockholm at all, but it’s where her ex-husband, the actor Ola Rapace, lives. (The two chose the surname ‘Rapace’ after they were married; it means ‘bird of prey’ in French.) They’re still good friends and share custody of their eight-year-old son, Lev, who’s enrolled in school in the Swedish capital.
 
Rapace has a noticeable, but unplaceable accent. At the start of our conversation, before I get used to hearing her speak, she sounds almost Australian. She rarely makes grammatical errors. It’s hard to believe that only two and a half years ago, she barely spoke any English, a handicap she attributes to irregular schooling and a precocious enthusiasm for partying. After a press conference for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo left her speechless and self-loathing—“like a monkey in a zoo”—she made immediate amends. She began a daily regimen of CNN and BBC (sans subtitles) and became fluent in about a year. Within the first few weeks of rehearsing Sherlock Holmes, she stopped translating lines in her head—a crucial development when you’re being paid to react to other people. She now dreams in English, and just a few weeks ago, she texted her mom from London, not realizing until after she’d sent it that the message wasn’t in Swedish.
 
Rapace approaches her work with the same autodidacticism that she did the English language. Pressed for time to prep for Sherlock Holmes, she researched the role with the focus of a student cramming for the Bac—she practiced choreography with a Gypsy dance coach, translated her lines from English to Romani and back again, and swore off exercise for five months. (“In Victorian London, no one was working out. Obviously.”)
 
She insists on having significant say in every script, including permission to ad-lib scenes and edit lines for psychological realism. “I like Noomi because she’s ballsy,” says Guy Ritchie. “She’s smart and committed to doing the best she can. She’s always full of ideas.”
 
When I ask Rapace about Elizabeth Shaw, the archaeologist she plays in Prometheus, she gives me a long soliloquy on Elizabeth’s biography. Mind you, this information isn’t even in the movie: her mother’s death, her father’s faith, her childhood travels to Africa, her grades at Oxford. She follows each fact with sound analysis. Though a successful career in acting requires a sort of simulated schizophrenia, Rapace’s approach appears strikingly sane. The more she prepares, she explains, the less she has to think—which is the whole point.
 
Rapace excuses herself to get a glass of water, leaving me with a peek into her apartment. In the next room, I can make out a panoramic painting of what looks like a clawed wolf. Then I remember the earrings—and, of course, her adopted surname. I hear footsteps, and then everything turns black as she adjusts herself in front of the monitor. Rapace’s face reappears on screen. She confirms: It’s a bird.
 
As her career takes flight, Rapace is keeping a close eye on the quality of the scripts she’s sent. Movie stardom is a paradoxical thing. Fame compromises craft, just as craft compromises fame, and this seems to be Rapace’s big concern—that being recognized might eclipse her ability to fully assume a character’s life. Before starting work on Sherlock Holmes and Prometheus, she had her doubts about Hollywood. She feared that she’d be forced to do things she didn’t want to do, that she might have to surrender some of the freedom she was used to having. “But I’ve been so lucky!” she says, almost singing the last syllable. “Those two movies have been amazing to work on, people have really embraced me.” She is growing more animated. “I think I’ve been spoiled,” she says, not at all solemnly, before going on to assure me that her goal is to punctuate the blockbuster work with small, indie movies. “I don’t want to be stuck.”
 
That’s an understandable fear when you consider what a liability Lisbeth Salander could have been. However narrowly Rapace escaped eternal association with that role, the threat of confinement still looms. Going too big too fast could jeopardize her liberty to choose the parts she wants. Nevertheless, she’s reluctant to talk about her career in pragmatic terms. She’d prefer to describe the mental intricacies of the work itself. “I don’t like pretending,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I don’t like fake.” She pronounces the word with disgust and then laughs at herself. More twinkling. “That’s quite awkward. It’s kind of what we do all day.”
 
NOOMI LIKES Lydmar
 
Photography by Yu Tsai. Styling by Brad Goreski.