Many things in 2007 were good. These, unfortunately, are not some of them.
Balls of Fury
On paper, I can understand how this might have been appealing: a combination sports comeback parody/kung fu epic, Enter The Dragon as applied to ping-pong. It even had Christopher Walken, for crying out loud. Unfortunately, it only had Christopher Walken With Give-Me-My-Paycheque-Already-Action-Grip, as opposed to good Christopher Walken. Worse, it had precisely one decent joke (which was in the trailer) and a plot so stupid it barely deserved consideration as something capable of putting a sequence of events in semi-chronological order. Worst of all, it starred Dan Fogler, quite possibly the least charismatic, most unfunny, and downright most unappealing “comedy actor” to appear on film in the last god-knows-how-many years. I understand that Fogler won a Tony Award, thus proving to me once and for all what I have long suspected: that Broadway does not know its head from its ass and that anything good emerging from it is the dictionary definition of “lucky accident.” Dan Fogler is a worthless piece of shit who does not deserve to be a third-rate comic relief stooge, let alone a leading-role player. Let me put it this way: Dan Fogler is Jack Black minus the talent and good looks, and I don’t particularly like Jack Black to begin with.
For the first few hours, this uninspired but at least reasonably competent 3D Diablo clone plays as one would expect the umpteenth Diablo ripoff to play. You kill monsters in an interesting post-apocalyptic future-London setting, and if the fact that the “London streets” look mostly nothing like London streets should look, at least you’re killing monsters and hiding out in tube stations with the survivors, and the various classes are at least kind of fun, and there’s at least one particularly cool scenario with really giant-ass monsters that’s a visual treat. This would be a mediocre-to-okay success, except about halfway through the game, Hellgate: London switches from a Diablo clone to a nearly impossible, teeth-grindingly frustrating, completely unfun and totally half-assed top-down realtime strategy sim, which is required to continue forward in the game. (You will never in fact do this – yes, it’s possible to eventually beat, but trust me, you will lose interest after the first ten or fifteen failed attempts.) So the single-player campaign is thus written off, and the humble player proceeds to experiment with multiplayer – except that the creators of Hellgate: London actually expect a monthly fee for the privilege of online multiplayer for their mediocre-ass game you can’t be bothered to finish in single player. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.
A show that ranges the gamut from incredibly entertaining to dreadfully toxic (and sometimes both), one of the most consistently redeeming factors of Survivor is that it’s never boring – or, at least, it was until this season. Jeff Probst’s embarrassing man-crush on gravedigger James would be the cardinal sin of most seasons, but James was a minor offender in what was probably the densest cast ever assembled for the show: moron after idiot after drooling dumbass, every last one extolling their nonexistent playskill. When winner Todd was applauded as a “grandmaster” for managing to execute what essentially amounted to the original Richard Hatch strategy – IE, “form a small alliance and hope that nobody catches on” – he was being applauded for a combination of dumb luck and the inert stupidity of practically every other player in the game. These dullards weren’t even fun to watch in the sense of generating schadenfraude – they were just boring clods. (Particularly noteworthy: Jean-Robert, the professional poker player so dense and gullible you have to wonder how the hell he makes money playing poker.)
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
If you didn’t know better, you’d swear this was a very clever, ironic parody of the prototypical costume drama: people made up in exceptionally elaborate costumes, shouting their lines and generally being unsympathetic asses. Casting decisions you would otherwise consider excellent (Clive Owen as Walter Raleigh, Samantha Morton as Mary Queen of Scots) turn out to be completely wasted, all in pursuit of Shekhar Kapur’s artistically bankrupt vision, which is about as subtle as a trainwreck. An Elizabethan trainwreck, clad in extremely gaudy rainments, fifty percent composed of slow tracking shots. The worst part is that this is the first film to attempt to depict the English defeat of the Spanish armada – one of the most important battles in naval history – and it makes the battle boring, boring, boring. (If you really wanted to know what happened to the horses the Spanish brought along with them, though, this movie totally has you covered.)
Absolutely everything to do with DC Comics’ Countdown
Dan Didio’s latest comments about how the fans just don’t appreciate all the hard work that’s going into Countdown To Final Crisis are completely misdirected. You see, we know perfectly well how much work is going into Countdown: it takes a lot of work to write a year-long weekly series, multiple tie-in miniseries, and more one-shots than I can conveniently remember (with many, many colons and liberal use of the word “presents”). We know it’s not intended to be haphazard, boring, or gratituous. Unfortunately, though, it is haphazard, boring, and gratituous, and there literally has not been a single Countdown book, not one single, solitary, lousy issue, that has been readable – let alone “good.” It’s all a vast morass of cheap fanboy porn masquerading as a story, “what if” concepts in plot’s clothing. I could forgive Countdown if it at least sold like hotcakes and attracted readers to DC’s line (which, whatever else you might say about Civil War, Civil War did in spades), but it’s doing exactly the opposite: it’s marginalizing everybody who isn’t a longterm fan and demanding total attention from its readership, and the gradually disintegrating sales on the main title and the terrible sales on the tie-ins make it pretty clear that DC has pinned all its hopes on a white elephant. And yes, I know this is building to a Final Crisis miniseries by Grant Morrison and JG Jones, and I’ll be the first to say that a creative team like that sounds appealing – but at this point, Final Crisis itself has to be the Star Wars and Casablanca of comics combined to be worth all the dogshit DC is shovelling out in an exploitative frenzy.
Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3, Dancing Like a Tool
You know, I’ve never actually seen a movie franchise so vividly jump the shark. I saw that stupid dance and said to myself, “wow – this is the exact moment that Spider-Man movies started to suck.”
See, I like Prison Break, but man, sometimes a show just can’t jump all the hurdles that get thrown at it. Losing Sarah Wayne Callies due to her pregnancy really hurt Prison Break – sometimes you don’t realize when a character really anchors a show, but her Dr. Tancredi did precisely that, and losing Rockmond Dunbar’s soulful C-Note was a loss too. Of course, those aren’t the real problems – the real problem is that this was a show with a limited lifespan at best, because the show is CALLED “Prison Break”, and well, they broke out of the prison in the first season. So, rather than ending the show with a graceful finish, what do they do? They put the lead character in an even worse prison in Panama. You can almost hear the writers’ feverish thought process. “Gotta get them back in the prison – but can’t put ’em back in the prison – how about another prison?” It’s really kind of sad.
Whatever the fuck they are doing to Wolverine
If you asked anybody on the street about Wolverine, their answer would be “he’s the cool guy on the X-Men with claws who heals.” He does not particularly require a highly documented past, because he is supposed to have a mysterious past. He especially does not need to be the totemic survivor-legend of a race of mutant wolfen-men. He does not need a psychotic son with claws of his very own. He does not need a mutant wolfen-man archenemy who is the king of all the mutant wolfen-men. The list of things Wolverine does not need, frankly, is exhaustively long, and I am waiting to see if, in 2008, Wolverine is given a rocket-powered funny car, amusing derby-hat wearing comedy sidekick, and the hobby of juggling potatoes, learned from a ten-year journey through the back counties of Ireland, because Marvel seems absolutely determined to overcomplicate and dilute the essence of one of their best and most enduring commercial properties as much as possible.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End
As Nigel Tufnel once said, “there’s such a fine line between clever and stupid.” At World’s End wants so very badly to be clever – you can tell by the plot twists and visual stunts they throw in at every opportunity – but it always, unfortunately, remains firmly in the land of stupid. A giant 100-foot women dissolving into crabs – stupid. Sailing seas of sand – not only stupid, but unoriginal and stupid. Worse, the movie is flabby, three hours long with needless subplots (if you’re not going to resolve the Calypso/Davy Jones romance satisfactorily, then don’t spend fucking screentime on it), way too in love with explaining every little fit of creative pique the writers came up with, and just too boring for too long. If I was more inclined to be generous I could call it an admirable failure which at least tried, but this is the tail end of a trilogy that, until this point, varied from wildly entertaining to reasonably fun at the worst points – the standards are higher, and they didn’t even come close to “okay.”