This year I saw almost all of the Razzie nominees for Worst Picture of 2015.  I’d rented a copy of Fantastic Four only to have to return it unwatched when other library patrons put it on hold, which seems to prove that I’m not the only glutton for punishment around.  I also saw several movies in other categories, and I wanted to briefly mention two movies that I saw that were nominated in the Worst Actress category.

Months and months ago, before I even realized it would be a Razzie nominee, I saw The Boy Next Door starring Jennifer Lopez.  And yeah, it was about as ridiculous as the trailer would lead you to believe.

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There were many reasons why I never intended to see Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.  I’d never seen the first movie.  I don’t find Kevin James to be particularly entertaining (this is partially, but not entirely, Adam Sandler’s fault).  And the trailer made it look like it contained an unhealthy amount of the kind of physical comedy that would make a vaudeville stage actor say, “Hey, you might want to dial it down a little.”

PBMC2 poster

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Every year at this time I have to start emotionally preparing myself to watch at least one Adam Sandler movie.  Because if there’s a list of the worst movies of the year, Adam Sandler is very likely to be on it.  Sometimes multiple times!

I am in no way an Adam Sandler expert, but over the last several years I’ve suffered through Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2 and Blended, which were all pretty awful.  Having said that, when I try to compare Pixels to these earlier movies … well, I’m going to use a concept that Mr. X likes to refer to as “damning with faint praise.”  I can honestly say that while Pixels isn’t a great movie … IT ISN’T BAD FOR AN ADAM SANDLER MOVIE.

 

Pixels poster

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If people know what you do for a living, sometimes they ask for your professional opinion on a topic that’s related to your job.  This can be a perk or a pitfall, depending on the question.  Sometimes I get library-related questions that I enjoy answering, like, “What do you think about the Harry Potter books?” or “Can you recommend something for my kid / teen / reluctant reader who enjoys mysteries / dystopias / graphic novels?”  And sometimes I get questions that I dread, and at the top of that list for a long time was, “What do you think about Fifty Shades of Grey?”  This would usually come with follow-up questions about just how explicit it was, how bad the writing was, etc.  And so, I finally forced myself to read the damned book just so that I could come up with something better than “I have no idea” the next time I got that question.

It was definitely a doozy of a book.  It was mostly comprised of weird sexiness interrupted by periods of boredom, wrapped up in a bow of bad writing.  I included my thoughts on that book in a blog post I wrote back in 2012 called A Few Thoughts on Sexy Books, and Books About Sex.  I didn’t really think about Fifty Shades of Grey again until I saw that the movie version of the book was on this year’s Razzie list, and I thought Uh-oh.  Here we go again …

Fifty Shades of Grey

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I just finished watching Jupiter Ascending for the second time (!!!) and as I was considering a title for this post, “WTF is Going On???” seemed as good a title as any.  But that is a larger question that can serve as an umbrella covering so many different questions, complaints, and WTF moments in this movie.  Seriously, this movie is like a space opera on acid, and it’s as nutty as a fruitcake.

Jupiter Ascending

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As movie award season was approaching, I needed to make some tough decisions.  While I definitely enjoy seeing great movies, I also appreciate terrible movies,  Or, at least, I do more than most normal people.  After looking through this year’s Razzie nominees, I made a few quick decisions.  For example, I have never seen The Human Centipede, and I absolutely REFUSE to watch that film or any of its sequels.  So that was one movie I was preemptively sweeping off of the table.

Then I started reserving titles through my library system and waited for the DVDs to start coming in.  I mostly reserved titles on the “worst picture of the year” list, plus a few titles in other categories that jumped out at me for different reasons.  I reserved Hot Tub Time Machine 2 specifically because D. highly recommend it as being laugh-out-loud funny.  Of course, D. also recommended White Chicks to me (and I’m STILL traumatized from the experience of watching it), so his taste in movies is a little questionable.

My background before watching this film was: I had never seen the original Hot Tub Time Machine movie but I’d heard mostly positive reviews of it, even from people who prefer good movies to bad ones.  Also, I happen to be a big fan of several of the cast members, especially Rob Corddry, Adam Scott, Gillian Jacobs, and Kumail Nanjiani.  With that under my belt, I started to watch the movie.

HTTM2 poster

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While the vast majority of what I read is young adult literature, when I make time for “grownup books”  I tend to read particular fiction genres like fantasy / science fiction / mystery / horror, or else I read nonfiction.  I’ve been a fan of nonfiction books for many years, and true crime stories often have a special appeal. I’m easily swayed by excellent writing (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt) and/or fascinating subjects (Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, celebrities, etc.).

I often find documentaries engaging and informative, even though a lot of them will bring me to tears and a lot of them make me angry.  I’ve walked out of the theater after watching some of these films feeling educated and frustrated at the same time.  Films like Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, Blackfish, and Capturing the Friedmans (directed by The Jinx‘s Andrew Jarecki) have pushed a lot of those emotional buttons in my brain.

If I’m flipping through the TV stations and I see an episode of Dateline, it can catch my attention within the first 30 seconds and then I’ll be hooked for an hour.  The same can be said for the Law & Order franchise with its “ripped from the headlines” stories.  Although in that case I might be multiplying that hour by however many hours the marathon is running … BUT I’m also factoring in who’s starring in each episode.  Is it an episode featuring Jerry Orbach or Vincent D’Onofrio?  Then I’m definitely sticking with it.  Does this episode feature Linus Roache as the super-annoying ADA?   Hmmmm … let’s flip over and see what’s on Dateline instead!  Or maybe I can find a rerun of 48 Hours, or even City Confidential!

And yes, I’m a big podcast fan, so one of the many podcasts I listen to is Serial.  I enjoy the format of listening to a controversial case unfolding one episode at a time, and that’s been another series that has been getting a lot of media attention lately.  I enjoyed the smaller scope of the first season (a 1999 murder case) and I found the transition to season 2 (a bigger case that was in the news a lot more) to be a little jarring.  But they just announced that they’re moving from a weekly to a bi-weekly format because they have so much new information coming in about the case of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, so I look forward to seeing how this will affect the story and if it can help uncover the truth about what really happened to him.

I’m giving you the background of my true crime / “true” crime reading, listening, and viewing habits so that you’ll understand my mindset when I first started watching the HBO documentary The Jinx about Robert Durst last year.  I watched the series week by week when it originally aired, and that inspired me to rent Andrew Jarecki’s earlier fictionalized treatment of the Durst saga All Good Things, which is what originally set the wheels of The Jinx in motion.  Then I recently read Jeanine Pirro’s new book He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest For Justice, and THEN I checked out The Jinx series on DVD and watched it all over again.  Along the way, my opinions about the Durst cases and the subjective reality of true crime coverage have been slowly evolving. (more…)