With the recent releases of the much-anticipated Heaven Is For Real, Transcendence, and Divergent drawing lukewarm-to-bad responses, my mind is drawn to a few other movies that could have been really great, but, for whatever reason may be, didn't quite make the cut. So without further ado, here are a few of them.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Now don't get me wrong, The Adjustment Bureau is not a bad movie. In fact, there are some things about it that are quite good. But Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and director George Nolfi tried so hard to make it a great movie, and it just wasn't. The film had a fantastic premise, centered around a man whose future is literally being rewritten by a team of men whose job it is to keep humankind on their path. The chemistry between Damon and Blunt is palpable and watching them is a joy in every scene. But the film was an absolute mess tonally, never knowing whether it's a romantic adventure, a pensive drama, or a tense thriller. I mean, I'm all for mixing it up, but at the expense of the film's quality, it would have been smart for the players involved knowing what it was they were trying to produce.
Great Alternative: The Truman Show (1998)
The die-hard romantics out there will no doubt find something to appreciate with this movie, but as a film it stands on pretty weak legs. Yes, the cast is charming, especially the delightful Christina Ricci, and the message is amazing. But take those things out and what are you left with? Uneven narrative and sloppy direction. The use of Sigur Ros' brilliant "Hoppipolla" at the end of the film was so botched it actually made me sad. And then as an extra kick in the gut, the final shots of the film, which should be what stay with you forever, are totally boring. It's like the director and editor had little-to-no communication going on. This film tried so hard to be earnest and sweet and just ended up being kind of a... "well, you tried."
Great Alternative: Love Actually (2003), or Shrek (2001)
The Phantom of the Opera (2005)
I don't know if Joel Schumacher is a member of the DGA, but if he is he should have his membership revoked. But alas, his piss-poor direction is not this film's only fault. There is zero chemistry between the stars, Gerard Butler is mediocre at best as the titular Phantom, and the whole film feels stilted, like all the actors' feet were glued to the floor as they sang. It's unfortunate, because the production design is beautiful and the classic music is absolutely grand.This film had a lot going for it, I actually really love it. It was a part of my childhood and it holds a special place in my heart... but even I have to admit that it's not that good of a movie.
Great Alternative: Les Miserables (2012)
Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)
I had so much hope for this one. And it's not actually a bad movie. But it wanted so badly to be a good movie, it practically screamed Oscar Bait. Forrest Whittaker's really good in the central role, and Oprah Winfrey reminds us that she can really act. And the colorful array of actors that play the different presidents in the White House during the main character's employment add a lot of charisma to the production. But in the end, the acting power behind the film couldn't save an overly earnest script, uneven pacing and blatant worship of Barack Obama. For crying out loud, the last ten minutes of the film is basically Lee Daniels kissing Obama's butt. Whatever you may think of the man, any kind of pandering in film is just plain unattractive.
Great Alternative: Forrest Gump (1994), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)... basically any feel-good movie that takes place over a long time.
Another Earth (2011)
This one frustrated me to no end. I wanted to like this movie so much. But my desire was in vain. The premise is so cool, and the human story that it tells is incredibly intriguing and, for most of the movie, well-told. But the biggest problem of the movie is this: The film establishes the existence of another planet identical to Earth appearing in Earth's skies... and then completely disregards it in the second half of the film. It pushes its only really intriguing concept aside for the personal human story. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for emphasizing character, but it's a sin to establish something and then do nothing with it. And, even further, just when I felt like things were really getting good, the movie just... ended. Just cut off. I felt cheated. I admire the filmmakers for trying to juggle some weighty themes, but next time I'd appreciate it if they developed their ideas further.
Great Alternative: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
What do you guys think? Any other almost-great movies out there?