Saturday, December 29, 2012

YEAR IN REVIEW: Biggest entertainment disappointments

With the good, comes the bad.

Every year, fans are inundated with lists.

Best songs. Best books. Best movies. Best television shows.

I love lists (obviously) – but I also like lists that point out the bad, as well as the good.

Instead of focusing on just one genre, though, I decided to incorporate a couple of them – including books, movies and television.

This year’s biggest entertainment disappointments were:

10. Liz and Dick – Lifetime movies are never good. They’re a guilty pleasure (at best). No one thought this was going to be some amazing flick that belonged on the big screen. I don’t think anyone thought it would be the train wreck it turned out to be, though. I remember when Lindsay Lohan was a good actress. I love that ‘Parent Trap’ remake – and ‘Mean Girls’ was a great teen movie in the vein of ‘Heathers’ and ‘Clueless.’ Lohan clearly has a host of demons to conquer. This movie was supposed to save her career. As the debut of the movie grew closer, whispers about how bad it was started to surface. I don’t think anyone could have realized just how bad the movie was, though. It was like an inadvertent comedy. I hate to kick Lohan while she’s down (okay, I don’t) – but maybe she should retire and get some professional help. Anything is better than stuff like this.

9. TNT – I used to think of TNT as a quality destination for television. A network that gave smaller, quality shows a chance. A network that was on top of the creative heap when it came to developing talent. Yeah, well, my love affair with TNT is over. Despite the fact that it launched a hugely successful and highly entertaining reboot of ‘Dallas’ this summer, TNT also slapped ‘Leverage’ fans in the face last week when it unceremoniously dumped its longest running scripted drama. ‘Leverage’ was never going to win any Emmys. However, it was consistently charming and all five actors had a charismatic rapport with one another. TNT has obviously decided to go the more boring procedural route – dumping anything they have that’s different and inspired. I am not one of those fans who will make empty promises and say I’ll never watch TNT again. I will continue to watch ‘Dallas’ and ‘Falling Skies.’ Saying otherwise would be a lie. I will not, however, check out any new shows from TNT. Not only did they treat ‘Leverage’ show runners and fans abysmally – by not giving the writers a chance to craft a proper goodbye season – but they also told everyone right before Christmas they were out of a job and basically to get over it. Bah humbug.

8. Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris was one of the first. The first what? The first quality author to create a paranormal world that both spoke to readers and inspired their imaginations. This was an accessible world that readers would want to be a part of. It was an exciting world filled with hot, soulful vampires, shirtless werewolves and strong, capable heroines. So, where did she go wrong? Like a lot of authors, this series should have ended a long time ago. Harris just can’t sustain the suspense the series used to have. I think one of the biggest problems came with all of the faerie stories. After awhile, the faerie wars were just too boring and obnoxious to make the average reader care. Sookie was once a charming and encompassing heroine that made me want to learn more about her. Now I just want her to shut up. All this being said, Harris has set an end date for her series. We have one book left. I give her kudos for realizing the series was waning. Now, if only she could talk to Janet Evanovich.

7. Battleship – I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but they should be barred from Hollywood forever. I think just about everyone in the viewing public – whether they’re a casual movie watcher or a fanatic – knew that this was going to be a big flop. I expected more from Liam Neeson – who is a true talent – but the rest of the cast should have been a tip-off. Taylor Kitsch is now, officially, the King of the Flops. Rihanna should stick to singing. And Alexander Skarsgard? As much as I find his Eric charming on ‘True Blood,’ he’s just not a good enough actor to be a leading man. This whole ensemble was a hodgepodge. The script was a mess. And the special effects? Even they felt flimsy and forced. Just a tip: Board games are NEVER going to make good movies.

6. The Newsroom – As someone that’s in the news industry, I was understandably excited about this show. Not only does it star Michigan native Jeff Daniels, but it’s on HBO. That had to mean it would be great right? Wrong. The first episode of the show as really good. I’m not denying that. It was solid. It was well thought out. It was nicely paced. After that, though, the show fell apart in record time. Daniels is a likeable actor. Too bad they didn’t give him a likeable character to play. The rest of the cast – which is solid – also is stuck with vapid characters that can’t seem to break out of their staid little boxes. I think the word that best describes this show is pretentious. I expected so much more from this show. In the end, I gave it up after five episodes. Heck, I stuck with ‘Gossip Girl’ until the end and I couldn’t stick with ‘The Newsroom’ for a season. That’s a little disconcerting for everyone, I’m sure.

5. Notorious Nineteen – Janet Evanovich created a genre busting character when she penned Stephanie Plum. And, for 12 books she managed to delight fans and entertain them with a danger magnet character and her weird menagerie of slapstick sidekicks. Something was off in books 13 and 14 – but they were still entertaining. Then, book 15 was such a convoluted mess fans everywhere started to take notice. Just what was going on here? This 19th installment isn’t improving. In fact, the past seven books are kind of an insult to the genre that Evanovich built. Stephanie has went from a conflicted character to a total whore – sleeping with two guys at the same time and leading them both on. Quite frankly, I can't figure out why either one of them would want her. She’s shown no personal growth – and the dialogue in these books is actually starting to falter. There’s a rumor that Evanovich’s kid is now ghost writing the books for her. If it’s true, Evanovich needs to come out of retirement and save her franchise. Either way, it’s time to put this franchise to bed. For good.

4. Dark Shadows – Casting Johnny Depp as Barnabus Collins was an inspired move. Turning ‘Dark Shadows’ into a parody was a big fat slap in the face to soap opera fans everywhere. This was a beloved show, after all. It had a rich mythology. It had a devoted following. You pretty much had a guaranteed hit. Then, instead of playing it straight, Tim Burton turned it into a slapstick comedy with tired jokes. I bet Burton learned a valuable lesson from this, though: Never mess with soap opera fans.

3. American Horror Story: Asylum  I’m not sure this was really a disappointment. I expected this to go the way of all Ryan Murphy shows and devolve into general crap right from the beginning. That I was proven right still stands as a disappointment for me, though. I love horror, so I wanted a quality horror show that I could watch on television. The first season of ‘American Horror Story’ started out strong and then fell apart in the end. I still decided to turn into the second season. I was hopeful that Murphy would learn from his mistakes and fix what he broke. After all, it had a terrific cast. The season started out strong (again). The horror was uncomfortable. The characters were richly drawn. The asylum was atmospheric. Then, just like everything associated with Murphy, he started throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick and he ruined his own invention (again). You’d think he’d learn at this point. You'd think I would learn, too.

2. 50 Shades of Grey – I generally love it when a book franchises takes off and grabs the attention of readers. More often than not, the written word is cast aside in favor of glossy movies and video games. This trilogy is a travesty, though. I’m not a prude, and I like a little sex in my books. These books seemed more like fan fiction than anything else, though. They weren’t well written and they weren’t well plotted. The prose was akin to a 12-year-old waxing romantic in a diary. As a story, the books failed as general fiction. And, as erotica, the books failed because they weren’t hot. I think this trilogy is an example of telling readers something is cool and them believing it just because someone told them to.

1. The Dark Knight Rises – Maybe I had expectations for this film that couldn’t possibly be fulfilled. Maybe, like everyone else, I had elevated ‘The Dark Knight’ to such lofty levels that no comic book movie could ever attain them again. Still, when I sat down to re-watch the film a few weeks ago, I realized my initial assessment was spot-on. This just wasn’t a good movie. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy really is something comic book movies should aspire to. And, the truth is, perhaps ‘The Dark Knight’ gets more accolades than it deserves because of Heath Ledger’s untimely death. Still, ‘The Dark Knight’ rises was supposed to be the best movie of the summer. It wasn’t even in the top ten. Nolan should be proud of what he accomplished. When he looks back, though, I wonder if he’ll think Bane was a good idea for a villain. And, even if he stands by that decision, would he go back and make it so you could understand him? Still, Bane isn't even the biggest problem. That would be pacing.

Honorable mentions go to ‘John Carter,’ ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2,’ ‘Cloud Atlas,’ ‘Last Resort,’ ‘Smash,’ and ‘666 Park Avenue.’

What do you think? What were the biggest disappointments of 2012?


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