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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Movies, 2007: The most annoying roles/performances of the year

Wes Bentley’s Blackheart in Ghost Rider and Ben Foster’s Charlie Prince in 3:10 to Yuma. Nothing can energize an action movie like a good villain, or leech its entertainment value like a bad one. Bentley phones in your standard issue, blandly mean supernatural villain, but Foster, as a trigger-happy Western psycho, overacts a storm like he thinks he’s as charismatic as Marlon Brando. In both films, your heart sinks when you realize you’re stuck with these douche bags for the duration.

Morgan Freeman as God in Evan Almighty. Freeman’s saintly

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shtick is getting really old. Here, not only does he smugly charge Steve Carell’s character to build an ark, he makes him look like Noah apparently just to be a dick about it. And when he reveals at the end that “ark” actually stands for “acts of random kindness,” he inspires outrageously blasphemous thoughts.

Demi Moore's rich cop in Mr. Brooks. In a film that has Kevin Costner as a suburban serial killer, William Hurt as a demonic fantasy figure and Dane Cook as a voyeuristic blackmailer, Moore somehow manages to provide the least believable and most irritating portrayal as a gum-chewing multimillionaire police detective who, incidentally, looks like Demi Moore. Yeah, I can totally identify with someone like that.

Quentin Tarantino in Planet Terror. In the Death Proof half of Grindhouse, Tarantino gives himself a relatively painless cameo as a bartender. In Planet Terror, however, he has a longer, agonizing role as a sleazy rapist that may be the worst of his many bad movie performances. When will he realize he can never be a badass? At least Kevin Smith plays to type in his predictable hippie/hacker roles (in Catch and Release and Live Free or Die Hard).

Stan Lee in Spider-Man 3. All due props belong to Stan Lee, who co-created the most enduring superheroes of the Marvel Comics line. But does he have to BE in every frickin’ Marvel Comics movie? His two-line appearance in Spider-Man 3 (something like, “One person really can make a difference! ’Nuff said!”) may have been the most awkward moment in a film that, however entertaining, had no shortage of awkward moments.

Robert De Niro’s Captain Shakespeare in Stardust. At first the film finds sly humor when it reveals that De Niro’s butch airship pirate is a closeted homosexual. However, when De Niro flounces around in a gown while the “Can-Can” music plays, the gag nearly scuttles an otherwise charming romantic fantasy.

Sigourney Weaver in Snow Cake. Weaver gave one of the year’s wittiest supporting performances as a network executive in The TV Set. She also gave a wearying Oscar-bait turn as Snow Cake's “highly functional” autistic woman who freaks out over cleanliness but also likes to eat snow and bounce on trampolines. Ugh.

Jeremy Davies in Rescue Dawn: Not only is he a kvetching pain in the ass for all of Christian Bale’s escape plans, but being in a Laotian prison has apparently turned him into an emaciated caricature of a Woodstock-era hippie.

Donal Logue in Purple Violets: Logue is a charming character actor, but in Edward Burns’ romantic comedy, he delivers an overbearing, one-note performance as Selma Blair’s asshole husband. On the plus side, his outrageously fake English accent is nearly worth the cost of downloading the film on iTunes.

The '80s arcade game obsessives of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Mullet-haired alpha male arcade champ Billy Mitchell turned out to be 2007’s most original, maddening heavy (at least in documentary filmmaker Seth Gordon’s version of events), while the Donkey Kong record-keeping “establishment” comes across as craven sycophants. At least the latter ones seem to get a grip by the end.

Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone and Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. They’re annoying in a good way, turning in two of the most praised performances of 2007. Ryan’s astonishingly unfit mother and Affleck’s Western fanboy/stalker turn out to be so hateable, you want to throttle both of them every time you see them. I’m probably the only one who thinks they’re also just a little overrated. At times I was too aware that Affleck was self-consciously playing a character dumber than himself. And while there's nothing wrong with Ryan’s raw, focused performance, to judge from her sweeping end-of-the-year critics' lists, you’d think there were no OTHER great supporting actress roles in 2007.

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