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Five Mediocre Movies That Don't Deserve Their Lead Actors

By Rebecca Pahle | Seriously Random Lists | May 6, 2014 | Comments ()


the amazing spider-man agarf.jpg

There are any number of things I would rather spend two hours of my life doing than watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Like going to the dentist or wrestling with a genetically mutated giant wasp. Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t hate the first Amazing Spider-Man. It was fine. But if you’re going to reboot a franchise after a mere five years, have the courtesy to do something interesting with it, dangit. Judging by the reviews (54% on Rotten Tomatoes), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is as bland and listless as its predecessor, which is a shame, because Andrew Garfield is a great Spidey. His exuberance at being a superhero—because f*** brooding, being able to swing off buildings would be totally awesome—is the best part of this new franchise. Unfortunately, the franchise doesn’t deserve him. He joins the august company of:

Sam Rockwell in Better Living through Chemistry
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This entire list could just be “Sam Rockwell movies that don’t deserve Sam Rockwell.” Not that Better Living through Chemistry—in which Rockwell plays a small-town, hen-pecked husband lured into a life of crime by a platinum blonde trophy wife (Olivia Wilde)—is particularly awful. It’s… okay. It’s fun. But it’s only those things because of Rockwell, who manages to transform a cookie-cutter character into someone worth the audiences’ time to watch. The same can’t be said of other characters, like the shrewish wife (Michelle Monaghan) or asshole father-in-law (Ken Howard). No offense to any of those actors. But Sam Rockwell. Damn, Sam Rockwell. You’re better than this. You’re better than most everything *coughIronMan2cough*. I’m going to go watch Moon again.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby
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Leonardo DiCaprio killed it playing Jay Gatsby. Killed. It. Face-down-drowning-in-a-pool-with-gunshot-wounds slaughtered that performance. If only he’d done it in a version of The Great Gatsby that didn’t leech all the depth out of the book because glitter and fireworks and ’20s dresses are pretty, yay!

Tom Hardy in This Means War
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Yeah, yeah, Tom Hardy is only one of three leads in This Means War. But would I ever, in a million years, want to watch a movie that’s just Chris Pine or Reese Witherspoon sitting in a car talking for 90 minutes? No, I would not. But Tom Hardy did that with Locke, and it was amazing, because Tom Hardy could star in an all-Tom Hardy remake of Xanadu and I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off it. In fact, he almost made This Means War decent, because the man could have sexual chemistry with a lamp. Alas, the non-Tom Hardy parts of the movie were not up to Tom Hardy’s standards of sexual magnetism, and the final product suffered as a result.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in the second half of Silver Linings Playbook
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You know what I mean. The half of Silver Linings Playbook where David O. Russell forgot he’d set up an interesting movie about characters trying to find love while juggling with mental illness—something that doesn’t tend to get seriously looked it in rom-coms—and decided instead he’d tell a generic story where all of said characters’ issues are fixed once they compete in a dance contest.

Amy Adams in Leap Year
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Welp, Amy Adams had to get a rom-com out of her system, I guess. Leap Year is built on the God-awful premise that women can propose to men on Leap Day, and yes, this movie was made in 2010, not 1910. Infuriatingly, the romantic lead—an Irish-accent-turned-up-to-11 Matthew Goode—points out the ridiculousness of the tradition… because it bullies men into engagements they don’t want, not because, y’know, women should be able to propose to men whenever. Amy Adams is as winsome and charming as you’d expect her to be, but even she can’t rescue this four leaf clover-encrusted turd.

Honorable mention goes to Amy Adams and every single one of her Man of Steel castmates. I maintain that Zack Snyder has talent for casting (schlubby Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II in Watchmen! C’mon, that’s perfect!), but he seems to forget that he needs to give all the good actors he’s roped into his movies an interesting story to work with.

You can find Rebecca on The Mary Sue, on Twitter, and swinging off the Brooklyn Bridge.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • I completely agree with the list, including the silver lining second half

  • Watching the new The Great Gatsby was like watching something interesting through a sterilized filter. It was so cold and distant. Leo deserves better.

  • Muscleman

    I think Tom Hardy should be the new 007.

  • Lee

    I don't think BCoop is too good for anything. He's staggeringly mediocre at best.

  • nightengale7

    Yes, I agree, Bradley Cooper tends to play the same character in his movies. Very manic. I was actually distracted by it for most of American Hustle.

  • Andrew J

    Really everyone in Great Gatsby could have done better.

    That cast was so perfect!

  • jthomas666

    God, I had thought (hoped?) that I was the only person who had to suffer through Better Living Through Chemistry. I can only assume that the producers had video of the cast having sex with barnyard animals. But yes, Rockwell single-handedly keeps the movie from being the sort of affair that makes you understand why an animal might gnaw off a limb to escape.

  • Jennifer Schmennifer

    "an all-Tom Hardy remake of Xanadu"

    PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Amy Adams had a delightful romcom in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I'd like to see her in more of them.

  • Sean

    Great movie

  • Genevieve Burgess

    I'm so glad other people appreciated DiCaprio's Gatsby. He was so perfect and beautiful and really sold the starry-eyed tragedy of it all. I really wish Baz had been able to dial it back just for one movie. Or maybe I'll just only watch the scene where he meets Daisy at Nick's house all the way to when he points out her dock light and pretend it's a short film.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Wait for the dvd when they include the "follow one camera" option.

  • Kala

    I agree completely. I was pleasantly surprised by the vulnerable insecurity that DiCaprio brought to Gatsby, which is something I never gleaned from prior readings. If only Luhrmann hadn't been hell bent on making Moulin Rouge: The Sequel. Le sigh.

  • idiosynchronic

    Very nice, very nice . . for recent flicks . . but I give Emma Stone equal billing for being great in both undeserving TASP movies. Which leads me to wonder how big the damn paychecks were for Sally Field, Dennis Leary & Martin Sheen; talk about undeserving your casts . .

    However the all-time winner of this category is Every Batman Movie. Yes, because no matter how schlocky Carrey or Schwarzenegger are, the material was *still* beneath them - that's how bad those scripts were.

  • jthomas666

    wrt Batman and Robin--Hell, that material was beneath Paulie Shore.

  • Dumily

    Are you differentiating between Batman movies and Dark Knight movies? Because we might be fighting.

  • idiosynchronic

    We are. While less awful, the Dark Knight series was just mediocre. Great casts, good to great acting by all involved, good director - but those scripts were horrible to middling at best.

  • Dumily

    I would argue that "The Dark Knight" was a great movie. (Although I was a huge fan of the Tim Burton Batmans so I'm partial to any non- Shcumacher Batman film.) But the other two, while great comic book movies, were only okay movies overall. The dialog is usually bad, but doesn't that just come with the territory? Like you're never going to watch a sci-fi movie with good dialog, but you just put up with it because space travel is awesome? I know Batman himself said some cheesy ass shit, but then they flipped a semi in downtown Chicago so I'd called that even.

  • Temmere

    I don't think it's an immutable fact that comic book/sci-fi movies have bad dialogue. People always look at me like I'm crazy when I say there's never been a superhero movie as good as Lawrence of Arabia or The Godfather, because how could there be? And I respond, "Okay, what about Blade Runner?" Blade Runner was essentially a superhero movie and, if not among the, say, ten best movies ever made, was still incredible on every level, including the script. I don't see any reason we can't get a comic book-based superhero movie that good; if a really great script (obviously not written by David Goyer) gets a truly talented director (not just one of these guys who can competently helm a big-budget special-effects spectacle) and a serious cast, it can happen. It just hasn't yet.

  • Jiffylush

    I was almost offended by the mention of Silver Linings Playbook until I saw that you specified the second half.

    Carry on

  • ArtsFatty

    Aaron Paul in Need for Speed.
    Saw it yesterday; liked it. The driving sequences are great, and I'm recommending it. But it has a tacky "drama" plot that didn't require Paul.

  • Davis

    Jennifer Lawrence is a mediocre actress, she deserves SLP.

    TASM doesn't deserve any of the actors and actresses that are in the movie.

  • Dumily

    I don't think she deserved an Oscar for SLP (nor do I think it should have been nominated for Best Picture), but I do think she's an Oscar worthy actress. Have you seen her in Winter's Bone? And actually her ability to make Katniss Everdeen sympathetic is pretty commendable. Badass yet vulnerable is tricky to pull off. Just ask Joey Potter.

  • Berry

    Winter's Bone is all around fantastic, and Lawrence really made that character shine.

  • Dumily

    She was so good. And all of her pre Oscar interviews were, in retrospect, adorable.

  • Davis

    Yes she's good when she's playing young women but they're putting her in roles that are meant for grown women and she just seems like a little girl playing dress up.

  • Dumily

    I don't know if I agree with that. Granted she is still young so maybe we just don't believe her as a housewife. But I thought her acting in American Hustle was great. Maybe miscast, but she didn't do a bad job with it.

  • Davis

    I was cringing through her whole performance in that movie

  • Sean

    See, I thought she was the best part of that movie. Of course she was in a totally different movie than the rest of the cast. The rest of the cast was in a bad omage to a 70s era Scorsese movie. Jennifer was in My Cousin Vinny 2.

  • Dumily

    Oh, well you and I either A.) have very different definitions of good acting or B.) know very different women. Because I know those women, and Lawrence nailed that part. Just a smidgen over the quirky line into full blown crazy, too good looking for her own good, simultaneously arrogant and insecure. She hit every note perfectly.

  • Davis

    She was shockingly bad in AH, they should have given the part to a comedian or a funny actress.

    This has nothing to do you i'm just adding this because i just re-read the post but Andrew Garfield isn't a good spiderman

  • Dumily

    Was there a particular part? I'll acknowledge she's not that great with clunky dialog (in "X- Men: First Class", that terrible "Mutant and proud" line killed me), but I don't remember anything sticking out as being terrible in "American Hustle." If anything, it was the scenes with Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams that made me grimace, but I think that was intentional.

  • Sean

    Oh my god, Cooper was so bad in those scenes. Adams at least sold her very badly written character.

  • Davis

    She bugged me when she was miming along to the James Bond song and the eavesdropping on the phone part of the movie. I know she was suppose to be over the top and funny but she was just chewing the scenery IMO

    She's just comes across as young and innocent, so anytime she plays a character that isn't young and innocent like in Winters Bone and THG I can't take her seriously.

  • Dumily

    1.) I'm guessing that was more David O. Russell's direction rather than an artistic decision on Lawrence's part. At least based on his other movies.

    2.) Lawrence is a 23 year old woman with a long term boyfriend who's acknowledged drinking until she puked and has been photographed smoking weed. Short of assaulting someone, I'm not sure in which ways she can still be counted as "innocent".

  • Davis

    1) Still she was garbage

    2) None of those things are wild she has a long term boyfriend and was photographed smoking weed once? May lord the female Sid Vicious. It's way she presents herself in interviews, she's to immature I can't take her seriously as a 30 year, it may sound silly but thats just me.

  • CosmoNewanda

    I want to see a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Sam Rockwell being awesome. I’m sure it will be a critically acclaimed crowd pleaser that gets snubbed at the Oscars.

  • BWeaves

    I'm not sure I could sit through 2 hours of forehead veins.

  • jennp421

    I was so conflicted watching This Means War. Was I supposed to root for Tom Hardy to get the girl because he's awesome, or be happy that he doesn't get her even though it makes sad because he could do so much better? Such a bad movie.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    It makes NO SENSE that she didn't choose Hardy. Pine, I love ya, but c'mon.

  • That movie was so unrealistic. There is no way two men would fight over the affections of Reese Witherspoon.

  • Sean

    Greasy Reesy looks pretty good lately. However, she is quite awful in that movie.
    Besides, it is obvious that Pine and Hardy only have eyes for one another.

  • jennp421

    Also, you knew there was something seriously wrong with Witherspoon's character when she lists his accent and the fact that he's British as a negative.

  • Kala

    Dude, seriously. "But he's BRITISH." What? All I could do is chalk it up to the fact that Hardy is damn near perfect and this was the best the writers could come up with.

  • jennp421

    Exactly. That comment should be "and he's British!" You only use "but he's British" if he's otherwise completely horrible.

  • emmalita

    I haven't seen the movie, and it wasn't even on my list of movies I might watch if I were bedridden and had no other options. Now it's on my list of movies that will make me shoot the tv.

  • emmalita

    Sam Rockwell is so delightful, he really deserves a much better oeuvre.

  • Jericho Smith

    He should do a movie with that guy from It's always sunny in Philadelphia who was in Pacific Rim and always reminds me of Rockwell for a second until I think about it, and they could play brothers and be driving in a car and...uh...do I need more of a script?

  • Kala

    Oh my God. Sam Rockwell and Charlie Day together would make my decade.

  • emmalita

    Sam Rockwell and Charlie Day? That would be awesome. Since you aren't Michael Bey, I assume, you will need more of a script.

  • dizzylucy

    Now I'm picturing some sort of Michael Bay and Beyonce hybrid. Which might signal the end of humanity as we know it.

  • emmalita

    Haha! I'm going to leave my typo as is.

  • Sean

    I think it should be policy to never mention This Means War ever again.

  • Jim

    I'm having a little trouble reading your comment - between the words "mention" and "ever" I just can't seem to make my eyes stop snapping off to the left or right. How strange.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    So would you say mentioning This Means War means war?

  • Dumily

    What about its black market knock- off "Now Those Are Fighting Words"?

  • emmalita

    "Now Those Are Fighting Words" is funny and charming. Especially that twist ending that I'm not going to talk about.

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