The Nickleback Effect

Everyone hates Nickleback.

Well, not everyone – someone is buying their cds and going to their concerts – but if you ask most people how they feel about this Canadian band, I’m guessing that 19/20 people are going to have something derogatory to say about them. They are a punchline, an easy joke to make about terrible music. The coo thing to do is mock Nickleback.

I have no explanation for how this came about or where all this deep seeded resentment is coming from. I have made more than my fair share of Nickleback jokes over the years, but if I was really challenged to articulate what it is that I dislike so much about them, I’d be hard pressed to come up with much justification other than “they’re the worst.” It’s not rational. But somewhere along the line, we all just decided that Nickleback’s mere existence was an affront to humanity.

My irrational dislike of celebrities isn’t limited to Avril Lavigne’s husband and whoever else is in Nickleback; there are plenty of famous people that I can’t stand for any clear reason. For me, these people have the opposite of box office mojo; their attachment to a project instantly makes me less likely to want to have anything to do with it. I can’t put my finger on what rubs me the wrong way about them – there is no clear reason not to like them – yet my visceral reaction is displeasure. I acknowledge that this isn’t fair or even a reasoned response (I can be rational about my irrationality), but that doesn’t diminish how I feel. In the words of many an idiotic reality show star, I guess I’m just a hater (a word that no one who has graduated high school should ever use seriously).

So what celebrities are unlucky enough to make my list and suffer from the illogical “Nickelback Effect?” Here are some of the people who have inexplicable earned my ire:

 

Minnie Driver

minnie driver

I frequently see commercials for NBC’s new comedy About a Boy and wonder why I’ve never given this show a shot. I liked the movie upon which the series is based and it looks amusing enough. I happen to find star David Walton, who I find affable and liked on the short lived series Bent.

And then about halfway through the promo I am reminded that this show also stars Minnie Driver and my instinct immediately is “Nope – I’m out.”

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This one-sided beef with Driver goes back as far as I can remember, but I have no idea why it originated or why she is such an anathema to me. I’d pin this on the fact that she dated Matt Damon back in the day, except a) I’m not 12 and b) I have to be reminded that they were ever a couple. So whatever is the source of my annoyance, I don’t think that’s it.

 

Ryan Reynolds

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I know that plenty of girls find him dreamy, but whenever Ryan Reynolds is on the screen I have an overwhelming desire to punch him in the face. Like, I’m legitimately angry that I have to deal with this guy. I even hate his stupid hair. Actually, the hair might have a lot to do with this – my loathing seems to ebb and flow depending on how floppy his hair is. The distaste never completely disappears, but he becomes slightly more palpable dependent on his stylistic choices.

Why do I feel this way? I have no godly idea. He actually seems like he’s a nice enough guy. There are plenty of people who are deserving of such venom. On the surface, he doesn’t strike me as one of them. Sure, he makes some crappy movies, but I haven’t held that against other people. Maybe if he would just let me punch him just once, I’d get this out of my system and get over this.

 

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway

I’m hardly alone on this one – somewhere around 2012 everyone decided that they were over Anne Hathaway. She’s clearly talented, but there is just something about her that people find off-putting. The problem is, it’s kind of intangible what it is exactly that drives people so batty. My best guess is that she seems to want to be liked so badly that it actually has the opposite effect. It comes off as calculated and desperate to some. My irritation dates back to before the Oscar seemed like a legitimate possibility (don’t tell me that you watched The Princess Diaries and though that you were watching a future Academy Award winner), so while her recent Tracy Flick-like behavior certainly hasn’t helped matters it isn’t my sole reason for disliking her. I was delighted when I recently heard some stories about her from college that were less than flattering (turns out that I am three degrees of separation from her). She just has a certain je ne sais quoi – if je ne sais quoi is French for irrationally hatable.

 

Jamie Foxx

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Talent isn’t necessarily in dispute here; I actually can tolerate Jamie Foxx the actor. When he’s playing a role, I can forget that I don’t like him. But as soon as I have to deal with Jamie Foxx the person, all bets are off. When he’s just being himself (or the version of himself he plays in public), I’m instantly riled up. And not in a good way. If he’s on a talk show or at an awards show, I tend to flip the channel to not have to endure his foolishness.

 

Jerry O’Connell

Jerry O Connell

I take it back – I don’t want to waste my punch on Ryan Reynolds; I want to use it on THIS GUY. Intellectually, I know that he isn’t even worth the energy to dislike but I can’t help it. It’s instinctual. I don’t even know enough about him to have grounds for finding him distasteful, but reason isn’t necessary.

 

Ellen Page

Ellen Page

I’ve liked some of her movies and I fully support her recent decision to publically announce that she is gay. Kudos to her for being her true self. But there is still something about her that has always bugged me. It might be her voice and speaking pattern, but that isn’t defined enough so I can’t absolutely say that is what it is that irks me. This reached its full boiling during Inception, but it had been simmering for a while.

 

Jennifer Morrison

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I don’t think that it’s a total coincidence that I started to really dislike How I Met Your Mother as soon as Morrison showed up for an extended arc. Sure, the show was beginning to decline in quality, but her mere presence made me a lot less tolerant than I would have been otherwise. She was a large reason that it took some urging for me to watch Once Upon a Time. I just don’t like her – and my distaste for her only increases when she’s a blonde. But whatever her hair color, not a fan.

I genuinely feel badly that I don’t like these people for no apparent reason; I like to give people a fair shake and in these instances the celebrities in question surely didn’t get that. But obviously I don’t feel badly enough to stop irrationally hating on them. I don’t see that changing in the near future. I try to explain this behavior away with the fact that I’m just more perceptive than other people and I’m picking up on something subconsciously that others are missing. After all, I have irrationally hated Shia LaBeouf forever and we all know I turned out to be right about him. So perhaps time will prove me correct with some of these people. I could definitely see Jerry O’Connell doing something smarmy.

Now it’s your turn – what celebrities do you irrationally dislike? Sound off in the comments below.

Trailer Thursday – Annie

Hollywood seems to be on something of a reboot kick lately; it seems for every new movie that they release, they also release a rehashed version of a movie that was popular 20 years ago. Perhaps this always happens and we’ve just hit the timing where the movies that I grew up with are now ripe for a fresh take. If so, I think that means that I’m old. Oddly, many of the films that have recently received the reboot treatment are films that I missed the first time around. I have never seen the original Red Dawn, Robocop or Total Recall, so my interest in their updated versions has been tepid at best.

I did see Annie, however, so when I heard that Will Smith had it in his head to remake the film I was a little skeptical. A lot of that concern originated from the alleged original plan of Willow Smith (daughter of Will and his wife Jada) plating the title role; that smacked to me as pure nepotism and I wasn’t convinced that a girl best known for one annoying single (“Whip My Hair”) was the best choice to star in the beloved musical. Whether Willow simply aged out of the project because it took so long to be developed or Will had second thoughts after a less than well received project with his son Jaden (the abysmal After Earth), I was relieved when the role of Annie was filled by Quvenzhané Wallis. Wallis, the youngest person ever nominated for an Academy Award, proved that she had acting chops in Beasts of the Southern Wild; I didn’t particularly dig that movie, but I thought she was quite good in it and that she had a real screen presence. Whether she could actually sing was yet to be determined, but the Annie reboot now seemed like less of a vanity project and more like a legitimate movie. While I don’t like Jamie Foxx personally, I can’t argue that he was kind of perfect for the new version of Daddy Warbucks. I found the casting of Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan a little curious, but my affinity for Carol Burnett meant that whoever was cast in that role was going to be less than ideal in my eyes. With Jay Z on board as a producer, my main emotion related to this reboot was curiosity – how exactly was this all going to come together and what changes were they going to make to update the story for a new generation.

We got out first clues as to what the 2014 Annie will look like with the release of the first trailer for the film.

 

The most obvious change is that the character of Daddy Warbucks has been changed to Benjamin Stacks. Stacks’ interest in Annie is now about furthering his political career. There are clips of some familiar songs in the trailer, so at a minimum it appears that “A Hard Knock Life” will be included in the film (not unspringing, given Mr. Carter’s history with the song). The orphans have nice clothes than in the original film, but Miss Hannigan appears to still be pretty terrible (though I will be interested to see if they tone down her affinity for booze). I’m skeptical that the character of Punjab will be in the film, at least as originally depicted, since that characterization probably wouldn’t fly with today’s audiences and political climate. I’m also not sure how they could include Rooster in this new story line as originally conceptualized; he may still be in the movie, but I’m guessing he’ll no longer be Miss Hannigan’s brother. Changing the racial makeup of the film doesn’t have much impact other than on that particular storyline. It’s not impossible, but it’s a tougher sell to some segments of the population that the brother of Cameron Diaz is also the father of Quvenzhané Wallis.

My gut reaction after watching the trailer is that this film might not be terrible; I’m not sure that I’ll be running out to see it immediately, but I think it will be a respectable take on the original story. I don’t think that this will be a critical smash, but the 1982 film wasn’t either – it was met with mixed reviews at best. I haven’t seen the 1982 version of Annie since I was a kid and I have no idea how it holds up. My guess is that I wouldn’t think it was all that great and that it is only nostalgia that would gloss over its faults. I’ll be interested to see how a new generation of kids feels about this update; if nothing else, I’m just glad to see Quvenzhané Wallis get more work. The trailer, at the very least, gives me hope that this was a good career choice for her.

Annie will be released Christmas 2014.

White House Down – A Review

Go into a dark room. Put on some soothing music, whether it is something New Age or Gregorian monks chanting. Close your eyes and relax your body. Repeat your mantra and feel your worries and troubles melt away. Go deeper and completely clear your mind of everything. You may have just reached a true state of Nirvana.

You are also now ready to watch White House Down, a movie that requires your mind to be a complete blank slate for you to truly enjoy. Because if you have not emptied your head of logic and reasonable thought, you’re just not going to be able to enjoy this movie. You will be far too bogged down by the preposterousness of the plot, the terrible dialogue and the overall ridiculousness of what you are witnessing.  White House Down is a really dumbed down version of Die Hard.

White House Down is the second movie this year that features the White House in peril (Olympus Has Fallen is the other) and is brought to you by Roland Emmerich, the guy who destroyed the White House over a decade ago in Independence Day. You get the sense while watching White House Down that Emmerich really is simply doing a second draft of the obliteration of the Oval Office and correcting whatever he felt he didn’t do right in Independence Day using the more advanced CGI technology that is now available.

The plot of White House Down is both straight forward and confusing – Channing Tatum stars as a Capitol policeman who is at the White House interviewing for a Secret Service job, a job he covets in order to impress his estranged 11 year old daughter who is obsessed with the White House and the president. While he and his daughter are on a White House tour, America’s most famous house is taken hostage. In his search for his daughter, Tatum comes across President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), who’s security detail has been killed. Tatum must now protect the president while also trying to find his missing child. Millions of dollars in property damage follows. Maggie Gyllenhaal runs around looking pensive; Jason Clarke sneers. Even after sitting through the movie, I couldn’t give you a coherent motive as to why the White House was taken; that’s not to say that they don’t offer up some explanation – it just simply is so muddles and complicated that it really made no sense.

I’ll give credit where credit is due – there are some cool looking action sequences and explosions in the film. Tatum is a more than serviceable action star, though I think that route would be a waste of his abilities. I’d much prefer to see him in serious dramas and comedies; if you read my review of 21 Jump Street you may remember that I am new to the Channing Tatum appreciation society, but he has impressed me with his last few movies. He is one of the few things that make White House Down really watchable, but he is capable of more than this movie (and don’t even get me started on how Jason Clarke is wasted). But he does make for a convincing invincible guy with a guy.

I’m not the world’s biggest Jamie Foxx fan – confidence and swagger can be good qualities to have, but I feel like he has just a bit too much of it and that some of it is undeserved. I won’t begrudge him that he was great in Ray, but giving him an Oscar has only heightened his annoyance factor to me. I actually didn’t mind him too much in White House Down; he did his best Obama (right down to the Nicorette gum) and played a pretty subdued president who mostly spouts out idealism and needs to be saved. He gets a few moments to be a tough guy, but mostly he is a guy in need of rescue. That part is at least a little bit realistic – I don’t know that any of our presidents would feel particularly comfortable suddenly picking up a rocket launcher (well – maybe Teddy Roosevelt; he was kind of a bad ass).

The dialogue in this movie is pretty tough to overcome; almost everything said is more exposition than conversation. People give a lot of unnecessary background information in a way that doesn’t feel at all organic. Upon meeting Tatum, President Sawyer immediately divulges a lot of info as to what he thinks in going on before he even find out who Tatum is or his name. The irony is where this kind of explanation is most needed are the scenes where it doesn’t occur; the movie is at its vaguest in the moments that require the most clarity and detail. The film also tries far too hard to be clever; one-liners are unfortunately a common component of action films these days, but White House Down tries to force them down your throat. Having the President of the United State say, as he is being attacked, “Keep your hands off my Air Jordans” is so ridiculous that it makes my head hurt. Almost every word feels calculated, either to force a laugh or explain what is happening and fill in the plot holes. White House Down does not subscribe to the old maxim “show, don’t tell” unless it applies to the wonton annihilation of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Then it is all in.

I understand that action films are full of plot holes and that some level of suspended reality is just a part of the genre. The problem with White House Down is that these qualities completely overpower the movie. Unless you shut your brain off, you will be far too distracted by the questions that the movie raises rather than the action on screen. How is there cell service during a terrorist attack? Why are civilians allowed to surround the White House while its occupants are being held hostage? How does the President seemingly have no staff? How are there endless weapons and ammunition scattered throughout the White House? How are the elevators in the White House still running after an attack? If you start pondering any of these issues, you are down the rationality rabbit hole and putting a level of scrutiny on this movie that it cannot withstand. I found that it was only when I simply gave up and just accepted whatever they told me that I enjoyed this film a lot more. I had to beat any inkling of “wait – this makes no sense” out of my brain. In short, once I gave myself over completely to White House Down, I had a much more enjoyable experience.

Some other thoughts:

  • I have been on the White House tour and I can assure you, you aren’t allowed to just wander off at any point. If you have to go to the bathroom, you best take care of business before the tour starts.
  • I couldn’t figure out where I recognized the actress that plays Tatum’s daughter from until I took a peek at IMDB. Among other things, she was the voice of China Doll in Oz the Great and Powerful.
  • For those of you that are interested in such things – it takes about an hour for Channing Tatum to strip down to his white tank top and approximately another hour for him to have a fight scene while sprinklers rain water down on him. You’re welcome.
  • Tatum’s Secret Service job interview amounted to “I knew you in college before you dropped out and your marriage failed. Therefore you don’t see things through and are unreliable. Good day.” I’m fairly certain that violated some sort of Federal law, but whatever.
  • While watching White House Down, I was reminded of my favorite quote from Wayne’s World (a movie I saw so many times I could once recite basically from memory):  “Aren’t we lucky we were there to get that information? It seemed extraneous at the time.” There is no extraneous info in this movie; if it seems like a useless tidbit, it isn’t.
  • The actor who plays the computer hacker (Jimmi Simpson) is familiar to me from his appearances on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as one of the McPoyle’s, but he also reminded me of Alexander Skarsgard in a recent episode of True Blood:

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  • To his credit, Simpson is the only person in White House Down that realizes a little camp in his performance is a good thing.
  • If nothing else, White House Down gives the American public a little refresher course on the presidential line of succession and the 25th Amendment.
  • Based on the reaction of my fellow theater goers to the trailer for Machete Kills, they are unaware that it is the sequel to Machete, which itself was the expansion of a fake trailer from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse. The consensus I heard was “what the f*$k was that?” Amateurs.
  • Funniest thing overheard at the theater – after a trailer for the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Wolf of Wall Street someone behind me uttered “that is a total white guy movie.” Curious as to who said it, I turned around to see – a bunch of white guys. So I’m not really sure what that comment was supposed to mean. It reminded me of this Lewis Black joke.
  • If seeing a gun repeatedly put to a child’s head is upsetting to you, you might want to skip this film. Kids are in peril fairly frequently.
  • There is absolutely no way that this movie should be as long as it is; it has no business have a run time of over two hours.
  • Fallon is on vacation this week, giving me the opportunity to check in on what Kimmel is up to. This proposed sequel to White House Down is pretty funny:

Tatum is a good sport. Long live Waffle House!

White House Down is a ridiculous movie; there are a few semi-interesting action sequences but there are few too many distracting plot holes and coincidences within the story that prevent this film from being very good. Tatum does his best action hero impersonation and is fun to watch, but unless you can turn off your brain’s logical thought process for two hours you will find yourself focusing on the many problems with the film rather than the events unfolding on screen. White House Down isn’t completely dreadful, but it is mindless entertainment at its core. In the words of the musical group En Vogue, when it comes to White House Down “free your mind and the rest will follow.”

White House Down opens nationwide today.