From the Archives: 5 (More) Wrongfully Despised Movies

From the Archives: 5 (More) Wrongfully Despised Movies

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

One of the hardest things, to me, about being a film critic is the act of being critical. As someone who enjoys the act of moviegoing so much that it can pave over a film’s deficiencies, it breaks my weak heart to see movies get poo-pooed on by my peers. But it’s a necessary evil. It comes with the job. And frankly, in the rare case where I end up heavily disliking a film, it’s fun to rip it apart with words, so much so that I’ll often hyperbolize my distaste just for the hell of it. All said, the movies listed below exist in a strange spot for me. Each is largely considered to be a bad movie by the masses of moviegoers, and it’s not just my lenience toward the craft that leads me to say otherwise. These movies aren’t just “not bad.” I contend that they are legitimately good. 

  1. Judge Dredd (1995 – Dir. Danny Cannon – 18% RT Score)    

The general criticism is that this flick is just a standard Stallone actioner dressed up as a comic book adaptation. The follow up criticism is that the second attempt at adapting the 2000 A.D. comic books, Dredd, is such a vast improvement that it ultimately nullifies the existence of the original film. I disagree. Judge Dredd is no better or worse than the second film.  BOTH are standard action flicks wearing the same costume. Where Judge Dredd earns its keep despite being stylistically outdated is in its measures of world-building. The titular hero gets an arc, rooted in a story that explores the ethical problems of a police force equipped with the responsibilities of an entire justice system. Furthermore, we get to see a considerably large chunk of the world outside of Mega City One, giving us an idea of how civilization has come to be this way. All things considered, the FX work holds up really well. The action is exciting, and the rapport between Stallone and Rob Schneider is legitimately funny. No love lost to Dredd, which is certainly my preferred take on the material, but this doesn’t make the pleasures of Judge Dredd any less potent.

And DON’T tell me that you’re a dyed-in-the-wool 2000 A.D. reader with beef over the liberties taken by the film, because you never even heard of the comic book until the movie came out, you alternative fact-spewing hater.


  1. American Pastoral (2016 – Dir. Ewan McGregor – 23% RT Score) 

This adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was mostly panned by critics for being incomplete and dishonest, but guess what – I never read it. Without that point of comparison I was blessed with the ability to watch Ewan McGregor’s ambitious directorial debut entirely within a vacuum. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s functional, beautiful, extremely well-acted, and often very moving. Whether or not it is a disservice to the source material is not of interest to me. Just because an adaptation is not spot-on does not mean that it’s a failure of storytelling.

Just look at American Psycho. That is a legitimately great film based on a legitimately great book, and had I read the novel before seeing it, I’d have hated it. In terms of capturing the themes and style of the source material, the film is an absolute failure, but the film’s inherent quality can’t be denied.

Of course, I must reserve the right to change my opinion after reading American Pastoral, but I really don’t think it will make a difference. Heck, if it proves to be tricky material, it may result in an increased respect for the adaptation.


  1. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015 – Dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson – 25% RT Score)

If this movie was in French, the art-house crowd would be absolutely gaga for it. And they wouldn’t be wrong. This underrated little gem is far from perfect, but so much of the distaste for it has been provided solely by folks who either A: went in wanting to hate it, or B: never actually saw it. If they took the time to check it out they’d see a few important things. First and foremost, we see a star born in Dakota Johnson. She’s excellent in the film, bringing a depth to even the shallowest moments. She also brings a warm humor to the proceedings, which is much needed when working in the murky waters of trying to mainstream schlocky romance novels. We also get to see one of the biggest steps forward in terms of America shedding its prudishness about sex. Say what you will about the writing quality of the source novel, it paved the way for public consumption of erotica.  Whether it’s to your taste or not, the separation of shame from sex is inarguably a good thing.

Yeah, yeah, so maybe it’s not the most accurate depiction of the BDSM lifestyle. Or, maybe it is, considering the world of alternative desires is not one drawn in black and white. There are a LOT of different things that get a lot of normal people off. Far too many to categorize in any strict sense of what should and shouldn’t be. Human sexuality exists in many shades of grey and OH MY GOD THATS THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE.


  1. The Counselor (2013 – Dir. Ridley Scott – 35% RT Score)

If ever a film was destroyed by its ad campaign, it was The Counselor. While touted as a taut, star-studded crime thriller, what was delivered was a direct subversion of exactly that. The film plays out as a sort of behind the scenes reel of a standard thriller picture, focusing on the characters and moments between the events which characteristically make it to the big screen. Heck, the main character (simply named “Counselor”) is just the lawyer for the big, bad drug dealer. In a typical thriller, this glorified extra only gets 2-3 lines of dialogue.

You know how the big drug dealer and his trophy wife don’t really like each other? Well in The Counselor, we see the exact moment their marriage lost its chemistry. You know how the henchmen always seem to be blank faces with no actual stakes in the big picture? Not here. We get to explore their psyche – to see just what makes a henchman tick.

Also, a motorcyclist gets beheaded with a stretch of cable going across a highway. You want that in your life, I promise.


  1. Rocky V (1990 – Dir. John G. Avildsen – 28% RT Score)

This is widely considered the worst of the Rocky series, when that title should really go to Rocky IV, with its servant robot and its terrible morals and its “montage of montages” non-structure. The fifth (and at the time, presumed final) entry in the greatest sports franchise there ever was boldly explores the comparison between Balboa and his counter-part, Sylvester Stallone. If Rocky IV came at a time of excess in Stallone’s career, Rocky V explores his life after celebrity by following Balboa into his post-boxing existence. He has to deal with loss of money, reconnecting with his family, and redefining himself during a period where it seems he’s no longer useful. By 1990, Stallone had become a brand, and the artist in him was clearly striving to break the mold a second time. While it’s odd that he’d dip back into the Rocky well one more time (which, unbelievably, has proven fruitful in the decades since), it’s a mostly successful experiment.

One failing of Rocky V is the way it succumbs to formula by having a fight in the final act. It would have been a thematic home run for Rocky to refuse a street brawl with Tommy Gunn, and I believe it could have swayed the negative reception had the movie been bold enough to go there. Alas, what’s a Rocky flick with no boxing? It’s a misstep for sure, but I’m not willing to throw in the towel over a single aspect of the film.

That there was a boxing reference.

Stallone tried something here, and it should be applauded. Especially since everyone seems to love Rocky IV, the one in which Balboa DESERVED TO LOSE. Yeah, I said it. Fight me.

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