As much as I enjoyed reading Christopher Tookey's reviews of great movies in Tookey's Talkies, I had even more fun reading Tookey's Turkeys: The Most Annoying 144 Films of the Last 25 Years. I like the fact that these are not the worst films, but the most annoying. He concentrates on "movies that had the resources to be good, but spectacularly failed to be so," so he doesn't pick on independent films. These are virtually all movies that had wide release. They annoy him for their take on culture and values, especially those that "plumb the depths of ineptitude, depravity, and risibility." Others "present a deliberately misleading view of history and current events, promote brutalism and yob culture, and attempt to cash in on a section of the public's taste for sexual exploitation and gratuitous violence."
There were many films in Tookey's Turkey's that I had not heard of. After reading his reviews, I am grateful to have missed them. In Tookey's Talkies, Tookey showed a tendency toward exuberant praise. In Turkeys,
his criticism is much more entertaining. When he won the 2013 London
Press Club award for Arts Reviewer of the Year, it must have been at
least in part for the various and hilarious ways he can say how terrible
a movie is. All of these examples are from different movies, but you will notices some themes that emerge.
. . . mindless spectacle on an extremely grand scale. . .
. . any intelligent viewer will leave the cinema slack-jawed with
disbelief that we have been invited to take this hokum seriously . . .
. . . a terrible movie with barely concealed contempt for its audience . . .
. . . Mere words cannot convey the tedium. Think of the dullest movie you have ever seen, and quadruple it. . . .
. . . a guilty pleasure if your idea of a guilty pleasure is undergoing a frontal lobotomy without anaesthetic . . .
. . . ponderous, preposterous poppycock . . .
. . . as slow, pretentious, nasty, and unwatchable as a movie can get. . . .
. . . one of the biggest wastes of time, money, and celluloid ever perpetuated in the name of mindless entertainment. . . .
. . . I'm bewildered, appalled, and angry that anyone allowed this puerile idiocy to become such an abominable waste of time and celluloid. . . .
. . . on a par with sitting down in a dark sewer and waiting to be eaten alive by rats. . . .
. . . five minutes of plot is crammed into a two-hour running time. . . .
. . . a rural British romcom that appears to have been painstakingly assembled by a committee of village idiots. . . .
. . . Every scene is lame, every line of dialogue banal, every performance shallow. . . .
. . . awe-inspiring in its awfulness. . . .
. . . puts the "Duh!" back in Cinderella. . . .
. . . puts the rot back into erotica. . . .
. . . If you're one of those old-fashioned souls who enjoy comprehensible plotting or character development, don't even think about going. . . .
. . . The plotting is so scatty that it appears to have been put together by people whose short-term memory has been surgically removed. . . .
. . . The whole script appears to have been assembled by an untalented, 11-year-old Martian. . . .
Some of Tookey's best bits are the rules or commandments. He offers Adam Sandler's ten commandments for comedies, a list of "every disability ever spotted in an action pic," the "Ten Commandments of the Aquatic Thriller Genre," and "The 10 Commandments of British Cinema."
Besides bad plots, bad acting, and bad cinematography, Tookey is also annoyed by the coarsening of cultural standards in film. He has particular ire for the declining standards of the British Board of Film Classification, which sets the film ratings in the UK. He cites several examples of films that a few short years ago would not have been allowed. Tookey is no Puritan; some of his favorite films include sex, violence, and profanity (He does acknowledge it, so the viewer does not go in uninformed.). But when a family film contains innuendo, or when a film uses graphic violence "not to denote extreme, anti-social behavior, but to entertain, titillate, and show how 'cool' the film-makers are," or when they "wallow in sexual degradation, rape, and torture," Tookey does not approve. He says the BBFC's "turn-a-blind-eye approach simply eggs on irresponsible or deranged film-makers . . . to more and more extreme and graphic displays of sexual violence." This is not only a British problem. Many of the films he reviews are American releases.
Tookey's reviews are entertaining and informative. I found that I agreed with him on almost every film that I had seen, and will studiously avoid the Turkeys I have not seen. I'll be book-marking his web site (movie-film-review dot com) as the go-to source for a reliable take on movies.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!