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Background Movies: The Noise While I Work

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Scott Roberts
Background Movies: The Noise While I Work
on Mar 29, 2013 at 2:35:49 pm

As a guy who does most of his work from his home office, I tend to just have the TV on in the background all day while I work. I turn my head and check out what's on the TV every so often, and if I'm doing a tedious task that doesn't involve audio, I can hear what's going on relatively well. I usually just leave it on one channel for most of the day, and every so often I'll change the channel like when I eat lunch or something. If you've never just left your TV on all day, every day, let me tell you... they play the EXACT SAME movies over and over again for weeks at a time. This is a list of those movies that keep coming on that I usually check out in random out-of-sequence chunks, until I can piece together a full story in like two weeks time.

So again, as just a disclaimer, I have seen none of the movies listed below all the way through. Did any of them redeem themselves in the scenes I missed? I doubt it... But you tell me...?


How is this not a Michael Bay movie? It has all the supermodels, explosions, and semi-blue color tinting that I would expect from a Bay picture. I guess it's because all of the side characters aren't annoying comic relief caricatures? Is that the difference? Like clockwork, I almost always turn to this movie when the Samoan guy tries to fist fight a robot in the engine room, and then the guy with no legs tries to fist fight a robot next to a Jeep. I've probably seen about 60% of this movie, but I've never seen the beginning. I don't know how the aliens show up. But the ending is pretty terrible, with John Carter asking Liam Neeson for his daughter's hand in marriage. Blech, who wrote that scene? Also, the part when the real old guy Navy veterans show up and are trying to deliver dialogue in a major Hollywood movie was... odd? I suppose, though, from what I've seen of the movie, it's stupidly entertaining enough. Nice loud background noise. Is Taylor Kitsch officially considered Hollywood poison at this point?

5 out of 10

Grown Ups

I've probably seen about 3/4ths of this movie, and I'm pretty convinced that Grown Ups doesn't actually have a script. Or if it does, it's a few lines written for the women and children, and then four pages written in size 140 font that reads "WE'LL FIGURE IT OUT ON THE SET", and then a few more lines written for the women and children. Most of the scenes in this movie were just Sandler and his friends improvising the same five jokes over and over again: Sandler is "too Hollywood", Kevin James is fat, Chris Rock is a house-dad, David Spade is a sleaze, and Rob Schneider likes to bang old ladies. So, make some comments about each character's one obvious flaw, and apparently you've got 90% of the jokes in this film. Also Sandler's movie children are spoiled brats (that's their exploited flaw joke), but the way that he reacts to the way they behave is like he's never met his kids before the first scene of this movie. "What? You kids like playing video games instead of going outside? What? You like drinking vitamin water? Oh my god, I'm going to act so surprised right now for some reason... This is probably only the 2000th time you've acted this way in your life, but I've forgotten all the times that it's happened before, so I'll get frustrated like I'm not used to it. Also the fact that you're spoiled is entirely my fault, and I refuse to accept responsibility because I wasn't spoiled when I was a kid. (waves hands wildly) WHOOSA DOOOBA WADOOO DAAAAAA."

4.5 out of 10

American Wedding

This movie starts with a scene of Jason Biggs getting pleasured under a table of a restaurant, and then Eugene Levy shows up, and it's an awkward moment. I don't think anything sexually awkward has ever happened to Jason Biggs' character in this series before. I also don't think Stifler has acted deceptively sleazy to a woman in this series before. And I don't think Finch has acted like an uppity know-it-all in this series before. ...At least Oz wasn't in this one.

3 out of 10

Tower Heist

This was a kind of enjoyably stupid movie. I've tuned in a few times to this though, and I don't really have a clue what this movie is actually about. I think Alan Alda fired everyone who works in his building, and screwed them out of their benefits or something, so Ben Stiller tries to steal back the money from him. I don't know any other details. I once turned this movie on and Matthew Broderick was hanging off of a car that was getting lowered out of the top story window. I did not ask any questions... But... why does Gabourey Sidibe have a comically bad Jamaican accent? This seemed like the kind of movie where everyone involved with it watched and laughed with each other because they had such a good time making it, but then the rest of humanity wasn't in on the joke. It felt like Ocean's Eleven, only less funny and much less clever.

5.5 out of 10

Larry Crown

Tom Hanks plays a guy who gets fired from his job of 20 years at a retail store because he doesn't have a college education (By the way, can they do that? Maybe try for a wrongful termination lawsuit?). So he goes to community college and forms a relationship with his teacher (Julia Roberts). From what I've seen, which consists of almost nothing from the second half, this seems like one the most harmless movies ever made. I WONDER IF THEY GET TOGETHER AT THE END?

6.5 out of 10

The Girl

A made-for-HBO film about Alfred Hitchcock (with Toby Jones as Hitch). It's mostly about how Hitchcock was a total creep and tried to force himself sexually onto his female leads. I have no idea if any of these allegations are actually true, but this was a hell of a lot more entertaining of a storyline than the Anthony Hopkins Hitchcock movie. If there was anyone to cast as a power-hungry sex hound, I'm happy it was Toby Jones.

8 out of 10

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I've never caught the beginning, which may be the most important part in terms of plot, because I have NO IDEA why all of these old people are in India. But they certainly do have difficulties and uncomfortable situations waiting for them! It seems like only two of the old people are actually there for a direct purpose; one of which is reconnect with his lover from years ago, and another old guy seems like he's just there to get laid. I think? In typical Hollywood storytelling/casting, he goes to India to have a sexual revelation, and he ends up having sex with an old white lady who also happens to be living in India. I have no idea why all of the other old people are there, because they seem freaking miserable. It's not a bad movie from what I've seen, but it's totally all over the place. And while I haven't even seen the whole thing, it still seems too long. I'm sure it's based on a boring novel, it just seems like that kind of movie. But basically, it somehow turned into the first ever coming-of-age film about 80-year-olds. Also, Bill Nighy is one of the weirdest looking, sounding, and moving people on the planet. He's like a melting marionette puppet that magically moves without strings and speaks with a mouth full of taffy. I mean that in the most awesome way possible. I would have went with a hipper title for the film though, to draw in the younger crowd, like MOTH BALLZ 2 DA WALL: FISTS OF CURRY.

7 out of 10

Rock of Ages

Yeesh. I was a little embarrassed for society that this movie actually exists. The first scene of the film was a girl singing "Sister Christian" on a bus with all the extras joining in. I proceeded to not focus on this movie for the next few songs because I almost threw up in my mouth. Next thing I know, Catherine Zeta Jones is singing "Hit me With Your Best Shot", and I start to watch it more intensely out of morbid curiosity. I thought she was *against* rock and roll music? Then why is she singing a rock and roll song to show her feelings? Shouldn't she be singing like a Whitney Houston song or something? And Tom Cruise is supposed to be this SUPER DEMONIC WILD AND CRAZY ROCK GOD, and his big intro song is "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi...? Really? Bon Jovi is about as demonic as this sandwich I'm eating right now, and it's just turkey and cheese on white bread. I didn't even use Dijon mustard (THE DEVIL'S CONDIMENT). Though, I guess he DID get all the 40-year-old ladies in the movie all hot and bothered. That's pretty accurate for Bon Jovi. Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, and Paul Giamatti seem way above this trash. Yet Russell Brand fits right in with his terrible looking wig and obnoxiously annoying scream-acting. This movie is the worst kind of Hollywood schlock, and I imagine the Broadway show it's based on is equally as annoying. I think if someone offered me the chance to either see Rock of Ages on Broadway, or the Green Day Broadway show; I'd take the third option of sitting in an Arby's reading internet articles on my phone for two hours. For a film that's supposed to glorify the "rebellious" "awesome" nature of 1980s rock and roll (which is already widely known as one of the goofiest times in the HISTORY of rock and roll), they did a great job picking possibly the most generic, worst soundtrack possible. They couldn't have thrown an AC/DC song or two in there? Maybe an Ozzy song? Queen? Van Halen? TALKING HEADS? ...No, they chose Whitesnake and Journey instead. At some point we should put an end to all this 80s nostalgia.

2 out of 10

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Tom Sefton
Re: Background Movies: The Noise While I Work
on Mar 30, 2013 at 10:51:10 am

Best description of bill nighy ever.

A great list of reviews for films that maybe shouldn't have been made.

Surprised you rated battleship so highly though - that piece of turd lasted around 5 minutes before I turned off.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Background Movies: The Noise While I Work
on Mar 30, 2013 at 6:12:05 pm

[Tom Sefton] "A great list of reviews for films that maybe shouldn't have been made."

Ah, but you miss the point of a background movie. If it was any good, you'd stop what you were doing to pay attention.

Whether its Casablanca, Die Hard, or Glengarry Glen Ross, movies with strong dialog are impossible to keep in the background. Too many great lines.

(Die Hard? Yes. If you don't look up when John McClain says "Yippy-ki-yay mrfr," I don't want to watch movies with you.)

That also brings up action movies that can't stay in the background for long. In addition to Die Hard, I'd throw in Arnold's Total Recall, Star Wars, Jaws, Underworld, the Abrams Star Trek movie...

Certain kinds of...less than razor-sharp....comedies can't stay in the background for long. American Pie, yes. Tower Heist, yes. Animal House, Something About Mary -- at some point, one of these will DEMAND your attention.

Hybrids like Galaxy Quest and Beverly Hills Cop - not background movies.

TRULY terrible movies also don't work in the background. If it drops below 5 or so on the Scottometer(TM) (pronounced like "thermometer"), there's just no point. That 4 (maybe 3.5)-6 range is in fact the sweet spot I think.

In fact, I think that the 7-8 range also disqualifies something from being a great background movie for me. Most of those tend to be movies that fell short of the 9 they SHOULD have been, rather than just finding their own level, and movies that close to succeeding are just annoying to me, even in the background.

This, by the way, is why I have every masseuse, spa, and medical professional turn off music when they're treating me. Music is either great and fully engaging, or infuriating, sometimes to the point of blinding rage. It's never in the background for me, ever.

Hence Rock of Ages being a no-go.

You also can't have a movie that's too quiet in the background, or you'll keep looking around to see what the hell happened to the TV. Ironically, a lot of sci-fi movies fall into this: 2001, Solaris, frankly, much of Alien...

I might reconsider this later, but off the top of my head, starting with some that I just mentioned...

Star Wars: not background. SW3 (Ewoks): background.
Jurassic Park: not background. JP3: very nice background (and actually ridiculously underrated as foreground - a much worthier sequel than JP2.)
Die Hard: not background. Die Hard 3: background.

Jackie Brown: not background. Kill Bill 2: background.
Iron Man: not background. Thor: background.
Dogma: not background. Mallrats: Background.
From Dusk To Dawn: not background. The Faculty: background.
Crooklyn: not background. Mo Betta Blues: background.
The Last Starfighter: not background. Stargate: background.
Twilight: not background. Twilight New Moon: background.
Barton Fink: not background. Hudsucker Proxy: background.

(Since it was the 15th anniversary of Big Lebowski a couple of weeks ago, I'll note that it only scores 80% at Rotten Tomatoes...just UNDER The Man Who Wasn't There at 81!!! Almost enough to make me lose my faith in....never mind.)

Might be fun to play this out a little further, but there's my opening hand. Not a BAD movie on the list, and I've watched all of them at least once in the foreground, a couple of them more than once. But I also don't NEED to watch them in the foreground anymore.

None of the background movies falls below "meh," or they wouldn't be worth having on at all.

Couple of quick comments:

[Tom Sefton] "Surprised you rated battleship so highly though - that piece of turd lasted around 5 minutes before I turned off."

I've seen it a couple of times. Big, loud, stupid fun. A world without movies like this is just too sad to contemplate.

People understandably give Bay grief, but I think it's usually not fair. I'd put movies like Bad Boys and Armageddon in the ring with almost anyone of their ilk. How much better could anyone make the first Transformers? The 3rd was goofier, but more sh|t blew up, so it balances out. I've spoken before of my fondness for The Island, one of the most enjoyable dystopias ever. The Rock is a gin-yoo-wine rip-snorter, and one of exactly two watchable Nic Cage movies.

For the record, the other is Face/Off, which earns extra style points for being one of only two watchable Travolta movies. I can't remember the other watchable Travolta movie. Wait! It's Boy In The Plastic Bubble.

After the "responsible, stern, 'What would Dad say if he was here' BUT HE'S NOT HERE'" yappity yap at the very beginning of Battleship (okay, I admit it, I almost typed "Transformers"), there's a genuinely, unironically hilarious scene that involves a hero's journey for a chicken burrito. I honestly can't think of a funnier sequence in a movie last year. Scott, DEFINITELY worth watching the early part of the movie for that.

Otherwise, yeah, terrific background. You don't really need to SEE anything after the chicken burrito....but I still found myself sorry that there won't be a sequel.

Which is to say, though, once the 'what if dad were here/BUT HE'S NOT HERE' is over, Tom, the fun background stuff starts. If you can make the jump from "this is a really, really boring game" to "this is a $250m alien invasion movie," it's no stupider than, say, Independence Day, even if a bunch of trucks on a tarmac blowing up lack the emotional impact of blowing up, say, the Capitol Records building.

But I think I'd put on Independence Day as a background movie too.

[Tom Sefton] "Best description of bill nighy ever."

I liked Marigold quite a bit, although, Scott, I can imagine that it's hard to follow if you miss the premise. It's not overly complicated -- you're close enough -- but I guess not being able to KNOW the concept at a glance is the definition of low concept.

Nighy is obviously one of the younger members of the marigoldies, but they're all ostensibly retirees, so I looked him up -- he's only 63!!! So when you saw him in Love Actually (oh my god I so f|||ing HATE this movie) and Underworld (c'mon man, it's Underworld), both TEN YEARS ago (yes really), he was 53, and looks virtually the same now. If he'll look the same at 73, that's actually not a bad deal. I'd take it.

Although if somebody offered me a deal to age like Kate Beckinsale, I'd take that one first.

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Tom Sefton
Re: Background Movies: The Noise While I Work
on Mar 30, 2013 at 7:57:16 pm

Good points all Tim. I wasn't meaning that bill nighy was bad though, I just totally get the melted puppet description. It works in love actually and Shaun of the dead!

I totally get the bad movies to background movies description, I would just find it harder to work with battleship on in the background because the dialogue would make me want to smash the tv. I'm sure I read a post on here not too long ago that showed all of Rihannas lines. It wasn't good!

A bad movie that shouldn't have been made-the holiday. Eli Wallach shouldn't have that movie on his career.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Background Movies: The Noise While I Work
on Mar 30, 2013 at 8:39:34 pm

[Tom Sefton] " I wasn't meaning that bill nighy was bad though, I just totally get the melted puppet description."

Oh I agree! I didn't think you meant as a negative at all. And you're quite right, in some movies, that look is very, very much part of the reason he was cast.

You're also right about the dialog in Battleship. I don't Rihanna as an act-droid was the biggest problem with those line readings. It was the lines. LOL

Shame, because I'm a Peter Berg fan. He obviously knocked Friday Night Lights out of the park (see what I did there?), Rundown was a happy goof, and the pilot to Wonderland is among the best dozen or so hours of TV I've ever seen. I also miss him as an actor....

...but... LOL, Battleship, man ...although I'd have still watched the sequel...

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Kylee Peña
Re: Background Movies: The Noise While I Work
on Mar 30, 2013 at 10:52:14 pm

I love your reviews, but this is possibly my favoritest of all of them.

re: Bill Nighy -- Love Actually is one of my favorite background noise movies.

twitter: @kyl33t

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