The Worst of Gerard Butler

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Gerard Butler.

The name strikes fear into the heart of film critics worldwide. Since Gerard Butler made his starring debut in Dracula 2000, his reign of tyranny has spawned 19 years and 28 theatrically released films, most of which are very bad. Very, very bad. Of those 28 films, 22 are classified as “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the six remaining, three are the How to Train Your Dragon movies for which, I think it is fair to say, Butler deserves almost no credit, two (Rocknrolla and 300) are on the VERY brink of tipping from “fresh” to “rotten”, and one, Coriolanus, is quite good but was released in only 21 theaters nationwide. The average Gerard Butler movie brings in a 37 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating. That’s a STAGGERINGLY low number.

Of course, critical reception is only part of the equation. Butler Truthers could write all of this off as stuffy critics overthinking blockbuster movies if the man consistently accounted for huge hits. Unfortunately, that has not been part of the Gerard Butler experience, either. Domestically, he’s been substantially more “miss” than “hit” (excepting the Dragon movies and 300) with his movies bringing in, on average, around $57 million per outing. Even accounting for the worldwide gross, which is much higher on Geostorm, London Has Fallen, and a few others, doesn’t really do the trick of cementing Mr. Butler’s status as a hitmaker.

And yet, he persists. We cannot in good conscience hold Mr. Butler’s early films, such as Timeline, the Tomb Raider sequel, and the aforementioned Dracula 2000, against him and surely, almost every actor goes through a rough stretch from time to time wherein some stinkers are to be expected. But when you tally up the number of massive misfires in a shockingly long career, you have to ask yourself just how in the world this dude keeps getting opportunities to lead movies. I don’t even dislike him on screen all that much and perhaps that’s the key; maybe he’s affable and charismatic enough to keep getting work despite lackluster returns. Whatever the reasoning, we should probably be applauding his ability to keep gettin’ them checks.

With Angel Has Fallen opening this weekend, I thought about using this space to rank Butler’s films but quickly realized there would be no way for me to sift between the bottom, say, 25 movies on his resume and find different ways to say “terrible.” So instead, each of our contributors has chosen and written about their own personal least favorite Butler movie among the myriad choices. Enjoy.

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Shane Bierly – Gods of Egypt
Gerald Butler has certainly performed worse in other movies, but to date, Gods of Egypt is the worst film he has starred in. Aside from the obnoxiously white cast (playing…you know…ancient Egyptians…), this movie’s bad performances are topped only by worse dialogue and CGI that looks like it was done by a film student over a drunken Saturday afternoon. Coming in at 127 minutes, the film’s run time feels punishing. How this was ever green-lit, I will never know. But fans and haters alike of Mr. Butler would do well to skip this one.

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Ariel Rada – 300
In 2006 Gerard Butler starred as King Leonidas in Zack Snyder’s sepia toned, uber-jacked 300. The movie itself is fine; a fun action flick that was expertly translated from page to screen. Snyder leveraged the goodwill from 300 to earn directing jobs for high profile projects: Watchmen, Man of Steel, and eventually Batman V. Superman. Butler’s Spartan Charisma helped usher in the age of Snyder-Verse DC movies, and we’ve suffered for it ever since. 

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Tobin Hodges – The Phantom of the Opera
You may think this is a hard choice since there’s so many movies to choose from. But let me ask you a question: Is there a movie where Gerard Butler attempts to sing “Music of the Night?” Yes? THEN THAT’S THE WORST ONE. Never let that man sing again! I would rather watch the Cats movie every day for the rest of my life than hear him sing Andrew Lloyd Webber again.

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Megan Spell – P.S. I Love You
Considering I am relatively blessed to not be too educated in Butler’s filmography, I will say his worst movie in my opinion is PS I Love You. I wouldn’t put the full blame on Gerard, but he definitely didn’t do anything to elevate it. I was once shunned from a sleepover party for not swooning over this movie. I have not forgiven or forgotten. 

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Brian Gill – Geostorm
The best thing I can say for Geostorm is it gave me a new appreciation for Roland Emmerich. While a LOT of Emmerich’s filmography falls somewhere between “fun garbage” and “completely worthless garbage”, this movie is an incredible example of HOW MUCH WORSE a Roland Emmerich movie can be without Roland Emmerich behind the camera. Geostorm is the movie embodiment of the “At no point in your rambling…” speech from Billy Madison. Butler sits at the heart of this rampant incompetence, running from scene to scene doing and saying Gerard Butler Things without the gravitas of, say, Nicholas Cage to actually pull off and sell the inane, remarkably stupid things he says and does over and over again. It’s one of the most wheels-off movies ever made and a perfect microcosm of Butler’s film legacy.

San Diego Comic Con News Roundup

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For the bulk of my adult life, San Diego Comic Con has been a hub for major Hollywood studio news, at least as far as blockbuster content goes. Occasionally, the quality of the panels and the significance of the announcements wanes but more often than not, what we see at SDCC is big news. This year did not disappoint, offering all kinds of buzz and intrigue for tentpole movies and peak TV alike. Here are a few of the bigger news items, announcements, and trailers that caught my eye over the weekend.

TRAILERS
Top Gun: Maverick
While Top Gun didn’t completely put Tom Cruise on the map, it certainly launched his career into a whole new stratosphere when it made its debut 33 (!!!) years ago. Maverick surely isn’t the most TIMELY sequel of all-time but I admit my skepticism eroded within about the first two seconds of this trailer. KICK THE TIRES AND LIGHT THE FIRES!

IT: Chapter 2
A great trailer for a movie that looks to roll along right in the terrifying tracks laid down by its predecessor. Horrifying and unbelievably creepy for anyone (like me) who wishes this dang clown had never been unearthed in the mind of Stephen King, the character design on Pennywise looks spot on and we also get our first glimpse at the grown up Losers Club. RIP my dreams for the rest of the summer.

Cats
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
This was more of a behind the scenes feature than an all-out trailer but still, it bears noting. My Twitter feed was FULL of overwhelmingly positive reactions to this panel and the footage shown therein and I think this was a brilliant way to highlight what we have to look forward to later this year.

The Witcher
I’m not familiar with the source material but I know there are a lot of fans who have been pining for a movie/TV series for quite some time. I think the trailer is solid but there are definitely some notes that leave me nervous as to whether or not this kind of high fantasy can translate well on Netflix.

Picard
Holy cow. I have been pumped for this one since its announcement but my goodness, what a magnificent trailer! Gonna have to go ahead and alter my budget to include CBS All Access in early 2020.

Snowpiercer
I confess I kinda forgot about Snowpiercer since its debut in 2013. I’m not completely confident that TBS is the network to bring this show to life and there has already been a tremendous amount of behind the scenes turmoil. Still, this is a competent trailer that does a good job of piquing interest.

As always, Comic Con was filled with new trailers this year including Watchmen, Catwoman, Westworld, His Dark Materials, a Walking Dead movie, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back 2 for….some…reason…

MARVEL PRESENTATION
The Twitter buzz leading up to the Marvel presentation on Saturday night was palpable and by the time the panel actually began, we were all expecting something BIG. Marvel did not disappoint. Kevin Feige unveiled a timeline slide for Marvel’s Phase Four and meticulously teased, announced, and elaborated on each upcoming MCU project scheduled between now and the end of 2021. We got our first glimpse at five upcoming Disney+ shows, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Wandavision, Loki, What If…?, and Hawkeye, as well as the next five movies in the MCU: Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and (most excitingly for me), Thor: Love and Thunder.

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As if that wasn’t enough, Feige concluded his presentation by hinting at Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, a here-to-unknown Fantastic Four movie, and some plans for “the mutants” (as he put it) before melting the face of everyone in the room by bringing Mahershala Ali on stage and announcing his casting as the titular hero in a Blade reboot. The entire panel was a smashing success, proving once again that Marvel is the driving force behind the blockbuster industry and all challengers should bow in its presence.

Some of these newly announced movies and series are self-explanatory to some degree but several of them represent completely new territory or a new storyline for an existing MCU hero that may not be as widely known. As such, I asked Ariel Rada of the Geek101 Podcast to tell us a little about these comic properties and what we can expect from their upcoming adaptations.

The Eternals
Millions of years ago, a race of beings called Celestials (think Galactus-like beings) traveled to Earth. These beings jump-started the evolution of the human race. The Celestials also singled out several humans and transformed them into god-like beings called The Eternals. Each Eternal is blessed with immortality and unique super powers. In 2007, Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. created a seven issue run of The Eternals imagining a world where they were on Earth but living as normal humans unaware of their abilities. Like most things Gaiman writes, it’s highly recommended. Expect the upcoming film to look at humanity through the lens of immortality and a loose adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s run.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings
The origin of Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu is pretty...umm...let’s use the word “dated”. Shang Chi is known in the Marvel universe as the best hand-to-hand combatant that’s not Captain America (and he’s kinda cheating with the super soldier serum). Shang Chi is known for being able to best skilled fighters such as: Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Hawkeye. He was raised as a living weapon. Regarding the “Ten Rings”, you need look no further than Iron Man 3. The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, is the leader of an organization known as the Ten Rings. In the comics, the Mandarin is a Chinese supervillain with ten uniquely powered rings. He was originally an Iron Man villain and it makes all the sense in the world to pit him against Marvel’s upcoming Asian superhero.

What If…?
The phrase, “What If?” is quite famous among comic book fans. What If? is a comic series designed to tell a new story in the Marvel multiverse. For example, the first What If? Comic was, What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four? A simple sentence changes the fundamental history and fiber of the universe. These alternate reality comics are released every few years and we’ll see how Marvel handles this new series; do they adapt beloved stories or create their own What If universes.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The good doctor is no stranger to alternate dimensions. There are countless comics focused on Doctor Strange exploring the multiverse to save humanity. In the upcoming film, it’s believed that Marvel will introduce a demi-god named Nightmare. Nightmare is an alternate dimension being, like Dormammu from the first film, that can haunt the dreams of regular people. This god is usually seen in the pages of Ghost Rider comics but has often clashed with the Sorcerer Supreme.

Thor: Love and Thunder
In the Marvel Comics, (those paper book thingies, not the films) Thor was once deemed unworthy to wield his trusty hammer. The world was now without a god of thunder. Soon after, in a comic book run simply titled Thor, writer Jason Aaron introduced the world to a new Thor: a mysterious woman deemed worthy by the hammer Mjolinr. Five years later, we know that this Thor was Jane Foster; a trick that Taika Waititi is hoping to borrow for his new MCU project. To get the down low, check out Jason Aaron’s words and Russell Dauterman’s art in the 2014 comic run of Thor.

NEWS and NOTES
James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Linda Hamilton brought Terminator: Dark Fate to their panel and promised that this Terminator would be different. Also Edward Furlong is back if that does it for you.

Agents of SHIELD will end after its seventh season which will air next summer.

Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas announced that the show’s new season, exclusive to Hulu, was dropping right during the panel, a week ahead of schedule. This was cool but also…all the people in the world who MOST care about Veronica Mars were at Comic Con in that very room and couldn’t exactly watch the show right then and there.

Creepy Dolls in Pop Culture

Just yesterday, Chrissy Teigen posted a photo of herself on Instagram of herself in a doll shop.

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While I don't have exact metrics, I feel like at least 80% of us seeing this photo felt she was in imminent danger. In fact, the two comments shown make reference to this severe threat. So how did a children's toy become a source of such dread for so many of us? Since June brings with it both an Annabelle sequel and a Child’s Play reboot, this seems as good a time as any to visit this issue. Here are six pop culture entries (three TV episodes, two movies, and a book) that got Brian, Megan, and I to a place where a fear of seemingly harmless inanimate objects meant for joy actually makes complete sense.  

Megan Spell
“Night of the Living Dummy”
While there are many Goosebumps scares that kept me awake at night, I can think of nothing quite so viscerally frightening as Slappy the Dummy. Ventriloquist dummies are the definitive creepy doll; they are never anything but terrifying. I still see the cover of that book in my nightmares.

Slappy is actually one of two ventriloquist dolls in the book that the two main characters fight over, repeatedly, because for some wholly incomprehensible reason, whoever has a dummy in this town is considered cool. Once “Mr. Wood” comes into the picture, mysterious accidents begin to occur, and with time, both dolls are speaking, acting out, and controlling children like slaves. Chill!

Annabelle
A horror writer’s greatest trick is getting the audience, grown adults, afraid of small porcelain kid’s toys. Even more, the writers of The Conjuring franchise have managed to squeeze out three variations of the Annabelle “origin” story.

 The Annabelle doll has gone through various hauntings (possessed by a dead child, cult leaders, etc.) and of course, is nearly indestructible despite being made of china. Obviously the supernatural/murder-y elements are what makes Annabelle the creepiest, but there is just something so unsettling about the idea of throwing something down a well and it just…shows back up unexpectedly. It’s truly mindboggling that anyone would own antique dolls in the year 2019.

Amy Carter
Rod Serling has a lot to do with fear of dolls. When a picture like the one of Chrissy Teigen above pops up, I immediately think of two episodes of the OG Twilight Zone, both of which I spent much of middle school wishing I could unwatch.

“The Dummy”
I like how Serling can pack more commentary and earned suspense into 24 minutes than most horror/thriller writers can do in a two-hour feature. “The Dummy” is about a ventriloquist, Jerry, who is convinced his dummy, Willie, is alive and messing with him. We quickly learn Jerry has a drinking problem and a history of (at least) mental health evaluation and, according to his boss, a schizophrenia diagnosis. And what's scarier than a doll coming to life and attacking you? A doll coming to life, attacking you, and no one else believing it's happening. 

The audience is let in on the fact that Willie really is alive very early in the show. His head is in a slightly different position every time Jerry looks at him in a mirror, he winks, and even bites Jerry, leaving a mark. But we're not sure what he's capable of. When Jerry decides to be rid of Willie once and for all, locks him in a trunk, and then sees him in a chair in the alley way outside, the camera tilts about 30 degrees to the left - is Jerry crazy? Are we crazy? We can't find our footing. It's not until the very end that we can be sure of the villain's intention. Willie reveals that he is a monster, created by Jerry, and now he wants the limelight. For the final act of the episode, we see Willie's face on the human and Jerry's on the dummy. Willie's rise to control is complete. Horrifying. 

“Living Doll”
A theme common to both episodes is that the dolls have a lone target, thusly isolating their victims and causing all others to assume they've lost their minds. The difference with “Living Doll” is another character gets let in on the secret by the end of the episode. It's about a little girl, Christy, and her mother, Annabelle (!!), who bring home an expensive talking doll, much to the Step Dad's chagrin because, "she has too many dolls already." He's a jerk, verbally abusive to Christy, and as soon as Talky Tina gets a minute alone with him, she tells him she isn't going to like him. 

 Trying to keep his mental footing, he dismisses it as a trick being played by his wife, but Tina's persistence in expressing her hatred for him causes him to see Tina as a real threat. He tries to squash her head in a vice, ignite her, and decapitate her with a circular saw - all for naught. What's scarier than a doll coming to life, attacking you, and no one else believing you that it's happening? All that, plus the doll being indestructible. Tina gets the last laugh and positions herself on the stairs in a way that causes him to trip and fall to his death. Annabelle finds him and her at the bottom of the stairs and she says, "I'm Talky Tina, and you better be nice to me." Horrifying. 

Both of these episodes, along with 4 full seasons of The Twilight Zone, are streaming on Netflix. 

Brian Gill
“Dolls are creepy.” That’s my full thesis on this matter because I feel it requires no presentation of evidence, it’s just inherent fact that most (sane) people know in their hearts.

The OG Child’s Play
This movie came out when I was five so I’m not completely sure when or how I became aware of its existence; I just remember that it was a thing I knew about and was terrified of. “Great. Now I can’t even trust my toys anymore.” was my thought process. I would guess I was somewhere around ten when I was finally peer pressured into watching the movie while spending the night at a friend’s house then spent the rest of the night pretending I wasn’t TOTALLY FREAKED OUT by that stupid doll. In the years since, I know I’ve seen this original film at least once more (because I had literally no memory of the plot, only “killer psycho doll”) and parts of the sequels and while realistically I see now how cheesy Chucky really is, in my heart I am still very, very freaked out by the whole Child’s Play ordeal.

X-Files Season 5 Episode 10, “Chinga”
I watched very little of The X-Files during its original run. However, for a long stretch during the early-to-mid-2000’s, the show played in syndication 400 times a day on TNT. This was as close as we came to binge watching a show in a pre-Netflix world and I ate it up, absorbing every episode I could get my eyes on. I distinctly remember this episode, about a demon-possessed doll that gave its owner visions of horrific deaths that then became reality, though I only just discovered it was written by Stephen King. Makes sense. My first viewing came at that hour of the night where you probably should go to bed but you say, “Eh, just one more episode” and then I had to watch about fourteen hours of Friends in order to purge my brain of the horror “Chinga” had inflicted upon me. Even now, when I get on an X-Files kick and binge my way through a season or two, if this episode pops up on my screen, I immediately skip it and thus retain my ability to sleep.