Friday, December 31, 2004
Two hours is long a time to waste. Sometimes the clock seems to stand still when one is stuck in a theater and forced to endure a movie that is boring, annoying, juvenile, confusing or offensive.
So now it's time for a little payback. These pictures didn't just fail to entertain, they somehow managed to cinematically abuse the viewer. In that respect, it's been a good year for bad movies.
It's at least satisfying to note the year's worst film is poised to become the biggest financial bomb in cinematic history. As of this week, "Alexander" has grossed only $34 million despite a reported $150 million to $200 million budget. Not since John Wayne played Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror" has a historical biopic been so miscast. Irish actor Colin Farrell is ridiculous as the blond-haired Macedonian. Worse is Angelina Jolie, who stars as Alexander's mother despite their 11-month age difference. Director/co-writer Oliver Stone hits his career nadir with a tedious period piece that is incapable of creating a single character who can engage the audience. The movie is also a structural nightmare. It starts with Alexander as a boy, then inexplicably skips to when he is already a king on the eve of invading Persia. The narrative jump is equal to beginning "The Godfather" at Connie's wedding then having the next scene take place after Michael has gunned down the heads of the other families.
My worst New Age nightmare took cinematic shape in this provocatively titled piece that attempts to explain quantum physics. The impenetrable picture relies on interview footage with scientists and philosophers such as Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old sage from the sunken city of Atlantis (as "channeled" by psychic JZ Knight). Interesting to note that shortly after "What the Bleep" was released it was revealed the trio of filmmakers who crafted the pseudo-documentary are disciples of Ramtha. Could this prompt Hollywood's next Scientology-type craze?
Yes, the Olsen twins are an easy target (especially the druggy one). But what makes this fluffy comedy so offensive is its peripheral elements. There's Andy Richter as a hoodlum who, because he is adopted by a Chinese family, speaks with a sub-Charlie Chan accent. Eugene Levy has the thankless job of a truant officer nemesis that conjures the pedophilic ghost of "Ferris Bueller's" Jeffrey Jones. The rest of New York (which looks suspiciously like Toronto) is depicted at its stereotypical worst: inscrutable Asians, sassy hairdressing blacks and Kwik-E-Mart Arabs.
While "The Incredibles" and "Spider-Man 2" showcase the best-ever adaptations of superheroes to the screen, "Catwoman" provides the worst. Shot and edited like a cross between a cologne ad and an Ashlee Simpson video, the story hinges on a graphic artist (Halle Berry) who is brought back to life by a roving gang of cats infused with the power of the ancient Egyptian goddess Bast. OK ... Berry's dominatrix-style cat suit has more personality than anything else in this ridiculous feature.
Among the hardest projects to endure is a comedy that isn't funny. Say hello to "Johnson Family Vacation." The rip-off of "National Lampoon's Vacation" features a black cast (led by the usually reliable Cedric the Entertainer) yet a pale sense of humor. With infantile gags this sorry the viewer can't help but ask, "Are we there yet?"
It's hard to recall a movie that is more of a "sellout" than "Yu-Gi-Oh" -- which is saying quite a lot when discussing Hollywood. This adaptation of the popular comic book/card game/TV show has more in common with an infomercial than a screenplay. At times anime monsters are duking it out for real. And other times the audience is watching characters play cards, complete with a running total of points at the bottom of the screen. Even an episode of "Teletubbies" has more street cred than this.
Of all the lousy sequels 2004 had to offer, this was the hardest to sit through. Calling the zombie-action flick derivative doesn't quite capture it. Virtually every character, line of dialogue, set piece, creature design and fight scene is familiar. Hey, that's from "Robocop." Wow, that's straight out of "Escape From New York." Isn't this just "28 Day Later?" Only the movie's sheer joylessness eclipses its triteness.
Robert Altman, Kansas City's most renowned filmmaker, is a unique talent. But the loose, improvised approach that makes his greatest works like "Nashville" so timeless is the same thing that makes his lesser efforts so intolerable. To call this backstage look at the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago dramatically inert is to oversell it. This is one of the few non-experimental films that is virtually without plot. The story has no arc, no suspense, no focus. Altman is dancing with himself.
"Shrek 2" started a trend that reaches its nadir in this undersea comedy. The animated movie is so reliant on pop culture for its humor that the filmmakers choose to exploit any topical reference that can be twisted into a tropical reference. As a peripheral element, that's OK, but "Shark Tale" ONLY constructs jokes by alluding to "Kelpie Kreme donuts" or "Gup jeans." That's not humor, that's name-dropping. There's a difference.
What does "Ray" do that "Beyond the Sea" doesn't? It casts the right person in the lead role. Director/star Kevin Spacey is utterly false as singer Bobby Darin -- at no point does the 45-year-old actor ever create the illusion of the swoon-inducing hipster (who was a decade younger than Spacey when he died). I came away from this train wreck of a vanity project understanding little about Darin and wondering why he even warranted a movie made about his life. Where's Jamie Foxx when you need him?