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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Film: Thanksgiving Turkeys -- Five Films Hardly Worth The Stuffing

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday coming up this week here in the United States I'm serving a platter of turkey. A bunch of flicks that will make you thankful not to be watching. They are not in order of painful or -lessness.

1 ) The Butterfly Effect – This ludicrous exercise in time travel and what-iffery is like Donnie Darko’s retarded half-brother. Never mind that the movie can’t even stick to its own convoluted time travel rules. Forget the pop Abel Ferrara approach which gives us pedophilia, animal torture, prostitution, and prison rape. The key to this movie is that it allows Ashton Kutcher to stretch really really wide as an actor. This is akin to allowing George W. Bush to stretch as a humanitarian or Susan Smith to stretch as a mother. They just simply aren’t that elastic. If I have to peg just one highlight it’s when Kutcher gets punked by some ill-advised past changing and is transformed into a paraplegic. Unintentional comic effect follows—behold!

2) Superman Returns – Director Bryan Singer's wonderful film The Usual Suspects is looking more like a fluke every day. After two so-so X-Men films he did a “re-imagining” of the Superman franchise. By re-imagining the studio obviously meant ‘crap remake” because that’s what this is. Brandon Routh has no original beats of his own as either Clark Kent or Superman – he merely apes the late Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance in the 1978 original. The music, whole scenes and bits of dialogue, Marlon Brando, the opening title sequence, are lifted from the earlier superior film. The parts that have been changed have not been changed for the better. Kate Bosworth is hardly believable as a mother or a hard boiled reporter. Kevin Spacey’s coat is way more interesting than his performance and Parker Posey, oh Parker Posey. You were much, much better in Josie and The Pussycats. Everything is bigger, the movie is longer, the boredom is inevitable. Here’s Kevin Spacey doing his best to make us admire Gene Hackman:

3)The Dark BackwardThe Dark Backward is a cheat – a film that is quirky and culty because it so badly wants to be seen as quirky and culty. What it really is, is crappy. The description alone ought to raise several red flags. Count ‘em off with me – Judd Nelson Stars (flag 1) as comedian Marty Malt in a dystopian alternate universe (flag 2). Malt starts to grow a third arm (big honking huge red flag number 3) which best friend Bill Paxton decides to promote with the help of slimy agent Rob Lowe (flag 4) and promoter Wayne Newton (flag 5). Even this fails to capture the grating boob-osity of Paxton’s performance, the bad Terry Gilliam in grade school style production design, the prancing panoply of overacting that this film contains. Also there’s a guy licking a corpse at a dump and a fat lady orgy, both featuring Paxton prominently. This one has a cult, and they should all be ashamed. Horrible. Here’s the trailer.

4) Highlander 2: The Quickening – The first Highlander was an amiable overdirected b-movie, plenty of 80s fun. This sequel hits the trifecta of bad filmmaking from screenplay to lighting to acting to editing. Don’t cheat and watch the director’s cut on the expanded DVD, the original’s on there also just waiting to be mocked. The expanded cut tries to fix what ails the movie which only makes a spectacular object lesson in what can go wrong while making a film into a sub par dreary scifi-er. To start with, licensing issues led to a new backstory which makes this a sequel to a film that can't be referenced. Got that? So instead of a race of immortals (silly but charming) they are, wait for it, immortals from outer space (silly but stupid). Also, the movie is set in the future but the budget was clearly blown on Sean Connery’s 15 minutes of screen time. The solution? A voice over explaining that “Everything here is old, we drive old cars…” Oooo-kayyy. This at least is enjoyably bad, in a jaw-dropping how could this be released way. Enjoy Connery’s resurrection (which makes no sense) here:

5) Oh Heavenly Dog! – A film so bad that YouTube has no scenes from it. Chevy Chase plays a dead P.I. re-incarnated in the body of Benji the dog in this early entry in the 80s switcheroo flicks. Jane Seymour is the woman who inspires some really unsavory canine lust and Omar Sharif is the bad guy who ought to fire his agent tout suite! The poster alone makes me want to hurt myself. The folks at Benji inc. later recut it to drop a lot of the innuendo and naughty grownup talk so original cuts are rare.

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