This year had several mediocre genre movies (I’m looking at you Indiana Jones), over-hyped flicks that turned out to be a disappointment (Cloverfield, and no, I was not scared), and pretty-looking stuff (Hellboy 2, with the guy that looks like Elric of Melnibone) which didn’t hold up. But the following list is reserved for the worst of the worst. These are the movies we should feed to the rancor.
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
This sword and sorcery movie has it all: a lousy script, bad performances and terrible casting choices. Burt Reynolds plays a king in peril and Jason Statham, the guy from the Transporter movies, is the peasant named Peasant trying to save the realm. Did I mention Ray Liotta is an evil wizard spewing outrageous lines? In the Name of the King is so bad it is almost good. In fact, if a decent writer had tweaked the plot they might have had a nice little parody. Unfortunately the movie wants us to take it seriously, which is hard when you have everyone hamming it up. This flick reportedly cost $60 million dollars. Roger Corman would have made it for a fraction of the cost and it would have probably been a great deal more entertaining and mercifully shorter.
The director of Babylon AD disowned it, and for good reasons. This is one ugly baby. It does not start too bad but quickly descends, like a poor souffle, to the realm of crap. Vin Diesel is a tough mercenary hired to take a mysterious young woman from point A to point B. The near future world he inhabits looks nifty and the mystery of the young woman is enough to sustain the viewer’s interest at the beginning of the movie. However, as the action progresses, it becomes obvious the plot has been murdered. Or maybe there was no plot to begin with. Anyway, everything just turns into a mess with tacked on, uninspired bits of action. The special effects are decent, but when everyone has computer generated stuff rushing across the screen these days, does it even matter? The finale will have you groaning.
Hayden Christensen stars as a supposedly “good” teleporter who never does anything good. This is a man who watches people in peril after hurricane Katrina and shrugs his shoulders, then smugly sunbathes atop the Sphinx. With great power comes … no character growth? When Samuel L. Jackson says jumpers are bad people, I believe him. Hayden Christensen never redeems himself and there is no reason to root for him. Worst of all, he is so foolish and reckless you want him to get caught. There’s a leading lady and a sappy romance, but she is the sort of character that is created so the hero can save someone and pretend he is not a douchebag. I was much more intrigued by Jackson. He plays a jumper hunter. I bet he’s got an interesting story if he spends his time chasing teleporters. Unfortunately we never learn much about Jackson, or another more charismatic teleporter played by Jamie Bell. Worst of all, the movie lets the ending wide open for a sequel without a satisfactory resolution.
Star wars: The Clone Wars
A long, long time ago in a living room far, far away I would have given an arm and a leg to watch an animated Star Wars movie. Of course, that was a couple of decades ago when Star Wars was fresh and thrilling. The Clone Wars is neither. The animation is not top-notch and the characters … well, lets just say there is an annoying tween in the cast. When will movie makers understand that adorable kids are seldom adorable? I hated those little bastards when I was a kid and I hate them now. Hearing Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s apprentice, whine through the movie is not my idea of fun. You can catch The Clone Wars series for free every week on the telly and use your money to rent something better.
With remakes of 70s and 80s horror movies popping out left and right in the past few years, it is no surprise a minor slasher title like Prom Night would get to see the light of day again. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the producers what “slasher” means and what you have is a PG-13 flick about a killer chasing teenagers. Slasher films are not very complex affairs. You have a killer, some victims and blood. If it is a good movie, you also have tension and a likable lead. If it is a bad movie you only have buckets of blood. But this Prom Night sucks and it does not even have the grace to smear the screen with some guts in an effort to distract the audience. Since there is no plot and pretty people get killed in a hackneyed style it is a pointless exercise.
Everyone knows that transplants are a bad idea. You can end up with a murderer’s hands and go on a rampage. Or you can get a cornea transplant and have banal visions. Actually, the wooden heroine of The Eye sees dead people and starts freaking out. I think we were supposed to be scared too, but nothing of what Jessica Alba sees is remotely terrifying or unsettling. Parker Posey hovers in the background looking embarrassed and there is a sequence in Mexico that had me laughing at some of its inspired Spanish. This is the typical Vancouverite drinking game where you take a shot every time you recognize a landmark. If you see your own home, you drink the whole bottle. That is the extent of the fun you can have with The Eye.
Haunted mirrors are an interesting premise. Think about it. Mirrors are fascinating and unsettling by nature. There are all sorts of legends and superstitions associated with mirrors. A large, old-fashioned department store full of imposing mirrors should have a ton of scares. Unfortunately, all that Mirrors has is a tired-looking Kiefer Sutherland trying to put an end to the murderous mirrors haunting him. Ghosts never make sense in movies. They are simultaneously trying to kill people and asking them to solve a murder or do some other favor for them. Yeah, if you try to murder me I am a lot more likely to do what you want. Anyway, the haunted mirrors decide to make their point by scaring the hell out of Sutherland. The ending is an Exorcist rip-off and a general big yawn. Can we please stop remaking Asian horror movies? They never turn out right.
Speed Racer is heavily saturated, colorful and lousy acid trip. Bright reds and yellows pop out of the screen. Cars rush through impossible race tracks. It is a seizure-inducing spectacle that for all its bells and whistles lacks the energy it desperately seeks to portray. Bland, bored-looking Speed is a young driver out to prove himself and foil the villains. This should be a fun, exciting journey, but the CGI racing sequences are confusing, and worst of all, boring. Does a race matter if the filmmaker does not seem to care who wins? There is no substance in this movie. Just style. After thirty minutes the style looses its shine, the transitions grow repetitive and we yearn for a world in which gravity exists and there is something at stake when vehicles fly through the air. In the end, plastic people rushing through a plastic universe amounts to very little.
Many of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies would make excellent episodes of the Twilight Zone but fail when extended into full-fledged motion picture lengths. The Happening is one of those movies. It is an ecological version of The Birds but with trees mysteriously prompting people to commit suicide. Unfortunately a raven is much more menacing than a fern. The film fails to create a sense of dread and despite some interesting set pieces it is dull and plodding. A movie like this, where the heroes are escaping some terrible menace, should create a connection between the characters and the audience but The Happening fails to milk its cast. Early on in the movie the heroine is trying to hide the frequent phone calls she is getting on her cellphone. There is a man who is attempting to get in touch with her and she is trying to keep this a secret from her husband. Is she cheating on him? The answer seems to be yes and we expect it might cause an explosive confrontation, but when the mystery is resolved the scene fizzles out instead of creating a bang, just like the rest of the movie.
This is a good-looking turkey, make no mistake, but it is still a turkey. Will Smith is one of the most likeable actors in Hollywood so it shouldn’t be that hard to toss him together with Charlize Theron and make something fun. Nevertheless, in a year that had two very good superhero movies Hancock ends up being a limp flick which probably underwent a bad case of the rewrites. The biggest problem in Hancock is its split personality disorder. It begins telling a story about an alcoholic, wry superhero with some public relations issues and then switches gears midway through the film. If I signed up for wacky super-hero fun and you give me half-baked love story you bet I’m going to be upset. One minute we are deconstructing the superhero and the next it’s Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever”. Gobble, gobble.