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#10—Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
#9—Spy Game / Enemy at the Gates
#6—Hedwig and the Angry Inch
#4—Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
#3—The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
The Worst (with bile-induced exposition, for added drama!)
#10—The Omega Code II / Left Behind: The Movie
I’ve a hunch that these two films are good deal worse than other entries that will follow. However, seeing as how I never actually watched either of them, I figured it wasn’t fair to hate them any more virulently than to collectively pillory them at number ten. For those of you fortunate to miss these films (which graced theaters for a combined total of approximately 12 minutes), know that the former was a follow-up to a film funded by the Trinity Broadcast Network, and the latter was based on the first book of a seemingly never-ending series of Fundamentalist boilerplate dreck. Start grinding those teeth, folks, and let the loathing begin.
I also had the great good luck of missing this film, your typical uninspired Cinderella story of a girl (Mariah Carey) with a gift (formerly, her voice—currently, her breasts, if her trampy outfits and ogle me boobs! CD art and posters are to be trusted). Unfortunately, the movie leaves out the part where Mariah’s character starts leaving cryptic messages on her website and checks herself into rehab for exhaustion and the sundry travails of being obscenely rich. Maybe she was just cold. Cry me a river.
Julianne Moore isn’t Clarice. She’s a good actress, and she’s right easy on the eyes, but she’s not Clarice, and there’s no getting around that. I found this movie to be gruesome in a way that just didn’t resonate with me—and I liked Ravenous, so I can’t simply write my antipathy towards this movie as mere squeamishness. Did I need to see Gary Oldman’s character feed his face to the dogs like pepperoni? Did I need to see Ray Liotta’s brains being seared and served? Or the disembowelment of the Italian detective? No. It wasn’t worth it. Nothing justified the presence of a certain necessary degree of violence and gore. There was no trade-off. Also, with Hannibal out and about for the entirety of the movie, it turned into another chase flick. He’s here, now he’s there, now she’s there, now they’re oh so close—blah. I also didn’t much take to the idea that the book’s ending was changed to facilitate an ending that the public would accept more readily. Why second-guess the author who created these characters in the first place?
I had high hopes for this movie. Between the Hughes brothers directing it, Johnny Depp starring in it, and the appeal of the subject matter, I figured I’d be as happy as a pig in slop. Well, I was right about the slop part. It was gory and dark in the same was as Hannibal in that there wasn’t anything to justify the carnage—it just brought viewers that closer to tossing their nachos. When you finally learn Jack the Ripper’s identity, you can’t be bothered to care, as he appears to merely serve as a pawn in a much larger (and more remote) game of political intrigue. The bodies pile up, and when the dust clears and the blood stops spurting, you’re left thinking, All those people died for this? Also, it must be said that as much as I didn’t like Heather Graham in this movie, she comes off sounding like a born-and-bred Brit compared to Mena Suvari’s aforementioned goose egg with the French accent.
#6—John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars
Natasha Henstridge and Ice Cube battle Martian zombie goth-rockers, headed by a fellow by the name of Big Daddy Mars. When you kill ‘em, their bad mojo floats along to the next unsuspecting human victim. The good guys actually get away (well, most of them), only to have a bright idea involving wading back into the middle of downtown zombie-ville and detonating a nuclear reactor to clear out the baddies. It’s a little beyond Henstridge’s character, a highly-trained officer who actually has to ask if detonating a nuclear reactor would, say, result in a huge explosion. Courtney Love was slated to play Henstridge’s role, only to be sidelined with an ankle injury mere days before the shot began. Advantage: all parties involved. It just wasn’t enough to salvage the end result.
For a piece of folklore that has a deep enough impact on our racial memory to have some equivalent in most societies and cultures, vampirism sure has inspired a slew of crappy movies. The Forsaken was just the latest offering, peppered with photogenic young model-types who should never have opened their mouth on camera. The film featured a topless blonde within the first thirty seconds, a moment that would turn out to be the high point of the film. Hunky actor picks up hitchhiker, hitchhiker is a vampire hunter, gotta kill the vampires before blah blah blah. Nudity, gore, and baaaaad dialogue ensue. An explanation of the title yields what might have served as a halfway interesting plot point, but was included in such a perfunctory way that I suspect it was only brought up to hammer home the title’s logic to the addlebrained 14-year-olds in the crowd.
#4—Along Came a Spider
Kiss the Girls was a good movie. This movie, a follow-up film that actually pre-dates the events of the first movie, was not. When a theater full of people are laughing uproariously at a character’s histrionics over her kidnapped daughter, you know those seven bucks are officially blown. The villain is the sort who is billed as a super-genius by the other characters in the movie, but if they weren’t so hot-to-trot to remind you every few minutes, you’d forget and mistake him for the garden-variety baddie he so resembles. You know who he is right off the bat, killing much suspense. He has a stupid name, Soneji, which sounds as threatening as Hello Kitty. As I recall, the movie’s trailer gave away half the plot, of which there wasn’t a great surfeit to being with. And Monica Potter as an FBI agent? That sort of casting leaves Sinbad’s turn as a Secret Service agent in First Kid seething with credibility. Watch Along Came a Spider if for no other reason than to lessen Morgan Freeman’s portion of the agony for having starred in and produced this flop.
You know you’re in for tough times when your lead looks like Chris O’Donnell might look after having been knocked around in the dirt a few times. Mena Suvari couldn’t be bothered to even attempt a French accent, and the fellow playing the Cardinal might as well have been wearing a sign that read, Tim Curry wouldn’t touch this, so they made me up to look like him. Tim Roth put in a pretty good turn as a scenery-chomping baddie, the portrayal of whom must have been so masturbatory and satisfying and no actor could blame him for accepting the role, the film’s flaws withstanding. This movie’s most heavily hyped selling point was that the fights had been overseen by acclaimed fight choreographer Xiong Xin. Unfortunately, said fights were few and far between, and filmed from far too close of a vantage point to get an real idea of what was going on. The coup de grace (that’s French, Mena—look it up) was the final battle, the location and concept for which were stolen straight out of Once Upon a Time in China, which Xiong Xin had also choreographed.
What’s so annoying about this movie is that it laid an egg despite such a promising start. A brother and sister are driving home from spring break when they see a mysterious figure dump what look like human bodies down a drainage pipe. They investigate, as they surely must, and discover a local monster who is given (by whom, we never know) free reign to eat as many folks as he’d like for a 23-day period once every 23 years. So far, so good. Unfortunately, events get cheesier and cheesier as the film progresses. Oh, look—they run over the creature half a dozen times in a row, liquefying every bone in his body, but managing to miss his head, thus leaving him to munch another day. Say—the creature seems to have sprouted wings, a useful commodity that was hitherto unmentioned or even conceived of. Wow—upon closer inspection, the creature appears to be the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The anger this film engenders is that of wasted potential.
#1—3,000 Miles to Graceland
Kevin Costner, Kurt Russel, and co. dress up as Elvis impersonators and rob a casino. The acting was horrible. The story was laughable. The movie starts with a pointless CGI effect of two buffed-up metallic scorpions duking it out to heavy metal music. The only thing that kept me in my seat was a morbid curiosity: How bad could it get? I’m firmly convinced that this movie—along with Lisa Marie’s bizarre marriage to Michael Jackson—were orchestrated to outrage him and flush him out of hiding. As nobody’s found cast members of this movie with their tongues flapping out of their severed necks, it’s safe to say that the King is indeed dead. This film was hyped as Costner’s edgy comeback role, a la Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Would that it were so. It’s just another tragic performance by a man who could have walked off into the sunset after Dances With Wolves and lived on forever as the mysterious stranger to catapulted his way into film history with a single movie and had the good grace to know there was nowhere left to go but down
D. Patrick Seitz is a teacher and a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.
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