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Friday, September 30, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 72 - Son In Law (1993)

Pauly Shore makes another appearance on my list in Son in Law, a fish-out-of-water would-be comedy about a crazy Californian who is dragged by a friend to visit her family in middle America for Thanksgiving holiday.  Antics ensue because, guess what?  He’s wacky!  So, we get a ton of predicable farming-themed gags, and a group of characters that are much more sane and stable than the character we’re meant to like more (That would be Shore’s).

When Rebecca (Carla Gugino) leaves her family for college in Los Angeles, she is unsure about whether or not she will fit in until she befriends a “colorful” resident adviser named Crawl (Shore).  When Thanksgiving comes around, feeling sorry that he has no family to go home to, Rebecca invites him home to visit her very conservative family.  Upon her arrival home, her family is shocked by her changed appearance and attitude, and even more shocked by the utterly flamboyant and offensive Crawl who is inept and unlikable from line one.  Things get crazy though (WOOOHOOO!) when Rebecca finds out that her long-time boyfriend is going to purpose and has Crawl stop him.  Crawl, dimly thinking on his toes, says he has already asked for her hand and the family is distraught.  Now the two dimwits must keep the ruse up until vacation is over... For some reason.

Son-in-Law is one of those movies where it’s apparent that the jokes were written before the script.  We get a lot of the gags that we’d expect.  Manure in the face, a mouth full of hay, a silly tractor scene, lots of montages, a dance scene, MULTIPLE makeovers ect, ect, ect.  Most of the set-pieces in this film are taken out of dozens of better movies and, despite closely following a well-defined blueprint, this movie manages to go off the rails.  The big problem is the bulk of the comedy leans on Shore’s bizarre behavior.  Since his antics are annoying, not funny, this movie grows pretty old, pretty quickly.  The fact that everyone else in the movie is normal except Crawl makes you less likely to root for him and more likely to cheer for the boyfriend who just had his heart broken.

Carla Gugino is likable here, but the material is far too weak and her only real job is to get upset and storm out of the room in protest.  The rest of the cast is filled with stock characters and stereotypes.  The parents are played by Lane Smith (that guy from My Cousin Vinny) and Cindy Pickett (Ferris Beuller’s mom) and, like Gugino, are given little to do here.  Their job is to react in horror to Crawl and to show disapproval towards Rebbecca.  I don’t really think the supporting cast is to blame here, though.  This is weak material at its core, filled with predictable moments and stock dialogue, and Shore gives the very same performance he always does, though he is a little more subdued here than he normally is, and that is the problem.  

Pauly Shore, as I have said before (and will likely say again), is not funny.  His voice is annoying, his performances are all garbage and he is incapable of carrying a scene so he just waves his arms around and makes noises like a five year old.  I’m glad he no longer gets top billing (I have a movie that will DEFINITELY show up later to thank for that), but in the 90’s he was the “next big thing”.  I think he is the force that filled the vacuum of the derelict 80’s, a decade that produced more throwaway stars than just about any other.  Shore went to movies after gaining popularity on MTV, and just like everything else that goes to the big screen from MTV, he left a massive stain on cinema.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 73 - The Waterboy (1998)

Ugh!  I hated this movie even as a teenager when it was released, and I hate this movie to this very day.  The Waterboy follows a water-obsessed mentally retarded (I don’t care what you say, he is) man named Bobby (Adam Sandler) who is also a big time mamma’s boy.  He works as the water boy for the Florida Gators college football team.  After getting so pissed at a dude that he saw red, he rushes a teasing football player and knocks him over on the field.  Impressed by his tackling power, the coach puts him on the team.

If you’ve seen the Waterboy, do I really have to explain why I hated this film?  Adam Sandler’s whiny baby voice is too much for a feature stretch and the plot is so thin it couldn’t possibly justify a major motion picture.  The sports scenes are comprised mainly of the same stupid Waterboy tackle followed by reaction shots (Oh, I HATE reaction shots) of just about every other actor in the scene.  Other than that, they are all set up and no payoff.  The football scenes are merely just a setting for this film’s lame gimmick.

That gimmick is that every time Bobby needs to make a tackle, he recalls the teasing from his past and bad special effects take over when the face of the target player morphs into the teasing character.  We get the same lame mocking moments and the same stupid mugging from Sandler followed by the same tackle with the EXACT SAME reaction shot over and over for the entire length of the film.  This is another example of a three minute sketch stretched out across a feature film.  Most sports movies are already weak because there is rarely enough original material to keep the game interesting on screen; Waterboy, in trying to do something different, started with a null concept and was essentially dead on arrival.  

This piece of crap was directed by Frank Coraci who was also behind the cameras for Around the World In 80 Days and the Zookeeper, the former was awful, I have not seen Zookeeper (frankly, I dread it).  Coraci doesn’t really appear to have any idea what he’s doing here.  A year before the Waterboy he paired with Adam Sandler for the Wedding Singer, hardly Hollywood gold but nowhere nearly as bad as this trash.  Here the direction is chaotic, the film is filled with bad stereotypes and unfunny gags.  Sandler is absolutely terrible here, giving one of the worst performances of his less-than-stellar, but still lucrative career.  I would say Coraci’s direction had a lot to do with it, but knowing Sandler’s “style”, I’m pretty sure this is all him.

Really there have been worst leading characters in films (I direct your attention to Roberto Benigni’s Pinnochio and Dana Carvey’s Pistachio Disguisey), but it’s impossible to save a film when the leading character is as annoying as Bobby Boucher.  The rest of the cast, which includes the talented Kathy Bates and Fairuza Balk, are all really just throwaway characters.  Though most of them are the source of Bobby’s anger, which fuels his athletic ability, but the way this is approached is all wrong and is definitely not funny.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 74 - Getting Away With Murder (1996)

So when does a black comedy become a sick and vile comedy?  It’s kind of a hard line to draw I guess.  The Cable Guy was unsettling, mainly because of Jim Carrey’s creepy performance, but Harold and Maude was a great film and was also quite funny, given the bizarre behavior of the young teen who constantly simulates his own suicide in a comical fashion.  What makes Getting Away With Murder unsettling is pretty much the whole premise, which delves into paranoia, guilt, depression, and makes fun of all of them...  Offensively.  Get ready for a riot guys!

The plot follows a professor(Dan Aykroyd) who becomes convinced that his neighbor  (played by Jack Lemmon) is a famous Nazi war criminal, a former concentration camp officer.  He then decides to execute justice for the supposed killer’s victims and murders the old man.  Raddled with guilt, he begins a slow decline and decides the only way to resolve his own pain is to marry his victim’s daughter (Lilly Tomlin).  So he divorces his own wife (played by Bonnie Hunt) and marries the new woman, who is a little nuts herself.

So this scumbag kills a man, whines about it, then leaves his wife to marry another woman just to feel better about himself.  There are no redeemable qualities to this character.  Jack Lemmon’s Max Mueller seems like a perfectly nice guy, still this film twists and turns the plot points to manipulate every situation, feeling less like paranoia vs. reality and more like the writer was just changing the facts to suit what was happening.  Because this plot is so full of crap, the movie reveals that Max Mueller might just have been this famous Nazi commander after all.  So everything is allllllll right!  No!  No it isn’t!  This is a twisted, vile movie!  

We’re told by this film that just because of this guy’s past he has no rights.  Thus, this movie basically says that it’s okay to kill whoever you want as long as they are bad guys.  Forgetting the twisted message just for a moment, this is just a bad movie.  The acting is dreadful, the story is offensive and the jokes aren’t funny.  

With a terrible screenplay and a very bad performance by Aykroyd in particular, Getting Away With Murder is a perfect storm of offensive and just plain pathetic comedy.  The film even has the balls to try to give us some nonsense about justice and crap.  I hated this movie because of its willingness to completely throw reason out the window in lieu of a dumb morality tale about guilt in the guise of a sick comedy. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 75 - City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold (1994)

City Slickers 2 is the Hangover: Part II of the 90’s.  It is the same as its source film, identical in almost every way, with no original ideas and it doesn't appear that they even tried to have any.  Sequels are supposedly meant to expound on the ideas of the original and up the ante with more at stake for the characters in the story, however, it seems a more common reason for sequels is simply because the first film made money and the studios want to cash in.

The film opens right after the death of Curly (Jack Palance), the eccentric guide from the first film.  Billy Crystal plays Mitch, who is just turning 40, when he discovers a map to a hidden treasure.  The three characters (played by Crystal, Daniel Stern and Jon Lovitz) join together again for a desert adventure and tell the very same jokes that were nailed home in the first film all while following very similar plot points.  Throughout the film, Mitch is haunted by the thought that Curly may not have been dead and keeps seeing visions of the dead guide.  However,it turns out that these are not hauntings or hallucinations but Curly's twin brother, Duke (Ooooh! The contrivances!!!). The only problem is Duke (played by Jack Palance) is not as much of an "outdoorsy" guy as Curly, so hilarity (or a lack thereof) ensues!  Billy Crystal lays out one dry one-liner after another, Daniel Stern shouts, whines and complains through the film, and Jon Lovitz annoys both of the characters on-screen and us thoroughly.

The actors do what they can, trying to breath life into these vapid, empty characters, but there isn’t much that can be done with this dialogue.  Directorially, this film is nothing special.  It fails to really take advantage the natural beauty of the setting, mainly focusing on the actor’s faces as they talk.  Films like the Searchers from 1956 prove that the Old West can be beautiful when shot correctly.  However, despite the film’s visual weakness, the screenplay is really to blame with this one.  While the first one was no great masterpiece, but it had laughs.  The sequel, however, is a special type of bad film.  The jokes do not appear to even try, centering on overused cliches and uninspired banter between the characters.  

Going back to the Hangover sequel reference to close, some films are best described as cynical.  That meaning that the filmmakers and cast are really just out to cash a check for the success of the first film.  The problem with these movies is how deceptive they are.  They are designed to trick fans of the first and draw them in, only to sell them a bill of goods in the end.  This is truly infuriating because it shows just what many in Hollywood think of their customers.  This film makes the 75 spot solely based on how it obviously feels about the audience.  It is a perfect example of why fans of movies should research a film before giving it their hard-earned money.  It's a good thing audiences pretty much ignored this movie, if they had paid money for it, there may have been a City Slickers 3!

Monday, September 26, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 76 - In The Army Now (1994)

Pauly Shore makes his first of several appearances on this list with In the Army Now, in which he gives his best performance.  Wow, that’s an amazing assessment of his performance in this film.  The plot centers around two slackers (Pauly Shore and, as if he weren’t annoying enough, Andy Dick) who are desperate for money and opt for enlisting into the Army thinking it would be a piece of cake.  In basic training they meet a gung-ho girl played by Lori Petty (who also reappears on this list later) and an excessively phobic man who is trying to face his fears (David Alan Grier).  Both of these additional characters only make the movie louder and more annoying.

During basic training the two narcissistic leads constantly get into trouble until finally getting whipped into shape by a female drill sergeant and shipped over to Chad where their actions as a water treatment crew (Shore’s character’s choice because his brother was a pool boy), lead to a small victory for America.  Between this there are a ton of military stereotypes and bad genre cliches executed with no admiration or inspiration.  

Pauly Shore is a special type of bad actor.  He gives the very same performance in every movie, with his whiny, over-inflecting and his stupid So-Cal slang, he annoys instead of engages.  In most of his movies he contrasts with more subdued performers so we can see how “zany” he is.  In this film, Andy Dick (who’s voice is equally annoying if not more so), is meant to be the voice of reason but his character is just as stupid and insipid as Shore’s.  Therefore, we have to lean on the other two characters, played by Petty and Grier (who are insane in their own right), for a connection to the story.  This is bad, because as there’s nothing there to connect us to these characters, we have no stake in caring about any of them.

In good war films like Platoon, we see an evolution of the main character dropped into a life he is frightened and angered by.  We can see the atrocities on screen and relate to the moral conflict in the hearts of the leads.  This also goes for the Deer Hunter, another affective film about Vietnam, where we witness the after-effects of the devastating impact of war on a man.  In both of these cases we relate, and can see a sort of “before and after” to show how these characters evolved and changed.  In The Army Now more or less makes war out to be a joke, and the only evolution we see is pointed out to us when Shore’s character’s girlfriend notices his abs.  This movie is shallow and, to the extent that it diminishes the impact of war and the strength and honor of our military, offensive.

I may be reading into this movie a little too much on an emotional level though.  Therefore, I will say that artistically, this is a sloppy movie.  The film is divided into the typical war movie segments: life before, enlistment, basic training, after training, battle, victory for the good guys.  However, it doesn’t really get any of these things right.  The basic training is filmed in a confined, closed-quarters fashion, only showing the star’s faces distinctly amidst a bevy of nameless and faceless recruits who do not get any lines because they are not on the film’s poster.  The desert war scenes are equally cramped, lacking depth or any natural feel.  For a setting that is meant to resemble the Sahara Desert, these scenes definitely feel as though they were filmed on a sound stage.  This movie feels tiny, despite its attempt at scale.  With a troupe of only four soldiers central to the plot, very little discernible resemblance to reality, annoying leads and very unfunny jokes this movie is a dud.  It fails at being both a comedy and a war film because it approaches both of these genres incorrectly.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 77 - The Cable Guy (1996)

Comedy is a delicate genre.  You have to balance believability and the likability of the characters with the chaos and antics of the humor.  The Cable Guy does this poorly.  The problem with the Cable Guy is it takes the stalker story in a direction that is so unnerving, so uncomfortable, that while re-watching this one, I felt a little disturbed for actually liking it as a youth.  

The Cable Guy casts a talented Jim Carrey in a role that was not written with any of his previous characters in mind.  I don’t really blame Carrey for how bad this character is, I don’t think anyone could play this one well.  He plays a cable installer who hooks up a man’s cable after he moves into an apartment during a rough patch with his ex-fiance.  After offhandedly calling Carrey’s character “friend”, the titular cable guy begins to pursue Broderick so aggressively, it’s not funny, it’s just disturbing.  Matthew Broderick really seems out of place here, and I think he’s a little confused about what is going on with the all the lights and the cameras pointed at him, and the fact that there’s a dude shouting “Action” and “Cut” a lot.

The film is the product of screenwriter Lou Holtz Jr.  He has no other film credits to his name.  Ben Stiller directed and makes a brief cameo but it is completely irrelevant to the plot.  In fact, there’s a lot of that in this film.  There’s a subplot where Broderick’s character has plans to go to a concert with Jack Black, and one involving a karaoke party with a group of random characters and neither serve any purpose to the story.  The film’s apparent need to constantly sidetrack the stalker plot proves this is weak material.  The screenplay is riddled with Carrey laying out bad TV-related puns an a voice that makes Bobby Boucher sound like Cary Grant, Broderick seeming surprisingly unfazed most of the time but occasionally mildly annoyed by his admirer's antics and the supporting cast that usually pops up on the opposite end of a phone call to interrupt an already weak scene.  

Now, for why this movie is so creepy.  In the intro paragraph, I referred to this film as “unnerving”.  Carrey’s character (we never get his real name) is so disturbed and unstable from the very beginning of the film that the fact that Broderick continually allows himself to get sucked into his psychotic games makes no sense.  Still, many of the antagonist’s actions in this film are either cringe-worthy or criminal.  When Carrey isn’t trying to kill Broderick (something he does multiple times), he is aggressively inserting himself into his life.  Broderick’s family and inner circle are obviously a bunch of idiots however because they join this obviously insane stranger to play sexually-themed games alongside his target’s parents and girlfriend.  This scene in particular, as Broderick is paired with his mother and pressured (even by mom!) to play Password with sex terms, is so sickening that I have actually seen censored cuts of this movie in the past with this entire section of the film removed (noting again, I used to LIKE this trash... don’t ask me why).  

The Cable Guy is a dark mess and it all falls apart at the end in a scene that feels as though it belongs in a much better movie.  We get Carrey’s lisping villain explaining the reason he is what he is and constantly giving false names that are stolen from television characters while swinging from the top of a television tower after kidnapping Broderick’s girlfriend and forcing her up there with him, threatening to kill her and himself.  

Structurally this movie is messy, filled with holes and unnecessary violence.  The scenes do not really seem to flow all too well and many of the moments feel like sketches with the same characters over and over.  You can literally take many of these scenes and switch them around and have no effect on the actual movie.  There isn’t any cohesion between the events and most of the supporting characters only pop in when the plot needs them to, then they just disappear, some are never shown or even spoken of again.  There is a lot wrong with everything everybody does in this movie.  Nobody with a brain would react to Carrey’s character the way these characters do and that simply means that they only accommodated and tolerated him because the plot said so.  That makes this entire movie completely pointless and, therefore, stupid.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 78 - The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

Whooo-boy.  If there ever was a sillier film to take place on the Dark Continent, I would love to find it.  What happens with you take the Bridge on the River Kwai and add just a little bit of killer animals?  You get The Ghost and the Darkness, an absurd movie about a crew of construction workers who, while building a bridge in Africa in the 1800’s, are terrorized by two bloodthirsty lions.  Val Kilmer is the chief engineer in charge of the construction project and Michael Douglas is a big game hunter brought on to take out the hungry kitties.

Usually I'd have a second paragraph devoted to elaborating on the plot summary, but I really can't justify it for this movie.  The story of the Ghost and the Darkness is reportedly based in some fact, and the concept of killer lions attacking workers over the period of several months could work, but this movie is bogged down by hammy acting from all involved, likely the product of Stephen Hopkins' direction.  If you don't know how bad his direction can be, then just watch Lost In Space!!!  Still, the film also suffers from a screenplay that just feels thrown together, which is inexcusable considering it was written by William Goldman, who's other credits include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, the Princess Bride and Misery.  With this pedigree, you think he'd be able to give us a sensible screenplay, but instead we get a mish-mash of cliched interjections and bad scenes where Kilmer's Colonel Patterson will do something dumb, and Douglas' Charles Remington will make a lame comment about how stupid he is. 

The Ghost and the Darkness is saved by some of its unintentionally funny moments.  The film is so badly shot that you can’t really see any of the attacks all that well when they occur.  Instead, the camera shows the lion, shows the victim, a pelt is swung past the camera so fast you can’t see it, you see a hilarious reaction shot of the soon-to-be-dead-man followed by a scene where he either appears to be wiggling a stuffed animal above his head or is just lying in a bloody pool, or sometimes he just disappears. 

The overall production value of the killer lion attacks are on par with a bad Syfy Original (despite this film winning a freaking Oscar for the effects!) and the Ghost and the Darkness was not a small picture, and it did make its $55,000,000 budget back, but not by much.  Still, its obvious a majority of this film’s budget went to the paychecks of its two stars.  The remaining cast are mostly fodder for the lions and includes Tom Wilkinson and Emily Mortimer but they really aren’t given much to do.  This film is all about da lions, yo!  It’s a shame the lions suck, otherwise this might have been a pretty good thriller.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 79 - Deep Rising (1998)

Monster movies; I like monster movies.  I think some of them are legitimately great films.  Deep Rising is not a great film.  It’s not a good film.  Hell, it’s barely even a film at all.  It is merely a series of concepts that are easily identifiable and therefore easily forgettable.  Deep Rising doesn’t try to do anything particularly original, it just has a big octopus thing attack a luxury liner, a typical captain/action star, a typical group of terrorists, a typical geeky sidekick and a typical sexy vixen.  It’s just… well… typical.

Deep Rising opens with a group of terrorists (led by Sagat from that Street Fighter movie) who hire a team of smugglers (just to nail home that Han Solo ripoff character played by Treat Williams) for their boat, then attempt to overtake a massive cruise ship on its maiden voyage.  Meanwhile, a thief raiding the ship’s vault is caught and arrested.  Everything goes awry for everyone, however, when a giant octopus attacks, and the body count goes up and up and up.  When the terrorists finally arrive, the ship is derelict, and the hint of death is everywhere.  In one of the more tasteless scenes early in the film, involving one of the monster’s first victims, a woman is killed when she is sucked into the toilet.  

Where Deep Rising goes wrong is how it tries to establish its characters.  It is obvious there was intent to take the characters played by Treat Williams, Famke Janssen and  Kevin J. O’Connor further, possibly into a film series, or at least in some other medium.  Treat Williams channels Han Solo badly, O’Connor is the same character he is in just about everything, and Famke Janssen is predicable from the beginning as a feisty jewel thief.  Its funny how most films that tease a sequel in the end are bad.  Since people going to the sequel is dependant on there actually BEING a sequel, which is ultimately dependant on people liking the first movie, it’s essential that you at least try to do something different.  Deep Rising is proof that it isn’t wise to count your chickens too early, you’ll just end up looking like an ass.  

Stephen Sommers wrote and directed this film, and if you aren’t sure who he is, he is responsible for the first two Mummy movies, Van Helsing and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.  He is definitely sequel bait, but seeing that he has only been successful at creating a franchise once, his track record is less than stellar.  Still, you can’t say he hasn’t tried (over and over again).

Deep Rising is bad in its excess.  Bad effects, bad acting, bad characters, a bad plot, bad everything.  The film is too jam-packed with too much crap to be a comprehensible film.  Way too many subplots and throwaway characters drag this one way down; well, that and the many, many overused cliches.  The screenplay kind of saves it a little (there are occasional funny lines), but all it does is keep it out of the bottom 50, that’s not saying much.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 80 - Mad Dog Time (1996)

I really don't understand this movie.  Not that I don't understand the plot, because there isn't one.  What I don't understand is why this movie exists.  It is one of those completely odd experiences that you just can't shake, and like many strange videos that pop up on the Web, you walk away from Mad Dog Time wondering what it was you just watched.

This film is all setting and no plot.  It is supposed to take place in a sort of parallel universe and takes place almost entirely in a night club.  Excuse me while I do my best to explain this incoherent mess.  Vic, a mob boss, (Richard Dreyfuss) has spent some time in the Looney Bin.  He comes back to find that his right-hand-man Mickey (Jeff Goldlum) is entangled in a love triangle with his wife and her sister.  Also, several opposing mob bosses who think he's still crazy keep showing up to take over the business.  Vic then resolves to see the bosses as they come in and kill them one by one.  Or something...

The formula of this movie is pretty simple.  Vic and Mickey sit in chairs, a wannabe mob boss walks in, they exchange one-liners, Vic shoots the would-be mob boss dead, Mickey lays out one more one-liner, repeat.  There are other elements of the "story" with the aforementioned love triangle but that only exists to give a final resolution to the film's otherwise circular plot, and the whole parallel universe thing can be completely removed at no consequence to the rest of the film, it is utterly pointless.

Seeing how Richard Dreyfuss has not appeared in a good movie since 1986 (yep, I hated Mr. Holland’s Opus), it is understandable that he would be resigned to this mess of a movie.  However, Jeff Goldblum was a popular actor at the time of the film’s release, hot off the success of the blockbuster hit Independence Day and his performance in Jurassic Park, so I don’t get why he did this one, I’m sure he could have taken his pick of any major project he wanted.  The film was written and directed by Larry Bishop who doesn’t have much to his name besides the utterly idiotic Hell Ride from 2008 and a few acting credits.  This is understandable because Mad Dog Time is equally idiotic but it’s worse than that, it’s boring.  This is one of the slowest, most mind-numbingly dull films you will ever see.  The comedy (yep, it is supposed to be a comedy) is unfunny, the action is weak because it is really just a lot of single shots to the stomach and a death scene, and the screenplay is very, very bad.  Seriously, this thing is written like a bad Japanese RPG from the 90’s.  It’s painful.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 81 - Congo (1995)

A year after the successful and enjoyable Jurassic Park, another Michael Crichton novel was turned into a film.  Congo follows a primatologist who has trained a gorilla named Amy to sign and has equipped a robotic rig that can interpret the signing to a computer-generated voice.  When he and his colleges find that strange paintings Amy has been repeating over and over maybe a clue to a lost city, they are led by an eccentric investor played by Tim Curry to the depths of the Congo in search of fortune.  Laura Linney tags along as a research scientist searching for her lost partner, who went to the lost city to find diamonds to use with powerful lasers (Dr. Evil approves).

Congo’s error is its use of costumes and some animatronics for the gorillas.  CGI was on the rise in 1995 but the tech was not quite there yet as fur was just too advanced for the systems of the day.  Therefore, it was decided to use gorilla suits and robots instead of computer-animated models (as was the original intention).  The result is a silly display that is so unintentionally hilarious that even the small gorilla Amy (a combination costume with animatronics) won her own Best Supporting Actress Razzie.

General consensus states that Congo is one of the top contenders for the worst film of the 90’s.  While most of the performances are terrible and the gorillas are a joke, the premise is workable, founded in some fact (There really was a signing gorilla that came out about the time the novel was written).  Actually, the one performance that bothered me the most was that of Dylan Walsh (who is now well-known for playing the lead on FX’s Nip/Tuck), who is actually like a less-talented Steven Gutenberg.  Now let that sentence sink in for a minute.

Bad monster movies are a dime a dozen, and this mix of creature feature and adventure film follows the same cliches as all of its predecessors.  Ernie Hudson (who actually gives the only redeemable performance in the entire film) plays a character so cliched re-watching this one actually gave me Ghost in the Darkness flashbacks, still I did like his character far more than any other in the movie.  The talented Laura Linney (a far cry from the spectacular John Adams here) is wasted, and the expectantly strange performance by Tim Curry is just derivative.  In fact, this movie would be just another empty popcorn flick if it weren’t for the bad effects and exceptionally weak screenplay from John Patrick Shanley (who would go on to right the wonderful 2008 film Doubt) that sink it like a stone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 82 - On Deadly Ground (1994)

Another film with a heavy-handed environmental message, On Deadly Ground follows a super agent who fights against an evil oil corporation.  This is a special Steven Segal movie as it is the only film he ever directed.  It was a vanity project that exists solely because Segal realized he was a star, and decided he’s swing his junk around for everyone to see for a few hours.

Segal plays Forest Taft, an “oil fire specialist” who discovers that an (evil) oil company is violating safety standards at the expense of some local Inuit... or something.  After the oil exec tries to kill Forrest in an explosion, he is rescued by natives and we get a fairly racist display of Inuit culture (some of Segal’s stunning dialogue from this scene: “You tell him I’m a mouse... hiding from the hawks in the house of Raven.”  No.  It doesn’t make sense in context).  So Segal fights a bear and turns down some hot sex and then he’s enlightened (the “Chosen one”!!!).  So it turns out he is destined to destroy the evil oil company, so he sets out on a quest to take out his former boss.  How does a fire specialist do this you may ask?  Oh!  He just so happens to be a former special agent.  Yay!  Plot contrivance!  So it all ends with Segal preaching to us about the evils of oil and slaps its audience in the face with all of its metaphysical B.S.

Man, this one is bad.  It’s filled with so much metaphor and so many references to animal spirits (to nail home the Inuit culture aspect) that it can easily be awarded the Most Pretentious Action Movie award.  If the hammy plot and dialogue was not bad enough, Segal is at his absolute worst here, and the rest of the cast really do not really help things.  Michael Cane plays the super evil oil exec who overacts so much in this film it makes me long for Pauly Shore (really).  John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox from Scrubs) is Cane’s goon who is more or less a sadist.  Both are terrible under Segal’s direction.

On Deadly Ground has some of the worst dialogue you’ll ever hear in a major studio film.  Written by Ed Horowitz and Robin U. Russin.  You haven’t heard of them?  That’s okay, this is the one of the only major film credits to either of them in IMDB.  Horowitz went on to write a few straight-to-television projects and the equally bad and stupid Segal actioner Exit Wounds.  Their screenplay has Segal spouting out sage-like wisdom while blowing up buildings and beating people to a bloody pulp.  This movie hits us over the head with sanctimonious environmentalism while the body count goes up and up.  Despite the small repertoire of the writing staff, this is one legacy of a film.  It was nominated for every major Razzie award and Segal even won the not-so-coveted “Worst Director” award.

On Deadly Ground is impressively bad, even for a Steven Segal movie.  To add insult to injury, this one reached #1 at the box office.  Yep, folks, this movie outranked Philadelphia and Schindler’s List (!!!) in the weekend box office.  Good job America!  You failed!

Monday, September 19, 2011

My 100 Worst Films of the 90's - 83 - The Stupids (1996)

This movie, based on a series of books for kids, has what just may be the worst premise ever.  The basic plot of the film involves Stanley Stupid (Ton Arnold) discovering that someone has stolen his garbage from his can by the road.  This leads to a conspiracy-theory-ridden story that inadvertently gets them involved in an arms deal.  His mail, which reads “Return to Sender,” also leads him to believe that the man behind the conspiracy is this Mr. Sender.

This movie is based on a series of stupid misunderstandings.  Such as when the kids get a computer error reading “Fatal Error: Drive B” they assume that their father’s life is threatened by the D”rive Bee”.  This, as all of the idiocy of this film seems to do, leads us to another pratfall or silly set piece filled with mistaken identity and misunderstanding.  Also, a fundamental flaw with the plot is never addressed and I want answers!  How come the Stupids never noticed their trash being taken out before, and why do they take it to the curb in the first place?!  I don’t believe the writers of this film cared enough about this script to give it that level of attention.  I can make the same safe assumption with everyone involved, including and especially the director John Landis!  John-freaking-Landis directed this piece of crap!  Come on people!!!

The problem with the Stupids (besides the cartoon acting and dreadful production value) is that the movie is boring.  Once you realize the joke pattern “someone reads or hears something and then thinks it’s something else, then that misunderstanding gets another character in a compromising situation”, there really isn’t much to laugh at.  There isn’t a plot.  The arms deal situation is designed to stretch the movie out, but it doesn’t actually mean anything.  The fact that they inadvertently save the world is also dumb, because even with the bad guys talking, there never really seems to be a threat to the world from these lame villains.

My 100 Worst Films of the 90's - 84 - Flubber(1997)

Disney was on a remake kick in the 90's and a few of those films made this list.  Flubber was one such remake, and it is a plotless, weak and vapid work starring Robin Williams as an unlikable jerk who makes poorly-animated green ooze.  This Absent-Minded Professor remake is a CGI-fest that tries to generate all of its laughs with dancing jelly things and completely forgets all about the screenplay.

Dr. Brainard (Williams), keeps leaving his sweetheart Sara at the altar, this is made even more complicated as she also happens to be the president of the college he works at.  During one such missed wedding, he accidentally discovers a strange new substance while trying to develop a new source of energy.  The green blob flies all over his lab causing chaos and he names the flying rubber "Flubber".  

Naturally, Christopher MacDonald plays the bad guy and in this film he wishes to steal both Sara and Flubber from Brainard.  I think he’s there to remind us that Brainard is the protagonist because he’s such an insufferable idiot throughout the film that it’s easy to hate him.  Still, the characters don’t matter here, the movie is titled Flubber and thus we get a lot of silly animated moments as the Flubber throws a dance party, takes every shape you can imagine, and really just takes over the movie so we can watch green liquid dance around the screen.  This is a film that came out early in the greatly unwanted invasion of CGI and Disney really seemed proud of themselves with this one.

Flubber is just one example of how Hollywood got lazy about filmmaking with the onset of CGI.  This film is so littered with pointless computer-animated Flubber that it forgets that it needs characters and a story.  Jurassic Park did good with its animation because the movie focuses still on the characters.  In Flubber, the animated (and annoying) titular substance takes over large chunks of the movie and when it isn’t stealing the screen, the other CGI gimmick, a robot named Weebo tries to push the plot out of the way.  Flubber could have been a fun movie, but ultimately it's just a disaster.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 85 - Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993)

A Mel Brooks movie is on my list?  How?!  What happened here?  I just don't understand it.  For decades Brooks gave us comic genius with a huge list of legitimately funny movies.  So when he took on the prospect of a spoof of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, we expected comic gold.  However, we didn't get gold, we got a split arrow.

The problem with this movie is it could have been great.  Cary Elwes is a talented and very, very likable actor and though he tried, this material was just too weak to work.  Countless throwaway performances, lame pop-culture references and an exceptionally poorly cast Richard Lewis as Prince John all factored into this film's failure (Not to say I don’t like Richard Lewis, but he just didn’t feel right for the part).  The other characters aren’t bad, but they are performed stiffly.  The actors seem very disconnected from each other, just as many of the gags seem disconnected from the plot.

Like with his other comedies, Brooks used out-of-place characters and anachronisms to generate jokes but Men In Tights had far too many reaction shots, bad musical numbers and badly-acted minor characters to make it an enjoyable experience.  It is too bad too, as Prince of Thieves had plenty to parody, but it's almost as though Mel Brooks didn't even try here.  While many of his classic movies like History of the World: Part I and Spaceballs had a certain charm in their antics, here everything seems forced and the film was just forgettable as a result.

That said, I must admit, Cary Elwes makes a much better Robin Hood than Kevin Costner, as his performance really exhibits many of the elements that made Eroll Flynn’s performance in the classic and spectacular The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938 so memorable.  Costner was going for a more serious, less “fairy tale”, Robin of Locksley and in doing so lost much of the charm that has made him a classic character.  Still, Elwes is the only person really doing anything here, and while members of the supporting cast (which includes as Dave Chapelle and Tracy Ullman) can be funny, they just seem out of place and even occasionally appear to be the butt of ridicule.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 86 - Coneheads (1993)

Wayne’s World was an example of an SNL sketch-to-film transition that worked. It had likeable characters, a believable plot and a sort of warmth that was unexpected given its source material. It had a direction and a driving plot that focused the story to its conclusion. Coneheads was the polar opposite of Wayne's World. A film that tries to cram in as many characters and subplots as possible, Coneheads is all over the place, and we never get a chance to care about the characters because they are, for the most part, emotionless (as the character dictates) and are therefore really, really boring.

The overlying plot focuses on INS agents played by Michael Mackean and David Spade who are trying to determine where the Coneheads came from as they seem to be the only people unconvinced by their excuse that they came from France. From that we branch off into countless subplots featuring far too many characters portrayed by every SNL cast member who lacked the sense to say "No!" to this project. There is the typical high school romance between their daughter Connie (played by Michelle Burke, who was born on Earth and is very much acclimated to the humans’ way of life) and Ronnie (Chris Farley), scenes of Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) and Prymatt (Jane Curtin) interacting with their neighbors, Dave Thomas’ alien overlord trying to organize their extraction from Earth and countless (and boy do I mean countless) pointless cameos.

One of the things that made the Coneheads sketch funny was that it was inexplicable. It was just sort of there, and we laughed at the bizarre display. So when Lorne Michaels (who seems to get some strange enjoyment out of seeing his shows most popular sketches get skewered on film) decided to "flesh out" the story, Bluntskulls everywhere were banging their heads in frustration. Just because something works in a two to four minute sketch doesn’t mean it can make a successful story. I can’t imagine them making a film about the “Crushing Your Head Guy” from the Kids in the Hall (or actually I can, which is kind of scary) because his character is the joke, there is no back-story or plot for that matter. Coneheads is the same way. Just because people laughed at something twenty years before doesn’t mean it justifies a full-length feature.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 87 - Hudson Hawk (1991)

Hudson Hawk is one of those films that tries to be everything and have everything and fails at every level.  It is overwritten, overstuffed, over-silly and incomprehensible.  The movie has a big cast which includes Bruce Willis in the title role, Danny Aiello, James Coburn, Andie MacDowell and the despicable and exceptionally unfunny Sandra Bernhard.  It is all just too much as it is all over the place, with far too many characters and subplots.

The film primarily follows a thief nicknamed Hudson Hawk who, after being paroled is blackmailed by every minor character in the film to steal a priceless Da Vinci work, while all the lead wants to do is enjoy a Cappucino.  The film uses a MacGuffin in the form of a machine designed by the Renaissance visionary that is supposed to be able to turn just about any metal into gold to push the plot into resolution but there is far too much going on to provide a cohesive series of events.

Hudson Hawk leans far too hard on its stars.  It lacks any real substance or point and instead focuses on these stars’ slapstick antics in hopes that the audience will forget about the film’s lack of story.  I always got the impression, given the one liners, third-wall breaking moments, cartoon sound effects, and strange song-and-dance numbers that director Michael Lehmann (Heathers) was trying to make an homage to classic slapstick films like those of the Marx Brothers.  The problem is, Hudson Hawk lacks laughs and warmth, something the famous four comedians had in droves. 

Hudson Hawk is an example of a film that is all budget and no heart.  These are often the worst movies too, as they tend to be big and explosive but leave the audience feeling empty, generating no emotional response at all.  Hudson Hawk, Waterworld and the Transformers movies all fall into this category, despite the fact that the latter of the three does generate income, they rarely leave any lasting impression in the art of film.  

Hudson Hawk is a movie designed solely to generate revenue (Which is interesting considering this is the film that almost eliminated Tristar Pictures before Columbia and Sony Pictures Studios saved them from complete collapse.  A result of this flop’s devastating effects).  This is something prevalent from start to finish.  Granted, all movies are “designed to generate revenue” but there are films that were made by writers, actors and directors who want to truly entertain and inspire.  I get this impression from the films of Pixar, as well as works from names such as Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee.  Whether a film is intended to inspire, provoke, make one laugh or make one shiver there should always be an emotion generated by your film.  If it is just stuff, as is the case with Hudson Hawk, it will leave a chasm filled with nothingness behind in the audience, and they will not care or remember the movie.  Thus, the filmmakers have failed at their jobs to create a work of artistic entertainment. Filmmaking is an art, and anyone that treats it as anything other than that should be truly ashamed of themselves.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 88 - Wild Wild West (1999)

Another example of Hollywood excess, Wild Wild West is an uninspired, over-produced mess.  The film stars mega-über-ultra star Will Smith and regular star Kevin Klein as they trade one-liners and face off against Kenneth Branagh’s Dr. Arliss Loveless.  The film is a special-effects-ridden adaptation of a popular television show from the 1960’s and, just like every other Hollywood reboot, is completely unnecessary and in no way manages to capture the feel and fun of the source material.  

Arliss Loveless threatens the stability of post-Civil-War-America and so President Grant teams up former soldier Jim West with Marshall Artemis Gordon to take him down.  Along the way they join ranks with the daughter of a kidnapped scientist (Salma Hayek) who comes between the two men.  The film features a number of compromising situations, features Klein’s character in a number of silly and unnecessary disguises, and has a number of really stupid reaction shots that make this feel less like a big-budget action flick and more like a straight-to-video Disney movie.

The formula for Wild Wild West is as follows:  One of the protagonists is in some form of danger, West does something drastic and not well thought-out, Gordon yells at him for being stupid, Gordon tries an invention, it works to a point, we get “laughs” (or at least I think we were supposed to) as Jim West tries to adapt his style of justice to work with Gordon’s gadgets.  Repeat this over and over and over and you have this sloppy, silly movie.  It gets worse towards the end, when the movie jumps the shark with Loveless’s giant steam-powered mechanical spider.

Wild Wild West was directed by Barry Sonnefeld, who also directed Men In Black and the Adams Family Movies.  It doesn’t work.  It is paced poorly, written at a grade-school level and overacted by all involved.  It’s filled with pratfalls and uninspired humor making it feel very immature and the special effects merely mask how weak everything else, including and especially the underlying plot, is.  Oh!  And don't get me started on that dreadful pop-radio-friendly theme song Smith rapped for the film.  UGH!

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 89 - Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Alien was a legitimately scary and entertaining sci-fi-thriller from director Ridley Scott about a space crew that discovers alien creatures on a downed ship after receiving a distress call.  It did just about everything right in a time before CGI took over the big screen.  Almost two decades after the release of the first film, Alien: Resurrection defecated all over the memories of the original.

The plot takes place two centuries after the events of the first with Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) cloned and used to carry the spawn of an alien.  After things go awry Ripley is back... with alien powers!  This movie is laughably bad.  It has none of the elements that made the first film a smart and scary film.  The fact that Ripley is no longer a butt-kicking babe with a gun and is now endowed with pseudo-super powers eliminates much of the tension.  The film also manages to make the Aliens less scary by inserting a mix of practical and CGI aliens that look and feel very stupid.  The screenplay is the film’s ultimate tragedy however, written by fan-favorite Joss Whedon, about four years before Firefly would grace television screens everywhere.  

There are some bad performances here.  Sigourney Weaver is silly as a dark and ominous hybrid, Ron Pearlman lacks any of the charm he’s famous for, and Wynona Ryder seems very, very out of place.  This one is a mess from start to finish.  It was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who wouldn’t direct another film until 2001 when he would go behind the camera for the superb foreign-language film Amélie.

Alien: Resurrection is really just a shameless sequel.  It is attempting to cash in on a long-running franchise by trying to create a new generation for the mythos.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, but the way it is done here completely defiles what the first film created.  There are reboots then there are just plain bad wannabes.  This one seems so out there that it barely even feels like it belongs in the same universe.  It isn’t scary, it isn’t exciting, it is just bad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 90 - Amos and Andrew (1993)

Yay!  Racism!  I’ll keep this short.  Amos & Andrew is an offensive comedy of errors about an African American writer named Andrew (Samuel L. Jackson) who is mistaken for a bugler in his own house by white members of his affluent neighborhood.  The police arrive and, realizing their mistake, bribe a convict (Nicholas Cage) to abduct him.  The two then realize they are pawns in this political face-saving game and turn the tables on the suits.  

The title Amos & Andrew comes dangerously close to a minstrel show from the early 1900’s into the 50’s called Amos n’ Andy, which is famous for it’s white cast in blackface.  I’m not really sure what went through the heads of the producers with this one as, given the close title and the racial (racist) overtones of the film, it just can’t be a coincidence, though any connection has been denied.  That said, this film should have been given the red light at the pitch, it’s not funny; rather, it’s actually quite uncomfortable.  What’s worse is this movie was produced by one of guys behind Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and the John Adams TV miniseries!!!  I guess everyone is entitled to make a bad decision every once in a while, but sheez!
Fortunately for us, the two leads (Cage and Jackson) had many of their best performances ahead of them, and if they were just a little bigger at the time of this film's release, it may have had detrimental effects on their careers. In about a year Pulp Fiction would turn Samuel L. Jackson into a superstar and Nick Cage would win an Oscar in 1996 for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas. So, I'm happy to say this movie didn't hurt its stars. I'm happy... really. I like Jackson and Cage both and I never like to see good actors who are distinct and talented wasted in a mess of racially offensive and pathetically unfunny material. Besides, I don't think any actors could have really saved this work. If they used a time capsule to capture a young Sidney Poitier (yes, I know he's still alive) and Jimmy Stewart and bring them to the 90's for filming it still would have been a disaster. This just isn't good material, no acting talent could have saved it. Sorry.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 91 - Double Team (1997)

It’s been a while since I published a film in this list.  I’ve been on vacation, but now I’m back and will try to keep things pretty steady.  I wanted to get to around 80 or so before I stopped for Labor Day weekend but I wasn’t able to do so.  Life got in the way.  That said, I’m back to bring the terribleness.

Featuring what may be the most bizarre action duo in film history, Double Team is a special type of bad action movie.  Two leads, both terrible actors, dealing with already bad material, in a vanity project that is so over-the-top, even Michael Bay would’ve been overwhelmed by what was on display.  Double Team is an action film that exemplifies everything wrong with the genre, centering on characters and a plot that that is so silly that no person could call this a credible movie.

The plot involves a soldier (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who teams up with an weapons dealer (Dennis Rodman) to overthrow an international terrorist named Stavros (Mickey Rourke).  The film has every single possible setting that would be considered a joke in an SNL sketch about excessive action films.  They shoot it out everywhere including an amusement park, a maternity ward and a “retirement village” for dangerous assassins.  

Double Team is a dumb movie.  But it is so insanely flamboyant, filled with so many ridiculous set-pieces that it almost reaches “so bad it’s good” territory.  Still, Van Damme’s incomprehensible English and Rodman’s absurd acting slows this one down.  Still, the scene with the shoot out in the hospital is one of the most sadistic (and funny) scenes in any action film ever.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 92 - Last Man Standing (1996)

Akira Kurosawa is arguably the greatest filmmaker who ever lived.  Walter Hill is no Kurosawa.  He directed a lot of Schlock in the 90s and is one of the most predictably mediocre filmmakers who ever lived.  So what do you get when a weak director picks up a remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo?  Well, you get a prohibition-era-themed shooting gallery caught on film.

What plot there is follows a lone gun who enters a town where two groups are fighting and plays the gangs against eachother.  John Smith (even the name is dreadfully mediocre), played by Bruce Willis, arrives in this almost-abandoned town and finds that it is occupied almost entirely by thugs from two warring gangs.  Willis exploits this by getting paid by both gangs to fight between them.  Even the plot takes away with it only the simplest understanding of what Yojimbo was actually about, and even that simple understanding seems a little skewed, but that’s probably just because this movie sucks, and Kurosawa never made a bad film.

In this insanely dumb movie, nameless and faceless bad  guys pop up, get shot, then fall down.  This cycle repeats over and over and is peppered with some really stupid dialogue.  One such example has a bad guy approaching star Bruce Willis, ready for a gun fight. "I guess you'll just have to kill me."  Willis removes his jacket and in a strange sort of schoolyard tone replies with "It'll hurt if I do."

Last Man Standing has so little appeal that it falls beneath mediocre into the realm of terrible.  In the previous year, we saw Bruce Willis in Die Hard With a Vengeance.  The year after, we got the cult film The Fifth Element.  These were two entertaining films that show Bruce Willis was not yet beyond his action movie years.  Therefore, I have no idea what happened with Last Man Standing, and I’m not really sure if there was hope for this one at conception.

This is a face palm movie.  It is so silly and so badly directed that you can actually smell the shame as it radiates from the screen.  It has some “bad laughs”, but it’s not quite bad enough to be so-bad-it’s-good.  Most of the film hangs there and the action is just weak and uninteresting.  I think the film tried tried to make some sort of connection to The Untouchables, another movie Hill tried to rip off here, but he failed on that count as almost as much as he did while trying to steal from Kurosawa.  An idiotic shooter that basically boils down to violence for violence’s sake, Last Man Standing was a true disaster that would have tainted the legacy of one of the greatest films ever made, if anyone remembered it existed.