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Friday, October 28, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 59 - The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)

Now, I have a confession.  I spared the Ernest movies from this list.  Mainly because I’d have to include all of them and I wanted to save room for other movies, but also because they are all pretty much the same movie.  I wanted to keep this list reserved for the special, the absolute bottom of the mainstream film barrel (or at least of my barrel), and the Earnest movies are all pretty much identical to the commercials that made Jim Varney a star in the 80’s.  It’s all the same joke.  That said, Jim Varney makes the list with the Beverly Hillbillies, a TV adaptation that is so bad, you can smell the shame emanating from the screen.

The opening of the film focuses on the Clampetts striking it rich as the theme song expounds and moving to Beverly Hills.  However, the central plot of the film centers on Jed looking for a new wife (Because there needed to be a resolution).  So there are some other plot points, including one where a woman is trying to get to the Clapett’s money but this film is mainly 90 minutes of these actors embarrassing themselves.

Director Penelope Spheeris’ career really is a mixed bag.  She did direct the very enjoyable Wayne’s World from 1992, but then did do this movie, the terrible Little Rascals remake and the David Spade and Chris Farley comedy Black Sheep, a movie that the late famed film critic Gene Siskel admittedly walked out on (something he only reportedly did two other times in his almost 30-year career).  To me, this movie is much, much worse than Black Sheep (and that’s saying something).  The Beverly Hillbillies is a weak attempt to cash in on a trend and to kick off another attempted franchise.

This is one of those movies that has a big cast, and is basically trying to sell itself just on the brand and its stars.  There are also a lot of cameos (including one from the original Jed Clampett Buddy Ebsen), but really terrible comedies try to get snickers out of the audience with these appearances by other stars.  This rarely works though and, in the case of the Beverly Hillbillies. there is no distracting from the bad acting and the metric ton of filler in this movie which is ultimately just a juvenile mess.  The early 90’s saw a lot of popular television series from the 50’s and 60’s remade into silly, cameo-laden comedies, and the Beverly Hillbillies was one of the films that sort of slowed, and eventually killed, this trend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 60 - The Scarlet Letter (1995)

Yep.  It’s here.  The Razzie-winning Scarlet Letter.  Roland Joffé’s introspective, challenging re-imagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Purtian-era drama about a woman who is marked for life and ostracized by society for having an affair and subsequently giving birth to a child in the mid-17th century.  Oh, who am I kidding, this is a piece of garbage.

The Scarlet Letter stars the talented Gary Oldman and the okay Demi Moore as the two lovers who are the center of the controversy in this dramatic, erotic thriller (yeah, you read that right).  This telling of the story tries to follow the trend of steamy dramatic thrillers that permeated the late 80’s and early 90’s.  This includes the silly and so-bad-it’s-good film Disclosure and the famously awful Showgirls.  While most of the films in this trend were essentially designed to bring two actors together for a number of “sexy” scenes, the Scarlet Letter mixes the cliches of the genre with the events in the story and in execution this is one overacted, over-dramatic piece of crap.  From start to finish (and boy is there a finish!), this is a dreadful, dismal experience.

There isn’t much that can be said about this movie.  Forget the R-rated and uncomfortably-shot “love scene”, the happy ending, the attack by Native Americans, the flaming cart hurdling through the town square, and the ending where Hester, Arthur and Pearl ride off during sundown while the town burns around them.  Forget about the fact that this film has absolutely nothing to do with the original story.  This is bad movie on its own merit.  It is so melodramatic, filled with countless scenes where the actors pose “artistically”, there are tons of shots that are meant to be “pretty” but are so pretentious you want to just punch yourself in the face, and the speech is a little anachronistic while it tries to convince the audience that it is following the source material.  The writing is really, really bad too.  I can’t convey the pain that comes from the dialogue in this movie, all I can say is imagine one of the untalented writers of the many, many dreadful Lifetime Original Movies and then have that writer try to channel Nathaniel Hawthrone without ever actually reading his work.  Yeah.  It’s like that.  

I hated this film.  It’s been some time since I’ve seen it, but I did refresh my memory on it before writing this mini-review and I can say, “Yep!  It still sucks!”  While some movies are bad despite obvious effort (2009’s Watchmen, for example), it’s hard to find any effort at all in this film.  Everybody is doing their best soap opera acting and the whole period element is sucked right out of the film when we are bashed over the head with not-so-subtle symbolism and painful stylization.  Hell, even the poster looks like the cover of a bad Harlequin Romance.

Now, this film is famous for how it changed the ending to fit the trend it was following, but for me, it’s the dialogue.  Staying true to the original ending would not have negated the fact that ever word spoken in this movie sounds like it was written by a third-rate writer who spent his career up to this point writing really bad melodramatic episodes of One Life To Live.  Now, the screenwriter, Douglas Day Stewart, did write An Officer and a Gentlemen (for which he won and Oscar) but I direct your attention to a film he wrote back in 1980 called The Blue Lagoon and you’ll understand exactly what is wrong with this movie.  This screenplay is so ostentatious that I can actually imagine Stewart typing that last period at the end of the last line of dialogue and smiling to himself pompously, as though he created some masterwork that will cement him in history as a truly great screenwriter.  Alas, he got nothing out of this screenplay except a nice big fat Razzie nomination.

Now, I hate bad comedies because they are usually infuriatingly annoying, but bad dramas..?  Well, to me it doesn’t really get much worse than a drama that is so proud of itself yet so, so terrible.  It’s both sad and obnoxious.  This is made even worse when good actors and directors are involved.  I like Gary Oldman and Roland Joffé was nominated for multiple Oscars.  However, this is one of those great Hollywood tragedies and, in the right hands, a retelling of the Scarlet Letter could work, but with this screenplay, this version was D.O.A.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 61 - Encino Man (1992)

Eegah! is one of the worst movies ever made.  It was essentially designed to get the director’s son, Arch Hall Jr.’s music career off the ground.  Encino Man’s motive is far less nefarious, but it is still quite stupid, almost equally so.  Teaming up Sean Aston, Pauly Shore and Brendan Fraser, this movie hoped to cash in on the dinosaur craze of the early 90’s by not featuring any dinosaurs whatsoever!

The plot follows two dopey valley teens (Shore and Astin) who discover a frozen caveman and thaw him out.  They throw a Hawaiian shirt on him, name him Link (Get it?!) and nobody finds his grunting or animalistic behavior particularly strange.  In fact, this caveman seems to adapt quite well to modern society, even to the point of becoming a popular kid and, through association, his two modern buddies get connected with the in-crowd too.  It’s almost as though the writers had no idea what they were doing when they threw this screenplay together.  Oh, wait...

I think there was meant to be a sardonic representation of the shallowness of the youth of the 90’s, but this movie is nowhere near as effective as Heathers or even Clueless and never really resolves any sort of real conflict and we never see a real evolution of these characters, they are only on screen to carry the very weak caveman gimmick to its predictable conclusion.  

This film has the problem that, well... PAULY SHORE ISN’T FREAKING FUNNY!!!  For those of you who hate Shore as an actor as much as I do, you pretty much have this movie to thank for Bio Dome, as it was his first top-billing role in a major production and it is easily among his worst films, but it got him the exposure he needed to springboard to other major roles.  Shore’s dreadful acting aside, Brenden Fraser makes a fool out of himself here, grunting his lines, over-emoting and mugging.   Fraser can be entertaining given the right material, but he just picks the wrong movies, and this is easily among his worst.  Then there’s Sean Aston, who seems like he was cast for a different movie entirely and just said “The hell with it.” and pretty much plays this material straight. Aside from the fact that the premise is completely stupid, the screenplay has all the girls swooning over Link which is one of the most chauvinistic things in any film I can think of from the 90’s.  There’s no way anyone would find this stupid character’s behavior endearing, amusing or normal for that matter.

Encino Man was directed by Les Mayfield another in a long line of consistently bad directors who is also responsible for Flubber, Blue Streak, Code Name: the Cleaner, and the shoddy, lifeless remake of Miracle on 34th Street.  There is hardly any directing here at all.  We see a scene, the characters walk in, Fraser looks dumbfounded, Aston looks bored and Shore chews up the scenery.  There are no attempts to extend this movie beyond its pathetic material.  There is little to no artistic flair, no scenes that successfully represent the chaos of high school and nothing that gives us any reason whatsoever to care about the characters and what is happening on screen.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 62 - Jingle All the Way (1996)

It is a well-known fact that this is the last straight comedy that Arnold Schwarzenegger ever starred in (that is, unless you count End of Days!  Ha ha... I kid...).  There is a reason for this.  Though it’s hardly the worst film he did in the 90’s (I’m saving that one for much, much later), Arnie must have been really putting the hard eggnog back when he signed onto this mess.

The film is a commercial for consumerism.  Instead of doing what many of the good Holiday films have done in the past and focus on the element of friends and family and good will towards men, Jingle All the Way focuses on Anakin Skywalker really, really wanting a Turbo Man.  So the disgraced California Governor (What are they drinking over there?) goes on a quest for the big toy of the year, traveling all over New York City and clashing with another last-minute shopper, a psychotic and desperate mailman named Myron (Sinbad).  

Alas, there are countless races through stores and scenes of Arnold falling over displays, fighting ninja Santas and flying around NYC on a jet pack.  This is one of the stupidest films ever made.  Seriously.  What’s even dumber is the climax of the film that doesn’t really resolve the plot at all, it just sort of ends with the kid happy because his dad rescued him while wearing a Turbo Man costume.  What’s funny is, there could have been a positive family message here, but the film blows that in the end when the boy is not sorry he was angry at his father, no, he’s happy that his father is the “real turbo man,” so it goes back to the same crass consumerism that the film started with.  

The acting in Jingle All the Way is just dreadful.  We all know that Jake Lloyd is just terrible, so I'll spare his details but Schwarzenegger is just lost in this weak material.  He grunts and mumbles his lines and emotes and mugs like a bad comic actor does, and his attempts at sincerity are so laughable that it almost seems as though he’s parodying himself.  Sinbad tries, but he isn’t given much to do, and while this role actually seems right for him, he’s a little ridiculous.  In the end, when Anakin Skywalker gives Myron the Turboman for his son we never really see, it’s meant to be a message of giving, but Sinbad’s character is such a punk through the entire film, that it’s impossible to feel any sort of empathy towards his plight and any satisfaction regarding his sudden victory.  

This film was directed by Brian Levant, one of the worst directors working in Hollywood.  His entire repertoire is filled with family films that are either epically terrible like Jingle All the Way or Problem Child 2, or maddeningly mediocre like Beethoven.  Levant received a much-deserved Razzie nomination for this film and if this film didn’t come out the same year as Striptease, it would have probably been my pick for the worst movie of 1996.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 63 - Inspector Gadget (1999)

Eight years before Michael Bay would begin to assault my childhood with his despicable Transformers movies, Disney scarred me with its hideous, unfunny and sloppy film adaptation of one of my favorite cartoon characters of the 80’s, Inspector Gadget.  Matthew Broderick is cast as the titular bionic man who just can’t seem to get anything right.  The problem is, occasionally the animated Gadget did, this one... Well, this Gadget is just an idiot.  Completely.  Oh, yeah, and the film is an unfunny mess too.  Cool!

The plot focuses on back story (Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!) when John Brown suffers a near fatal accident, a friend rebuilds his body into a machine with dozens of functions.  He is to use these gadgets to take down the evil Dr. Claw (played by Rupert Everett... Oh! By the way, they show his face!  Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!) These robotic extensions take the form of hideous computer animated objects that in no way fit in with the rest of the film.

The remakes and reboots of the 90’s (and booooy were there a lot of them) were all pretty much horrible.  Many of them are on this list.  This trend died out for the most part, but studios hoping to wring extra cash out of lost franchises occasionally try to push for more and more retreads.  The biggest problem with this genre is the material they try to adapt is more often than not weak at best.  The reason for this is if they tried to make a remake of a beloved show like I Love Lucy or M.A.S.H. (oh... wait...) there would be an outcry and a rejection from nostalgic viewers or pop culture aficionados.  So, the studios opt to resurrect forgotten or already pretty weak programs to make a quick buck.  Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule (the really bad Flintstones movies for instance) but this is usually the case.

This trend is even worse with animated series.  In recent years we’ve seen more and more live action adaptations of classic animated series like Speed Racer, Astro Boy and Transformers.  All of these films are bad, some are really, really bad.  This goes back to the lack of material.  Some franchises could be made into a good movie in the right hands, but the problem is, in marketing these films to mostly younger audiences, they are riddled with ugly CGI and cartoon performances by most involved.  Live action and animation are two very different mediums, and what we accept from cartoon characters may not be equally acceptable from action human beings.  This goes especially for Inspector Gadget because Broderick’s performance is so bad here, this was the film that pretty much knocked him off of the A-List for good.  Well, that and another film from 1998 that just might appear on this list later.

Matthew Broderick was good in a little 1986 film called Ferris Bueller’s Day off.  I think nostalgia goggles have convinced many people that he is a good actor.  I guess the fact that he has starred in mostly really bad films since then (The Lion King and Glory notwithstanding) isn’t a clue that maybe he’s not.  Since, Broderick has been on Broadway and has made fewer and fewer films (I wonder why?).  He is really bad here, completely unconvincing as this robotic agent of justice, he really seems bored, as if he took the role as a bet or something.  The rest of the cast is bad too and even includes (shutter) Andy Dick!  I don’t know what they were thinking with this one.  As if the casting for this one wasn’t bad enough, a straight-to-DVD sequel was made a few years later starring French Stewart as Gadget!  What the hell guys!?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Film Review - 50/50 (2011)

I will return to my list of the worst of the 90's next, but first, I wanted to present this review of the film 50/50:

50/50 is one of those very simple indie-style films that seem to attract movie snobs such as myself.  In its style it brings back memories of other subtlety-styled films like An Education and Half Nelson.  This is a good way for these films to convey their true-to-life plots, and for me, 50/50 almost stands along these great films as a very solid dramedy that is both entertaining and sincere, and though it is quite good, it is just a little too safe to be great.  That said, there are fewer and fewer films these days that don’t suffer from the endless onslaught of CGI images, politics or offensive stereotypes.  This is a simple character film, designed to show us a period in one man’s life as he struggles with many different emotions on top of the growing fear of his own mortality.

The story of 50/50 centers on Adam, an exceptionally nice everyman who is troubled by the recent discovery of a large tumor on his spinal column.  He seems to be surrounded by coldness and conflict from just about every direction.  His mother is overbearing, his girlfriend Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) tries to stick with him at first, but ultimately succumbs to her own failings, and the doctors he meets seem to be more cold than caring.  He finds support, however, in his lifelong friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), a young therapist named Katherine (Anna Kendrick) and a couple of older men (Matt Frewer and Phillip Baker Hall) he meets during his regular rounds of chemotherapy.  There are a few predictable plot points in this film that are so strongly hinted at, by the end of the movie they bring no surprise, and these little problems sort of hurt this film for me, but it is definitely a well-told story, and the story is not even my favorite thing about 50/50.

50/50 is a film that stands entirely on its performers.  Anna Kendrick, Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are among my favorite actors working today.  They all seem like regular people in just about everything they appear in, despite how absurd the film may be, and here they all are just great.  I particularly like Seth Rogen here, who gives a performance where, at first you can truly see selfishness in the way he is trying to use his close friend’s ailment to score women for one-night-stands, but over time you see him sort of masking his own pain behind forced humor and mumbled laughter.  For me, he gives the best performance of his career so far.  I was convinced he was an outwardly selfish person who overtime falls to his own struggle with his childhood friend’s possible death.  Anna Kendrick is also good, though not as good as I thought she could be, given the perfection she displayed in Up In the Air.  Still, her role as a therapist who is just too young and too naïve to be doling out life advice is believable, and like Rogen, you can see her trying to mask her own emotion behind a wall of professionalism.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is strong as well, and there are a few scenes where he is definitely giving his all, but there were a few points where he seemed to sort of fade into the background despite being the centerpiece of almost every conversation in the film.  I think this was part of his character, being sort of reserved and shy (the polar opposite of his outgoing friend), but as the film goes on, we start to see more and more emotion, and by the end of the film, he gives a performance that just might earn him an Oscar nomination, though I’ve learned not to hold my breath about such things.

When a film like this comes along, I’m always enthused to be able to recommend it to friends and family.  I do recommend 50/50 on its merits, though the way the film approaches the striking subject of cancer may be a little off-putting to some viewers.  To anyone who says the film’s tone was wrong though, I say nay.  I liked the tone of 50/50.  Instead of having its characters wallow in pity while violins play through the film as we see events unfold through a deep blue filter, 50/50 keeps its head up.  We see the characters struggle with their emotions and by the dawn of the third act, all of the characters let it all out, especially Adam.

50/50 was directed by Johnathan Levine, who also directed a very strong 2008 film called The Wackness.  He is proving himself to be very good at dealing with difficult subjects honestly, while continuing to show us the lighter points in life.  I think 50/50 is going to be his high-profile springboard, and I look forward to his next work.  This is writer Will Reiser’s (related to actor Paul Reiser of Mad About You fame) first major film credit, and it’s good, quite good.  Sometimes it just takes the right movie to make a superstar, and I like the work both the director and writer did with this film. 

50/50 is not an uber-masterpiece.  It’s overly simple at times, almost rudimentary in its presentation, but this approach works for what the material deals with.  It is a very elementary film, with a narrow focus that never really veers into the risky, mainly following the most obvious directions, but it is a good movie with excellent performances.  Sometimes a movie that would otherwise be mediocre or generally bad can be rescued by good acting, and this is an example of such a film.  This is not on par with some of the other character-focused dramas of recent years, and I’m not really expecting a Best Picture nomination for this one, but it is one of the better films I’ve seen this year.  Amidst a slew of shoddy, brainless, effects-driven crap, 50/50 is a movie that actually tells a story, and while it is not as good at this as some, but certainly better than most.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 64 - Fled (1996)

Do you know what we needed more of in 1996?  Race comedy!  Fled is a pseudo-remake of The Defiant Ones, only without any of the... you know... talent.  Two convicts who are chained together are on the lam and running for their lives after another prisoner’s escape goes awry.  Stephen Baldwin plays a computer hacker who has in his possession exonerating evidence and Lawrence Fishburne plays a black guy.

The two characters run to avoid the law enforcement officers who are trying to catch them, some that want to kill them, and some other stereotypes that put them in various compromising situations which results in Fishburne’s character doing something dangerous and Baldwin’s character saying silly things in protest.  The stunts are uninspired, the screenplay is just terrible and the two leads have zero, I repeat, zero chemistry.

If this plot sounds even just a little familiar, well, it's basically the same movie as Bulletproof (with some negligible differences), an action/comedy with Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans from the very same year.  Granted, Fled came out first, but man does this movie feel tired all the same.  There is not one surprise, not one clever twist; everything is a retread.  Fled is the very definition of a "potboiler".  It merely exists to try to sucker in people who thought Stephen Baldwin may have acting chops after seeing him in The Usual Suspects, a good movie from Brian Singer from the year before.  Now, I'll be honest, I don't know if Fled was actually FILMED before or after The Usual Suspects, so that point may or may not be moot.

Now, this is a derivative film, but that isn't why it is on my list.  Fled is one of my picks for the worst films of the 90's because of just about everything else.  The acting is bad.  Really bad.  Lawrence Fishburne can be good, but (at least not to me) he is not exactly leading-man material.  The same issue goes for Stephen Baldwin.  So there's you're problem.  There is no actor that really just pops off the screen in either of the lead roles.  They really just sort of scream at each other a lot, which leads me to the screenplay.  This film is filled with some of the most predictable, bad dialogue where characters say exactly what you'd expect them to in their situation if they were reading from the Bad Movie Cliches Playbook.

Fled was directed by Kevin Hooks (who would go on to direct some pretty decent action television shows) and written by Preston Whitmore, who wrote 2006’s Crossover (LOLZ!!!).  So, given the limited talent behind this production it isn’t any real surprise that Fled is fail.  It is unfunny, unexciting and all around underwhelming, but the screenplay is where this one flops.  It just works against itself, constantly stopping everything so these two unlikable characters can exchange one-liners and bitch at each other.  God, I hated this movie.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 65 - Patch Adams (1998)

Another in the “What the Hell Were They Thinking?” category, Patch Adams stars Robin Williams as an aspiring doctor who is bad at his job.  Is he bad at his job because he’s terrible at practicing medicine?  I wouldn’t know, because we never actually see him pretend to practice any medicine in this movie (at least not that much).  Instead, he puts on a clown nose and makes sick children laugh for two hours.  The kids are laughing, I’m not.  That’s... kind of a problem.

Patch Adams is an over-silly, (sort of) fact-based, melodrama about a med student who challenges the status-quo by believing laughter really is the best medicine.  The medical board is greatly offended by his horrible actions.  You know?  Making children laugh!  The bastard!  These ridiculous bureaucrats are the source of this idiotic movie’s conflict, resulting in Patch getting disciplined and we get lots of violins, and sad faces, and a bunch of people wear clown noses in protest, ect.

Robin Williams can be a great actor.  We saw hints of brilliance in films like Good Will Hunting, the Dead Poet’s Society and in Awakenings, but when he is allowed to be “Robin Williams”, he is exceptionally annoying.  I’m sure the director will just say “Have fun with the role.” to which Williams will reply by speaking in a stupid voice, bouncing around and basically beginning to make a lot of noise.  Still, Patch Adams is one of the worst because we see Adams’ typical shtick followed by a kid with cancer laughing while observing his antics from a hospital bed.  Am I the only one who finds this more than a little self-indulgent?

I’m going to use this word again (it won’t be the last time): Sanctimonious.  This movie is so very, very proud of itself (It actually had the balls to be released on Christmas Day!).  It relentlessly smashes you over the head with its holier-than-thou plot, over-the-top performance by Williams juxtaposed with the utter heartlessness of most of the other doctors and the utter banality of the screenplay.  Director Tom Shadyac’s work isn’t bad; this isn’t an unattractive film as some of the sets are well done and the film has that sterile hospital look, which usually works for this sort of movie.  The big problem with Patch Adams is that it just so full of itself.  Given the logic and attitude of this movie, the fact that this film made my list of worst of the 90’s means that I apparently hate sick children.  Based on the autobiography of the real Dr. Patch Adams, this one is far too silly to be taken seriously, and way too self-important to be a fun comedy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 66 - Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars is the single most influential film to come out in the latter years of the 20th Century and is one of the most important movies ever made.  It used a number of filmmaking methods for the first time that we take for granted today.  It was charming, fun and successful both monetarily and also in its attempts to recreate the classic serials from the 50’s and 60’s and bring them to life in feature length on the big screen.  It was also inspired greatly by one of my favorite films, the Hidden Fortress from director Akira Kurosawa, or at least the plot was.  So I have a lot of reasons to like Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.  So...  Why did the Phantom Menace suck so much?

I had higher hopes for this than my friends did, I don’t know why today, but even then I was a movie geek and I was the one who introduced many of my colleagues to Star Wars for the first time, given that we were young enough to have missed it in theatres.  We got to see the disgraceful “Special Editions” that cluttered the screen with so much crap you couldn’t tell what the hell was going on (I now call this the Avatar method) and re-cut a couple of the scenes for no real reason, but those in no way could have prepared us for what George Lucas had in store for us in 1999.

The Phantom Menace’s plot involves two unscrupulous merchants who are using trade routes to force an embargo on a peaceful planet.  The Jedi Council gets word of this outrage and sends their best heroes, Qui Gon Jin (Who doesn’t live to see the sequel) and Obi Wan Kenobi (Who is the exact opposite of Obi Wan as you remember him) to “talk some sense into them”. This doesn’t really go as planned and they end up (for some stupid reason) in the water clear on the other side of the planet (“Computers are about trying to murder you in a lake...”)  They outrun a big carnivorous fish that looks like he belongs in a different movie and they meet Jar Jar Binks (Please kill me).  Jar Jar is one of the single worst characters in the history of ANYTHING.  I will take Carrot Top impersonating Navi while dressed as Ruby Rhod from the Fifth Element over freaking Jar Jar Binks.  

So, the screenplay says they have to go to Tatooine, so they do.  There the three badly-written characters meet Anakin Skywalker.  Now, fans such as myself knew at the time of this film’s release that Anakin Skywalker would become Darth Vader, but the way this “saga” makes this transformation is dumb and uninteresting.  Anakin is played by Jake Lloyd (that brat from Jingle All the Way) who speaks like he has six gumballs in his mouth as he is constantly trying to channel Shirley Temple (kind of an odd choice but I digress).  I think some exec/s thought he would grow to be some great child actor at the time, but unfortunately for him a lot of people saw this movie.  Hands down, Lloyd gives the single worst (human) performance in this film.  He is bumbling, loud and just plain aggravating.

More plot contrivance ensues, we get a massive chunk of the film wasted in an over-produced throwaway scene in the form of Podracing and we then end up back on Naboo, where the plot is.  So our heroes meet up with the queen, her identical servant Padme and her useless guards.  They run around a bit and the Trade Federation’s Sith-for-hire Darth Maul kills Qui Gon.  

The film closes after a big battle scene and we finally are graced with the sweet release of the closing credits.  This is a loooooong movie too.  Not that it is actually all that long, it just feels long.  George Lucas crammed so much crap into this film that it feels like he wanted to overwhelm everyone, instead of entertain.  The Phantom Menace and the other prequels get a lot of crap (from others and myself) for the bad dialogue and worse execution by the bad actors, but it’s more than that (or should I say less?).  

Star Wars was the film that defined a generation of movie fans and created a pop culture icon that endures heavily to this day.  The fact that the prequels released more than twenty years after the original film would be THIS bad is not just a slap in the face, but was a devastating blow to many fans’ childhoods.  The unapologetic Lucas tries to babble his way out of responsibility for this mess, but he holds 100% of it.  Films are a collaborative effort, so putting the blame on one person is harsh, but this truly was his fault.  To add insult to injury, we would be “graced” with two more bad prequels and the utter raping of the Indiana Jones franchise in the coming years.  So thanks again George Lucas... and I still hate you.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 67 - Lost in Space (1998)

People who watch a lot of movies are never surprised by how bad some child actors can be.  Lost in Space reminded us that the bar can get pretty low.  But the child actors aren’t the only problem with this film.  The entire cast is wooden, stiff and boring and all are mired in a messy, over-stuffed, over-silly plot that will leave anyone dumbfounded by the conclusion.  

The plot follows the Robinson family, a hot-dog pilot and a stowaway with evil intent who test-drive a ship that can jump around space quicker than any ship before using a sort of space/time bending plot device.  After the vile Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) sabotages the family ship, they end up hurtling towards the sun, so to escape certain death, they teleport to a random location in space and find themselves completely lost (in space).

From the very start of the film audiences will notice the lack of any emotion... from anyone.  We see the daughter, Penny, filming a personal video diary that, upon re-watching, conjures up images of “LEAVE BRITTANY ALONE!!!”.  Penny is played by Lacey Chabert.  Her voice is shrill, and we know we’re going to get really tired of her, really fast, and while she’s still working today, she’s mostly resigned to smaller projects.  Young Will Robinson is played by Jack Johnson.  He is mostly forgotten today.  These two actors drag the film to a halt.  It’s not particularly nice to pick on kids in movies, and some really influential critics (some very influential to me, personally) have criticized others who have taken that approach before.  However, it is really hard to avoid talking about these two stars’ performances in Lost in Space as they are a major part of what went wrong with the film.

As far as the other actors, William Hurt seems bored, Mimi Rogers is given little to do, and Matt LeBlanc is channeling every space hero that tried to mimic Han Solo badly.  The only actor that is even given anything significant to do is Gary Oldman.  I love Oldman as an actor and he can make a memorable character out of poorly-written schlock.  Here, however, you can tell he’s being held back, and for that I blame the director.  Lastly, I actually completely forgot that Heather Graham was in this movie.  Really.  Here, as the Robinson family's eldest doctor daughter, she really exists only to give LeBlanc's character someone to swoon over, and to be someone to be taken hostage and to end up in danger (of course). 

Stephen Hopkins directed this boring disaster and his signature faux-bombast is on display.  If you are not familiar with Hopkins’ work, he directed the laughably bad The Ghost and the Darkness (which occupies #78 on this list), Predator 2 and Blown Away (a film that almost made my list but was just too boring and unspectacular to be recognized as truly “bad”).  He doesn’t have a massively successful filmography like the equally-bad (if not worse) Michael Bay, but he has definitely left a legacy with this one.

So why is this one so bad (besides the bad child actors and weak director)?  Well it can be partly attributed to the absurd plot and some of the dumbest action scenes I’ve ever seen.  I refer you to the scene where Will Robinson remotely controls his robot like a video game using a VR simulator.  It is meant to look cool but is so silly you can’t help but laugh.  Add a CGI pet monkey and a time paradox ending that is so laughable it actual seems stupid compared to the rest of the movie (and that is really saying something) and you have one of the worst TV-film reboots in cinema history.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 68 - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

It’s pretty bad when a film’s stars are essentially begging to stop the release of a project they starred in.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is one of those famously bad films that has gone down as a candidate for the worst major Hollywood film ever.  EVER.  The only reason why this one is not higher is that I love parts of this movie for it’s badness.  But I have to be honest in my list, and honestly this one is a mess.  It’s ugly to look at, it’s overly gory and very badly acted, but god is it funny.

After a group of teens crash on the road, they wind up at the residence of a family of psychos and a single crazy person named Leatherface terrorizes the teens and picks them off, one by one.  Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey star in this awesome, so-bad-it’s-good slasher.  The film was directed by one of the writers of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that was released twenty years earlier.  It is his only directorial credit.  If you saw this movie, you would know why.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (Also titled The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) has so much out-there stuff that I don’t think I can list all of it.  McConaughey’s character (awesomely named Vilmer Slaughter) makes Nicholas Cage’s performance in the Wicker Man look subtle.  Zellweger is just awful here, hot off the success of Jerry Macguire, she really makes a fool out of herself.  Add to all of that the inexplicable decision to make Leatherface a transvestite and you have one of the strangest displays to ever grace the screen.

There are a few scenes in this movie that are pretty funny though.  The ending, in particular, has some really great so-bad-their-good moments, like when Vilmer is decapitated by a propeller plane that comes out of nowhere, and when Leatherface precedes the closing credits with a silly chainsaw dance.  In the world of classically fun bad movies however, this one is just too gross and oddly-executed to be fun to watch.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Regarding the Delays...

If anyone has been coming back to check for any updates or anything, I apologize for the delays between posting.  I will return to the list soon and will break for one aside on my favorite horror movies for Halloween, from there I would hope to finish the list before the Holidays.  Right now I'm rather under the weather and haven't felt like doing much of anything, but I plan to get the next film in the list published by Tuesday.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 69 - Tank Girl (1995)

It is rather sad that I felt I had to include this one on my list.  I say this because I believe Tank Girl could have been a smart and funny film.  Based on a series of comic books, Tank Girl follows a loud-mouthed, tank-driving female who traverses a post-apocalyptic landscape while dodging mutant kangaroo people and a villainous corporation that is manipulating the supply of water to the thirsty masses.  Unfortunately in its execution, this is a noisy, poorly-written, poorly-acted movie that goes in circles for the first two acts, then tries to stage a major action climax that feels small and is so badly filmed that you can't even really see what's happening on screen.

Lori Petty is likable as a supporting character, say, the best friend, but having to deal with her loud, squeaky voice for the full length of a film is enough to make anyone want to pour hot wax into their ears.  Also, Ice-T looks ridiculous in a supporting role amidst a slew of sloppy makeup and his character is basically the same character he plays in everything.  Still, it's unfair to put all the blame on the stars here.  This is a vapid, pointless script, filled with unintelligent characters, bad effects and even worse make up.

Tank Girl has a strange, hyperactive style to it.  It definitely screams 90’s with its loud characters, neon colors, chaotic camera work and music video style.  Now, I that said, I like the premise of the movie.  I also like the look of the film (minus the aforementioned neon).  The sets are basically better-looking versions of the sets from the Mario Bros. movie, filled with gritty, dirty fixtures and a rusty motif.  Throw on some contrasting colors in the foreground and you get a nice visual pop that makes things really stand out (most of the time).

Compliments aside, I can’t give this one a pass because Tank Girl is just one of those shallow action films that is designed to show you stuff and make noise for roughly and hour and a half and then just end.  It leaves you with nothing to ponder, does nothing to inspire, and doesn't even try to have a coherent series of events to carry the plot.  The movie is just all over the place.  It's trying to be too many things and the fact that the filmmakers actually thought this movie may warrant a sequel is just mind-blowing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 70 - Knock Off (1998)

It was a popular decision to throw Rob Schneider into your action movie for comic relief in the 90’s.  This goes for Demolition Man, the famously bad Judge Dredd, and Knock Off.  The story of Knock Off follows a fashion designer who is recruited to fight terrorism.  Yep.  So, just picture Zoolander meets Mission: Impossible.

Marcus Ray (Jean Claude Van Damme; He’s back... and not for the last time), is known for making knock off fashion who appears to be given a second chance by a friend (Rob Schneider) until it turns out he is working with the government to take down a big ring of counterfeit clothing manufacturers that also happen to be terrorists.  Now, as if that isn't stupid enough, get this: They're using Marcus' knock-off clothing to smuggle explosives.  Yeah...  Somebody wrote that.

If that premise doesn’t scare you, how about this?  Van Damme doing comedy.  That should send chills down your spine if nothing else does.  Knock off is bad from start to finish because, while it does not take itself entirely seriously, has some gratuitous violence that sucks the comedy out of the scene because we’re supposed to read these scenes as legitimate action and not as humorous.  Therefore Knock Off fails at being a serious action flick, and the comedy sucks.  So... Fail!

Action/comedy has worked before.  It worked with Lethal Weapon and, to a lesser extend, 48 Hours.  
The characters in these films were likable but the film never forgot that it was actually an action flick.  A more recent example is Tropic Thunder, which had humor but was still a serious action flick, and the film played like an action movie first.  Knock Off seems a little unsure of what it is.  Like Demolition Man, it has strange pacing and and a confused tone, but at least Demolition Man had some resemblance of substance; It still wasn't good, but it did try to do something a little different.  Knock Off feels like a knock off in its own right, while the plot is CERTAINLY "different" (ish), the action and execution is derivative and it never feels like it ever hits the right notes.

I'll close on the acting.  Boy is it bad.  I mean like, really bad.  While Van Damme and Schneider are always bad, I think most of the blame for this mess goes to director Hark Tsui.  Tsui made a good film with Once Upon a Time in China but has mainly since been resigned with retread sequels of that film and lower-budget projects.  He also directed number 91 on this list, Double Team a film that would be worse if it weren't so unintentionally hilarious.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 71 - Junior (1994)

Another in the “I Would Have Loved To Attend The Pitch Meeting” category, Junior is the story of a doctor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who, working with a colleague (Danny DeVito), takes a drug that allows HIM to become pregnant.  Putting aside the fact that, even if they did manage to fertilize an egg and plant it in a male, the fetus growing inside would die almost immediately (and would become a very dangerous health risk to the carrier) because the MALE ANATOMY IS NOT EQUIPPED TO CARRY A FREAKING CHILD!!!!!!  (ahem) ...this is a bad movie with a failed premise and a bad screenplay and a dreadful performance by its star.

I don’t know how they thought this would work.  I really don’t know what to say about this one.  I honestly think they wanted to make a movie about a macho man (in this case the unfortunate Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is forced to deal with the biological emotional changes that go along with pregnancy, the only problem is instead of exploring these things the movie just sort of has Arnold act like a sissy for most of the film.  They tried this again (only not to this extreme) with What Women Want, which still sucked, but at least it didn’t insult its audience’s intelligence like Junior did, and Mel Gibson’s character remained himself, he just began to change his outlook on the opposite sex.  

This goes to the ongoing trend, ever since the success of Tootsie, to emasculate male actors.  You can blame political correctness or whatever, but I blame Hollywood’s bandwagon mentality.  It seemed like the studios were on a mission to make jokes out of the male action stars of the 80’s by casting them in really bad movies where they play men who are either incapable of getting things right or are constantly faced with problems men wouldn’t otherwise deal with.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with a film like this, but it has never been executed well (except for Tootise of course).  The problem is a vast majority of these films go for the most predictable jokes and never really explore any of the experiences of living the life of the opposite sex maturely as Tootsie did so well.  

Now, forgetting, for a moment, the utter absurdity of Junior’s plot, the screenplay is bad and the acting is WORSE, relying on pratfalls, slapstick humor and a horrifying dream sequence that haunts me to this day that all adds up to make this a disaster.  Ivan Reitman (Who directed the two male leads a few years earlier in Twins) really doesn’t have a good track record either, and I think (with the exception of the first Ghostbusters.  Classic.) he is one of the more consistently bad directors working in Hollywood.  I think his strange sense of whimsy that is his trademark aided in this one going very, very badly; the screenplay and Schwarzenegger’s bad acting takes the rest of the blame.  Easily.

I would also like to make an observation.  It seems that almost every movie that has the actors making that "uh-oh" or "what is going on here?!" face on the poster is really, really bad. Junior has what is easily one of the worst movie posters of all time, just look at the stupid look on Schwarzenegger's face.  He looks like he just realized what he was doing to his career as they were taking the picture.