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2005 Bottom of the Barrel

It is always difficult devising my top ten worst lists.  Because I work freelance, I usually see the films I choose, therefore wisely avoiding obvious stinkers like “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” and “Alone in the Dark” (Although in the very first week of 2006, I’ve lost my radar, sitting in on the stupefying “Grandma’s Boy” and the heinous “Hostel”).  Therefore, my list each year doesn’t really represent the worst films of the year but the worst of those that conned me into the theaters.  Below are the ten movies that promised something, a modicum of entertainment, only to spoil an evening.  This list contains only the stinkers, the disappointments, like “Rent” or “War of the Worlds,” that missed obvious opportunities but still had agreeable qualities, are not on this list.  These below films I wouldn’t watch again if the secrets of the universe were subliminally implanted during the running time.


To Verbinski or Not To Verbinski

Ring Two – The original film remake won a cult following which included me, thanks to Gore Verbinski’s squeamish images, Naomi Watts’ earnest performance and several imaginative twists (who would imagine woman-in-peril film where the heroine is out of danger 30 minutes into the film, or a detective tale where solving the crime doesn’t prevent the bloodshed from continuing?)  But this sequel of the remake (or remake of the sequel of the original which was remade) dries up quickly without Verbinski at the helm.  As usual, Ehren Krueger’s screenplay is toilet-paper thin (and I don’t mean the two or three-ply expensive kind). Even the talented Naomi Watts appears bored this time by the tiresome villainess, Samara (how can I tremble over the name of my precious, bubbly blond, baby sister?) She obviously was saving her energy for “King Kong.”  Watch Naomi spar with the big ape and ferocious dinosaurs instead. It may be 70 minutes longer, but you’ll walk out exhilarated, not sleepy.

Weather Man – Sometimes adding Verbiniski to the mix doesn’t guarantee success.  This dour comedy with sad sack Nicolas Cage pondering his lost existence (he makes six figures as a television news weather man so pity doesn’t come very easy). I could only imagine how exhausting this character’s life must be.  A two-hour glimpse into his world sure gave ME a migraine.  Verbinski’s films are typically visual feasts (“Pirates Of the Caribbean”), witty satires (“The Mexican”) and crafty mind-games (“The Ring”).  “Weather Man” in the Verbinski milieu is like that SAT question where you get a circle, a square, a rectangle and a palm tree and have to pick the object that doesn’t fit.


Horror Films Without The Chills

Land Of The Dead – The fourth in George Romero’s zombie saga lacks genuine scares and social satire found in the first three. I could possibly, just possibly accept that, if we didn’t get as a substitute hammy performances from Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo.

House of Wax – People lined up to see Paris Hilton die. I personally never cared enough about her to muster enough malice towards her vapid blonde persona. Simpering villains (two for the price of one), interchangeable victims and a performance from Elisha Cuthbert that almost negates her wily turn as an ex-porn star in the deliciously funny “The Girl Next Door” do not translate into a pulsating thriller.

Revolting Exercises in Nihilism

High Tension and Wolf Creek – These two imports relentlessly expose menial people getting disemboweled, decapitated and skewered.  Horror movies have always been escapes, cathartic experiences, but these two stalk-and-slashers leave the audience sullied.  “Wolf Creek” suffers from truly likeable characters being tortured endlessly while “High Tension” lies to the audience with unreliable flashbacks and flaccid twists. 


Big Talent, Big Blah

Hide And Seek – Two Oscar nominees (Amy Irving, Elisabeth Shue), One Oscar Winner (Robert DeNiro) and the most successful pre-pubescent movie star since Shirley Temple (Dakota Fanning) should have added up to something promising. Instead, a retread of “Sixth Sense” and “The Haunting” listlessly reminded audiences that January is the studio dumping ground for failed films.  “Hide And Seek” should have stayed hidden.

Be Cool – I’m tempted to leave this film off my top ten list only because Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”) gave such a scrumptious portrayal of a gay bodyguard who wants to be a singing cowboy. It’s a testament to the atrociousness of the film that even this shining performance, witty and heart-felt, couldn’t keep this repeat of a much better predecessor “Get Shorty” from hitting the list. Uma Thurman and John Travolta’s lack of chemistry (despite their last sexy outing in “Pulp Fiction” gaining them deserved Oscar nominations in 1994), a laugh-free script and unimaginative direction by usually inventive F. Gary Gray managed to knock Rob Reiner’s “Rumor Has It” off the Top Ten Worst list.


Unanimated Animation

Robots and Chicken Little – The sky certainly IS falling and it’s raining down on the house of animation. If it doesn’t emit from Pixar’s computer or contain a mule with Eddie Murphy’s voice, you can bet that today’s animated movies are just long drawn-out cartoons.  The above are examples of Fox and Disney (sans Pixar) attempts at cashing in on the animated boom. Both feature voices of top stars (Joan Cusack, Zach Braff, Robin Williams, Halle Berry) and passable animation. So why does Pixar’s “The Incredibles” and DreamWorks’ Shrek” work, while both of these films left people antsy in their seats.  Pixar’s screenplays win Oscar nominations.  The other kids in the class (of which “Robots” and “Chicken Little” are prime examples) contain drab jokes, heavy-handed lessons and bland pacing.  There’s nothing wrong with Saturday morning cartoon fare, but don’t charge 10 dollars for it, slap it on an IMAX screen and proclaim it Art.



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