In which we carve up the worst movies we've seen this year.

Contributors: Michael Buck, Mariana Cirne, Danae,
Chris Dashiell, Don Larsson, Lovell Mahan-Moutaw,
Ed Owens, Pat Padua, Les Phillips, Rolando Recometa,
Nathaniel Rogers, Carol Slingo, and Sasha Stone.

Thankfully, a job, a family, time constraint, and income, have kept me from seeing most of the films released in the last year. Of the ones I have seen, there are a number worthy of lambasting for one reason or another, even more for whom indifference is the best response. But one film beneath all demands to be shamed since it is unlikely that its makers will ever be ashamed themselves. It began at the bottom of my year's list immediately after its release. After September 11, it sank beneath contempt. The film is Pearl Harbor.

"It stands to reason that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world," Bogart told Bergman as he walked off to fight Nazis at the end of Casablanca. Pearl Harbor reverses the sentiment. The banal problems of three petty people overwhelm one of the two greatest national calamities of the last sixty years. While production design is lovingly applied, down to the proper shade of lipstick - anachronisms of language, sexual mores, and ordinary behavior abound. As much as I hate the phrase, "political correctness" trumps history. While empty gestures are made toward minorities (a stapled-on subplot for Cuba Gooding, Jr.; a condescending gesture toward the disabled with Franklin Roosevelt raising himself to his feet by sheer will), a decade of Japanese expansionism and atrocities in Asia is ignored. The actual cause of the attack seems less noteworthy than the trade war that opens The Phantom Menace. In the meantime, real Hawaiians are nearly invisible.

Most contemptibly, the film softens the actual effects of the attack. CGI explosions show precious little blood and no guts at all. The hospital scenes are discreetly blurry, to keep us from getting too upset. And the characters show none of the shock, the horror, the true numbness that so many of us felt and the true valor that we saw on and after September 11. There are, have been, and will be many films that are technically worse than Pearl Harbor, but few, I hope, will ever match it for sheer cyncism and mendacity. It is a smear of dishonor on those who actually lived through the event and those who came after.
-- Don Larsson

Hark, what goes on in the land of the stiffs? Lotta lovin' on plastic people. Ben Affleck, no doubt, was sent spinning down rehab lane after this turkey gobbled its way into theatres. Michael Bay was looking for respect in all the wrong places -- thinking that he had a good script, thinking people would not feel like they were palming an ice cube upon watching Kate Beckinsale, hoping that the film's length would make sense, hoping people wouldn't laugh (they did). The only real heartbreak was that Alec Baldwin was good in it.
-- Sasha Stone

A film that will live in idiocy.
-- Chris Dashiell

There are so few decent romantic films out there...alas. This is a lament of mine. Romance isn't hard. There is a certain formula one follows and if you follow it closely you can't lose. Well, they tried - Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman are gorgeous, incredible to look at; there was a neat apartment, a good start to the story and good backgrounds to both characters. Just the small problem that they had absolutely NO chemistry. None whatsoever. No sparks - in fact, one would think that during the making of this movie Judd and Jackman didn't even like each other. Worse is the waste of Ellen Barkin, who probably should have played the lead. Why does Hollywood think age makes women less sexy and interesting? The story is shite as well. This makes me sad.

Adding insult to injury, Julia Roberts, the reigning queen of good romantic movies, this year offered us The Mexican and America's Sweethearts...both of which, although not crap, were not good either.
-- Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

I've never been so continuously jerked out of the cinematic equivalent of the "fourth wall" as I was by Kevin Costner's outrageous attempt at a Boston accent in this otherwise decent movie. Did someone not notice this problem in the dailies? Did it never occur to anyone that it would be less distracting for him to simply speak in a normal Kevin Costner accent than for him to turn "Paaaahhk the caaaaahh in the yaahhhhd" into a near-southern drawl?
-- Michael Buck

I'm always glad to see Kate Winslet rock on out, but despite her rocking, this insipid biopic turns fascinating, upsetting material into something bland and predictable. After all, don't you expect de Sade to write with his own feces?! The most shocking thing about Quills is the screenwriter's shameless cliche-machine: "I'm only flesh and blood!" "Indeed, the inmates are running the asylum!" Somebody got paid to write this?
-- Pat Padua

The film is apparently saying that what its female demographic wants is to see Mel Gibson (as a guy who discovers he can hear women's thoughts) get taken down a notch - i.e. taught a lesson in the warm and fuzzy values of sensitivity. It doesn't seem to have occurred to the filmmakers that women might not be thinking about men (or makeup, or diets) every waking minute. Or, in fact, that they can think seriously at all. That such a stale, condescending, utterly superficial comedy can still be propagated on the subject of men and women, and by a woman director, demonstrates that we have not progessed nearly far enough.
-- Chris Dashiell

Pet peeves:
It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between a "made for TV movie" and a theatrical film. Not only are movies like The Amati Girls going directly to TV, but TV Guide and local papers are no help. Does TV Guide's "M..T" really mean "made for television" or "editor is taking wild guess"?

And for credit-hungry young comers in the industry, the situation gets worse with the televison practice of minimizing a movie's closing credits. Last week I saw a set of film end credits where, instead of squishing them to the side, the station simply sliced the left half of the screen, leaving names without identification. Were those people actors? assistant directors? friends of friends....?
-- Carol Slingo

(Shouldn't be mean, shouldn't be mean...oh what the fuck...)
Save for the delicious Johnny Depp, this was crap. That it got Oscar nominated is even more crap. That anyone took it seriously is crappier than crap. That it was such a waste of good talent like Lena Olin, Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina and the aforementioned Johnny Depp is crappier than the worst of crap. That its poster was so ridiculously stupid is so crappy that it makes crap look good. That it massacred a rather good book makes it foetid industrial waste that sullies the good name of crap.
-- Lovell Mahan-Moutaw


The incredibly dumb premise of this pretentious action movie is that a couple of psycho killers from Eastern Europe make videotapes of their crimes, so that if they are captured they can go free on an insanity plea. And here's the kicker - they got the idea from watching corrupt, sensationalist, American tabloid TV. You see, writer-director John Herzfeld thinks he's making a social critique here. He's saying that American culture's voyeuristic fascination with violence is bad. However, that doesn't stop him from showing us a picture of a nude woman who was stabbed to death, or filling his movie with gratuitous violence, or, for that matter, from cynically playing to the prejudices of law-and-order types and liberals. Herzfeld seems unaware of his hypocrisy as he stokes the very blood lust that he decries. A total scuzzball film - they should have offered free soap for those exiting the theater, although nothing can wash away the stain of having spent money on this loathsome bit of exploitation.
-- Chris Dashiell

Or more aptly put, how Ron Howard and Co. robbed me of time I'll never get back. Never mind that Jim Carrey sounded like Sean Connery and looked constipated - he just didn't seem to be having any fun. However, he was nothing compared to the rest of the cast, especially the little girl who played Cindy Lou Hoo. That plot twist from the original ruined this turkey far beyond what it might otherwise have been (turkey cutlet perhaps).
So bad was this film, I've had nightmares about it. Especially about those wooly, dubious appendages that dangled from the Grinch's nether regions, and his eyes - so much like the eyes of Regan from The Exorcist.
-- Sasha Stone


The most disappointing aspect of A. I. is not the fact that the complex theme of artificial intelligence is given the traditional Spielbergian oversimplified, superficial, melodramatic treatment. What is really irritating about it is the self-important, pretentious little Oedipal tale the film tells. It starts off disguised as a story of a complex, difficult mother-child relationship, until it finally grows into the ultimate neurotic male fantasy: no daddy, no little brother, just my mommy all for me, even if only for a day - I get to eat with her, hold her, sleep side by side with her. So, I left the theatre with the feeling that I had just sat through an interminable flow of babble by a bunch of middle-aged men with millions of dollars to spend and an ad aeternum oedipal neurosis.
-- Mariana Cirne

The moment I heard the voice of Robin Williams I knew instinctively that the film, which up until then had been one of Spielberg's best efforts, was doomed, and that we (the audience) had been screwed once again.
-- Chris Dashiell

Freddy Got Fingered
Tom Green touches a nerve in me. In fact, he touches it, strips it, scrapes it with sandpaper, and dances on top of it with the kind of reckless abandon usually only seen in lemmings moments before taking that last step. -- Ed Owens

The Suck Sense -- Rolando Recometa

Okay, since you insist - fuck you. -- Chris Dashiell

For a person who slips near-aphrodisiacs into candy, Juliette Binoche certainly doesn't appear to be Getting Any. When Johnny Depp shows up and offers to come by sometime to "fix that squeak in your doorway," she really ought to appear more interested. -- Les Phillips

Proof of Life
Beefcake. Russell Crowe. The rest was boring. Totally. It had nothing to do with Meg and Russell and their private lives, and everything to do with the fact that Taylor Hackford created a boring movie. How can Meg and Russell with David Caruso thrown in be boring? Hackford managed it. Ho hum...at least there was beefcake. -- Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

Down to Earth
Apparently edited with rusty scissors and scotch tape. -- Ed Owens

Bride of the Wind
Oh, so that's what that smell was. -- Chris Dashiell

...or Dirk Diggler goes on a camping holiday. A significant make-up job does not, by itself, a good movie make. The film is almost redeemed by the enjoyably ironic moment of Charlton Heston revealing a firearm as a feared tool of societal destruction. Even if this tired retread had maintained interest in its plot, any good will the movie earned would have been blown away by the hubris displayed in the nonsensical sequel-bait ending.
-- Michael Buck

Outside of the theater a man was overheard trying to explain the dumb-ass finale to his young son. Finally he said, "Well, they just shouldn't have ended it that way." True. In fact, they should never have started it.
-- Chris Dashiell

Someone forgot that films should sort of make sense, even when they're fantasy. How does a space ship land with only a few apes and humans aboard, and then produce an entire world of primates that millions (perhaps billions) of years of evolution and climate changes, etc. should take to create? Okay, so one can stretch that part or suspend disbelief. But the last moments, the fight scene, and the wooden performance of Mark Wahlberg - these can't be forgiven. Tim Burton must have had his pecker all swollen up from spending time with new squeeze Helena Bonham Carter.
-- Sasha Stone

Yikes-o-rama I don't even know where to begin with this one. If someone asked me "You can watch Swordfish again or you can have your fingernails ripped from their roots one by one," I might have to consider saying adieu to my fingernails. I guess I could be wrong. Swordfish may have an appeal somewhat like the appeal of Showgirls - so bad that it's funny, so bad that it's entertainment - but never so bad that it can be construed as good. (I would pay to see Hugh Jackman in a towel again, but not standing on the roof of a trailer, teeing off and spouting a speech that contains the word "chi.") John Travolta needs to be stopped. Give me the reigns of this man's career. Why? Oh why? Oh well.
-- Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

What a total piece of crap. I'm not sure what's worse: being white trash, making fun of white trash, or David Spade trying to make white trash funny. Hey, if Hollywood would like to throw some more money away, I'm open and receiving!
-- Danae

They forgot to stick a laugh track on this thing. Independent "talent" Josh Kornbluth gives it the ol' wide-eyed double-take wink-wink nudge-nudge college try in this live action "Dilbert" wannabe. A favorite at Sundance. Well, you know, Utah is really cold in January....
-- Chris Dashiell

Maybe I'm too much of a feminist to have any depth of feeling for a character that is clearly misogynistic, blaming all of his idiotic woes on the women in his life. Kiss my ass, George Jung. I want more Franka Potente, but not in bullshit movies like this. I think Ted Demme made this film for the clothes and soundtrack. I try to trust Johnny Depp, because I love him, but lately he's been leading me astray.
-- Lovell Mahan-Moutaw
When Warren Beatty is on a movie, his contribution can either Kevin Costner the film to the bottom of the lake or it can Robert De Niro it right to the top. His greasy thumbprints were all over this mess of a film - from start to finish, one silly scene mounted on top of the next - with Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn, no less. The film had once featured Haley Joel Osment, but his scene, along with countless others, was left on the cutting room floor where the rest of this film belonged.
-- Sasha Stone


Kevin Smith seems to think that his work justifies actually reintroducing the various characters in his films, in a kind of tapestry of self-referential doodling. His latest creation proves that this brand of self-esteem is not necessarily a virtue. Since "Silent Bob" (Smith himself) mostly remains, uh, silent - the weight of the comedy falls on the painfully inadequate shoulders of Jason Mewes. Forgive me for being old hat, but it seems to me that the jokes commit the all-to-common sin of confusing aggressive stupidity with humor. And please, spare me all the excuses about how the homophobic language is just "ironic" or good fun. Replace every "faggot" in this film with "nigger" or "Jew" and then see if you're still laughing.
-- Chris Dashiell

Humpin' and pumpin' do pretty people go - Angelina, can you feel it? Billy Bob's presence was felt throughout, particularly in the bath scenes where you could see the tattoos. This was almost a good movie - it failed to deliver the humor, which is what it needed. Angelina didn't have the best year - Tomb Raider was a joke (imagine a computer character more interesting than a real actor).
-- Sasha Stone

I'm not sure what annoys me more - this film, or the fact that some people are raving over it. What inventive visual flash the film does admittedly have is overwhelmed by cliché, excess, and repetition before the first half-hour is over. The film's sins are so numerous, I must resort to a bullet list.

• Why is Luhrmann hailed for the kind of quick-cutting, attention-deficit direction for which Michael Bay is (rightly) derided?

• I can't recall being more embarrassed for actors than I was during the combination mistaken-identity/ vaudeville scene that is the backdrop for the lovers' first meeting. (Of course, I didn't see Rip Torn in Freddy Got Fingered, so...)

• The updating of the movie musical concept became more than mildly irritating after the 14th rendition of Elton John's "Your Song."

• If I had heard "Above all else, this story is about love" one more time, I would have demanded satisfaction at the projection booth.
-- Michael Buck


by Nathaniel Rogers

The Undead.
They’re still letting John Travolta work?! I never thought I’d curse the day that Pulp Fiction opened... But my, oh my, the stank we’ve had to endure since. As if Battlefield Earth weren't insulting enough last year (it managed to kill off the promising career of Barry Pepper instead of the evildoer himself, Travolta), Old John continues chewing curtains well into 2001 with Swordfish and Domestic Disturbance. Worse yet, they pay him handsomely to do it.

The Unneccessary Narration continues to be the most overused, most intrusive, and least important storytelling device. It’s a visual medium - SHOW IT! Don’t tell it. Worst offenders in recent memory: Chocolat (which actually had an image of snow melting with the voiceover: “Time passed.” No shit! Really?) and Blow (which undercut all of its potential drama with droning banal comments about the drama itself).

The Uncoached.
Nicolas Cage in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The most-a painful attempt-a at an Italian accent heard since Nick Nolte tried to stink up the otherwise glorious Lorenzo’s Oil a decade ago.

The Redundant Trailers continue to tell us the entire story. Take Serendipity, for example. Why even see the picture? You know the premise, the setup, the middle act, the central conflict, and the setting for the finale. Why bother? Can’t something be done? I propose that there be a law against trailers coming in at more than 60 seconds. Furthermore, no images or sounds from the second half of the picture should be shown. If there are no interesting plot points, visual hooks, laughs or tears, or anything of interest in the first 45 minutes of a movie, it doesn’t deserve our business anyway.

The Poorly Coifed.
Movies cost well over 40 million dollars to make these days. How much can a good toupee, wig, or hairdresser cost anyway? I’m talking about John Travolta (Swordfish), Billy Bob Thornton & Bruce Willis (Bandits), Drew Barrymore (Riding in Cars With Boys) and Nicolas Cage (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin). It all just makes me miss Sigourney Weaver in Alien3, and Sean Connery in anything.

The Lazy.
When perfectly cast Angelina Jolie signed on as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, it was as if every single person involved in the multimillion dollar production quit working. Three global corporations, a dozen screenwriters, and hundreds of other people in various capacities - not one of them seems to have thought that anything else was required. Casting and Marketing, Pre-production and Post-production. But no actual Production.

The Sexist.
Let’s see...Colin Farrell gets good reviews for Tigerland, his only significant lead role, and the film makes less than a million at the box office. His asking price jumps to five million dollars within the year, and someone pays it. Meanwhile, Julia Stiles stars in the surprise hit of the year, Save the Last Dance, which makes nearly 100 million dollars. Her asking price jumps to five million dollars within the year. A prominent studio refuses her price tag, saying it’s “too high.”

The Insufferable.
M Night Shyamalan. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring filmmakers: there’s nothing so dangerous as believing your own hype. He clearly took all the accolades to heart. His most recent film, Unbearable - ahem, excuse me, Unbreakable, is a textbook example of someone taking themselves way too seriously. The film just reeks of pretense. It moves so slowly, every single frame weighted down with a sense of its own enormous worth. The actors deliver every line like it was written by the hand of God on stone tablets.

The Soulless.
Disney cheapening the memory of their catalogue of animated classics by releasing straight to video “sequels.” It’s sickening. It’s like selling your children to the highest bidder. Can’t they see their own classics as anything other than “product”?

The Critical.

Prominent critics complain and whine every year about movies being boring, lifeless, predictable and routine. Then half of them trashed Moulin Rouge anyway when it arrived to rescue us.

The Rancid.

-- Nathaniel Rogers

CineScene, 2001