LEFTOVER TURKEY
We lambaste the year's least appetizing films.

Contributors: Kristen Ashley, Mark Ashley, Michael Buck,
Melissa B. Cummings, Chris Dashiell, Anne Gilbert,
Thor Klippert, Don Larsson, Ron Leming, Ed Owens,
Shari L. Rosenblum, Myron Santos, Howard Schumann,
Sasha Stone, and Josh Timmermann.

The Passion of the Christ
Apparently dismayed by the Christian will to charity, Mel Gibson put up his own money to beat ploughshares into swords, slicing and dicing all who would oppose the religious righteous, and serving them up with a spice of vengeance bordering on the psychopathic. A pornographic delectation in torn flesh and lascivious bloodletting, it is fire and brimstone aimed to stir the merciful by religion into murderous frenzy.
-- Shari L. Rosenblum

If it was necessary to have a fundamentalist snuff film made, it seems only fair that the speaking roles should have been cast with the actual evangelical preachers who've been flogging the poor fella for years.
-- Michael Buck

It’s a shame that criticism and praise for this one fell so strictly along faith lines. If the film had been about a less divisive topic, its shortcomings would be far more evident. A histrionic, brutal piece of self-indulgence, Passion has little going for it save its staunch beliefs. It may well be one of the most popular and widely-seen sermons ever mounted, but as far as cinema goes, it’s far too prejudiced and narcissistic to be compelling.
-- Anne Gilbert

...and the bashin', and the smashin', and the lashin', and the thrashin'. You'd think no one ever got crucified before.
-- Thor Klippert

Heavy handed, emotionally draining, and lacking in spiritual feeling.
-- Howard Schumann

As a sustained nightmare vision, the film is legitimately frightening. It should be noted that, from Peter's slow-mo ear-slashing to the depiction of Satan as a lurking bald woman, this is one seriously fucking strange movie. But it seems to me that Gibson is using the ol' ultra-violence largely as a very dubious means to compensate for the genuine dramatic weight that his film sorely lacks. The foundation of the Christ myth is that Jesus was both human and divine, but the only aspect of Christ's humanity that Gibson bothers to explore is his very evident ability to feel physical pain.
-- Josh Timmermann

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
The edge of reason? They've long since passed the edge and fucked reason right up the ass. This movie was an abomination. The book, well, the book was reasonable (just), and funny (still) and Bridget was as likable, nay, as adorable as ever with the usual, acceptable neuroses screwing with her life. The movie pissed all over the book. The whole point of Bridget is that she's every girl -- she isn't perfect but she's pretty magnificent just the same. In the movie, she's not only not perfect, she's unacceptable. She's an idiot and entirely useless. I'm all for suspension of disbelief, but there is no Mark Darcy in this world or any other (including Hollywood) that would even tolerate five seconds of that woman (the better-living-through-chemistry-poofy-lipped, goggle-eyed stare -- every word, every expression, every action absolutely vile -- and that yellow dress, oh dear lord in heaven, it makes my skin crawl).

I mean, women can have a belly or an ass or a puffy face and be delightful. They can be clumsy or commit (even frequent) faux pas and be a helluva good time. They can often be clueless, have more knowledge of pop culture than ancient history, and still be interesting. They can have a not-so-stellar fashion sense and an inability to do anything with hopeless hair and still be attractive. (Please see the first film for evidence of all the above -- or, come and meet me or most of my friends.) This film tore Bridget down, stripped her of all the things we hold most precious -- more precious than any concave stomach or exceptional, well-turned-out entrance -- the fact that not in spite of but because of our flaws, we're wonderful.

A total disaster of a film and everyone involved should be ashamed and even apologize publicly for destroying all things Bridget in one fell swoop.
-- Kristen Ashley

The Polar Express
Whose dumb idea was it to have characters with zombie features in a kids movie? Not only that, but Bob Zemeckis managed to squeeze any ounce of quality the book had (which was, frankly, not much to begin with) and make what amounts to one of those hyper youngsters who makes you come into his room and see this cool new computer game - over and over and over. While some of the scenes are breathtaking, they don't make up for what should have been a scary, spooky ghost story, not an animated children's flick. The kids should have, at the very least, been given coats and hats to wear.
-- Sasha Stone

Something's Gotta Give
I agree. Something's gotta give. Jack Nicholson has got to realize that he's not as talented as people make him think he is. He's gotta wake up, smell the Viagra, realize he's past it, and retire to some tiny island in the Pacific. Maybe then we could watch an award ceremony without his smug sunglasses shark grin bloody bastard receding hairline face plastered over everything. However, I would still like to see more of Diane Keaton.
-- Mark Ashley

The Village
More supporting evidence that The Sixth Sense was a fluke, M. Night Shyamalan's latest gimmick film is so tediously paced most will have lapsed into a coma long before the big surprise. You would have to be a complete twit to accept the film's premise or its twist (you can guess it from the trailer alone, if you're good, and it's not even remotely as clever as M. Night seems to think it is), and you can't swing a yellow rain slicker without hitting plotholes galore.
-- Ed Owens

It’s unfortunate when a director becomes so dependent on his own self-imposed devices that it becomes a crutch. But just because he's a sad shell of his former glory is no reason for M. Night Shyamalan to sic this monotonous, predictable, poorly-conceived piece of dreck on the moviegoing audience. It’s bad when the “twist” is guessable from the previews; it’s worse when you just can’t bring yourself to care.
-- Anne Gilbert

Could someone please tell M. Night that you don't have to stick a Twilight Zone-style trick ending onto every friggin' movie you make?
-- Chris Dashiell

The Reckoning
I had to see this movie based on the premise alone: in 14th-century England, a fugitive priest teams up with a band of traveling actors and helps solve a murder mystery by putting on a play based on the crime. Seriously. The fact that there were some real actors in it as well -- Paul Bettany, Willem Dafoe, Brian Cox -- made it even more bizarrely intriguing. I didn't have a lot of hope for it being good, but I couldn't resist. Unfortunately, my premonitions were correct. This movie was so incredibly laughable that I couldn't believe anyone involved could be taking it seriously, though they seemed to be. From the ridiculous plot to the melodramatic performances to the cheesy slow-mo (poorly used for dramatic effect), The Reckoning can be summed up in one word: silly.
-- Melissa B. Cummings
The Notebook
Nicholas Sparks writes crap novels that get turned into crap movies. Here we have James Garner in a nursing home reading a story to a lady (Gena Rowlands) with Alzheimer's. The story is about the love between a young guy (Ryan Gosling) -- poor but passionate -- and a girl (Rachel McAdams) from the other side of the tracks, in the movie's idea of the 1940s. We know they are smitten with one another because of the musical montages. But her narrow-minded parents are against the match, blah, blah, blah. None of this is believable for an instant unless you're someone who confuses soap operas with reality. The young people exhibit amazingly stupid behavior that I think was supposed to be endearing, the script telegraphs everything in bold without giving the actors a decent line to speak, and the lachrymose framing device with the old people is just insulting. Neither Sparks, nor the team of five (!) screenwriters, nor the director (Nick Cassavetes), have the slightest idea how to depict real love. Their business is to spoon-feed us the popular treacle known as "romance." Blechh!
-- Chris Dashiell
The Ladykillers
Get comfy and listen to this (are you ready?): it's the Coen bros. meets the Farrelly bros. (crucial plot point: no poop control!) meets the Super Mario bros. (cloying stereotypes over caricature) meets a Wayans bro (oh, like you're dying to know which one). I should have passed.
-- Myron Santos

Coens, it's time to take a break. I can quote half of Raising Arizona by heart, but when I try to remember anything specific about this flick I keep mixing it up with Intolerable Cruelty. Which one had the asthmatic and which had the football dude?
-- Thor Klippert

The Stepford Wives
The sober-toned comic dystopia of Ira Levin's novel and Bryan Forbes's 1975 film adapatation is gutted and left for dead in the smug been-there done-that remake brought to us by Frank Oz. Never mind that the film seems to find the Levin/Forbes concepts of suburban conformity, feminist consciousness, and marital communications trifling problems already solved -- it sadly doesn't even have a handle on its own conceptualizations. Are we talking implants or robotic replacements? And what the hell did the dog do to deserve that? In the end, the haunting air of the original satire is reduced to an exercise in nostalgic male-bashing (they're so stupid and schleppy; isn't that hi-larious!). A loathesomely unfunny revenge fantasy: emasculation in pretty pastels.
-- Shari L. Rosenblum

Alexander
Oliver Stone has officially descended into hackdom. But with such style! From beginning to end, the film is a flat-out disaster. Angelina Jolie is a Razzie shoo-in (probably Colin Farrell and Val Kilmer, too). Could the mother-son relationship possibly be any more obviously Oedipal? (Why was Angelina Jolie cast as Colin Farrell's mom in the first place? By the end of the film, he looks much older than she does. At least put a fright wig on her or something.) Stone apparently told Kilmer to do Jim Morrison again. Not young Lizard King Jim, mind you -- fat crazy drunkard Jim! The movie just sort of slogged on for three utterly unfocused, supremely campy hours. Every once in a while somebody would fall to their knees and scream, "Noooooooooooo!!!!" as people tend to do in these sorts of movies. The big, rousing let's-kick-some-ass speeches were straight out of Braveheart. I was just waiting for Farrell to bust out a "They can take our lives, but they can never take our FREEDOM!" Except that these folks weren't fighting for "freedom" or independence or anything of the sort. This is a movie celebrating an egotistical proto-imperialist avenging his daddy's name. Come on, Oliver. We know you're on our side. Does the word "timing" mean anything to you? Plus, imagining Dick Cheney in that Jared Leto role only makes matters worse.
Anyway...moral of the story? Don't fuck with elephants!
-- Josh Timmermann

Dogville
There are some interesting facets to Lars von Trier’s smugly moralistic Our Town saga: for instance, the way he makes use of his blank stage of a set, or the way he accesses a distorted version of collective nostalgia. But all of that is just kicked to the curb when faced with the staggering depths of the misogyny and sadism presented in the well-intentioned small town of faux America. If it were just the way that the town inexorably, and gleefully, subjugates Nicole Kidman’s Grace, it would be bad enough. But even more revolting is how willing she is to accept her treatment, how she seems to somehow believe that she deserves her degradation and abuse. It’s thoroughly unappealing on its own, but wrapped up in a trite and superior castigation of America? Thanks, but no.
-- Anne Gilbert

I didn't see the entire film, so I can't really offer an opinion. I had to go to the bathroom and may have missed a couple of rapes.
-- Thor Klippert

If you're going to have John Hurt explain everything in a supercilious voice-over narration, it had better be a well-written supercilious voice-over narration. And if you're going to employ an abstract, theatrical style, then you'd better not combine it with cinema-verité naturalism. Dogville is a hopeless mishmash of clashing intentions and poorly formed ideas. Kidman strives valiantly, but nothing can save this flick from itself.
-- Chris Dashiell

13 Going On 30
I thought Hollywood was over this whole Big concept -- if Tom Hanks has done it and Dudley Moore has done it and frickin' Judge Reinhold has done it, it's been DONE! And this only proved that notion to be true. Also, I do not understand the attraction of Jennifer Garner. She screams "average" to me, and this film didn't do much for that impression.
-- Kristen Ashley

We Don't Live Here Anymore
It might seem pointless to take down a film that was made on a shoestring and was clearly a labor of love but We Don't Live Here Anymore is exactly the kind of film that makes me want to never go to movies anymore. My experience should have been called, "We don't go to movies anymore and here's why." Overwrought acting -- characters who seemed pointless in any other genre save for perhaps a short story long since buried in a literary anthology and dug up by ambitious young writers who feel the need to impress their sexy professor who they will then have sex with and ruin their academic career. Poor Laura Dern -- a contorted face, a skeletal frame. And Naomi Watts -- she is in too many films right now and it's starting to get to me.
-- Sasha Stone

Team America: World Police
Perhaps Trey "Giant Douche" Parker and Matt "Turd Sandwich" Stone's next politically conflicted project can be a remake of The Passion of the Christ as a film supporting both gay marriage and the death penalty.
-- Michael Buck

Thunderbirds
Thunderbirds is prime nostalgia from my generation (at least my British generation). Of course, nostalgia often forgets the flaws and weaknesses while retaining and often enhancing those elements that we most loved. However, I have seen the original Thunderbirds recently and, while it's silly and stupid, and a little tacky, it is not this bad. Thunderbirds the movie should have been an homage, a loving portrait of a time now past, a resurrection of characters, locations and those sleek stylish rocket ships that once occupied our childhood dreams. But it is none of these things. Thunderbirds the movie is someone's idea about how to make a cheap buck while trampling on our fond memories. Thunderbirds the movie is a criminal act yet to be legislated. I just hope they don't get their hands on Bagpuss.
-- Mark Ashley

The Motorcycle Diaries
This film depicts the early years of Cuban Marxist revolutionary hero Ernesto "Ché" Guevara (Gale García Bernal) and the process that led him to give up a promising medical career to become a radical activist. Directed by Brazilian Walter Salles, the film shows how an 8,000-mile road trip with his friend Alberto Granada (Rodrigo De la Serna) across South America in 1952 on a 1939 Norton motorcycle led to Guevara's transformation. The political implications are clear, but Salles touches on issues of class-consciousness and injustice only from a safe distance. Although the film endorses idealism in a world grown cynical, it offers its radicalism as an entertaining road trip, a cinematic T-shirt for comfortable middle class audiences that ignores such untidy adjuncts of social upheaval as internment camps, prisoners shot on sight, and bloodlust against real or perceived enemies.

Nothing is said about conditions in present day Latin America, where the richest 10 percent account for 35 percent of total earnings, where 43 percent of the population live below the poverty line, and where 20 million people are poorer today than they were in 1997. The Motorcycle Diaries preserves the symbol while overlooking the man, simplistically presenting only the sentimental side of a multi-faceted personality. If we want insight into who Ché Guevara was, what drove him, and what demons caused him to proclaim: "Hatred as an element of struggle, unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine," we will have to look elsewhere.
-- Howard Schumann

Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon is the single most obnoxious, unlikable, and pathetic acquaintance it has been my cinematic misfortune to make in quite some time, and I found myself quite literally regretting every moment I spent in his presence. The humor here, if one can call it that, is largely mean-spirited, with Napoleon (Jon Heder) being the constant target of ridicule not only by characters within the film, but by the film itself, a situation made all the worse by the fact that the film has, ultimately, absolutely nothing to say, nothing new to bring to the table, nothing to make the medicine go down, much less bother explaining why it's needed at all. All I could think as I watched the film was that I wanted to beat up Napoleon, along with the Sundance audience that counted this film among its highlights.
-- Ed Owens
Vanity Fair
Why do directors adapt classic novels that they don't understand? Faced with the immortal character of Becky Sharp, social climber and schemer par excellence, director Mira Nair decides to portray her as a victim of circumstance -- and practically a spunky feminist role model at that. For godssake, Thackeray's book is even subtitled "A Novel Without a Hero," but I guess we can't abide an intelligent, anti-romantic point of view on our multiplex screens. Instead we get a Bollywood dance scene, and an assortment of not-so-subtle references to British colonialism (for relevance, I guess), but without a real Becky in the center, the film is nothing but eye candy. Reese Witherspoon is good at first -- I thought she might even pull it off. But the later stages of the story are beyond her range. What a waste.
-- Chris Dashiell
Alfie
Cads have changed. Somewhere between 1966 and 2004, the poster boy for the coldhearted conqueror has gotten a little soft. Or maybe it's just that the sexual liberation that was peeking around the corner when Michael Caine took the lead has come into its own: when women master their sexuality, bad boys need a sharper edge to cut them down. Whatever the reason, Jude Law's reincarnation of Caine's rakish Lothario is a beat or two off; and while it might be a political boon that the women want rather than need him, it's all wrong for the story the film wants to tell. The women aren't his victims; they move comfortably on without him, while he seems to be looking for love despite all the hooey he spews to the camera (you'd think he'd know better with clues like "Search" and "Desire" in giant billboard letters all around him). There is no social repositioning here, no soul searching, and nothing more profound than bad timing -- so there's nothing in the end to make you even care what it might be all about.
-- Shari L. Rosenblum
Ripley's Game
Tom Ripley takes on the Mafia, and somehow that's not fun to watch. This is a frustratingly bad translation of Highsmith's greatest and most famous creation. A botch in every aspect, from a poor interpretation of the book -- e.g. ignorance of main characters (Tom's wife Heloise, darkly comic foil, is nowhere to be found here), to miscasting (John Malkovich is brilliant, but not well-suited to this episode), to execution. There has yet to be an all-around adequate film portrait of Ripley; but still, I'm happy that filmmakers keep trying.
-- Myron Santos
Starsky & Hutch
How the hell could anyone make a mess of this? I mean, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, a cheesy 70s cop show known for it's laughable plots, and of course the character Huggy Bear...how could they go wrong? Well, watch Starsky & Hutch to find out.
--Mark Ashley

They took what ought to be the funniest set up since Old School and gave us this. What a waste of celluloid. I still feel robbed.
-- Sasha Stone
Open Water
Hey kids, want to make a film on your vacation that will wow them at Sundance? Stick a couple of vacuous, annoying yuppies in a perilous situation and film them in digital video, struggling to act -- I mean, to survive. Presto, you've got a thriller. In this case, the peril comes from real sharks (ooh) and the yuppies are played by -- who the hell cares? For our next trick, we'll put them in a power lunch with Donald Trump and see who comes out alive.
-- Chris Dashiell

It shouldn't have been hard to maintain realism, being on location with live sharks and all, but somehow this was the phoniest movie I saw all year.
-- Thor Klippert

The Department of Redundancy Department
by Ed Owens

Myth-or-miss dept: Alexander and King Arthur
Oliver Stone and Antoine Fuqua took two of the most legendary kings in history and made two of the most legendary bores of the year. Fuqua's shaky "horseback" cam showed more signs of life than the any of the actors involved, even during some of the more spectacular battle scenes, while Stone's boy-toy portrayal of Alexander skirts any truly provocative issues in favor of a bland recital of a middle schooler's mediocre history fair project.

Like-another-hole-in-the-head dept:
SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 and The Whole Ten Yards
As if the originals weren't bad enough, these completely unnecessary sequels take everything that was wrong with their predecessors and magnify it tenfold, with not even half a brain between them. Apparently seeking to fill the void left by the eventual (and none-too-soon) demise of the Look Who's Talking franchise, Super Babies: Baby Geniuses 2 manages to insult nearly every demographic while hammering another nail in the coffin of Jon Voight's career (does he really still need a paycheck this badly?). The Whole Ten Yards hangs its hat on the non-existent chemistry between Bruce Willis (badly spoofing his tough guy image from a string of 90s films) and Matthew Perry, whose awkward (and nonstop) pratfalls make Jerry Lewis look graceful.

Sermons-of-the-shrill dept: The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11
Gibson's pornographic paean to all things Christian is so completely lacking in joy or praise that Christ isn't the only one bludgeoned to death by this messianic snuff film's relentless and blood-drenched violence, while Moore's cinematic rage against the machine is equally abusive in its streaming invective and bitter manipulations. Both films choose preaching to the converted over even a rudimentary attempt at persuasion, belying a smug sense of self-satisfaction that neither film earns.

Shooting-fish-in-a-barrel dept: Catwoman and Garfield: the Movie
Halle Berry tarnished the already sullied name of the Oscars by appearing in Catwoman, a bizarre circle of hell that barely looked good on paper, while director Pitof decided that standard close-ups are apparently not close enough, shooting his actors so close that the camera moves incessantly trying to keep up with every nod. Meanwhile, if Garfield succeeds at nothing else, it manages to lull you into the false belief that it can't get much worse, moments before Bill Murray launches into a maudlin musical number bemoaning the arrival of Odi -- "New Dog State of Mind" -- the film's big grab at the elusive ring of cleverness.

Ironically-titled-dept: The Forgotten, The Punisher, and The Terminal
What starts off as a potentially intriguing psychological thriller quickly degenerates into an X-Files reject as Julianne Moore searches for her son and her self-respect in The Forgotten, while Jonathan Hensleigh's stab at capturing the Marvel Comics character of The Punisher on film is largely derailed by some of the worst dialogue this year, coupled with a grating performance from John Travolta -- enough to make me long for the halcyon days of the original film with Dolph Lundgren. On the other hand, the latest self-congratulatory collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks gives contrivance a bad name and all but defines superfluous in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones -- actually waiting in an airport has never seemed so inviting.

EVIL MOVIE OF THE YEAR
The Passion of the Christ
Mel Gibson has taken the story of the Passion from the Gospels, added quite a few additional details derived from the ravings of an 18th-century antisemitic nun, and directed it in the style of a brain-dead action film. All the Jews except Jesus and his followers are coarse anti-Jewish stereotypes. Gibson goes out of his way, on the other hand, to show the Romans in a good light. He's couched the old blood libel as subtly as he could, and thousands of idiots have declared that, no no no, the film is not antisemitic, just so you won't think you're seeing what you're actually seeing. It's a little thing called denial, folks.

The film pretends to represent the truth of one of the world's great religions, while conveying nothing whatsoever about the human soul's relation to God. It only presents the torture and death of its cult-hero as a kind of necessary cosmic historical event, as if to say: "The great almighty Lord suffered all this, so you should accept suffering as your lot also." This is a message of resentment in the guise of religion -- judgment and condemnation, not forgiveness. If I had to classifly the true philosophy behnid The Passion of the Christ, I would say it was Satanic. There is no good news here, no transformation. We are in the realm of superstition, mystery, and authority, huddling in the darkness of bigotry and self-righteousness. And lest you think that watching an actor playing "the Savior" being whipped to a bloody pulp for two hours would inspire compassion, I need to point out that many of the same audience members who were so powerfully moved by this film, overcome with emotion at watching the torture of Jesus on the screen, went into the voting booth in November and pulled the lever for our Torturer-in-Chief.
-- Chris Dashiell

Wimbledon
I have a special dislike of disastrous romantic films, and this could be up there with the worst. The production was completely inept. First and foremost, your leads have got to have chemistry. There was none, zip, nada. Paul Bettany, I am thinking, may have potential, and Kirsten Dunst has proven that she does, but together they were crap. Surrounded by a story and secondary characters that were poorly realized, the only things this had going for it were the tennis sequences.
-- Kristen Ashley

Spring, Summer, Fall,
Winter...and Spring

Films that leave me feeling spiritually uplifted are often subtle and understated in their evocation of the transcendence of the human spirit. On the other hand, those that "try" to impress us about how spiritual they are often fail to achieve their desired goal. Such is the case here. South Korean director Kim Ki-duk works hard at conveying a spiritual experience, but the film comes across as labored and self-conscious. While the shots are beautifully composed, the film offers little more than pre-packaged enlightenment, reiterating the accepted clichés about the long and painful process, the uphill battle full of struggle and effort, and so forth. In addition, the picture strikes me as inauthentic. It is simply not credible to me that a boy raised from birth in the Buddhist tradition would be capable of such cruelty, to animals and to other human beings as well. Well, if enlightenment means to lighten up, the best medicine for this sort of hokum is to laugh gently. After all, this too will pass.
-- Howard Schumann

Garden State
If you were to ask a hundred viewers to list five adjectives that best described this movie, I bet "quirky" and "sweet" would appear on 80% or so's shortlists. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the state of the American "indie" in 2004: "sweet" and "quirky," nothing more, nothing less. Whether these are virtues or backhanded compliments I'll leave up to you to decide...
-- Josh Timmermann

Intimate Strangers
In this paean to hyperpretentious pseudo-eroticism. a woman ostensibly seeking marriage counseling "accidentally" strays into the office of a lonely tax attorney and confides her problems to him. Confusion ensues. With twists and turns and suggestion made sexual by the camera's eye, it appeals (to those who claim it appealing) because it seems to tease, in Gallic relief: a gesture, a look, the mystery of the half-explored moment. But it grates because there is no thread, no purpose, no conclusion to be drawn. Patrice Leconte, whose Man on the Train captured the symbiosis of the oddly coupled so beautifully, here settles for the supposed allure of Sandrine Bonnaire and the artful sadness of Fabrice Luchini to take the place of an actual idea. It is at best a well-done waste of time.
-- Shari L. Rosenblum

SHORT TAKES

The Brown Bunny: Gives solipsism a bad name -- Chris Dashiell

Timeline:
You know how bands of explorers in Michael Crichton stories always suffer one fatality before the adventure even begins? More would have been better this time around. Say, twelve. -- Thor Klippert

Troy: Wolfgang Petersen should have stuck to German submarine films. Come to think of it, maybe he would have done better just concentrating on the Greeks inside the wooden horse waiting until it was time to get out. -- Mark Ashley

Exorcist: The Beginning: You knew it would be bad, but it's not even fun bad. Not even in parts. -- Myron Santos

Alfie and The Stepford Wives: These retrospective retreads revise the characters/narratives of their respective originals in ways that make me wonder if the filmmakers have even seen them.
-- Ed Owens

She Hate Me: And with good reason. -- Chris Dashiell

Napoleon Dynamite: Yes, I have curly hair and glasses. That makes me funny. Laugh away.
-- Thor Klippert


Surviving Christmas
and Christmas with the Kranks: Why does Hollywood hate Christmas so? Did Christmas not bring Ugg boots or the Roomba it really wanted, so it made Christmas all fascist?
-- Anne Gilbert

Van Helsing: I don't have the heart to skewer this movie as it richly deserves because it was such rubbish. -- Kristen Ashley

I, Robot: I, Idiot -- for buying a ticket to see this loud, overwrought SF action flick because I heard that it might actually have some ideas in its prefabricated brain. -- Chris Dashiell

The Forgotten: In this tale of a mother who mourns for a child unremembered by her husband or her neighbors, all the possibly interesting or thought-provoking permutations are sacrificed for an amateur stab at X-Files weirdness, filtered through a schlock machine. Rarely has there been a film so badly out of step even with itself. -- Shari L. Rosenblum

A Dirty Shame: Waters, we know your game. The only shock you could serve up now would be a coherent story. -- Thor Klippert

What the #$*! Do We Know!?: I now know that quantum physics can double as a fascinating self-help tool for zipperheads. -- Chris Dashiell

Underworld: Talk about a mess: all the ingredients, and they failed to cook. -- Ron Leming


Big Fish:
Dead in the water. -- Howard Schumann

Young Adam: I never can sympathize with a character's misery when they get to have this much sex. -- Thor Klippert

Silver City: What the hell happened to John Sayles? The most important election year in decades, and the best he can come up with is this tepid, utterly forgettable attempt at political satire? Ouch. -- Chris Dashiell

Wimbledon: When Harry Met Sally meets Rollerball -- but without the roller-skates or the fake orgasm. -- Mark Ashley

King Arthur: A movie undone by its borderline fantastical version of “history,” featuring a butch warrior Guinevere who opts for a sassy, strappy wardrobe that J.Lo might just be planning to wear to the Oscars this year. -- Anne Gilbert

Godsend: Is Greg Kinnear taller than Rebecca Romijn? Shorter? It's different in every scene. Really, that's the most interesting philosophical quandary posed by this shambling mess.
-- Thor Klippert


Mona Lisa Smile:
If Julia Roberts taught at Wellesley in the 50s...well, she'd show those poor ignorant pre-feminist girls a thing or two, I bet.
-- Chris Dashiell

Fahrenheit 9/11: Great. Nice try, Mike, but now we're stuck with irrefutable evidence that the people actually prefer the emperor to have no clothes. Makes being in denial awfully hard. -- Michael Buck

Alexander: And the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad movie. -- Don Larsson


Spartan:
An unthrilling thriller that takes implausible to new levels, hones it to a fine thud, screams the secrets of its mysteries from the heights of its delusions, and recreates the effect of the infamous water torture with self-consciously stilted dialogue delivered in stubbing stabs to your consciousness.
-- Shari L. Rosenblum

Greendale: Good intentions. Just keep telling yourself: good intentions.
-- Thor Klippert

Kill Bill, Vol. 2: Still swill. -- Chris Dashiell


The Grudge, Cellular, Saw,
The Butterfly Effect, Wicker Park

What a boring trend in scary movies, when suspense is taken over by cheap scares wrought entirely by musical cues and not at all by genuine tension. How unfortunate that it seems the point of these movies not to enjoy the ride of apprehension and creepiness, but instead to just figure it out, to piece together the key to it all before the inevitable big reveal (cue epic swell of Music of Revelation). And not one of these movies is sharp enough to hold up once it has given away all the answers, taking all the mystery out of the suspense.
-- Anne Gilbert
Red Lights
A zhlub of a husband, a beautiful and successful wife, a bit of nagging, a lot of drinking, and a serial killer make this ostensible study of a marriage in dissolution a deplorably detestable cinematic experience. Based on a novel from Georges Simenon's "American period," Cedric Kahn retransplants the characters back into France and creates a mood that is condemnable for its lack of condemnation: it bores with its amorality. It troubles, too, in the form of its revelations and comeuppances: along with the tiresome "weekend" traffic jam, there's a very French misogyny at work here.
-- Shari L. Rosenblum

TURKEYS 2004
Seven Stinkers
by Don Larsson

The Day After Tomorrow
What's more annoying here? The effects? (Dennis Quaid sleds it up the eastern seaboard in sub-arctic cold with hardly a puff of breath to be seen. Brave heroes race for their lives -- from frost!) The condescending politics? Not that I have anything against bashing Dick Cheney, but could we at least try for a bit of sophistication, and not just moral smugness, when doing it? Leave climatology to the climatologists and drama to the dramatists! (Doesn't leave much, does it?)

De-Lovely
It's de-lugubrious! Let's face it, witty and talented as he was, and even with the heartbreaks of the Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name and a tragic accident, Cole Porter was not the nicest of men. Some of the songs are decently rendered; some aren't. (Won't someone tell Sheryl Crow that the whole point of "Begin the Beguine" is that it has rhythm?) Want to see a great movie, set as a retrospective of the life of a dying, self-destructive artist, with great singing and dancing? Go rent All That Jazz. Otherwise, buy a CD or two of Porter's songs by almost anyone other than Sheryl Crow and stay home.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Speaking of rhythm, this prequel to the original Dirty Dancing, set in Havana just before Castro's revolution, manages to blow its great advantage. A young Cuban must decide where he stands in the great struggle and whether revolution and getting down can mix. Patrick Swayze reprises his role as Johnny, but 17 years haven't helped. His dancing scene with the young heroine is just creepy.

Ella Enchanted
So let's assume that "Cinderella" was a true story that took place in a magical kingdom where Ella was placed under a spell that requires her to be obedient. Now we can have a nice allegory that will be politically correct and instructive for young ladies who chafe under rules while invoking the whimsy of a whacky world of magic gone wrong. On second thought, let's not. As annoyingly PC as The Day After Tomorrow, but not nearly as funny.

Saw
Groaned. Laughed (in the wrong places). The two dumbest men in the world are kidnapped and trapped in a booby-trapped basement by the World's Most Fiendishly Clever Serial Killer while Danny Glover as the Obligatory-Cop-On-The-Verge-Of-Retirement tries to hunt the killer down. Seven was much better. I didn't like Seven.

Secret Window
"Some windows are never meant to be opened." Some films are never meant to be seen. Speaking of half-baked plots, any movie that manages to waste both Johnny Depp and John Turturro deserves oblivion. What can you say about a film that requires Depp to spend half the running time trying to locate an original manuscript for a story that he wrote? Has anybody even heard of fax machines?

The Village
Shyamalan finally gives it up. After The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs both suffered by comparison but still had some appeal, based on their rootedness with one foot in the real world and another in genre fiction. But The Village comes off as an allegory with no reference. An idyllic community (if you consider self-contained colonies with well-defined family rules and total isolation from civilization to be idyllic) is threatened by mysterious monsters that live in the woods outside the borders. So what happens when you have to go into the woods and back to civilization? It's an intriguing premise, but Shyamalan cheats us from the get-go and keeps on cheating right up until the end. He's a clever writer and director, but this is one stupid film!

©2004 CineScene