Contributors: Kristen Ashley, Mark Ashley, Michael Buck,
The Passion of the Christ
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.
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
...and the bashin', and the smashin', and the lashin', and the thrashin'.
You'd think no one ever got crucified before.
Heavy handed, emotionally draining, and lacking in spiritual feeling.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
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
The Polar Express
Something's Gotta Give
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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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.
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
13 Going On 30
We Don't Live Here Anymore
Team America: World Police
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Department of Redundancy Department
Alexander and King
Sermons-of-the-shrill dept: The
Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit
Shooting-fish-in-a-barrel dept: Catwoman
and Garfield: the Movie
Forgotten, The Punisher,
and The Terminal
EVIL MOVIE OF THE YEAR
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.
Spring, Summer, Fall,
The Brown Bunny: Gives solipsism a bad name -- Chris
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
She Hate Me: And with good reason. -- Chris Dashiell
Napoleon Dynamite: Yes, I have curly hair and glasses.
That makes me funny. Laugh away.
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
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.
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
Greendale: Good intentions. Just keep telling yourself:
Kill Bill, Vol. 2: Still swill. -- Chris Dashiell
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
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
The Day After Tomorrow