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Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Worst of 2006

Maybe I’m too soft-hearted, but I’d like to think that every movie out there has some redeeming value, but I know that’s asking a lot. I mean, I did see Turistas, after all, and if that had any reason to exist I still haven’t figured it out. Maybe it is to make other horror movies like Stay Alive look positively brilliant by comparison.

In 2006 there were 343 films released in the US. Not all of them made it to Vermont, but I am fairly certain I saw every last one that did, approximately 250, the vast majority in the comfort of my favorite home-away-from-home, the
Essex Cinemas. In the rare instances when a movie was only playing somewhere else I’d go there begrudgingly, but purely out of duty to make sure I took in everything cinema had to offer. Sometimes this mined gems like Marie Antoinette, but other times it led to clunkers like The Fountain. Yes, I said it. The Fountain, starring my beloved Hugh Jackman, or as he is more commonly referred to at my house, “my future ex-husband.” Hugh was in a real bomb of a movie, but it wasn’t his performance that killed the movie. It was an incoherent timeline and mixed-up script, along with some very poor direction that muddied the waters of The Fountain.

Still, The Fountain was a classic compared to some of the other movies that were thrust on the public in the guise of ‘entertainment’ this past year. With so many less than sparkling options to choose from, it was a chore to whittle down a list of a mere ten major disappointments in 2006, but the following list reflects a group of movies that were widely released, some widely embraced, and yet each came up tragically lacking considering the hype or the talent involved. In no particular order then, here are my picks for the biggest lemons of 2006:

THE DA VINCI CODE: Despite its budget and pedigree (Director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks) this much-hyped “mystery” was so transparent from the first 20 minutes on that it seemed more like a farce than a nail-biting adventure as we waited for the dimbulb characters to catch up to what we already figured out. Hello? I’d have much rather have had someone ask the question that nobody pondered: how did a monk, already shot at close range in the chest, manage to go to his office, get a pen that wrote in invisible ink, write clues on various paintings in different parts of the Louvre, come back to where he was shot, organize an intricate death scene for himself, including the arrangement of candles around a large, perfect drawing he just created, strip off and dispose of his clothing, and then lie down to die, all without bleeding. Not that this little plot point should have made the rest of the film’s credibility difficult to bear, but it didn’t help. Neither did Tom Hank’s hair, which looked like it had been borrowed from the back end of a mangy horse.

UNACCOMPANIED MINORS: An extremely minor holiday release, to be sure, but “That ‘70s Show” star Wilmer Valderama stumped the talk shows unmercifully for weeks to drum up publicity for this stinker, leading us to believe he was starring in what is basically another rip-off, er, “homage” to Home Alone. In reality, Valderama’s role as an airport security guard is tantamount to claiming that “Uncle Henry” is the star of The Wizard of Oz. The real stars of this kiddie flick are a group of stereotypical ‘tweens with more brains and talent than a battalion of adults, and the grown-up in charge with the task of rounding them up and keeping them under surveillance at a snowbound airport falls not on Valderama but instead on Lewis Black, the acerbic comedian best known for his constant ranting on tv’s “The Daily Show.” Unfortunately, here he seems sedated and his trademarked attempts at working up a good head of steam are limper than Richard Simmons at a sleepover with Pamela Anderson. When the typically vicious-tongued Black eventually makes an appearance dressed as Santa Claus, full of Christmas cheer, you know everyone involved in this sad attempt to become an annual “Christmas Classic” must have sold their souls to Satan and did it for one reason only – the money.

JACKASS NUMBER TWO: I know, I know, it made a bucketful of money and everybody under 30 laughed themselves sick watching this piece of cinematic stench, but that doesn’t make it a good movie. That just shows how low our societal tastes have plummeted in terms of entertainment. Right now we’re about two heartbeats away from returning to the days of the Christians and the lions, though I’m pretty certain it won’t be the Christians providing lunch this time around. Well, they may be providing the lunch, but they just won’t BE the lunch this time around. As for Jackass Number Two, the joke within the title says about all you need to know to get the level of intelligence the filmmakers are shooting for with this epic. People humiliating and hurting themselves for no reason other than to put it on celluloid doesn’t make any of them the next Spielberg or Scorsese. It just makes them masochistic and stupid. And rich, damn them. Life is definitely not fair.

LADY IN THE WATER: This soggy fable from The Sixth Sense’s M. Night Shyamalan seemed like a good idea at the time. The author/director has up until now had a good track record with his provocative movies but this oddball mess about a nymph (regretfully sans the mania!) who arrives from another world through the bottom of an apartment complex’s swimming pool and affects everybody who lives there is just too, too, too… well, if you have Diabetes you may want to check with your doctor before viewing. Better yet, just skip it and enjoy those two hours of your life. Paul Giamatti yearns to play a leading man. He’s tried it before with Duets and Sideways, but no matter how wonderful an actor he is, he can’t overcome nature. He looks like a basset hound and would be better suited to playing Snoopy in a live version of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” than continuing this quest to be Tom Cruise. Stop the Madness, Paul! Stop!

EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH: This sad would-be comedy sat on the studio shelf for more than two years before it was finally released. That should have been a warning printed on the posters in front of theaters where it played. Other than focusing on Jessica Simpson’s chest and Dane Cook’s stunted attempts at being leading man, what does a movie with three boobs in the lead have to offer? This story of a big box store’s employee competition to gain the title as best of the month is like a patchwork of sitcom sequences with no real merit. And Jess doesn’t even sing, which, depending on how much you value your ears, may be considered the only redeeming factor of the whole movie.

THE WICKER MAN: What happens when you take a British classic from 1973 about Paganism and the role of women in society and remake it as an American story with the same basic sensibilities some thirty-three years later? You make a huge mistake, for one thing. Even though the cinematography is gorgeous, the scenery is breath-taking, and the cast includes Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, and Frances Conroy, the clap-trap cult mentality that drives the isolated religious society in the film seems laughably dated and overly dramatic. This is the kind of movie that has you leaving the theater feeling embarrassed for the actors even though you don’t know them and makes you hope you don’t run into anybody you know on the way out who might ask what you just saw because you don’t really want anyone to know you wasted your time on such drivel.

NACHO LIBRE: Jack Black followed his high profile and well-received lead in Peter Jackson’s mammoth production of King Kong with this low-grade stinker about a Mexican monk who spends his nights donning a mask and entering the professional wrestling ring. Jack Black. Shirtless. In Spandex. That’s really nothing anybody sane wants to pay to see, and apparently very few people did. Black really can act, but this was a wretched story and the jokes were as broad as Black’s rear end and just about as interesting. Every funny moment (both of them) were in the preview and that ran on tv non-stop for weeks before the movie opened anyway.

JUST MY LUCK: I felt like my luck had run out when I sat through this festering sore, allegedly Lindsay Lohan’s great leap from juvenile to adult roles. The most ridiculous stretch of the movie isn’t that Lohan has ‘magical’ luck but that she is portrayed as mature enough, smart enough and credible enough to be a highly paid and respected Public Relations consultant. This poor girl can barely speak her lines without seeming to screech or explode with excitement no matter what the situation calls for. It is a nightmare to behold, and will rightly drive people who liked the teen actress in her earlier Disney days to never see a Lindsay Lohan movie again. Praise God!

FIREWALL: An aging Harrison Ford, for goodness sake, is cast as a bank’s computer security system chief who is forced to crack his own firewall and divert $100 million into some kidnappers’ Cayman Islands accounts to save his family from harm. Sounds exciting? Trust me, watching someone type for two hours, no matter how dramatic the music, no matter how much they sweat, and no matter how much someone stands next to them yelling at them to hurry up, it is still just typing and staring into a monitor. Whoopee. The scariest part of this whole “thriller” is the casting of gorgeous Virginia Madsen as his wife and nine year old Jimmy Bennett as his son. I’m sorry, but every time the kid came into the room I expected him to call Ford “Grandpa” not “Dad” and when Ford finally engaged in his requisite butt-kicking of the bad guys I found myself mostly worrying that he was going to break a hip with every fall or lose his dentures every time he took one to the chin. It’s way past time to give up the action hero and if this is any indication of what Indiana Jones IV is going to bring then they’d best title it Indiana Jones and the Tortures of the Convalescent Home right now.

POSEIDON: What a water-logged mess this disaster turned out to be. First, there was absolutely no reason to remake the original, which may be 34 years old, but it is still as exciting as ever. This anemic attempt to make it “better” may have more CGI to rely on, but no amount of artists’ rendering will ever do justice to the vision of Shelley Winters in bloomers as she swims through a flooded hallway to guide the others to safety. All Poseidon accomplished was to make me have to pee what with the constant sounds of water running on the soundtrack in every scene.


Date Movie
Deck the Halls
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties
John Tucker Must Die
Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Stick It
Underworld: Evolution

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