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Best Worst Movie (2009)
Best movie about the best worst movie
As a fan notes in "Best Worst Movie", the worst movies are never made that way on purpose but inherit their serious badness from the sincerity with which they were made. Thus was the case with Troll 2, which the director Claudio Fragasso inconceivably insists was an earnest work of art. This documentary, put together by the actor who played the son in the 1990 film, catches up with Fragasso as well as the writer (Fragasso's wife) and cast of Troll 2.
Many terrible films have acquired cult followings--most notably of recent times Tommy Wiseau's The Room--but to my knowledge, Troll 2 is the only one which is itself a subject of a documentary. Michael Stephenson does an excellent job in conveying not only Troll 2's infamy but also the general "it's all in fun" attitude of fans who love truly bad movies. Even if you haven't seen Troll 2 (although I highly recommend you do!), I think you'll find this documentary interesting, hilarious, and even touching. Even my 14 year old son, who's as yet too young to appreciate epic badness in movie making, wandered into the room while I was viewing this and ended up sitting and watching it with me.
Much of the documentary centers around George Hardy, who played the dad in Troll 2, and his attending of conventions and Troll 2 screenings as well as his efforts in trying to get the other actors to participate in a Troll 2 reunion. The jovial Hardy is impossible to dislike and without his cooperation "Best Worst Movie" wouldn't have worked nearly as well. His upbeat attitude lends a balance to the proceedings as we discover that many of the other actors involved in Troll 2 are these days embarrassed, bitter, depressed, or in at least two cases clinically insane.
Fragasso, by turns astounded and angry that so many people laugh at his film, is a dour presence throughout, but in the end offers the most relevant wisdom. Movies, he says, are about moving the audience, and Troll 2 is by those standards a great success. Fortunately, the same can be said about "Best Worst Movie", which is well worth a look.
Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal (2007)
Dhan Dhanna Dhan Goal isn't terrible, but it falls short of the mark set by the far superior Chak De India. The acting is okay, but the script is often stagnant and overly predictable--even for a sports movie--and the story meanders along, hardly seeming to care if the viewer is still engaged or not. Unusual for a Bollywood movie, the characters fail to emote much and thus fail to grab our attention. John Abraham has been more than competent in films like New York, but here he seems to be reciting his lines as though he's in rehearsal--his heart is not in it. Most of the rest of the soccer team barely registers except when they're bickering, and even then we don't really know what they're bickering about. The 2 hour 45 minute run time is unwarranted given the thin stuff of which the plot is made and the shoehorned-in racism subplot does not ring true. 5/10, watch Chak De India instead.
Alien Hunter (2003)
Don't let the tacky name turn you off
The unfortunately named ALIEN HUNTER was much better than I anticipated. I picked it up out of the cheapie bin at a local store expecting a mock-worthy B-movie starring my favorite actor, James Spader. What I got instead was a well-acted, rather thoughtful film with respectable special effects.
No, the plot is not wholly original, but in this case that doesn't detract from the film. Not every movie is going to be a BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. The alien/Roswell/government setup is a familiar one that should please most scifi fans. Coupled with the excellent performance by James Spader, it all works well until the end of the film, when things sort of start to fall apart plot-wise. The government's knowledge of the aliens is never adequately explained and this does cause some confusion. However, the last few scenes are very well done and somewhat make up for this plot hole.
The movie is best while our characters in Antarctica are still trying to solve the mystery of the melting rock/alien shuttle, and just after the alien emerges from its hiding place. The scene with Spader and the alien and the aftermath is quite touching and this is where fine acting saves the day. This sequence could easily have come across as cheesy and ridiculous but it is actually the highlight of the movie, in my opinion. It makes you think, but don't worry, not TOO hard. ;-)
Overall, I would say most scifi fans should enjoy ALIEN HUNTER if they approach it without expecting something wholly original. Watch out for the director's commentary, however--he sounds like he's been asleep longer than the alien!
Better in retrospect
I remember being bitterly disappointed in 2002 by the final episode of The X-Files, which was rather deceptively titled "The Truth." For those of us who had been glued to our screens for nine full years--including suffering through the mostly dreadful eighth and ninth seasons--Chris Carter's swan song seemed a cheat and a conceit, more a love letter to himself than the slam-bang take-no-prisoners fan-friendly send-off that we expected and deserved. If Carter was our master, then we were the mistress given a pat on the head and a twenty dollar bill and sent on our way. In short, we felt like jilted lovers and reacted thusly.
Now, some years and many (re)viewings later, I can see the truth--and "The Truth"--for what it is. "The Truth" is a not-so-bad-after-all finale to a show that ran nine seasons and may well have presented the most labyrinthine and emotionally involving plot ever seen on network series television. How else to explain the visceral reactions of longtime "X-Philes" when they didn't get what they wanted? Much like Agent Mulder, we were toyed with for years by The Powers That Be, and much like Agent Mulder we were nearly wrecked by the truth.
The truth (in small letters) being, of course, that no finale big or small could have properly wrapped up into a neat package the answers to the questions posed by the nine year run of The X-Files. Now, part of this is Chris Carter's fault for allowing the show to wander in so many different directions over the years. Yet at the same time that wandering is what brought such incredible richness to the story arcs and the characters we came to know and love. And, ironically, that richness is precisely why this finale was and remains about as good as finales get, at least without falling into that worst of traps, the thing the X-Files most needed to avoid in its final gasp... a lack of credibility.
Okay, so lack of credibility might seem a small thing on a show about ghosts, UFOs, monsters, and psychic powers. But after watching all the episodes many (many, many) times, seeing how incrementally Scully came to believe and how even Mulder doubted himself more than once along the way, I don't see how a "Mulder is saving the world from aliens and here is the--ta-daa!--PROOF!" type of ending would have been credible WITHIN THE REALITY OF THE X-FILES UNIVERSE. Sure, it would have been nice as fans to have all the answers and not have to think about the questions anymore, but is that really why we got hooked in the first place? Because of the easy answers and the simplicity of the plot?
Speaking for myself, no, it wasn't. In my opinion, to have all the mysteries solved and all the story arcs resolved in a 90 minute finale was not a believably attainable ending, and to do so would have tainted the legacy of The X-Files.
So, while by no means do I consider the "The Truth" unflawed (I still can't hear the term "Super Soldiers" without cringing), I do consider it a more-than-adequate send-off to one of the best television series of all time. I think the nutshell structure of the trial worked, especially for fans who had become disenchanted and drifted away from the show, and I think it works even better today--not only in light of what I mentioned in previous paragraphs, but also in consideration of the fact that over the years the accrued intensity of the nine-year week-to-week passion has fallen away. Therefore, the summation in the finale is a nice reminder of where the various story lines and characters went and how they got there. The addition of dead characters as seen through Mulder's eyes is a nice touch as well, one I remember resenting during the original airing but now appreciate for the sake of getting to see Krycek and The Lone Gunmen one last time. And, of course, as a huge Mulder/Scully fan, the scenes of them together thrill me to pieces now that I'm done being disgruntled with the poor quality of the final seasons.
To sum up, while complaints of "not enough answers" may stem from somewhat valid concerns, I believe that the series finale remained true to the spirit of The X-Files, I believe that it could not have been done much better given the previous deterioration of the writing and story lines, and I also believe that Carter was right in his decision to concentrate on the Mulder/Scully relationship.
Or, maybe, it's just that I Want To Believe. ;-)
Boston Legal (2004)
Putting James Spader and William Shatner in their own show together was a stroke of genius. Both are fine actors and they play off each other perfectly. I generally don't enjoy legal dramas, but BOSTON LEGAL is unique in its presentation. Rather than getting preachy, sleazy, or melodramatic, it delights in the moral ambiguity of its main characters and hides a little bon mot around every corner of dialog.
Shatner and Spader deliver every time, but never seem like they're trying too hard. Spader has been brilliant in almost everything he's appeared in, so we shouldn't expect any less from him here. I'm a little surprised, however, that so many people are caught off guard by Shatner's great performance. If you've followed him over the years, you'd know his sense of humor is wonderfully suited to this role. Honestly, I can't imagine a better fit for William Shatner than Denny Crane. Captain Kirk, indeed.
Any show that can put so many (hilarious) layers of meaning into the spoken name "Denny Crane" deserves all the accolades it gets.
Darkness Falls (2003)
What could be scarier than the Tooth Fairy?
Things scarier than the tooth fairy...
...My eight year old operating on an empty stomach.
...My six year old daughter with a pixie stix in her hand.
...My cat when he wants to play.
...Fuzzy bunnies, the Brady Bunch, pretty flowers... you get the picture. The fact is, structuring a horror movie around the TOOTH FAIRY is a stupid idea.
The tooth fairy is not Bloody Mary, for crying out loud. Because of this the scriptwriters have to create a legend about a tooth fairy-esque old bat who lives in the town of "Darkness Falls" and tries to kill newly toothless children. And yeah, that's about as much plot development as we get.
To the filmmakers' credit, the opening sequence where the tooth fairy offs Kyle's mom is pretty good. Unfortunately the movie goes way downhill after that. By the end, the creepy old lady is flying around killing everyone in sight... or not in sight, since she can only kill in the dark. In the middle there's some small-town angst about no one liking Kyle since they think he killed his mom (well, duh) and heroine Caitlin's little brother not getting any sleep due to the tooth fairy's hijinx.
I'll save you some time: the main characters live and the old bat tooth fairy is vanquished. There, now you don't have to watch it.
4/10 (2 points for opening sequence, 2 points for some genuinely creepy fx)
The Running Man (1987)
I entered my first comment on this film almost five years ago. Then, the ideas presented in the movie still seemed mostly fictional, if indeed they could ever transpire at all. Not any longer. Now, the politics, society, and media in The Running Man seem very close to home indeed.
Consider the following factors, which were mostly absent in 1987 (the year The Running Man came out) that are present today:
Concern with, as Richard Dawson's character Damon Killian puts it, "traditional morality." CHECK
Entertainment in the form of extreme reality, including pain, fear, and discomfort on the part of contestants. CHECK
Cameras everywhere. CHECK
Restricted travel for citizens at the whim of the government, controlled by a centralized computer system complete with barcoded passports ("travel passes" in the movie) and sanctioned under the guise of national security. CHECK
An increased intermingling, bordering on incestuous, of government and media. CHECK
Computer-generated graphics that are advanced enough to manipulate real film footage (such as the "digital matting" of Ben Richards' image onto the stunt double). CHECK
Jailing of conscientious objectors or detractors of the current administration. CHECK
Flagging economy further widening the gulf between the wealthy and not-so-wealthy; increasing numbers of fringe groups reacting to the tightening noose of big government; civil unrest brewing just under or at the surface of nearly every sizable public event regardless of its origin or intent. CHECK, CHECK, CHECK
Then again, maybe it's just a movie based on a Stephen King novella. But just to be safe, I'm moving to Switzerland.
CSI: Miami (2002)
Best comedy on TV
How has CSI: Miami not picked up an Emmy for best comedy? It has everything--hilarious dialog, slapstick hijinx (when Horatio grabs the perps by their shirt collars), trademark moves (sunglasses), a comforting formulaic plot, and a ditzy blonde foil in skimpy clothes. Not since THREE'S COMPANY have we seen such a successful blending of the basic elements of comedy.
The funniest part of CSI: Miami by far is David Caruso. This guy was born to play the comedic straight man. He has his delivery and mannerisms down so well that I laugh uncontrollably every time he utters a line or removes his sunglasses. In one recent episode he even got a "non-English-speaking" Romanian man to speak perfect English--hilariously, of course--simply by throwing him around a little. Kramer, step aside. Horatio Cane is the funnyman of the new millennium. Mark my words, soon "yadda yadda yadda" will be replaced by "Thiiiiiisss... looks like A... MUURRRder" in the lexicon of the American public.
Of course, every comedian needs a good supporting cast. Fortunately, Emily Procter (Chrissy) and Khandi[!!] Alexander (Janet) are more than up to the challenge of providing laughs week after week. Even their character names--Calleigh and Alexx--are designed to provoke chuckles and highlight the brilliant absurdity of their roles. Khandi Alexander deserves a special mention for keeping a straight face while she talks to the corpses she is dissecting. Now that's comedy. I expect her to drop a junior mint into one of their chest cavities anytime now.
I was saddened at "Speed"'s recent departure as he was such an essential part of the show (following Adam Rodriguez around with a prop box is a REALLY important duty). However, his replacement is nearly as useless, a lot cuter, and has far more potential for high comedy, so I'm not worried. Besides, Speed's final moments generated "master of my domain" levels of hilarity, so it was all worth it.
The only thing about this show that's serious is Adam Rodriguez, who is SERIOUSLY hot. I'd gladly watch a weekly one-hour drama called RODRIGUEZ WRITES HIS SHOPPING LIST. This needs to happen. And why not? I mean, if shows like SEVENTH HEAVEN are still on...
Great acting but not "entertaining"
AFFLICTION is a disturbing, slow-moving, and harrowingly realistic portrayal of alcoholism and the effect it can have on families. Those who are or have been involved in such a situation will almost certainly find this film disturbing to watch. The acting, especially by Nick Nolte, is realistic and Oscar-worthy but not enough to lift the movie to the artistic level it seems to be trying to achieve (note bleak filters and angled, grainy flashbacks). AFFLICTION is a movie to watch once and ponder but not one to enjoy or watch over again. Some here have called it "bad," but I don't think it's bad, just deliberate and disturbing to the point where it is no longer entertainment.
A note: I was born and raised in New England and even in Northern NH there's usually not 2 feet of snow at Halloween!
The Sweetest Thing (2002)
I caught this one on HBO after hearing it compared to NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE, which I love. I state this so that you can see that my standards are not highbrow. All I expect from comedies is that they make me laugh. This one made me cringe instead.
THE SWEETEST THING did not make me laugh once. The three actresses here are all decent, and the plot--such as it is--is cliche but workable: girl chases guy around and causes wacky hijinx. This movie might be funny if it was written by someone else. Unfortunately, it's written by Nancy Pimental, who was just as horrifyingly untalented on "Win Ben Stein's Money" as she is here. And here is something I never thought I'd hear myself say without irony: Thomas Jane deserves better than this. I can't believe I just said that but it's true.
Question: could anything be more ridiculously forced and unfunny than the fellatio scene in this movie? Answer: NO. On the comedy spectrum, THE SWEETEST THING is bordering the dreaded Carrot Top CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD territory. If it had worse actors and a slightly lower budget, it would already be there.
Lastly, I have some advice for Selma Blair: 1. Fire your agent 2. Gain back the 25 pounds you've lost recently 3. Don't do Roger Kumble any more favors--you've paid your due.