In between posting Part I and preparing this, I was thinking about a couple of well-publicised massive bombs from Hollywood’s past.
‘Ishtar’ (1987) starred Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty and lost Columbia millions of dollars. I’ve never seen it and so cannot comment here – but I see a few respected critics thought very highly of it although the majority panned it. Certainly, given director Elaine May’s fine track record, the film’s failure is surprising.
‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980) is Michael Cimino’s account of the Johnson County War in 1890s Wyoming.. It lost in excess of US$40 million, finished off United Artists and ruined Cimino’s reputation. I have seen the movie twice. It is very boring for much of its two and a half hours duration but there are moments of great beauty and refinement too. For this reason – and because Cimino did give us ‘The Deer Hunter’ – I will not include it here.
On with the list:
Alexander is Oliver Stone’s bete noir. He’s had several cracks at re-editing, with the inevitable ‘final cut’ being his definitive view of the Greek conqueror. Whichever version you see, it’s a clumsy, boring mess. Compromised by the emotional distance from its subject and made suspect by its historical crazy paving, Ptolemy’s narration only serves as a further irritant to the already nettled film-goer. The hopelessly miscast Colin Farrell’s Venice Beach Alexander, too, seems utterly lost in this confused and confusing debacle. A shocker.
The Bodyguard (1992)
Let’s get to it. The leads, Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, deliver some of the worst acting in the history of cinema. Whether or not that’s director Mick Jackson’s fault, or whether Lawrence Kasdan’s clunker of a script induced narcolepsy in the cast – or whether Costner and Houston were too bound up in themselves, it doesn’t really matter. Nothing, I mean nothing, comes off the screen. Not a spark. It is like watching Pac-Man try to mate with the cursor. And, oh yeah, Kevin sports yet another bad haircut.
On Deadly Ground (1994)
Co-produced, directed by and starring the king of smirking gits, Steven Seagal, this vanity piece is a slimy, oafish affront to the sensibilities.( One of my most cherished cinema memories involves Seagal. At the Embassy, a few years back with Josh, we were watching ‘Executive Decision’. Seagal plays a Special Forces type who’s trying to get aboard a hijacked plane via a ‘sky tunnel’ from another aircraft. It all goes wrong, the tunnel disintegrates – Segal along with it. Most of the audience applauded vigorously when this happened. Happy times)
The action takes place in Alaska where Seagal uncovers an oil pollution cover-up by eco-rapist, Michael Caine. Caine’s make-up lends him the appearance of an elderly Chinese theatrical as Seagal grunts his monosyllabic way through numerous killings and explosions to the film’s hysterical conclusion. Then follows an epilogue, where Seagal addresses the Alaska legislature on the evils of pollution and resource exploitation. I’m not sure if ‘breathtaking mediocrity’ is an oxymoron – but it’ll do me.
Match Point (2005)
As nasty a movie as I can remember seeing, Woody Allen’s London-based take on ‘A Place in the Sun’ is a continuation of the misogynistic themes explored, more successfully, in ‘Crimes and Misdemeanours’.
Allen likes to have his leading ladies betrayed and/or killed and I often wonder if he’s not acting out his own fantasies up there on the screen – a sort of New York Jewish Hitchcock. To compound this unpleasantness, Allen treats London and the British class system like a hesitant tourist presented with his first taste of Guinness and oysters. His characters are designed to expedite the plot without any consideration of actual social mores. There is no organic transparency only veiled artifice.(Robert Altman has a much defter touch around similar themes in ‘Gosford Park’, for instance) All in all, a mean, pucker-faced vagrant of a movie. Throw it a dollar and be on your way.
Separation City (2009)
Back in Shakespeare’s day, this would have been pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables. I did actually boo and hiss at it from my comfortable seat at Island Bay’s Empire Cinema. I remember reading somewhere that Tom Scott’s naff script had been sitting in a drawer somewhere for 20 years before being dusted off and put forward for funding. What a pity it didn’t stay there.
The story concerns a couple of failed relationships and the harm that’s done when people stay together out of custom. Unfortunately, the back stories lack credibility so what’s going on up on screen doesn’t register. The characters, especially the females, are ghastly stereotypes and offensive. The jokes are of the behind-the-hand ‘tee hee’ variety and made me squirm – and I hate to be made to feel uncomfortable in that way. In fairness, Danielle Cormack emerges with honour, investing her character with more credibility than the writing deserves. Somehow emblematic of the whole fiasco is the obvious use of Wellington Town Hall as a double for a Berlin Convention Centre. Careless and smug in a way that only someone who has been drawing the same cartoon for the Dominion Post for the last 30 years could manage. Garbage.
Wise Blood is delighted to introduce guest blogger, Docco, who will add an eleventh turkey to the list.
The Happening (2008)
This movie should have been re-named ‘Not Much Happening’. Directed by M Night Shyamalan, whose career started off so brightly with the great ‘Sixth Sense‘ and the not quite so good ‘Unbreakable’, the premise of this film is about a strange ‘happening’ which spreads across the world, making people kill each other for no apparent reason. Not a bad premise when you bear in mind that the film must be heading towards one of Shyamalan’s trademark big twists. However, the problem lies with lead actor, Mark Wahlberg. In one of the worst displays from a leading man, Wahlberg’s wooden, one-dimensional performance hampers the stuttering storyline from gathering any momentum. The piece de resistance from Wahlberg comes when the camera swoops into a close-up and he raises his eyebrows with as much sincerity as an extra on ‘Days of our Lives’ and utters the words; ‘It’s happening’.
Wahlberg’s performance stunk up this film so bad I cannot even remember the twist. ‘The Village’ and ‘Signs‘ also rank up there with Shyamalan’s trilogy of shame. He made a slight come-back with ‘Devil‘ – finally realising some of that potential he displayed in the 1999 sleeper hit, ‘The Sixth Sense’.