Friday, March 21, 2003

Boat Trip / zero stars (2003)

So here it is already, just three short months into the year—the single worst movie of 2003. "Boat Trip" hurls itself onto the screen like an endless diatribe of amateurism, slashing its way through one bad scene after another before it ultimately sinks into the murky depths of nothingness. The movie is an insulting, pathetic and tone-deaf assault on our senses; to watch it unfold from beginning to end is to feel imprisoned by the screening room it is playing in.

Dreamcatcher / *1/2 (2003)

Promotional trailers tend to build great expectations without even revealing the smallest narrative clue, and that is the situation—or more appropriately, the downfall—with Lawrence Kasdan's "Dreamcatcher." In the recent weeks, television screens and theater projectors have been bombarded by swiftly edited teasers that are almost too incoherent to grasp the basic context. They are deliberately ambiguous, converged on rapid camera shots and pulsating thuds in the soundtrack as they shamelessly maneuver every plot angle they can. Normally this approach can suggest shortcomings, but we as moviegoers are too optimistic to live by such ideals, so when people enter the movie theater to finally see the final product, they will be going in not with worry or reservation, but with genuine excitement. Only in the end, however, will they realize exactly why all the advertising spots lack an outline of the premise.

Mommie Dearest / *1/2 (1981)

"Mommie Dearest" is a book by a woman whose motives seem questionable. During the closing moments of the film adaptation, which examines the life of Joan Crawford through the eyes of her adoptive daughter Christina, the narrator shakes her head in disbelief when her mother's last will in testament reveals no inheritance for either her or her younger brother. "Mommie always gets the last word," he explains, to which Christina answers with a certain determination in her voice, "does she?" Having not read the book itself, immediate instinct is write off this closing reaction as a plot device simply meant to tie the picture to its source material. But if it is more than that? What if that moment reflects Christina's entire reasoning behind the initial purpose of the novel? Certainly, under that kind of scenario, it is aptly possible that any truth told about Ms. Crawford and her malicious behavior is anything but the whole truth.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Bringing Down the House / ** (2003)

"Bringing Down The House" is a movie under the inane delusion that old and ignorant white people can be the least bit amusing when they're clumsily trying to act like hip and young black people. I can live with Steve Martin spouting out dialogue like "Yo Mama," but words still escape me after watching the lovely Joan Plowright transformed into an uptight and bitter little socialite, who in one scene unforgivably mocks slavery in front of Queen Latifah and then later finds herself sitting between two black men at the neighborhood bar puffing on a joint. Moments like these defy the essence of comedy not because they lack luster or even ambition, but because they're basically just clich├ęd plot contraptions designed to simply further along the formula. In a movie as obvious as this, we know exactly what is expected of people at specific intervals, and it's never very funny.

Dark Blue / ***1/2 (2003)

Sergeant Eldon Petty Jr. is a cop at nonstop war with both internal and external forces, not the least of which is his own distorted sense of ideology. Produced in an atmosphere tattered by the hysterics of rebellion and the blood of the innocent, he's at the core of the biting commentary so vividly utilized in Ron Shelton's cop drama "Dark Blue," emerging as a man without personal motive or free will because the system he is trapped in refuses to accept its slaves as thinkers or individuals. We don't automatically assume he was easily snared into this behavior, and yet it's difficult to imagine any other possible scenario or outcome. After all, what kind of person would you be if you had surrendered your dedication over to a world where corruption and politics were the only two integral driving forces?

Tears of the Sun / *1/2 (2003)

"He was trained to follow orders. He became a hero by defying them."
- Tagline from "Tears of the Sun"

It's a shame that A.K. Waters didn't learn anything about humanity before he descended into the bloodstained jungles of Nigeria, otherwise he might have spared the audience from enduring the painful first half hour of "Tears of the Sun." A the leader of a Special-Ops unit sent into the African nation to rescue selected American citizens from an impending "ethnic cleansing," you'd expect him to immediately emerge as someone who has some sense of priority other than merely getting a mission completed. So is not the immediate case, however, and like a confused child, the movie tiptoes around him for a good 30 minutes before it allows him to make any kind of personal epiphany. And even then, things still don't begin to line up the way they should.

Willard / * (2003)

The twisted and mangled images that serve as the opening credits to "Willard" are not just exemplary to a movie of this nature, but also some of the most fierce and visually striking ones to have been scrawled across the movie screen in the recent years. Part-Tim Burton and part-Tarsem Singh in their modern yet primitive delivery, they fittingly tease the product's eccentric ideas without throwing away too much information or robbing the audience of its impending anticipation. Normally the movie itself would only emphasize the greatness of its introductory scenes, but alas, so is not the case with this rather bizarre result. There is a great idea in the fabric here somewhere, no doubt, but it gets lost, and it gets lost very fast.