It's that time of year. Some high profile cinema features are just on the horizon and the schedule for the latest Ebertfest film festival has just been announced. It's putting me more and more in a movie mood. Having already done a write-up on the best films ever made, I thought today we'd look at those movies that Matty-Matt considers the worst ever to have graced the silver screen. So, here goes....
- Batman & Robin (1997, Joel Schumacher) -- I remember sitting in a line that wrapped around the Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign one hot summer afternoon in 1989. A friend and I had rode our bikes there, and were reveling in the anticipation of Tim Burton's Batman masterpiece. And it lived-up to expectations. For the third film, Joel Schumacher took over the directorial reigns and, by the time of the fourth film, things had de-railed considerably. Batman & Robin has a good cast, but Schumacher's awful direction and garish set design makes it look like a poor version of the 1960's camp TV series. Every time Arnold Schwarzenneger (as Mr. Freeze) exclaimed, "Chill!" I cringed.
- Bowfinger (1999, Frank Oz) -- Perhaps a bit of a controversial entry here, as it seems to have a small bit of respect, I found Bowfinger to be an awkward, uncomfortable comedy from Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy. Roger Ebert, on the other hand, gave it 3.5 (out of 4) stars, so go figure. Martin plays the title role, a low-level Hollywood director who can't land A-List Kit Ramsey (Murphy) in a lead part, so he enlists his brother Jiff (also Murphy) to stand-in for him. Heather Graham is Bowfinger's attractive assistant (whatever happened to her, anyway?), but these actors can't save the movie. Uneven direction by Oz, and cringe-inducing scenes with the somewhat special needs character of Jiff leave me wanting to take a cold shower after watching this film.
- Crash (1996, David Cronenberg) -- Without a doubt the worst film on this list, Crash (not to be confused with the Oscar winner) takes auto eroticism quite literally, featuring a cavalcade of characters who are turned-on by car crashes, including having sex with the healed wounds of injuries folks sustained in auto accidents. It also has the apparently mandatory Cronenberg sex scene, wherein the man side-fucks the woman, and she appears to be dis-interested in the proceedings. During this particular scene in Crash, the woman actually talks about how some semen is saltier than others. Yes, really.
- Howard the Duck (1986, Willard Huyck) -- If anyone was disappointed with the Star Wars prequels or the 4th Indiana Jones movie, then Howard the Duck should have come as some warning, produced as it was by George Lucas. Admittedly, I rather liked this movie as a kid, although it was a guilty pleasure. Featuring Tim Robbins, Jeffrey Jones and Lea Thompson (whom I used to have a major crush on), Howard the Duck is about a duck. Named Howard. Who falls from space and lands in "Cleve-Land" (as he pronounces it). I'll just stop there.
- Liz & Dick (2012, Lloyd Kramer) -- I hesitated as to whether or not this film should be included, seeing as it's a TV movie, not a true cinematic release. But, what the heck, it was supremely crap-tastic, so it gets a mention. Attempting to tell the story of actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton are Lindsay Lohan and.... a no-name cast. Really, they couldn't even cast someone other than Grant Bowler in the Burton role? A sad, sad spectacle, Liz & Dick meanders through two hours of bland storytelling at its most torturous. I watched it more as a train wreck than as a film. The acting was wickedly bad, and the direction, lifeless. Those two hours are gone. I'll never get them back. So it goes.
- The Matrix Revolutions (2003, Andy & Lana Wachowski) -- I felt as though the original Matrix was groundbreaking and not in need of a sequel. But the box office and Wachowski siblings had other plans, so four years later we were treated to not one but two sequels, the final one being The Matrix Revolutions. To call it ponderous and anti-climactic would be an understatement. It absolutely disappoints as the completion to a trilogy, and is simply not a very well-made film. What a let down for what was a fascinating story concept about Neo and the land of Zion.
- Mr. Sycamore (1975, Pancho Kohner) -- Okay, so, you've got Jason Robards, Jean Simmons and Sandy Dennis. You'd think that you'd have a pretty good movie, right? Alas, you would think incorrectly. This film used to seriously fascinate me as a kid, in a 'wow, this is really quite awful' sort of way. Robards stars as a mailman who gets it in his head that life would be vastly improved if only he could be a tree. And, at the end (spoiler alert) he actually stands there, his arms raised, and becomes a mother-f**king tree! Mic drop.
- The Phantom Menace (1999, George Lucas) -- Are there worse movies than Phantom Menace? Sure. Lots of 'em. Still, it's pretty bad. And it's badness is amplified by the 16-year-wait for Episode 1 after the original trilogy ended. Anticipation was high, and then we got.... this. I remember going to see it at a midnight showing, only to begin looking at the ceiling about 45-minutes in, wondering solemnly what the heck was going on with one of my favorite movie franchises. From Jar-Jar Binks, to the lackluster acting, to the boring political plot, to Darth Vader as a child, everything was off-kilter. But, that's the Star Wars prequel trilogy for you.
- The Swarm (1978, Irwin Allen) -- I actually sought-out The Swarm because it is the last film of my favorite classic Hollywood actor, Fred MacMurray. Unfortunately, the last image of him in cinema history sees him tossed through a train window before it crashes and blows up. The Swarm features an all-star cast, horribly directed by the "master of disaster" Irwin Allen. Most of the characters meet ignominious ends, and their dialogue would make even a D-List actor wince. The damage inflicted by the killer bees, not to mention the plans implemented to try and stop them, seem way over the top.
- The Wicker Man (1973, Robin Hardy) -- It is difficult to put into words my reaction to this movie. Less difficult (though no less hollow) is to state how disappointed I was upon viewing it. The original Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, is about a police sergeant (Woodward) who is summoned to the island of Summerisle, led by the seemingly charming Lord Summerisle (Lee). Underneath the idyllic islander surface is a cult of sex orgies, human sacrifice and really, really bad music. Combine the music with the orgies, and you have some quite bizarre scenes. I know that this movie has a sizable cult following but, really people, let's be honest: it sucks.
And, there you go. You may or may not agree with some of the entries here, and that's fine. These are all subjective choices. I actually haven't seen what are probably considered to be really awful films, as there's often fairly good warning about them, and so they're easy to avoid. Time is precious, so best not to waste it on bad stuff, right?