What is the ugliest part of Battlefield Earth? Is it the horrendous makeup used for the alien Psychlos? The incessant use of Dutch angles? John Travolta’s piercing cackle? For those who have never seen Battlefield Earth, it is based on a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, one that depicts a world where humans have been enslaved by an alien race known as Psychlos. When the Psychlo security chief Terl (John Travolta) is condemned to remain at his post on Earth for the rest of his life, he plans to mine gold using humans, placing one of them, Jonnie (Barry Pepper), in a “learning machine” so he might better organize the workers. Instead, the newly-educated Jonnie launches a rebellion; the ensuing battles look like cutscenes from a C-tier ’90s video game. Poorly written, acted, and shot, Battlefield Earth is a delirious wreck of a movie.
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Proving that the couple that stars together, bombs together, Gigli stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez — who were dating at the time — in a rom-com that is neither romantic nor funny (at least, not intentionally). The plot concerns one Larry Gigli (Affleck), a mobster who is tasked with kidnapping a prosecutor’s mentally challenged brother, Brian (Justin Bartha), with the help of a woman named Ricki (Lopez). Despite the fact that Ricki is a lesbian, she and Gigli fall in love, an improbable romance that involves — and I will avoid spoiling the context here — Ricki breathlessly uttering the line, “It’s turkey time. Gobble, gobble.”
The film has a few bright spots thanks to Al Pacino and Christopher Walken; the latter turns in one of his inexplicably compelling, stream of consciousness performances. In recent years, Affleck has reasserted himself as a talented director-actor with films like Argo; perhaps this string of great films is his way of atoning for this greatest sin of a movie. If so, he still has a few Hail Marys to go.
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From Justin to Kelly
Having run for 15 years, American Idol was one of the most successful shows in television history, each season drawing millions of viewers to see hopeful singers perform anodyne covers of pop songs. The show was an institution, but buried beneath the floorboards is a dark secret: From Justin to Kelly. The film was a romantic musical produced and released hastily after the first season of American Idol concluded, and starred winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini. It takes place during spring break, where Kelly and Justin meet at a Florida beach and begin to fall in love, their romance threatened by Kelly’s jealous friend Alexa (Katherine Bayless).
Given how quickly the film followed on the heels of the first season — with roughly nine months between the season finale and the film’s release, this is perhaps the most grotesque birth in history — there was not much time to work out a script. That could be forgiven — many great musicals have simple stories — but even the spectacle is hollow. Much of the film is devoted to soulless musical numbers — the young folks of Fort Lauderdale robotically spin around as the stars belt out karaoke. The script is not helped by the fact that the two leads — who were trained as singers, not actors, and who had just finished trying to eliminate each other in a talent contest — have all the chemistry of a sock and a piece of stale bread.
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Dragonball was a popular manga-anime series that followed a young boy named Goku, who uses martial arts and magic powers to travel the world, fighting villains and homing his skills. It was the type of story, filled with outlandish character designs, uniquely suited for a cartoon. It is hard to imagine anyone would try to make a live-action version. The call of money is powerful, however, and eventually led a studio to produce the misbegotten Dragonball: Evolution.
The movie reimagines Goku (Justin Chatwin) as an awkward teenager. Goku’s grandfather possesses an artifact known as a Dragonball, and one night the demon Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) kills him in an attempt to take it. Goku then embarks on a journey to find the other Dragonballs and stop Piccolo. The filmmakers seem to have decided that audiences would not relate to Goku’s epic journey to defeat a demonic warlord, so they gave him some high school bullies to deal with in the first act of the film. Dragonball’s kinetic and colorful action and characters come across as silly and embarrassing in this live-action film.
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You might be surprised to learn that Christmas, one of the most popular holidays in the world, is in need of saving. Apparently it is, though, and Kirk Cameron is the man to save it. Not from atheists, though. The great threat against Christmas is, strangely, other Christians, who dislike the commercialism that has taken over the holiday. Yes, Saving Christmas argues that the true meaning of Christmas is spending money and throwing up lavish ornaments, rather than Puritanical values like togetherness or charity. After a bizarre opening scene in which Cameron lectures the viewer on his love of Christmas and hot cocoa, the film begins for real, as Cameron arrives at a family Christmas party, where he learns that his brother-in-law Christian (Darren Doane) — so-named because subtlety is deader than Marley’s ghost — is refusing to celebrate because he views Christmas as a pagan holiday that has hijacked his religion.
Like God’s Not Dead, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas is intended to teach the audience through one-sided dialogues, as Kirk eviscerates Christian’s arguments. The film also shows a weak grasp on filmmaking techniques; it feels like the film is 70 percent close-up shots. At times, the film also abandons the family dramedy narrative for lengthy documentary segments in which Cameron explains his Biblical arguments for things like Christmas trees.
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