Tuesday, February 28, 2006

To Download or Not Download

Traditional media wants to make money in new media but still hasn't quite figured it out. For instance, CBS On Demand offers downloads of SURVIVOR: PANAMA for $1.99 an episode.

Despite being signed up for the SURVIVOR e-mail, the arrival of which clued me into this past Thursday's episode, somehow I managed to miss the fact that the new edition started on February 2. When I started watching the February 23 episode, I thought someone must have made an enormous mistake and aired the wrong one, but nope, I was out of the loop. (Apparently all I watch on CBS is SURVIVOR, THE AMAZING RACE, and the NFL. With none of those programs on and a DVR to skip commercials, I was oblivious.)

A visit to the SURVIVOR site informed me that all previously aired episodes were available for download. Ordinarily I wouldn't have considered downloading a TV show; however, SURVIVOR episodes are rarely rerun, and understanding the group dynamics and brokered alliances require seeing every show. I'm a big fan, so what's $5.97 to download three episodes to get me up to speed?

Not much, of course, which is also what you get. First of all, the episodes don't have broadcast quality video, at least in my eyes. The second and third episodes looked less problematic to me, but all exhibited occasional pixellation. The bigger issue is that these downloads are rentals, not purchases. Upon downloading, the renter has 24 hours to watch the episode before it is rendered unaccessible. (Remember the old DIVX versus open DVD debate?) Woe to those who choose to open the file instead of saving it to disk if they want to watch it again. Also, the downloaded file cannot be burned to DVD or put on any portable device.

Now this isn't worth getting bent out of shape. I appreciate that I had the opportunity to watch these episodes--yeah, if I were savvier about things like BitTorrent I probably could have saved my money--but CBS' current model isn't exactly consumer-friendly. I spent almost six bucks to watch three episodes in lower quality video and can't view them again a day later. If the SURVIVOR DVD season sets are any indication, you will be eventually be able to get this season and special features for $50 MSRP or the discounted price of $34-$38. With a 15-episode season, the daily downloads add up to $29.85. (Comparing apples to oranges, I bought the second season of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT on sale today for $14.99 plus tax. That would have bought me eight SURVIVOR: PANAMA rentals.) Renters like me are paying for immediacy in a big way. Maybe a better solution is having these episodes able to be purchased via the cable box. At least the video quality shouldn't be an issue in that situation.

Speaking of getting in a huff over less than two dollars, iTunes users who are fans of THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW, a podcast featuring Gervais, Steve Merchant, and Karl Pilkington, are not very happy that the Guinness World Records' most downloaded podcast now costs $1.95 per half-hour show. (The previous twelve episodes were available for free for up to four weeks on Guardian Unlimited.) The majority of user reviews express dissatisfaction with the price point, claiming it's twice as much as it should cost.

I'll be interested to see if the market dictates a price drop. The free podcasts were pretty funny, and I may break down and buy them. If so, there's a better deal to be had on audible.com, where $6.95 gets you "four episodes delivered weekly (maybe more!)"


FREEDOMLAND (Joe Roth, 2006)

A New Jersey housing project becomes a powder keg when the police lock down the community to search for a missing boy in FREEDOMLAND. A dazed Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) wanders into the hospital with injuries she claims to have sustained in a carjacking. Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) interviews her, pushing particularly on the reason why she was driving through an area where she shouldn’t have been. (She lives in the nearby white community but works in the black, low-income neighborhood.) Only after much discussion does Brenda reveal that her son was asleep in the back of the car.

An exhaustive search commences, which includes the police blocking off the African-American neighborhood. This action inflames the residents and puts them at odds with the white officers from outside the area. Meanwhile, suspicions rise regarding Brenda’s version of events as no sign of the boy or her car are found. A group of parents who conduct their own searches for abducted children offer their expertise in the case. Karen Collucci (Edie Falco) provides an empathetic ear and shoulder for Brenda as the search leads to the ruins of a children’s asylum known as Freedomland.

FREEDOMLAND aspires to the topical and social relevance of a Spike Lee film, but Joe Roth is not up to the challenge. This ambitious film, penned by Richard Price, tackles issues of racial disharmony with the police and how feelings of parental inadequacy affect behavior, not to mention the conventional mystery elements with the missing kid and the possibility of Brenda being a Susan Smith figure. Roth has bitten off more than he can chew. He scrambles the disparate threads and character motivations into an enormous mess. There’s the distinct impression that the source material—Price’s novel of more than seven hundred pages—couldn’t be adequately condensed into a two-hour feature film.

Roth’s direction is terribly uneven and, at times, confusing. After Lorenzo’s initial interrogation of Brenda, he badgers her again in another room. Lorenzo starts sucking on inhalers—a detail unexplained at that point and not critical in the grand scheme—and gets an emergency shot of adrenaline while the camera careens around the space and he lobs questions and accusations at her. This stylistic break comes out of nowhere, and the hard shift from believing Brenda’s story to challenging it calls her truthfulness into question. An air of uncertainty hangs over FREEDOMLAND, yet for all of its internal confusion, it is apparent where events are leading.

Moore’s performance might have worked in a better film, but in FREEDOMLAND Brenda is too ill-defined for her acting choices to make sense. Brenda comes across as alternately lucid and mentally unstable. While it’s fair to assume that a woman with an abducted child won’t behave rationally at all times, there are moments when Brenda seems to be mentally impaired. That Lorenzo would be personally responsible for her—when he isn’t letting her shuffle off, that is—in even more nonsensical. Jackson manages the best he can for a character pulled in many different directions by the demands of the screenplay. The film is studded with actor-friendly monologues—Moore has a doozy that imparts key information—but they can’t salvage a film as disarrayed as FREEDOMLAND.

Grade: D

Monday, February 27, 2006

Imagine Me & You

IMAGINE ME & YOU (Ol Parker, 2005)

IMAGINE ME & YOU begins with the wedding of Rachel (Piper Perabo) and Heck (Matthew Goode), but the bride finds much to her astonishment that she has her eyes on the florist Luce (Lena Headey). A glimpse of Luce and brief interaction at the reception stirs something inside Rachel that she's never felt. She seeks Luce for her social circle, and slowly she realizes that Heck may not be the person with whom she wants to spend the rest of her life.

Maybe it’s a sign of progress that a mediocre gay romantic comedy can enter the mainstream marketplace and not create any stir. IMAGINE ME & YOU is as ordinary and forgettable as any number of male-female love stories. That said, the gay content is timid and almost secondary to the story. Rachel’s interest in Luce is not developed convincingly. There aren’t any sparks or elucidation of what causes Rachel to discover her supposed chemical attraction to a woman. Rachel and Luce appear destined to be friends more than lovers. It’s to the detriment of IMAGINE ME & YOU that it compares unfavorably with LOST AND DELIRIOUS, a drama that featured Perabo as a girl unashamed of her affection for a female classmate in spite of the disapproval of other students and the administration.

It also comes up short next to KISSING JESSICA STEIN, a lesbian-curious rom-com which explored the main character’s sexual identity more deeply than this superficial film. IMAGINE ME & YOU presupposes a ridiculous version of love at first sight. All it takes here is Rachel spotting Luce out of the corner of her eye as she marches down the aisle. To writer-director Ol Parker’s credit, Rachel and Luce are given more time via social interactions to know one another before forcing the audience to swallow this fantasy of predestined passion. Still, Rachel’s decision-making comes across as wishy-washy. She’s driven by the screenplay’s mechanics rather than Sapphic desire or interest in experimentation.

Grade: C-

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Madea's Family Reunion

MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION (Tyler Perry, 2006)

Lord have mercy, it’s another heavy-handed homily from Tyler Perry. The screenwriter and star of DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN adds director to his list of credits for MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION, the follow-up to the commercially successful and critically reviled adaptation of Perry’s play. In MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION Perry plays three roles, the most prominent of which is the no-nonsense big momma Madea. She doles out her down-home wisdom in heaping helpings to her nieces, half-sisters Lisa (Rochelle Aytes) and Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson), and a court-imposed foster child.

Lisa is engaged to Atlanta investment banker Carlos (Blair Underwood), a man of her mother’s dreams more than hers. In public Carlos looks like the perfect man, but in his penthouse he is controlling and physically abusive. Not only does Lisa’s mother Victoria (Lynn Whitfield) have no sympathy for her favored daughter’s plight, but she views it as an acceptable compromise for achieving financial security. Vanessa, the single mother of two children by different men, lives with Madea while trying to get her life in order. She fears committing to another man even when her pursuer is the exceptionally nice bus driver Frankie (Boris Kodjoe).

If Tyler Perry worked in construction, he’d use a sledgehammer when a tack hammer would get the job done. At least that’s the impression given by his didactic film. MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION pounds out the conflicts and resolutions as if the audience were kindergarteners who need to have everything spelled out in the most simplistic way possible. Perry encourages viewers to interact with the film, shamelessly trolling for tuts and applause at the properly coded moments.

Most of the characters are monsters or long-suffering saints. It’s not enough for Victoria to have selfish reasons to encourage Lisa to stay in a bad relationship. She also has to have no remorse for letting her wealthy husband rape Vanessa as a child so he wouldn’t leave her. The revelation appalls the audience—rightly so—but it doesn’t faze the characters beyond the scene in which it occurs. It plays into Perry’s strategy of letting the viewers feel superior to the bad people and those who put up with them.

Like DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN, for a movie that is supposedly rooted in Christian ideals, Perry’s work has a taste for Old Testament vengeance. It’s another indication that he is pandering to a judgmental audience dissatisfied with the state of today’s African-American community, yet Perry undercuts himself at times, juxtaposing the pleasure of ogling a young woman with a call for females to dress less provocatively. There’s nothing objectionable about the film’s desire to promote healing and right living, but MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION is oppressively earnest. Despite the broad comedy of the infrequent scenes with Madea and her brother Joe—both played by Perry—it’s also humorless.

Perry has yet to demonstrate an understanding for the difference between a stage production and a film. Crudely assembled on a basic level, MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION jerks from one soap opera subplot to another, often spending long stretches away from the main thread regarding Lisa and Carlos. From the outset Perry shows a failure to grasp film grammar. Carlos ushers Lisa into the bathroom where he has drawn a bath for her comfort. Also in the room are some instrumentalists, one playing a harp, and a woman waving a fan. Ordinarily I’d assume this is a fantasy sequence, but if that was his intention, Perry gives no indication that such is the case. (Maybe it’s supposed to be believable. An opulent wedding features children dressed as angels hanging from the ceiling.)

The actors do the best they can. Aytes is appealing as Lisa even though her character’s submissiveness frustrates because it exceeds common sense. Anderson gets the best and most complex role as Vanessa. She does well conveying how Vanessa’s relationship history builds her resistance to Frankie’s inherent goodness. The screenplay doesn’t do her any favors when she’s called upon to act needlessly hysterical after Frankie takes the kids out while she sleeps, but as with all the performances, Perry’s writing is to blame. Perry is more successful as an actor than a writer and director. He hoards the rare funny lines for himself as Madea and Joe, and in those scenes his preference for the broad are less maddening. For his future films Perry would be wise to tone down the melodrama and increase the comedy. He needs more than a spoonful of sugar to make his medicine go down.

Grade: D-

Requiem for a Mock Trailer

Perhaps one of the strangest of the mock trailers/viral videos I've come across is the unholy hybrid of TOY STORY 2 and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. (It's also available on YouTube.) For those so concerned, it contains some strong language that Buzz and Woody don't use in the Pixar films.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mrs. Henderson Presents

MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS (Stephen Frears, 2005)

Recently widowed Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) has no intention of filling her days with knitting or tea time gossip. She wants to enjoy life during wartime and, as she will later declare, believes that it is a noble calling. Mrs. Henderson buys a theater in London’s West End because it seems like a fun thing to do, and she hires Vivan Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to run it. The two bicker constantly, but their agreement to hold continuous revues at the Windmill Theatre is a success. This winning idea falters when other theaters copy them. To distinguish the Windmill from the competition, Mrs. Henderson proposes having nude women in the performances. Mr. Van Damm doubts that Lord Chamberlain (Christopher Guest) will approve such an idea, but Mrs. Henderson persuades him that such displays will be tasteful, even if the ladies are required to remain completely still.

In the tradition of THE FULL MONTY and CALENDAR GIRLS, MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS is a mildly naughty comedy that finds Brits doffing duds for money. (Like CALENDAR GIRLS, this film is based on a true story.) True to Mrs. Henderson’s word, the nudity is handled with an artistic, rather than lascivious, touch. MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS balances its cheeky mischievousness with a sense of the encroaching dangers of World War II, so it’s not all frolicking with disrobed actresses while London is bombed. Director Stephen Frears manages both aspects with a matter of fact tone, an honest approach that makes it less lurid than it sounds on the surface.

The film can overstate things a bit in justifying the bared flesh. As it turns out, Mrs. Henderson’s motivation for putting on a nude revue was more than financial. Her son was killed during World War I. After his death she found a French postcard among his possessions, and it saddened her to think that his shortened life only offered him that way of seeing a woman unclothed. Late in the film outside her shuttered theater, she proclaims the value of letting the young soldiers get a glimpse of the naked female form. Nevertheless, this moment and another with a solider who reminds Mrs. Henderson of her son get to the heart of what drove her to take chances that her contemporaries wouldn’t dare attempt.

Maureen (Kelly Reilly), the revue’s star, and the other naked ladies may be the enticement, but the main attraction of MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS is Dench and Hoskins squabbling like the old married couple that they aren’t. In this stage of her career Dench has thrived playing characters who deliver withering comments without a second thought. Mrs. Henderson isn’t a challenge for Dench, but she relishes playing this feisty old broad who knows what she wants and does it. One of the funniest scenes shows Mrs. Henderson wearing a costume to sneak into her theater under the nose of Mr. Van Damm, who has banned her. In that way the scene is representative of the film, using the guise of undressed women to smuggle in the story of a mother’s long-held grief.

Grade: B-

When a Stranger Calls

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (Simon West, 2006)

In WHEN A STRANGER CALLS a low-stress babysitting job turns into a struggle to survive and protect the children. Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) is in charge of watching the Mandrakis kids while their parents have a night out. The remote palatial home is decked out with an aviary and indoor pond, motion sensor lights, and, of course, a security system. The two children are in bed when Jill arrives, so she expects to have an easy night until she begins receiving harassing phone calls.

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS is the latest in a string of 70s horror remakes, but it is a rarity in the onslaught of contemporary horror films. It doesn’t aim to show new levels of gore. When a detective is shown the bloody crime scene from the first killing, the camera stays on a close-up of his face, something straight out of the 1950s. The killer is not the focus of attention either. Who he is and what his motivations are matter less than how Jill’s mind conceives him.

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS understands that when alone and isolated in an unfamiliar place, an overactive imagination can be as frightening as any real threats. The film has little plot or action to speak of—a teenage girl gets creepy phone calls from an unknown man—but director Simon West builds the tension by delaying the showdown between heroine and villain. The director also is restrained in employing cheap “gotcha” moments, although, as is the case with these films, there will be at least one moment when a cat is responsbile for a false alarm.

It seems to be a rite of passage for actresses to star in a horror film. Camilla Belle, last seen holding her own with Daniel Day-Lewis in THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE, doesn't have her abilities tested as the thinly characterized babysitter, but as assertive scream queens go, she acquits herself nicely.

Grade: B-

Monday, February 20, 2006

Curling Fever Unabated

U.S. men's curling skip Pete Fenson and third Shawn Rojeski (Getty Images photo/Brian Bahr)

The U.S. men's curling team kept rolling with a big win over Great Britain on Sunday but fell to Canada today. The game didn't affect the U.S. bid to make the medal round, but the win let Canada slide in. The teams play again in one of Wednesday's semifinals.

U.S. women's curling vice-skip Jamie Johnson and skip Cassie Johnson (AP photo/Morry Gash)

After smashing the Italians on Saturday, Sunday brought the U.S. women another tough loss, this time to Switzerland. They wrapped their Olympic competition today against Great Britain, but as it's sitting on the DVR waiting to be watched, I'm incapable of commenting on it.

Curling was the main place for Olympic excitement over the weekend. Except for Lindsey Jacobellis' mind-boggling wipeout in the snowboard cross finals--a showboating moment that cost her a guaranteed gold medal--the events were on the lackluster side. Weather caused some to be cancelled, although that still wasn't any excuse for NBC to set aside time to talk to Jerome Bettis. It was a bald-faced plug for the network's return to NFL coverage this fall and nothing else.

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto (Getty Images photo/Clive Rose)

Ice dancing is mostly a crushing bore, especially the compulsory dance; however, it did turn slightly interesting last night when consecutive pairs fell, presumably an uncommon occurrence in this sport. The American pair, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, skated the best original dance of those couples whose performances I didn't fast forward through. The commentators have mentioned many times that Belbin, a native Canadian, became an American citizen on New Year's Eve 2005. What they haven't explained is why she changed her citizenship. What, there weren't any decent ice dancing partners in Canada?

I realize that a great number of non-Team USA Olympic athletes live and train in the United States. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't believe it is out of the ordinary for some smaller countries to solicit Americans whose heritage might qualify them to compete for a non-powerhouse nation. What seems strange about Belbin's case is that not only did she come from Canada--not exactly a tiny nation--but that she came to a bigger country and changed her citizenship at conceivably the last possible date. In all fairness, I wouldn't be surprised if the timing was due to bureaucratic backup. (I have a friend who had to wait a long time to change his citizenship.) Still, this seems like one of those obvious things the announcers would explain, but assuming I haven't missed it, they've been oddly silent on the matter.

Update: If I would have read Belbin's bio and this article, I would have found the answer. She's lived in the US since 1998. (Belbin was 13 when she moved here.) So, you know, disregard what I wrote before.

30th Cleveland International Film Festival lineup

Taking a brief break from my run of curling posts--never fear, another is on the way--I thought I'd direct you to the films that will play the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival. The festival runs from March 16-26. Now comes the fun of figuring out what days I'll go and trying to maximize my filmgoing schedule.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

More Curling Mania

U.S. men's curling third Shawn Rojeski

With today's win over Germany the U.S. men's curling team looks like they will advance to the medal round. I had to work this afternoon, so I haven't had a chance to watch the women's team's match against Italy yet. As I mentioned yesterday, the women are likely out of the running for a medal, but I better get my fill of curling now because who knows when these matches will be seen on American TV again.

It may be sooner than I think. Anecdotal evidence concludes that an impressive amount of Americans are watching. Canadians and Italians apparently can't get enough either. The ratings for the Winter Olympics haven't been up to snuff, and the haters are in a frenzy that AMERICAN IDOL crushed its Olympic competition. Curling, though, seems to be one of the success stories.

U.S. women's curling team skip Cassie Johnson

Oh, and what this guy said about that boneheaded move to cut away from the extra end of the U.S. women vs. Russia yesterday.

I've discovered that Columbus has its own curling club. Who knew? I have a sneaking suspicion that the upfront cost of equipment may be on the high side--the brooms and stones aren't as entry-level cheap as a basketball--but I don't know what one would need to have to get started.

If that isn't enough, here's an online curling game for those captivated with this sport.

Friday, February 17, 2006

In Praise of Curling

I've really been enjoying the Winter Olympics, a sentiment that would put me far out of the mainstream if you're paying attention to the reviews the Games are getting. Every time the Olympics come around, it's standard for the sports columnists to scoff at the them, especially the Winter Games, as not being real sports. The implicit criticism is that Americans don't care about these sports because are too European--a gripe that will kick into high gear when the World Cup starts--and are not masculine enough, as if a sport is defined by how closely it resembles American football.

The Olympics are also written off because the TV ratings don't match what they once did. That's doubly true for the Torino Olympics because it follows the Salt Lake City Games, which saw a ratings boost due to being on U.S. soil. Isn't it funny how 23 million viewers translates into "nobody's watching"?

Since NBC's primetime coverage is not live and the results are on the front page of the network's Olympics site--this is the place for the TV schedule without spoilers--a DVR provides the perfect way to view the most Games in the least time. NBC's coverage has been pretty good. They've gone light on the syrupy human interest packages in favor of showing more athletic competition. How novel. A broad range of sports are getting substantial TV time on the NBC family of networks. Much to my pleasure, curling has been a showcase sport.

Previous Olympics have piqued my interest in the sport, but I don't recall it ever being shown much to get a sense of how the game is played. Now that I've had the chance to watch entire matches once or twice a day, I can say that curling is a lot of fun to watch. It's a game of strategy and precision rather than power. Like baseball, the action may not be fast, but it can be very exciting.

The U.S. men turned things around with a dramatic win over Sweden yesterday. Pete Fenson and team are a fun bunch to watch. Plus, how cool is it that the skip (curling jargon for captain) owns and runs two pizza shops?

The U.S. women's heartbreaking loss to Sweden was as thrilling as any close sporting event I've seen recently. This morning I couldn't believe how they pulled out a miracle in the 10th end to tie Russia. To my chagrin, the U.S. women's hockey game was due to start when the extra end began, so I had to keep refreshing the results page to learn that the curl girls dropped another tough one. The loss pretty much seals their elimination from medal contention.

I'm not sure what led NBC to give curling as much air time as it's getting. (It's not that well known, is it?) Both teams were considered medal contenders, so it's likely that factored into the equation. Sisters Cassie and Jamie Johnson are cute as buttons, so I imagine that didn't hurt either. Whatever the reasons, I'm glad NBC has chosen to showcase a sport that is so fun to watch that I'm tempted to give it a try myself.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Curious George

CURIOUS GEORGE (Matthew O’Callaghan, 2006)

In CURIOUS GEORGE, Will Ferrell provides the voice of Ted, a museum worker who embarks on an African expedition to find a giant monkey shrine. If he doesn’t return with the artifact, the museum will shut down and become a parking lot.

Decked out in a big yellow hat and suit, Ted finds an idol that looks like the shrine but is considerably smaller than anticipated. He sends the museum’s owner, Mr. Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke), a cell phone photo of the dispiriting treasure, but the photo’s perspective skews the size, leading Ted’s boss to believe that the shrine is bigger than he expected. Mr. Bloomsberry covers the city in advertisements to promote this exciting discovery.

On the trip Ted meets a playful monkey, later to be named George, who follows him back to the U.S. Already facing a monumental work dilemma, Ted thinks George is a nuisance—he’s responsible for Ted getting evicted from his pet-forbidding apartment building—but the inquisitive monkey might provide the solution to his problems and the museum’s.

For more than sixty years Curious George and the man with the big yellow hat have entertained generations of young readers. The new CURIOUS GEORGE film, beautifully animated in a style similar to the drawings in the Margret and H.A. Rey books, should also enchant children.

Most of today’s animated films are made with a broad audience in mind, a strategy that has produced some delightful movies for kids of all ages--Pixar's movies immediately come to mind--as well as some creative flops (SHARK TALE, CHICKEN LITTLE) that strain to be hip enough for teens and adults. CURIOUS GEORGE’S vocal talents will appeal to those older than the target audience. Ferrell and David Cross' participation ups the coolness factor for this quaint movie. Having Jack Johnson on board for several songs, none of which are distinguishable from the others, probably doesn't hurt either. Nevertheless, this is a film strictly for those eight and younger.

Having endured plenty of family movies that try to flatter the parents for getting pop culture in-jokes, it’s nice for a film to come along that knows its audience and doesn’t talk over them in hopes of amusing the adults. The minor romantic subplot between Ted and Maggie, a teacher voiced by Drew Barrymore, is unnecessary for this film, but at least there’s not much time given to it. Also pay no mind to the tacky product placement for a certain brand of bananas.

CURIOUS GEORGE is a sweet and gentle film that views the world as a wonderful place to be explored. Some of the film’s best moments are when George helps Ted experience the simple joys of what is around him. They gaze at the stars, appreciate the beauty (but not the taste) of fireflies, and observe the city from a balloon-aided perspective.

George is as ornery and endearing as the little ones moms and dads will take to see the film. He causes some trouble, but he acts with no malice. George's impromptu paint job of a socialite’s penthouse isn’t appreciated, just like parents may not like seeing handprints on their walls, but it's hard to remain angry at the curiosity of the young, be it a monkey or a child.

Grade: B-

The Pink Panther

THE PINK PANTHER (Shawn Levy, 2006)

Steve Martin follows in Peter Sellers’ bumbling footsteps as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in THE PINK PANTHER. Clouseau is handpicked to investigate the murder of a French soccer coach and the theft of the Pink Panther diamond. Being placed on such an important case would seem to indicate that he is the most qualified person for the job. Not so. Instead, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) selects the incompetent gendarme with the expectation that Clouseau’s failure will permit him to solve the case and finally earn him the Medal of Honor. Dreyfus assigns police detective Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno) to keep tabs on Clouseau and his investigation of the soccer team and the coach’s pop singer girlfriend Xania (Beyoncé Knowles).

Former wild and crazy guy Martin is at best mildly goofy in THE PINK PANTHER, although anything’s better than his tepid family man roles of recent years. His Clouseau isn’t all that funny because he’s trying too hard in a part that requires effortless stupidity. For example, Martin overdoes the intentionally tortured French accent like his mouth is full of peanut butter.

At least Martin's way of talking is supposed to be ridiculous. Kline’s accent wobbles between British and French, which is fitting because he doesn’t grasp his role either. Beyoncé couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. As Clouseau’s secretary Nicole, Emily Mortimer comes out unscathed. (Anyway, who’d begrudge her a decent check for a studio movie after all the wonderful work she’s done in independent films?) Only Reno hits the right notes in this silly comedy. He takes part in the film’s best gag: having Clouseau and Ponton dressed head to toe in camouflage outfits with one side patterned after a room’s curtains and the other side styled like a marble wall. THE PINK PANTHER wants to be madcap, but the strain in the effort is too apparent.

Grade: C-

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Match Point

MATCH POINT (Woody Allen, 2005)

The man who said 'I'd rather be lucky than good' saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward and you win…or maybe it doesn't, and you lose.—Chris Wilton in MATCH POINT
In MATCH POINT former tennis pro Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), now a club instructor, aspires to rise from his working class Irish roots. At work he befriends Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the son of a wealthy London businessman, and is introduced to their world of luxury. Chris charms Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) but is drawn to Nola (Scarlett Johansson), a sensual American actress engaged to Tom. In no time at all Chris marries into the family and is arranged with a prominent job in their company, but he continues to obsess about Nola, who by this time is no longer linked to Tom. Chris tracks her down eventually. They begin a torrid affair, but after awhile Nola becomes impatient that Chris will not leave his wife for her.

Part thriller and part morality play, MATCH POINT is Woody Allen’s best film in a decade (1996’s EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU). It’s also a marvelous companion with CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, one of Allen’s greatest works. In CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, God’s inaction and failure to punish is viewed as passive complicity with evil. MATCH POINT’S black-hearted protagonist doesn’t consider God a factor. In his nihilistic worldview, the universe is cruel and uncaring. Such a philosophy liberates Chris to satisfy his desires without a moral framework. His actions are icily calculated and free of empathy for those he uses, yet it doesn’t seem as though his amorality would inevitably lead to evil. The culmination of Chris’ narcissism comes in a chilling sequence that rhymes with a similar scene in CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. Allen has questioned religion throughout his career, but in MATCH POINT he shows how a lack of faith can be disturbing.

MATCH POINT is not a declaration of the value of firm belief—it denounces theodicy, after all—but a caution against the outright rejection of it. Chris believes it is better to be lucky than good. While his illustration, quoted above, likely defines “good” as talented, the film expands its meaning to moral. After all, if, in Chris’ view, it doesn’t matter what you do because there are no moral absolutes, why wouldn’t one think that counting on luck is a better way to live than being decent, an honorable idea but not one that is always rewarded.

Initially Chris appears to be in the mold of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley character, a chameleon looking to obtain the finer things even if it means assuming Dickie Greenleaf’s identity and killing him. Chris doesn’t give the impression that he would go to that extreme. He isn’t deceitful so much as he is malleable to the demands of those who can provide what he wants, although, like Ripley, he is an empty vessel. Plus, Chris doesn’t need to pose as Tom Hewett (or murder him) to gain wealth or have Nola. Nevertheless, he shares with Ripley a pathological need for upward social mobility and the willingness to protect it at all costs.

Aside from some scratchy, old records on the soundtrack, the minimalist credits, a Dostoyevsky reference, and the Bergman-influenced nature of MATCH POINT, the film isn’t immediately recognizable as Allen’s work. The English setting opens up Allen’s filmmaking. Having a new city to discover does wonders for his visuals, which cinematographer Remi Adefarasin soaks in color and gives excellent depth of field.

The stable of British actors brings a fresh quality to Allen’s dialogue, changing the cadence and sound even if there’s not a substantial difference from anything else he’s written. To the relief of Allen fans, Rhys-Meyers is anything but a surrogate Woody. As the brooding, smoothly malicious Chris, Rhys-Meyers conveys a cruel elegance in everything he does. The film seems to view Chloe as somewhat of a silly woman, a trust fund princess who dabbles in the artistic community and wants a baby, but Mortimer invests her with an uncommon amount of sympathy. Johansson is perfectly cast as a femme fatale, even if the actress and the character are atypical for Allen’s fantasy figures. The break from the mold finds steam rising from Chris and Nola’s scenes, possibly the first time erotic tension can be found in the director’s oeuvre.

Grade: A

The New World

THE NEW WORLD (Terrence Malick, 2005)

Terrence Malick’s THE NEW WORLD is a nearly plotless version of the Pocahontas story. The British arrive in America to establish a colony, but they quickly discover that the effort will be much tougher than they have anticipated. Running low on supplies, John Smith (Colin Farrell) is sent on a mission to trade with the Native Americans, referred to as “the naturals” in the film. He is captured and prepared for execution when Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher) throws herself upon him to spare his life. Their connection and her eventual transition to life with the colonists provide the basis for THE NEW WORLD.

Malick is less a storyteller and more a visual poet. He’s a master at producing magnificent images and creating a lyrical tone with the rhythms of nature. There are few more thrilling moments in last year’s films than the arrival of the English ships scored to a selection from Wagner’s THE RING. Malick’s meditative films are not to everyone’s tastes, and THE NEW WORLD is sure to frustrate those expecting more traditional exposition.

Since Malick tells Pocahontas’ story, it’s fair to interpret the new world as being London and not the virgin lands of America. Indeed, upon arriving on England’s shores, the enormous stone buildings and manicured foliage look foreign in comparison to the untamed landscapes she called home. Emmanuel Lubezki’s sun-dappled cinematography is frequently stunning in how it captures the American wilderness and contrasts with London’s ordered nature and society. Newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher gives a breakthrough performance as Pocahontas. Her transformation from an innocent in Eden to a stranger in a strange land and back again is a remarkable bit of largely nonverbal acting.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Best Films of 2005

1. KINGS AND QUEEN (ROIS ET REINE) (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)

I’m at a loss to describe my pick for the best film of 2005. My choice is Arnaud Desplechin’s KINGS AND QUEEN, a messy, bewildering, and brilliant film whose merits defy simple explanations. Emanuelle Devos plays Nora, a single mother seeking a father for her son. Her first husband was killed in an accident. Her second lover tended to be a head case, and her son doesn’t get along with her current businessman fiancé. On top of this, her father is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Nora’s tragic story is juxtaposed with the comedy of Ismaël (Mathieu Amalric), a violist who, at the request of his sister, is admitted against his will into a mental hospital. Like Ismaël, KINGS AND QUEEN is manic-depressive, alternating between the silly relentlessness of his scenes and the deep guilt and sorrow of Nora’s. That Desplechin and the spectacular Devos and Amalric pull off these drastic tonal shifts is something of a miracle. This delirious magnum opus is overstuffed with ideas, contradictions, and affection that get the brain's synapses firing like crazy. I don't know that I completely understand KINGS AND QUEEN, so maybe it's the pure aesthetic pleasure of sensory overload that won me over. More than anything else I saw in 2005, this was the movie that had my head spinning for days.

2. MURDERBALL (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, 2005)

This brash, highly entertaining documentary breaks all kinds of preconceptions and misconceptions about quadriplegics. Shot almost exclusively from the vantage point of a wheelchair, MURDERBALL introduces the rough and tumble world of quad rugby and the hardnosed men who play the game. It's uplifting and inspirational without being cloying or sentimental.

3. NOBODY KNOWS (DARE MO SHIRANAI) (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2004)

One of my favorite filmmakers tells a harrowing tale of abandoned children with such delicacy and grace that the dark places it goes don't feel oppressive. NOBODY KNOWS seems to owe much to Truffaut, specifically THE 400 BLOWS and SMALL CHANGE. It's sort of like if the first Antoine Doinel film focused exclusively on the time he ran away from home and found a hidden place in Paris to live and play. The children in NOBODY KNOWS are mostly confined to their parent-free home but don't see the gravity of the situation, turning it into their own little paradise. (A tracking shot of the eldest running through the city and the film-ending freeze frame are the strongest tip-offs to any intended 400 BLOWS homage.) Hirokazu dwells on the resiliency of the children, a theme that also resonated in SMALL CHANGE.

4. MUNICH (Steven Spielberg, 2005)

Obviously MUNICH is about the Israel-Palestine conflict, but when paired with WAR OF THE WORLDS, it's apparent that both films are crypto-9/11 movies also. They are views of 9/11 and the aftermath while ostensibly not being about 9/11 in the least. (If one posits that WAR OF THE WORLDS is the view of the attacked--whether America on 9/11 or Iraq during the resulting war--then MUNICH is the view of the attacker.) 9/11 considerations aside, MUNICH is a strong piece of work that wrestles with the moral and psychological cost of revenge. Spielberg is a master storyteller who smoothly guides this long, densely plotted film as a series of thriller setpieces. He's also a great formalist. Part of the thrill is grooving on the 70s filmmaking aesthetic--one scene plays like a riff on THE CONVERSATION while another is a tip of the hat to Hitchcock--and the travelogue aspect. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography imbues the image with a fragile, tissue paper-like quality.

5. WAR OF THE WORLDS (Steven Spielberg, 2005)

Steven Spielberg's visually magnificent and utterly terrifying interpretation of WAR OF THE WORLDS proves that there's no one better at making event movies. Although it isn't particularly deep in regard to character or theme, WAR OF THE WORLDS rattled and awed me. The unrelenting intensity becomes uncomfortable while the visualization of terror from above and below is technically impressive and believable.

6. GRIZZLY MAN (Werner Herzog, 2005)

Werner Herzog is drawn to obsessive characters, and he couldn't have found a better subject than Timothy Treadwell for his documentary GRIZZLY MAN. Treadwell spent a lot of time living among and interacting with grizzly bears in Alaska, a pursuit that ended when one of the animals ate him and a companion. Treadwell left hours of terrific footage he shot of himself in the wilderness with the bears and other animals. Herzog organizes it into a compelling portrait of self-delusion and identity creation. He shows how Treadwell acted for the camera, which allowed him to become removed from a disappointing personal history. Herzog stages interviews to achieve the same effect that Treadwell used to invent his new self. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Such was Treadwell's story.

7. PRIDE & PREJUDICE (Joe Wright, 2005)

Joe Wright's splendid adaptation of Jane Austen's PRIDE & PREJUDICE is a lovely production, with spectacular estates and soft, golden hues, but it’s far from a stuffy affair. Wright favors a classicist’s approach yet also deploys some exhilarating modern cinematic touches. The delightful dialogue is quick-witted and, at critical moments, quite moving. As the heroine Elizabeth Bennet, Keira Knightley has never been better than she is in this glorious film.


Whether one views BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN as a tragic gay romance or a universal love story--it's both--either way director Ang Lee has crafted a great melodrama about emotional repression. The theme resonates throughout Lee's body of work. In Ennis Del Mar, Lee's film has a main character incapable of giving or revealing himself fully to another person. (The gender of the other person is almost incidental.) The emotional upheaval of Ennis' struggle trumps the specifics of the on-screen character's sexuality. Ennis' inability to surrender to Jack Twist is the main relationship, but his failure to be honest with wife Alma is significant too. The one, though, that strikes me as the key is how he resists committing to attend his daughter's wedding. He fights so hard not to connect with someone else--out of habit and out of fear--that it is an enormous feat to agree to be there, although not indicative that he will change (or even show up when it comes). Heath Ledger, giving an intense, highly internalized performance, and Michelle Williams do great work as Ennis and Alma. BROKEBACK'S formal elements (and Lee's direction, natch) are top rate. The wide open spaces and big sky speak to the room Ennis needs.

9. MATCH POINT (Woody Allen, 2005)

Part thriller and part morality play, MATCH POINT is Woody Allen’s best film in a decade (1996’s EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU). It’s also a marvelous companion with CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, one of Allen’s greatest works. In CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, God’s inaction and failure to punish is viewed as passive complicity with evil. MATCH POINT’S black-hearted protagonist doesn’t consider God a factor. In his nihilistic worldview, the universe is cruel and uncaring. Such a philosophy liberates Chris to satisfy his desires without a moral framework. His actions are icily calculated and free of empathy for those he uses, yet it doesn’t seem as though his amorality would inevitably lead to evil. The culmination of Chris’ narcissism comes in a chilling sequence that rhymes with a similar scene in CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. Allen has questioned religion throughout his career, but in MATCH POINT he shows how a lack of faith can be disturbing.

10. KISS KISS BANG BANG (Shane Black, 2005)

A first rate entertainment that snaps with humor and style, KISS KISS BANG BANG was one of 2005's funniest movies and a potent shot in the arm for the modern crime picture. The film noir and dime store paperback elements satisfy, but the murder mystery is secondary to the characters and their quips. The characters spar, equipped with Shane Black’s sharply written wordplay that consistently lands big laughs. Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan give nimble performances that juggle the danger of their situations as well as the comedy and romance.

2005 in Film: The Honorable Mentions

Last year I ignored the tradition of limiting my honorable mentions to ten. After all, it's an arbitrary number, and I had more than ten films I wanted to recognize. I planned on doing the same this year, but for whatever reason--maybe it's just how I feel today--I chose not to shoehorn in more than the artificial limit. Sorry Terrence Malick, Wong Kar-wai, and others. It was very tough to keep some of these out of my top ten for 2005, but suffice it to say that although these films just missed the highest tier of cinema for last year, all of them come highly recommended by me.

(Late addition: I totally forgot about CLARA AND I, which I saw at the Cleveland International Film Festival. To my knowledge it has not been released in the United States, which is the main reason why it slipped my mind when forming this list. So disregard the whole obsession with ten honorable mentions. It's eleven now.)

BATMAN BEGINS (Christopher Nolan, 2005)

Christopher Nolan's post-9/11 BATMAN film succeeds as much in exploring trenchant ideas of fear, both personal and civic, as in fulfilling the comic book poses.

CLARA AND I (CLARA ET MOI) (Arnaud Viard, 2004)

Arnaud Viard’s feature directorial debut starts as a breezy romance between Julien Boisselier and Julie Gayet as Antoine and Clara. On the verge of turning 33, Antoine resolves to get married. The problem is that he isn’t seeing anyone. He and Clara meet cute on the train, and before they know it, they’re head over heels in love. Their match seems fated when out of nowhere they sing a song along the river on their first date, a sublime and delightful moment as unexpected as finding someone with whom you immediately click. The easy early days give way to turmoil that tests their relationship. There’s nothing that sets CLARA AND I apart from other French cinematic explorations of l’amour, but Viard’s deft navigation of Antoine and Clara’s ups and downs and Boisselier and Gayet’s appealing performances make this mature romance a Francophile’s indulgence.

CRASH (Paul Haggis, 2004)

Paul Haggis' eloquent examination of race relations posits more questions than answers, but it offers redemption to those struggling with these issues in contemporary America. Superbly acted and fluidly directed to connect multiple storylines, CRASH brings stereotypes and prejudices to the forefront in hopes of breaking them. Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton give two of the best performances among this excellent cast.

DOWNFALL (DER UNTERGANG) (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004)

Oliver Hirschbiegel dramatizes much of the same material found in the too-dry doc BLIND SPOT: HITLER'S SECRETARY for this gripping inside story of national political madness. Bruno Ganz's great performance as Hitler is chilling because he plays him not as a monster but as a human, albeit a profoundly disturbed one who perpetuated some of the past century's greatest evil.

DUMA (Carroll Ballard, 2005)

Carroll Ballard's DUMA is the stuff of classic children's stories. A boy and his cheetah hike across the African wilderness in this beautifully photographed film. The undeservedly overlooked DUMA is thrilling, warm-hearted, and intelligent. It's the perfect anodyne for the loud and crass children's films that garner more commercial favor.


Hans Weingartner’s THE EDUKATORS taps into youthful feelings of anti-capitalist rebellion a la FIGHT CLUB, without the violent outbursts, and idealistic self-doubt, the kind that plagued Mark Wahlberg’s character in I ♥ HUCKABEES. The Edukators consist of two young men who break into the vacant homes of the wealthy, rearrange their possessions, and leave notes proclaiming sentiments such as, “Your days of plenty are numbered.” Their motivation is to make the victims uneasy about their accumulated wealth, not to steal or destroy. Scenes of the political pranksters at work are playful and tense. While THE EDUKATORS has affection for the young radicals played by Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, and Stipe Erceg, the final destination isn’t apparent from the outset because their principles get put to the test when a mission takes an unexpected turn. THE EDUKATORS' complex political message is also sprinkled with humor and a romance that interjects some JULES ET JIM tension.

FEVER PITCH (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, 2005)

The track record of Nick Hornby book-to-American film adaptations (HIGH FIDELITY and ABOUT A BOY) goes three for three with FEVER PITCH. This ANNIE HALL for baseball fans is one of the best romantic comedies of the last ten years.

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. (George Clooney, 2005)

George Clooney's nimble direction and David Strathairn's riveting embodiment of legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow anchor GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. This snapshot of the Senator Joseph McCarthy era looks great in stark black-and-white with accents of billowing cigarette smoke. In addition to being a history lesson, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. is undoubtedly meant to play as an allegory for the current state of politics and journalism. Murrow's successors are beckoned to follow his lead.

MILLIONS (Danny Boyle, 2004)

Two motherless boys find a gym bag full of money in MILLIONS, a children’s film that gets the directorial energy that Danny Boyle brought to TRAINSPOTTING. The younger boy believes the money is a gift from God and and is determined to distribute the cash to the needy, much to the chagrin of his older brother. Boyle demonstrates that a family film with a moral message mustn’t necessarily be a musty affair. MILLIONS asks hard questions about faith and charity in entertaining and imaginative ways.

OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook, 2003)

A man is abducted and held prisoner in a room for fifteen years. He has no idea who is imprisoning him or why he is being kept. Then he is mysteriously set free. Naturally, he seeks revenge on his anonymous captors. One of the best examples of Asian extreme cinema, OLDBOY is an exciting, twist-filled vengeance tale that isn't for the faint-hearted. It boasts a great fight scene in which the protagonist, who has a knife stuck in his back, wields a hammer to fend off a hallway packed with his enemy's thugs.


Who says traditional animation is dead? The superb stop-motion animated feature WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT gave fans of the cheese-loving inventor and his loyal (and smarter) dog one of the most purely entertaining films of the year. Puns and visual gags abound in this funny film for kids of all ages.

The Worst Films of 2005

1. WAITING... (Rob McKittrick, 2005)

For the second time Ryan Reynolds has the starring role in my pick for the worst film of the year. (His previous "winner" was NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VAN WILDER.) As the obnoxious server Monty in WAITING..., Reynolds takes us through a day at a casual dining chain restaurant. You'll never want to eat out again or at least at a place without an open kitchen. This excessively crude comedy focuses on all of the disgusting things the cooks and wait staff do to customers' food. If that isn't enough, there's a curious obsession with flashing male genitalia while trading homophobic insults. Something this gross and smug shouldn't be on the menu when ordering a comedy.

2. THE WEDDING DATE (Clare Kilner, 2005)

THE WEDDING DATE answers that age-old question about what to do when a single person must go to a matrimonial ceremony at which their ex-fiancé will be in attendance. Why, pay an escort to be your companion, of course! The scenario is a screenwriter’s invention combining PRETTY WOMAN, with a gender reversal of the main characters, and a splash of the BRIDGET JONES movies thrown in for some British flavor. Things occur because someone saw it once in another romantic comedy, not because people are this way. THE WEDDING DATE reveals no trace of recognizable human behavior in it.

3. THE MAN (Les Mayfield, 2005)

There's nothing wrong about working for a paycheck. That had to be the only attraction for Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy to pair up in the stale, mismatched buddy comedy THE MAN. Their gain was moviegoers' loss of 83 minutes that could have been better spent licking the theater's floor. The film's lowlight is not one but two scenes about Levy’s noxious flatulence, one with an elevator full of nuns, a joke so shopworn that it’s amazing it made the cut, so to speak.


DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO is essentially a repeat of its unfunny predecessor, with a new setting and stupid murder mystery added. The lowest common denominator dirty joke wasn't that good the first time. The same goes for the recycling of Rob Schneider's "man-whore" routine and Eddie Griffin's pimp schtick.

5. KING'S RANSOM (Jeff Byrd, 2005)

Perennial worst of the year fave Anthony Anderson (MY BABY'S DADDY, SEE SPOT RUN) is back in the toxic comedy KING'S RANSOM. Anderson plays a wealthy man who plans his own kidnapping to avoid surrendering his fortune to his future ex-wife. What passes for "humor" is forced and heavily reliant on ethnic stereotyping.

6. VENOM (Jim Gillespie, 2005)

Budget horror movies are a dime a dozen. VENOM happens to be the worst of the lot. There's isn't anything particularly notable about it other than the ill-timed Miramax title dump that put this Louisiana swampland pic in theaters too soon after Hurricane Katrina for some.

7. BOOGEYMAN (Stephen T. Kay, 2005)

By spending a night in the home where he was raised, BOOGEYMAN'S main character hopes to conquer his childhood fear of the malevolent creature. If only it made any sense or was, imagine this, scary.

8. DOOM (Andrzej Bartkowiak, 2005)

The Rock leads a tactical fighting unit to a research base on Mars in DOOM, and all we get is this lousy movie. DOOM originated as a first person shooter video game, but what makes such games fun to play does not translate into compelling viewing. Considering that first person shooter games thrive on constant ammunition firing, there’s surprisingly little action for much of the film’s running time. Gamers would be better off playing DOOM or sitting in front of a blank screen than wasting time with this incredibly dull ALIENS rip-off.

9. ALONE IN THE DARK (Uwe Boll, 2005)

There may not be a more incompetent filmmaker working today than Uwe Boll, but somehow the guy keeps rounding up money to finance one video game adaptation after another. ALONE IN THE DARK is surely the most poorly assembled film among my picks for the worst of 2005, but it gains some points because Boll has a knack for churning out howlingly funny hack work. Not since Ed Wood has a director made movies as deadly serious and unintentionally funny as Boll does. Of any of the films on this list that I'd watch again, this would be the hands-down winner.

10. DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN (Darren Grant, 2005)

Writer and star Tyler Perry's DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN wants to be equal parts inspiration and zaniness, but it comes off as preachy hypocrisy and amateur hour comedy. For a movie espousing supposedly Christian ideals, it's surprisingly tolerant of vengeance instead of forgiveness.