When Michael Bay directs a movie he’s the knucklehead auteur, but when his name is attached as producer, that’s when it’s really all about the money.
The months of January to May clog cinemas with the post-Oscar-season castoffs, the movies from an earlier studio head’s regime being dumped out of spite, copycat rom-coms, wheel-spinning sequels, lazy horror remakes and whatever Brendan Fraser’s done lately.
If you wasted your cash on any of these, it’s too late. If not, here are the piles on the sidewalk to step around, whether still in the theaters or on DVD.
Elm Street a true ‘Nightmare’
What went wrong: When Michael Bay directs a movie he’s the knucklehead auteur, but when his name is attached as producer, that’s when it’s really all about the money. Featuring not one new twist on the old story of Freddy Krueger, the scary part goes like this: quiet quiet quiet quiet LOUD LOUD LOUD. And I think that scene involved a cat leaping out of a closet. Then the same sonic approach is repeated for 90 annoying minutes.
To see or not to see: Only if the dollar theater where it’s playing is your sole hiding place from some real-life guy with knives for fingers.
‘After.Life’ was DOA
What went wrong: The hazy ambiguous netherworld between life and death is a coldly erotic place where foxy ladies have no other option besides reclining languorously on embalming slabs in lacy red underthings. This is car crash victim Christina Ricci’s fate as she pouts and writhes under the care of mortician Liam Neeson, who has the superpower of being able to speak Dead Person. She’s a corpse bride lingerie model with a bad attitude. And their conversations play out like this in scene after scene:
Liam: You’re dead.
Christina: Am not.
Liam: Are too.
Christina: Am not.
Liam: And you had to die to learn about life.
Christina: Fine, I’m glad I’m dead.
To see or not to see: When a bad movie’s reason for being is to show you naked actresses but pretends it’s on a mission to reveal deep thoughts about the nature of existence, that’s the only reason you need to queue it up to number one on Netflix.
Don’t open ‘The Book of Eli’
What went wrong: When faced with the prospect of the apocalypse, you can take the unimaginative route and decide it’s going to be a major bummer. But then you wind up with “The Road,” a movie no one saw. Or you make the life-affirming choice to see the end of the world for what it could really be — Thunderdome with disco gun battles and super-machetes, all in the name of saving the last remaining Bible on earth. They made it the Bible for gravitas sake.
To see or not to see: Miss the best comedy of the year? Of course you see it. Where else can you find a bulletproof Denzel Washington, Jennifer Beals as The Wise Blind Lady, and the unexplained meteorological phenomenon of weather simultaneously cold enough that the men all wear big coats but hot enough that the women strut around in leather halter tops. Bonus weirdness: a cat that eats a human foot and the iPod with the longest-lasting battery in recorded history.
‘The Bounty Hunter’ a crime
What went wrong: Jennifer Aniston’s a fugitive and Gerard Butler’s the bounty hunter. They used to be married and now they hate-love each other and squabble a lot about nothing (non-spoiler: they hook up at the end). By the time the hundredth fake-angry argument between Aniston and Butler goes down (Her: “You disgust me!” Him: “You’re impossible!” Divorcing you was awesome!”) you’ll begin hallucinating and believe that you’re already in a very dark popcorn-scented jail.
To see or not to see: Only if an actual bounty hunter has a gun held to your head.
‘Clash of The Titans’: Release the crapping
What went wrong: Dumb movies featuring giant scorpion monsters have one job, and that is to be thrillingly ridiculous. In these digital times that means making them thrill you in 3-D. But oops, this one wasn’t shot that way; they just slapped it on afterward. That means everything is murky and dark, human faces float in front of the hair usually attached to them in their 2-D counterparts. More insultingly, it makes even less sense than the perfectly, happily stupid 80s movie it’s remaking. They actually botched being idiotic, which is something of an accomplishment.
To see or not to see: At certain points in the film, taking off the 3-D glasses made everything more visually comprehensible, so a DVD requiring no special accessories might be the perfect place to lazily enjoy the huge creature made of twigs, Liam Neeson’s glow-in-the-dark deity-suit, and the big-foreheaded ladies with eyeballs for hands.
‘Furry Vengeance’ only for kids and stoners
What went wrong: Computerized animals spend the movie assaulting Brendan Fraser’s crotch, urinating in his face, spraying him with skunk odors, pecking at his eyes, mauling him in a Porta-Potty and hiding acorns in his cereal. Those computerized animals don’t speak. Is it not enough that Wanda Sykes just had two TV shows cancelled in the same week? You have to deprive her of being the sassy badger too?
To see or not to see: Your little kids will think it’s the single most hilarious film they’ve ever watched. Eventually they’ll grow up, but for now your kids have exactly zero dollars in the sophistication bank. Look, you had them, not me. Stoner parents will find the huge sing-along to Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane” to be especially disconcerting.
Do not ‘Remember Me’
What went wrong: An angry, antisocial rich boy meets a life-loving working-class girl with a murdered mom. He is Robert Pattinson and she is from “Lost.” And Pattinson’s ongoing sparkliness must have blinded every single person in the production to the sickness of this movie using 9/11 as a “gotcha” tragedy-kitsch punchline.
To see or not to see: Every once in a while it’s good to be reminded that Hollywood’s ideas about how low to stoop to wring tears out of you are different from that of normal people.
No joy in ‘Sex’ sequel
What went wrong: The minute the "Sex and the City" friends stopped having actual personal problems (no joke: Charlotte’s biggest obstacle is that her kid got paint on an expensive vintage skirt and Carrie’s is that she has too many apartments), substituted camel riding swaddled in Hermes scarves for actual friendship activities and began behaving like it was their collective responsibility to bring do-me feminism to the Middle East, something got mangled in the engine and the whole thing overheated. And it was already a pretty high-strung ride. Solution: Everybody sing “I Am Woman.”
To see or not to see: Because they’re still a novelty, it’s hard to wish destruction on any film series where women take center stage. And as a lesson in cinematic excess, the hubris of franchises that think they’re untouchable, and the waning charms of indulgent self-obsession, this is pretty tough to beat. It’s also more than a little perversely pleasurable to watch a giant empty thing topple to the ground.
Why Did I Make This Movie Too?
If you think the Madea movies are funny, you need to check out Tyler Perry’s anti-reason, anti-logic relationship dramedies, including "Why Did I Get Married Too?" Here, the four couples from the first “Why Did I Get Married?” installment trade their ski chalet for a tropical retreat. Then the crazy revs up and can’t be stopped.
The ashes of a corpse are accidentally spilled on a major character, casual alcoholism springs up without warning in two characters, preceding surprise cancer for someone else. Later there’s face-biting and other random domestic violence, Janet Jackson smashing up a whole house with a golf club, mistaken identities, gunfire, harshly reinforced gender roles, car crashes and the brandishing of knives. To call it packed with incident is an understatement.
To see or not to see: Approaches a level of otherworldly insanity usually strictly on view in cult-of-badness films like “The Room.” Therefore it must be experienced to be believed.
‘Valentine’s Day’ a heartache for wrong reasons
What went wrong: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts and Taylor Swift got together and decided it would be a good idea to follow cult leader Garry Marshall deep into the void, a place where love tastes like cardboard.
To see or not to see: Ten years from now, when it pops up on Oxygen, chopped into pieces with commercials, watch the last 15 minutes for the slightly funny Julia Roberts blooper reel over the closing credits and for the hilariously scaredy-cat resolution to Bradley Cooper and Eric Dane’s gay plotline. It involves the tender brushing of an orchid across Dane’s face. Yep, tender orchid face-brushing.
Dave White is a film critic for Movies.com.