Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer Her next thriller, BONEYARD, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she runs errands and indulges a weakness for Scrabulous games and stale cinema popcorn.
I have a confession to make. I love big bang Hollywood blockbusters, the more chase scenes, menacing aliens, and explosions the better. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll see an indie flick…but don’t count on me to stay awake. I realize that “cinema” can give us profound insight into the human condition, and that many films are also great works of art. Those are the films that I prefer to see at home, sprawled on my couch, with a pause button and bathroom handy. But when I want to be glued to my seat in front of a three-story high screen, bring on the flying space monkeys.
We’re currently in the throes of summertime blockbuster releases. So far they’ve been a little uneven, in my opinion- but then aren’t they always- and it got me reflecting back on past summers and their disappointments. Following is a list of films that really let me down, movies I’d been eagerly anticipating for sometimes as much as a year, which then landed with a giant disheartening thud on the screen in front of me. There will be spoilers in the following passages, but keep in mind I’m doing you a favor. Trust me, you don’t want to see these films—The Sixth Sense they ain’t (btw, Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time. But if you didn’t know that by now, you should probably return to writing manifestos in your one room cabin.)
1. STAR WARS I: THE PHANTOM MENACE
To this day, Star Wars IV remains my all time favorite film (mind you I refer to the original film, released in 1977; confusing, I know. Blame George Lucas for trying to be cute). It was one of the first non-animated movies my parents ever brought me to, and it left a deep and lasting impression. And guess what, years later when I saw it again, it still rocked. Sure, you can see strings in a few scenes, but IMHO that is still imminently preferable to those CGI monstrosities that look laughably fake. The next two in the series were good (at times, even great) and despite the Ewoks, pretty much held their own.
But then along came The Phantom Menace. Wow, that film really, truly sucked. I’m bitter, and I only waited in line for two hours to see it the day it opened…remember those people who camped out for a month beforehand? If I were among them, I would have led the torch-wielding mob to the gates of Skywalker Ranch demanding Lucas’s head. Abyssmal.
Like I said, I was a huge fan of The Sixth Sense (still am). That movie unsettled me for days. Unbreakable wasn’t as good, in my opinion, but was still a respectable showing. Then along came Signs. O.M.G. The worst part was that the first half of the film was solid: spooky, unnerving, focusing on an imminent alien invasion from the perspective of one family in rural America. I was intrigued. Then the invasion started, and the troubles began…just to hit the high points:
a) Here’s the situation: aliens are landing on or near crop circles. One of these crop circles is quite literally in your own backyard. You’re debating whether or not to flee with your family. Call me crazy, but if this ever happens, my husband and I are not putting the decision to a family vote. We will especially not allow ourselves to be outvoted by a four year-old. Not happening. Alien invasion = dictatorship in the Gagnon household.
b) Apparently the aliens have developed technology sophisticated enough to enable them to fly light years across the universe, yet they forgot to bring along basic tools. In fact, in a pinch you can lock one in a pantry. Ridiculous. How scary are they if all it takes to keep one out of your house is a latch?
c) Oh, and guess what: they also forgot their raincoats. Which would not ordinarily be a problem, except dang it, they’re horribly allergic to water. It’s lethal to them. That’s right, water: which covers roughly 71% of our planet (and 60-70% of us, personally).One good rainstorm and they have to call the whole invasion off. This was just weak. If Shymalan needed them to be allergic to something found in most households, why not baking soda? Shampoo? Or hell, dog poo?
3. THE VILLAGE
I can’t fully blame M. Night Shyamalan for this, after all, I should have known better. I should have learned my lesson after Signs and waited for the DVD, then I would only have been out $5. But no, intrigued by the red robes and fine cast of top actors, I trotted up to the ticket window and signed on for two hours of what I can only assume was intended to be a laugh-a-minute farcical comedy. For me it certainly was. The village urgently requires medicine for a dying member of the community. But whoever goes to retrieve it must be brave enough to face some sort of wolfish monsters that lurk outside the compound. So who should be sent? Why, the only blind person in the village, of course. And oh yeah, turns out this is actually taking place in the present day, not the past as you were initially led to believe. Although the fact that no airplanes or helicopters ever flew overhead, clueing people into the modern outside world, then becomes completely inexplicable. Give me this much: I didn’t even bother renting the DVD for Lady in the Water. I’m a little slow, but eventually I learn…If anyone has seen his latest offering The Happening, let me know how it was, I am still keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll manage to surprise me.
Last one (and possibly the least):
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Once again, a cherished series from my childhood. I just love that Harrison Ford; someday I’ll tell you about the time I accosted him on the streets of New York, mistaking him for one of my friends’ dads. He was very nice about it. But if I ever see him again, I’m demanding an apology for the 2 hours of my life wasted on this film. Awful. The fact that the plot made no sense and that they squandered the talents of Cate Blanchett is bad enough, but this movie committed the cardinal sin of action films. It was boring. Slow-moving, dull, one of those films where you check your watch because surely it’s been two hours by now: only to discover that you still have an hour and forty-five minutes to go. Plus the final CGI scene looked like one of those early Buffy episodes, before they had much of a budget and just plunked a weird dragon monster onscreen. Everyone involved should be embarassed, particularly Mr. Ford. Maybe he has a sick relative, or a kid going to college, and just needed the paycheck. Next time I recommend signing on for a Viagra ad, it would arguably be less embarrassing.
So tell me: what are your worst cinema duds? Which two hours of your life do you want back? Or do you disagree with any of my reviews? Fire away… Best comment receives a signed, first edition of Boneyard.
And as always, go to www.michellegagnon.com to enter drawings for an Amazon Kindle, iPod Shuffle, Amazon & Starbucks gift cards, copies of my thrillers, and other fabulous prizes. DVDs of duds not included.