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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


I hate this list. I hate it. And why shouldn’t I? There’s nothing on it but crappy movies. There’s a joke I make privately with friends: “I see lousy movies so that you won’t have to.” I’m kidding, but I’m also kind of not. The fact is, I do see a lot of lousy movies! So many, in fact, that my list of the worst films of 2006 overflows with awfulness. You can smell this list from a mile away, that’s how bad it stinks.

There were actually more than ten that deserved to be included here, but the rules of a Ten Worst list clearly constitute that there can be only ten films. However, that won’t stop me from giving one last slam to disappointments like Miami Vice, Nacho Libre, and The Omen. Nor will it deter me from recalling the utter suckage that was: Basic Instinct 2, Failure to Launch, Grandma’s Boy, The Grudge 2, The Hills Have Eyes, John Tucker Must Die, Just My Luck, Nanny McPhee, Pizza, Pulse, Running Scared, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, and Silent Hill.

Before we formally begin, I should mention that I allow myself one luxury when compiling this annual list: I don’t hold back. When writing a formal review, I try to approach the subject professionally and (hopefully) with at least a modicum of objectivity. But here, all bets are off. I had to suffer through these cinematic atrocities; I’ve earned the right to sling a little mud.

With that safely out of the way, let’s proceed on to my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2006:

10. Bobby - Actually, the #10 slot was a three-way showdown between the grotesque Nanny McPhee, the stomach-churning Hills Have Eyes, and Emilio Estevez’s self-proclaimed Very Important Film. I fully admit choosing this unlikely candidate just to make a point. Armed with almost every working actor in Hollywood, Estevez tried to do a Robert Altman-esque ensemble drama about the people working and staying in the Ambassador Hotel on the day RFK was assassinated. Aside from the fact that the movie is fatally overcrowded with nearly two dozen significant characters, Estevez failed to say anything new or enlightening about Bobby Kennedy’s message. Instead, he merely hid behind it, trying to create a sense of being important simply by glomming onto RFK’s image. Sure, the other two films considered for this slot are “worse” but, boy, did the self-satisfied smugness of Bobby ever piss me off.

9. Date Movie - Here’s a movie that exists only to make fun of other, better movies. It’s like the ugly, unpopular kid in high school who spent so much time ridiculing everyone else that he never bothered to consider a little self-improvement. Ostensibly a spoof in the style of Airplane or The Naked Gun, this embarrassingly unfunny train wreck declines to make fun of the “chick flick” genre (which might have been hilarious) and instead merely mimics famous scenes from 21 other films. For example, we’re supposed to laugh simply because one guy is dressed like Napoleon Dynamite. Thanks, but I’d rather just watch Napoleon Dynamite. The makers of this bomb are about to unleash their follow-up, Epic Movie, on theaters. It has a guy who is dressed like Borat. Great.

8. Ultraviolet - I wish I could actually remember something about this movie, other than the fact that it blew. Milla Jovavich played yet another rebel battling yet another evil ruler in yet another dystopian future. Just what the world needed - a remake of Aeon Flux.

7. Stay Alive - Lots of bad movies have been based on video games (see #4) but here’s a bad movie that’s about video games. A group of generic teens discover that if you pop the titular disc into your PS2, you die in real life the same way you die in the game. Those unfortunate enough to see this thoroughly un-frightening horror flick die of extreme boredom. Basically, Stay Alive is The Ring with video games and without scares or style. And while we’re on the subject, who had the bright idea to cast Frankie Muniz as a hip-hop B-boy in an upside-down visor?

6. Eragon - When I reviewed this adaptation of Christopher Paolini’s best-selling fantasy novel on the radio, I received more hate mail in one week than I have in ten years of broadcast criticism. Interestingly, one hater, who proclaimed his die-hard fandom to the death, kept calling the movie “Eargon.” Regardless, the movie was an insipid rip-off of Star Wars with dragons instead of X-Wings. I have not read the novel and, in fairness, it may be substantially better. But as I had to tell the haters, I review films, not books, and the film flat-out sucked. True story: I never get up to use the restroom in the middle of a movie, but the night I saw Eragon, nature called and absolutely would not wait. It only took me about 60 seconds to make the bathroom run, but I actually had to convince myself to go back into the theater and finish watching the film afterward.

5. Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector - Is he a cable guy, or a health inspector? Which is it? This movie utterly confounds me. Aside from the fact that I just don’t “get” the so-called redneck humor, this movie’s premise just leaves me baffled. If Larry is a cable guy, why wouldn’t they make a comedy about that occupation? Why would they create a wholly absurd plot about him busting restaurants for health code violations? Maybe there just weren’t enough opportunities for lame fart jokes at the cable company.

4. Bloodrayne - Uwe Boll is no stranger to Ten Worst lists. (He topped mine several years ago with Alone in the Dark.) His accomplishment this year is made worse by the fact that he drug so many good people down with him. Adapting a video game once again, Boll clearly had a bigger budget (there are actual sets this time!) and also, apparently, enough money to pay Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, Meat Loaf, and Billy Zane. Then there’s the esteemed Sir Ben Kingsley, whose appearance here can only be attributed to having lost a bet. Bloodrayne has the year’s most memorably awful sex scene (sorry Basic Instinct 2!) in which naked vampire heroine Kristanna Loken and a bland hero have sex against a metal cage, the door of which Loken keeps inadvertently slamming every time the couple thrusts. As an aside, Bloodrayne was supposed to be Boll’s commercial breakthrough. After supposedly lining up 2,000 screens to show the picture last January, the independently distributed film actually opened on less than half that amount. Theaters across the country reported receiving prints of the film that they had not contracted to play. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t play it. The moral of this story: thank the manager of your local theater chain.

3. Lady in the Water - There’s a terrific new book on the market called “The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale.” In the book, author Michael Bamberger details the trauma writer/director Shyamalan experienced when everyone – including longtime supporters at Disney – told him that his script for Lady in the Water was terrible. They said it didn’t make sense, was hard to follow, and had no appeal. Shyamalan refused to listen to any of them, insisting that he was making the next generation’s E.T. Well, it turns out that everyone was right. Despite the appearance of my favorite actor, Paul Giamatti, this fantasy was bloated, nonsensical, and unintentionally funny. (The only movie that made me laugh harder this year was Borat.) I have admired most of the director’s other films, but this one reeks of ego. The whole thing feels like the work of someone who stubbornly refuses to believe he’s delivering anything less than a masterpiece. Sadly, this lightweight piece of fluff isn’t strong enough to shoulder that kind of weight.

2. Tideland - Speaking of directors gone off the rails, here’s the latest from Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys). Weirdness is Gilliam’s specialty, but Tideland goes above and beyond anything he’s done before. Newcomer Jodelle Ferland plays a little girl living in an old countryside home with the corpse of her father (Jeff Bridges). Refusing to accept the tragedies in her life, she retreats into a fantasy world, spending most of the running time talking to Barbie doll heads she has stuck on her fingers. All this stuff is just boring. What really plummets Tideland into cinematic hell is a subplot involving the little girl starting a quasi-romantic relationship with her mentally retarded adult neighbor. There are scenes of the grown actor sharing “silly kisses” on the lips with the young actress, and later there is a scene where she pretends to make a sexual advance toward him. Gilliam has said that the film is told “through the eyes of a child” and that “if it seems shocking, it’s only because it’s innocent.” Well, I don’t buy that. Tideland is told through the eyes of a child, all right – Gilliam’s demented inner child. And there’s nothing innocent about it. Combine the sheer offensiveness with crushing boredom and you have yourself a movie that is damn near unwatchable.

And my choice for the Worst Film of 2006 is:

An innocent person is brutally tortured in Eli Roth's Hostel, the worst film of 2006
1. Hostel - Several horny young men traveling through Europe stumble onto a dingy place where people pay big bucks to torture others in horrifically graphic ways. They immediately are captured, strapped to chairs, and brutalized in close-up. And that’s about it. Hostel is absolutely unrelenting in its approach to violence. Director Eli Roth doesn’t just show it; he rubs your nose in it. This is the movie equivalent of those old geek shows, where someone would bite the head off a chicken for the disgust of the crowd. There’s no point to it, no moral, nothing to take away. (In fact, you might actually lose something – your lunch – while you watch it.) The movie is just an exercise in revulsion. What makes Hostel even worse is that it’s extremely well made on a technical level. That makes the insane violence even more untenable than it already is. I know that the big trend in horror right now is “torture chic.” Pictures like Hostel and Saw are all the rage. Personally, I’m sick of it. I like horror movies as much as the next person, and I’ve even raved about some of the more hardcore entries, such as Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. But that movie had an artistic style, strong characterizations and, at some deeper level, a moral point of view. Hostel, on the other hand, seems to exist simply to get the audience off on its agonizing depictions of brutality. It’s violence as pornography. Sadly, the movie was successful enough to warrant a sequel, set for release this summer. Count me out.

So there you have it – the worst of the year. Good riddance.

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