I see a lot of movies. This may seem like fun, but in fact it is part of my job. In other words, it is work.
I wish I could report that I spend hours and hours watching and discovering movies that are wonderful, movies that are diamonds in the rough or that are out-and-out gems. Such is not the case. For a range of reasons, I have to sit through too many films that are appallingly awful. For every new film that surprises me or delights me, there are five or ten or twenty that are jaw-droppingly bad. To prove my point, I want to cite a few of the absolute worst films I’ve come across in recent months.
Sometimes, bad movies feature good actors. Take, for example, 6 SOULS, which was filmed five years ago under the title SHELTER and which barely earned a theatrical release earlier this year. Julianne Moore-- yes, that Julianne Moore-- stars as a forensic psychiatrist who has no conception of what she will be dealing with when she begins working with a mentally scarred patient. 6 SOULS is an idiotic combination thriller-horror opus that completely wastes Moore and her fellow cast members.
Terrible films also may be nothing more than ego trips for their stars. A textbook example is something called A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III. The director-screenwriter is Roman Coppola, the son of Francis and brother of Sofia. The star is Charlie Sheen, and he plays a self-involved middle-aged Hollywood type who is addicted to sex. Does any of this sound familiar? But alas, Charlie’s character also is humble and, in his way, “sympathetic” as he is deeply upset by the actions of his former girlfriend. Poor Charlie!
As you catch a glimpse inside the mind of Charles Swan III, are you supposed to come away with the notion that Charlie Sheen is somehow misunderstood? Is all the negative publicity he’s earned in recent times somehow unwarranted? Well, guess what? Who cares. And beyond all this, A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III is at once trivial, childish, and distasteful.
Finally, a film may be beyond terrible. As you watch it, you only can shake your head in disbelief and ask yourself an unanswerable question: What were the filmmakers thinking when they made this? In this category is NATURE CALLS, an alleged comedy involving some boy scouts who are caught between a stalwart scoutmaster and his boy scout-despising brother. NATURE CALLS is, to put it kindly, a mind-numbingly dreadful film. At its worst, it is out-and-out vulgar and is peppered with African and African-American stereotypes that are not in the least amusing. And at best, it is just plain monotonous.
Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.
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