Monday, June 09, 2003

Announcement #1: check out this cool website by Mike Queen and Carlos Queen, featuring writing by Heath Tomar. Mike and Heath went to college with me and are therefore cool. They take submissions, if anyone would like to send things in. (Edited to fix link).

Since I’m in TV withdrawal, I figured I’d start posting recaps of dreadful movies I’ve watched on TV. I’d been wondering if I’m just a bitter old crank, or if I’ve been watching particularly bad films lately. I’ll let you be the judge. Also, the reviews will give away the entire plot (such as it is), so reader beware.

Before I post my first film review, I’d like to announce a contest in honor of “Powder”: Design Your Own Stupid Movie, and please use as many movie clichés as possible while including one idiotic random twist. My favorite clichés are: Hooker With a Heart of Gold, Everyone Thinks the Hero is Dead but He Comes Out of the Burning Building Anyway, and Rural People Hate Everyone. Send entries to by Friday afternoon. Winner gets Internet glory and the opportunity to assign my next bad film.

“Powder”, 1995, starring Sean Patrick Flanery and Mary Steenburgen

Gun-toting, ignorant Texans? Check. Kindhearted social worker? Check. Bullying teenagers? Check. Sweet small-town girl who’s kind to the hero? Check. Jeff Goldblum as a stammering scientist? Check. Sean Patrick Flanery as a basement-dwelling albino with superpowers? Yeah!

The film begins with a baby in an incubator screaming as its brain waves are being charted. The brain wave activity is really high, as his father sobs. Ominous yet uplifting music plays.

Fifteen years later, Sheriff Doug and Social Worker Jessi are walking up to a farmhouse as the ominous, uplifting music takes it down a notch. The farm’s owner has died, and the police found his teenage grandson in the basement, kept down there as a “family secret.” Damn those Southerners and their family secrets and close-minded ways! Because that device has never been used in a film before (off the top of my head: every goddamn movie that has ever been made).

Jessi meets the bald, albino kid, who says that his name is Jeremy but his grandparents called him “Powder.” She gets him lunch, discovers that he has memorized every book in his basement, and packs him off to her Home For Wayward Boys, Xenophobics and Godawful Accents. Naturally, the boys are mean to him and tell him to balance a spoon on his nose as an “initiation”. Lame! I think a pack of orphans and delinquents would at least make him tip a cow or moon somebody. Jeremy responds by telekinetically summoning every utensil in the room.

Jeremy is then sent to school, because it’s completely logical that a boy who has never left the house would be immediately packed off to a large public high school. Jeremy meets his science teacher, Jeff Goldblum. I won’t bother figuring out what his character’s name is, since Jeff Goldblum has been playing the same character since “The Big Chill” anyway. Jeff turns on a Jacob’s Ladder, and the electricity zaps Jeremy from across the room as a generically pretty red-haired girl stares in awe. Gee, think she’ll be important later?

Jeremy is hauled off to the hospital, where the doctors can’t find a single scratch on him. He slips out of his room and begins to walk. On the way, he pets a dog and is greeted by Generic Redhead. They have a sweet, uplifting conversation as the score beats into our heads that this is an Uplifting Conversation. Generic Redhead points Jeremy to the interstate, where he is intercepted by Sheriff Doug and Deputy Harley. Jeremy gives up his quest to return home and goes back to the Home for Wayward Accents with Sheriff Doug.

Jeff Goldblum sputters science throughout the film, but in the interest of not typing for the rest of my life, here’s the Science Stuff all in one meaty paragraph: Jeremy IS electrolysis. Alert beauty salons! Jeremy uses all of his brain, and is therefore “pure energy.” Cue Information Society! Jeremy has an off-the-charts IQ, and is more human than human. Cue White Zombie! Jeremy is so super-evolved that he slices, dices, he even juliennes.

Back to the plot, such as it is: Sheriff Doug and Deputy Harley take the Wayward Boys camping. Jeremy tells Sheriff Doug that “God took his mother” as we see a hilarious flashback of a pregnant woman being struck by lightning as water sprays straight up and his dad screams. No movie death has ever been funnier: Mom gets a look of bored terror as she stands in her Puddle of Certain Demise.

The next day, Jeremy goes strolling through the woods. Wayward Bullies #1 and #2 emerge and yell twangy insults. This scene couldn’t be more generic if #1 and #2 wore straw hats and were chewing tebaccy. Bully #1 waves a gun at Jeremy as shots ring out. All three boys race across a clearing to find Deputy Harley and a dead deer. The obviously robotic deer twitches as the boys yee-haw. So, Texans like to go hunting? Color me shocked! Jeremy grabs the deer, then grabs Deputy Harley. Deputy Harley goes into seizures as the Wayward Bullies twang uselessly in the background.

Sheriff Doug and Jessi give Jeremy a stern talking to. Jeremy responds by telekinetically shattering all of the glass in the room and saying he wants to go home. Somehow, that scene took 20 minutes.

Somehow, everything is instantly all better, because Sheriff Doug takes Jeremy to meet his Vague Ailment Nobly Dying Wife. She’d actually been in a few scenes already, but it was stupid to mention them because they were pointless scenes. Vague Ailment’s nurse is afraid of the “freak.” Whatever, I think this film has already established (and established, and established…) that everyone’s afraid of Jeremy because Texans are hicks. Jeremy uses his vague superpowers to channel Vague Ailment, who tells Sheriff Doug that she can’t die until he makes up with Estranged Son of Sheriff Doug. They make up, Vague Ailment dies, Uplifting Score wields its sledgehammer and we cut to commercial. I pour a drink or 12.

The next day, Jeremy walks around the County Fair, then brings a soda to Generic Redhead. They hold hands and read each other’s thoughts, which would be quite moving if 1. I cared about either of these people 2. These people had interesting thoughts 3. If they’d added a car chase or naked people. Jeremy talks about how everyone is beautiful and sarcasm is unnecessary. Dude, sarcasm is half the joy in life. You don't know what you're missing! Generic Redhead and Jeremy share a passionless kiss. Generic Redhead’s dad, Generic Villain, shakes Jeremy around. Sean Patrick Flanery’s physical acting is priceless: he twitches in the exact opposite direction that he’s supposed to be shaken in. It’s like the whole fight was choreographed by people who took Physics for Poets in college. Jessi runs over and Generic Villain tells her to keep her “state trash” away from his pure and perfect daughter. Generic Villain couldn’t be more evil than if he had a handlebar mustache and tied maidens to train tracks.

Jeremy melodramatically packs his cardboard suitcase, dons his cheap fedora, and slips out of the Home for Wayward Accents as sad uplifting music plays. We see him walk to the interstate, then hitch a ride in the back of a truck. Jeremy returns to the Farmhouse of Isolation and crawls into his basement.

Jessi pulls up a few minutes later and finds him there. All of his books are gone, and she vows to return every last one of them. Well, then why didn’t you let him pack the books or store them in the first place, you nitwit? And the fact that the house is empty and his whole family is dead is enough of a hint that Things Have Changed. Cripes.

Anyway, Jeff Goldblum arrives and he and Jessi offer to take Jeremy somewhere he belongs. Central Casting, perhaps? I’d love to see an albino endorse sunscreens. Comedy gold.

However, this dream is shattered as Sheriff Doug and Deputy Harley pull their patrol cars onto the front lawn. Everyone argues about Destiny and Deeper Meaning and Enough With the Albinos Already as a thunderstorm brews in the distance. Jeremy is being led to a car when the Idiotic Plot Twist becomes clear to him. He breaks away and runs, followed by the Four Horsemen of the Albino. He turns around and has something profound to say to each of them:

Sheriff Doug: “Your vaguely dying wife is now vaguely part of the atmosphere and you should be vaguely happy about that.”
Jessi: “You’re a good person blah blah blah.”
Deputy Harley: “It’s wrong to shoot things. It’s wrong to hate people. You are just plain wrong.”
Jeff Goldblum: “Get a new schtick already, Stammer Boy! I can't believe this movie makes Earth Girls Are Easy look like quality!”

Jeff Goldblum says something profound about technology surpassing humanity, humanity someday surpassing technology, and then sums up the film I knew the plot of anyway because I’d been watching it for the last freakin’ two hours. Jeremy takes off running across a field, the score becomes the Noble Death Song, Jeremy is struck by lightning and vanishes. A wave of CGI energy smacks the Four Horsemen to the ground. All four get these looks of Profound Wonder that vary based on acting ability. Jessi: profound wonder crossed with did-I-leave-the-oven-on. Jeff Goldblum: profound wonder that he actually got paid for this clunker. Sheriff Doug: profound wonder crossed with what-the-hell-is-with-this-ending-anyway? Deputy Harley: profound wonder, hold the mayo, extra pickle.

The end. Credits. Credits that roll by faster and faster so we can never know who inflicted this film upon us. Awesome.

Scorecard: Intentional humor: 0 Unintentional humor: 5
Subtle, Confusing or Sledgehammer of a Plot? Sledgehammer, by a mile.
Damage to My Liver: Substantial