Flop Friday: Thirteen Days (2000)

PG-13, 145 minutes, Drama

StarringKevin CostnerBruce GreenwoodSteven Culp

I remember the excitement my mother felt when she heard about a JFK movie starring Kevin Costner. The Bay of Pigs and politics and… and… talking. My mother was all thrills. And then, for some reason, they never went to go see it. Time went on and eventually my parents passed a VHS copy of the movie sitting on a shelf in a now closed Blockbuster. Suddenly the excitement came back. Back then they watched it. I didn’t.

Over time I’ve come to think of JFK as one of the worst Presidents we’ve had in the U.S. I didn’t grow up in that generation and his legacy is quite frankly shoddy–a rockstar leader whose claim to fame was instituting a retirement system that can no longer stand by itself and surviving a notable era of worldwide turmoil… Oh wait, he didn’t. Nevertheless my mother-in-law got ahold of the same movie and went into a tizzy over it.

Thirteen Days 2
“If I cross my arms, will I, er, uh, look less stupid, Jack?”

So this stupid movie is about stupid politicians stopping stupid bad guys from being stupid. Was that descriptive enough for you? No? Well then just think of the worst episode of J.A.G. imaginable and instead of Harmon Rabb, you have Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons playing Kevin Costner’s accent. That is Thirteen Days. If I haven’t lost you yet: it’s just a drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And I hate it. Couldn’t you tell?

Apparently this movie is based on a book that I’ll never read. There are no less than three types of filming going on here: black and white, color, and… historical? Cuban? I’m not sure… They decided to pack this film with all kinds of historical data, right down to recreating recorded closed-door dialogues. So we’re given all kinds of historical accuracy here and really, that’s just about the best thing going on. Oh, and those black and white sequences? I read somewhere that they’re “chapter breaks” to introduce new sections of the story, but really they’re just disorienting.

Thirteen Days 3
“Boy, er, Jack, you are right there. I did look, uh, stupid.”

So can we talk about the bad accents? Or the underwhelmingly, er, “dramatic” forums? The chaotic pacing? The level of boring compared to the lengthy runtime? Look, this movie can hardly be considered good. As far as I can tell there is a swarm of zeitgeist surrounding it that the older generation seems to appreciate more than I. You’re better off watching J.A.G. because this movie sucks and reality isn’t exactly exciting.

Rating: Destroy on sight.

Watch: Don’t.
Don’t watch: *high five*



Flop Friday: You Don’t with the Zohan (2008)

PG-13, 113 minutes, Comedy

StarringAdam SandlerEmmanuelle ChriquiJohn TurturroNick SwardsonRob Schneider

If there’s two things I can count in an Adam Sandler movie is his devotion to former Saturday Night Live veterans and making Jewish references. Sometimes he hits, sometimes he misses, but the real enjoyment comes from seeing “the band” get back together. Perhaps it’s because we live in a time where actors are always trying to out-do one another, but love seeing acting troupes (B-list or otherwise) work together time after time.

Merging comedic and Jewish cast members alike into a crazy story about counter-terrorism, Adam Sandler plays Zohan, a humus-obsessed nearly-invincible sex-addict special forces operative who just really wants to cut hair. After faking his death in Israel and fleeing to America, Zohan quite literally screws his way onto the hair-styling scene. But when an old foe returns, Zohan must face the life he left behind.

Just like that bully who stomped on my LEGOs in the 2nd grade…

It’s just that… Zohan doesn’t really work for me. I’m sure there was landslide of criticism about the religious and sexual motifs prevalent in this film, but that’s not what I want to focus on. Although, reflecting back upon that it was REALLY FREAKING WEIRD. But what I do want to talk about is the bizarre call for peace this movie slaps you across the face with. Look, it’s 2017 and back when this movie was created (2008) things were basically the same. The Middle East is at war and no one likes each other. Fantastic (note: sarcasm). But why would you come up with this utterly bizarre way of stamping a “coexist” on the audience’s brain? “Don’t panic just style and screw.” “This MUST work!”

Having semi-recently seen good Adam Sandler movies like Hotel Translyvania, Pixels, and Blended and fondly remembering older ones like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, I just have to say one word: WHAT?!?!? Crude humor works in the other movies, but I can’t help but wonder if something simpler like slapstick or dark satire would have worked better in Zohan. I know they can’t all be hits, but I expected more Sandler and especially from Robert Smigel, creator of the brilliant Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

Legends are made, not born.

It’s not like there was anything really wrong with this movie other than it’s touchy subject matter. But perhaps that was the point all along: make a risky maneuver in order to promote brotherhood and hopefully entertain in the process… No matter how many known actors, musicians, and entertainers fill the screen, I just can’t get on board for free lovin’ with every ’80s hairstyle.

Rating: Don’t bother.

Watch: If your wires are crossed and your circuits have shorted.
Don’t watch: Religiously offensive to some and because why would anyone want to watch Sandler screw little old ladies?

Flop Friday: The Wiz (1978)

G, 134 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Diana RossMichael JacksonNipsey RussellTed RossRichard Pryor

Sometimes you come across the weirdest things. Cult films certainly fall into that category because the niche seems so specific that it’s not always going to work for everyone. I feel like I like cult films. Certainly not films that won… *shudder* Sundance awards, but cult films? Good to go, chief.

Then there’s this garbage. No, literally. Some of the characters are made out of garbage. The story’s the same: Dorothy, tornado, Oz, Scarecrow, Witch, but the… the… everything is so different about it. I mean, there are SPACE BABIES for crying out loud!


Don’t get me wrong: The setting is AMAZING. The Land of Oz is a warped version of New York, so it’s very urban. However, instead of being confined like I imagine The Big Apple is (bucket list item), it’s actually quite sprawling and certain backdrops appear to go on forever. In fact, I’m quite surprised to learn that portions of the film were shot in open spaces around New York because haven’t they, like, built apartments over ever square inch of that place? The scenery has touches of futuristic design that still hold up 40 years later and dark intrigue that makes me wonder what’s around the next corner. I’m labeling this as the true hallmark of the film.

Now if anyone calls the music the hallmark of this film, run because they’re likely a dang hippie reptilian.  The movie is a musical, tying bits of song to traveling, new places, new places, and feelings but I liked very little of it. With a big name like Diana Ross playing the lead role, I really expected more from her. First of all, she’s playing a woman in her twenties, while she’s actually in her thirties at the time of the filming, while she looks like she’s in her forties. I have a feeling that overuse of makeup and bad lighting are to blame, but she simply is not fit for the part. To add to this, I would have expected one of The Supremes to be able to carry the show, so I don’t know what the heck happened here.

It is Michael Jackson, however, that carries the entire weight of this film. His acting, dancing, and singing far surpass anything else presented in this movie. It’s a shame really, since he stared in so little, but gave such an awesome performance in this offbeat flick. However, perhaps Jackson’s performance is so great because everyone else involved in the film didn’t really pull through. The Tin Man is forgettable and the Lion is nothing short of annoying, with mood swings that make you wonder why they bothered with trying to make him seem scared to begin with. Even the costumes, which seem to emphasize racial stereotypes, would give a kalidah nightmares.

Hands down the coolest scene: living graffiti.

Finally, I need to touch upon the dance sequences. THEY’RE SO FREAKING LONG. I think I clocked the Wicked Witch of the West’s scene at just under 9 minutes. Okay, so… this was a stage production that they brought to the big screen. Got it. Unfortunately, no one seemed to realize that the two mediums don’t always sync. A dance number is well and good, but control yourself, Hollywood. By the time you reach the two hour mark, you begin to realize that this stuff is all just filler. C’mon, guys. I have work in the morning. This film turns itself into a commitment without giving much back.

Overall, I’d say if anyone recommends this movie to you, you should ask them what you’re getting into and then free up your schedule for a bit. That person isn’t going to be me though. It’s just as simple to look up a scene here and there in order to get a feel for it. While it might be a cult film, it’s certainly not worthy in my book.

Rating: Don’t bother.

Watch: Cool scenery. One of MJ’s few movie performances.
Don’t watch: Because it’s really just a time-consuming disappointment and you already know the story anyway.

Images © Universal

Flop Friday: The Wizard of Oz (1933)

Not Rated, 9 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Absolutely no one.

Digging through the legacy a little book about a Kansas farm girl left behind can yield some interesting results. I didn’t expect there to be quite so many variations on a story that this millennium doesn’t seem so concerned with. Last millennium? Well, that’s a different story. Slap the word “Oz” on it and you’ve got yourself a nice little pile of money.

Known for being the original color version of Wizard of Oz, the 1933 version is an animated short in the style of Betty Boop cartoons. Dorothy, living a gray world, rides the winds to Oz where her arrival is celebrated by the masses… for some reason. The Wizard of Oz himself greets Dorothy and her assembled party only to set a giant… chicken… upon them. At this point I never expected to see or write anything with the context of a giant chicken outside of a Chicken Boo cartoon. Ba-cuck!

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this… It’s just a forgotten short that was almost certainly tacked onto a weekly newsreel. The story is bizarre and rushed. Dorothy meets everyone in what seems like seconds just before a montage of birds and butterflies that somehow transitions in a parade. This is all nonsensical time-filler that takes waste to its highest painful degree. No golden cap to command the flying monkeys. No witch enthroned upon a seat of rubies. I can’t help but wonder if six year-olds in the ’30s found it all dumb and boring as well.

Travel advisory for all visitors to the Land of Oz: They’ll break yer dang shoulders.

The Wizard himself is probably the most non-conventional depiction of the character I’ve seen. He’s more of a villain in this short as he sets the supersized fowl upon our heroes, though no explanation is given as to what the animators were drinking before creating this mind-boggling mess. I’m voting for furniture varnish. So lost in their stupor were they that they even forgot to put the lion in the story. R.I.P. courage.

If you’re into this kind of weird animation, I’d say check it out. Personally I can rest easy knowing that I’ll never put myself through this short again. There are better adaptions of Baum’s book and we all know that in a fight Chicken Boo would win against Cluckzilla any day.

Rating: Don’t bother.

Watch: He’s a giant chicken I tell you!
Don’t watch: A GIANT CHICKEN!

Flop Friday: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

Not Rated, 13 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Bebe DanielsHobart BosworthRobert Leonard, and a bunch of weirdos

These days bonus features plague the home media market. I get it: they still don’t really know how they made King Kong, so they’ll forever document every second of the film making process. I think there’s only ever been three movies that I’ve eaten up all the special features for and quite frankly there’s too much mythos surrounding The Wizard of Oz (1939) to get the real story. The best I have come to hope for is additional movies packed with the main feature and I lucked out with not one, but five. Sometimes they’re awesome looks back and sometimes… they’re flops.

Straying far, FAR away from the classic film (because, you know, it came first) and also the source material, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz gives us the earliest adaptation of Baum’s fairy-tale. Once again Dorothy (Daniels) takes flight to Oz with her loyal scarecrow (Leonard) and… herd of livestock… What???

While the basic story is intact, there are some bizarre–um, “creative” differences in this short. Most notably, a viewer is likely to notice how brisk the story is. With a run time of just 13 minutes, there isn’t much room for detail. Instead, each frame is a compacted mess of actors crowded together, overly ornate sets, and props that take up large portions of the screen.

“Everyone move in…  A little closer…  A little closer… Fuse with the person next to you… Splice DNA… CLOSER!!!  …Perfect.”

Two bizarre things stick out the most when watching this. The first is the aforementioned livestock. By the end of the story Dorothy has started her own menagerie. There’s a mule, cow, dog, cat, and lion–all of which are people inside of ridiculous costumes. And… and… they dance. The animals dance. Oz’s court dances. His tailors… well, they flat-out could NOT dance if they had a gun put to their heads. With all the dancing going on, it’s makes you wonder why they didn’t try to act out more of the original story.  Kalidahs anyone?

In all this short film is nothing shy of forgettable. It comes and goes quickly, leaving you with the sense of wonder–wondering why you willingly let go a quarter of an hour of your life. Save yourself the trouble.

Rating: Don’t bother.

Watch: Because you’re a film nerd. NEEEERRRDDD!!!
Don’t watch: Period.