TULSA'S WEEKLY MAGAZINE
by Cory Cheney
In Issue May 18 - May 25 2000
Let's just say it's a good thing I saw two movies this weekend, because the first one I watched sucked so bad, I had no idea how I could fill up a whole column with it.
There are only so many ways you can say a movie sucks.
This is just about the lousiest movie I've seen in recent memory.
That distinction goes to . . . Battlefield Earth.
I can only hope the book has some redeeming qualities, but based on the movie, there's no way I'd ever read it.
That's probably unfair to the book. Generally, much is lost in the translation from novel to screenplay. It's just hard to pare down a lot of material to the bare bones that make up a script and still have the heart of the novel. It can be done, but it's rare.
It's generally even harder with sci-fi. More than literature, science-fiction stories are almost Herculean works of the imagination. It's much simpler to set a story in modern day or the real world, past or present, than it is to construct a believable alternate reality or foreseeable future.
With sci-fi, it's been done more poorly than well. Look at what they did to Dune or Johnny Mnemonic. Dune is one of the best sci-fi books ever written, and Johnny Mnemonic was revolutionary for it's time, and a great, fast-paced read to boot. The Dune movie was a better translation than the other. At least it was well-done, if not well-received. Johnny Mnemonic was horrible. It was almost as lousy as Battlefield Earth.
Battlefield Earth is so bad it doesn't even rate in the fun B-movie-esque schlock category with movies like Starship Troopers.
It just sucked. Did I say it sucked yet?
That said, here we go.
It's the year 3,000, and man has been reduced back to the cave-dwelling, tribe societies from our prehistoric days. These big, Rastafarian-looking aliens called the Psychlos, have taken over the planet and made man a slave race, not to mention endangered species.
One intrepid human by name of Jonnie (Barry Pepper), is fed up with hiding in his cave in the Rockies and leaves his semi-attractive girlfriend and tribe and heads out for parts unknown.
He is, of course, captured by the Psychlos (it's embarrassing for me to even type that word so poorly are these aliens depicted) and taken to what's left of Denver and put into slave labor, though doing what, actually, we are never shown. Denver is in ruins, and covered in a large, air-tight glass dome because the Psychlos apparently can't breath Earth's air. Too bad for them, eh?
However, Jonnie is a rebellious lad and doesn't take to captivity too well. He steals a gun and shoots a couple of the bad guys, but still gets captured. This brings him to the attention of Terl (John Travolta), head of security for the Psychlos.
Terl hates it on Earth, and wants to go back home to Planet Psychlos. He concocts a vague scheme to get back there utilizing gold in some way. This too is somewhat vague. Anyway, he ends up sticking Jonnie in a "learning machine" that teaches our boy everything from modern mathematics to the Psychlos language.
And from there, naturally, Jonnie enlists the rest of the savages to stage a revolt against the Psychlos and take back the planet. Never mind that the previous society of earthlings, despite having cutting edge military equipment, were decimated in less than nine minutes. Jonnie and his cavemen will succeed.
See? The whole thing is damn dumb.
I couldn't suspend disbelief. For one, the dialogue is so supremely horrible, I kept laughing at how dumb the words sounded coming out of the characters' mouths. It kept forcing me to acknowledge what a bad movie this was.
And then there was the over-the-top acting by anyone in a Psychlos costume. Travolta and Forrest Whitaker were the chief offenders in this category. When you combined the bad script and dialogue with their bad performances, it was too much to bear.
There were some good points I suppose. Barry Pepper wasn't too bad as Jonnie. He could make a decent action star for us in the future, as long as he avoids the sequel to this turd.
What's that? Oh, yeah, the sequel was greenlit way back in February or March, before audiences had ever seen the movie. That's Travolta using his muscle there for you, god help us all. I think he has a plan here, make himself look really, really bad as an actor, then, when a pretty good role comes up, it make him look outstanding by comparison.
Lastly, most of the special effects were pretty good, at least the ones having to do with the ships and scenery.
Well, that's all I'm going to say. I'm tired of even talking about this movie. It sucked. Don't go see it. Don't go rent it when it comes out of video. Help us make a statement to Hollywood that we won't put up with this kind of crap littering up our neighborhood silver screens.
Whew. I'm glad that's over.
Like I mentioned before, I'm glad I ended up seeing another movie last weekend to sort of cleanse the cinematic palette, so to speak.
Mother's Day, I went with my girlfriend and her mom to see Center Stage. It's a little movie that's sort of being promoted as the next Fame. As to the truth of that claim, I can't help. Fame came out when I was young and I never saw it. Or the television show for that matter.
Anyway, I'd heard some about the movie beforehand, so I wasn't opposed to checking it out. I had heard the entire lead cast was composed of real ballet dancers who were picked for the roles then rushed through some acting courses so they could pull off the movie parts. After seeing it, I have to agree with this logic. Actors-turned-dancers couldn't have pulled off the dancing.
Anyway, here's the deal:
A new group of hopefuls comes into the American Ballet Academy. They are on a quest to win a part in the workshop show at the end of the year, which is the key to landing them jobs with either the American Ballet Company or any of the other prominent ballet companies throughout the US.
The characters are the usual stereotypical suspects. There's Jody (Amanda Schull), the not-so-good dancer who has to prove her worth by the end; Eva (Zoe Saldana) the inner-city girl with a flagrant disregard for authority figures; Charlie (Sascha Radetsky), the overlooked love-interest; Maureen (Susan May Pratt), the girl who's living out her mom's regrets; Erik (Shakiem Evans), the gay sidekick; and Cooper (Ethan Stiefel), the arrogant jerk.
The main character is Jody. She's accepted to the school for some quality people just can't quite put their finger on. Call it passion or charisma. Stage presence. She's not the best dancer technically. Her parents don't support her dreams, and everyone tells her she can't do it.
The other two main characters are Eva and Maureen. Eva has to overcome her attitude to succeed, and Maureen has to confront her mother and the fact her heart is not in being a ballet dancer. Oh, and she also has to overcome bulimia.
And you can kind of figure out the story from there. It's one of those coming-of-age stories with a happy ending. It's simple and predictable.
But that's what makes it worth watching.
You get a decent story with decent acting and great dancing, and there you go. I won't rave about it, but it was well done, and you could do worse with your movie money (see Battlefield Earth above).
Next week, we'll check out Road Trip and then the week after that, it's impossible mission time. See you in seve