It's no rarity to squabble over which is the best film ever made. If you call yourself a diehard movie geek, this debate is complicated by the myriad titles and categories you watch with regularity; whittling your innumerable choices down to one film becomes nearly impossible. But how often do we engage in dialogue over which is the worst film of all time? Personally, as a connoisseur of terrible cinema, I find myself in this debate as often as the one over cinematic superiority. While outwardly it may seem the antithesis of filmmaking to produce a movie worthy of entry onto the list of worst films of all time, there are instances when a certain amount of distinction is lavished upon the truly horrendous films of the world, and when those involved find themselves the unexpected heroes of the cult movie masses.
Such is the case with a little-known, and less regarded, horror sequel from 1989. The film was Troll 2, and it had absolutely nothing to do with its predecessor: 1986's Troll. Troll 2 is so awful that it actually invents new facets of filmmaking just to fail at achieving any proficiency in them. The story is about as slapped together as an Italian-produced, name-only horror sequel shooting in Utah could hope for, and to say its cast is lacking in thespian chops is to say that The Grand Canyon is a bit of a hole. There are moments in Troll 2 that are so inexplicably inept as to leave us scratching our heads in stunned disbelief. It was released to deafening silence and, with the inception of various internet rating sites years later, would garner a reputation as the worst film of all time.
But then something amazing happened. All over the country, decades after its release, reperatory and specialty theaters began screening the film to sold-out audiences. It seemed that Troll 2 had fostered a certain amount of ironic appreciation within the hardcore cult film lovers that had then blossomed into a full-scale love affair. My beloved Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, TX was among the theaters celebrating this cinematic Hindenburg. Suddenly members of the Troll 2 cast were being contacted to attend screenings of a film most of them had tried to repress into oblivion, and were greeted as superstars.
Enter Michael Stephenson, the now grown actor who played the little boy in Troll 2, with an idea. Michael decided to make a documentary about the colossal initial failure of Troll 2 and its Phoenix-like rise back to mainstream popularity. He assembled clips of several screenings of the film as well as interviewed nearly every single human being involved with the production of Troll 2 in an effort to understand what the film really meant to him and why it had found a new audience. The documentary essentially follows George Hardy, the actor who played the father in Troll 2 and who is one of the nicest guys on the planet as he deals with the roller-coaster of middling celebrity. The documentary is called Best Worst Movie, and it hit DVD shelves on Tuesday.
Though the assumed hyperbole here is doubly dubious considering the title of the film, I am not blowing smoke when I say that Best Worst Movie is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Do yourself a favor and go purchase it immediately. Even if you have no inclination as to what Troll 2 is and don't see yourself manifesting any interest in seeing it, Best Worst Movie is so much more than the chronicle of a terrible film. This is a documentary about the completely unbridled passion for all things film. It not only reaffirms the cinephile tendencies in all of us, but also speaks to the subjectivity and power of art in general. No matter how bad a piece of music, a film, a book, or a painting is, it will always register with someone in a very tangible way. That is a beautiful notion. Not to mention the fact that Best Worst Movie is downright hilarious and some of the interviewees are far more absurd and cartoonish than their antecedent characters in Troll 2.
Uplifting, well constructed, and thoroughly entertaining, Best Worst Movie is a near perfect documentary. I would recommend watching Troll 2 directly before seeing Best Worst Movie, but the documentary is so compelling that it isn’t entirely necessary.
Charlton Heston, call your agent. Twentieth Century Fox's long-anticipated "Planet of the Apes" remake is not extinct. And ditto for -- Warner Bros.' new-look "Superman" movie may fly after all.
Word comes today from the Hollywood Reporter that these big-budget sci-fi and super-hero projects -- two of the most highly anticipated movies of the 1990s that never came to pass -- may soon be salvaged from development hell after years of on-again, off-again directors and aborted screenplays.
Fox could reportedly seal a deal with Tim Burton before the end of the week to direct its "Apes" remake, while Warner officials are said to be pleased with a new "Superman" screenplay from Bill Wisher, who co-wrote "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" with James Cameron.
Fox's announcement that Burton is in talks to direct "Apes" should come as a welcome surprise for sci-fi aficionados. The project, which was first announced back in 1993, has been associated with the likes of Oliver Stone, Cameron, Chris Columbus and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the past.
Although the trade newspaper didn't cite its sources, the Burton rumor seems to fit -- at least if you believe recent whisperings. In January, movie rumor Websites such as Ain't It Cool News (www.aint-it-cool-news.com) posted information, purportedly from people close to the project, stating that a new story treatment was recently written by Andrew Kevin Walker. Walker also wrote "Sleepy Hollow," Burton's recent gothic horror hit that grossed $96 million for Paramount.
The original "Planet of the Apes" (1968), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, was based on a book by French writer Pierre Boulle. The flick starred Heston as Taylor, a time-traveling astronaut who crash-lands on a barren planet ruled by a society of apes, who regard humans as mere savage slaves. It also starred Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter as the sympathetic chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira. Such was the popularity of the "Apes" franchise that it spawned four sequels, a live-action TV series and even a cartoon.
Fox commissioned an "Apes" script in the mid-1990's by Sam Hamm (who penned the stories for Burton's "Batman" and "Batman Returns") that reportedly deviated markedly from the original film, with a race of intergalactic apes dispatching a virus to the Earth, and a group of human heroes venturing to the ape planet to send the bio-agent back.
Columbus ("Mrs. Doubtfire," "Bicentennial Man") was to direct the project and Schwarzenegger was to play an updated version of Heston's role. Later, Cameron was rumored to be unofficially attached to the project as a producer and writer.
According to Ain't It Cool News, Walker's rumored treatment is a modified version of Hamm's screenplay. In it, a civilization of apes living in the Earth's core dispatches a killer virus to the surface, and two scientists must travel to the center of the planet and stop the apes from wiping out humanity.
The Hollywood Reporter says the new "Planet of the Apes" will get the A-list treatment, with a big budget and elaborate special effects (remember the cool ape make-up from the original?). No word yet, however, whether Burton will let frequent leading man Johnny Depp utter that classic line: "Get yer stinkin' paws off me, ya damn dirty ape!"
Meanwhile, no director is working on Warner's long-awaited "Superman" update -- alternately known in its past lives as "Superman Lives" and "Superman Reborn" -- although Burton was attached to the film circa 1997-98. Other screenwriters who have worked on the film prior to Wisher include Kevin Smith ("Clerks") and Dan Gilroy ("Freejack").
CHAINSAW REVISITED: First "Star Wars," now "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
Unapix Films, which purchased the sequel rights to the grisly horror franchise about a year ago, announced this week that it will produce a "Chainsaw" prequel, simply titled "Ed Gein."
For the uninformed, Gein was the real-life serial murderer who terrorized Wisconsin in the 1950s, kidnapping women, skinning them alive and making lampshades out of their skin. He is said to be the inspiration for "Psycho" and "Silence of the Lambs," as well as the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974), which was directed by Tobe Hooper, who later made "Poltergeist."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the new film will be directed by Martin Kunert ("Campfire Tales") and written by Kunert and Eric Manes. Kunert and Manes' other credits include "Hindenburg," a movie now in development at Fox with Jan DeBont directing, and "Dare," a TV game show now in development at MTV.
For the record, this will be the fifth movie in the "Chainsaw" series, which chronicles the exploits of a sadistic family of cannibals, led by the patriarch "Grandpa" (who, in one installment, runs a successful chili con carne business --- with human flesh as his main ingredient, of course) and his son Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding freak. The most recent was "Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" a k a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation" (1994) which featured Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey in pre-stardom roles.
AND YET ANOTHER REMAKE: The Hollywood recycling program continues unabated, as Variety reports that Columbia Pictures has announced a remake of the 1971 thriller "See No Evil" (a k a "The Blind Terror") for a planned 2001 release. Martin Ransohoff, who produced the original version, also will oversee the remake and screenwriter Tony Jaswinski, who recently sold a spec script to New Line, will write it. In the original movie, Mia Farrow played a blind girl who moved into her aunt and uncle's English countryside home. Everyone else in the house is silently murdered, leaving the poor Farrow to be stalked and terrorized by the assailant. Columbia officials say the new version will be "modernized." Can you say "The Haunting"?
DIGITAL PLANET: Director Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas") will see his unconventional digital-video flick "Time Code 2000" premiere at an appropriately unconventional venue -- the first-ever Online Film Festival, March 22-23 in Los Angeles.
Backed by Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, the fest showcases movies that are either backed by Web-based companies or include Internet-themed plotlines.
Starring Salma Hayek, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kyle MacLachlan and Holly Hunter, "Time Code 2000" was shot on digital video and is being billed as something of a free-spirited innovation. Figgis reportedly had four roving video cameras independently shooting four separate 93-minute stories, all four of which are shown at once on the big screen. The movie was totally improvised -- there was no script -- and totally caveman-esque -- there are no special effects, no sound dubbing, no editing and not even make-up for the actors.
Screenings for the Online Film Festival are scheduled for the Directors Guild of America headquarters in Los Angeles. The event's lineup includes six feature films -- three of which are world premieres -- and 24 shorts. The short films will be viewable in streaming video format at www.onlinefilmfestival.com .
Documentary gives a minute-by-minute account of the demise of the world's biggest zeppelin,"The Hindenburg," in a 1937 explosion over New Jersey. Survivors, eyewitnesses, and historians tell their stories.