Originally created 08/08/03

Some good movies get bad raps



Movie critics have always relished the opportunity to walk bleary-eyed from a darkened cinema to declare a movie "the worst ever."

Sometimes, the criticism is warranted - there have been some criminally bad movies made over the years. But critics are pack animals, and sometimes get caught up in the idea of a movie being bad, regardless of its merits. As a result, there are a few fine films out there remembered as being famously bad, and going unseen because of it. Below is a selection of movies remembered as box-office duds that actually outshine their dire reputations:

KRUSH GROOVE (1985): The story leaves a lot to be desired and the acting, left in the hands of some of hip-hop's early heroes, can be stilted, but it would be tough to find a more authentic document of any art form's genesis. Based on Def Jam founder Russell Simmons' early struggles forming his now-legendary record label, the movie features members of Run DMC, the Fat Boys and New Edition, as well as former Prince protege Sheila E., in starring roles. Watch for a very young LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys.

1941 (1979): Given his success with Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the popular opinion of Steven Spielberg as the '70s came to a close was that the young director could do no wrong. Now, how was he supposed to live up to expectations like that? Although 1941 may not have gained the status of instant classic as his earlier works had, it remains a courageous and deeply funny comedy. If nothing else, it serves as a rogue's gallery of the comedy talent that would personify film humor for the next decade.

ISHTAR (1987): Had this buddy comedy not cost $40 million to make (a fortune in 1987), and not been so widely publicized before its release, perhaps it would not have been savaged by critics and audiences alike. But people went to the theater curious as to what such an astounding amount of money would look like on the screen, only to discover it looked like two men wandering through Morocco. Still, this underdog comedy about destined-to-fail songwriters has the same sort of charm as the old Hope-Crosby Road movies and, when the price tag is ignored, survives on its own merits.

EYES WIDE SHUT (1999): Few filmmakers enjoy the critical adoration Stanley Kubrick fostered in his lifetime. But the truth is, he was a complex and challenging filmmaker, and his movies often were initially panned and only later acknowledged as masterpieces. Hopefully, that's the case with this sprawling morality tale. As ambitious as any of his films, Eyes is visually explicit and emotionally cool, observing the politics of desire with a sort of intellectual detachment. The result is a courageous, cerebral film that should be acknowledged as a worthy addition to the Kubrick filmology.

HEAVEN'S GATE (1980): When famous flops are mentioned, it is always in relation to this sprawling deconstruction of the Western mythology. Extremely expensive and very long, director Michael Cimino's original cut cost $35 million and ran nearly four hours. Cut to nearly a third of its original length by an under-impressed studio, the fragmented narrative was quietly released and then left to die. Mr. Cimino's Western, while challenging, is a fine piece of filmmaking. It is the film's contrary nature that makes it so interesting. A chamber piece with a cast of thousands, Gate is filled with subtle metaphor and jaw-dropping action for those patient enough to find it.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.