Cinema's 50 greatest flops, follies and failures: part 1

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In Part One we're riding the range with Will Smith, eating the rich with Rik Mayall, invading Korea with Larry Olivier and boldly going very, very slowly with Bill Shatner and his crew of intergalactic geriatrics

50. Wild Wild West (1999)

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
For a few hundred million dollars more
For a film containing giant mechanical spiders, Big Willy, Salma Hayek in the nip, rocket-powered penny farthings and made by the director of superior bubblegum hit ‘Men in Black', this should have been a hoot, right? Unfortunately they were all put into the service of an off-colour script that could only have been as clever as it thought it was if it thought it was a bag of wet hammers. The chemistry between the leads is way off, the set pieces are lame, the CGI is - at best - suspect and the whole thing is shot under flat studio lighting that blands everything into nothingness. A missed opportunity to update the groovy original TV series, this total mess of a film still had enough bells and whistles to recoup most of its monster budget. Not a flop then, and not exactly a folly, but a real, real failure. ALDWatch the trailer here
Read the Time Out review here etr l ra.jpg

49. Eat The Rich (1987)

Directed by Peter Richardson
What's so civil about war anyway..?
Hard to imagine that once upon a time, before CGI, Guy Ritchie and lottery money dragged the British film industry into the twentieth century, all you needed make a film were Lemmy, Nosher Powell, some cheap toy guns and a handful of grubby fivers. The first big-screen outing for top Channel 4 chancers The Comic Strip (Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson et al) may not have had the budget to be considered a true flop, but the back-alley production values and total lack of comic invention on display in this Thatcher-baiting misstep meant that any hopes of a Pythonesque run at the movies were knocked way back on their heels. ALDWatch the trailer here

Read the Time Out review here


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48. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Directed by David Lynch
In the pines, in the pines
It begins with an axe crashing into a TV set: sparks fly, a scream is heard, and the symbolism is brutally obvious - forget everything you thought you knew about the quirky, wacky, cosy world of ‘Twin Peaks', cos Daddy's home and he's pissed off. Like many of the show's hardcore fans, David Lynch was disillusioned with what ‘Twin Peaks' had become: from a groundbreaking, excoriating peek into America's small-town underbelly to a cute parade of oddball soap-operatics in under two years. The big screen version gave him licence to bring it all back to basics, and he grabbed it with both hands: even in Lynch-land, with all its ear-severing, head-exploding, exploitation and rough sex, there's nothing so dark and demented as ‘Fire Walk With Me', the simplest, strangest, saddest and arguably greatest of all his films. The critics sneered, the fans balked and the public stayed away in droves. It's their loss: this was a beautiful new kind of madness, terrifying, exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. TH

Watch 'Sesame Street' go Lynchian

Read the Time Out review here

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47. Inchon (1982)

Directed by Terence Young
The end of many a Korea
The dad movie to (literally) end them all, ‘Inchon' is perhaps the most misguided, lamentably cast, curiously motivated and truly awful film on this list. Quite who – in an era dominated by the cutesy escapism of ‘ET' and the cuss-heavy iconoclasm of ‘48 Hours' – the producers imagined would be tempted into the cinemas by a white-hot line-up that included Laurence Olivier, Ben Gazarra and David Janssen, a hand-drawn ‘folk art' advertising poster and the heavily publicised involvement of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon is anybody's guess. That said, then-President Ronald Reagan loved it... ALDWatch the utterly confusing opening minutes here

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46. Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979)

Directed by Robert Wise
Boldly get on with it!
By the late '70s, everything was coming up ‘Star Trek': the show was huge in repeats, sci-fi was big news again in the wake of ‘Star Wars', and William Shatner was back on top in ‘TJ Hooker'. The stage seemed set for a whizzy, high-octane reinvention, bringing back all those characters we loved and pitting them against the dastardly forces of modern special effects technology. Until some miserable git argued that no, ‘Star Trek' was about ideas, not action! This was a chance to broaden Hollywood horizons, a return to the intellectual rigour and grandiosity of ‘2001' and ‘Silent Running'. To be fair, ‘The Motion Picture' looks an absolute treat, even now - the effects are phenomenal, the scope huge. Just a shame it's so damn boring. THWatch how the Golden Arches even thought this one was going to make money...

Read the Time Out review here


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45. The Spirit (2008)

Directed by Frank Miller
‘Dick Tracy' for the Moscow Mule set
Melting the needle on the what-the-frick?-ometer, this big-screen outing for Will Eisner's superslick cartoon vigilante is a broiling mess of primary-hued confusion that labours under the misapprehension that any and all of its wilful weirdness will be in some way entertaining. The seminal scene in which Samuel L Jackson dons an apropos-of-nothing SS uniform before delivering ruminations on the nature of death interspersed with bemusing egg-based puns in front of a giant swastika, for instance, stands as one of the strangest in modern cinema, but it makes precious little sense in the context of the film. And neither does ‘The Spirit' have the strength of its convictions, with all of this way-out wackiness leading up to a bog-standard action movie climax. Nurse, the codeine! ALDWatch the trailer here

Read the Time Out review here

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44. When Time Ran Out (1980)

Directed by James Goldstone
When audiences ran out
The last, wheezing death rattle of the '70s disaster movie cycle coughed up a globbet of pure molten idiocy in the form of this hokey volcano farrago starring a weary Paul Newman. Produced by the Master of Disaster, Irwin Allen - the man behind superior bank-holiday filler ‘The Poseidon Adventure' and ‘The Towering Inferno' - it's a surprisingly shoddy enterprise that takes an age to get going only to splutter out with a clutch of dawdling set pieces and some of the most comical special effects you could ever hope to see. ALDWatch a Sweded trailer for the VHS release here

Read the Time Out review here

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43. Che (2008)

Directed by Stephen Soderbergh
Four hours, two parts, zero punters
Selecting an enemy of the American state as the subject of a cinematic biography was a ballsy move by indie wiz Stephen Soderbergh, but the message from the box office was dismaying in its clarity: the toils of Che Guevara just ain't gonna shift popcorn in the fleapits of Shitwheel, Arkansas. Benicio del Toro brought the Cuban guerrilla leader to life in a carefully considered assortment of angular tics and mumbles, and the first chapter especially did not skimp on the warzone pyrotechnics. But, essentially, this was too good and too interesting a film to make its dent on the mainstream, with the near-dreamlike second instalment seeing Che wheezing through an inhaler for 120 mins while stalling in his attempts to introduce revolutionary communism to the peasants of Bolivia. Perhaps the real shame was that when the film officially bombed, Soderbergh admitted that he wished he'd never made it. DJ
Watch the trailer here
Read the Time Out review here

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42. Mars Attacks!

(1996)

Directed by Tim Burton
Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! etc...
It's the sort of film you wish Tim Burton would pluck up the courage to make again instead of offering tired, bubble-gummed rehashes of family favourites that usually involve Johnny Depp in a silly hat. Working as a shrine to his passion for Z-grade '50s sci-fi, Burton's kitsch jewel based on a series of popular trading cards charts a madcap Martian attack which is eventually foiled by the ear-bursting strains of low-rent crooner, Slim Whitman. Drawing together a massive, A-list ensemble cast and going all-out on the ray gun/flying saucer iconography, the film sadly dive-bombed, partly because this was Burton's most outwardly wacky movie since ‘Pee Wee's Big Adventure', and partly because audiences were too taken by a po-faced version of exactly the same story in the screening room across the foyer: take a bow, ‘Independence Day'. DJ Watch the Martians 'come in peace'
Read the Time Out review here AXD-10308.jpg.asset_rgb.jpg

41. Alexander (2004)

Directed by Oliver Stone
The real Prince of Persia
Ah, Oliver Stone: a one-man folly-makin' machine whose films seem to succeed despite, rather than because of, their director. Having already brought us Val Kilmer in leather pants in ‘The Doors', Anthony Hopkins in heavy jowls in ‘Nixon', Woody Harrelson's rock ‘n' roll serial-killer dreamscape in ‘Natural Born Killers' and a three-hour political mystery in which nothing gets close to being solved in ‘JFK', Olly decided it was time to really push the boat out. So he headed off to Abyssinia, glued Colin Farrell into a blonde choirboy wig, suckered in Angelina Jolie and long-suffering Kilmer to play his mum and dad, stuck them all in togas, busted open the lock on the wild animal enclosure and let the cameras roll. To be fair, there's fun to be had with ‘Alexander': some almighty scraps, some choice scenery-chewing dialogue (‘In my womb I carried my avenger!') and the best hair and make-up this side of a Kiss world tour. But it's still absolute bollocks. TH
Watch the trailer here

Read the Time Out review here

See 40 through to 31

Author: Adam Lee Davies, Tom Huddleston, David Jenkins and Anna Smith



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