Monthly Archives: February 2002

Crossroads (2002)

When informed that her feature film debut was receiving shrieks of laughter during advanced screenings for critics, Britney Spears said she was glad because she never likes the same films the critics do. Well Ms. Not That Innocent, the truth hurts; you’re not a girl, not yet an actress. Crossroads is really the filmic adventures of Britney Spears and her ever-present navel. The navel should get second billing, but alas, we do not live in a society of equality for navels.

The film opens up with three 10-year-old best friends burying a box of wishes and dreams and promising to be bestest friends forever and ever. They make a pact to come back and dig up the box on the night of their high school graduation. Flash to the present and the word “bestest” isn’t what it used to be. Lucy (Britney Spears) has become the virginal nerd preparing to give her speech as valedictorian. Kit (Zoe Saldana) has become the haughty popular snob, obsessed over getting married ever since she got her first Bridal Barbie. Mimi (Taryn Manning) is pregnant and become the trailer trash girl that everyone sees fit to remind her of. Despite their growth apart they all do come together to reopen their box of dreams. Mimi informs the others that she plans to head to California to audition for a record deal in an open contest. Kit decides to use this opportunity to check up on her boyfriend at UCLA who has been strangely evasive. Lucy complains that by having her nose in a book her entire high school experience she never got to go to a football game or even “hang out.” Somewhere a small violin is playing. She decides to jump at this chance and possibly see her mother in Arizona, who ran out on Lucy and her father (Dan Akroyd) when she was only three. The wheels of their adventure are provided by guitar-playing mystery Ben (Anson Mount). He pilots them on their travels to the Pacific coast, though the girls think he might have killed someone, but oh well. Much girl power ensues.

Crossroads is filled to the brim with every imaginable road trip cliché. The girls “open up” after getting drunk, have a scuffle in a bar, reap in the sights of nature, and perhaps create some sparks of romance with their hunky heartthrob of a driver. The car also inevitably breaks down and the girls have to find a way to scrape some quick cash together. They enter in a karaoke contest and Britney proceeds to sing Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” with her two gal pals providing backup. But no, this isn’t the last time you’ll hear Ms. Brit sing. In an effort to pad as well as become a showcase for its star, Crossroads gives us many scenes of the girls just singing to the radio. Besides Jett, Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like a Woman” and Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” are also on the chopping block. You’ll also be accosted by the movie’s single “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” several times, including one scene where Poet Britney is asked to share her poem and it ends up being the song’s lyrics.

Minus a friendly “ya’ll,” Britney really has only two limited acting styles, either her glazed over stare or her come hither smile. Saldana (Center Stage) is not given much, as the attention is always centered on Britney, so she merely comes off like a token conceited character. Only Taryn Manning (crazy/beautiful) comes away with a little dignity. She gives Mimi a lot more heart than should be there and shows some honest reflections for her character. She also, coincidentally enough, looks like a dead ringer for Joan Jett with her black bangs.

Crossroads is nothing but a star vanity project for Spears, with some not-so-subliminal Pepsi product placement here and there. This was not a script looking for a lead; this was something Britney’s management team suited for her, and Crossroads is perfectly suited for Britney. It allows for many ogling periods of booty shaking. The majority of the film’s drama doesn’t even concern her, and when she does have to act her scenes are cut short to help her when the real drama unfolds. The movie’s true intentions are revealed when Britney is shown in her pink underwear twice in the first 15 minutes.

Crossroads coasts along on gratuitous skin shots of Spears half-naked body every 20 minutes (possibly in an effort to keep the male members of the audience awake) until it reaches its torture chamber of a final act. In this very melodramatic period we get abandonment, date rape, infidelity, and even a miscarriage in one of the film’s most shameless plot devices. Of course none of these horrors matter, especially a psychologically damaging miscarriage, because Britney has to get to her BIG audition in order to perform, yep you guessed it, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” She also has to wear what looks like kitchen drapes while she sings.

You’ll walk out of the theater wondering many things. Why does Britney wear pink in EVERY single scene she’s in? There’s even one scene where she changes from a pink top to another pink top and is FOLDING a third pink top into a suitcase. Are we to believe that Akroyd and Spears share some kind of genetics? In what high school would Britney with her head-to-toe tan, taut stomach and bleached teeth be considered a nerd?

Hopefully Crossroads will be the pop princess’ last foray into film, but I strongly doubt this is the last we’ve seen of Britney Spears. Crossroads is a terrible girl-power trip. Only Spears’ target demographic will enjoy this melodramatic mess. Truly, the two largest groups that will see this film are adolescent girls and creepy older men who fawn after adolescent girls. Crossroads is exactly everything you’d expect.

Nate’s Grade: F

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Rollerball (2002)

The year is 2005 and the number one sport, at least in the former Soviet Union for some reason, is a mixture of roller derby, football and some kind of ESPN X-game. The man behind Rollerball is Alexi Petrovich (Jean Reno), who still thirsts for that lucrative cable contract with the U.S. and just might do anything to get it. Play suspicious music here.

Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) is an NHL draft pick in trouble with the law after a stupid high speed street race. His pal Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) tells him of a new extreme sport catching on in Central Asia, and Jonathan accepts his offer. The two are enjoying their success in Spandex but start to have reservations when they notice Petrovich including more violence as a ratings booster. Jonathan can’t just look the other way. Because he’s the good guy. So after a botched escape (shot infuriatingly all in what seems like night vision green) he collects his fellow ballers to rebel against Petrovich and whatever. As you can easily see, the story of Rollerball is not exactly its strong point. Not that there is a strong point in Rollerball.

The original Rollerball came out in 1975 and was full of political themes like corporate dictatorships and Orwellian observations on a dominated, passive society where war and nationalism have been replaced with a roller sport. Though the themes of this James Caan vehicle were a bit heavy-handed at times, the action was rather impressive especially as the corporations try their best to squash Caan in a bloody onslaught of an ending. The 1975 Rollerball had a political message and some nice action. What does the 2002 version have? Try banality and plenty of it.

Klein is possibly the blandest action hero since Ralph Macchio tried to wax a car. Klein came to the limelight through movies like American Pie and Election, and if his dimwitted deer-in-headlights look wasn’t doing it for you before then God help you with his performance in Rollerball.

Rebecca Romijn-Stamos plays Klein’s teammate and lover on the Rollerball circuit. He tells her at one point that her face isn’t as bad as she feels (she has a scar over one eye but still looks mighty attractive), proving Klein has indeed seen her blue-nude performance in X-Men. Reno deserves a trophy for even delivering the majority of his lines with a straight face.

Oh how the mighty have fallen John McTiernan. You once directed such great 80s action movies like Die Hard, The Hunt for the Red October, and Predator but now you spend your days remaking old Norman Jewison films. It began with the lukewarm remake of The Thomas Crown Affair and now a boring re-cooking of Rollerball follows it up. Can a remake of F.I.S.T. or Fiddler on the Roof be the only thing we have to look forward to now?

The most jarring problem with Rollerball, and there are so many to choose from, is the hack editing choices made. The way the movie plays one wonders if they threw all their footage in a wood chipper and grabbed whatever pieces they could and glued them into a movie. Scenes exist but appear in no discernible pattern or order. All one sees in their chair is a whirl of colors and you might be wondering if you stepped into Kaleidoscope: The Motion Picture.

The story behind this Rollerball was that it was originally slated to come out August of 2001 but after test screenings that left people howling the studio bumped it to the winter and cut it from an R to a more commercial PG-13. Lost in this cost-cutting maneuver are gore (which you would think would be important for a violent future gladiator sport) and a nude scene involving Romijn-Stamos. Which version would you have rather seen?

Rollerball is a laughably noisy and empty film that will leave your head spinning for all the wrong reasons. It’s likely the worst flick you’ll see for 2002 right now, that is, until the following week when Britney’s near-certain train wreck of a film debut opens. But until that time Rollerball is the true champion – of boredom and stupidity.

Nate’s Grade: D

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