Early year movie blues

Two Hollywood duds signal another year of manufactured schlock has begun

SCARY STUFF? <i>Queen of the Damned, </i>a blatant vehicle for recently deceased pop singer Aaliyah, who died tragically in an airplane crash last year, is only scary when you consider its writing and marketing values.

SCARY STUFF? Queen of the Damned, a blatant vehicle for recently deceased pop singer Aaliyah, who died tragically in an airplane crash last year, is only scary when you consider its writing and marketing values.

Rated 2.0

There’s something about the beginning of the year that draws out the worst that Hollywood has to offer. Last year was The Wedding Planner. The year before that Battlefield: Earth. This year, the frontrunner for worst piece of cinematic dross is Queen of the Damned. Dragonfly is bad, but it waits for an hour before it gets there. Queen is irredeemably atrocious from the very beginning.

What’s it about? Well, it’s not about the book for sure. As a matter of fact, music-star-turned-"actress” (turned dead) Aaliyah as the titular character takes so long to show up that I was beginning to think that the movie was named for a vampire involved called Marius, who minces and flails his arms about more than a gay Italian beekeeper. About an hour into the proceedings, she finally shows up, slinks about some, blows up some people, rasps a couple lines in a voice more over-processed than her music, and then the whole mess is over (oh, I’m being crass? What about the cynical mechanizations of a studio that uses the publicity of her death to milk a few Cineplex bucks from the unsuspecting public?). This would have gone straight to video if she hadn’t died in that plane crash last year.

Meanwhile, the movie is more about Rice’s The Vampire Lestat than Queen. Tepid Simon Townsend takes over for Tom Cruise here, waking up from a century-long nap deciding he wants to be a rock star. After hitting the big time with a heavy-metal/Goth/industrial-lite band (he lip-syncs to a handful of different bands; it’s amusing, sort of) named after himself, of course, he challenges all the other vampires in the world to show up at his big show in Death Valley. Why? I don’t know; it’s never really made clear. Maybe it’s nothing more than an excuse to throw in some bared-fangs-flying-at-each-other-in-slow-motion vampire duels to cop off of the forthcoming Blade II.

Meanwhile, none of the humans seem particularly concerned that he really may be a vampire (or at the very least, may be some lunatic who really thinks he is) and that groupies tend to disappear wherever the band plays. Of course, all his vampire friends show up for the concert, milling about looking as if they got turned straight after coming out of a Nine Inch Nails show. Much heroin-chic posturing ensues. Conclusion: Don’t even bother renting this on video.

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As far as the other supernatural outing that opened Friday, Dragonfly, it could essentially be described as What Lies Beneath the Emerald Forest. Let’s put it this way—it’s a supernatural outing directed by the guy who brought you Patch Adams. Ooh boy. Kevin “Hey-I-used-to-be-somebody-back-in-the-'80s” Costner is back in sensitive-guy mode as an emergency room doctor whose pregnant wife, a relief worker in South America, is declared dead in a bus crash. He’s having a hard time dealing with his grief, made even harder by the fact that she seems to be trying to contact him from the beyond. Seems she has something really important to tell him. Meanwhile, he sees a lot of dragonflies (her birthmark). Spooky things happen, and then it all gets very absurd.

While not really a bad movie—Costner does a good job of evoking sympathy here, which is disconcerting in that none of his friends and co-workers seem particularly sympathetic toward him—it’s still not a very good one. The supernatural aspect starts out nicely, but then the script begins to flounder, uncertain about where to take all these spooky shenanigans, until it finally staggers to a completely numb-nut resolution. And predictable—boy, if you don’t figure this one out about halfway into the movie, you need to get your synapses checked.