C. Robert Cargill July 22, 2010
For years the prevailing conventional wisdom in Hollywood was that after three bombs, you lost your seat at the table. Angelina Jolie tested that with a string of duds, misfires, and outright bombs early last decade. Many thought she was done for, but she returned, stronger than ever, with a string of huge hits catapulting her into epic, A-list stardom that ensured she would never experience a quiet moment of peace ever again. You don’t forge an epic career without making a series of good films with the bad — which brings us to this week’s Top Five / Bottom Five.
Certainly not the best, but my personal favorite and a favorite of many, with a cult status that has long outlasted its shelf life. In an early role, Jolie plays the love interest of one-time husband Jonny Lee Miller in this Warriorsesque send-up of what computer hacking was supposed to be like. Goofy, fun, and at times intentionally funny, this film seems to always be in print no matter what format rules the day.
Easily her best film, this is the role that earned Jolie her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. With an all-star cast including Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bettis, Brittany Murphy, Clea DuVall, and Jared Leto, this James Mangold drama stands among the best work of most of those involved.
Kung Fu Panda
This beloved animated film, one of the very best of the last decade without the word “Pixar” attached to it, brought together a slew of voice talents in a delightfully perfect film for the whole family — one of the few in Jolie’s resume. As the kung fu master Tigress, she plays the firey cat that’s a tad bitter because she wasn’t the chosen one, but she later comes around.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
An underrated gem considered a dud after a producer reported a budget double its actual cost, this fun send-up of ’30s serials put Jolie in the role of Frankie — a Nick Fury (Iron Man) inspired hotshot pilot with a thing for protagonist Jude Law. Jolie seems to be having a lot of fun in this role, something not common in her work, and delivers a smoldering dash of sexiness with a heaping helping of badass.
While this made-for-HBO movie is most remembered for its gratuitous amounts of Jolie-nudity, it happens to be among her very best performances, and the first film to wake many of us up to the talent hidden beneath a number of her roles. Here she played real-life ’70s fashion model Gia Carangi, famous for being one of the first American women to die of AIDS. A stunning performance in a very good film, this, along with Girl, Interrupted, is why she is as respected as she is.
If there’s anything on this list I cannot fault her for, it is this mess of an early film. It is a sequel of a Jean-Claude van Damme movie (which wasn’t very good to begin with) that doesn’t star Jean-Claude van Damme. In the JCVD role is the far-superior actor Elias Koteas, being led around by a sinister and bizarrely creepy computer program voiced by screen legend Jack Palance. Yeah. They were ALL slumming it. This terrible gem is available on Hulu right now and is worth a look for trash collectors like myself who enjoy terrible film on occasion. I only wish this were my first encounter with this mess.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Oh God, make it stop. Make it stop. I will admit that I almost wet myself laughing at the unbelievable lift of The Fugitive as Jolie jumps off the side of a cliff. My buddy and I saw it coming, turned to one another and said in stereo, “I didn’t kill my wife!” Then, predictably, she jumped. The only other thing worth noting about this train wreck is the weak PG-13 shower scene that sent teenagers into a tizzy and had video store clerks recommending Gia instead. I mean, if you’re just watching the movie for (as many a customer creepily joked to me) two reasons (ew, just ew), at least watch the good one. Remembering those conversations makes me need a shower.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2
When a studio blames their bomb on a terrible video game follow-up and the video game company blames the studio for killing their brand, everyone loses.
A perfect example of how to take a great cast, an interesting story, and great set design and completely foul it up with a terrible, terrible twist ending. This film was advertised using video of a cheap jump scare from the film making an audience leap three feet in the air. What they don’t show is the angry audience 30 seconds later realizing that the scare doesn’t even make a lick of damned sense. How was he even in a locked basement??? GAWD!
Such was the critical tongue-lashing of this turd that when a buddy of mine wrote one of the only positive reviews defending it, he received a very personal, eight-page, hand-written letter from Oliver Stone thanking him for understanding the film. This thing was a mess and to this day I can’t fathom what my buddy sees in it.
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