I am tormented by

I am tormented by bad movie-pickers.

One of the many advantages of living in Manhattan is that the cost of seeing a first-run Hollywood film is usually exorbitantly high. This is an advantage because it acts as a economic idiot filter, sifting out the questionable releases and relegating them to Blockbuster or Kozmo status.

The downside is that eventually, someone will decide to make it a Blockbuster night. In my circle of acquaintances, that someone is seldom me. As a consequence, I’m at the mercy of my friends when it comes to decision time about which film to see.

And my friends are a cruel lot.

It’s not that they pick bad movies. They pick horrible movies. I can’t call them films. Terrifying, bewildering, middle-of-the-rack movies where the stars are only vaguely familiar but the plots are unfortunately all too familiar.

And it’s not the sort of campy, ha-ha-those-are-some-low-production-values kind of "bad" I’m talking about. These are genre flicks, shit out by mainstream studios. But they’re just plain ugly.

I’ve seen Morgan Freeman in Hard Rain. Backed up by Christian Slater. Ever had that one inflicted on you? I hope not. I still cringe when I hear the title phrase.

This particular rant is inspired tonight by The Skulls. A promising premise, this one, casting secret societies in Ivy League schools as the denizens of evil that they are. Only instead of raising the specter of a Bush family dynasty as evidence of their inherent ungodliness, this film apparently illustrates by example.

Crushingly bad dialogue, embarassing acting, the basic sins are here in abundance. But I’ve never before encountered a film that so brazenly challenged me to maintain even the most basic suspensions of disbelief. By the end of this movie I found that the very existence of Yale University seemed dubious.

But my call to action is not that Hollywood stop making these films. Indeed, I’d rather not see what results when Craig T. Nelson is relegated to small-town theater to get his acting roles. I suspect there will never be a shortage of movies that distill the very essence of putresence and embalm it in celluloid.

Rather, I hold myself responsible, for I don’t take the initiative at that rental store. I need to be there to say, "Yes, I would rather watch Boomerang again than see that film. At least I like that movie. So please, people, learn from my example. Don’t let me be a unremembered martyr. Disregard Doug Llewelyn’s advice, and do take matters into your own hands.

And please, don’t see Double Jeopardy. I love Ashley Judd as much as the next guy, but it hurts so bad to watch it…