2007 is shaping up to be a banner year for odd and unappealing movie titles, with such head-scratchers as The Last Mimzy, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium gracing the Cineplex. The hands-down winner of the Least Appealing Movie Title of 2007 award, however, has to be the romantic drama Love in The Time of Cholera. According to the health site WebMD.com, the symptoms of Cholera include "profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps." How romantic. Of course, Love in the Time of Cholera could very well be a wonderful flick -- I haven't seen it -- but the image of "profuse watery diarrhea" doesn't exactly send me rushing to the theater.
Here's a list of 10 great movies vicitimized by poorly chosen titles:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer legend Joss Whedon's first foray into feature filmmaking won praise from the critics but failed at the box office, partly because he chose to give his sci-fi flick a name only the Browncoats (Whedon's cult-like followers) could appreciate. Classic sci-fi movies typically have enticing words like "war," "trek," "odyssey" or "alien" in the title. Serenity just makes me want to take a nap.
Folks wondering how Jon Favreau got the Iron Man directing gig would be wise to check out Zathura, a stellar family flick that proved a major financial disappointment in 2005. Audiences avoided Zathura like the plague, presumably because they were too embarrassed to stumble over the lisp-inducing title when buying tickets at the box office.
8. Blade Runner
To be fair, there are plenty of theories as to why this sci-fi masterpiece flopped at the box office in 1982; most likely, Ridley Scott's dystopian vision was simply too far ahead of its time. But the title Blade Runner, which for some conjures up unpleasant images of bloody feet, certainly didn't help matters. (Granted, it's still better than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
7. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Terry Gilliam's visually stunning 1988 comic fantasy garnered Oscar nominations for special effects, makeup, costume design and art direction. It also ranks among the biggest box-office bombs of all time. American audiences, it seems, had little interest in the exploits of one Hieronymus Karl Frederick von Munchausen. Go figure.
6. House of Sand and Fog
I can dig titles like House of Flying Daggers, House of 1000 Corpses, House on Haunted Hill or even The Cider House Rules, but House of Sand and Fog does absolutely nothing for me. Though not technically a flop, Vadim Perelman's gripping 2003 flick, featuring outstanding performances from Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly and Shohreh Aghdashloo, didn't exactly light the world on fire, either.
5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The title of Julian Schnabel's acclaimed drama, which garnered him the Best Director prize at Cannes, sounds like some children's fable about the unlikely friendship between a flying insect and an inanimate undersea apparatus. In reality, it's an incredibly moving biography of paralyzed Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby.
4. What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Lasse Hallstrom's quirky 1993 drama was dismissed by many an insensitive observer -- including myself -- as "the movie with that really fat chick," with said fat chick presumed to be the person guilty of devouring poor Gilbert. Those who gave Grape a chance caught an early glimpse of the immense talent of Leonardo DiCaprio, whose performance as a mentally challenged teenager earned the young actor his first Oscar nomination.
3. The Hudsucker Proxy
With efforts like Barton Fink, Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, the Coen Brothers have a knack for oddball titles that borders on arrogance, as if they're boasting, "We're so good, we can call our movies anything we want and people will still want to see them." But audiences clearly weren't interested in 1994's excellent The Hudsucker Proxy, which could never quite overcome the epic blandness of its title.
Another superb Terry Gilliam flick that bombed badly at the box office, Brazil taught aspiring filmmakers a valuable lesson: Movies named after countries rarely do well at the box office. On the other hand, movies named after cities, like Chicago, Fargo, Philadelphia, Nashville, Munich and Casablanca, are guaranteed moneymakers.
1. The Shawshank Redemption
It's difficult for a studio to sell a three-hour prison flick with no major stars to mainstream audiences; it's damn near impossible when that flick is called The Shawshank Redemption. Thanksfully, the Academy kept an open mind, nominating Shawshank for seven Oscars, including Best Picture.
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