The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The Fox bad movie streak is still alive!

October 10, 2008 |  5:25 pm

Out of sheer horror and dismay, ever since I launched the blog early this summer, I've been keeping track of all the awful movies released by 20th Century Fox, the one studio in town that seems to actually pride itself on its ability to avoid using A-list talent and successfully market dim-bulb movies. Putting aside last spring's "Horton Hears a Who," Fox has released 21 movies since the July 27 opening of "The Simpsons Movie." Of those 21, none has managed to even score a mediocre 50 at Rotten Tomatoes, the Web's leading aggregator of movie reviews. Hence the streak. (Rotten Tomatoes seemed a scrupulously fair barometer, since it's owned by--ahem--News Corp., Fox's parent company.)

Now the streak has reached 22. The studio today released "City of Ember," a family-friendly fantasy from Walden Media about a post-apocalyptic underground city running out of energy and food. I actually would've gone to see a screening of the film myself, since I admire its director, Gil Kenan, and its costar, Bill Murray, but the idea of a print journalist like me getting invited to an early screening of a Fox film is about as likely as Oliver Stone getting a personal invitation to a Sarah Palin rally.

It looked like a close call for a while, but the Rotten Tomatoes jury ended up giving "City of Ember" a 46. Even the normally deliriously upbeat Peter Travers from Rolling Stone grouched that "except for watching Bill Murray get attacked by a giant mole, this sci-fi fantasy feels wan and warmed over." Our reviewer, Robert Abele, praised the film's craftsmanship, but was lukewarm about the storytelling. Still, the 46 score is a big improvement over recent Fox showings, which have included a 9 for the recent "Babylon A.D.," a 13 for "Mirrors" and a 32 for "The X-Files: I Want to Believe."

I remain a cockeyed optimist. So I firmly hoped that maybe next week, when Fox releases the Mark Wahlberg-starring "Max Payne," the studio would finally hit the jackpot and end the streak. Then I watched the trailer and--well--wasn't so sure anymore. But take a look and judge for yourself:

 

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