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What’s in a Name?

Underneath the Oscar predictions and big names of the Fall movie season lies a huge problem. For some reason, studio executives and screenwriters have lost the ability to properly title their movies. A title really helps project a movie’s attitude, even if the product is less than stellar. If a movie’s title is making you ask ‘huh’ instead of ‘hmm…’ than someone isn’t doing his or her job.

We looked at the fall release schedule and picked out the worst of the worst.

FearDotCom-This title would have been cool about 10 years ago, when the Internet was still foreign and maybe a little dangerous. Now, it comes across as the parading of an overused popular phrase to manipulate people into the multiplex. It’s like naming a movie Whassup? The worst part is that the title doesn’t stir any fear, like The Night of the Hunter or Psycho.

The Banger Sisters-Do I even have to explain? When this movie gets lost in the tangled web of cable channels, some 13-year old boy is going to stumble upon the movie listing one late night and unleash a triumphant scream. He’ll even see that the movie is Rated R for reasons that include… sexual content! Oh, how I’ll love to see the likely look of crushing disappointment on his face when he realizes that he’s watching Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn as former groupies who reunite.

SwimfanThe movie deals with an obsessed young woman who undermines a high school swimming star. But the title, which refers to the girl’s e-mail handle, doesn’t reflect any kind of sexiness or deceit. In fact it, sounds more like a Disney romantic comedy starring the Olsen twins. And what’s with making swim fan a compound word? Is star Erika Christensen so power hungry that she demanded that the execs at 20th Century Fox create a new word? Did advertising think they’d save valuable poster space? Did producers want to get back at critics by having them constantly refer to their spell checks? I guess we’ll never know.

The Transporter-The word does exist; it is listed in Webster’s New World Dictionary but I’ve never heard any normal person say it. So, of course, it’s perfect to use in a movie. Coming this summer: The Deliverer and The Returner. Also coming for Oscar season 2003: The Bailiwick and The Lugubrious Conformation.

The Four FeathersNow here’s a movie that I will probably check out just for the cast alone (Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, and Kate Hudson). Unfortunately, the title reminds me of a potential follow-up to the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers, instead of the adventure/romance it’s advertised as. The Four Feathers situation brings up an interesting point, as it proves (well, at least to me) that there is a certain risk of having movie titles closely linked to a prior pop culture work. Maybe it was a good title when the original novel was written… in 1902.

One reason why I want to see Moonlight Mile aside from the great cast (Sarandon, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Dustin Hoffman) is that I’m curious to see if the movie evokes the same haunting feeling I get when I listen to the great Rolling Stones’ song of the same name. Conversely, it’s why You Can Count on Me (a quiet, intelligent gem) may have lost a few viewers. Anyone familiar to late 1980s sitcoms remembers that phrase was prominently featured in the theme song to My Two Dads, which starred Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan. Somebody may have wanted to see the movie, but was horrified at the thought of seeing a re-teaming of Evigan and Reiser. Hey, it’s just a theory.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind-One of fall’s most anticipated movies (it deals with the life of Gong Show host Chuck Barris, who claims he was a CIA assassin) but cursed with a really bad title. It sounds like the first part of a Lifetime movie. I can practically hear the promo: ‘Tonight at 9. Markie Post stars in the true story of a woman who fought for her country and paid the ultimate price in Gertie Evans: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.’

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever-Possibly the worst movie title of all time. Atrocious for three reasons. First, it condescends to the audience by explaining the plot. There’s no mystery involved; you know Ecks will be battling Sever. Shouldn’t the audience be given some credit in imagining the movie’s possibilities? Second, the title is so long that I can see people choking to death while talking to the cashier. Third, the characters’ names suck. OK, Sever sounds sorta cool, but Ecks? Your accountant is named Ecks; the guy who runs the local deli is named Ecks. You put Ecks’ name in there and the whole title gets geeked up, making it sound like CPA Battle Royale.

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