Beware of visionary filmmakers who take you down rabbit holes they're just as likely to leave you peering up their own...well, you get the picture. Terry Gilliam's gruesomely awful fairy tale is one of those films that confuse integrity with unwatchability. It features a girl orphaned by her junkie-burnout parents, a brain-dead yokel who shows her how to tongue-kiss, and Jeff Bridges as a corpse that keeps rotting. Sort of like the movie.
Setting a film noir in high school certainly sounds like a yummy idea, until you begin to chew on the overwrought twisty-tangly word glob that is writer-director Rian Johnson's ''dialogue.'' He's trying to put a youth spin on the timeless patter of The Big Sleep, and the result is every bit as much fun as reading the tax code.
3. Lady in the Water
What's the ultimate M. Night Shyamalan twist? How about the director plunging off the deep end in this waterlogged snoozer, which reduces the Shyamalan Trance to self-parody. A sea nymph pops up in the pool of an apartment complex right out of bad-screenwriting hell. She spends the next two hours sitting. Around. In the shower. All wet.
4. Ask the Dust
What was Robert Towne thinking when he cast Colin Farrell, with his beery hormonal swagger, as a sexually insecure Los Angeles writer who woos Mexican waitress Salma Hayek by pelting her with ethnic slurs? In its mad mix of literary howlers, erotic kitsch, and free-floating bad judgment, Towne's adaptation of John Fante's legendary Hollywood novel may be the most labored labor of love since Duel in the Sun.
Nicole Kidman, in the role of Diane Arbus (what's next, Cameron Diaz as Gertrude Stein?), gets her freak on with a dear sad beast of a man who's as hairy as Chewbacca. Apart from the sheer cheek of its arrogance, the most ''imaginary'' thing about Steven Shainberg's stillborn biopic is his sentimental belief that Arbus normalized the bizarre instead of bizarrifying the normal.