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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

if ‘Stardust’ isn’t enough for ya, here are some best and worst fantasy movies

Stardust opens tomorrow, and some who’ve seen the film in advance have been calling it “the next Princess Bride.” Alas, this isn’t quite the case … and I say that as the gal who literally wrote the book on that film. But it’s entertaining enough that it may whet your appetite for other (and somewhat greater) fantasy flicks. Rent these:

The Princess Bride: Of course. Sheer perfection, a delicious truffle of adventure, comedy, and romance, this is one of my go-to comfort movies, the movies I never tire of, the movies that endlessly amuse me. [my book on the film] [buy at Amazon]
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: I’d call this the 21st-century incarnation of Bride. Witty, swashbuckling, and sexy, it’s still wildly entertaining even after you’ve memorize all the dialogue and know when all the jokes and kisses are coming. [buy at Amazon]

The Lord of the Rings trilogy: Peter Jackson raised the bar on serious fantasy, so much so that it can be emotionally exhausting — in the best possible way — to sit through these films again. And if you marathon them by watching all three extended versions in a single sitting, plan to take to your bed the next day to recover. [buy at Amazon]

Beauty and the Beast: Disney’s animated musical remains one of the studio’s most enchanting works ever. [buy at Amazon]

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Dark and disturbing, like not enough fantasy is anymore, this movie continues to haunt me long since I left childhood behind. [buy at Amazon]

I could go on and on: Babe, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Fantasia, The Wizard of Oz, Ghostbusters, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Spirited Away. For more suggestions, see IGN choices for the top 25 fantasy films of all time and the IMDB’s list of the top-rated fantasy films.

Picking the worst fantasy films ever is a lot harder — there’s just so many of them. But a few choices from recent years, movies that are so awful that they have to be seen to be boggled at:

The Master of Disguise: Dana Carvey plays the title character in the movie that Satan is now playing 24/7 in hell to torture the eternally damned. We haven’t seen Carvey in a few years, have we? If this killed his career, he deserved it. [buy at Amazon]

Kangaroo Jack: Did you know that Australia is nothing but Men at Work songs, drunken geezers, farting camels, and insane marsupials? It’s true! [buy at Amazon]

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera: This one brings the concept of stupendously camp badness to a level of evil genius that demands to be recognized. [buy at Amazon]

Ella Enchanted: Every single attempt at levity or whimsy not only fails but actually melts down with a rancid nuclear tinge. It’s like The Princess Bride done up Flintstones style. [buy at Amazon]

The Cat in the Hat: Like a forced march through Candyland, featuring Mike Myers as a cat who gets sexually aroused by humans. I’m not kidding. [buy at Amazon]

Also, if you must, check out Dungeons and Dragons, Lady in the Water, SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, and Pinocchio (the Roberto Benigni nightmare from 2002).

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