Although The Hunger Games wasn't screened early enough for a review to appear in this issue, you can find CL's review on our website this Friday and in print next week. Here's hoping this heavily hyped film lives up to expectations. And if it doesn't ... well, let's hope it's not as terrible as the following Charlotte-shot turkeys.
Stroker Ace (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Stroker Ace (1983). Few other Hollywood superstars have made as many genuine bombs as Burt Reynolds; this brain-numbing horror just might be his worst ever. Filmed at Charlotte Motor Speedway, this redneck comedy, starring Reynolds as a hot-shot race car driver, contains countless awful elements: Reynolds wearing a chicken suit while sitting atop a giant egg; Loni Anderson as a God-fearin' virgin who shucks her morals for this womanizing good ol' boy; Jim Nabors singing (and destroying) "Amazing Grace"; and much, much more. If nothing else, Stroker Ace represents one of Charlotte's biggest presences on the year-end awards circuit — no, not the Oscars. Nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards (including Worst Picture), it won for Worst Supporting Actor (Nabors).
Days of Thunder (1990). Although Charlotteans at the time treated this film like the Second Coming, this pale reworking of Top Gun actually manages to slap the Queen City right across her kisser. The movie opens with a scene set around a dilapidated farmhouse where the owner drinks out of a Mason jar — and then imposes the word "Charlotte" over the sequence! (It took 1994's Nell to show the rest of the world that, by gum, we do have running water and shiny buildings in this here city.) As far as films featuring footage of Charlotte Motor Speedway are concerned, this is slightly worse than 1968's Speedway (with Elvis Presley as a racer and a miscast Nancy Sinatra as an IRS auditor), but both place well below (above?) the abomination that is Stroker Ace.
Eddie (1996). True story: Upon this film's release, I talked to a manager who had attended the local premiere; after all, much of Eddie had been filmed here in town — particularly at the now-demolished Charlotte Coliseum on Paul Buck Boulevard — and this advance presentation had been an invitation-only showing for those locals who had worked on the film. "It went well," I was told. "One of the film's producers showed up, there was an enthusiastic crowd, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves." She paused. "And then the movie started." Whoopi Goldberg (in a Razzie-nominated performance) stars as a New York Knicks fan who's unexpectedly picked to be the new coach of the slumping team. She has no experience, but it's not long before she takes the team to the verge of the playoffs thanks to her brilliant motivational talks ("Who the hell do you guys think you are?") and ingenious sideline coaching ("Defense!"). The Charlotte Coliseum was home to another poorly received basketball flick, 2002's Juwanna Mann, but I somehow managed to miss that one. My loss, I'm sure.
Black Dog (1998). Charlotteans who want to catch a glimpse of their hometown on screen but don't especially want to sit through an entire lame movie can count their blessings: The Queen City — including its crown jewel, Bank of America Stadium (then Ericsson Stadium) — appears only in the first sequence, after which viewers can turn off the DVD player and pop in something worthwhile. Black Dog, about a truck driver (Patrick Swayze) who gets caught up in a scheme involving the transport of contraband firearms, is your standard yahoo fare, full of unshaven rednecks, high-speed car chases, and countless vehicles that conveniently burst into flame at the slightest provocation. You also get Randy Travis as a trucker who writes rotten country songs and Meat Loaf as a Bible-thumping villain prone to yelling things like "Witness the resurrection, brothers and sisters!" as he tries to run Swayze off the road. Bad Dog!