Shutting the lid on movies that miss

In the Can, a pop culture how-not-to book co-written by Eric Furman and Temple alumnus Lou Harry chronicles the biggest career mishaps of some of Hollywood’s most popular stars. Everything from the seemingly spotless careers of Brad Pitt and John Travolta are put under the microscope, as well as some achingly funny insights to some of the worst movies by today’s popular Hollywood talent.

Analyzing Hollywood’s worst movies hardly makes for an entertaining evening, but thankfully In the Can saves readers from renting some of Tinseltown’s darkest moments. Movies like the big-budget bomb Battlefield Earth is described by the book as being “so bad that it almost demands a drinking game be built around it.”

But, believe it or not, Battlefield Earth wasn’t the worst movie the writers saw.

“Some of these movies actually aren’t that bad. But others, like Surviving Christmas by Ben Affleck are just so grueling and awful,” Harry said in a recent interview.

“As bad as some of these comedies and science fiction movies we talk about in here are, it’s the ones that took themselves seriously that make you cringe the most,” he said. “Films like The House of the Spirits and Old Gringo that really thought they were creating art, were just creating a mess.”

In the Can is a great go-to reference for knowing which movies not to rent. The book also shows why it’s better not to be a movie star. Actors and actresses become attached to projects that in the end, wind up as flops. While readers might have their own thoughts on career-killer movies for certain stars, most of Harry and Furman’s observations are on par.

The book highlights the movies that didn’t necessarily kill careers, but put a noticeable damper on a star’s rating.

“Bad movies used to be able to just disappear, but now with DVDs and the Internet, they get a second life,” Harry said.

The chapter “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” pokes fun at television actors trying to break into the big screen and inevitably flopping. The also comical chapter “The Oscar Falls Far From the Tree” details the sad phenomenon of actors following their Academy Award-winning performances with duds.

In the Can is a book for movie fans, written by movie fans. It takes a critical movie watcher to know which film helps an actor or in other cases, does nothing more than hurt them. Does Halle Berry in Catwoman ring a bell?

Lou Harry will conduct a reading and discussion of In the Can on Friday, Dec. 9 at Robin’s Book Store, 108 S. 13th St., at 7 p.m. The rights to Harry’s debut novel, The High-Impact Infidelity Diet about three wives who motivate their husbands to lose weight with the prize of a prostitute, has been sold to Warner Bros. Studios.

Aly Semigran can be reached at

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