Seen at the Movies:

OK, it's obvious that Queen of the Damned is terrible, but it's one of the few truly fun bad movies I've seen in a long time. Pulled together from parts of The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned, the second and third volumes of Anne Rice's ceaseless-as-the-undead Vampire Chronicles, Michael Rymer's metal-Goth meller was done in Australia, far more on the cheap than its 1994 predecessor, Interview with the Vampire. The film has gained attention because of the late recording star Aaliyah, who finished filming her role as the title character shortly before dying in a plane crash. But the real star of the movie is Stuart Townsend, who plays Lestat. This 200-year-old bad boy decides to go public in the early 21st century, making a name for himself as a flamboyant, blood-craving rock star. His extremely loud music awakens the long-slumbering Queen Akasha, who makes Lestat her consort and then sets about munching on mortals and conquering the world.


Aaliyah is the Queen of the Damned

Ever seen Cobra Woman, or any of those other 1940s jungle programmers starring Maria Montez? Well, Aaliyah has been directed to slither and slink in deliriously silly Montez fashion, and her costumes—created by Moulin Rouge co-designer Angus Strathie--are made up of elaborately woven headdresses, hand-carved and jeweled breastpieces and bodices, and little else. In his fishnet and leather and white pancake, Townsend cuts almost as extravagant a figure (he also has superlative rocker hair). Vampire fangs, puncture marks, and gore are the work of Bob McCarron S.M.A., and the frequently cheesy yet entertaining visual effects are supervised by Greg McMurray. Production designer Graham "Grace" Walker does his best to represent American and British locations in Australia; a Melbourne quarry, for example, stands in for Death Valley. Director of photography on Queen of the Damned was Ian Baker.

Just as bad and much harder to sit through is Dragonfly, the latest Kevin Costner butt-crusher, though it takes only 100 minutes to produce a level of numbness that Wyatt Earp and The Postman needed three hours to accomplish. Costner is a grieving doctor who thinks his deceased wife is sending him messages through the near-death experiences of sick kids. After his success with Patch Adams, director Tom Shadyac must have thought a second trip to the children's cancer ward was called for; I kept expecting Costner to run into Gwyneth Paltrow in her Shallow Hal fat suit while visiting the poor little bald tykes. Anyway, this slurpy mess is shot with an appropriate lack of distinction by Dean Semler, with production design by Linda DeScenna, and costumes by Judy Ruskin Howell, who dresses costar Kathy Bates in shapeless practical garments that, along with her butch haircut, I think are meant to signify lesbianism.--John Calhoun

Heard on the Street: Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership has been chosen to design the National Track & Field Hall of Fame and Learning Center, to be housed in New York's 168th Street Armory. The Armory already functions as an Olympic-quality athletic training and competition venue, and the Hall of Fame exhibits will be located throughout the building, which is also getting a facelift. Work is scheduled to be completed by the March 2003 USA Indoor Track & Field Championship…This year's Academy Awards, to be held March 24, will include a specially tailored performance, with filmic element, by Cirque du Soleil. This first Oscar ceremony in the new Kodak Theatre will be designed by J. Michael Riva and lit by Bob Dickinson.