IMDb Bottom 100: Troll 2

Troll 2

troll2

I don’t have to say anything about “Troll 2”. It is a stalwart of B-movie cinema, and an essential watch for anyone who considers themselves a bad movie aficionado. The culture and following around “Troll 2” is only perhaps rivaled in the b-movie world by “The Room”. I can’t recommend it highly enough, even to casual moviegoers. There is an astounding amount of entertainment to pull from this movie’s delightful incompetence.

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For those of you with Netflix and a healthy curiosity for the inner workings of incompetent film-making, check out “Best Worst Movie”. The child actor who starred in “Troll 2” decided to round up the central cast and crew, and fanned the flames of the movie’s cult status with a number of live events. “Best Worst Movie” follows up with all of the major players, and offers some insight into how “Troll 2” came to be. It also spends some time digging into the cult status of the film, and the passionate fans who have managed to raise the movie’s profile to near-classic status. It is a really well-crafted doc, and definitely worth a watch. It was touring the country with “Troll 2” at one point, which makes for a spectacular double feature I’m sure. Try to catch a live screening if you can, I bet the Q+A sessions are a blast.

troll21The “Best Worst Movie” documentary also brings up an interesting question, and one that looms over the IMDb Bottom 100. How does one rank “bad movies”? What actually makes a “Best Worst Movie”? There are some clear issues with the all-out democratic system of the IMDb Bottom 100, as is made clear with the current “Gunday” fiasco, and the Bad Movie Fiends Podcast team raised some good points about the ranking system’s other faults when I poked them about the list. As I have said before, I think what sets apart the upper echelon of B-movies from the rest of the pack are not just the over-the-top pieces of the puzzle (or else every Troma flick would be a treasure), but an honesty and earnestness on the part of the filmmakers.

troll24The common threads between “Troll 2”, “The Room”, “Manos”, “Birdemic”, and “Plan 9” don’t end at poor quality: Claudio Fragasso, Tommy Wiseau, Ed Wood, and James Nguyen all believed / believe that they made great movies. None of them set out to fail. Part of what makes their movies what they are is a precious mixture of genuine failure, the filmmakers’ often inflated egos, and collapsed aspirations all around added into the rest of the film’s concoction. The magic of good-bad movies is a sort of quantum intangible that can’t be replicated intentionally: Sharknados, Mega-Sharks, and Toxic Avengers be damned. Check out the excellent video below for more on this concept:

So, is “Troll 2” the Best Worst Movie? I’m not willing to go that far, but it makes a damn compelling case. It has contributed to setting a new bar for the next oblivious film-maker to limbo under. I think of “Troll 2” as part of the “new elite” of good-bad movies that has collectively set that bar: kind of like the new generation of X-Men introduced in Giant Size X-Men #1.

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I’d rather have the Colossus on my side than Claudio, personally

More importantly for this challenge, where does “Troll 2” belong on the IMDb Bottom 100? Should it just be locked in at the #1 spot to recognize all of the good-bad qualities we love? I don’t think so. “Troll 2” has been hovering towards the top of the Bottom 100, likely due to people giving it ironic 10/10 ratings. And honestly, that’s the nature of the list. Good or bad, the IMDb Bottom 100 ranking is unique. It is a chaotic wasteland of crappy movies that is ruled by the mindless internet mob, but that is what it is supposed to be. It evolves and changes with the will of the people, which makes it equally volatile and fascinating. It deserves consideration as a barometer of the zeitgeist of good-bad movies: there is a lot to glean from it, but it is certainly not sophisticated, just, or conclusive in its rankings. “Troll 2” is plenty incompetent enough for an authoritative list by almost any critic, but that isn’t the way the Bottom 100 works. I will be shocked if it drops out of the ranking, just because I am sure there are many fans who will contribute votes to keep it in for visibility’s sake (then again, “Plan 9” fell off the list), but I don’t see it rising to the forefront. There are other, more fitting lists for it to top out there.

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IMDb Bottom 100: Prince of Space

Prince of Space

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“Prince of Space” was a nice change of pace for these IMDb Bottom 100 movies. Instead of Paris Hilton vehicles and “Movie Movies”, “Prince of Space” is something far more familiar and pleasant to me: a poorly translated, lazily dubbed, low budget Japanese sci-fi movie. I grew up on VHS tapes of Toho Showa Godzilla movies, so “Prince of Space” felt like pure nostalgia.

This is my shit.

All of that said, “Prince of Space” doesn’t quite have the same charm of those old Toho features. There is plenty of cheesy dialogue and an outstanding over-the-top villain, but I’ve never been able to suffer child protagonists very well, and there is a hefty dose of those in “Prince of Space”. Also, the plot certainly takes it time getting where it is going, and bad pacing is capable of killing far better movies than this. There is also a fair amount of repetitiveness in this feature, particularly in the encounters between the villain (The Phantom) and the mysterious hero (the titular Prince of Space). Prince of Space makes it clear early on that the weapons used by The Phantom and his minions can not harm him (and repeats this fact numerous times), yet The Phantom attempts to shoot him at every turn. At first it is pretty entertaining, but it gets old very fast.

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The Phantom also looks ridiculous

“Prince of Space” has a fair share of issues, but I’m not so sure it necessarily belongs in the Bottom 100. Not unlike “The Starfighters”, I feel like this movie is a single selection of a massive, forgotten collection of near-identical movies. In fact, there is another Bottom 100 movie that is nearly a carbon copy of “Prince of Space”: “Invasion of the Neptune Men”. Both of these movies I feel are only exceptional due to their inclusion in Mystery Science Theater 3000, and that otherwise they would just be two of the legion of poorly dubbed, goofy Japanese sci-fi movies out there. They are certainly low enough in quality for consideration here, and there is an argument that they are representatives of their genre, but it is hard to shake the fact that these two movies aren’t particularly unique. I even had to re-watch both “Prince of Space” and “Invasion of the Neptune Men” separately to keep from confusing the two: the movies are that similar to each other. The MST3k guys even re-use gags from one riff in the other.

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The Phantom shows up in the MST3k episode on “Invasion of the Neptune Men”

So, do I recommend “Prince of Space” to bad movie aficionados? I’m not so sure. I think that some old Showa Godzilla movies like “Godzilla vs Megalon”, “Godzilla vs Gigan”, and “Invasion of Astro Monster” are far more entertainingly bad than this, but “Prince of Space” isn’t devoid of fun. It might be a delightful/confusing double feature with “Invasion of the Neptune Men”, especially if you dig up the MST3k riffs for both of them.

 

IMDb Bottom 100: The Album!

After reviewing “Night Train to Mundo Fine”/”Red Zone Cuba” recently (it’ll be up this week), it occurred to me that there are a lot of fantastic (read: awful) musical numbers in the IMDb Bottom 100 movies. So, here is a collection of a dozen songs from 11 IMDb Bottom 100 films. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but this should be a good sampling of what you can expect out of these movies as far as songs go.

Pod People

Girl in Gold Boots

Night Train to Mundo Fine

The Creeping Terror

The Starfighters

Titanic: And The Legend Continues…

Mitchell

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies

Puma Man

Manos: The Hands of Fate

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

IMDb Bottom 100: Disaster Movie

Disaster Movie

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I would like to say that “Disaster Movie” is exactly what you would expect it to be. For the most part, it is. However, it manages to set itself apart from the typical pack of “Movie Movies” that has flooded theaters since the success of “Scary Movie” in 2000. Even compared to fellow Bottom 100 parody “Epic Movie”, “Disaster Movie” is abysmal. In the case of “Epic Movie”, the over-arching plot lampooning “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” at least more-or-less tied the lazy jokes and sequences together, however loosely.

In “Disaster Movie”, in contrast, the connecting plot isn’t itself a parody of anything at all. In a movie so bloated with dated and unnecessary references, the plot of the movie itself fails to lampoon any specific film, instead opting for a dull and generic apocalyptic scenario. Worse yet, the framing just barely manages to move the action along from joke to joke. Essentially, “Disaster Movie” just follows a group of characters as they aimlessly run from location to location. They have a final destination in mind, but the audience has no sense of how close/far from it the characters are at any given time. It drags down the pacing, and sucks all sense of urgency out of the story. Not that anyone actually cared about the story in “Disaster Movie” anyway, though.

Everything else about the movie is generally exactly what you should expect from a “Movie Movie”. Lazy, crass humor is as rampant as the (dated) pop cultural references as they intertwine and mingle throughout the film. Yet, even the references are lazier than you might expect: the central MacGuffin of the plot is a crystal skull from that “Indiana Jones” movie everyone has tried to forget about. At one point, a man clad in a cheap Iron Man Halloween costume suddenly appears on screen, and is subsequently crushed by a falling cow. As best as I can tell, this is a reference to 1996’s “Twister”, a blockbuster that was released well over a decade before this film. The target audience of “Disaster Movie” may not have even remembered “Twister” when this movie came out.

disaster3Perhaps worst of all, towards the end of the film there is a sequence that references the animated movie “Kung-Fu Panda”. In lieu of awkwardly integrating an animated character into the film, there is instead a man dressed in a panda costume who engages in a martial arts fight. Not only is it an unnecessary reference to a children’s movie in an “adult” comedy, but the lazy costume just looks bad (not unlike the previously mentioned Iron Man gag).

disaster2This sort of low quality is basically even across the board in this movie, but most notably in the effects and the writing. The one instance where the movie tries to actually criticize one of its targets winds up being massively hypocritical and jarring. One of the central characters is a very thinly veiled caricature of Juno, the pregnant teenage lead character in the hit movie of the same name. While she is mostly used to make jokes about pregnancy, the writers also attempt to skewer “Juno” by pointing out the laziness of the movie’s humor and pop culture laden dialogue. It should be pretty clear at this point how that criticism is massively hypocritical for a film that consists entirely of pop culture references.

disaster1It should go without saying that I do not recommend that anyone see this movie. There aren’t any laughs to be had here. The most that you can possibly get out of the experience of watching this movie is the feeling of traveling back in time to 2008, and you will immediately realize that it wasn’t worth the trip.

 

S.O.S.

Welcome to yet another installment of (God)Awful Movies! This time around, I’m checking out the baffling Christian music video compilation “S.O.S.”, which was brought to my attention through the most recent episode of RedLetterMedia’s “Best of the Worst”. You can check out the whole video below (and you should, it is a great episode).

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYOl3CUC.x?p=1 width=”720″ height=”433″]

Something that you may note from the episode is that the RLM gang’s copy of “S.O.S.” is completely in Japanese, so they do their best to piece together the themes from the visuals alone. They also weren’t able to do much research on the video, given the language barrier. Lucky for me, I found an english copy of “S.O.S.” on YouTube, and was able to learn about the video’s background…sort of.

“S.O.S.” was produced by “The Family International”, which is a sort of peculiar hippie cult version of Evangelical Christianity. I highly recommend reading the wikipedia page on the group, as their theology is nothing short of baffling. Here is an excerpt for you:

“[Loving Jesus] is a term that TFI members use to describe their intimate, sexual relationship with Jesus. TFI describes the “Loving Jesus” teachings as a radical form of bridal theology.[18] It is their understanding of the Bible that the followers of Christ are his bride, called to love and serve him with the fervor of a wife. They took bridal theology further than mainstream Christians by encouraging members to imagine that Jesus is having sex with them during sexual intercourse and masturbation. Male members were encouraged to visualize themselves as women, in order to avoid a homosexual relationship with Jesus.”

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That’s sure something, isn’t it? The only thing I knew about TFI prior to reading that entry was that River and Joaquin Phoenix were both raised as part of the organization for a time, and that it was a bit out of left field. It looks like there is a deep, dark hole to dig into in regards to some shady practices by the organization, but I’m not going to go any deeper into it here. I’d much rather ridicule some ridiculous music videos.

The first segment doesn’t dig explicitly into Christianity, but does give us a ton of goofy robots and early CGI. Watching it in English, it is clearly a luddite/anti-technology song, which comes back in a big way later on. To my dismay, the title song “S.O.S.” in this segment is ridiculously catchy, so I suppose the people behind this have to get kudos for that. It is definitely interesting that without the context of the later videos, it is easy to think that the “angels” in this section are either aliens, greek god-creatures, or sprites of some sort. Given how heavy-handed the segments get later on, this part definitely feels like a “wedge” or “hook” to get general audiences into the fold.

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Surely this technology will save us from the technology
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Worshiping a trash compacter makes about as much sense as cult that produced this mess.
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The cupid/angel/overlords of love. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t fight the robots.

The second segment is probably the most forgettable of all of them. The first couple of minutes show a band repeating the same two lines of a song about a billion times while a “party” commences in front of them. This bit segues immediately into a romantic song (via some of the worst transitions you will ever see) in which two partygoers leer at each other across a room and fantasize about each other. It is astoundingly uncomfortable to watch.

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It holds on this shot for way too long. Try not to make eye contact.

The third segment is nothing short of a beautiful treasure of nonsense. You could basically boil it down to being a “God’s Not Dead” musical comedy. There are a lot of monkey suits (and monkeys in suits?) involved, and you will be left wondering just how our education system managed to fail so many so completely. They even cap it off with a reference to Charles Darwin’s “deathbed conversion”. Oh joy!

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So, we have a guy in a suit being a monkey, and a guy in a suit AND a monkey suit just being a guy. Got it.
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Cronenberg’s Theory of Evolution by Nightmare Selection

The fourth segment is pretty straight-forward anti-abortion propaganda. All subtleties have long been jettisoned by the time this portion gears up, so this song is written from the perspective of the fetus singing to the would-be mother, featuring such lyrics as “Mother keep me, I’m your baby! / Oh Mother let me live, don’t take away my life”. I was completely unprepared for the lyrics to this one, as I initially just saw clips of the Japanese version on RedLetterMedia. With the translations, this segment is by far the most abysmal. Not only is there nothing to laugh at in it, but the damn thing is just disgustingly predatory.

I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm pretty sure that is just an x-acto knife.
I’m not a doctor or anything, but I’m pretty sure that is just an x-acto knife.

The fifth segment enlightens the audience to the inherent evils of grocery stores, and encourages everyone to abandon technology entirely in favor of living in the woods to count down to the rapture. Yeah, that’s where this is all going. This may be the best segment, just due to the creepy makeup and baffling premise. Once again, the song is undeservedly catchy for a tune about the evil of grocery store scanners.

angels11 angels9Segment six follows up with the same grocery-phobic commune that concludes segment five, and we get to go full-on rapture. There are some lovely interpretive drawings of the rapture featured for some reason, a handy rapture calendar is shown, a lot of vague pointing happens, and Jesus himself makes a fly-by cameo! It all finishes up with the green-screened rapture of the central characters, where they narrowly escape the satanic grocery stormtroopers. It is all quite good fun if you can distance yourself from the fact that people took/take this seriously.

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“awww yisss, rapture!”
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Do rapture calendars involve candy or something, like those advent calendars?
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Vaguely pointing upward. I assume at the flying, crucified Jesus.
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A smiling, crucified Jesus flies overhead. Kind of like a kite I guess.
Google image search hasn’t failed me yet.

For the record, after a green-screened rapture, anything else is going to be an anticlimax. There’s just nowhere to go from there. Nevertheless, there is a segment seven. Outside of some excellent Rick Astley dancing, there isn’t a whole lot to see in this one. The way this segment is shot is really jarring and unpleasant to watch (odd effects mostly), and it doesn’t have any kind of plot within itself. We get some visual recaps from each section over a song about rebirth and the aforementioned Astley-dancing, and then the YouTube video bluescreens for about five minutes. That was my favorite part.

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I’ve never been so happy to see this

So, is “S.O.S.” worth watching? Abso-fucking-lutely, yes. This is a mind-boggling experience to sit through. It had me laughing at cheesy effects and dated fashions, creeped-out by the cultishness of it all, furious at the bullshit propagated by it, and confused beyond any measure. This is a golden find. I don’t know how RedLetterMedia came by this thing, but somebody knew perfectly well what they were passing on. I can only hope for something this gloriously awful when I rummage through bargain bins. Knowing more about the organization behind this video makes it all the creepier and more perplexing to watch, so I’m a little sad that the RLM people didn’t try to dig up more info ahead of time. On the plus side, they get completely blind-sided by the content, which is damn entertaining.

If you are interested in watching the full English version of “S.O.S.”, you can find it below:

 

Godzilla vs Gigan

I love Godzilla movies. I grew up watching both the Hesei and Showa movies on VHS, and actually remember waiting intently for some of the Heisei movies to premiere on video in the US. So, I have a lot of fond memories of watching old Godzilla movies.

With the recent Godzilla movie rocking the box office, a lot of the old flicks have been getting re-releases on blu-ray. Giddily, I’ve been revisiting a good number of them.

gigan1One of my favorites of the Showa era is “Godzilla vs Gigan”. There is a goofy human plot, lots of monster fighting action, cockroaches try to take over the world, Godzilla gets lines, Godzilla bleeds profusely, Godzilla loses a fight with a stationary object, Anguirus casually defies gravity, and the be-buzz-sawed Gigan gets introduced to the franchise. There is a whole lot to love/hate.

Godzilla get beat up by Gigan pretty bad, but beat worse by a stationary building
Godzilla get beat up by Gigan pretty bad, but beat worse by a stationary building
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Specifically, this building defeats Godzilla

I can’t recommend this movie enough. Outside of “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero”, this is my favorite cheeseball flick from the Showa era of Godzilla. A lot of people point to “Godzilla vs Megalon” as the best of the worst of Showa, but “Megalon” doesn’t have cockroach aliens wearing human skin, or a Japanese Tommy Chong. It has nothing on this.

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Japanese Tommy Chong kidnaps someone with that ear of corn
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Space roaches have a divine sense of style

Trust me on this one, “Godzilla vs. Gigan” is well worth the watch. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it is on Netflix or online anywhere at the moment, but the DVD and bluray are readily available.

IMDb Bottom 100: Ben and Arthur

Ben and Arthur

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I haven’t seen a movie as thoroughly incompetent on every conceivable level as “Ben and Arthur” since I sat through “The Maize: The Movie”. “The Maize” is still worse by a long shot, but that is only because of all of the unintentional humor throughout “Ben and Arthur”. This movie is a treasure, the sort of good-bad movie that people are always digging for.

To start with, the acting in this movie is absolutely abysmal. All of the accessory characters are basically reading lines off of the page (in one case, I’m pretty sure they actually are), and the director made the incredibly poor decision to cast himself as the lead, despite not being able to act. The villain is played amusingly over the top, yet even he seems incredibly miscast as a extreme religious zealot. The fellow who plays Ben (a much smaller role than you would expect) is perhaps the only adequate acting performance, and he doesn’t exactly light up the screen. Given this was basically a home movie, there is no reason to expect top-notch acting here. I don’t want to put the movie against unrealistic expectations, but the acting is really laughable even with the bar set to limbo levels.

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This is actually the movie’s website: http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/benandarthur/

I mention that this is basically a home movie. I don’t know if that was the case, but it sure looks like it. There are no attempts at creative or interesting shots, so everything comes off as very basic and bland. Even some YouTube movies try to do interesting things with the camera. I imagine this has something to do with the fact that Sam Mraovich shared very few responsibilites on the movie, and would certainly have benefitted from a few extra sets of eyes on the shots. He is listed on IMDb as the writer, director, cinematographer, editor, producer, composer, casting director, special effects makeup, script supervisor, sound editor, and star. It sounds like he didn’t have to justify his decisions to anyone, which is not good when you are trying to make a movie. You generally need a lot of eyes working in tandem to make a good movie. A film almost always needs to be a collaboration. Whenever I see a movie with a name repeated constantly in the credits, it immediately throws up a red flag for me. Sometimes that is unavoidable with a low budget, but there is no excuse for doing essentially everything on a movie (like is the case here).

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Sam Mraovich: jack of all trades?

The plot to “Ben and Arthur” reminded me a lot of “Birdemic”, in that it is a message movie with no sense of reality or subtlety. Where “Birdemic” has environmentalism, “Ben and Arthur” has LGBT rights. Ben and Arthur as a gay couple who, as the movie begins, are planning to get married. A legal holdup for gay marriage in Hawaii throws a wrench into their initial plans, but they still ultimately tie the knot early on in the movie (making that obstacle mostly meaningless). The primary plot of the movie revolves around Arthur and his brother, a highly religious man who is determined to make Arthur straight. There are a lot of other things going on in the movie in no particular order, such as Ben’s ex-wife showing up for a scene to spout nonsense and wave a gun around, but primarily it follows Arthur and his brother as they become increasingly violent towards each other. I won’t delve too far into it, but it gets to the point where hitmen are involved and a priest gets set on fire. That sounds far more kick-ass than it is. Also, to say the least, the portrayal of Christians in this movie is not favorable.

The last third of this movie devolves into total chaos, becoming over-the-top violent and unrealistic. It reminded me of “Miami Connection” in how abruptly the otherwise more-or-less innocent characters became blood-thirsty killers capable of heinous acts. It is absolutely worth watching for the “WTF” factor alone.

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“Miami Connection”: Starts as a movie about an 80s rock band that sings about friendship. Ends with the mass slaughter of ninjas. Way better than “Ben and Arthur”.

This movie absolutely belongs in the IMDb Bottom 100, and maybe in even the top 10. It is easily in the ranks of “Birdemic” and “The Maize” in overall quality, and is a true spectacle in cinematic incompetence. Depending on your tolerance for bad movies, I think there is some great entertainment value here. It is kind of like “Birdemic” without the special effects. If that sounds like something you can handle, check out “Ben and Arthur”.

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