IMDb Bottom 100: .com For Murder review

.com For Murder

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When you think of Huey Lewis and Roger Daltrey being involved in a movie, you should probably be picturing a pretty rocking soundtrack. Huey Lewis and The News are famously intertwined in the soundtracks of “Back to the Future” and “American Psycho”, and The Who are rightfully regarded as one of the best rock bands of all time. Daltrey was even pretty good in the cult classic theatrical release of “Tommy”, but that was a musical. “.com For Murder”, among its many flaws, features both Daltrey and Lewis as primary characters. They don’t a horrible job, but their presence is a little distracting, and I couldn’t help but expect that they would share screen time at some point (they don’t). They were just very peculiar casting choices that didn’t ultimately contribute to the movie in any way, and are two among a number of curious choices made while creating this film.

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The entire premise of the film relies on the evil magic that is computers, something that the creators clearly knew/know absolutely nothing about. It is akin to someone making a movie about mountain climbing who has never seen a hill. The misunderstanding and vilifying of both the internet and technology in this movie is so over the top that any scenes involving either the internet dating site or the super-intelligent house (yeah, really) wind up being either cringe- or laugh-worthy, to the detriment of the movie. There is actually the nugget of interesting plot buried in this thing, but the execution is just inexcusable.

The killer wears these webcam goggles / oculus rift nearly the entire movie
The killer wears these webcam / night vision goggles nearly the entire movie

The idea of a web-based dating site killer who broadcasts his murders via a portable webcam is remotely interesting, and seems like the sort of thing that might get a mediocre October release in theaters nowadays. Somehow, this film manages to turn that semi-promising plot into something astoundingly boring with a mixture of bad cinematography, a neo-luddite screenplay without any believable dialogue, and incredibly slow pacing. The acting is pretty mediocre, but it seemed to be that both Nastassja Kinski and Nicollette Sheridan (the actual leads of the movie) were being directed strangely. Both are familiar faces in bad movies (the “Cat People” remake and “Beverly Hills Ninja” respectively, for example), but I can’t help but think that they were capable of better here. The fact that writer / director Nico Mastorakis sort of dropped off the face of the earth after this film might support that theory. He certainly hasn’t been able to find any work since this film, anyway.

...who?
…who?

In general, “.com For Murder” didn’t have the knowledge, financial capability, or talent to be quite what it needed to be. I think that with a serious (second?) re-write, a larger budget, and a more competent director this could have been a half-decent thriller movie. Of course, it would absolutely need a better title. “.com For Murder” sort of implies that this movie would be about a killer-for-hire if you ask me. Nowadays, you could more easily use internet dating and streaming webcams as the framing of the movie, as I’m sure that wasn’t nearly as common or in the public knowledge back in 2002. I would think a title like “The Match-Maker” or “Kill Stream” might work better for this kind of flick today, and the audience would be far more familiar with the premise and the terminologies.

I think that this movie can be easily compared to the Sandra Bullock movie “The Net”, which, despite being made a number of years before this flick, had a better grasp on technology. It still used plenty of “computer magic” and was certainly far from good, but it clearly did at least enough preliminary homework to make the computers quasi-believable to the casual observer of the time. I highly recommend checking out the We Hate Movies episode on “The Net” by the way, it is a pretty good listen.

In any case, this is far from the worst movie in the Bottom 100. I’m tempted to say that this has been one of the best foreign films in the ranking so far, and I was generally pretty pleased with how ridiculous and dated it was. The pacing is a bit slow for it to be a great watch, but I can still generally recommend it to B-movie fans. There are enough highlights to justify it, such as the lethal electric back door on the genius computer house and the effortless rip-offs from “Silence of the Lambs” and “Rear Window”.

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IMDb Bottom 100: 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain

3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain
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Hulk Hogan has one of the most baffling careers in movie history. I’m a little surprised that he only has two appearances in the IMDb Bottom 100 to be honest. One of those select features is the vapid children’s flick “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain”. For those that don’t recall, “3 Ninjas” was a franchise of children’s martial arts movies in the 1990’s. All of the movies featured atrocious child acting, boring plots, and abysmal fight choreography. Of course, that’s all mostly what you should expect from a 90’s children’s movie franchise. We had the Power Rangers movies around this same time too, after all. “High Noon at Mega Mountain”, the fourth in the “3 Ninjas” series, managed to make a particular name for itself by both featuring Hulk Hogan and for having exceptionally low quality, even for a children’s franchise.

It is hard to be excessively harsh towards a children’s movie, given the bar is already set pretty low. However, “High Noon at Mega Mountain” makes some errors that just aren’t forgivable. Primarily, it appears that the filmmakers failed to reserve the “Mega Mountain” (actually Denver, CO’s Elitch Gardens) amusement park for filming, as there are are people in the background casually enjoying themselves during what is supposed to be a terrorist hostage situation. That is indicative of the laziness going on behind the scenes of this movie, and what makes it stand out in the franchise. The bad fight choreography, acting, and writing all seems pretty much par for the course for this sort of movie, so it is hardly worth a mention. Appropriately, the writer/director of this flick has been put in charge of the upcoming straight-to-video “Baby Geniuses” sequels. Honestly, I was having flashbacks to “Baby Geniuses 2” repeatedly throughout this movie, particularly during the fight sequences. Admittedly, that movie is far worse than this one, but they are comparably lack-luster in many ways.

The thing that most bothered me about this movie is related to how it was marketed. Check out this image, which is widely featured on the movie’s VHS and DVD releases:

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I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume from that image that Hulk Hogan is going to be an antagonist to a trio of children in this movie. That would mean that Hulk Hogan is likely to fight and be defeated by young children at some point in the film. That, to me, sounds hilariously awesome. However, that cover is quite deceiving.

In the movie, Hulk Hogan is the star of a failing television show along the lines of “Power Rangers”. His presence is essentially the excuse for why the ninja children show up at the park, and has nothing to do with the overarching plot as a whole. He tries to contribute as a good guy, but is typically thwarted by the actual villain of the movie played by Loni Anderson (weird casting there). She actually does a pretty hammy job as the villain, but when you are expecting a massive, grunting bad guy Hulkster; anything else is going to be disappointing. Jim Verney (of the Ernest franchise) does his damnedest as the B-villain though, and his over-the-top performance is one of the most watchable things in the movie.

Another specifically abysmal aspect of the movie is the shoehorning in of computer magic. There is a character introduced who primarily exists to hack things with her laptop, which is apparently capable of absolutely anything. All of the computer effects are CG’d, and look absolutely horrendous. I thought for a moment that I had started watching “.com For Murder” again they were so bad.

“High Noon at Mega Mountain” is right on the edge of falling out of the IMDb Bottom 100 at the moment, and I’m not really surprised by that. The bar is set really low for children’s movies as is, which doesn’t do it any favors in this forum. While this flick does manage to limbo below par for kids movies of the time, the other movies in the Bottom 100 of this genre blow it out of the water. Both “Baby Geniuses” movies and both animated “Titanic” films (more on that soon) are on an entirely different level than “High Noon at Mega Mountain”, for instance. There isn’t any reason to recommend this movie, it is generally just a pretty boring watch. The few upsides are far outweighed by the boring, cliched plot and dialogue. There might be a decent YouTube compilation of ridiculous moments that would be worth a few minutes of your time, but I wouldn’t advise sitting through the entire movie.

IMDb Bottom 100: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a jukebox musical from 1978, which attempted to update Beatles songs with covers by more recent musical stars. Unfortunately, they didn’t cast very many actual actors. Or actually write much of a script, for that matter. And they cast Peter Frampton and the Bee-Gees as the lead characters. It isn’t good.

Donald Pleasence may have claimed that Pumaman was the worst film he ever did, but I have to assume that Sgt. Pepper’s was a close second. The movie is more of a visual companion to the star-studded soundtrack than it is any kind of narrative film. That said, most of the covers are more-or-less acceptable, and some are even pretty good. Given that was the primary purpose of the movie, I suppose it was a success on some level. However, as a film, it is absolute nonsense. Rock operas tell a story through the lyrics and music over the course of an album, and can be adapted to film pretty well. Both famous rock operas by The Who were adapted into cult favorite films, for example (Quadrophenia and Tommy). However, those stories weren’t just “best of” collections of songs by The Who: they were deliberately crafted to tell a story. Assembling unrelated songs in order to tell a story can be done for sure, but there has to be thought put into the arrangement (y’know, like a mix tape). In Sgt. Pepper’s case, it seemed like they just wanted to feature hits rather than tell a story. The result is a feature-length, confused music video for an album of Beatles covers. It isn’t easy or interesting to watch in general.

Musical movies from the same time period with plots
Musical movies from the same time period with plots

It is difficult to criticize anything else about the movie, because there is hardly any dialogue or acting to speak of. What writing there is (the plot) is just as incoherent as you can imagine. There is a quest to retrieve lost instruments, a hot air balloon action scene, and one of the most amazing/horrible unexpected endings I have ever seen to a movie. After Strawberry Fields (Peter Frampton’s love interest) is killed, a funeral scene takes place over the songs “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry that Weight”, the later as they carry the casket away. After the funeral, Peter Frampton’s character attempts to kill himself by jumping off of a building. However, just as he leaps, a weather vane in the image of Sgt. Pepper comes alive, freezes time, resurrects his dead girlfriend, resolves all of the dropped plot lines, and ends the film all while singing a passionate rendition of “Get Back”. It is an experience that everyone should sit through.

This is a weather vane in the process of resurrecting the dead
This is a weather vane in the process of resurrecting the dead

Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the hilarious incompetence of the ending, I would have thoroughly hated this movie. However, it is hard to argue with a baffling spectacle like that. Otherwise, the movie is just boring. The story isn’t paced well or fleshed out, and there isn’t much tying the scenes together into a narrative. Sgt Pepper’s is so barely a film, I almost feel like it shouldn’t qualify for the IMDb Bottom 100. I can’t help but wonder if that contributed to the fact that it is no longer on the list, getting overtaken by perhaps more competently made films. In any case, it wasn’t a particularly painful experience to sit through despite being boring, and some of the covers were worth sitting through the movie. However, I can only recommend watching this movie for the ending. I have never seen such a nonsensical, improvised resolution to a plot. Then again, I suppose the plot itself was pretty nonsensical and improvised to start with.

IMDb Bottom 100: Super Mario Bros

Super Mario Bros

With Bob Hoskins’s recent death, a lot of bad movie fans have been going back to check out the big budget disaster that was Super Mario Bros. I recently discovered that the work that Bob Hoskins referred to as the worst film he ever made was actually on the IMDb Bottom 100 some years ago (although it has sense dropped out of the list). So, I decided to revisit this flop from my early childhood as well.

Super Mario Bros, like many adaptations gone awry, made the crucial mistake of angering the source material’s existing fan base. The script and direction should add their own voice to the work, but it is a delicate balance to hold (and it often goes badly). First and foremost, the negative popular reception of this film can be traced directly to this disgruntling of the fan base. There were a lot of liberties taken with the stories and the characters in the film that did not resonate well with the existing, massive base of passionate Nintendo fans. However, I don’t think that all of the creative decisions were necessarily bad, but they were certainly risky (and didn’t pay off).

Perhaps the most evident change from the source material are the peculiar decisions on the scenery and set design. Super Mario Bros. the game is well known for bright colors and castles, whereas the movie decided to go with a grungy, dystopian sci-fi appearance. I’m tempted to say that the film adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have influenced that decision (and many others), though I thought that the grungy scenery worked much better with that material. Likewise, the realistic practical effects seemed wholly unnecessary given the highly cartoonish source material. That said, I was generally impressed with them, despite them not really fitting the story well. Given the time, the effects on the Goombas and Yoshi are moderately impressive. However, that isn’t what people wanted to see. The fans wanted to see the loveable, puffy-cheeked Yoshi that they loved. Instead, they got a realistic, miniature carnivore. It was a risky decision, and as stated previously, was one that did not pan out well.

Another oft-complained about aspect of the film were the unnecessary changes to the existing characters. Most notably, fans were enraged at the absence of Princess Peach, the altered relationship between Mario and Luigi (not Bros?), and the name change to Dennis Hopper’s character (King Koopa vs Bowser). I personally think of these as pretty minor gripes in the larger picture, but they are indicative of the mentality of the film-makers. They (direction, writing) didn’t particularly care about the source material, and were not afraid to change details that fans cherished to tell their story. However, when dealing with such a high-profile adaptation with an existing, hyper-passionate fan base; these sorts of minor details need to be treated with a higher gravity than with your typical adaptation. The recent Marvel movies, for instance, have managed to keep the fans on their side with consistent nods and acknowledgements, despite having to change these sorts of details from the source comics. Still, it is unsteady ground to tread, and fan bases can turn on a dime.

The acting and dialogue in Super Mario Bros. is, in all honesty, fucking abysmal. However, I can’t help but feel like I should be lenient about them. The whole movie feels like it was primarily catered to children (which makes the dark set design and sex jokes a bit more odd), so that gives the dialogue and acting a naturally lower bar in that lens. However, it was not marketed that way: this was meant to be a blockbuster for the whole family, not just a spectacle for children. Looking at the movie from that perspective (the one that people would have had at the theaters), it is pretty much unforgivable for the dialogue to be this bad. I’m surprised the script got greenlit at all. There are three writers listed on IMDb, so it is plenty possible that the script went through some significant reworking. Still, the final product is just horrid. The actors, if you can believe Leguizamo, were so incredibly miserable on set that I am shocked they put in the hammy effort that they did for this wreck. Admittedly, I actually liked seeing Hopper’s cheesy rendition of Bowser. If he was unhappy in the role (I’m sure he was), he certainly didn’t show it.

Despite all of the issues with this film and its low quality, I am not surprised that it is no longer listed in the IMDb Bottom 100. Compared to everything else I have watched in this challenge, Super Mario Bros was a breeze, and damn near enjoyable. If I had been watching with a group of friends, it would have been a good time. I couldn’t say that for most of the schlock I have had to watch for this. This is sort of on the line between a “good” bad movie and a “bad” bad movie, but I would generally recommend checking it out if you dig riffing on crappy movies, and especially if you haven’t seen it in a number of years. It is pretty astounding.

Introducing: (God)Awful Movies

Welcome to a new segment of Misan[trope]y, called [God]Awful Movies!

There has been a bit of a boom as of recently with religious-themed movies in theaters, what with God’s Not Dead, Noah, Heaven is for Real, etc. (and in case you didn’t know, there is a high-budget remake of “Left Behind” in the pipeline, starring none other than Nic Cage). I intend to review some of these here for sure, but my primary focus is going to be on the more obscure features I come across (Mr. T and Corbin Bernsen’s Judgment, for instance). I’m also going to take aim at bad mythology-based movies (Hulk Hogan played Zeus once), sci-fi/religious hybrids (Legion, Constantine, Priest), and much more. Also, BibleMan. There is going to be a lot of BibleMan here.

In the meantime, enjoy this trailer for the upcoming God’s Not Dead knockoff (I hope that doesn’t become a regular thing), A Matter of Faith, which is due to come out in September.

You can read more about it on The Friendly Atheist.

IMDb Bottom 100: Car 54, Where Are You?

Car 54, Where Are You?

Car 54, Where Are You? is a “comedy”, using a loose definition of the word. However, apparently it was almost a musical as well. Here is an excerpt from an AV Club interview with star John C. McGinley:

I have mixed feelings about Car 54, Where Are You? Because we shot it as a musical and whoever the studio head was at Orion, or whoever the powers that be were, cut all but, like, two musical numbers out of it. That is the same as cutting the musical numbers out of TheWizard Of Oz; it wouldn’t be that interesting. So the film, to me, doesn’t make sense without the musical numbers in it.

I wouldn’t pretend to know what happened, what the decision-making process was, but we busted our humps on those numbers, and then the film came out and I didn’t understand what I was watching.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that more musical numbers would not have saved this unfunny, poorly-crafted cartoon of a movie. It might have made it more entertainingly bad though, but the quality and storytelling certainly wouldn’t have been helped.

“this would make more sense with singing, right?”

Not unlike fellow IMDb Bottom 100 movie Son of the Mask, this movie feels a bit misplaced in time, in that the movie’s creators are trying to bottle and re-purpose an older style of comedy in such a way that it can be pitched to a new, younger audience. Unfortunately, somewhere along the process this movie lost the apparent charm of the original Car 54 television show, ultimately turning off (and outraging) many fans of the show upon its release. That is one of the worst things you can do when doing a remake or adaptation, as one of the major advantages you have to start off with is an existing fan base that can potential help support your work. However, when the fan base turns on you, it can do very serious damage to the movie’s reception. Car 54, Where Are You? is a very good example of this potential boon turning into a negative weight, as the show’s fans were outraged at the poor quality of the movie. While the movie is certainly not good or entertaining, I can’t help but wonder how much of the negative reputation of the movie can be attributed to the scorned fan base.

As far as the plot of the movie goes, the audience is presented with a pretty basic buddy cop formula: a loose, sketchy cop (David Johansen) is paired with a by-the-books, top-of-his class rookie (McGinley). The movie quickly establishes that their coverage area is particularly crime-ridden, and that they are incredibly incompetent as a duo via an assortment of unfunny shenanigans. The primary plot of the movie sneaks in after the main characters are established: the precinct is tasked with holding a bookie-turned-informant (Jeremy Piven of Entourage), who is the key to putting away the infamous and eccentric local mobster played by Daniel Baldwin. The Car 54 duo is roped into this plot after a failed assassination attempt on Piven’s character alerts the police chief to a potential mole in the department. Believing that the Car 54 partners are far too incompetent to be moles, he entrusts them with defending the increasingly bizarre and detached-from-reality Piven character. Predictably, this plan goes awry because everyone involved is dramatically incompetent.

Another brilliant idea from the police chief
Another brilliant idea from the police chief

The movie has moments that almost reach levels of genuine comedy, particularly an unprompted cameo by Penn & Teller, and a hitman doing one of the worst Luca Brasi impressions you will ever run into. The finale takes place in an amusement park, which concludes with the claustrophobic mob boss confessing to all of his crimes after being put through the Tunnel of Love. Despite these few moments of mild laughs, the whole movie just isn’t funny enough to make the grade. There are too many jokes that completely whiff, and all of the characters are played way too over the top. Daniel Baldwin and Jeremy Piven both put in complete nonsense performances, to the point that their characters just aren’t believable in any way. Baldwin’s mob boss character is played up to be hilarious because of his claustrophobia (which isn’t funny to start with), but is so overblown that it doesn’t even make sense within any kind of logic. A scene in his office shows that his condition is so severe that he has a chalked circle around his desk (in the center of the cavernous room), over which no one is allowed to cross. Piven, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to have any sense of self-preservation. Despite obvious assassination attempts on him, at no point does he connect that he is in danger. His character is supposedly offering testimony to police against a dangerous mob boss, yet he doesn’t at all understand the gravity of his situation. There is just too much of this kind of unfunny nonsense for the movie to be enjoyable.

As with many of the comedies on this list, the behind-the-scenes work doesn’t appear to be particularly incompetent. From what I have been able to find out about the movie, there was a lot of editing done after the fact to produce this unfortunate result. That said, I don’t think that the hack-job is particularly noticeable, which I suppose is a credit to the editing team. McGinley clearly wanted to level blame in that direction, but the fact of the matter is that the jokes in the remaining script still aren’t funny. The director clearly had an odd vision for this movie to start with, which certainly didn’t help, but even a master couldn’t have made this screenplay work without a serious rewrite. Likewise, it is hard to blame the actors for treating the movie like a cartoon, because that is what they were given to work with. To my surprise, Rosie O’Donnell’s bit role in the movie has been particularly singled out as a poor performance. She certainly isn’t a high point, but she hardly compares to the bizarre performances by Piven and Baldwin in my opinion.

There are a lot of bad elements to the movie, but unfortunately none of them are quite poor enough to make the movie unintentionally enjoyable. That tends to be hard for comedies to pull off anyway, but I wonder if those extra musical numbers might have put this over the edge. Perhaps if there is a director’s cut of this movie out there somewhere, it is a ridiculous enough spectacle to give a watch. However, as it stands, it appears that someone tried to save this wreck in post-production, and may have turned it from being an opus of poor film-making into a sub-par, difficult-to-watch attempt at comedy.

IMDb Bottom 100: The Maize

The Maize: The Movie

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I am incredibly surprised that I had never heard anything about this movie before. Honestly, Dark Harvest 2: The Maize: The Movie (take your pick on the title) is the most poorly crafted movie I have come across on the IMDb Bottom 100. It has all of the technical and acting incompetence of Birdemic combined with all of the filmmaking laziness of Zombie Nation. It is an unbelievable spectacle. I mean, the opening credits are even horrible.

The story loosely follows two young girls as they get lost in a haunted corn maze, and their ambiguously psychic father as he tries to rescue them from his premonition of a mysterious local child murderer who is hunting them down in the maze. There are also ghosts poorly ripped out of The Shining.

The majority of the movie consists of the father character yelling the names of his children while aimlessly wandering in the corn maze. It becomes infinitely boring and nauseating very quickly. Oftentimes, the director chooses to “enhance” these meandering scenes with picture-in-picture effects, which look bad even when they are done with a high budget (Ang Lee’s Hulk). Here, the effect looks atrocious.

As mentioned briefly, the acting in this movie is unforgivably bad for anything outside of YouTube. However, the script doesn’t do anyone any favors. There is one sequence where the daughters are talking to each other while lost in the maze, and it may be the most unwatchable sequence I have even seen in a movie. Both children sound like they are stumbling through reading their lines, and the lines themselves sound like the most inhuman dialogue even put to paper. Even the simple shot looks bad, like it was a home video from someone’s dusty VHS collection. It was like watching a perfect maelstrom of utter incompetence.

I recommend that any bad movie fan attempt to watch through this movie. It is a chore, but it feels like something that must be done: A rite of passage of sorts. If you can sit through this film, then no movie will ever be able to hurt you again.

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