Bargain Bin(ge), Part 2

Bargain Bin(ge), Part 1



Beyond Justice

I always love coming across obscure Rutger Hauer movies. The plot to this one involves a kidnapping and some hardcore child custody issues with international implications, which isn’t something you hear about a movie every day. I’m curious if this is going to have some sort of major plot twist in it, as it seems kind of ripe for it. I’m hoping for some decent action in this one, but I am a little concerned that it might get too wrapped up in the complexity of the plot and detract attention from Hauer’s character. Hopefully this grainy old flick doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is ultimately a decent watch.

Iron Maze

This movie looks pretty bad from what I have seen so far. There is an interesting mechanism here that films love to use, wherein we are given multiple views of a crucial event from a number of unreliable witnesses. That would normally have me optimistic, but the acting and production values that I saw in that trailer are just horrendous. I have the feeling that this one will ultimately just be a boring, poorly paced wreck, but I don’t want to judge it too harshly before I see what it truly has to offer.

Slipstream (2005)

It turns out that there are a lot of movies with the title “Slipstream” out there. Who knew? This one actually has a cool premise, based on a limited time manipulation device and its use to change the events of a tragic bank robbery. I am interested in seeing how this movie winds up going wrong, because the trailer actually paints it pretty well. I am always thrilled to see Mr. “Midnight Meat Train” Vinnie Jones in a B-movie, and expect that he pulls a good performance here. I’m not particularly familiar with the rest of the cast, but I am looking forward to this one regardless.

iMurders

This looks to me like a horror movie cashing in on people’s fear of technology and the internet. Sounds absolutely delightful! I am guessing this one will be looked at in the future in the same way that we look at movies like “Beeper” now. In any case, I love a good luddite-fueled horror movie, so I am hoping for some good laughs out of this schlock.

The Eliminator

Having your action movie star a non-actor is always a promising start to a B-movie. This particular “Most Dangerous Game” style movie starts a former(?) UFC fighter who I haven’t heard of before. I figure as long as he poorly delivers lines and can beat the crap out of minions on screen, he’ll be able to make this thing enjoyable. I am interested to see how this manhunt movie stacks against “Deadly Prey”, as there are some definite similarities between the two. This one does have an interesting gambling element thrown in that I am digging from the trailer, so I am interested to see how that plays out.

Project Eliminator

This movie features David Carradine and a “top secret…ultra-sophisticated flying attack laser”. That’s more than enough incentive to get me to watch a movie. I have high hopes for this being a truly wretched movie with plenty of unintentional laughs. It is worth pointing out that I couldn’t find a trailer, so I am going to be going into this one absolutely blind. Oh goody! I’m also interested to see how it stacks up to the previously mentioned and similarly-titled “The Eliminator”

Kiss Daddy Goodnight

I couldn’t find a trailer on this one, which in my experience is consistently a bad sign. This one mostly caught my attention by featuring a pre-fame Uma Thurman, and the highly creepy title definitely managed to stick out. The premise paints it as a noir thriller (that definitely caught my interest), as it follows Thurman’s character as she drugs and robs random guys who try to pick her up at bars. At first glance it all seems very promising, but clearly something went wrong with this movie to merit a 4.1 IMDb score. I am very interested to see what exactly that is.

Green Guys

This is one that I am pretty curious about. It seems to be centered around some Wall Street-style swindlers who get on the wrong side of the mob, which is an interesting enough premise. The trailer doesn’t particularly excite me though, and the IMDb rating is an abysmal 4.5. I’m looking for some good shitty movie entertainment value out of this one, which is appropriately a bit of a blind gamble.

Undercurrent

I kind of wish that this trailer didn’t tell me so much. Clearly there is a twist/betrayal well into this movie, but it is totally ruined by this trailer. Regardless, at first glance this seems to be a decently action-filled tropical flick. The premise is a bit odd for an action movie, as it seems mostly based on a monetary deal offered to the lead character in return for him sleeping with another man’s wife. It seems a bit bizarre and convoluted, but I’m going to go out on a limb and assume there is a sufficiently acceptable reason for the proposal in the film. In any case, the whole thing clearly goes haywire. This is another one that looks watchable enough to me, but it has clearly not swooned most watchers according to a 4.7 on IMDb. My guess is that the plot ties itself into too many knots and ultimately bogs itself down, but I’ll be interested to see if there are some other failures thrown into the mix.

Deadliest Prey

I can’t wait to watch this. “Deadliest Prey” is a near shot-for-shot remake/sequel of the cult classic “Deadly Prey”. From everything i have seen, this movie lives up to the original. They pretty much just retread their previous path with the same now-aged actors and improved effects, but there wasn’t all that much that needed changing from the original. I am still just giddy that I came across a physical copy of this.

Mindhunters

I saw this movie a number of years ago, and recall some very specific things about it. First off, I remember the deaths being very Rube Goldberg in their complexity and ridiculousness. Secondly, I remember there being an absurd number of twists and unexpected turns. Normally that would be good for this sort of movie, but this one went a little overboard with it. I am always reminded of this movie whenever Deep Blue Sea comes up in bad movie conversations, because this does some similar unexpected star-killing, though not nearly as dramatically as Jackson’s fall in Deep Blue Sea. I’m looking forward to seeing this again, I hadn’t been able to find a DVD copy of this until very recently. Apparently there was a lot of studio turmoil behind this movie, which contributed both to its flop and perhaps to its lack of wide distribution.

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IMDb Bottom 100: The Quarter Mark, Part 1

Good news! I’m oddly wedged between being 1/5 and 1/4 of the way done with my challenge to watch through the IMDb Bottom 100! I’m going to go ahead and count it as the quarter mark of the challenge. That means that this is as good a time as any to do a recap!

Once again, as I did for Boggy Creek II, I decided to do these reviews in video form, wrongly assuming that would save time. For most of these I also wrote a short text review, so I’m going to go ahead and include those as well.

I hope you all enjoy!

Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2

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Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 is quite horrible. Any time you are relying on child actors you are running a big risk, but the fact that this was riding on baby actors didn’t even scratch the surface of why this movie failed. The acting was obviously crap from the “leads”, I wouldn’t have expected otherwise. Voight hams it up a bit in truly bizarre fashion, but that is hardly enough to make this thing watchable. The fighting scenes are laughable in their incompetence at first, but that novelty dries up pretty fast. The effects are awful and completely jarring, and I’m still not sure why anyone felt they were necessary in this movie. This movie had no need of bad computer generation at all. Then again, there was no need for this movie at all. As far as the writing goes, this has a pathetic attempt at a twist that anyone could spot from a mile away, and the plot is pure idiocy. Everything else is exactly as mind-numbing as you would expect. None of the jokes were funny, which I don’t think I even need to point out.

If you are one of those people that turns to mush whenever you see a baby, I think this movie is actually made for you. Or rather, this movie was made because of you. More specifically and to the point, this movie is your fault, and I hate you.

In all seriousness, if watching babies be babies for an hour and a half seems like a raucous good time to you, then have at it. This movie has exactly what you want, and I’ll just go ahead and avoid being around you.

For everyone else, don’t watch this movie. It is a horrible mess of a film with no redeeming qualities outside of yet another Jon Voight villain. I think there might be a meta-plot to this movie about how it is actually capable of killing your brain cells, just in case you are the sort of person who wants to read too deeply into a movie about babies. I’m probably alone there.

Going Overboard

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Going Overboard is bad, and the whole crew knew it from the very beginning. The cinematography is horrible, but that’s what predictably happens when you try to film a movie in the cramped confines of a cruise ship. Go figure. The decision to preface the film with a blatant apology to the audience, and subsequently have Adam Sandler break character throughout the movie to further apologize for the quality of the film, must have been an attempt to get some laughs out of this thing. It didn’t work, for the record.

It is interesting to see a pre-SNL Sandler at least. He is just as bad as he always is, and can’t act in any way. No one on the cast is putting in any kind of effort anyway though, almost as if the motivation behind this movie is that they just wanted to go on a cruise and film along the way. Still, it is interesting to see Sandler at the beginning of his career…I guess.

For what it is worth, I don’t think this deserves the #8 spot on the IMDb Bottom 100. It is actually mostly watchable, but it just isn’t funny. It has plenty of technical and writing issues for sure, but they clearly weren’t working with anything to start with, and didn’t much care about putting out a quality product at any point. I’m not sure if the self-aware aspect of this movie helps it or hurts it, to tell the truth. I do know that I would still take this over a movie like “Pledge This!” absolutely any day, so there is at least that to be said for it.

I actually think that there is a potentially funny movie hidden in here somewhere, but it would just need a new director, new cast, a serious re-write, a budget, and some actual damn effort. So, pretty much an entirely different movie with the same basic premise. Like, imagine this plot with Louis CK as a cruise ship waiter who is down on his luck and dreams of doing stand up comedy, and Marc Maron or Dennis Miller featured as a washed up asshole stand-up comic on his way out, relegated to doing a cruise ship show. There is a potential movie there.

Anyway, Poseidon and Noriega both feature prominently as characters, which I don’t think any other movie can claim. So there is that I guess. I also don’t think any other Sandler movie incorporates a Panamanian hit squad with aspirations of stand up comedy, which is actually something positive to say about the rest of Sandler’s film career.

This movie ends with Adam Sandler hooking up with a demigod, and the rival comic
drowning after being tossed overboard in what is basically a stand-up comic mutiny. That sounds like the way you would end some sort of greco-roman epic, not an Adam Sandler comedy. The bizarreness of the ending coupled with the unique incompetence behind the scenes actually makes this whole mess relatively interesting, in the same way that dissecting a dramatically mutated squirrel from Chernobyl would be relatively interesting.

Manos: The Hands of Fate

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Ah, “Manos”. This movie has been covered countless times before, so there isn’t anything new to say. I actually love this movie. This is a classic B-movie, and I’ve seen it more than a few times before. There isn’t a lot of commentary to be had because I enjoy it so damn much.

If you haven’t seen this movie, it is an amazing experience. This and “Plan 9 From Outer Space” are THE essential B-movies that most people know. Interestingly, “Plan 9” is not in the bottom 100, despite them being comparable movies (a downside of the democratic ranking system of IMDb is that people will rate bad movies highly for unintentional entertainment value. Hell, I’d give “Plan 9” a 10 myself).

Torgo and the Master are iconic oddball B-movie characters, and the little girl with the bizarre adult voice-over is simultaneously unbelievable and the creepiest thing in the movie. The acting is hammy and over the top in the best possible way where it needs to be, so there is nothing to complain about there.

The story and writing are completely bogus, and barely anything makes sense throughout the film. I suggest just going with the mad tide on this one, and you’ll be just fine. Don’t try to make any of it make sense.

I sort of understand why it is all the way down towards the basement of the bottom 100, because it is a very incompetently made film. It was an honest effort to make a movie though, unlike other Bottom 100 movies (such as “Going Overboard”) that weren’t even genuine attempts to produce something. I almost feel like there should be accepted categories of bad movies to differentiate between failures and unintentionally brilliant works like “Manos”. The fact that there is so much entertainment value out of such an honestly incompetent attempt at a film makes “Manos” charming and magical in a way that only a B-movie can be.

Also, I love the “Manos” soundtrack. Seriously. I also would kill to have a re-creation of the Manos cape-thing (note that there are hands on it, those aren’t stripes).

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Birdemic: Shock and Terror

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“Birdemic: Shock and Terror” is one of the best bad movies to come out in recent years. Every aspect of the movie is done incredibly poorly, which is an amazing feat. The effects are unspeakably bad, the acting is a step below what you would find in a commercial for a local car dealership, and the sound editing might actual cause your ears to bleed. The cinematography is bad, the pacing is atrocious, and the driving/parking scenes are some of the most boring shots that have ever made it into a movie.

Despite all of these issues, the movie comes out as a genuinely enjoyable watch. There is so much wrong that it is almost the perfect showcase of how not to make a movie, which has entertainment value to it to be sure.

Not unlike the classic relationship between “Plan 9” and “Manos”, “Birdemic” is one half of a couple of films that have become the face of contemporary bad movies (the other being “The Room”). I think it is a fantastic representation of how a bad movie can have entertainment value despite countless technical failings. Just like “Manos”, this movie has the intangible charm that makes certain cinematic failures into B-movie classics. I highly recommend this movie to just about anyone as an introduction to bad movies, given you have a copy of either of the Rifftrax commentaries of the movies. Watching this straight might be a bit much for a casual movie watcher.

I’ll Part 2 up in the next few days with 4 more of the Bottom 100 movies!

Bargain Bin(ge), Part 1

One of my favorite hobbies as a bad movie aficionado is scrounging around used DVD bargain bins, searching for sufficiently horrible movies to watch. It is a fantastic way to come across unknown or forgotten b-movie relics, and sometimes I’ll luck out and discover something truly fantastic.

Since the beginning of the year (and the start of my IMDb Bottom 100 challenge), I’ve been doing quite a lot of sifting through bargain bins searching for the worst of the worst in the world of DVD releases. I think I’ve made some promising finds along the way, digging up movies either too obscure to make IMDb’s Bottom 100 list and/or are just generally terrible in appearance/concept. I haven’t watched through these yet, but I have built up quite a queue for when I do wrap up the Bottom 100. Here is the first in a number of entries chronicling what I’ve found.

For each movie, I’ll link the IMDb page, a trailer or clip, and some initial comments:

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Max Magician and The Legend of the Rings

This looks like an absolute train-wreck.  I can’t wait to actually watch this thing, because I am struggling to find a competent aspect of it from those clips. At first glance, I assumed this would be a child-centric rip-off of “Lord of the Rings”, but it looks like something much more akin to “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” in intent. Honestly though, the movie I am most reminded of in these clips (at least in the acting department) is “Troll 2”. I could see that child actor pissing on some hospitality with that kind of performance.

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Ultimate Prey

My initial, unbelievable reaction to the trailer is that this movie appears to be beneath Joe Estevez (oft-forgotten brother of Martin Sheen).  Also, I can’t help but wonder if this movie is trying to be a knock-off of “Deadly Prey”. I can’t hold that against it, because “Deadly Prey” is absolutely an awesome movie. However, it is itself a knock-off of “First Blood”. You aren’t supposed to get that many levels of knock-offs. That’s like a movie trying to rip off “ROTOR” instead of just going straight to “RoboCop”.

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Android Insurrection

This seems like a fairly generic sci-fi horror movie, but people seem to really hate it. There is bound to be something more to the horribleness of this movie that isn’t let on in the trailer. As a side note, I did get a flashback to the evil robot animal thing from “Red Planet”, which I assume most people have forgotten about entirely by now. Also of some interest, the production company behind this (Pandora Machine) looks like an imitation of The Asylum, trying to capitalize on B-rate mockbusters (one of their other credits is a blatant “Prometheus” knock-off). They haven’t put out much, but the idea of a company trying to mimic The Asylum is absolutely hilarious to me.

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Congo

I saw this thing in theaters as a kid. What a disastrously moronic movie! I haven’t watched it in years, but I have come across some recent B-movie reviews of it that have me very anxious to do a re-watch. I surprisingly haven’t seen many copies of this DVD floating around out there, especially given how big I seem to remember it being. I also completely forgot that Tim Curry was in this, something that I’m not sure is a positive or a negative here.

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Night of the Wilding

No trailer on this one. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this movie, although the only thing that would shock me is if it is a decent watch. Even the IMDb page doesn’t provide much, apart from a handful of reviews. Even the poster has me confused: the synopsis says that he is a defense attorney, yet Estrada is looking distinctively cop-like on the poster. The plot reads like more of a bad lawyer drama than the action movie it seems to be marketed as, so I’m interested in seeing what it is actually like on screen.

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The Exterminator

The only thing I know about this movie is what Red Letter Media told me, but when I saw it IRL, I had to pick it up. It sounds like a mostly boring watch, but the cover has me sold regardless. I’m hoping that there is more to get out of it than the Red Letter Media folks give it credit for. Still, I got it for about a buck. Hard to complain over that.

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Beeper

I am absolutely giddy about this one. There are so many archaic relics to check out in this trailer, and not just Harvey Keitel. The idea of a beeper-centric suspense story seems ridiculous and incredibly dated now, so there are bound to be a number of laughs hidden in here in hindsight and nostalgia alone. I also like that the beeper is apparently delivered via ninja, or so the trailer would have us believe. It begs the question: why not deliver other things via ninja? Surely there is more they can offer beyond death and beepers. Just from what I’ve seen in the trailer, I’m willing to bet those car chase scenes are a pretty damn sad sight as a cherry on top of it all. I have very high hopes for this one.

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Omega Doom

This one interests me more as I learn more about it. Apparently humans are nearly extinct, and our robot conquistadors are trying to hunt down the last of us and take away the what is left of our guns. Apparently Rutger Hauerbot is on the side of the humans for some reason (or so it seems from the trailer), and there is some sort of civil war between the robots heating up. It sounds like there is a potentially interesting plot here, but I have a feeling that it isn’t going to flesh out well. I’m hoping for some solid, mindless, robot-slaying action in here. If I get some hilariously bad special effects in the process, I will be perfectly happy.

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The Pandora Project

Can’t find a trailer, which means I am going into this one almost completely blind. I will point out that I did find the above selection on YouTube, which is apparently the film’s main theme. IMDb only has the following insight to the plot:

“A CIA agent has to stop a former associate who has stolen a weapon which kills people without harming buildings, all before he is to get married in a few days.”

Well, thank goodness it doesn’t harm the buildings! It must be a weaponized polar opposite of Roland Emmerich.

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Land of College Prophets

Unlike the others here, this is more of a tribute B-movie. There is an interesting sort of underground community that is dedicated to making new B-movies, some with a comedic twist and others seeking to be authentic mimicry. I can recommend a few of them that find a good balance between the two (“Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” and “Black Dynamite” come to mind), but in general the others I have seen fall too far in one direction or the other to really enthrall me. I get the feeling off the bat that this movie is going to take itself too seriously, but it clearly got positive marks from some B-movie aficionados. I’m mostly surprised that I found this in a casual DVD shop, this seems like a bit of a deep cut to get any kind of wide release.

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IMDb Bottom 100 Challenge

Hey folks! Just like this time last year, I’m planning to actually use this blog for movie reviews and commentary now. The fact is, I watch movies with almost all of my free time anyway, so I figure that I might as well throw my opinions on them into the great void of the internet. So, I am going to aim to write about them (consistently) on here. There are a few differences this time around:

The IMDb Bottom 100

In the first week of 2014, I froze the listing of IMDb’s Bottom 100. My goal for the year is to watch through all of the miserable movies on the list from that particular point in time. Some of the entries are admittedly a bit obscure, so I have a contingency plan of sorts if I get down to the wire and can’t find some of them.

Without further ado, here is the list as I froze it:

1. Final Justice (1985)
2. Keloglan vs. the Black Prince (2006)
3. The Hottie & the Nottie (2008)
4. Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961)
5. Disaster Movie (2008)
6. Yes Sir (2007)
7. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004)
8. Going Overboard (1989)
9. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
10. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
11. Die Hard Dracula (1998)
12. Space Mutiny (1988)
13. Turks in Space (2006)
14. Who’s Your Caddy? (2007)
15. Pledge This! (2006)
16. Crossover (2006)
17. Anne B. Real (2003)
18. Daniel der Zauberer (2004)
19. The Creeping Terror (1964)
20. The Maize: The Movie (2004)
21. Ghosts Can’t Do It (1989)
22. The Pumaman (1980)
23. The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)
24. From Justin to Kelly (2003)
25. House of the Dead (2003)
26. Track of the Moon Beast (1976)
27. Girl in Gold Boots (1968)
28. The Pod People (1983)
29. Prince of Space (1959)
30. The Touch of Satan (1971)
31. Zombie Nightmare (1987)
32. Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1985)
33. Surf School (2006)
34. Glitter (2001)
35. The Blade Master (1984)
36. Zombie Nation (2004)
37. Eegah (1962)
38. Miss Castaway and the Island Girls (2004)
39. Soultaker (1990)
40. Ram Gopal Varma’s Indian Flames (2007)
41. I Accuse My Parents (1944)
42. Himmatwala (2013)
43. Son of the Mask (2005)
44. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964)
45. Danes Without a Clue (1997)
46. Tangents (1994)
47. Devil Fish (1984)
48. Chairman of the Board (1998)
49. The Starfighters (1964)
50. Ben & Arthur (2002)
51. The Final Sacrifice (1990)
52. Seven Mummies (2006)
53. Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (1996)
54. Nine Lives (2002)
55. Leonard Part 6 (1987)
56. Hobgoblins (1988)
57. Santa with Muscles (1996)
58. The Tony Blair Witch Project (2000)
59. Santa Claus (1959)
60. Epic Movie (2007)
61. Fat Slags (2004)
62. Popstar (2005)
63. Car 54, Where Are You? (1994)
64. Monster a-Go Go (1965)
65. Titanic: The Legend Goes On… (2000)
66. A Story About Love (1995)
67. Body in the Web (1960)
68. Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996)
69. Alone in the Dark (2005)
70. Mitchell (1975)
71. A Fox’s Tale (2008)
72. Gigli (2003)
73. Beginning of the Great Revival (2011)
74. Demon Island (2002)
75. Laserblast (1978)
76. Dream Well (2009)
77. The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
78. Baby Geniuses (1999)
79. Anus Magillicutty (2003)
80. The Underground Comedy Movie (1999)
81. Zaat (1971)
82. Simon Sez (1999)
83. Battlefield Earth (2000)
84. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
85. Ed (1996)
86. The Hillz (2004)
87. In the Mix (2005)
88. Bratz (2007)
89. Another Nine & a Half Weeks (1997)
90. Monstrosity (1963)
91. American Ninja V (1993)
92. Tees Maar Khan (2010)
93. Maskeli besler: Kibris (2008)
94. Feel the Noise (2007)
95. Troll 2 (1990)
96. Addiction (2004)
97. .com for Murder (2002)
98. 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998)
99. Night Train to Mundo Fine (1966)
100. Joker (2012)

 

As some of you are probably aware, the IMDb Bottom 100 is a living, democratic list. It tends to be a bit volatile because of this, so movies come in and out of the list on a regular basis. In addition, there is a minimum vote quota to qualify for ranking (1500 votes), meaning that at any point new movies can qualify for the list if they gain enough votes.  If it comes down to it, I may use some new additions to the Bottom 100 that have popped up since my beginning of the year list freeze in lieu of movies I just can’t find. 

R.O.T.O.R. (1988) Poster
ROTOR is only 57 votes away from eligibility

To add a bit of a random element to the mix, I also have a fun new tool to help me randomize my selections:

The Wheel

The Wheel of Regret
The Wheel of Regret

For the better part of a decade, I have been watching shitty movies with my friends on a regular basis. A number of years ago, I started the tradition of a holiday shitty movie distribution, in which I would collect the worst films I could dig out of the city’s bargain bins and distribute them to my friends through some form of chance.

This Christmas, inspired by the folks at Red Letter Media, one of these friends built a “Wheel of the Worst” imitation for this specific purpose. Equipped with a mocking smile to rub in your our cinematic viewing choices, it has so far been dubbed the “Wheel of Regret”. In its inaugural use, we sat through “The Untold”, an episode of “BibleMan”, the “Black Christmas” remake, and 2002’s “Rollerball”, along with shitty movie distributions to all in attendance. It was a tough night.

I am still in awe of this trainwreck
I am still in awe of this trainwreck

In any case, I’ve been using that spinning, grinning monster to help me randomize my Bottom 100 selections. I pick 8 numbers representing listed films I have already acquired, place them on the wheel, and then spin away. Speaking of which…

The Acquiring

Believe it or not, finding these movies isn’t particularly easy. I managed to luck out during a recent road trip to New Orleans, running into a head shop with an extensive used DVD selection and a BlockBuster having a full clearance. Aside from the stack of generally bad movies I purchased for next to nothing, I came back with hard copies of seven of the Bottom 100.
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After some local digging afterwards, I came up with another seven or so. Also to my luck, a huge number of Bottom 100 films were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, meaning they are easily located on YouTube and/or Netflix. Through all of that (and the ones I already owned), I’ve already found a huge percentage of the list. That said, I’m still in an ongoing hunt for some of the obscure European / Bollywood entries.

WHERE ARE YOU?
WHERE ARE YOU?

The Watching

As of writing this, I am 16 movies into the list. I have been following each movie up with a mini-review on facebook, and occasionally doing live commentary. I’m planning to expand on all of the mini-reviews a bit and post them here over the course of the challenge.

I’m planning to cover some other generally bad movies as I watch them as well. For instance, I recently watched “New Gladiators” and “The Toxic Avenger” for the first time, both of which I have a whole lot of thoughts on.

So, you can look forward to a whole lot of content here shortly. In the meantime, you can check out some reviews I did last year on Les Miserables and Django (1966). Or I guess you could go outside or something, that’s cool too.

The Tarantino Apocrypha

I’ve finally finished my holiday vacation, and gleefully returned home to my War on Christmas present to myself:

tarantinoThat is a big ol’ collection of Tarantino movies. In the XX set alone are his mainstays: Jackie Browne, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Basterds, both Kill Bills, and even Death Proof and True Romance.

In my other hand are the less favorite sons, some of the illegitimate ilk of the Tarantino canon. I could write the praises (and occasional gripes) of the classic Tarantino films, but I’d much rather focus on these other works for the time being.

To start off, I don’t think any of these are bad movies. In fact, I think they are all objectively better movies than Death Proof, which suffers from agonizing accuracy to its genre of inspiration. However, it is interesting to take a look at the Tarantino apocrypha (which should really include True Romance, though I think the film’s inclusion in XX is a legitimizing move). Particularly, it is interesting to see how Tarantino’s writing materializes under someone else’s control; and how we deals with it.

So, over the next few days you can look forward to:

From Dusk Till Dawn

Natural Born Killers


Four Rooms

And just for fun, check out Tarantino’s trailers from the Grindhouse double-feature with Robert Rodriguez. Growing up on crap movies, I could legitimately see those showing up on MST3k. Kudos to those guys for accuracy.

Les Miserables


This movie is not an easy one to review.

From the moment this movie came out, my Facebook feed was flooded with raving positive reviews. To judge from most of the reactions, this was not just the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that mere bakery tricks were far transcended by this masterpiece of film. This was Citizen Kane with singing.

Better than a singing Kane sandwich? Impossible I say!

I went into this movie as unbiased as I could be. I was a bit apprehensive knowing how passionately people were lauding the movie, knowing that it could not possibly live up to such enthusiasm.

Once I came out of the movie, I noticed that a number of people around me were crying, while others were talking among themselves about how astounding the spectacle they just witnessed was. That was when I first questioned whether or not I was a robot. Since then, I’ve been going over the movie in my head in order to understand the disparate between our experiences, and to hopefully cast aside my doubts as to my humanity.

When I walked out of that movie, I was thinking two things: 1) “That movie was really long and felt really long,” and 2) “Russell Crowe can’t sing worth a damn.” This was not Citizen Kane with singing (though I would watch that movie). This was an OK but forgettable adaptation of a classic story, maybe a 7/10.

I already know that giving an average review of this movie is going to take some flak, so here’s my defense: this movie had a handful of distracting flaws. They weren’t enough to make the movie “bad”, but they were enough to hold it back from the “good” or “elite” categories.

The first of these flaws is something that I thought would be a boon, in that it is something that the screen offers that the stage doesn’t: the wide, panning, spectacular establishing shots. This would typical only be a minor gripe, but it felt so incredibly out of place whenever they showed up, I couldn’t help but point it out. Those shots should feel natural despite their beauty, but it felt like they were trying way too hard and thus the shots looked artificial. The opening shot with the ship being hauled looked almost cartoonish, like it belonged in a Pirates of the Carribean movie. I was actually specifically reminded of the maelstrom fight scene in Pirates III, which also looked incredibly unnatural and jarring.

The second flaw is maybe the one thing even the fans will admit was an issue with this adaptation: Russell Crowe. Crowe is a good actor, but this was not a role for him. His singing was inconsistent, and at its worst sounded like all-caps slurring. As one person noted on my facebook, he sounded like he was singing through peanut butter in his mouth. His character was just too important to have flubbed on the casting, and I can’t help but feel like this was a ticket-selling move. I am a big fan of casting for talent and aptitude for a role over throwing bones to the already well-fed, especially if they don’t cut it in a crucial aspect of a role. Then again, you could always have worse casting issues…

Next issue: the casting. Outside of Jackman and Hathaway, only three members of the ensemble cast felt like good choices: Cohen and Bonham-Carter as the comic relief (killed it), and Isabelle Allen, who I was thoroughly impressed with as Young Cosette. Everyone else suffered from some issue, typically either not having enough time on screen to develop a character (thus becoming just a warm body/bullet depository); or just not fitting the bill for their part. The first issue wouldn’t be so much of an issue if we weren’t supposed to care so much about these characters who are only vaguely familiar faces in the film. The second issue, like the casting of Crowe (and in my opinion, Redmayne as Marius) isn’t something you can just work around. It sours every scene they are in, regardless of the effort they are putting in. Then again, is there such a thing as trying too hard?

Next issue: Anne Hathaway. To be clear, she did a really good job in the movie. However, I thought it was too obvious, even to the point of blatant manipulation, that this was an Academy Award audition. If a role/performance is truly impressive on its own merits, it should not occur to you as you watching the depiction that they (the filmmakers, to be clear) are pandering at an award. You should be fully immersed in what is happening. To me, her entire segment of the movie felt completely staged for the purpose of bringing in an award. She didn’t actually get much time on screen, so I am curious if they were looking to make as strong a case as possible for what they had (and justify her billing). Still, the fact that the thought even popped into my head while she was still on the screen didn’t impress me. Then again, I might be a robot.

I honestly think that the main audience of this film (fans of the source) were willing to either consciously or subconsciously gloss over most of the issues. Even that, however, is perplexing to me. Since when is a fandom forgiving to Hollywood adaptations of their sacred cows? If Joss Whedon isn’t in the director’s chair, nerds are seldom pleased with anything that hits the screen from the realm of nerddom. Maybe musical fans are just really forgiving on the whole to film adaptations? I’m not a big musical fan, so I can’t really speak for them on that. Still, it was something I found interesting.

In addition to the forgiven flaws, I think fans of either the musical or the story would not have the same problems as a general audience member walking in cold. I have to assume that many of those young, rebellious characters were better portrayed in previous versions, and that the fans actually knew who they were from previous experience. For them, youthful rebellious boys #’s 1-6 were actual human characters with personality traits, and not just (as mentioned earlier) bullet depositories.

The last thing I had a big issue with was not something fixable: the length. At once, this movie was both too long (and more importantly, felt too long) for a casual theater and too short to flesh out the colorful cast of characters. This movie should have been an epic miniseries, as had been done in the past with Les Miserables. The acts are already well-structured for it, and the characters would have actually had a chance to breathe and come to life before the camera. That’s my opinion anyway.

List of other minor gripes: Hugh Jackman’s “old” makeup wasn’t convincing at all. Jackman and Crowe had no chemistry on screen; they looked like they were acting at each other instead of with each other. Redmayne and Seyfried did not have a compelling or believable chemistry on screen (at least I wasn’t buying it). Mostly issues related to casting again.

aging: the process of your beard retracting and re-emerging from your scalp

Despite all of my issues with this movie, I honestly stick by my guns of 7/10. Taking the awesome source material out of the equation, this film on its own is just average. It had too many instances where I was jerked fully out of the experience, and Crowe / the ensemble really failed to hold the whole thing together from the bottom up. If anyone should be upset about the final product, it should be Hathaway and Jackman. The frame below them wasn’t up to par, and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. They were waving the flag on top of a ramshackle collection of furniture. The flag was still flying, but they could certainly be on much better footing.

I’m still unsure if not breaking down into tears at this movie and then having the audacity to give it an average review makes me a robot or not. I guess we will never know.

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