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IMDb Bottom 100: COMPLETE

It has been many months, but I can confidently say that I successfully watched over 100 movies from the IMDb Bottom 100 ranking in 2014. That was my goal at the beginning of the year, and here we have it! In no particular order, here are links to my reviews of 104 IMDb Bottom 100 movies.

  1. In The Mix
  2. Blubberella
  3. Monster A Go Go
  4. Santa Claus
  5. Anne B Real
  6. Santa With Muscles
  7. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
  8. Battlefield Earth
  9. Saving Christmas
  10. Daniel der Zauberer
  11. Bat People
  12. Popstar
  13. Nine Lives
  14. Garbage Pail Kids*
  15. Ator, The Blade Master
  16. Baby Geniuses
  17. Oasis of the Zombies
  18. Copper Mountain
  19. Aag
  20. The Wild World of Batwoman
  21. Breaking Wind
  22. Track of the Moon Beast
  23. Demon Island
  24. Invasion of the Neptune Men
  25. Horrors of Spider Island
  26. Beast of Yucca Flats
  27. From Justin to Kelly
  28. Eegah
  29. ROTOR
  30. Bratz: The Movie
  31. The Mangler*
  32. Highlander 2*
  33. Surf School
  34. Simon Sez
  35. Jaws 3D*
  36. On Deadly Ground*
  37. Foodfight!
  38. Robocop 3*
  39. Miss Castaway
  40. The Hillz
  41. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning*
  42. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan*
  43. The Hottie and The Nottie
  44. Prince of Space
  45. Zaat
  46. Troll 2
  47. Red Zone Cuba
  48. Glitter
  49. Disaster Movie
  50. Die Hard Dracula
  51. Fat Slags
  52. McHale’s Navy*
  53. Ben and Arthur
  54. Torque*
  55. The Omega Code*
  56. American Ninja 5
  57. Titanic: And the Legend Continues…
  58. Legend of the Titanic*
  59. Captain America (1990)*
  60. Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders
  61. The Creeping Terror
  62. Hobgoblins
  63. Zombie Nightmare
  64. Mitchell
  65. Gigli
  66. Super Mario Bros*
  67. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  68. .com for Murder
  69. 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain
  70. Touch of Satan
  71. The Maize: The Movie
  72. The Gaul
  73. Car 54, Where Are You?
  74. Alone in the Dark
  75. Tangents
  76. Chairman of the Board
  77. Zombie Nation
  78. Final Justice
  79. The Atomic Brain
  80. Epic Movie
  81. The Final Sacrifice
  82. Ed
  83. I Accuse My Parents
  84. Leonard Part 6
  85. Laserblast
  86. Lawnmower Man 2
  87. The Starfighters
  88. Soultaker
  89. Son of the Mask
  90. House of the Dead
  91. Pod People
  92. Pumaman
  93. Devil Fish
  94. Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies
  95. Girl in Gold Boots
  96. Turks in Space
  97. Space Mutiny
  98. Pledge This
  99. Crossover
  100. Birdemic: Shock and Terror
  101. Boggy Creek II
  102. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2
  103. Going Overboard
  104. Manos: The Hands of Fate

Let me explain why there are 104 movies, and what those asterisks mean. As it turns out, watching all of the IMDb Bottom 100 is more complicated than you might think for a number of reasons.

Thanks to the international representation that has grown on the list in the past couple of years, there are a fair number of films in the ranking that did not get a Region 1 release: this means that no only was there no official distribution in the US, but there are also no official English subtitles or dubs. For some of these films, like “Daniel der Zauberer” and “Turks in Space”, they have enough of a following that fans have created subtitles so that English audiences can watch them. More often than not, however, these international entries in the IMDb Bottom 100 are just not available in any form to an English-speaking audience. Movies like “A Fox’s Tale” and “Danes Without a Clue”, for instance, just do not exist in an English-friendly form, and aren’t popular enough to have fans distributing them online and creating subtitles for them.

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“Danes Without A Clue” never made it to Region 1 distribution

In addition to foreign films that lack English language versions, a number of other movies in the IMDb Bottom 100 simply don’t have any distribution, and similarly lack the popularity for there to be online copies of them available. IMDb Bottom 100 movies like “The Tony Blair Witch Project”, “Anus Magillicutty”, and “Ghosts Can’t Do It” all fall into this category: the first two are just low-budget projects that didn’t get spread around, whereas “Ghosts Can’t Do It” is simply out of print and only available (scarcely) on VHS.

In an attempt to make up for these unattainable members of the ranking, I went back through some archived versions of the IMDb Bottom 100. Because the list is democratic and constantly accepting new votes, movies regularly fall out and break into the ranking, meaning that a snapshot of the IMDb Bottom 100 from 2004 looks very different from the one that exists today. All of the movies in the above list marked with an asterisk were pulled from these archived lists to make up for the missing movies that I couldn’t get copies of.

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“Highlander II” was one of these Alum features I covered

So, how did I wind up with 104 movies covered? As I mentioned, the IMDb Bottom 100 is consistently shuffling in new movies as votes come in and movies reach the qualification quota of 1500 votes for the list. As was the case with “ROTOR” and “Saving Christmas”, I chose to cover new movies as they popped into the Bottom 100 over the course of 2014. Between covering movies from the IMDb Bottom 100 archive and new members of the ranking from 2014, I managed to tip over 100 movies covered in total. In fact, there are even more IMDb Bottom 100 movies that I could still cover (and in all likelihood I will at some point).

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For now, I am going to put the IMDb Bottom 100 on the back-burner: I managed to watch and review over 100 of them in 2014, and I am interested in taking on some new bad movie challenges in 2015. That said, I am planning on doing my own ranking of those 104 movies in the near future, and writing a more in depth retrospective on the challenge after I’ve had some time to mull it over.

As for now, I wish you all a Happy New Year, and look forward to having you back in 2015!

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Plotopsy Podcast #5 – Santa With Muscles

Santa With Muscles

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Continuing with the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”, today’s entry is on the 1996 Hulk Hogan vehicle “Santa With Muscles”. Get ready for some Santamania!

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“Santa With Muscles” is one of a handful of attempts to turn Hulk Hogan into a legitimate crossover star. After his performance in “Rocky III”, Hulk starred in a string of unsuccessful movies. Much can be said of his films like “No Holds Barred” and “Suburban Commando”, but his movie career was undoubtedly more successful than his brief music career, which consisted of one hilarious album entitled “Hulk Rules”. I suggest looking it up on YouTube, it is pretty laughable.

The plot of Santa With Muscles centers around the egomaniac health mogul and millionaire Blake Thorne (played by Hulk Hogan), who, after becoming severely concussed during a run-in with police, wakes up believing himself to be Santa Claus. This leads to Thorne becoming a vigilante orphan advocate in his local community, all while a con man pretending to be his elf (Don Stark) tries to prevent him from re-discovering his identity as part of an elaborate attempt at bank fraud.

santamuscles5Another plot surfaces when a it is revealed that a local eccentric health-obsessive and germophobe (Ed Begley, Jr) is terrorizing an orphanage via his super-powered minions (their powers, of course, are not explained). Their actions prompt Thorne to repeatedly intervene on behalf of the orphanage, gaining him minor celebrity status as a peace-keeper along the way.

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Goon with electric powers, for reasons.

Among the orphanage residents is the now famous actress Mila Kunis, in one of her earliest film roles. Interestingly enough, co-star Don Stark would later play her father for many years on the hit sitcom “That 70’s Show”.santamuscles7The sleeveless Santa suit that Hogan wears for much of the movie is designed in-story by Mila Kunis’s character, Sarah. When asked about the design, she claims that it was inspired by a comic book, specifically “Mega Man #96”. Mega Man is a well known video game hero and one of the franchise faces of Capcom. While he has had a couple of comic book runs, none have made it to #98, and the blue robotic boy does not much resemble Santa Claus, nor does he use a utility belt or wear a red suit. That said, his creator, Dr Light, bears a significant similarity to the jolly saint nick. But, I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a real connection there.

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Dr Light and Mega Man

The executive producer of “Santa With Muscles” is none other than Jordan Belfourt, a man now famous as “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Belfourt served as Executive Producer of six movies in 1996, including “Santa with Muscles” and another Hulk Hogan family feature called “Secret Agent Club”. Belfourt also became good friends with notorious B-movie director David DeCoteau during this brief fling with the movie business. DeCoteau later loosely adapted Belfourt’s tales from Wall Street into a homoerotic werewolf movie called “The Wolves of Wall Street”, a flick that predated Scorcese’s famous work by a solid decade.

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At the beginning of “Santa With Muscles”, Hulk Hogan is playing a character clearly based heavily on himself, but he is inexplicably a complete dick to everyone around him. Why might that be? Well, this is more justified than you might think: it isn’t a Dickensian redemption tale for the sake of Christmas alone.

In July of 1996, Hulk Hogan made the shocking move to turn heel for the first time in his career: a term used to signify a “villain” in the pro wrestling community. Ironically, this turn to the dark side coincided with his adoption of the nickname “Hollywood”: I’m guessing he had higher aspirations for his film career than “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain”. In any case Hulk continued on as a consistent villain in the WCW wrestling league for a number of years after this. The November 1996 release of “Santa With Muscles” places it in the midst of Hulk’s sinister turn, so it makes sense that he plays a callous and cold character as the story unfolds.

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Hogan’s “Hollywood” heel persona

According to IMDb’s trivia section, the original author’s draft of “Santa with Muscles” was changed so extensively that he sued to have his name taken off of the film. I haven’t found any information to independently substantiate the rumor, but I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if this were true. The three credited writers on the film include one person with no other credits of any kind, a fellow who is only credited as an assortment of extras (he played a water slide attendant in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, apparently), and another person with a handful of credits solely as a casting assistant. It isn’t exactly a writing dream team.

“Santa With Muscles” director John Murlowski was also responsible for the other 1996 Hulk Hogan movie, “Secret Agent Club”. However, he is probably best known for helming the film “Cop Dog”: a kid’s movie in which the ghost of a dead dog possessed by a fallen cop leads a young child on a quest for revenge. It is a very strange film.

Among the accessory cast of “Santa With Muscles” are Clint Howard, who is the brother of famed director Ron Howard (and a stalwart B-movie character actor in his own right). He has featured in movies such as “The Ice Cream Man” and “Evilspeak”, not to mention a veritable drove of Uwe Boll movies. Also appearing is Garret Morris, best known as an inaugural cast member of NBC’s beloved comedy sketch program Saturday Night Live.

santamuscles6The climax of “Santa With Muscles” sees Hulk Hogan doing battle with Ed Begley Jr (clad, as always, in a hazmat suit) in an expansive cave below the orphanage. It is revealed that the building sits atop a mine filled with valuable explosive crystals, which is why Begley had been trying to expel the orphans. It is also inexplicably revealed that both men were raised in the orphanage as children, and at one point were best friends. In light of these bizarre and lazy revelations, the two men have a sword fight with the highly explosive crystals, which somehow doesn’t blow them both up into tiny meat chunks. The aftermath of the battle does ultimately see the orphanage explode, after which Thorne opens his mansion up as a new location for the children, completing his redemption.

On to the plotopsy of the film: what led to the failure of “Santa With Muscles”?

First off, it is just too damn cartoon-y. The villains have ridiculous unexplained superpowers, and chew their way through scenery throughout the film. Ed Begley Jr’s lead villain is played as such an over the top germophobe that the trees in front of his house are shown covered in plastic. That kind of thinking makes my brain want to implode.

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Just random shrubs covered in plastic
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Until the end of the movie, Ed Begley Jr’s character refuses to leave the mansion, instead appearing via a TV to outsiders.

Of course, centering a movie around Hulk Hogan isn’t such a great idea either. He may be a good showman, but he is a horrendous actor. Watching him stumble through lines in this movie is embarrassing, particularly during an interview sequence where he is supposed to be acting nervous. It takes an unfathomable void of talent to not be able to appear nervous and confused. Last but certainly not least, this script is absolutely abysmal. The plot is baffling and poorly paced,  and the dialogue is awkward and stilted throughout the film. I am kind of curious what the original draft looked like, and how it managed to be mutated into the state that it ended up in.

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I think a toddler designed the title card

All in all, I absolutely recommend giving Santa With Muscles a watch if you can find a copy of it. It is definitely a movie you have to see to believe, and it may be the worst entry in Hulk Hogan’s abysmal filmography. The pacing slows down significantly here and there, but there are generally enough confusing and outlandish moments to keep your eyebrows cocked and your jaw on the floor through the entire run time.
That’s all for today’s (Plot)opsy Podcast here at the Misan[trope]y Movie Blog! I recommend checking out the rest of the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”. Here’s what you will find this week:

Stinker Madness Podcast
The He-Man She-Ra Xmas Special

If We Made It Podcast
Silent Night Deadly Night 2

Dark Corners of This Sick World
Elves

JT Movie Podcast
Black Christmas (2006)

So, make sure to check in with all of those good folks as part of the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”! Also, make sure to check back here next week for the next (Plot)opsy Podcast on the infamous 1959 Mexican Christmas movie: “Santa Claus”

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IMDb Bottom 100: Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas
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For those who haven’t heard yet, Kirk Cameron’s new movie “Saving Christmas” recently topped the IMDb’s Bottom 100 list. This came about just after Kirk Cameron attempted to inflate his movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes by calling on his fan base to give his movie a “fresh” rating. Unfortunately for Cameron, that isn’t how the review aggregation site works. Even more unfortunately for Cameron, the internet doesn’t take too kindly to those sorts of shenanigans, nor does it have much patience for vapid evangelism.

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Thus, quick as a flash, all of the democratic online ratings for “Saving Christmas” (including the audience score on “Rotten Tomatoes” and the IMDb user score) tanked into oblivion. Kirk Cameron, being the Kirk Cameron that he is, believes that this is a result of a grand atheist conspiracy. Well, let us aim to get down to the truth of the matter then, shall we?

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Outside of the internet’s backlash to Cameron’s Rotten Tomatoes shenanigans, there are plenty of other reasons that “Saving Christmas” has been so poorly received. And, believe it or not, I don’t think the backlash is universally from internet atheists and disgruntled troll-folk. I honestly believe that Kirk Cameron managed to split his evangelical base with the message of “Saving Christmas”.

When it comes down to it, “Saving Christmas” isn’t about the mythical “War on Christmas” (as it was advertised): it is a movie aimed at evangelical, conservative Christians who either do not loudly celebrate Christmas, or publicly condemn common Christmas practices due to pagan roots or ties to sinful behavior. The very structure of the movie is laid out as a dialogue between Cameron and his fictitious brother-in-law (and fellow evangelical) Christian, who acts as the straw man of these sorts of Christmas detractors. Cameron, over the course of the movie, walks Christian through his complaints about the materialism of modern Christmas and the Pagan roots of many holiday traditions. Even though Cameron’s arguments for these practices being complimentary with Christianity are generally poorly thought out, it is clear that he is attempting to call out and persuade his fellow evangelicals to come around to his way of thinking. This is an attack movie on a sub-population of his own people.

This may be a bit obvious, but another big part of the reason that “Saving Christmas” has been so poorly received has nothing to do with the film itself, but is rather just a reaction to the fact that Kirk Cameron has his name plastered all over it. Cameron suffers from something that I’ve started calling the “Uwe Boll Effect”, in which the poor behavior and unpopularity of a key player in a film leads to the poor reception of their work, regardless of the work’s actual quality.

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I mean, all of his work is low quality anyway. Let’s be real.

These days, Cameron only registers on the public’s radar when he is saying something wildly homophobic, blatantly misogynistic, or is puppeting some sort of conservative agenda, and none of those things win you popularity points on the internet. Even without his attempt to inflate the movie’s scores, “Saving Christmas” would have registered abysmal scores on IMDb for this reason alone. It probably wouldn’t have been bad enough to hit the Bottom 100, but the fact that Cameron’s name is on the film meant that it wasn’t going to get anything over a 5.0 out of 10 (generous), and that is regardless of the actual quality of the movie.

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Before I get on to talking about the actual film, I want to clearly address something: “Saving Christmas” is in no way the worst movie of all time. The IMDb rankings and the Rotten Tomatoes audience score are both living, democratic scores, which means that they fluctuate in accordance with public opinion. The phenomenally low scores for “Saving Christmas” on these mediums should not be read to mean “this is the worst movie of all time”, but rather as “this is perceived by the public right now to be the worst movie of all time”. I see people misread these rankings all the time (particularly the IMDb). The user score is literally a popularity contest, not an intelligently crafted tome. I don’t mean to say that in a detracting manner: it is actually an interesting and valuable ranking that acts as a barometer of current popular opinion, which is frankly interesting as fuck. Both the Rotten Tomatoes audience score and the IMDb user score are fascinating numbers, but they need to be appreciated for what they actually represent. I can guarantee you that there is not a critic in the world who would cite “Saving Christmas” as being objectively worse as a film than “Monster-A-Go-Go”, and that should tell you all you need to know about the objective accuracy of the IMDb Bottom 100. Now, on to the movie.

“Saving Christmas” is, of course, quite bad. Most of the issues come from poor structure and pacing, which I believe are side effects of attempts to pad out the final run time of the flick. There is an extended, unnecessary dance sequence towards the end of the movie that doesn’t serve much of a purpose besides burning time, and there is a scene early on with no plot significance in which two peripheral character have a conversation almost entirely via ADR (automated dialogue replacement, voiceover done after the fact), meaning that it is entirely possible that the scene was not actually written until after it was filmed. I think these two sequences wound up being as long as they were specifically to pad the run time, which subsequently slowed down the pace of the movie. Even the story structure itself makes the movie feel longer: it is never clear as the dialogue between Cameron and Christian progresses where the movie is in the run time. Most linear plots provide a sort of shorthand for audiences: for instance, you generally have an idea of when the second act is wrapping up, just due to how the story is progressing on screen. In “Saving Christmas”, which lacks a traditional plot, the audience isn’t given any of these usual landmarks, so you never quite know where you are in the movie. The effect of this is that the movie feels longer than it actually is, which is generally something you don’t want to happen. This isn’t necessarily going to result in a bad movie (see: “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”), but it doesn’t do a film any favors if the audience isn’t sufficiently engaged.

I have mentioned a little bit about the writing already, specifically the fact that it is mostly done as a dialogue between two characters. While the contents of Kirk Cameron’s lines are basically word salad, those scenes aren’t nearly as poorly written as the ones that aren’t specifically between the two lead characters. When not focused on Cameron and Christian, this movie goes off the rails in the writing department. Kirk Cameron provides voice-over in nearly every scene, which is something that would be grating in an otherwise good movie with a better actor doing the readings. But here, given that all of the voice-over is done by Kirk Cameron, delivered in a typical preacher’s cadence, and has the content of a thrown-together Sunday school class, you honestly feel like you are trapped in a visual companion to a Christmas sermon. Worse yet, the little exposure the audience gets to the accessory cast away from Cameron is plagued with lazy stereotypes and banal, unnecessary, and seemingly improvised dialogue.

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This image summarizes the movie perfectly: you can’t see the rest of the cast, because Kirk Cameron will not get out of the way

The acting in “Saving Christmas” is kind of difficult to cover. Kirk Cameron is clearly comfortable in his role, because he is absolutely in his element in this movie. The whole world of the movie does seem to bend and contour around him, almost like he is Neo in “The Matrix”, but I feel like that is more of a writing issue than an acting one. He does come off as incredibly smug, but I can’t really consider that a weakness of his performance: his role (and the movie) is smug by design. Writer/director Darren Doane is serviceable enough as Christian, though he spouts some horribly written lines of attempted comedic dialogue, and is portraying one of the least believable / most malleable characters I’ve ever seen on screen. Perhaps it speaks to his credit as an actor that the character still seems genuine despite all of that?

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Darren Doane, writer/director/co-star of “Saving Christmas”

Beyond those two leads, the only other notable that stood out to me was the guy who plays Santa Claus, who has a great menacing look to him, but his line-reads were pretty miserable once he opened his mouth. As for the rest of the cast, the movie doesn’t spend enough time with most of them for me to make judgements either way: outside of the token black stereotype character, they are basically the cardboard cutouts from “Home Alone” that exist solely to create the illusion of a Christmas party.

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Replace Culkin with Kirk Cameron and you pretty much have it

So, would I recommend “Saving Christmas?” Not particularly. Unless you are really into counter-apologetics and find Kirk Cameron’s usual bad arguments entertaining in general, there isn’t a whole lot of fun to have here. Alternatively, if you are particularly fond of watching bad movies for the sake of learning how films go wrong, there is some value to sitting through this. The structure is mind-boggling, and there are a number of sequences that are shockingly incompetent enough for a film buff to appreciate. That said, there are a handful of decent shots in the movie, so it isn’t absolutely horrible top to bottom. The straw man and stereotype-laden writing are generally just tiresome, and don’t produce any entertainment value, so the film just winds up being a dull experience when it comes down to it.

However, I definitely recommend watching this hilarious re-cut of the “Saving Christmas” trailer. Stick with it until the end, you won’t regret it:

IMDb Bottom 100: Battlefield Earth

Battlefield Earth

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Ok, look. Everyone has reviewed “Battlefield Earth”. There is literally no ground left to tread, and no stone left to turn over. Here are just a handful of existing “Battlefield Earth” reviews that are totally worth your time to check out:

If that’s not enough for you, go give a listen to the eviscerating episode of “How Did This Get Made?” on the movie.

Now that you have watched and listened to all of those reviews, you are at the point where I was when I started watching this movie for the first time. I already knew about the hammy acting, the bad effects, the baffling editing, the behind-the-scenes troubles, the Razzies, and the whole cavalcade of incompetencies and bizarrities surrounding the movie. And, really, there isn’t anything else to say. Here is the opening to Roger Ebert’s half-star review, who sums it all up as well as anyone could:

“Battlefield Earth” is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way. The visuals are grubby and drab. The characters are unkempt and have rotten teeth. Breathing tubes hang from their noses like ropes of snot. The soundtrack sounds like the boom mike is being slammed against the inside of a 55-gallon drum.

I will note something about “Battlefield Earth”: it is a near-perfect example of a Hollywood bad movie. I’ve covered a lot of movies in the IMDb Bottom 100, but most of them have been foreign or independent productions. However, there is nothing quite like an all-star failure that had high expectations. I think the only other IMDb Bottom 100 flicks that had a comparable fall are “Gigli” and “Foodfight”, and neither of them were quite as catastrophic or public as “Battlefield Earth”.

This movie was supposed to be *big*. There was tons of money behind it, lots of marketing,  a line of toys, blueprints for sequels, and everything you would expect from a top-tier box office performer. The colossal failure of this movie, particularly in the wake of successful sci-fi flicks like “The Matrix”, was a real shock.

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As you would expect, the behind-the-scenes hubris is palpable when you watch this movie. The overconfidence exudes from every frame, which is part of what makes the failure of this film so damn satisfying in comparison to its low-budget cohorts in the IMDb Bottom 100. Here is a relevant quote from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax member Kevin Murphy, as recorded in “Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies” by Michael Adams:

“When you see a film like Warren Beatty’s “Town & Country”, you can see all of the ego in the world on the screen…Schadenfreude is a classic human emotion. We have a passion for seeing people we hold up as models of success fall down. That goes back to Aristophanes. All the badness just comes off the screen – incompetently made and morally bankrupt, a nice combination.”

Murphy absolutely nails a major part of why it is so much fun to watch a big-budget bad movie. These flicks aren’t necessarily the worst things out there, but they very much failed to meet blockbuster expectations. Movies like “Batman & Robin” and “Spider-Man 3” immediately come to mind in this category: they are nowhere near as incompetent as “Oasis of the Zombies” or “Monster A Go Go”, but they are way more entertaining failures to watch through due to that sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

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Every joke about the ridiculous makeup and costuming has already been made. I guarantee it.

I absolutely recommend “Battlefield Earth” to any bad movie fans. Despite some issues with pacing, the things that are bad about this movie add to the unintentional entertainment value. Objectively, it isn’t realistically bad enough to make an honest Bottom 100 ranking, but I have no issue with it being in the IMDb Bottom 100: there is just to much to hate and enjoy about this movie that it fits right in down there.

IMDb Bottom 100: Baby Geniuses

Baby Geniuses

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One of the great questions surrounding the stalwarts of the IMDb Bottom 100 is “Which is worse, ‘Baby Geniuses’ or ‘Baby Geniuses 2?'” In general, most seem to think less of the Jon Voight led sequel. However, The Nostalgia Critic made an interesting case for the first movie being the lesser. Personally, I agree with NC on this one: I think that despite “Baby Geniuses 2” being the more incompetent movie (which is saying a lot), Jon Voight’s performance manages to make it a more entertaining watch than “Baby Geniuses”.  “Baby Geniuses” does have its own cast of self-debasing actors, most notably Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”) and Kathleen Turner (“War of the Roses”), but neither of them get the same kind of screen time or go to nearly the same over-the-top lengths as Voight does in the sequel, which is strangely kind of a weakness to “Baby Geniuses” when it comes down to a comparison.

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“Baby Geniuses” has one particular sequence that qualifies, surprisingly, as unadulterated nightmare fuel. For whatever reason, a lot of the plot takes place around an amusement park that features a host of remote-controlled animatronic creatures. Among these animatronics are Santa Claus, a terrifying clown that could put Tim Curry to shame, and a horrific 8-foot baby that is equipped with a speaker. During the climax of the movie, the genius babies take over the animatronics to create a distraction, which leads to a horrifying battle between a small army of security personnel and a robotic horde of terrifying animatronics, led by a bellowing giant baby. It is really unsettling and out of place to say the least.

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“Baby Geniuses” mercifully doesn’t resort to the cheesy computer generated effects that the sequels do, but the stunts and voice-over work are aggravatingly obnoxious none-the-less. It goes without saying that the babies weren’t exactly stellar actors, and it isn’t like there was much anyone could do about that (apart from not making a movie about babies). Does that make it forgivable? Absolutely not. The experience of watching babies giggle and flail while adults provide their voices is miserable, even if it was all unavoidable by the picture’s very design.

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There is an interesting question to be asked of the “Baby Geniuses” franchise: who is the target audience of the movies? Are young children supposed to be enjoying these movies? Are babies supposed to be gawking at the noises and colors? Or is the goal of these movies to entertain elderly people who find babies unbearably cute? Honestly, I’m not convinced that the people behind the franchise are totally sure of this. It seems like these movies aim for all of these targets, which is almost certainly part of why they are ultimately so damn weird.

One of the strangest aspects of this movie involves a mysterious maturation process that all of the babies go through when they hit 2 years old (if I recall correctly). Without much warning, it is shown that each baby character loses all of their memories and thoughts as they turn into…actual people? In any case, all of the babies are aware of this process, and they face it not unlike an adult would face the prospect of death. Essentially, the characters are dying: all of their defining characteristics and personalities disappear in the blink of an eye. To say that this is really bizarre to see in a movie about super-intelligent babies is a massive understatement. I did not expect to see babies go through an existential crisis when I turned on this movie. I mean, who would?

If there is anything positive to say about “Baby Geniuses” it is that the plot is very straightforward. It boils down to a simple case of mistaken identity, which is as close as the movie ever gets to being Hitchcock-ian. In any case, there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the plot or the structure of the film: all of the frills on top of it are just shitty.

Overall, it is impossible to recommend “Baby Geniuses” as an enjoyable bad movie. Most of the film is just boring when it comes down to it, and there are very few sequences that prove entertaining. To the sequel’s credit, there are certainly more bafflingly watchable moments to be had there, courtesy of the Academy Award winning actor Jon Voight. The most I can recommend is to find a supercut of highlights of the two movies, or check out detailed video reviews of them.

IMDb Bottom 100: Ator, The Blade Master

Ator, The Blade Master / The Cave Dwellers

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“Ator, The Blade Master” is part of a series of sword and sandal movies, which wasn’t exactly clear to me when I started watching the movie. It strikes me from looking at some of the alt titles that there may have been an attempt to market this more as a standalone movie than as a second installment. Apart from some flashbacks early in the movie, there wasn’t much sense that this was the continuation of a previous story. Admittedly, I have not seen the first of these movies, so I don’t know how much actually carries over to this one.

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Speaking of alternate titles, this movie is probably most famously known as “Cave Dwellers”. This title comes from  a particularly bad TV cut that the MST3k folks got a hold of and featured on the show, in which the intro titles are just blacked out and replaced with the alternates. The episode is one of their best for sure, and the shoddy copy of the film gives them plenty to work with.

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“Ator” has some really fun moments interspersed throughout the movie, including an amazing sequence in which bombs are dropped from a hang-glider on to a castle, but the overall pacing to the movie is absolutely atrocious, and makes something that could be a lot of fun into a pretty dull watch. Even the fight choreography, where it exists, is pretty disappointing, but the shots are all bad enough that it wouldn’t matter much anyway. There are so many mechanical issues with this movie that it absolutely boggles the mind, from cinematography to choreography to editing.

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The acting in “Ator” is a pretty mixed bag: the villain of the story is absolutely amazing, and hams up the role as much as you could possibly image. He not only has bad guy facial hair, but also dons one of the most ridiculous bird helmets that I have ever seen. On the other end of the spectrum is the elderly “Wise One”, who drags the entire movie down with his drawn-out line reads and pauses. Whenever he is on screen, the movie moves along like molasses. In the dead center of the two is the fellow playing the eponymous Ator, who could not look the part any better. He has some ridiculous lines, but he certainly never phones in the performance.

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Right: Bird helmet bad guy. Left: The worst actor in the movie
*poke*
*poke*

I can’t recommend the whole experience of watching “Ator, The Blade Master”, just because the pacing slows down so much in the body of the film. That said, I can definitely recommend checking out a supercut of the MST3k highlights to get the gist of the film, that would be more than worth your time.

As a side note, there is a very similar bad movie out there that I enjoyed much more than “Ator”: “Yor: Hunter of the Future”. The movie stars Reb Brown (from IMDb Bottom 100 flick “Space Mutiny”), and features a hilariously incoherent theme song. Overall, there is a lot more ridiculously entertaining stuff going on in that movie, so it is more of an interesting watch if you are sitting down to enjoy yourself.

IMDb Bottom 100: On Deadly Ground

On Deadly Ground

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“On Deadly Ground” is a grand tale of the many loves of Steven Seagal: explosions, tasseled clothing, wanton murder, the environment, fighting bears, and bad film-making. It is almost like a visual scrapbook that allows one to peer into the mind of a man who some have referred to as an “actor”.

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JACKET-TASSLES

If you cut 45 minutes out of “On Deadly Ground”, you could have an amazingly entertaining (yet horrible) 50 minute TV movie. Unfortunately, this movie is filled with massive lulls in the action where little-to-nothing happens. You are presented with all of the lovely scenery Alaska has to offer, but that sort of spectacle starts to get old after a few minutes without any plot momentum. As with many bad movies, the lack of cinematic pacing is the #1 problem with “On Deadly Ground”, but it is far from the only major flaw with the movie. I will say that it becomes mildly more watchable (and significantly more hilarious) if you watch through all of the dragging scenes at 1.5x speed.

Next on the laundry list of problems with this movie: the acting and directing (read: Steven Seagal). All of the villain characters in “On Deadly Ground” at least do an excellent job of hamming it up and making their screen time count, including notables such as Michael Caine, R. Lee Ermey, and John C. McGinley. However, unfortunately, most of the screen time in this movie is devoted to the never-charismatic, gargantuan wood block that is Steven Seagal. The fact of the matter is that Seagal just cannot act, and his presence never improves a film. In the unfortunate case of “On Deadly Ground”, he is not only the lead of the film, but he was also given the directorial reigns of the movie (for reasons that I will never comprehend). Apparently this decision led to some rather questionable calls on Seagal’s part, which significantly inflated the budget. My guess is that he needed more dramatic explosions, tasseled clothing, and oil for Michael Caine’s hair than initially projected. This movie being Seagal’s directorial debut almost certainly explains the aforementioned poor pacing as well, a not-uncommon issue for first-time directors.

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“On Deadly Ground” has an excellent cast of villains, including R. Lee Ermey’s moustasche…
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…Michael Caine…
"On Deadly Ground" has an excellent cast of villains, including R. Lee Ermey's moustasche
…and John C. McGinley of “Car 54, Where Are You?”

If you have heard anything about “On Deadly Ground”, you have heard about its heavy-handed environmental message and plot. The plot centers around Michael Caine’s character, an oil baron, and his plan to deny land right to a native tribe through the construction of a massive oil refinery-thing.  Steven Seagal, whose character is a member of a local tribe, is introduced to the audience as a high-level employee in Caine’s company, who specializes in resolving oil disasters and other such shenanigans. Seagal turns on Caine and ultimately destroys the refinery for the good of the local peoples, but not before murdering and exploding a significant number of people. In most movies, the credits start rolling after the resolution of the plot. In “On Deadly Ground”, however, the movie doesn’t end until after a significant, rambling lecture on environmentalism delivered by Steven Seagal over a montage of stock footage. It isn’t an epilogue so much as it is a debriefing of the film’s message: just in case you didn’t get that oil companies are bad from Michael Caine’s cartoonishly evil performance. This message isn’t heavy-handed: it is lead-fisted.

For all of the issues with “On Deadly Ground”, it almost classifies as a good-bad movie for me. There are some ridiculously over-the-top deaths, an extensive sequence where Seagal booby-traps a forest for no reason, and all of the villains are just astoundingly silly. Seagal also take a significant vision quest where he fights a bear. All of that aside though, this is a boring and poorly-paced movie, so it is certainly not ideal for a bad movie night. I would recommend looking up a couple of clips from the movie, though. In particular, there is a brilliant game of slaps that features some of the worst, most unexpected dialogue in movie history. I mean, just check this out:

Also, there is a brilliant environmental commercial in the movie, featuring what is sure to be Michael Caine’s career low-point. Fun fact: there is a cameo in there from famed director Irvin Kershner. That has to be one of the least fun ‘fun facts’ in history.

There you go! That’s pretty much all you need to see from “On Deadly Ground”. Don’t forget to recycle.