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Comics 101 for 09/29/2005
Bad Movies I Love!
Everyone loves a great movie. What can be more satisfying than walking out of a theatre with your expectations for a film fully and genuinely met and possibly even exceeded? Especially after throwing down your hard earned eight bucks for the epic, over-hyped, event picture of the season (or week). Good movies, better yet, great movies are always fun to talk about in the lobby afterwards with your friends or on the drive home with your sweetie.
Though what about the bad movies? It only takes a bad one to shut your brain down quickly or leave a bad taste in your mouth (in which case, according to my pal Tom Mandrake, those kinds of films are better accompanied with a pitcher of beer). Well I'm coming clean and here to say even bad movies can be great. In fact, I love bad movies (to a degree) and I can usually find at least *something* worthwhile or memorable in the flops, turkeys and stinkers of the silver screen that make me come back for seconds. I believe bad movies can even be more fun to talk about, at least the ones that are so bad they are actually good.
There are definitely degrees of 'bad' when it comes to movies. Some merely are disappointing. Some are so bad they are laughable. And some are so terrible they make you wish you could have the last two hours of your life back. I believe that certain bad films actually exist somewhere in between these realms.
I was discussing with some friends the etiquette of 'bad' cinema, movies that we actually have enjoyed but are ashamed of to admit. I came up with the following list of guilty pleasures from my own sordid love of film and decided to share my picks with you here.
Let's start from the top (or is it the bottom?) of the barrel...
Tango and Cash - An action thriller/comedy that's the epitome of bad 80's action movie cliche's and starring two of the best, well known action movie stars of the 80's. As ridiculous as this movie is (especially the atrocious finale face-off in the monster truck tricked out with missiles) at times it's actually hilarious (and even on purpose) with some genuinely funny dialogue and comedic moments between tough guys Stallone and Russell. And Jack Palance is just plain funny, whether on purpose or not. It's probably a low point on both superstar actor's resume's but it's worth checking out if you happen to like or appreciate either of them for their more important contributions to cinema like Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China, First Blood or...
Cobra - which brings me to the next bad movie on my list that I have a soft spot for. Man, is this one a turkey but it has some of the best one liners *ever* in an action movie (move over Schwarzenegger). For example, when Marion Cobretti (Stallone) is in the grocery store trying to "negotiate" with the psycho gang member armed with explosives-
Gang member, "Back off man or I'll blow this place up!"
Cobra, "That's OK. I don't shop here."
Or how about the classic, 'You're the disease and I'm the cure'.
You just can't get away with lines like that seriously in today's cinema. And the car/motorcycle chase towards the end of the movie, though nowhere near as epic, classic or entertaining as The Road Warrior, makes this movie worth watching just for the absurdity of violence alone.
Along a similiar vein of absurd violence...
Commando - I'm a sucker for most of Arnold's flicks (except for End of Days, The Sixth Day and Conan the Destroyer -yawn). As a child of the 80's I grew up on Arnold and Sly's films of over the top heroics. This film, though not as pretentious and more over the top than Running Man (another enjoyable turkey) is a total exercise in excess maiming and destruction. If you like to watch things blow up and see scores of mercenaries get dispatched in a variety of horrible dismemberments and impalements, then this is the movie for you. In fact, this one could almost be considered a "horror movie" just for those scenes alone. Throw in a cameo by Bill Paxton for good measure and sit back and watch the carnage unfold. And the movie actually has a great and memorable score by James (Aliens, The Abyss and Braveheart) Horner to tap your feet to while the body count escalates.
The Fifth Element - I'm convinced this is a bad movie masquerading as an original roller coaster ride of energetic creativity. I also believe that Luc Besson did indeed come up with the plot and the script for this movie when he was sixteen years old, as he so proudly and once publicly stated. It's peppered with glorified, teenage inspired, typical sci-fi/action moments.
But, admittedly, the teenager in me actually lives for those moments.
I agree with my friend Nicky and as he puts it, "Bruce Willis is actually good in the part of Korben Dallas and transcends his character by portraying someone who doesn't belong in that 'cartoon-ized' future era. Which is why he finds himself developing a bond with Leeloo who, as the pinacle of this cartoonized (reality) and (is an) impossibly (gorgeous) alien figure, is as estranged from that universe as he is. The subtleties contrasting with the in your face elements Luc Besson uses to protray the future in a screaming orgy of color and excess are amazing."
Indeed! And speaking of screaming orgies of excess...
Armageddon - My buddy Justin can't quite understand why I like this movie... and neither can I exactly. In fact, I'll argue with anyone who honestly thinks this is genuinely a great movie. And I can't even really stand Michael Bay films (I haven't brought myself to check out The Island yet, sorry Obi-Wan).
Though it's just not quite as obnoxious as Bad Boys, as headache inducing as The Rock or even as mediocre as Pearl Harbor but it does go so annoyingly for all the button-pushing, flag waving, Nike commercial-looking imagery and scenes it can muster. Even for all of the attention deficit editing that Bay inflicts upon our eyeballs (which is almost *criminal*) there's enough charm and emotion that resonates from the actors (most prominently Bruce Willis who thankfully happens to be in most of the scenes of the movie) that I just can't help but like it. Liv Tyler kinda makes it easy on the eyes too.
The 'rough' and 'red' necks surrounding Willis and rounding out the macho cast (Buscemi, Duncan, Patton, Wilson, Thornton and heck, even Affleck) all pull their weight and rise to the occassion here. This tried and true concept of a bunch of irregulars on a do or die mission with impossible odds could have actually been a "great" movie in the hands of another competent director. Maybe someone who could hold a camera in place for longer than three seconds. Instead, we get a badly directed and hyper edited movie with a respectable cast and plot that deserves to be better than what it really is. An overly commericalized, massochistic music video experience of cinema that's nonetheless enjoyable... somehow.
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996 remake) - This movie is so bizarre, not in a good way necessarily, but I think that's what makes it so interesting to me. You can just see the principle actors thinking 'What the (insert expletive here) am I doing in this picture?' I don't even think Brando is really even acting in this one. They probably filmed this on his own island so the producers would make sure he would just show up. And I wouldn't had put it past him that he probably had a little naked man with a tail who payed duet on his piano. Brando is just believably weird and creepy here. It's fun watching Kilmer slowy go insane throughtout the movie because I get the feeling he probably did for real too. A clueless David Thewlis is kind of just exists in this picture and probably is thinking "everyone IS going crazy". Ron 'Hellboy' Perlman is actually cool for his few scenes as the "Ram-man" leader of the man-animals.
But what makes this movie watchable every time it comes on cable for me is Fairuza Balk. Meow (literally, see the movie)! I love her in anything she does. Something about her that just captivates me. I think it's her eyes, lips, raven dark hair, the sexy, whiny, raspy voice... OK, I could go on but I digress.
This movie has a great moody and haunting score (a soundtrack I actually own on CD). With it's beautiful scenery and the scenery chewing actors, this film is an experiment (an experiment gone bad perhaps) in viewing and not for everyone.
Just remember, "He who breaks the law (or watches this movie) goes back to the house of pain!"
Speaking of Fairuza...
The Craft - Cheesy fun but regardless a bad or perhaps just mediocre movie that, for better or worse, undoubtedly inspired recent fantasy TV fare like Charmed. Also starring are Robin End of Days Tunney along with Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich of future Scream fame. I like this one alot mainly for Ms. Balk though. She's captivating as the bad seed of the group of young witches hellbent on acceptance and revenge. So sue me.
House on Haunted Hill (1999 remake) - I really like Geoffrey Rush as the Vincent Price character in this movie though he comes off more like "Snidely Whiplash". He indeed shines (pun intended) here and you can tell he's playing it all for laughs. But he instills into the character enough evil and believability that you still invest in his character and just can't wait 'til he gets "it". He also has great chemistry with sultry Famke Janssen in their scenes together and the ensemble cast make the most out of the decent horror-fare, haunted house material.
I liked this much better than the other William Castle remake Thirteen Ghosts. That one was OK but not enjoyable enough for me to call it a "bad movie I love", just more of a "bad movie". Though the creature designs and ghost effects were pretty cool and the trap design of the house itself was interesting in that remake. They really should remake the Castle classics Homicidal or The Tingler. As fun as those flicks are I would pay to see those get updated and makeover treatment.
John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars and Vampires - Now what elevates these from just bad movies to bad movies I love and kinda love respecitvely are Natasha Henstridge and James Woods (again, respectively). Heck, even Ice Cube in GoM is enjoyable. Not so much for his bad acting but for the pompous swaggering and bad attitude he usually brings to his characters in films. It works well enough for him here.
But Natasha actually acts circles around everyone in this film and looks sooo good kicking butt at the same time. Sorry Jason (The Transporter, Snatch, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) Statham. I like you in this movie but she steals the show here. A glorified cameo by eternally sexy and tough Pam Grier, though she comes off quite man-ish here, rounds out a decent ensemble cast.
And Jimmy Woods in Vampires is so cool and funny in this movie that without him this flick would have derailed even further than it already had. He plays his character to a "T", almost too over the top but not quite. And it even features the beautiful (and scantily clad) Sheryl Lee to help get you though the painful Baldwin brother scenes.
Honorable mentions and other guilty pleasures -
They Live - This Carpenter movie turns into a wrestling match for fifteen minutes halfway through the plot for no other reason than to have "Rowdy" Roddy Piper show off his skills... and to get Keith David to wear a pair of special sunglasses. I love it.
The Ninth Gate - This Roman Polanski misfire is truly a gem just for watching Johnny Depp go to town with his 'book detective' character. And Frank Langella, who was actually great as Skeletor in Masters of the Universe (though that one is so bad it doesn't make my list - sorry!), is reliable and enjoyable as the satanic-minded book collector.
Con Air - See also The Rock and Gone in Sixty Seconds for similarily guilty, face-wincing, brain numbing Nicolas Cage experiences.
And last but not least,
Beastmaster - No film does bad better than this movie. If you haven't seen this epic masterpiece of fantasy then shame on you. Though you should be able to catch it on a weekend afternoon just about *anywhere* on the planet with basic cable service.
That's all for now but maybe I'll add to this article in the future. I know there must be dozens more since I really do enjoy bad movies, some may be just so bad I probably blocked them from memory for the moment.
See ya next week for my annual all-month long Comics 101 Halloween edition features!
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