15 “Terrible” Movies I Love (or at least like)

•March 11, 2013 • 2 Comments

I go on and on about the movies I love and hate…and I’d say I’m usually on the side of the critics.  However, I’m not a bandwagon critic-lover either.  I, like everyone, have films which were reviewed poorly in my bank of beloveds.  Even some “bad” movies have something redeeming about them…or perhaps they’re just fond memories, hence why most of these are from the 1980s (when I was growing up).  So here are 15 of my favorite “terrible” films.  What are your favorite clunkers?

These ratings are based on Rotten Tomatoes, with the first percentage in parentheses being Critics, and the second being Audiences who like it.  If there was no rating, I went with IMDB ratings.  We’ll start with the “highest” critically rated, and go down from there…

Executive Decision – 1996 (63%/51%)

This is the rare movie that audiences hated more than critics.  To this day, I can’t figure out why.  Call me crazy, but I actually like this more than Air Force One.  And if you’re thinking this was a ripoff, it actually came out one year earlier.  The cast, including Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, and Oliver Platt, is stellar, and the action is edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Iron Eagle – 1986 (50% Audience; IMDB 5/10)

I was surprised to see that Rotten Tomatoes didn’t have one critic review of this movie.  But nonetheless, this is one of those mid-80s flicks that you know isn’t that great as you’re watching…but you just can’t take your eyes off of it.  Seriously?  A recent high school graduate finds a way to steal planes from the Air Force, flies to the Middle East with one other guy, and rescues his dad?  And his firing aim suddenly gets better when accompanied by rock music?  It’s beyond implausible!  However, somehow, they pull it off.  Oh, and this is Larry B. Scott’s first of THREE appearances on this list.  🙂

Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo – 1984 (IMDB 4.3/10)

I know a lot of kids in the mid-80s who were sucked in to the hype of breakdancing.  The three kids in my house, including myself, all were.  This movie, along with its stronger predecessor, were staples on our family TV.  Part 2 is more of a musical than a serious movie like the first one, which instantly makes it more dated, silly, embarrassing, and cheesy.  Isn’t it great?

Spacecamp – 1986 (40%/46%)

You have a lot of your major ’80s players here – Lea Thompson, Kate Capshaw, Tom Skerritt…..Larry B. Scott!!!  You even have Leaf Phoenix, who would later re-name himself Joaquin.  For a kid who loved the space program, it was pretty cool to see a group of kids get launched in to space because of a silly, overly literal robot named Jinx who can “shake a leg”.

Tango and Cash – 1989 (39%/53%)

Sylvester Stallone.  Kurt Russell.  What more is there to say?  Although the script is sub-par, these two actually had excellent chemistry on screen.  Jack Palance’s villain is a bit over the top (no pun intended, Sly…), but again, his character is a victim of the script.  The ending sequence is more like a video game than reality, but who cares!  Overall, it’s an enjoyable buddy cop action flick.

Who’s Harry Crumb? – 1989 (30%/43%)

John Candy, although popular among audiences, took his share of critical beatings throughout his career.  This was a complete ripoff of Fletch, in terms of the constant changes in disguise and the type of humor they were going for.  It’s not a great movie by any means, but it does have its belly-laugh moments.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – 1988 (26%/59%)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a HUGE fan of the original Halloween.  So when this came out in 1988, fans of the series were stoked; especially after the non-Myers sequel #3 – Season of the Witch.  Given, horror sequels are largely awful, but this one was a triumphant return, in my opinion.  The dialogue is clunky, but the scares are there.  It also has the best ending in the series, aside from the original.

Mannequin – 1987 (22%/53%)

This is a flick that I’m truly embarrassed to like.  Even as a nine-year-old when it was released in 1987, I knew it just shouldn’t be for me.  Perhaps Kim Cattrall kept me aroused.  Perhaps I was one of the few who thought Andrew McCarthy was a decent comedic actor.  But either way, I can still watch it from start to finish and be at least mildly amused.

License to Drive – 1988 (18%/58%)

This is the best movie starring both of the Coreys aside from The Lost Boys.  I know that isn’t saying much, but this movie is actually really funny.  Sure, it’s a complete ripoff of its better predecessors in the teen comedy genre.  But who cares?  If you don’t take it too seriously, and simply enjoy it for what it is, it’s worth the ride to Archie’s.

With Honors – 1994 (17%/70%)

Panned by many a critic for being predictable and sappy, it’s one that a majority of audiences actually love (see above).  Is it Joe Pesci’s best performance?  Not by a long shot.  Brendan Fraser’s, though?  Hmmmmm.  I think it serves up a lot to think about morally, yet does it in a way that keeps you comfortable and entertained.

Airborne – 1993 (17%/58%)

There are only a few recognizable faces here – Edie McClurg, as well as very early roles for Seth Green and Jack Black.  The cheese factor is high through most of the movie.  But the rollerblading race at the end is awesome…until you get the fairy tale happy ending at the race’s conclusion.  Still worth a watch.

Armed and Dangerous – 1986 (14%/38%)

This oft-forgotten John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Meg Ryan comedy was in constant rotation on HBO in the late ’80s.  A cop (Candy) and a lawyer (Levy) team up and get jobs as security guards.  A whole lot of shenanigans happen from there, and many of them are worth a chuckle.

Wildcats – 1986 (13%/50%)

Goldie Hawn coaches an urban football team.  Sound silly?  Of course it is!  But it’s also very funny, despite the overwhelming amount of critics who disagree with me.

The Toy – 1982 (11%/55%)

The premise is completely insulting to African Americans – a rich white guy (Jackie Gleason) rents a “toy” (Richard Pryor) for his son.  However, the movie becomes more about the power of money and greed than anything black or white.  Pryor is great in this role, and provides the audience with some of his funniest moments on film.

Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise – 1987 (6%/39%)

(Larry B. Scott #3!!!)  I won’t beat around the bush.  This movie is terrible.  The original?  A classic!!  This one?  Awful.  But even though the story is exactly the same, only done worse…I still think it’s funny.  In terms of terrible sequels, I laughed more at this than I did at The Hangover Part II.  A lot more.  So that has to count for something.

Advertisements

Let it Show! Let it Show! Let it Show!

•December 22, 2012 • 5 Comments

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to pop in your favorite holiday-themed movies!  I do it each and every December, and definitely have strong opinions on which are worthy of the honor of being spun in my Blu-Ray player.  Aren’t strong opinions the very reason why blogs were created?  Here is a small selection of some of my favorites, along with some I wish would simply go away.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

It’s a Wonderful Life;  A Christmas Story;  Love Actually

Not only are they well-written movies with amazing characters; they also embody what (in my mind) is the true spirit of Christmas.  I would even rank It’s a Wonderful Life as one of the 10 best films ever.

WORTHY COMPETITORS

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation;  Elf;  Home Alone

Place these in the goofier, less serious category of yuletide classics.  I know people who find at least one, if not all three, annoying in some way.  My only explanation is that they must have lost the child within themselves at some point.

CHRISTMAS MOVIES?????

The Ref;  While You Were Sleeping;  Gremlins;  Die Hard

These all run the gamut in terms of genre.  You go from Denis Leary cracking one-liners and posing as a psychiatrist to Sandra Bullock as a subway booth collector.  From little green monsters to German terrorists.  In order, you’ll laugh your ass off, get soft and mushy, be slightly disgusted, and finally filled with adrenaline.  And the one central point – they all take place during Christmas.  “Now I have a machine gun.  Ho ho ho.”

LUMPS OF COAL

The Polar Express;  Jingle All the Way;  Jack Frost

Am I really putting the new “classic” Polar Express on the same lowly level as Ah-nold running through toy stores and Michael Keaton reincarnated as a snowman?  Not quite.  But as “pretty” as the film is, I just cannot get in to it story-wise.  I know some people love it…but to me it seems very self-indulgent and wonderful when it’s just…not.  Regardless, I see all three of these on TV each and every year, and avoid them like the plague.

 

Enjoy whatever your favorite flicks might be, and have a Merry Christmas!  I leave you with the one and only George Bailey…

To hell with Sight and Sound. Here’s my list.

•August 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

My reaction whenever a “Top” list comes out.

The 2012 version of the Sight & Sound top 250 movies list, compiled by combining the top 10 lists of major critics once per decade, was recently released.  As is the case with most “lists” that come out, I disagreed with most of it.   Given, I’m not such a film aficionado that I’ve seen most of the foreign films on the list.  I do feel, though, that I’m quite well-versed with American film 1950s and onward…and I saw some GLARING omissions.  You can see the full list here.

You may have heard that Vertigo overtook Citizen Kane as the #1 film of all time.  This, I have no problem with.  However, when I see a list where Zoolander gets 2 votes, while other more influential (not to mention funnier) comedies like Animal House or Monty Python and the Holy Grail are omitted, I feel that I have to speak up.  When I see a list where Steven Spielberg’s A.I. receives 3 votes, the same amount as Raiders of the Lost Ark, and while the Best Picture winning Schindler’s List receives 0, I feel that I have to make my own damn list.  So while I do respect the views of critics, and I happen to agree with them a majority of the time, some of them are just dead wrong…hence the inspiration for my first blog post since the birth of my son (parents, I’m sure you understand).

I could make a list of my “favorites”, but this list is different.  If Sight and Sound asked me for a 10 Best list, I would take the following main things into consideration: 1) Was the film groundbreaking/ridiculously influential and why?  Is it so good that it will be impossible to duplicate/exceed?  To me, this is the most important criterion.  2) Would I change a single thing about it (story, characters, directing, music/score, cast, locations, etc.)?  3) Did the film perfectly achieve what it set out to accomplish?  4) Does it stand as a perfect snapshot for that moment in time, or in some cases, is the film ahead of its time?  5) Has it stood (or will it stand) the test of time?  Will you be able to watch it in 50 years and still admire its greatness?  6) Regardless of settings and situations, am I invited to be IN the movie?  In other words, can I relate to the character(s), and DO I CARE?  Am I invited to experience this situation alongside the characters? 7) Does it have a purpose?  Does it make you think?  Does it have the “what would I do, how would I react” effect?   and 8) Does it embrace the all-encompassing art of filmmaking?  Does everything about this movie make me want to sit back and watch other similarly great movies for the remainder of my natural-born life?  Uninterrupted.

Of course, a list like this is virtually impossible to make.  Everyone’s will be different.  10 best of all time?  How do you not flood the list with your favorite directors and filmmakers?  It might be easier to do it within genres, but with this list, you must compare apples to oranges.  So if you look at this and think, “huh?”, remember my criteria, and remember that some of these movies may not even make my “favorite” top 10 (or 20…or 30…) list.  This one is a different animal all together.

So here it is – my list of the 10 “best” films ever made (in no particular order):

Rear Window (1954 – Hitchcock)

GoodFellas (1990 – Scorsese)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 – Kubrick)

Pulp Fiction (1994 – Tarantino)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982 – Heckerling)

Psycho (1960 – Hitchcock)

Jaws (1975 – Spielberg)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946 – Capra)

The Tree of Life (2011 – Malick)

Star Wars (1977 – Lucas)

OK.  Argue.

Super 8 – The Best Moviegoing Experience of the Summer

•June 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Yes, yes…I’m back from the “dead”.  Let’s just say I’ve been ridiculously busy.  When I last left  you, I had told you to expect a Scream 4 review in the “coming days”.  But rather than a full review on that one, here’s my short and sweet opinion.  It was better than Scream 3…but that’s it.  The movie is a victim of the smarter audience that the original helped to create.  A scene in a parking garage???  Really?  But as silly and predictable as the movie was, in the end it was the characters we came to love through the first three movies that saved it from a failing mark.  So in short, it was watchable, but nothing special at all.

But enough about mediocre films.  Instead, let’s talk about a really good one – Super 8 – the new throwback flick written and directed by J.J. Abrams, and produced by Steven Spielberg.  Some may say that I would love this movie no matter what because of the nostalgic Spielbergian (sorry, Steve…I know you hate that term) value.  However, I beg to differ.  I found myself being more critical of the movie because I AM such a fan of the early Spielberg films.

The film, in short, is set in 1979 Ohio, where our lead character immediately experiences some tragedy (I won’t spoil anything).  It centers around a group of young filmmakers who attempt to film a scene to their zombie movie at a local train station.  However, the kids witness the train literally running off the rails, and discover that this disaster is no accident.  In fact, it is eventually revealed that a monster of some sort is lurking around town after surviving that horrific derailment.

Right from the get-go, this film looks, sounds, and feels like a lost Spielberg movie.  Abrams does an excellent job of paying homage to his mentor through his direction (shooting kids at their height level, and adults from the same level; sweeping shots of towns from afar), writing in interesting and lovable child characters, and drawing out the element of the unknown.  I saw elements of Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T., and The Goonies as I watched this one.  But to those of you thinking that Abrams just “ripped off” the entire Spielberg playbook, I have two reactions: 1) Who hasn’t?  Everyone since Spielberg has been influenced by him.  2) Anyone else who has tried has not done it this well.

The kids are the focal point of the movie, and by far the most enthralling thing about it.  Joel Courtney, who plays the lead named Joe Lamb, is very good in his first-ever role.  Riley Griffiths plays Charles, the director of the movie-within-a-movie, and provides the audience with a countless amount of laughable moments.  I have to say, though – the child actor I was most impressed with was Elle Fanning – younger sister of Dakota, and just about the only female in the entire movie.  During the scene with the train wreck, Fanning’s character, Alice, puts on a fantastic dramatic performance as an actress in the zombie flick the kids are filming.  Even aside from that, though, she really stands out as the true talent of the child actors in the movie.

With all the strengths this movie has going for it, there are some weaknesses.  Unlike a true Spielberg movie, the adult characters were not interesting, and too much of the film focused on them.  Abrams attempts to force in side-plots exploring the issues between the parents and the kids.  For me, they didn’t work.  Perhaps if the adult characters had a shred of likeability, that may have been different.  In addition, the monster of the film, while somewhat interesting in backstory, doesn’t pan out to be all it’s cracked up to be.  As a result, the final act of the film suffers a bit, as the focus is shifted to the beast and away from the dialogue-driven kids, which is what made the first 2/3 of the film great.

All of this being said, though, I still did enjoy the ending and left feeling satisfied.  Overall, I would say that this is most likely the best moviegoing experience you’ll have this summer.  It truly brings back many of the elements that Spielberg established in “summer blockbusters” throughout the 70s and 80s.  It’s not just about the explosions, the CGI, the big movie stars (there are none here, which only helps its cause), or ADHD-driven speed that so many of today’s summer movies suffer from.  This film actually has a great STORY – something that has more recently been abandoned in favor of on-screen glitz.  When you leave the theatre, you will feel motivated and amazed, rather than exhausted with a headache. I give it 4 out of 5 stars, and highly recommend it.  Give your rating below.

Why is Home Theater a Winner?

•April 19, 2011 • 1 Comment

Is this guy the reason you'd rather stay home?

Not to my surprise (although I did expect a FEW more people to stay old-school with me), home theaters beat out the experience of actually going to a movie theatre in our latest poll.  I’d like to follow up on this discussion by asking the simple question – Why?  I completely understand the appeal of staying at home and enjoying a similar experience.  I’d just like to know, though, if it’s the convenience of your home system that’s keeping you home…OR is it the inconvenience of the actual theatre experience?  Please vote in the poll below to let the world know why the theater just doesn’t appeal to you like a relaxing night under your own roof.  If you don’t see an answer that suits you, feel free to add your own.

PS – Movie reviews will be returning soon.  Look for a writeup of Scream 4 in the coming days.

Theatre or Home Theater?

•April 6, 2011 • 3 Comments

Over the years, more and more ways to watch movies have flown in to the mainstream.  When I was a kid in the ’80s, the choice was simple: either stay at home and watch on our tiny 4:3 television, or drive out to the the grand 16:9 screen in a local theatre.  There was no Netflix.  No On Demand.  The only other option was a video store.  Now, though?  The TVs are bigger, and so are the movie theatres.  iPods, portable disc players, and home computers are all very common places to watch movies today as well.  I believe that it’s solely the convenience of the latter three, though, that even make them relevant to this conversation.  I must admit that I had a great experience watching Inception on my iPod Touch during a recent flight.  It was much better than struggling to peer over a seat and someone’s huge head to see the screen.  However, I can’t see someone actually choosing that over a larger screen that you don’t have to physically hold on to.  The real conversation here is that with the advent of HDTVs and surround sound systems, many people seem to be abandoning theatres for their living rooms.

I am in the process of installing a 7.1 surround system in my living room to help compliment my 52″ HDTV and Blu Ray player.  I love the idea that I can come home from work and pop in my copy of Inglourious Basterds as an alternative to going to my local movie house.  I will say, however, that this amazing setup will NEVER replace the experience of going to a theatre.  Perhaps it’s because as I grew up, “going to the movies” was a special experience – an escape from the confinement of your home in favor of a larger screen, louder sound, and snacks from the concession stand.  I still make it a point to try to have this experience every time I walk through the doors of a movie theatre.

So, in short, I will never abandon the theatre…but at the same time, I’ll also never stop building up my home theater experience.  What’s your opinion?  Would you rather patronize your local theatre, or has the home theater experience and the ability to save a few bucks completely won you over?  Vote below NOW!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day ‘Once’ More

•March 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the true and honorary Irish today!  Just a short post, as I must attend to the pint of Guinness waiting in my fridge.  Irish films don’t take up much real estate in the grand scheme of things (sorry, My Left Foot fans…).  However, there was one little sleeper film out of Ireland in 2007 that really caught my interest.

Once is, at its core, a unique modern-day love story, set in Dublin, between a struggling street musician (Glen Hansard) and an immigrant from the Czech Republic (Marketa Irglova).  Aside from being a remarkably well-told tale, though, it also happens to feature some of the best music of the past decade.  This tiny gem, which was produced for only $150k, has been classified as a “musical” by many due to the full-length songs featured throughout.  Do not be fooled by this label.  I personally don’t enjoy most musicals in the classic sense of the word, such as Moulin Rouge or ChicagoOnce is a very different animal.  While it still tells its story through dialogue mixed in with the occasional song, the primary focus of the movie is its story – not a bunch of ridiculous “showstoppers”.

I’m not going to go in to a full analysis of the story, characters, etc. today.  All you need to know is that there is nothing I can say (or write) that will do this film justice.  It’s an A+ experience from beginning to end.  Do yourself a favor and add this to your Netflix queue.  Your Irish eyes (and ears) will be left smiling.