I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve skewed negative in a lot of our recent Roundtables and polls here in The Bonus View, with topics asking what’s the worst movie, which director is more incompetent, and so forth. To counter-balance that a little, let’s try to acknowledge that even some of the worst movies ever made often have some good quality or redeeming characteristic. That’s what we’re looking for in this week’s Roundtable: Good things in otherwise bad movies.
Since our Blu-ray reviewer Nate suggesting this topic, we’ll let him lead things off.
‘Not Another Teen Movie‘ isn’t exactly inspired comedy, even if it easily trumps the modern spoof atrocities put out by those morons Seltzer and Friedberg. Movie references are thrown together haphazardly, cameos are wasted, and there’s little sense of continuity, point or purpose. However, the soundtrack – lordy oh lordy is it awesome. To get an ’80’s feeling, the majority of the music in the film is made up of covers of hits from the era featuring modern bands, some putting entirely new twists or spins on the recognizable tracks. While Marilyn Manson’s take on “Tainted Love” or Orgy’s “Blue Monday” cover may be the only ones to find their way to radio (Orgy’s from the album release, which predated the film), there’s still plenty of awesomeness to be found. The Smashing Pumpkins perform “Never Let Me Down Again” (stolen shamelessly from the Depeche Mode cover album “Music for the Masses”), System of a Down tweaks “Metro,” Phantom Planet improves on “Somebody’s Baby,” and even Good Charlotte (horrid band that it is) improves on “If You Leave” (amongst numerous other tracks performed by the band). Best of all, Goldfinger takes on the Euro pop hit “99 Red Balloons,” with a bilingual take (while a later game soundtrack would feature a solely English version) that absolutely rocks, besting both of Nena’s later revisions of her world-famous ballad.
The music cues in the film itself are wasted sometimes, no doubt. But when the album release of your soundtrack has enough gold in it to be able to leave out the covers of “Turning Japanese,” “Don’t You Forget About Me” or “I Want Candy,” or music from Ben Folds, Robert Smith, Everclear, Smash Mouth (who were huge at the time) and The Cars, you know that you have something special. Few films are remembered more for their soundtracks than the films themselves, and ‘Not Another Teen Movie’ earns this spot alongside the likes of ‘Lost Highway’, ‘Singles’, ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’, or ‘Spawn’.
At the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Aaron and I went to see Gaspar Noé’s 161-minute-long shock-drama ‘Enter The Void‘ which is shot entirely in the first-person perspective. After a drug-induced trip that looks like nothing more than an extended screensaver, we follow our central character through the streets of Tokyo to a small club. While buying drugs in the rundown bathroom, cops raid the building and our central character is shot in the chest through the bathroom door. I’ve never been in a drug raid, let alone shot in the chest, but after watching the first forty minutes of ‘Enter The Void’ and seeing the world through the eyes of someone else, I sure feel like I have. It’s shame that everything else that follows the shooting is overindulgent “artistic” garbage that strives to hold your attention through the shocking images of rape, abortions and sex from the inside.
Teddy from ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence‘ I want that bear.
I’ve gone back and forth on this movie over the years. I’ve tried to like it. It has its moments. But whenever I contemplate a repeat viewing, I just think back to the mecha carnage and the emotionally abusive tone of the whole movie, and I never want to see the damn thing again.
Of course, then I think of Teddy. What an awesome, awesome little character. He’s the best part of the entire movie. I wish he’d get his own cinematic tale one day.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I really, really wanted to like ‘The Mutant Chronicles‘. It’s a hyper-ambitious post-apocalyptic/steampunk/action/sci-fi flick, and rather than leaning on cartoonish CGI like a lot of low-budget epics would, its filmmakers created this world through classic matte paintings and dazzlingly elaborate, hand-crafted miniatures. It was a long, painstaking process, and when I look at the models in the Blu-ray disc’s making-of doc, I can’t help but marvel at the craftsmanship that went into them. The problem is that none of it works once they’re dropped into the actual movie. The live-action actors look like Colorforms sloppily placed over these gorgeous models. They never convincingly blend in with their backgrounds, and that makes it really tough for me as a viewer to escape into the thing. The acting’s stilted and wooden straight across the board. The dialogue creaks and groans. I never really cared about anything that was going on. So, yeah, the movie’s terrible. But boy, the miniatures are great!
Since the Roundtable we did about bad directors making good movies, I can’t get ‘Cutthroat Island‘ out of my head. It’s just a terrible, terrible movie. It left the careers of its two leads (Matthew Modine and Geena Davis) in its wake. There’s almost nothing redeemable about it, except… the movie’s score. John Debney’s original score for the movie is fantastic – so much so that I wonder if it was made for the wrong movie. It’s energetic, lively, and lends itself perfectly to a swashbuckling adventure.
It’s not that ‘Spider-Man 3‘ is notably bad. The third installment in an already lame franchise didn’t leave me physically aching like the ‘Transformers’ movies do, but it didn’t thrill or delight me either. It just sort of happened. For a big budget movie, it’s pretty unmemorable. Seriously, how much of the movie do you actually remember? Mention the flick to most people and the first thing they’ll say is, “Emo Spider-Man.” And why shouldn’t they? The absolutely hilarious Peter Parker makeover and dance scenes are the only parts of the movie that really pay off. The emo hair, the dancing, and of course the accidental Mary Jane punch, are the only truly redeemable scenes in the movie. The rest is just mindless action schlock.
I’ve written about my distaste for ‘Inland Empire’ recently. The movie is David Lynch’s jump-the-shark moment, and I find that profoundly depressing. What’s especially disappointing about it is just how damn good Laura Dern is and how much she’s wasted in the film. The actress and Lynch are old friends, she’s worked with him a few times in the past and has done some of her best work under his direction, and she clearly trusts him implicitly. Dern puts everything she’s got into this movie and knocks out a fantastic performance (or really, performances, since she seems to be playing several different characters at various moments). In the midst of all the random, meaningless nonsense that Lynch throws willy-nilly at the screen, she’s the only thing holding whatever semblance of narrative there is together, and she’s absolutely riveting for the entire three hours. Unfortunately, even that isn’t enough to overcome the movie’s many other faults. I wish it were. I really do.