Thursday, August 28, 2014

6 Bad Movies With One Good Thing About Them

Title picture:  Paramount Pictures, Hasbro

Sometimes, positively freaking wonderful movies are made.  They’re universally acclaimed.  They’re considered classics for all time.  They’re quoted by college students 20 years later.  They unite young and old.  They bring families together.  They sweep the Oscars.  Hell, they might even bring world peace and cure cancer.

Much more often, however, movies just plain suck.  They’re poorly written, poorly directed, have horrible acting, whatever.  I hear some peoples’ mothers have told them that if they can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, so I’m going to remind everyone that even bad movies can have good bits in them.  Here are six movies that I know aren’t the greatest things to ever grace the silver screen.  (The screens have really been more of an off-white in every theater I’ve seen...)  Bad or not, these movies all have something in them that I still like.  To me, these things at least partially redeem the movies from being complete shit.

(Oh, and there might be spoilers if you haven’t seen any of the following movies and want to.)

6:  The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Warner Bros.

Wait a minute?  This was a bad movie?  Well, no, not really.  I’m ordering this list based on the movies’ IMDB ratings (as of this writing), with the worst in first place.  This one’s #6 since it actually has a rating of 8.6, which I would call very good for IMDB.  Nevertheless, I decided it was worth including here since I get the impression that pretty much everyone is in agreement that it didn’t live up to its predecessor, The Dark Knight.  That movie was one hell of a tough act to follow, but that doesn’t really excuse some of the weirdnesses of The Dark Knight Rises, does it?  It drags at times, Batman is barely in it compared to the first two movies, and there are some plot elements that really make no sense.  (Check the internet; there’s a ton of problems.) 

For me, there’s one thing that I absolutely love about this movie, however:  Bane.  So what if he’s hard to understand; he’s freaking awesome!  I don’t know much about Batman other than the Nolan movies, so I can’t write for how cartoon or comic fans might feel about Tom Hardy’s portrayal, but I loved it.  Bane single-handedly carries this movie for me.  He exudes power in every scene he’s in.  He truly seems unstoppable.  I love his initial one-sided ass kicking of Batman.  On top of it, I think Tom Hardy did a good job of acting with his eyes and body language, making up for a good bit of his face being hidden by that mask.  I can’t really give any objective, analytical reasons for why Bane is so great as a villain.  He hits just the right spots for me, and that’s more than enough.

5:  The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Universal Pictures

Yeah...  This movie.  I know… it’s got problems.  It completely changes tone from Pitch Black, for one.  Sure, Riddick and the other characters who survive Pitch Black all make appearances, but the plot is so far out of left field that it’s not even funny.  All of a sudden we’ve got these Necromongers who apparently possess better technology than just about everyone else, given their energy weapons and such, and also seem to even have a slightly paranormal nature.  Riddick’s actually from some apparently very special planet to the point where it looks like he might have superhuman abilities.  And Pitch Black certainly never felt like the kind of movie that would have an “Air Elemental” in it.  I figure this sheer departure from its predecessor is probably what most consider to be a big problem with The Chronicles of Riddick. 

I was surprised by how different this movie was from Pitch Black, but I was able to accept it.  It is science fiction; why can’t crazy space inquisitors come out of nowhere like that?  Of course, I was always biased towards liking this movie.  For one, I like the character Riddick.  So no matter what, I’m probably going to be going into any Riddick movie with rose-colored lenses.  Another thing that helped this movie for me was the villain, the Lord Marshal.  I liked the way they built up to the final fight between him and Riddick, briefly showing the powers he has just enough to foreshadow that he’s very dangerous.  And of course there’s the final fight itself.  I thought the way he was able to zoom around all blurry and super-fast was all kinds of fun. 

4:  Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Paramount Pictures, Hasbro

Well, shit.  What could I possibly have to say about this movie that’s good?  As I’ve already mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been a big Transformers fan since birth, practically.  As you might expect, I’m quite skeptical of many of the things that Michael Bay has done with this franchise.  (Yes, I know he directed and didn’t write the movies… but I’m 100% sure he managed to have direct influence over lots of the little details and dialogue and such.)
 Paramount Pictures, Hasbro

6-24-09:  We Will Never Forget

Dark of the Moon certainly has plenty of things I could rip on.  We’ve got the long, drawn-out early part where Shia LaBeouf looks for a job.  And for that matter, why is his character, Sam, so insanely spaztastic in this movie?  He might always have been a little high-strung, but he’s screaming his head off in this movie.  And then there was the extreme milking of the 3-D for all it was worth.  Plenty of movies do that, but Dark of the Moon chose to have drooling Starscream as one way to do it.  The camera is looking right up at him in one scene, and he’s drooling all around the audience.  I know it’s coming from his mouth, but nevertheless all I can think of when I see that scene is bukkake.  And if I want Transformer bukkake… scratch that; I can think of no reason why I’d ever want Transformer bukkake. 

So what did this movie do well?  Sentinel Prime.  For all I know, his betrayal of the Autobots was known and spoiled all over the internet long before the movie came out, but I deliberately avoided spoilers about this movie until I saw it.  (Its epic trailer gave me hope.)  I was taken completely off-guard when he reveals that he’s made a deal with Megatron.  And of course there’s the way he reveals his treachery.  He doesn’t do anything half-way.  Up until that scene, I took him as the stereotypical wise benevolent mentor character.  And even when he does spill his true intent, I figured there’d just be a tense standoff, and then he’d depart.  Ironhide would simmer and be like, “how could you DO this?”  Bumblebee would make some surprised robo-gibberish noise.  The camera would orbit Lennox while he stares up with a “WTF” face.  That kind of scene.  Instead, Sentinel just turns and kills Ironhide.  No more words, just shooting.  He’s committed.  I’m frankly amazed he didn’t just turn and shoot that CIA woman when she yells at him to explain himself.  (That would have been awesome, by the way.)

Judging from this list so far, clearly a good villain can go a long way for making a movie better for me.

3:  Predator 2 (1990)

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

When I was 15, I fell in love with Predator.  I’m referring of course to the first Predator, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and several badass friends.  The titular alien was like nothing I’d personally seen in a movie before.  I wanted a shoulder plasma cannon and wrist blades of my own after seeing it.  When I heard that there was also a Predator 2, and it took place in the city, with the Predator leaping rooftops and such, my mind exploded with excitement just a little.  I bought a copy at a video store soon after.  It… wasn’t quite as good as the first.  Of course, I was disappointed that Arnold wasn’t in it.  I wondered just what the hell was up with the scene where the Predator massacres members of that Jamaican gang, and all the fancy new weapons it’s using are visible while the rest of him is cloaked.  In general I felt like I was in a blender, with the whole gang war subplot and the endless parade of over-the-top, stereotyped characters.  I wasn’t alone; the movie received mostly negative reviews. 

Despite my initial disappointment, I found myself deciding to watch it again here and there.  If nothing else, it was a good way to kill an hour or two and eat popcorn.  Eventually I started liking it.  Something was drawing me back, and I eventually realized what it was:  Danny Glover’s character Lt. Mike Harrigan.  He’s nuts!  The whole movie is an insane hyper-reality, but Harrigan stands out.  He’s the stereotypical loose-cannon cop dialed up to overload.  He’s barely under control.  It takes mere seconds of something pissing him off before he’s yelling and more than ready to start a fistfight, even with the Chief of Police.  His own captain is clearly terrified of him in one scene!  Hell, his only apparent weakness is that he’s clearly afraid of heights, which of course he has to repeatedly face since the Predator keeps climbing up shit.  It’s a shame that Danny Glover never (to my knowledge) played more loose-cannon badasses like Harrigan; he did it very well.  I’d have gladly watched a plain old cop action movie with Harrigan as the main character.  There are certainly enough parts of Predator 2 that feel like a blood-soaked, over-the-top action movie as opposed to a science fiction movie.  I laugh my ass off every time I see it, though.  Harrigan’s just too much fun.

2:  Blade: Trinity (2004)

New Line Cinema

Blade: Trinity wasn’t exactly well-received.  What’s wrong with it?  Well… the Nightstalkers.  In the movie, Whistler is killed and Blade is captured by the FBI.  Of course it doesn’t take long for the vampires to get their hands on him.  The Nightstalkers rescues Blade.  They’re a group of human vampire hunters.  Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel do the killing, and they’ve got some other people as a support crew.  So… yeah, basically Blade: Trinity pulled the “introduce a bunch of new characters” move.  To me, Reynolds and Biel did fine playing their characters, but it just so happens that those characters weren’t exactly necessary, and they meant less screen time for Blade himself.  The whole thing makes Blade: Trinity stand out like a sore thumb from the first two movies.  Oh, and they killed Whistler.  That sucks, too.  (Though he died like Whistler should: flipping the audience off.)

Buuut, once again a cool villain brings the movie back up for me, since I really liked Dracula/Drake.  I’m not exactly an expert on Dracula lore; I only knew of the classic Bram Stoker Transylvania portrayal.  Therefore Blade: Trinity’s portrayal of Dracula as a much older, more powerful being that can’t be killed by traditional vampire-killing means seemed fresh and new to me.  I liked how he was said to have often been behind the scenes through history.  The actor playing him, Dominic Purcell, did a great job, too, as far as I’m concerned.  Dracula felt above all of the petty concerns of the other vampires.  I got the feeling that their plans for world domination and their struggles against Blade were just children’s games to him.  The final fight between him and Blade also was pretty nice, both the initial sword duel and the later part where he beats Blade’s ass in his true form.  (I guess holding a human shape actually limits his fighting abilities.) 

I also liked the song in the movie’s end credits.  That helped, too.

1:  Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Now we’re in the shit.  I’m just going to straight-up say it:  This movie is bad.  At least the first AvP movie, despite not being perfect by any stretch of the imagination, felt like a science fiction movie.  Requiem, however, took the absolutely genius route of deciding to include horny teenagers in the plot, dragging the movie closer to bad slasher film territory.  None of the human characters are particularly memorable or noteworthy, but by God I hate the teenage characters in this movie.  All but one are just run-of-the-mill stereotypical high school assholes, and even the one that isn’t still annoys me.  The only saving grace is that all of the asshole teens are killed brutally over the course of the movie (with me silently cheering every time), and one of the adult characters tells one of the teens that he’s “too stupid to talk, so shut up.”  Maybe a good chunk of my annoyance with the one non-asshole teenager that survives is that he’s infatuated with one of the other teens, who of course is an archetypal cheerleader character.  This led me to think that she’d survive too, but she got killed by a stray death Frisbee (seriously) near the end, and I’ll give the movie credit for that.  This movie overall is still bad enough that even though I impulse-bought it since I’m a sucker for nearly all things Predator, I rarely feel the urge to watch it.

Annoyingly, this movie still did one thing absolutely perfect:  Its Predator kicks ass.  The Predators in the first AvP were youngsters on their first hunt, only there to kill Alien drones.  (At least that’s what I assume based on the AvP books I’ve read.)  As such, two of them get killed pretty much right away, leaving one (apparently the student who paid attention) to fight for survival alongside the one human that doesn’t die.  That third Predator may have been a cut above his peers, but he still has nothing on the dude from Requiem.  He’s a master, a veteran.  Those same aliens that seemed so dangerous even to Predators in the first AvP drop like flies when this guy shows up.  I loved that, since it’s something that we didn’t get to see the first time around.  If AvP:R could just have been redone so the teenagers got less screen time or were removed entirely, and we got a few more scenes of the Predator kicking ass, I bet it would have been a lot better.


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