Tag Archives: Bad Movies

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder, 2013, US

By D.G. McCabe

My kingdom for a decent Superman movie.

When I last checked Rotten Tomatoes, Man of Steel was sitting at 56%.  I don’t know what movie those 56% percent of critics were watching, because it certainly wasn’t the same one I saw this evening.  It’s bad.  How bad you say?

It starts off promisingly enough.  With Christopher Nolan working on the screenplay and production, you get a little bit of Batman Begins…oh wait, Superman isn’t Batman.  Superman doesn’t walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu.  There is enough complexity in the character already without having to turn him into Bruce f’ing Banner already, and a lot of that complexity is hereto unexplored in film.

Still, I could get behind a reluctant, nomadic Superman if the director, Zack Snyder, would have followed through on that concept.  It’s too bad he doesn’t.  And after two hours that feel like five, you realize that Snyder should stick with ridiculously stylized movies about shirtless, ancient Greek meatheads.

The second half of the movie consists of nothing but smash smash, boom boom.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve defended smash smash, boom boom at times, but usually I expect that crap from Michael Bay films not a Superman movie.  There’s a difference between “all I want to see is giant robots fighting each other” and “I’m looking at my watch to see how long this never ending action sequence is.”

And the dialogue.  Maybe this crap was fine on TV’s Lois and Clark, oh wait, that show is bloody Shakespeare compared to this crap.  Now, Nolan’s scripts sometimes hit you over the head with exposition a bit too much (“That’s why the military invented dream sharing” from Inception for example), but I expected more of him.  After plenty of mustache-twirling villain exposition and lots of “release this against Superman” or “unleash that against Superman” I started laughing like I was watching friggin’ Anchorman.

Apparently, Nolan and Snyder decided to farm out the second half of their screenplay to an eleven year old who got into the coffee again.  So Superman fights the bad guys and smashed up the town, then they move to the city and then he’s gotta fly to the other side of the world and fight this other thing and then he’s gotta go back to the city and fight Zod in the big climax and boom!  Boooooooooom!

After sitting through this BS, it made me want to do to this movie what a completely out of character Superman does at the end of it.  Apparently there are two sequels on the way from these clowns, let’s hope they learn from their mistakes instead of doubling down on crappy dialogue, complete lack of romantic chemistry, and stupid jokes like Star Wars Episode II did.

You might like Man of Steel if: You have no interest in the Superman character, or wish that he was Batman, or you have completely merged video games and movies in your mind.

You might not like Man of Steel if: You have any knowledge at all about the character of Superman or you just don’t have the endurance to sit through a ninety minute action sequence that doesn’t even look all that great and never f’ing ends.

(c) 2013 D. G. McCabe

Dumb Movie Jokes

By D.G. McCabe

Some jokes are so stupid, so juvenile, that even if they were funny the first time (usually the answer to that is no), they sure as hell aren’t funny the third, fourth, or seventeenth time we’ve seen them.  Let’s review five examples:

1. Needlessly stereotypical bullcrap will help us connect with the youth of today! – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

As anyone who’s seen the second Transformers movie can attest (which I assume is most of you, since this turd made almost a billion f*ing dollars worldwide) there are two, really uncomfortably written robots in it – Mudflap and Skids.  Uncomfortable is actually a charitable word to describe this duo.  Even Shia LeBeouf is preferable, and I’m already on record as wishing he’d be stomped by Megatron in every scene.  These two sound like a bad SNL sketch making fun of a bad Mace video which premiered on a bad episode of Total Request Live with one of those non-Carson Daly hosts that were always terrible.  No wait…it’s worse.

2. Slapstick comedy is always funny no matter what! – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

I understand that this could fit neatly into category 1 of this post by referencing anything Jar Jar Binks does, but another offense that the worst character in movie history makes is awful slapstick.  No George Lucas, having some lizard thing numb his tongue in a energy beam is not funny.  Now, if you had him hacked to bits by Darth Maul – THAT would have been hilarious.

3. Hey look – the gang’s all together again! – American Reunion (2012)

The original chemistry of a movie cast is a very hard thing to re-create (see: The Hangover, sequels), but worst offenders are typically movies made many years after the original.  American Reunion is such a film.  Just getting a bunch of actors together does not a worthwhile movie make, especially when there are dozen of throwaway scenes that scream “Oh hey it’s so an so, let’s remind the audience of some lame joke from a movie released 13 years ago!”  Unfortunately, movie history is loaded with this kind of crap.

4. Look How Gross This is! – National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)

Like most people who went to college in the early 2000’s, I still watch Van Wilder from time to time mostly for nostalgic reasons.  Over the years, I’ve contemplated fast-forwarding a scene in this movie which I didn’t think was all that funny in 2002, no one who I’ve watch the movie with has laughed at since 2002, and the only people who even thought it was funny in 2002 were drunk, stoned, or both.  Spoiler alert – it involves dog semen.

5. Sexual harassment is hilarious and not uncomfortable to watch at all! – Horrible Bosses (2011)

You can’t really play “male boss harasses female employee” for laughs anymore in Hollywood.  Besides the fact that the concept was never funny to begin with, Susan Sarandon will be mad at you and if the movie “The Witches of Eastwick” (1987) has taught us anything, it’s that Susan Sarandon has magical powers.  Anyway this disappointing film tries to get more life out of the idea by having a female boss harass a male employee, but it only induces cringes when Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is harassed by horrible boss number who-the-hell-cares, played by Jennifer Aniston.

That’s it for today.  Let me know if you think of any other really bad jokes in movies that you’ve seen over and over and over again for no discernible reason other than studio executive appear to live in a bizarre world where racial stereotypes, bad slapstick, cast reunions, the bodily functions of animals, and sexual harassment are f*ing hilarious in all situations all the time.  This bizarre world is affectionately known as Hollywood, circa 1950.

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

Really? They Made a Movie About That?!? Top Five Worst Ideas for Movies in the Last 10 Years

By D.G. McCabe

Green-lighting some movies can get you fired, at least if there’s justice in the universe.  The sad part is that some people put good time and money into making films with premises that a fifth grader may well have come up with.  I haven’t done a list post in quite some time, so here we go with the top five worst ideas for movies in the last 10 years:

Gigli (2003)

With Ben Affleck’s career rebounding thanks to the stellar resume of thrillers under his directoral belt, it seems like bad timing to point out the film that almost ruined his career.  Still, could you imagine being in that pitch-meeting?  “Say,” you’d start out, “Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are quite the item, why they could be the next Hepburn and Tracy!  Let’s put them in a movie together, only the twist is, she’s starts the movie as a lesbian and he ‘converts’ her by the end.  And if you think that’s good stuff, let’s put in a really over the top, developmentally disabled guy!”  Who could say no to that?

The Ringer (2005)

If you weren’t already offended enough with Gigli’s homophobia and mean spirited mocking of the disabled and vulnerable, this movie takes it to the next level.  “So you know that guy on TV with no acting ability but those hilarious stunts on that show ‘Jackass?’  Isn’t that show great?  Let’s get that guy, and get this – he joins the Special Olympics as a ‘Ringer’ to try to beat all the disabled kids!  But it’ll be okay, in the end he learns his lesson. And the best part – we’ll call the movie ‘The Ringer!'”  Sure, because learning his lesson at the end totally makes this a great idea.

All About Steve (2009)

So everyone loves Sandra Bullock.  She won an Oscar for 2009’s The Blind Side, so she was clearly on a role that year, right?  “Sandra Bullock is so bankable, we could put her in anything!  Anything! You challenge me – fine!  Accepted.  Let’s have her star as an unfunny, bipolar stalker…but get this – it’s a comedy.  Funny right?”  Fortunately no one except a few unfortunate critics actually saw this movie and Ms. Bullock got so much praise for her Oscar winning role that it didn’t affect her career.

Jack and Jill (2011)

Now Adam Sandler has always been the master of the silly and the stupid, but he’s well past his prime as a comedian.  One could say he wore out his welcome ten years ago, or when we all realized that Billy Madison (1995) and Happy Gilmore (1996) are basically the same movie.  Still, “You remember Adam Sandler?  Of course you do!  He’s hilarious, right?  So he hasn’t been in anything that’s made any money in years but I think we can get another drop or two out of that udder, so I have an idea.  He plays twins, only one is a overweight, obnoxious, ugly woman and the other is a total misanthropic douchey man!  Awesome right?”  The only thing that could excuse the guys who said yes to this slop was the fact that Sandler himself wrote part of the screenplay, so they probably didn’t have a choice.

Battleship (2012)

The board game Battleship lends itself to an action movie if your idea of “action” is calling out letters and numbers until someone mercifully cries out “You sunk my battleship!”  It isn’t as bad as all of that when you’re a kid, after all kids are pretty easily amused (give them a ping pong paddle with a ball and string attached if you don’t believe me – fun for hours).  Still, “Let’s make a movie about Battleship!  Yeah, the board game Battleship!  The merchandizing of the game alone will be worth it!  But, I think we’ll need aliens, and something with them being hidden, or something…meh we’ll make something up.  As long as there are explosions it won’t matter if it doesn’t make sense.  Still, think how much money we can make on special edition board games!”  Apparently, whoever pitched this had them at “special edition board games.”

I’m tapped out – until next time!

(c) 2013 D. G. McCabe

Why We Love Bad Movies – Epilogue

So I’ve come to the end of my series on bad movies.  At the beginning of this process, I stated that this final section would be about movies with no redeeming value whatsoever.  As I wrote more and more about bad movies and spoke to people about the articles, I began to realize that no matter how bad some movies may be, they still have redeeming qualities.

Don’t get me wrong, that bizarre video your watched on YouTube last week with the sexy sax man or the one with the dramatic squirrel are not movies.  Television programs, even the best ones, are not movies either (although movies and television programs have their similarities).  A movie is intended to be watched in one sitting from beginning to end, usually in a theater.  A movie, whether fictional or factual, asks us to forget that we’re in a theater or on the couch, and asks us to imagine that we’re someplace that it wants to take us instead.

In the end a movie has to convince us to follow it where it’s going.  Good movies entertain us by persuading us to escape our reality for a few hours.  Great movies challenge us to question our reality.

Bad movies are tired troubadours on hopeless campaigns.  They certainly fail to challenge us and usually fail to entertain us.  But they never fail to inspire us to imagine improvements, and the worst of them never fail to make us laugh.  And that is why we love bad movies.

(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe

Why We Love Bad Movies – Part Three: Genre Cliches

Sometimes we go to the movies not to be challenged, but to be entertained and comforted.  Genre cliches, movies that are about the same no matter what, that meet our expectations but never exceed them, are the comfort food of movies.  We know that they are not particularly good, but we go back to them anyway.  They are familiar, predictable, and we know exactly what we’re getting.  Observe:

Salisbury Steak (Romantic Comedies)

e.g. New Year’s Eve (2011), You’ve Got Mail (1998)

There are plenty of great romantic comedies, but it seems like most of them are cobbled together from hamburger to resemble a superior product.  For example, New Year’s Eve is a cheap copy of a better movie (Love, Actually (2003)).  You’ve Got Mail has the same leading actors and same plot of a better movie (Sleepless in Seattle (1993)).  Here’s the clincher – everyone knew this going in, and both of these films made a ton of money at the box office.

Twinkees (Musicals)

e.g. Spiceworld (1997), From Justin to Kelly (2003)

The Musical is a genre that has fallen out of favor in modern Hollywood.  Before the days of television (music videos especially), they were frequently either star vehicles or showcases for Vaudeville style acts.  While some musicals remain popular for various reasons (Singin’ in the Rain (1952), West Side Story (1961), White Christmas (1954), The Wizard of Oz (1939)), many feel dated – like someone cobbled something edible together from sponge cake and filling.

But pre-television musicals have an excuse.  Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) for instance seems dated now but it served its purpose as a showcase for Judy Garland’s talent and brought it to a wide audience during an era when people needed an escape.  Poorly thought-out modern musicals have no excuse, and serve as long, ill conceived, music videos for flash in the pan artists (Spiceworld) or popular televisions shows (From Justin to Kelly).

Kung Pow Chicken (Action Movies)

e.g. Faster (2010), Battlefield Earth (2000)

Sometimes we like something a little spicier.  Yeah it’s fried and bad for us, but it’s so cheap, tasty, and here in twenty minutes.  Yes we’ll be hungry again in half an hour, but it’s great while it lasts.  While there have been excellent, popular, purely escapist action films, some are filled with terrible dialogue, boring car chases, and plots that make absolutely no logical sense.  Watch Faster and you’ll see what I mean.

Watch Battlefield Earth and you’ll see even worse.  It makes Faster look like Citizen Kane (1941).

Jello (Comedies)

e.g. Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo (2005), Every “____ Movie” after the original Scary Movie (2000)

Want something kind of light and a little gross?  The gross-out comedy genre has what you’re looking for.  It’s too bad that whenever Hollywood has a decent idea for an R-rated comedy, they dump a horrendous sequel on us.  Sometimes the sequels have at least some redeeming value, but sometimes the first movie wasn’t that good to begin with (Deuce Bigalow) or it’s another of a seemingly endless parade of “Scary Movie” style parody films.

Vodka (Horror)

e.g. The Saw Films (2004-2010), Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Horror movies are the empty calorie, escapist, cash-cow of the movies always have been, and probably always will be.  They’re cheap to make (Saw), easy to pump our sequel after sequel (Saw), and always end up making a decent amount of money (Saw).

The problem is that the horror movie genre ends up looking far easier than it is.  This is what inspired a New Mexico insurance salesman to create a “horror movie” that may be the worst film every released in a movie theater – Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Next time: Epilogue – Movies with No Redeeming Value

(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe

 

Why We Love Bad Movies – Part Two: Failed Blockbusters

We, the American public, are in an unhealthy relationship with the Hollywood Blockbuster.  As a crazed songstress who enjoys getting drunk and thrown out of baseball games in her spare time might put it…actually no. I’m not going there.

A great blockbuster has the ability to entertain us again and again like no other genre of film.  The best ones are mainstays of our movie collections – the ones that we upgrade from VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray to Digital.  The worst ones, well that’s another story.  They often make lame excuses for their transgressions, but we keep coming back.  Here are some of them…

But baby, I give you what you need

e.g. Transformers (2007), Armageddon (1998), Independence Day (1996)

Sometimes we just want to turn our brains off and watch things explode.  The more explosions the better.  If recognizable buildings are destroyed (Independence Day), fantastic.  Or if the explosions are caused by giant robots trying to kill each other (Transformers), that’s pretty great.  Also if the explosions are caused by asteroids (Armageddon), asteroids are fun right?  Boom!!!!!!!

Is there anything wrong with our insatiable desire for explosions?  I don’t know.  Even if we secretly wish the human protagonist would get stomped by Megatron, we keep coming back for more.

But baby it was so great the first time

e.g. Star Wars Episode I (1999), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997),  The Matrix Reloaded (2003), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), The Godfather Part III (1990)

Remember those blockbusters I mentioned in the intro?  The ones you absolutely love and can’t get enough of? Well sometimes the sequels don’t pan out so well.

Whether it is caused by misguided megalomania (Episode I), a director who’s just trying to make a quick buck (The Lost World), or failure to understand what made the original movie so popular (Matrix Reloaded), sequels often fall short of the glory of the first film. This seems to be especially the case when a lot of time has passed between films (Crystal Skull and Godfather 3).  But that’s okay, if they make a third one it’ll be better, right?

But baby you love this, don’t you remember?

e.g. Transformers 2 (2009), The Matrix Revolutions (2003),Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (2007)

Wrong!  We know it’s going to be bad because the first movie was bad (Transformers), the second movie was bad (Matrix Revolutions), or the second movie was lackluster (Pirates of the Caribbean 3).  But we really hope it’s better.  It’s gotta be better, right?

It won’t be, but we want to see what happens next, and, when we are inevitably disappointed we want to commiserate with everyone and complain about how bad that third movie was.  In a perverse way, I think we like these movies more – we can endlessly pick apart how we could have done a better job.  After all, movie lovers probably spend more hours picking apart disappointing films than praising great ones.

But baby, I’ve changed

e.g. Transformers 3 (2011), The Incredible Hulk (2003), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Sometimes the sequels will have a cast change (Hulk), a promise from the director that this time it’ll be better (Transformers 3), or a more promising storyline (Fantastic Four 2).  But alas, we’re fooled again.  We’re pretty sad at this point but…

Enough!

e.g. Speed 2 (1997), Godzilla (1998), Batman and Robin (1997), Gigli (2003)

Oh you may entice us with basically the same storyline, but on a boat! (Speed 2)  You may woo us with promises of iconic monsters! (Godzilla) You may even try to slake our endless lust for celebrity couples (Gigli) or the promise of endless snow and ice puns (Batman and Robin)!  But this ends now!  I’m not paying $8 to see that and I don’t care what you say!

Epilogue

At the end of the day, the blockbuster is an easy genre to churn out summer after summer, but a difficult one to master.  I really don’t regret a couple hours away from air conditioning in the summer to enjoy some popcorn though.  I like being in on the conversation when those movies misfire.  And I like to make fun of these movies on DVD later.  Not every blockbuster is going to be Star Wars (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), or The Dark Knight (2008).  And I’m actually okay with that.

Next Time: Part 3: Genre Cliches

(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe

Why We Love Bad Movies – Part One: Poorly Made Films

Why We Love Bad Movies – Part One: Poorly Made Films

There are some bad movies that are worth your time, if you’re in the right frame of mind of course.  They are just poorly constructed.  B-Movies, Cult Classics, and crap that absolutely can’t be defined in any conceivable way can be a valuable part of our movie experience. Quentin Tarantino, for instance, is a notable proponent of the Poorly Made category, and if that horrible “my first movie experience” montage at the Oscars this year has any redeeming value, it at least goes to show that the movie stars we pay to see often have the same crappy taste in movies that everyone else does.  Let’s break down this category into the aforementioned sub-categories:

A) B-Movies 

e.g. Robot Monster (1953), The Killer Shrews (1959)

When I first explained the classic TV series “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to my parents, my dad responded, “Oh, those were the crappy movies at the drive-in that no one stuck around for.”  Often shot on a shoestring budget and in two weeks or less, B Movies were a staple of the Hollywood Studio System and kept fake blood manufacturers, costume shops with poor supply chains, and horrible singer after horrible singer employed in Southern California until the 1980’s.  While television rendered the double feature obsolete, it also rescued the B Movie genre from the dustbin with its endless, succubus-like need to fill hour upon hour of dead air with schlock.  Even the old B Movies were saved to a certain extent by MST3K by becoming objects of endless humor.

We love B Movies because we can’t take them seriously, but they were thrown together so fast that I doubt the filmmakers really cared one way or the other.  For instance,  can anyone be expected to take an “alien” seriously that is clearly a guy dressed in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on (Robot Monster), or a “monster” that is clearly a dog with some stuff glued on it (The Killer Shrews)?  Of course you can’t – but it’s so ridiculous that it’s funny.

B) Bad Cult Classics

e.g. Reefer Madness (1936), Showgirls (1995),

They’re so bad they’re good.  Usually a bad cult classic develops a following because it does something it wasn’t supposed to.  The term “Cult Classic” can also be applied to brilliant but overlooked films like Blade Runner (1982) or Office Space (1996) which flopped at the box office but became popular later.  Those aren’t the movies I’m talking about.

Take Reefer Madness for example.  Here was a film that was designed to teach teenagers the terrors of marijuana use, but it was so over the top that it became a favorite of, guess what, marijuana users.  Showgirls was actually an honest attempt at serious drama, but instead inspired endless laughter and almost as many drinking games.  These films are different from B Movies because the makers of the films actually spent some time on them, and but they did such a crappy job anyway that the movies did the exact opposite of what was intended.

C) Total Crap

e.g. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

These may be the worst-made movies of all time.  They’re so bad that I had to separate them from the other two categories. Maybe there’s a obvious attempt to replace an actor who passed away halfway through production (Plan 9), or maybe it contains an endless montage of empty landscape and an antagonist who gets massaged to death (Manos).  Whatever the case, it seems that chimpanzees could be trained to make better movies than these.

By any objective standards these films fail in every conceivable way.  But we love them anyway.  Is it the the fact that we can sit down with a group and make joke after joke at their expense? Does it take a special, morbid talent to fail so spectacularly? Or is it simply because we could probably make better movies ourselves?  Who knows, but more importantly, who cares?  Just sit back and enjoy the train wreck!

Next Post: Failed Blockbusters

(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe