Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mmmm...Leftover Turkey

So, I promised you guys leftover turkey for this Thanksgiving...and after last entry got all, dare I say it, respectable on you all, it dawned on me that now I REALLY had to make good on this.

But how?  How?

Then it dawned on me to split the difference and use this for something I've been meaning to do more in general.

As some of you may recall back when I reviewed Caligula earlier this month, I had bestowed upon it the dubious honor of my #2 favorite bad movie.  In trying to find a single bad movie for the Thanksgiving turkey, no one title seemed to click.  So I figured now was as good a time as any to make good on the earlier mention of that list and give it a proper write-up here as a matter of record.

So yes, expect to see other potential 'top 5' lists of various and unusual choices in the future (no real significance on why 5, for the record.  I simply find it a nice round number to have enough time to give each a decent writeup without going overboard.)  But for now, as stated, this is for my five favorite bad movies - and I'm going to stress that label just so we're clear.  These aren't the films I consider the absolute worst ever made (if such a list is ever compiled, you can look forward to it being riddled with rage and profanity), this is those bad movies that I love because they're crap.  Those movies that are just such complete messes at what they're trying to do that they win me over in spite of myself.  Cause if there's one thing I've come to learn about people, everyone has at least one.

Also, in a break from my usual use of the 'top 5' (as I've done with year-end lists) this particular list actually does have a ranked order...and we'll be counting up to #1 at the very end.

With that, in the immortal words of those great connoisseurs of bad cinema: WE'VE GOT MOVIE SIIIIIIIIGN

Despite what popular fiction would lead you to believe of their ways, most duels between wizards usually just amount to overglorified rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

5. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

OK, this one's actually kind of an odd pick for me, because honestly, there are some bits of this I think are actually good.  I like the fact the writing makes Frodo a bit more proactive than either of the other two adaptations, for one.  Likewise, I like some of the choices in voice casting (John Hurt as Aragorn, Michael Graham Cox as Boromir, and Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum.  The latter two then going on to replay the roles in the surprisingly good BBC radio dramas.)  I even find Leonard Rosenman's soundtrack decent (and I'll admit, I like some tracks enough they're in my playlist,) if not particularly iconic for the film.  So why is it on this list?  Because honestly, while I do like the parts this movie gets right...I also REALLY love some of the parts it gets wrong.  I do feel a little bad saying that now, knowing Bakshi did his best and, frankly, got pretty dicked by the studios...but still, intent can only do just so much to repair damages when everything's said and done.  Among some of the 'greatest' hits this film has, we have Aragorn's strangely native American appearance, Boromir's viking short-shorts, Merry and Pippin essentially being the same character with different hair color (both of whom effectively just walk right out of the movie,) and Sam.  Oh God, Sam gets it arguably the hardest out of anyone in this movie, with only one person coming close.  Between his awkward character design and voice acting, Samwise comes across as a sort of mix of bucktoothed bumpkin and cartoonishly effeminate.  Now, the bumpkin part could kind of work if they'd played it in moderation...but as this movie does it, he becomes a painful/comical carictature that makes me kind of glad the sequel never happened, if only cause I have a hard time picturing this version of Samwise getting the spine to do what the third book called for.
But without going too much on that part, the other thing this film has going for/against it is the fact it marks a transition in Bakshi's experiments with rotoscope.  Between the looser style of 1977's Wizards and the more detailed followup in 1983's Fire and Ice, this film seems to be a first attempt at trying to get a more realistic style.  It sometimes works...sometimes.  The two biggest examples otherwise are in the films various battle scenes, which often look only partially animated (I have to admit, this effect does sometimes look pretty good on the orcs and ringwraiths, even if the orc costumes prove somewhat limited as the movie goes on) and in some of the extraneous motions of the main cast.  Gandalf in particular feels like a case of the movie just trying to flex its muscles as best as possible, resulting in probably my personal favorite of the bad elements of this movie - in trying to keep things constantly moving and thus get more realistic motion from the film, Gandalf wildly gesticulates through most of his scenes, becoming one of the few times an animated character can be accused of overacting.  Looking at him, I just hear the famous MST3k riff: "Gah!  Flying elves are back!"

So yeah, this film is one I'm on a line with.  Officially, I will file it as a guilty pleasure as an overall movie...but the areas where it fumbles, it fumbles in such an entertaining and prominent factor I don't mind also giving it the #5 slot on this list.

For the person who thinks 'You know, just stabbing someone in the head is boring.  How can I make them even more dead?'

4. M.D. Geist

This is one of those where I had to come around on it.  The first time I saw it, I thought it was just absolute shit (I'm gonna partially blame this on the fact it had the sequel DEATH FORCE as a chaser.  That one I honestly do still think is just bad.)  On rewatching this one, I've come to really enjoy how completely insane it is, especially for Ohata's directorial debut.  The simplicity is part of what really helps it for me.  It really doesn't do to focus on plot and characters because they're prettymuch nonexistent here.  This is a full-on floorshow of over the top carnage by a director who, by his own admission, was just showing off on his first time out.  The end result is a surprisingly entertaining mess where people don't just kill, they go for the most ridiculously showy kills they possibly can.  The whole thing moves as a bizarre 45 minute morass of assorted grim sci-fi cliches strung together by a sociopathic main character that, in other hands, would feel like a parody of the classic action movie hero.  The fact he's played straight here just adds to the sick amusement, really.  Like the above, it actually does have a couple of legitimately good points to it as well, admittedly - Ohata's got a visual eye, and his action scenes certainly show it.  Likewise, his mechanical design blends well with his animation style (for the most part, like I'd said the last time I wrote on this, a few scenes have not aged well.)  Those elements aside though, this film is just series of cool over-the-top action scenes held together by a laughably flimsy pretext...and damned if I don't love the utter mess that it is.  The amusement actually seems to be added to by the meta reasons the movie is so largely hated - that its presence in the west is largely propped up by Central Park Media president John O'Donnel, who legitimately loves the movie, and tries to pass it off as a high concept science fiction piece.  This, in turn, just makes the grand guignol of cyberpunk wasteland shenanigans it actually is THAT much funnier for me than it really should be.  Throw in an English dub that has not only aged badly, but was already pretty bad to begin with on top of this, and the whole already enjoyable mess becomes even more entertaining. 

It's also worth noting, this was one of the first movies I bought a hard copy of for what's slowly becoming my 'Vault of Shame' subcollection of enjoyably bad cinema.  So it has a sort of sick place in my heart as crap goes.

Really now, was there any doubt what scene would be sampled here?  Really?

3. The Room

Yes, the legend itself, and no, it's not my #1, though not for lack of trying.  I certainly enjoy the absolute clusterfuck of a movie, and I can see why it's become as popular as it has - between its meandering script with some amazingly bad dialogue, its hilarious acting, and some wonderfully blatant use of a green screen, this is one of the all time great pinata movies.  It's both one of the film's best strengths and part of why I can only call it #3 on this list - it's a movie I simply can't watch on my own.  I need to be watching it with a group, and all of us viciously beating the everloving Hell out of it to properly enjoy this movie.  Of course, with a full group...that's when the magic comes alive.  Tommy Wiseau's drama (no, I don't buy his claims that it was always meant to be a comedy) is a wonderful shitshow of bizarre characters, awkward plot twists, a random case of cancer, and some of the worst love scenes I've ever seen in a film, all orbiting around the film's seemingly saintly protagonist Johnny (played by Wiseau.)  That Johnny occasionally says some downright stupefyingly odd lines of dialogue with Wiseau's own very odd delivery, makes the fact he's one of the most normal people (relatively speaking) in the insanity.  Whether it's his love interest (Juliette Danielle) slowly turning into a sociopath, his young quasi-ward (Phillip Haldiman) who has some downright disturbing issues with personal space, or his girlfriend's mother (Carolyn Minnott) who randomly drops a bombshell about cancer that is subsequently forgotten by the movie, but almost never by the viewers riffing the Hell out of it.  It's a film that has a lot to offer in terms of things to roast, and unlike the last two, there's nothing that can really be said to be legitimately good for it.  Which is part of the fun in a weird way - you don't really feel that bad giving a movie of this quality both barrels in the face, because it's not just a mistake, it's an abortion.  Which makes it also pretty damn entertaining that this abortion status is why people love it so much now. 

Really, half the fun of this movie for me is in the experience it provides.  I've been to several midnight showings of the film to this point, including one where Wiseau himself made an appearance, and each time was entertaining, but themselves a different experience than the last.  It really is the kind of film that no text can properly describe if you haven't seen it yourself.  It simply has to be experienced to truly appreciate both how terrible it is and just how fun it is as a result.

Likewise, this almost felt like a no-brainer.  When you can stand out in a film like this, THAT says you've arrived as a scene.

2. Caligula

This now makes twice in under a month I've invoked this film.  I think we can now agree there's something seriously wrong with me.  As it was the film that first set this list into motion, however, I suppose I can't simply just write it off and move on to number one, much as that would please my inner sense of sloth.  So I'll try and just sum up the points again to keep this brief for those who already lead the last review.  Like M.D. Geist, this was a film I really had to come around on (and I would like to take a moment to thank and curse Brad Jones, whose hour long review for this movie inspired me to give it a rewatch years later cause I had forgotten a lot of the crazy before.)  On the rewatch, and reading up on some of the backstory, I found myself face to face with the porn version of Heaven's Gate - an epic of behind the scenes power struggles and studio chicanery and onscreen over-the-top madness, in this case replacing western spectacle with high camp and period porno.  Looking back, there are two big things that make this movie worth it for me.  The first is Peter O'Toole's downright cracked out (to use the technical term) turn as diseased and dying emperor Tiberius.  Screaming and at times incoherent, O'Toole almost seems to be having fun with the overacting...or, as some speculate, he's just absolutely shitfaced.  Either way, it's something else to watch.  The other big draw is McDowell himself, also flexing his crazy as the titular emperor who takes power and turns Rome into a sex and slaughther sideshow.  Under the often campy reign of McDowell's Caligula, Rome becomes a cyclone of orgies and ridiculously over the top things like a five-story tall head mower that I'd feel confident in saying probably didn't turn up on History Channel at any point.  It's a warped and wild movie that, at one point, almost took itself seriously...and then, several shifts later, turned into a bizarre porn-comedy with an astonishingly high profile cast.  There's just something about the whole experience that it feels like we'll never see something like it happen again.

I can't tell if I'm more fascinated with all the behind the scenes material here, or the absolute flaming wreck the film became as a result.  In either case, I've come around a LOT on this one.  Like, I'm seriously contemplating trying to find a copy of the movie on the cheap just for all of the extras (especially after hearing about McDowell being on commentary for one release.)  If anything comes of that, damned if I know...but in the meantime, this is pretty safe in its current position among my favorites.

But for all of its attempts at craziness, it still only comes in second for me to...

...there's really nothing else that can be said for this image.

1. Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned

Before I go into explaining this film to anyone who hasn't seen it, I want to show you all something.

(If this clip is, at any point, pulled down, let me know.  I will personally replace it.)

Why am I showing you this now?  Because I want to start by saying THIS is the scene that first hooked me into this one.  I first learned about this movie at a presentation on bad anime at a con.  There, the movie has gained some of a following that has resulted in it returning several times (and one year even becoming the sole focus of the panel.)

For those of you playing at home, however, let me try and break this down.  This movie is quite possibly one of the finest cases of adaptation telephone I've ever seen.  We start in 1897 with Bram Stoker's classic British novel, Dracula.  Flash forward to the 1970s, when Marv Wolfman adapts elements of the story to make the 'Tomb of Dracula' series for Marvel Comics (for an additional bit of trivia, this run was where the character Blade first came from.)  Then, in 1980, animation studio Toei did their own loose adaptation of the comics to play on Japanese TV as a movie.  This movie was then eventually brought over to the US by licensors Harmony Gold (largely known for their work on Robotech.)  Under them, an already pretty messed up movie got a laughably bad rescript that elevated it from a mess to a FLAMING WRECK OF A MESS.  This sometimes rushing, sometimes meandering story includes, among other things:
-Dracula bilking Satanists and getting a wife and kid out of the deal
-Said Satanists trying to summon the Devil with a star of David
-The most inept team of vampire hunters I've seen in a film in a long time
-Dracula patterning his attacks in a shape similar to the Batman symbol
-A grown man being assaulted by another man in a wheelchair
-A dog trained to sniff evil, WHOSE EYE ALSO GLEAMS
-Dracula eating burgers.

The sad part is, actually trying to explain all of this in a straight synopsis wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.  In fact, there's a lot more craziness that goes down along with all of what I've listed.  This is part of why I just showed the wheelchair fight clip to start this.  Because really, like The Room, text can't properly do this one justice.  It simply has to be seen to be watched.  Also, the fact it's in a licensing black hole leaves me willing to say this - don't feel bad if you have to pirate this one.  If you can even find a legitimate copy, I'll be floored (personally, the only reason I own a hard copy is because I loved this mess enough to buy a bootleg of it.  THAT is how seriously I like this steaming pile.)  This is one of those movies I can put on whenever I want a laugh and be sure I'll walk away with several.  Additionally, I've also made it a point to spread the madness for others to enjoy.  More than any, THIS is my bad movie of choice, and hopefully I've gotten some of you interested enough to give it a watch when you can.

Until such a time, however, be sure to come back next time when we'll have some more straight up reviews for you, including getting to a theater again over the weekend.

...and yes, once again, these lists will become recurring in the future.

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