In preparation for this site I’ve been watching some bad movies lately. In fact, I’ve been seeking them out. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a movie so bad that it’s good. Movies like this are rare and their success is a fine art. Finding them is like capturing a unicorn.
First off, they have to take themselves seriously. I take that back -they have to be ridiculously serious about themselves. They also have to be engaging, not boring (there are plenty of horrible movies that fall into this category, just watch MST3K). And, most importantly, they have to be very, very funny. Unintentionally funny. Painfully funny.
Some of the best failed films are mainstream, studio-funded releases. Films that had plots with potential, actors who can actually act, or even a director who isn’t out of his/her mind all of the time. Those are some of the best worst films, and many of them ended up in the original Holy Shrine.
Then there films like The Room (see above). There are some exceptions, you know.
Have I seen The Room? Yes. Am I going to write about it, though? No. The Room is singular in that it is so terrible I don’t even want to write about it. Also, it wasn’t enjoyable for me. It was just unspeakably bad. So I’m not going to write about it today. I will, however, be playing an awkward football game with my friends in an alleyway later. You’re free to join.
Sadly, the place to look for the worst movies are among those aimed at teenagers. I remember movies from the ’80s and ’90s when we had things called “teen comedies” (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Better Off Dead, Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, American Pie). Now they seem to be a dying breed. Abstinence porn and blow ’em up franchises have taken their place. These films are less concerned with examining the rites of passage and awkwardness of being a teenager as much as escaping into some ridiculous unreality.
Well, the blow ’em up genre was hard to stomach. I’ve sat through enough of that (thanks a lot, Michael Bay). Then I made a concession. But first I went the other route, watching the two latest offerings of teen romance.
In keeping with unreality, both are based on fairy tales.
And oh boy, both of these are wildly unrealistic. Let’s proceed.
1) Beastly (2011)
Believe it or not, director Daniel Barnz said he was going for the vibe of Say Anything… (1989), an example of one of the best teen films out there. Is this movie anywhere close to Say Anything… though? No, it’s Beastly. I’m 100% sure it’s its own thing, other than its basis on Beauty and the Beast.
The movie opens with its protagonist (a loose term here), a complete douchebag named Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) who likes to work out in front of a mirror.
He also gives speeches to his fellow classmates like: “Should you vote for me just because I’m the rich, popular, good-looking guy with the famous news anchor dad? And the answer is ‘HELL YEAH!'” His classmates cheer for this and, yes, Kyle is one of the most popular people in school, when in reality I’m pretty sure an idiot like this would have heard crickets instead.
Kyle attends a high school that resembles a Kubrick set, a nightclub and a subway underpass all rolled into one. The only hangup in his life is having to stare at a rumored witch named Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), because she’s all “gross” and stuff. In reality, it’s Mary-Kate Olsen (I mean, come on), and she has impeccable hair, makeup and body modifications. She also has more haute couture costume changes during one day than most supermodels.
Anyway, after insulting and publicly humiliating Kendra she changes Kyle into a bald, scarred, tattooed guy- basically a Hell’s Angel- and his life is totally ruined. She tells him he has one year to make someone love him now that he is all gross and stuff. He deals with this by starting a rumor he has gone to rehab, hiding his face behind a ski mask, not wearing a shirt and riding a motorcycle real hard. He then melodramatically deletes his social networking account.
He also begins stalking a girl every night, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), because in teen romances the latest trend is stalking and it’s actually okay. In fact, it’s kind of hot. Just ask Stephenie Meyer.
Then he kind of kidnaps Lindy. And he kind of blackmails her father into keeping her in his apartment. “What do you want?!” her frightened father screams at him. “I want her,” Kyle replies, then stammers, “I mean, I want to protect her.” Nice save, Kyle.
To make a long story short, he and Lindy read poetry to each other and fall in love. This touching hostage/love story is witnessed by the only two other people Kyle will allow near him: his father’s housemaid (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) who is helping him continue his studies. Harris is the only entertaining thing in this film, so Beastly most certainly isn’t his fault.
Then he went and made the live action Smurfs movie. No comment.
I don’t want to write about this movie anymore. I’m bored. Basically there are a lot of musical montages and the two of them end up together.
2) Red Riding Hood (2011)
There’s nothing more frustrating than people claiming to be feminist when they’re making a movie about a girl completely controlled by the men in her life and her own sex drive. In a nutshell that’s Red Riding Hood.
I was willing to give Hood the benefit of the doubt, hoping it would be more of a clever whodunit rather than Twilight: Medieval Edition. I was wrong and should have known better. After all, it was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who brought us Twilight (2008) in the first place. I guess I was hoping for something more realistic and gritty, like her critically acclaimed Thirteen (2003).
Alas, that wasn’t to be. I do have to say that Red Riding Hood isn’t a complete mess, though. It has amazing helicopter shots. Also, the trees look real nice.
Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, a girl whose village has been terrorized by a gigantic wolf for years. When the wolf kills her sister, her community plunges into hysteria. They employ a witch hunter, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), to fix the problem. Sadly, Father Solomon is more concerned with thoughtlessly murdering black people, religious types and autistic kids.
But Valerie has other, more pressing problems, like who she should be in love with and stuff. She has been placed in an arranged engagement with the blacksmith’s son, Henry (Max Irons). Problem is that she is much more into her childhood friend/woodcutter/professional brooder Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). To give you an idea of what Peter is like, Fernandez was thisclose to getting the role of Edward Cullen in Twilight. When you see Fernandez playing Peter you understand why.
Valerie’s parents aren’t much help. Her mother, Suzette (Virginia Madsen), is revealed to be an adulteress. Her father, Cesaire (Billy Burke), is pretty passive about everything. Either that or he’s drunk.
I am disappointed to add Cesaire isn’t a cop, doesn’t have a mustache or a Native American friend in a wheelchair. I was crushed.
So there you have it: these are the adults that Valerie has to look up to. So Valerie should take things into her own hands, right? Solve the mystery herself, then? Who needs adults when a young, fresh, intelligent mind can help save the entire town with her own determination and audacity?
Fooled you. That doesn’t happen.
No. It’s about urges.
In keeping with slasher film rules, a bunch of people die after the aforementioned scene (above) takes place.
In the end, Valerie does find out who the Big Bad Wolf is, but kind of by accident. Her main concerns are her devotion and burning loins for Peter. Her intended, Henry, helps both of them out because, like all Baxters, he’s actually a really decent guy.
Anyway, there is no way to save this movie now.
Which brings me to…
3) Drive Angry (2011)
Okay, so this movie had to be made for teenage boys. I can’t imagine any other age demographic that would flock to see this. Personally I have been aware of it since attending its panel at Comic-Con last year. I don’t think director Patrick Lussier was taking it too seriously (he did, after all, admit that the title came from a line in Groundhog Day). On the other hand, Nicolas Cage was. He described his character as “a protector of children” and that he was “looking to push the boundaries with film acting.”
Unfortunately, the reason I went to the panel- Billy Burke- wasn’t there. Which was a shame. Although he doesn’t play a cop with a mustache and a handicapped Native American friend I was still interested.
And believe me, Burke is a real piece of work in this movie. He gets the best lines:
Even better, he says these lines in a Bill Compton accent. Extra points for the soul patch as well.
Other than that Drive Angry is pretty dumb movie. Despite this it was refreshing to see a female character stronger than the aforementioned in Beastly and Red Riding Hood (Piper, played by Amber Heard). It’s just depressing that I had to watch a movie like Drive Angry to find one.
As for Cage, his role as vehicular badass John Milton reminds me of his newer “untouchable, supernatural hero” character that emerged in the 2000s (Ghost Rider, Next, Bangkok Dangerous, etc.). He kills, maims, shows no emotion, and of course, does an awful lot of walking or driving away from things blowing up.
But Milton has a soft side. He is trying to protect a baby from a Satanic cult. What’s more, it’s his granddaughter, snatched from his estranged daughter by cult leader Jonah King (Burke). Milton would go through hell to save that baby, and it’s inferred he already has. He has nothing to lose now, nothing but bullets he will shoot into a lot of people.
What follows is a series of set pieces in which a lot of bad guys get killed in ways that defy all the laws of physics. One particular sequence rips off Michael Davis’s Shoot ‘Em Up (2007), which involves the main character murdering a bunch of guys in a hotel room while having sex at the same time.
Believe me, you don’t want to see it.
More gun battles ensue. Milton eventually finds King, who shoots him in the face and beats him with his dead daughter’s femur bone in a church.
But Milton doesn’t give up so easily. Out of sheer willpower he survives and pursues King’s motor home. Then there are more chase scenes and things blowing up. Did I mention that some mysterious guy named The Accountant (William Fichtner) is looking for Milton too? Does it matter, really? I will say this, though: The Accountant sure knows how to wear a suit.
Drive Angry is all about revenge in the end, best served red, piping hot and in 3-D. And, according to the movie, revenge pays. At one point Milton refuses a beer, “unless I’m drinking it from Jonah King’s skull.”
He is a man of his word.
And that, my friend, is exactly what teenage boys think is cool. Okay, maybe some adult men too. Whatever. I think this movie was made for guys. Just a notion.