Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bad Movie Night Recap

 The time has once again come for Bad Movie Night: my shameless celebration of the movies that just aren't quite good enough, but also aren't so terrible they become unwatchable. It's a fine line, and sometimes it's just the right goofy element that pushes it over. Sometimes it's just who you watch it with, and the Cap'n has a fairly loyal crew of masochists willing to descend on Blogorium Headquarters every year. Even though I subjected them to Things last year, they came back. What that says about their cinematic fortitude is up to you, but I'm proud to call them my friends. This year, I opted to give them a less agonizing experience, but not without some serious brain bending. Let's take a look at what you (hopefully) missed out on:

 We started with Devil Girl from Mars, based on the hit London stage play (or, that's what I'd like to believe), and it shows. Despite the fact that a Martian spaceship lands outside of a remote Scottish Inn, most of the motley crew of patrons are concerned with their own stupid problems, leaving time for Naya, the titular character, to enter and exit through the same door, repeatedly. At least it's nice to know that Martians also call their planet Mars. They - well, she - arrived on Earth with her new prototype spaceship, which has organic metal and runs on an engine that creates nuclear reactions that explode inward, creating perpetual motion. Their science is vastly superior to ours, but in the great war of the sexes, all men were wiped out and they need some breeding stock, if you catch my drift. Perhaps if she'd landed in America, rather than Scotland, this would have been an easier task, because the citizens of the United Kingdom are more interested in cockamamie plans to shoot or electrocute her, to no avail.

 Brave newspaper columnist Mike Conner (or Carter, depending on who's saying his name) has the scoop of a lifetime, but would rather his on a fashion model hiding out in the inn. Thankfully his indeterminate accent doesn't bother her, and she even falls in love with him in the two hours between when they meet and when he agrees to join the Devil Girl on her ship. That, of course, is a ruse for him to try to steal the remote control for Johnny, a robot who "looks very similar to you Earth people," in that he looks nothing like humans but instead a guy in a robot costume. Naya has a ray gun that's effective on everything but glasses, constructs an invisible wall that the only scientist in the group somehow runs into headlong, and loves to open the same doors over and over and make sweeping pronouncements about how stupid we humans are. There are other characters, because we clearly care about an escaped adulterer who murdered his wife or some dumb kid, but the innkeeper's husband's name is Jamie Jameson, which is amusing. Also, they sit down to eat dinner at 10 o'clock at night. If only Mike and the Professor had taken the turn to "Loch Something" (actual line), they might have missed this unfortunately duller than it sounds movie.

 Speaking of dull, I hadn't seen Disney's knock-off of Star Wars, The Black Hole, in close to 25 years, so I didn't remember what a bore it was. Fortunately, I also didn't remember a lot of other things about it, like the fact that a 90 minute film had an overture and that all of the music - by James Bond composer John Barry - sounded just like any other Bond music. I did remember the robot with the Texas accent, and that Event Horizon lifted quite a bit from this terrible, terrible movie. When it's not ripping off Star Wars, it's borrowing liberally from the released-the-same year Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Forbidden Planet, and Battlestar Galactica, and pretty much any other vaguely popular science fiction film they could think of. To be perfectly honest with you, we lost interest about fifteen minutes in, started talking about the new music on Star Wars and about The Hobbit, and eventually made some jokes about Ernest Borgnine's libido and the movie Alligator, while pausing to note just how badly one could steal from George Lucas. I might have even said something kind about The Phantom Menace, which might be a first for the Cap'n.

 High School Confidential! eased us out of the "boring" zone of bad movies - hey, I try, but sometimes things just don't land with the crowd - by being entirely too interested in being "hip" and "with it". That works wonders in its favor, because the ridiculous overuse of slang, coupled with what seems to be not even veiled suggestions about incest between Tony (Russ Tamblyn) and his aunt Gwen (Mamie Van Doren). In Tony's defense, it's mostly one way, and given there's a twist, I guess it's possible that they maybe aren't related, but why would he refer to her as his aunt behind closed doors? There are a number of questionable "bait and switch"-es in High School Confidential!, a movie about Tony moving in to town and taking over the high school drug trade in the course of two or three days. He's tough talking and backs it up, and pops his collar, even when it's on a sweater. Why? Because he's hip, daddy-o.

 There are so many ways to address how hard the writers are trying to sound "cool" and failing miserably: the hip version of Columbus that J. I. Coleridge (John Drew Barrymore) "lays" on his class, or the awful (even for Beat Poetry) performance at a "Jazz Club" the kids all go to. Or the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin, and nothing else. Tony, a "7th year" high school student, immediately starts hitting on his teacher and also moves in on Coleridge's girl, who turns out to be a junkie. The drug kingpins in town are played by Charles Chaplin, Jr. and Jackie Coogan. Yes, Uncle Fester forces Tony to shoot up to prove he's not a narc. But wait, he is! (SPOILER) Tony is really Mike, who works with the cops, and there's a big shootout at the jazz club when a deal goes bad. Fortunately, the leader of The Rangers - played by Michael Landon - is there to help out, even though they're the rival gang to Tony's Wheelers and Dealers. Also, Jerry Lee Lewis begins and ends the film playing the title song, in what appears to be the same shot.

 High School Confidential! picked up the pace a bit, and after a musical interlude, it was time to dive right into Raw Force. It's an almost perfect storm of kung-fu zombie cannibalism interspersed with gratuitous nudity and hokey special effects. And yet, some people were grumbling, perhaps because I oversold the "cannibal monks who raise kung-fu zombies" part of the movie. Yes, most of Raw Force's 86 minutes is devoted to a Kung-Fu cruise to "Warrior Island," where disgraced martial artists are buried. It's also where Hitler sells prostitutes in exchange for jade. Is his name Hitler in the movie? I honestly don't remember, but if he looks like Hitler and talks like Hitler, we're going to go with "that guy is Hitler". The cannibal monks eat the girls because it gives them power to raise the dead, which they use (eventually) for the final showdown.

 In the meantime, there's a lot of showing off of kung-fu skills, coupled with late 70s / early 80s clothes, music, and nudity aboard the cruise ship. Almost everyone on the boat - from the cook to the bartender - seem to know how to fight, and are therefore well equipped to handle Hitler's lackeys. You see, despite the fact that Warrior Island is the home of an illicit human trafficking ring, it's also the subject of its own tourism guide. Because, why wouldn't it? When the cruise ship catches on fire (or, rather, has fire overlaid over the image), some of the passengers escape, and the rest are presumably killed. We never hear from them again, so let's just assume they died. What's important is that the life raft lands on Warrior Island and the monks raise the dead. There's lots of chop sockey, some decapitations, some dynamite, and piranhas. How are there piranhas in salt water, in the ocean? My guess is they couldn't find any stock footage of sharks. So Hitler gets munched on by piranhas (SPOILER).

 Rather than launching into the "Luc Besson Presents an Affront to Science" double feature as promised, I gave them the option of getting the Trappening out of the way, which they decided was best. What they didn't know was that this year's mystery feature wasn't just a Bad Movie - it was a Great Bad Movie. By no stretch of the imagination could one call Commando a "good" movie, but I'll be damned if it isn't one of the most fun films to throw conventional cinema out the window. Continuity errors? Check. Bad one liners? Yessir. Gratuitous nudity? Well, it has absolutely nothing to do with the fight scene, so yep. The mall from Chopping Mall? Sure is! Arnold Schwarzenegger killing an entire army, single-handedly? You know it.

 To get Alyssa Milano back, Arnold will plow his way through David Patrick Kelly (John Wick), Bill Duke (Predator), Dan Hedaya (Alien Resurrection), and finally The Road Warrior's Vernon Wells (Weird Science) for the mother of all bad puns. Oh, and his name is John Matrix, because Rambo is a pansy. I firmly believe that Commando is what everybody thinks all action movies from the 80s are like (that, and First Blood Part II), and why they hold the admittedly average Expendables series to an impossible standard. Matrix is introduced hauling a log down to a cabin (on his shoulder), and then eats ice cream and feeds a deer with his daughter. Because he's tough, but sensitive. Until you steal his daughter, and then he just kills you. Rae Dawn Chong's Cindy isn't even developed enough to have Stockholm Syndrome when she assumes the role of "new mom" at the end, having been kidnapped by Matrix less than twelve hours before. Commando is all killer and no filler, but I asked attendees to give it the same scrutiny as any of our other howlers, which is exactly the point at which you realize the many logic gaps and inherent flaws that make it technically "Bad." Now that everybody was in a great frame of mind, it was time to throw common sense out the door and let Luc Besson insult our basic intelligence...

 I've been hosting official fests for nearly a decade now, and in all that time I have never heard the phrase "wait... what?" as many times as I did during Luc Besson's Lucy. Perhaps the mini-review in the "Worst Of" recap didn't quite convey just how painfully cavalier Lucy is with the concept of "science," but the reactions were hilarious. During the film, at least one large bottle of Kraken was consumed, and descriptions of what they'd seen ranged from "an atrocity" to "amazing." A friend of mine whose dissertation is on Philip K. Dick insists that it's not science fiction at all, but rather a brilliant example of "slipstream," a newer iteration of magical realism. The entire room erupted with laughter when Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) explained that she could "feel her brain" in what's supposed to be heartfelt scene over the phone with her mother. The comical, video-game-esque use of brain percentage "unlocked" was also a source of enjoyment, but nothing stood out quite as much as figuring out how long it took for Johansson to "say this horseshit with a straight face." One viewer worried that she could no longer take Morgan Freeman's Through the Wormhole seriously after seeing him in Lucy. I freely admit that Lucy is a bad movie, but it's a very entertaining one, and it was somewhat validating to see the baffled reactions as they tried to take Besson's affront to science seriously.

 That said, I made a critical mistake in putting Lockout after Lucy, because by comparison, the former is just a "run of the mill bad science fiction film". It's true that after you've heard Scarlett Johansson explain what it's like to feel your bones growing, or to become the monolith from 2001, a high speed unicycle chase just doesn't have the same impact. Even my favorite line of awful science, "the gravity should keep you floating" just can't compete with Besson's double-down on Insane Clown Posse-like disdain for science. Lockout is still a bad movie, and it's insistence on identifying everyone and every location on screen (repeatedly, in the case of the latter) is amusing, but it just wasn't the same head-scratcher that it was in 2012. On the other hand, the outcries of mental anguish reconciling what Lucy was saying vs. what they knew to be true was more than worth it.

 By the end of Lockout, just about everybody was ready to go, but a few stragglers felt like they had one more Bad Movie in them. Despite the fact that it meant Cap'n's Choice - I hadn't planned on anything past Lockout - they were willing to suffer through another one. Being that it was late, or comparatively late (we can't do movies until sunrise anymore), I opted to go short and show Cranpire a "Cranpire Movie": Sorority House Massacre II. As I'll be writing about that and the first Sorority House Massacre soon (and possibly Hard to Die), I won't go too into detail about it, but he enjoyed it. There's barely a plot, and most of the first half of the movie is devoted to showing as much gratuitous nudity as possible, followed by another 30 minutes or so of women running around a house in their nighties and going out in the rain for no good reason. Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall) even takes a pointless side-trip to a strip club to shoehorn in more nudity under the specious logic that one of the characters from a flashback is now dancing topless. Classy stuff.

 For the immediate future, I think I've hit my quota of schlock (although that doesn't rule out watching Furious 7). There's enough time to reload the queue in time for Summer Fest, where I think 80s cheesefests Without Warning and Deadly Eyes are going to be a hit. Thanks to everybody who made it, and to the folks at home who didn't, you now have a roadmap for your own Bad Movie Night. Just have alcohol and a good support system of friends nearby. And whatever you do, don't watch Things.


Laura said...

Might I suggest "Career Opportunities" for some kind of future viewing?

Cap'n Howdy said...

I don't think anyone would have a problem with more Jennifer Connelly at future viewings. We could double it up with Labyrinth...