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Movies like the Star Wars prequels, Prometheus, the Ang Lee Hulk film etc. are on this list because I personally think that they are underrated and get too much hate. I have good reasons for liking these films, I'm not some moronic little kid who loves a movie just for bright colours or flashy action scenes (I hate Transformers). I like them because there's some good things in them that impress me. I also want to point out that no movie is perfect. Even the most masterful and complex film is likely going to have flaws somewhere.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Tarantino re-writes history with such style and sophistication.
In the 90s, Quentin Tarantino was a force to be reckoned with, having directed two masterful films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. The latter was a major success for the director and hailed as one of the best works of modern cinema. Following Pulp Fiction's success, Tarantino made three other films; Jackie Brown, the Kill Bill duology and Death Proof. Whilst all three films were worthy efforts and enjoyable flicks, they considerably lacked the gravitas and majesty of his first two films. Only recently, however, QT has regained his momentum with his two extravagant and obviously violent period pieces; Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. The former is a profound retelling of the conflict between the Allied forces and Nazi Germany in World War II, has been hailed as his best work since Pulp Fiction and one of the best films of the last decade. Inglourious is a delightful mix of relentless bloody violence, quirky characters and laugh-out loud humour and one of the most idiosyncratic films of the genre and for the director.
In 1944, Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a U.S army officer, recruits a group of Jewish-bred American soldiers to form a covert commando unit to sneak behind enemy lines in Europe and plan their own retribution against the Nazis. The team, dubbed 'the Basterds' by the Nazis, take no prisoners and scalp dead soldiers as trophies. Whenever they let a German soldier live, they carve a swastika into his forehead so that he will be recognized as a former member of the Reich until his death. They then plan to sneak into a French cinema when they discover that the entire Nazi cabinet, including Hitler himself, are attending the premiere of a propaganda film. Meanwhile, the owner of the cinema, Shosanna, plans her own revenge plot against the Nazis for massacring her family three years prior under orders by a charismatic S.S officer named Colonel Hans Landa.
Inglourious is a unique film in that it tells a story centering around one of the most infamous and brutal conflicts in history but it radically changes many elements of the war. The most obvious being that there never was a rogue U.S army faction that was made up of exclusively Jewish soldiers who carried out their own Nazi murders along with Hitler and his cabinet being assassinated at a French cinema rather than committing suicide toward the end of the war in his basement. QT realizes that he is making a film and that telling historical fact is pretty much pointless so he creates his own alternate reality where this actually happened. In the process, Inglourious is separated from other films in the genre by rewriting history and in a quirky fashion. Of course, as this is a Tarantino film, there's plenty of violence and blood and even a scene that will have men crossing their legs.
A quality that was largely absent in Tarantino's post-Pulp Fiction works was strong characters. Thankfully, Inglourious is filled with them. Every character has a distinct feature to them. Aldo Raine is an over-his-head soldier with a cold streak but also an efficient leader. Shosanna is reminiscent of a femme fatale from the films of the period. A strong headed woman with a burning vendetta and the ability to hide her true identity and feelings expertly. Colonel Landa is a strong villain and the defining character. A sly ruthless killer with a lot of charm and a devious skill at deducing when a disguised enemy is in his presence. Despite being a Nazi, he doesn't adhere to the philosophy of Hitler himself but only does it for the thrill of it and satisfaction in pursuing such a coveted career. Even the smaller supporting players like Lieutenant Hicox, Hugo Stiglitz and Frederick Zoller have personality and charisma in their presences.
Brad Pitt plays Aldo Raine with a lot of flair and Southern U.S drawl, making him one of Tarantino's quirkier characters. Like everybody else, I enjoyed Christoph Waltz the most as Colonel Landa. It's very clear from watching this film why he won an Oscar. He pulls off the character's charm terrifically and makes him into a villain that's hard not to like. Melanie Laurent, who barely speaks English in the film, also does a good job as Shosanna and Michael Fassbender also does the best out of the supporting characters as the suave British officer Hicox.
Inglourious Basterds is a return to form from Tarantino and an impressive addition to his filmography. It's a wholly original work that is executed in a viscerally exciting and pulpy manner. I actually see it as better than his earlier works which is saying a lot. This is an enjoyable experience and despite its 2.5 hour running length, it flows well with it.
The Director's Cut is a big improvement. Sadly, no one seems to take notice of it.
With the recent news of Ben Affleck being cast as Batman in the upcoming crossover film with the Caped Crusader with Superman, fanboys have become enraged, sparking the biggest piece of startling nerd news since the announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII. The unpopularity of Affleck's first superhero effort, Daredevil, has been noted in regards to the news. I'd like to reiterate here. Daredevil is underrated. Is it flawless? No. No movie is. But I think it deserves a lot more credit than a lot of people feel it needs. As somebody who has defended the Star Wars prequels, Prometheus, the Ang Lee Hulk film and the fourth Indiana Jones, I must come across as a troll who likes to claim my appreciation for 'horrible' movies. But in the case of Daredevil, this film is a worthy effort on the basis of one version of the film. The Director's Cut is the version of the film worth watching rather than the relatively entertaining but heavily messy theatrical cut which had to be reduced to a PG-13 flick to appeal to teen audiences. Now let's look at Daredevil as what it really is; a near-masterpiece in the form of home video.
When director Mark Steven Johnson had finished working on Daredevil, he was forced to edit the film down from its more fitting R rated form to the more teen and younger audience oriented PG-13. Thus, a crucial sub-plot and important character arcs were cut down and the awkward romance between Matt Murdoch and Elektra is given more focus. In the extended version, the sub-plot focuses on a case concerning a gangster framed for murder played by Coolio. The case connects well with Matt's investigation into the Kingpin and allows for a thrilling mystery story. There's also more of a better connection between the characters of Matt and the journalist Ben played by Joe Pantolianao which is a nice added nuance to the comics. The character development is also a lot stronger here. Matt's character is more branched out here and there's more aspects of him present that will please the fans of the comics like the mention of his Catholic upbringing and how his enhanced motion senses work. He's a more fully realized character with a defined set of morals on how to fight crime, giving the movie its heart and soul. The romance between Matt and Elektra is also less focused on to give it a more tense and uneasy feel to it and also allow for Elektra's character to be more aloof and enigmatic.
Ben Affleck tends to get a lot of flack for his performance as Matt Murdoch. I'm sure there were better actors to choose from but the original choice for the character was Vin Diesel. Just think about that for a second. Affleck was in Chasing Amy and Good Will Hunting and made two great films as a director. Diesel's resume consists of the likes of Fast and Furious and Chronicles of Riddick. Who sounds like the better actor? Truth be told, Affleck's performance in the theatrical cut is mainly the fault of his character being underdeveloped and inconsistent due to the cutting. With the character more branched out and looked into, I feel Affleck's performance improves surprisingly. It's no Christian Bale as Batman but it's still impressive. Michael Clarke Duncan manages to be over-the-top and commanding as the Kingpin, the arch-nemesis of Daredevil and Colin Farrell loves gnawing at the scenery as the sharpshooting assassin Bullseye. Jennifer Garner is the least impressionable. Elektra isn't a particularly interesting character in this endeavour and Garner doesn't bring anything to the role to make her interesting. This is more the character than the actress however. Though I have no idea why a spin-off feature with her was commissioned.
The action in this film is pulpy and engaging and even gives the feel of a comic book universe which is helped by the glossy visuals. There are a few moments where the CGI shots of Daredevil leaping from building to building can look cartoony but they are not too distracting. The climax ends hoping for a sequel which is a shame considering how the film (well, the director's cut) was such a great effort.
Dardevil's failure is mainly the result of studio interference and the hopeless yet surprisingly effective casting of Ben Affleck as the character. Mark Steven Johnson manages to restore the character's strength and make a superhero feature that is gripping in its execution and suits the dark tone needed. This is one of the better Marvel films in my opinion and even better than the first Spider-Man for me. If you ever feel sceptical about seeing what Ben Affleck can do playing a masked vigilante, just look for the Daredevil director's cut and endure an exciting and compelling feature that makes up for whatever flaws are left in. You may be surprised. Affleck is no Christian Bale or Robert Downey Jr. but he's more credible than either Ryan Reynolds or George Clooney when playing a superhero.
A superhero satire that is actually good.
In the case of superhero satires, failure tends to be common and frustratingly grating. As seen by flops like Hancock and The Green Hornet, it looks as if superheroes and comedy should never go together, almost as if they're being too self-aware to allow people to laugh and care about the heroes. With Kick-Ass, however, director Matthew Vaughn crafts an energetic and creative action comedy that makes a lot of use of the satirical source material by comic book writer Mark Millar. Featuring terrific performances, snappy dialogue and delightfully gory action, Kick-Ass is one of the most effective films of the past three years and deserves its place among some of the best superhero films.
My first reactions to Kick-Ass were mixed to marginally negative. There were elements of it that I admired like the characters and even the attempts at satire but the tone for me was very lost. A lot of the drama in it became too disturbing which made it come across as mean-spirited and unpleasant. As I thought more about Kick-Ass and re-watched it recently, however, I found it easier to appreciate and I understood that the shifting tone gave the film its quirkiness and creative edge. I thus found a different film than from what I watched and it slowly began to become one of my favourite movies.
Dave Lizewski is an average teenage boy who dreams of becoming a superhero despite having no superhuman abilities or any training in fighting. One day, he puts on a cheesy costume and tries to fight a group of thugs but ends up getting stabbed and hit by a car. As he recovers from his injuries, he begins to build up his strength and returns to fighting crime as his alter-ego Kick-Ass. Because of this, he becomes an Internet phenomenon and two other wannabe superheros, Damon McReady and his nine year old daughter Mindy, join forces with Dave as a team. The father-daughter team are the bloodthirsty vigilantes Big Daddy and Hit-Girl who, unlike Dave, always leave corpses. The trio then decide to go up against Frank D'Amico, a Mafioso kingpin whom Big Daddy has a vendetta against.
As I've said before, superhero satires are hard to succeed particularly because of how the filmmakers make the heroes become too aware of the comedic aspect to the story and tone. Kick-Ass is different. Whilst it does acknowledge the silliness of what the characters are trying to accomplish, it knows when to be dark and dramatic to keep the film from becoming too headache-inducing in watching the characters obnoxiously tell the audience, figuratively, that they are being stupid. Kick-Ass is more grounded in realism than other satires so it works and the comedic material really does pull off in the end.
Aaron Johnson is ideally cast as Dave/Kick-Ass. He brings a likable sense of sensitivity and self-awareness to the part and makes him identifiable. Chloe Grace Moretz is possibly the most talked about performer of the film as Hit-Girl. She is enjoyably psychotic and energetic in the role and it made her one of the most acclaimed child actors of the 2010s. Nicolas Cage doesn't succumb to his typical screaming and over-the-top craziness as Big Daddy, essaying a strong tragic character with a lot of demons and giving one of the best performances of his recent career. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, or McLovin, does a good job as Frank D'Amico's son Chris who masquerades as a hero called Red Mist to get close to Kick-Ass. The character may appear to be a McLovin clone but is more serious and introspective. Mark Strong delivers an atypical villain for a superhero comedy. Frank D'Amico is a serious cold-blooded criminal leader rather than a comedic played-for- laughs Dr. Evil antagonist.
Kick-Ass is an effectively crafted superhero filled with sardonic humour and Tarantino-esque violence along with strong characters and a fast- moving story. Whilst it's not the best of its kind and Edgar Wright's adaptation of Scott Pilgrim was more appealing to me, Kick-Ass still needs approval as one of the most engaging motion pictures of the past five years and a great example of how to do a satire.
Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Whedon + Shakespeare = Gold.
Without a doubt, William Shakespeare is the most influential writer in history. His plays have become renowned as masterworks for their timeless complex themes, assured writing and style whether witty and comedic or compelling and tragic. Many Shakespeare adaptations do admirable jobs translating the Bard's works onto the screen by incorporating the traditional Elizabethan dialogue and using the conventional period for the setting. Some like Baz Luhrmann, however, set the action in the present with the traditional dialogue which can come across as out of place and pretentious. Some even adapt them loosely with modern day dialogue to varying success. With Joss Whedon, however, his translation of Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare's most acclaimed comedies, succeeds on pretty much every level with a sophisticated and restrained approach to the original play along with a well performed cast. Whedon delivers one of the best, if not the best, Shakespeare adaptations ever brought to the big screen with this.
The plot to Much Ado About Nothing is a tale of romance and the concept of it. Benedick and Claudio are two friends returning from a battle with Don Pedro when they arrive at Governor of Messina Leonato's estate to stay for a month. Claudio is infatuated with Leonato's daughter Hero whom he has been in love with before. Benedick, a man who doesn't believe in love or marriage, is in a feud with Leonato's niece and Hero's cousin Beatrice. The two claim to despise each other but Don Pedro notices a trace of romantic tension underneath their banter and tries to matchmake them together. Meanwhile, Don Pedro's bastard brother Don John tries to prevent Claudio and Hero from marrying and to create turmoil amongst his brother and Leonato.
Much Ado About Nothing was shot on a shoestring budget at Whedon's house shortly after he had finished filming on his big budget superhero blockbuster The Avengers. Adapting a Shakespeare work had been the writer/director's dream project for many years and he was able to obtain the rights for this after finishing up his superhero epic for Marvel. Whedon thankfully succeeded in doing this. The style of this adaptation is reminiscent of Howard Hawks/Cary Grant screwball comedies such as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday as displayed by the physical humour present, the polished black and white cinematography and the playful delivery of the dialogue. Whedon also employs modern day technology to great effect here which surprisingly doesn't feel out of place. When music needs to be played, an iPod is played on a speaker and an iPhone is used to show footage of a character being taken into custody. This is used by Whedon only as a minor alteration and it works ingeniously.
The majority of the cast have collaborated with Whedon on prior projects which reflects his obsession with working with the same actors continuously. Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, both having played major characters in Angel, are pitch perfect as Benedick and Beatrice. The two leads embody the their characters' dry wit and antagonism for each other terrifically whilst also clearly displaying the hints of the love the two share for each other underneath. Fran Danz and newcomer Jillian Morgese are less impressionable as Claudio and Hero but aren't intended as the focus of the story anyway and they still carry some weight in their scenes. Clark Gregg aka Agent Coulson delivers a combination of sincerity and command to Leonato. Gregg wasn't the original choice for the character and was only brought in at the last minute when Anthony Head wasn't available. Gregg had agreed to play the role after working with Whedon on The Avengers. Nathan Fillion, one of my all time favourite actors, stands out as Dogberry, the incompetent chief of police who misuses numerous words. Fillion is suitably pompous and self-confidant, providing much of the film's humour. Sean Maher isn't given much to do because of his character's limited appearance but gives his all and is still a better Don John than Keanu Reeves.
Joss Whedon delivers a strong contemporary take on Shakespeare's play and it remains one of the best adaptations of Shakespeare's works that I have watched. The charm, wit and joy of the original play is still here and Whedon uses it to maximum effect, delivering an adept and overall masterful adaptation and one of the best films of the past few years.
Chasing Amy (1997)
An underrated gem by the inventive Kevin Smith
With his debut feature, Clerks, Kevin Smith was granted the credentials to become one of the leading directors of indie cinema. The film about two friends working in a convenience store was a big hit with critics and audiences and became one of the defining films of the 90s. Smith followed it up in 1995 with Mallrats. Mallrats was a financial bomb and was poorly received by critics for its different style and humour to Clerks. Whilst nowhere near the more thoughtful and clever Clerks, Mallrats is a light-hearted and funny comedy with a lot of charm. Despite Mallrats' failure, Smith went on to direct a more sophisticated and heartfelt comedy called Chasing Amy. Chasing Amy was similar to Clerks in that it was a dramatic film with a lot of humour but it was more tonally upbeat and even had some emotional resonance. Chasing Amy is a terrific romantic comedy with a lot of charm and emotion, making it Smith's most potent work as a filmmaker though it lacks some of the influential appeal that Clerks had.
Holden McNeil and Banky Edwards are two friends who work as comic book artists with their current series, the superhero duo of Bluntman and Chronic. At a convention, they meet a fellow comic book artist named Alyssa, who writes feminist graphic novels. After one night hanging out with Alyssa, Holden realizes that he is in love with her but his dreams of being with her are tarnished when he discovers that she is a lesbian. Alyssa still wants to be friends with Holden and they spend more time together. But Holden is unable to hide his true feelings for her and in a heartfelt confession, pours his heart out to her. Alyssa is at first hesitant about being involved with Holden but immediately returns his love back to him.
Chasing Amy is one of those films that could've ended up being a gross- out comedy considering the source material was out-there for the time. But Smith manages to keep it from being crass and embarrassing. The closest to gross-out humour here is one scene where Alyssa and Banky compare 'battle-scars' from past sexual encounters together in a homage to Jaws. Most of the comedy is more cynical and sardonic but not subtle. There are many moments that are at most guaranteed to raise a bout of laughter like when Star Wars is accused of being white supremacist propaganda or when Banky reacts to Alyssa kissing a woman and then realizing he is in a lesbian bar juxtaposed to Holden's shocked choking up of discovering his fantasy doesn't got for his type.
Most importantly though is the relationships between the characters. Holden and Alyssa are one of my favourite romantic couples in film and the chemistry between Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams sells it along with Smith's writing. The two have a clear connection whether merely friendly or romantic. Holden breaking down to Alyssa and confessing his love for her has to go down as one of the best confession scenes in film and the writing along with Affleck's performance sells it. Those who doubt the guy's acting abilities only need to watch his performance here. Adams' voice at first gets a bit obnoxious but she also gives a great performance as Alyssa, making for a perfect romantic foil. Jason Lee has some of the best lines in the film as Banky but his character isn't as developed or strong as the other two. His dismissive attitude toward Alyssa for being a lesbian followed by him being revealed as gay himself feels a bit too tagged on but it doesn't hurt the film and Lee does have some good chemistry with Affleck to support him. Jay and Silent Bob, the duo from Smith's View Askewniverse films, also make an appearance in one scene.
Chasing Amy is a solid rom-com with a lot of dramatic heft and emotional resonance to it. Smith's writing is at its peak here and the comedy is just as vulgar and amusing this time around. The efforts of the actors are also worth noting in bringing this film to life, making for a deep connection with the characters and their issues. Smith has made a terrific comedy that is funny, touching and all around deep. If only Jersey Girl could achieve this much.
As Black Francis of The Pixies wrote; 'Where is my mind?'
In the world of cinema, the mainstream and the abstract can both play a big role in the industry. From the big budget blockbusters of Steven Spielberg to the avant-garde art house films of Kubrick and Polanski, filmmaking can be subverted and regarded in many ways and the director/filmmaker can shape something that could change it forever. Perhaps the most iconic director of surrealist cinema would be David Lynch. Known for crafting disturbing motion pictures filled with twisted characters, grotesque imagery and other-worldly stories, Lynch has been regarded as one of the most influential directors of modern cinema and an acclaimed experimental auteur. Whilst Lynch can be credited for his more sophisticated pictures like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, his feature debut, the mind-boggling and overtly surreal Eraserhead is one of his most important pictures and is definitely one of the first things to spring into my mind when somebody mentions the term 'mind-f@/k'. It's an eerie, weird and peculiar experience to endure and a masterpiece of surreal art.
In a decaying industrial setting, a factory worker named Henry Spencer has dinner with his girlfriend Mary X and her odd parents when he discovers that Mary has given birth to a deformed reptilian baby. The infant causes much noise and causes Mary to leave Henry. He struggles to care for his deranged child and also faces many nightmarish visions from The Man in the Planet and the Lady in the Radiator.
Lynch took five years to film Eraserhead on a shoestring budget due to numerous interruptions and financial difficulties. The film was largely shot around dilapidated industrial locales to give the film a gritty feel to it and evoke the feeling of living in a claustrophobic nightmare world. Sound is also very prominent in the film with the unsettling sound of city noise blaring in almost every scene. This also makes the setting and the atmosphere thunderous and ominous, illuminating a decaying backdrop and the feeling of isolation. The design of Henry's baby is also used to good effect. There have been many rumours circulating around what was used to create the baby. A skinned rabbit was rumoured to have been the prop used for the infant though lynch himself has never fully revealed what had in fact really been used.
The story to Eraserhead is told from the perspective of Henry as we see everything that he is witnessing and interacting with the odd people he confronts. He is portrayed as a meek and lonely man who allows the strange events surrounding him to prevail without interfering or questioning them. When he commits the act of infanticide, having to sacrifice his own child near the end, he is releasing himself from the pain of enduring a life of tiredness and despair. There is also a strong sexual theme present in Eraserhead. When Henry carves the turkey at Mary's dinner, the legs begin to twitch and blood pours out of the cooked animal. The unsettling presence of the Girl in the Radiator stamping on miniature versions of the baby also represents Henry's tormented psyche; the desperate need to be rid of this abomination and being embraced by the Girl as he accomplishes this.
Eraserhead is a mind-bending motion picture that confuses, intrigues and bedazzles you. Much has been talked about it for its repulsive yet eye-boggling imagery and thematic elements. Despite gaining little recognition on its original release, it launched Lynch's career into filmmaking and became a beloved cult classic. It is a masterpiece of surreal imagery and one of the most baffling films to watch.
Somehow, I can picture first contact with aliens being like this.
In the 1970s, the concept of extra-terrestrial life was a heavily talked about and debated trend. Science fiction had only become mainstream and popular again with George Lucas' sci-fi epic Star Wars becoming the most successful motion picture of the time. In the same year of Star Wars' big release, Lucas' friend and contemporary Steven Spielberg released his own sci-fi epic in the wake of his previous blockbuster Jaws. Close Encounters of the Third Kind dealt with the idea of making contact with aliens and was a conventional tale of humanity's reactions to finding other life in the galaxy whilst Star Wars was a space opera tale that looked into a different universe. When I look both films, Star Wars is clearly the better film for me. However, Close Encounters is the most realistic picture and is at least deserving of mention as one of the best sci-fi films ever made. It's one of Spielberg's best works and one of my favourite movies.
In Indiana, an electrical engineer named Roy Neary is out on a night shift when a UFO flies over his truck and burns half of his face. At the same time, a woman named Jillian is chasing after her infant son Barry who is woken up by the UFOs and leaves the house. Both Roy and Jillian become obsessed by these alien lifeforms especially after Barry is abducted by them one night. Roy also begins to experience visions of the Devil's Tower in Wyoming and continuously makes sculptures of it, much to the dismay of his wife and kids who leave him. Meanwhile, a French scientist named Lacombe also investigates strange occurrences that link with an oncoming arrival from extra-terrestrial life.
Close Encounters is a unique picture for the time because it dealt with extra-terrestrial life differently from the sci-fi movies of the 50s. Originally, aliens in film were depicted as being hostile and unfriendly, wanting to come to Earth to invade and conquer. Spielberg tackles this differently. Instead, the aliens are portrayed as simple space-farers who have come to Earth to make peace and prosper with the humans. Spielberg pulls it off terrifically by depicting throughout the majority of the film till the end of the aliens' ambiguous nature. We, the audience, do not know what the motives of these creatures. the scene where Barry is abducted by the aliens in his home is suitably unsettling because we have no idea what the aliens will do to him and as of that moment, we are unsure if they're friendly or war-mongering. Only at the end, when Roy ascends into the mothership, do we realize that these beings are peaceful and serene. Spielberg would use this element to a more playful albeit less successful degree with his more popular alien picture E.T.
Richard Dreyfuss delivers a strong performance as Roy, an overly-eager man who becomes obsessed with discovering more about Earth's visitors. Out of the three films Dreyfuss has collaborated with Spielberg on (this, Jaws and Always), this is his strongest work. Melinda Dillon also does an equally impressive job as Jillian, creating a sense of sympathy into her desperate character. Acclaimed French director Francois Truffaut tries his hand at acting in front of the camera as Lacombe. He does a sincere job with his performance, bringing a sense of dignity to the part. The special effects provided by Douglas Trumbull are in one word, spectacular. Trumbull, who had also provided the visual effects on 2001: A Space Odyssey and would go on to work on Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, makes the UFOs look authentic and fools you into thinking they are really on screen. Even by today's standards, the mothership still looks mesmerizing to look at and can achieve something not many CGI effects could succeed at.
Close Encounters is a mature and breathtaking motion picture with a lot of heart, suspense and grandeur. It remains one of Spielberg's most potent works and a grand achievement in science fiction filmmaking. Although George Lucas' space opera was more of an appealing film for me, this still achieved many things that Star Wars did not in an equally impressive way.
Dungeons & Dragons (2000)
I wet myself watching this monstrosity, it was that hilarious
Normally for me, and I'm sure with a lot of other people, watching a terrible movie can be disheartening. However, sometimes a bad movie can succeed in entertaining because its flaws give it some enjoyment value and can make the viewer laugh at the picture and not with it. Having to endure something ungodly atrocious like Transformers 2, The Boondock Saints or Howard the Duck is depressing because they fail to entertain and end up becoming unpleasant and horribly dull. But then you get films like The Room, Troll 2 and the films of Ed Wood that are amusingly bad due to their preposterous flaws that can make you giggle. With the big screen adaptation of the popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, the category of 'so bad it's good' is placed over it. Filmed like a shoddy direct-to-video film, D&D is a hilarious film that fails to respect its source material and fails completely as a film by itself. If you ever want to have a good time watching an amusing bad film and picking apart its flaws, look no further here.
In the kingdom of Izmir, an evil Mage named Profion aspires to use a powerful sceptre known as the Rod of Saville that can control dragons and allow him to overthrow the young Empress Savina, who wants to create peace and equality between the Mages and commoners, and take over the kingdom. Meanwhile, two thieves named Ridley and Snails break into the School of Magic to steal some valuable times when they're caught by a young Mage named Marina. When Profion's right-hand man Damodar (Ol' Blue Lips as I like to call him) kills Marina's master however, they escape and take a map showing the Rod's location and try to find it before Profion and Damodar reach it.
As somebody who has never played D&D in my life, I'm unaware if the film does anything to respect the original board game though I hear hardcore D&D fans despised this so you can bet that you will be heartbroken if you're expecting your nerdy fantasy to be brought to life on the big screen. Even taking that away, this film is still a dreaded piece of nonsense. The characters are blandly written and are only entertaining to watch because of the actors' tragic attempts to act through the hilariously incompetent script. The story is standard and the CGI work is straight-to-DVD worthy. There is also some blatant ripping off of Star Wars, both of the original trilogy and The Phantom Menace which was only released a year prior to this. Profion and Damodar are played like a Rocky Horror interpretation of Palpatine and Darth Vader. Ridley is portrayed like a cross between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo with Marina in a Princess Leia role. And we have Snails acting like a more offensive version of Jar Jar Binks and the Empress being played like Queen Amidala with the robotic voice more played up even when not in court (and I liked Episode I).
The acting from everyone in this film is unanimously awful. Justin Whalin and Zoe McLellan try their best in their roles but they struggle to speak insipid dialogue in a convincing manner and come across as flat and stiff. The romance between them is also unneeded and makes Bella and Edward look subtly built up. Marlon Wayans is insufferable in the role of Snails and can be more easily accepted as a racist stereotype than Jar Jar because whilst Jar Jar is an alien, Snails is a human and more obviously black. He is portrayed as uneducated and cowardly and his death scene is played as being a big tragic tearjerker when I'm sure everybody watching this would be cheering at Marlon Wayans depart from the film. Thora Birch is the definition of wooden in this film. As mentioned before, her character is cardboard copy of Queen Amidala from Phantom Menace except the robotic voice is played up more. However, whilst Amidala was portrayed as being more emotional in her scenes without the extravagant costumes and makeup, Birch is like that throughout all her scenes. People who think Natalie Portman was bad should watch Birch here and ask for Portman's forgiveness. Jeremy Irons and Bruce Payne as Profion and Damodar respectively are the best actors here because they manage to bring energy to their scenes and go bats#!t crazy, making for the best entertainment value in the film. Who doesn't love it when Irons is using the Rod to command the dragons and just snarls all of his dialogue with such glee?
Dungeons and Dragons is a dreadfully misguided and incomprehensible fantasy flick that manages to be enjoyable thanks to the sheer stupidity of the whole affair. With its ridiculous story, preposterous dialogue ('Just like you thieves; always taking things that don't belong to you') and even worse acting, this almost equals The Room in terms of bad movies that are a lot of fun. Check it out if you want some of that gleeful rubbish.
Genius. Pure, incomprehensible, unattainable, peculiar genius.
Back in 2003, a mysterious man named Tommy Wiseau directed, produced wrote and starred in a remarkable motion picture known as The Room. Dubbed by Entertainment Weekly as 'the Citizen Kane of bad movies', The Room has become one of the great examples of so-bad-it's-good films and has become a popular Internet phenomenon and regular midnight movie. Since his anti-masterpiece gained recognition, Wiseau has become a mockery of himself unintentionally, now starring in his own webshow playing video games and discussing facts of life in vlogs. In 2010, Wiseau starred in a horror short film produced by Comedy Central titled the House That Drips Blood on Alex. THTDBoA is equal to Wiseau's own film in terms of amusing badness and something to enjoy yourself with when you're in the mood for Ed Wood-esque films.
Wiseau plays Alex, a man who buys a house not very subtly titled '3 Blood Street'. To prevent confusion, the creepy landlord tells Alex the street is pronounced as it is spelt and not like 'blud'. Alex enthusiastically moves into his new home but his joy is short-lived as it begins to drip blood on him.
At only 13 minutes, THTDBoA is clearly intended to be an accidental comedy. Similar to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films, the filmmakers decided to make this a bad movie in a way where it's aware of that but acting like it isn't. Wiseau appears to be blissfully unaware of this however which adds more to the fun. He mumbles his way through the film as if he was hungover and his alien accent and idiosyncratic pronunciations are still there in his performance. The landlord is also hamming his way through his short screen time; going full out camp and hilariously unsettling. And what's up with his lip puckering? Add to that, the story is rehashed and the events that are depicted are never looked into or explained simply because.... what the hell?
There are many plot elements in THTDBoA that are brought up but never explained or resolved much like what Wiseau did with The Room (possibly a homage to its star). For example, what exactly happened after Alex signed the form for the house and the landlord openly maniacally laughed at him? Why does the blood drip on Alex but not on his friend Thomas when he's in the house? And when Alex was going to talk to Thomas about a story before being interrupted, did he say he was 'a little girl'? What the f#%k is all that about? The twist at the end is also hilariously baffling and nonsensical and is funny simply because it comes out of nowhere and has no explanation.
The House That Drips Blood on Alex is a baffling and all around hilarious short that will leave you feeling confused and entertained at the same time much like The Room. Mr Wiseau, you have done it again, you genius.
Troll 2 (1990)
A masterpiece of s#!t. Almost on par with The Room
When looking at candidates for worst movie ever made, many movies come to mind for some people. Ed Wood movies or Uwe Boll films normally crop up as runner-ups or even mainstream blockbusters like Transformers 2 or the Twilight series can be regarded as such or something like Freddy Got Fingered or Gigli. I have definitely seen my share of bad movies as anyone reading my reviews may have noticed. Troll 2 is one such movie that is infamous for being so bad that it is regarded as a comedy for being so ineptly made. Whilst it's not as enjoyable as say The Room or the Dungeons and Dragons movie, Troll 2 is still an entertaining experience to sit through to laugh at the amount of errors laden within the film. Even watching the worst scene clips on YouTube is not enough to see the entire picture.
As evidenced by the number two in the title, Troll 2 is intended as a sequel. But it's more appropriate to call it a sequel in name only. The story, characters even the style is not remotely like the first film. In fact, the title of the film has nothing to do with what occurs in the film because there are no trolls found here. The creatures that the characters encounter are goblins. So why this is called 'Troll 2' is beyond me. Another big difference between this and the first Troll is that whilst the first Troll was horrendous, it was bad in a 'it's just plain bad' way. This is awful in a comedic way.
Troll 2's popularity is mostly due to many of its scenes having impact on Internet videoing. These scenes have become synonymous with awful filmmaking. The most played and popular scene of the film is when one character named Arnold is witnessing a woman he has just helped dissolving and being eaten alive by goblins. In a flat, unemotional voice, he murmurs 'they're eating her.... and then they're gonna eat me' followed by him shouting 'Oh my God' with the 'God' being flatly stretched out. It's a scene that's commonly shown when somebody wants to see an example of bad acting. The acting by all the actors is god-awful. Michael Stephenson who plays the main child character of Joshua appears to be the only actor trying here but he's let down by the inept script and his vocal mannerisms come across as flat and emotionless. George Hardy, as the father, is hilariously camp and reminds me of Mark Wahlberg's performance in The Happening with the voice of Sheldon Cooper. The mother and daughter of the family make Kristen Stewart in Twilight seem expressive. All of their lines are said in a flat monotone as if they are bored and regretful of starring in the film.
Troll 2 was directed by Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso who barely spoke English during production on the film. Because of this, it's easy to understand why the acting and script turned out the way they did. The dialogue and the performances are so awkwardly bad, it almost feels like Fragasso did this on purpose to teach other directors what not to do when making a film. Fragasso still declares his own movie a 'masterpiece' even to this day. If only his arrogance could be supported. This guy and Tommy Wiseau should get together and make a film.
Even the premise of Troll 2 fails completely. Aside from the title having no relation to the events in the story, the whole plot makes no sense. The town that the family moves into is filled with crazy locals under the influence of the goblins that infest the entire community. The town is called Nilbog which, to anybody who is too lazy to notice (though I'm sure even a generally lazy person can notice), is Goblin spelled backwards. When Joshua realizes this, it's treated like a big revelation like in Psycho or The Sixth Sense when I'm sure everybody in the audience could guess what it means after looking at the name of the town. The villains of the film have no motivation and there's a weird scene where the Goblin Queen or whatever she is, seduces a man with popcorn. As for Grandpa Seth..... what the hell was the point in his character exactly?
Troll 2 is one of those awful films that demands at least one viewing among the troupe of hilariously awful s#!t like The Room, Dungeons and Dragons and endless Arnold Schwarzenegger pictures. It's an extraordinary film where everything seems to have been intentionally made to be bad to teach the human race what happens when you screw up making a film. Maybe M. Night Shyamalan and Uwe Boll should attend special screenings of this film.