Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Every Dark Cloud...

I often find that even the worst movies have some redeeming factor. Sometimes, it’s the thing we cling to so we don’t feel quite so bad about wasting two hours of our life watching a turkey; other times, these saving graces are so fantastic that watching said turkey is actually kinda worth it. Perhaps inspired by the new film Valentine’s Day—which has a funny Taylor Swift, copious hunks, and little else to recommend it—and definitely inspired by re-reading The Book of Lists: Horror, I hereby present…
10 Great Things in Otherwise Terrible Movies
1. Uma Thurman in Batman & Robin (1997)—Joel Schumacher’s fourth Caped Crusader was so dumb, loud, and grating that it all but buried the franchise until 2005’s Batman Begins arrived nearly ten years later. The sole bright spot was Thurman’s hilarious and inspired turn as villainess Poison Ivy, who truly stole the show with her transformation from amusingly dorky botanist Pamela Isley to the green cat-suited temptress.
2. Jamie Lee Curtis’s death scene in Halloween: Resurrection (2002)—1998’s Halloween: H20 was a surprisingly heartfelt and clever sequel, but the next entry was just as awful (if not more so) than the rest. Added to a beyond contrived “explanation” for Michael Myers’ non-death were annoying teens, Tyra Banks, and a Kung Fu-fighting Busta Rhymes (?!). Curtis was contractually obligated to appear, and it’s her opening scene alone that makes this worth watching. Michael finally kills his beleaguered sister, but not before she plants a kiss on his lips and intones “I’ll see you in Hell!” It’s a great last line, and proved that Laurie had the smarts to exit with grace, unlike the rest of this crappy movie.
3. Every song in Xanadu (1980)—Why did one of Hollywood’s most notorious bombs still manage to gain a cult following? Apart from its oodles of kitsch, Xanadu had one great strength: its music. The fantastic songs by Electric Orchestra, Olivia Newton John, et al are what make the interminably bad writing and wooden acting worth suffering through. Thank Zeus someone had the presence of mind to graft these stellar songs onto a cheeky and clever Broadway script, giving this career-killing oddity a new lease on life.
4. Ryan Reynolds’ body in Van Wilder (2002)—Sometimes it’s a profound performance or artful sequence that makes a bad movie less awful. Other times it’s something less sublime. Ryan Reynolds’s hot, impossibly chiseled physique is the only reason anyone ever wasted their time on this dreadful college “comedy.” Lucky for us its star was as talented and charming as his bod was smokin’.
5. The musical sequence in Not Another Teen Movie (2001)—Brainless teen flicks were ripe for the plucking in 2001, but this spoof was every bit as uninspired as the easy targets it was mocking. All except for one bravura scene in which every character sings their heart out in advance of the prom. It’s clever, hilarious, and creative—everything the rest of the movie wasn’t.
6. The decapitation scene in Midnight Meat Train (2008)—This Bradley Cooper horror flick (adapted from Clive Barker’s story) was barely released to theaters, and it isn’t hard to see why. Slick, slow moving, and repulsive, it was unlikely to find a large audience beyond hardcore gore hounds or perhaps those curious about the state of Brooke Shields’ “career.” One moment is pure brilliance, though: the titular fiend lops off a woman’s head, and the camera acts as her POV—as she flies through the air and sees her own dismembered body. It was the only rewind-worthy bit in an otherwise forgettable flick.
7. The closing credits in The X Files: I Want to Believe (2008)—Faithful fans of Chris Carter’s groundbreaking genre series waited five years for this wholly unremarkable, borderline offensive piece of drivel that was worse than the lamest TV episodes. Ironically, only those who sat through the credits saw anything remotely enjoyable: our heroes, Mulder and Scully, waving goodbye from a paradise-bound sailboat to the cool strains of UNKLE’s “Broken.” Unfortunately, this coda all but defined “too little, too late” for frustrated X-Philes.
8. The costumes in Psycho (1998)—There was no good reason to remake Hitchcock’s classic thriller shot for shot—and plenty of reasons not to. (I’d put Anne Heche’s desecration of Janet Leigh’s character near the top of that list.) At least we were treated to costumes more startlingly original than almost anything else onscreen at the time. From Norman’s vibrant print shirts to Marion’s shower curtain patterned buttons, it was a feast of funky, fabulous frocks. Too bad the “Emperor” in this case wasn’t really wearing clothes at all.
9. Lindsay Lohan’s stripping scene in I Know Who Killed Me (2007)—This ridiculous Lohan “thriller” acted as the red-haired starlet’s Xanadu, effectively killing a once-promising career (along with endless tabloid stories and drink-and-drug fueled antics). The loony tale of “stigmatic twins” entangled with a serial killer is so ineptly made it crosses the line from awful to so-bad-it’s-good. But one sequence is so artful it feels like it came from another director and movie entirely: Lohan’s highly sensual, meticulously lit and photographed strip tease, set to Out Hud’s groovy “How Long.” Maybe if the film had spent more time on the strip club and less on rotting fingers (!) it would’ve turned a profit—and kept L.Lo from fading into gossip column oblivion.
10. Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey in Superman Returns (2006)—For a movie with so much promise, Bryan Singer’s reboot of the Man of Steel was dishearteningly lousy. The half-baked storyline (some nonsense involving a Kryptonite-made rock planet overtaking Earth and Supes’ potential love child) and terrible leads (pretty but bland Brandon Routh and pretty but bland Kate Bosworth, whose groaner “I forgot how warm you are” belongs in the Bad Movie Line Hall of Fame) sank this polished looking but feeble attempt to relaunch its eponymous hero. Relief from this self-important hooey arrives in the form of Spacey as Lex Luthor and Parker Posey as his fag hag—er, “girlfriend” Kitty Kowalski. Posey, who performed similar scene stealing in the lackluster Scream 3, is hysterical in every scene she’s in, while Spacey hits just the right balance of wit and menace. It’s casting so good, it makes you long for a movie that deserves it.
Well, those are mine: how about you guys? Remember anything awesome from movies that otherwise sucked?