Top Ten Tuesday – TOP 10 GUILTY PLEASURE MOVIES
I have a curious habit, maybe you have it too, if you are a real movie geek, film fan, cinema addict, what have you.
A certain number of movies that I have seen and loved with all my heart were losers at the box office or were mercilessly slammed by critics, usually both. This doesn’t happen all the time, mind you. I know a bad movie when I see one. But several times I have seen a movie on opening day and loved it so much I was sure it would be a big hit and be loved by critics and film goers, nope, not all the time.
Here then is my own personal and highly eccentric top ten list, with some honorable mentions, of movies that lost out, yet I love them still, many of them desperately, hysterically, madly do I love these films, well anyway… let me tell you about it.
The only failure on Steven Spielberg’s resume I still vividly recall seeing 1941 on its opening day at the Mark Twain Theatre in St. Louis. I loved it so much I was certain it would be a major holiday hit. No, audiences stayed away and critics were so mean spirited I had to wonder if they were waiting for a movie from Spielberg that did not meet their expectations, I guess 1941 was it. I don’t care, I love everything about 1941, from the lovely young nude lady (the same one eaten at the start of Jaws) showing her bare behind to a Japanese submarine sailor to Ned Beatty knocking the remains of his house onto the Malibu beach, I thought, and still do, that 1941 was one of the most hilarious comedies ever made.
I love it all, Eddie Deezen and Murray Hamilton on the Ferris wheel, Belushi and his lone fighter plane, (attached to no squadron and having no commanding officer), Slim Pickens on the toilet “you ain’t gettin’ shit outta me!”, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy (among others)wheeling their tank onto Hollywood Boulevard, the huge dance contest and riot between the Army, Navy and Marines (and Zoot Suiters) and most especially my introduction to one of the most beautiful and talented young actresses I have ever seen. I fell for Wendy Jo Sperber head over heels, loved everything she did in 1941, (and everything she did afterward) reveled in her ability to steal every scene she was in and kick the shit out of any man who dared to mess with her. Wendy I miss you still, she died way too young and 1941 did not deserve its fate. Although it has picked up a cult following on VHS and now dvd and blu ray. 1941 is one of my favorite Christmas movies that is never thought of as a Christmas movie.
9. STREETS OF FIRE
Again, I recall seeing this on opening day at the Varsity Theater on the Delmar Loop and just knowing it would be a huge hit. No, again, a bad showing at the box office and critics were luke warm at best. I do not care, Streets of Fire is one of Walter Hill’s masterpieces, along with The Warriors, 48 Hours, The Long Riders and Wild Bill. A tough, lean, mean urban western with some of the best music ever put to film. I have watched Tom Cody and his associates go and get Ellen Aim out of the evil clutches of Raven and his black leather bikers so many times I know it by heart. Speaking of leather, in the fight between Raven and Cody near the end Willem Dafoe takes a leather fetish to new heights. The guy is wearing biker boots, leather pants, a leather jacket, gloves and a long black leather duster over all that. Even his air horn is covered in black leather! These guys must buy Armor All by the gallon jug! But it’s the music that really kicks Streets of Fire into the upper stratosphere. It opens and closes with great, anthem like songs done by a special group called Fire Inc, put together just to do Nowhere Fast, which opens the movie and Tonight is What it Means to Be Young, both sung by Ellen Aim (Diane Lane, although she is dubbed). And one song actually made the charts and was featured regularly on MTV (back when they actually showed music videos) I Can Dream About You, and it is a beautiful song. Streets of Fire conjures a special world that is both retro and futuristic, where the cops drive Studebakers and old boy friend’s can get back into town on a moment’s notice to rescue a lost love, only to say goodbye at the end. Streets of Fire has one of the most painful and sad goodbyes in movie history. It rivals Casablanca, Spartacus, the Fighting Sullivan’s, Shane, even ET or The Monster Squad. I get choked up just thinking about the end of Streets of Fire. In my world this movie is a hit!
Released the same summer as The Avengers this movie based on a board game was one of the most expensive losers in movie history. It does not deserve it. Battleship has exactly the same premise as the Avengers, aliens open a space/time portal to invade our world and mess up our day. Instead of masked superheroes, Norse demi-gods and Shield Agents the regular Navy takes care of the situation. I will admit the first 20 minutes to set up the story are grueling. But once it gets rolling Battleship is a hell of a ride, I loved every minute of it. Taylor Kitsch has had the bad luck to be in several major box office bombs (I’ll mention another one here shortly) and it is not his fault, the guy has good chops and he is totally believable in Battleship as the ne’er-do-well brother who has to take command once the aliens start doing what they do. I thought it was a stroke of genius and a grand gesture of good will to make a Japanese officer not only one of the heroes but to give him the best sense of humor “Did he just say Jerry Lewis?! Did you just say Jerry Lewis?!?!” The Japanese now are not the Japanese who did Pearl Harbor. Were something like the situation in Battleship to go down now the Japanese would have our back in the Pacific, bet on it. Tadanobu Asano is great in his part and so are all the other players.
The real revelation among the cast: Rihanna is excellent! I have no idea what her singing is like but she is totally believable and sincere as a career woman Petty Officer. I served four years in the Navy (there he goes again, Moffitt talking about the Navy!) and loved seeing what the ships, uniforms and weapons look like in today’s Navy. And Battleship earns it’s patriotic stripes by giving speaking parts to dozens of real veteran’s from Pearl Harbor up to Colonel Gregory D. Gadsen who lost both legs in Afghanistan. Nice to see the Greatest Generation can still take care of a bad situation and a guy with steel legs can still kick ass. At one point they even play the Battleship game to get some hits on the aliens, and it’s the Japanese officer who tells them how! The aliens weapons look like the game pieces and the special effects are incredible! Even Hamish Linklater gets to make a heroic gesture! Yes, it’s comic book goofy, yes it punches every patriotic button, one critic called it the best Michael Bay movie not made by Michael Bay, but I loved it! I have the dvd and once in a while I’ll put it in and by pass that first 20 minutes and get right to the fireworks, wonderful stuff!
I know I’m swimming against the tide here (you see what I just did? swim? tide? Waterworld?…yeah) but I love this water logged epic. You could hear the critics all over the country sharpening their knives when word started getting around about the cost over runs and disasters at sea this production endured. I saw it in a theater here in St. Petersburg expecting to see a steaming pile of… Nope, no way, I think Waterworld is an excellent example of a big, dumb ass summer action movie, which is all it was ever meant to be.
Although the message appears right on the money as we see the polar ice caps disappear and weather patterns go berserk, but I digress. This movie damn near derailed Kevin Costner’s career, and I think he is excellent as the amphibian mutant who has to try and get what’s left of humanity to dry ground. But it is Dennis Hopper who makes it all worthwhile, everything he says and does is hysterical and worth quoting. “As you can see by the arterial blood squirting from my right eye, NONE of us is having a good day here!” The stunt work and action scenes are excellent, I loved the sight of guys on skis flying through the air and firing automatic weapons at the same time and much of the dialog is very funny. What else can I say? Now, let me get my surfboard and paddle on over to another great loser.
6. BATMAN AND ROBIN
Ok, alright, now right here…..ok…… this is where anybody reading this, especially those of you that know me, whether from my family, The Navy, Webster University, Swank Audio Visuals, the SGI or any place else, all of you, in unison, go ahead and say it out loud! “Sam! Sam! Sam! Are you freaking brain damaged?!?! Did you really do that much mescaline in the 70s? Have you lost your natural mind? “ Well, all of that may be true(notice I said “may?”) but never the less I love this most despised of all Batman films that have ever been made. Let me start by saying that I love all things Batman, I loved the comics, the two Columbia serials (I got to see the first one when it was called An Evening with Batman and Robin at Ronnie’s Drive-in in 1967! Four hours of Batman war propaganda in one sitting! Holy oleo!) I loved the television series and have the entire run on bootleg dvds (thanks Jim!), I loved all the animated series, Tim Burton’s monster hit that brought these characters to a huge box office run and The Dark Knight rebooted franchise. And knowing full well that this is the film that led to the complete reboot I will say right here and now, on the internet, in front of God and everybody, Yes! I love Batman and Robin! Clooney is a good Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne, his scenes with the legendary Michael Gough are heart breaking, I really love Chris O’Donnell as Robin, I am fine with Batman having Robin along. I love both villains; Mr. Freeze is hysterical “Sing! Everybody sing!” “Take two of these and call me in the morning.” I love Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) I love the day-glo, black light look of the thing, I have no problem with nipples and cod pieces on the uniforms. But most of all I love Alicia Silverstone as the greatest Batgirl who ever was or ever will be! I know, I know, I can hear fan boys all over the country loading weapons right now and looking up my address on their gps, ready to defend the honor of Yvonne Craig! I don’t care! I really don’t care! I said it and I’ll say it again, greatest Batgirl, ever! And I don’t even much like Alicia Silverstone, ponder that for a moment! But here she looks terrific and flat kicks ass, repeatedly! Her fight with Poison Ivy is a beautiful event to behold.
I love all the odd ball stuff, Mr. Freeze alone in his freezer cell with his little ice sculpture, his Ice Mobile and the freezing, cracking sounds of his freeze ray, the huge statues in this version of Gotham City, the psychedelic look of all of Poison Ivy’s vegetable weapons. And finally I love that last noirish shot of all three of our super heroes running through the Gotham City night, a reprise of the end shot of Batman Forever, but now with Batgirl offering back up. Batgirl! Oh be still my heart! …….I feel dizzy!
Not exactly a flop at the box office but never a very popular film on Alfred Hitchcock’s resume, plus luke warm response from the critics of the day, a minor footnote in film history books and Hitchcock himself considered Saboteur a minor film. Horse hockey! Saboteur is one of Hitchcock’s best films and part of his immortal series of “innocent man on the run trying to clear his name” films starting with The 39 Steps and ending with North by Northwest. Robert Cummings was never one of my favorite actors, far from it. His situation comedy, Love That Bob, always creeped me out. I never quite understood what made him a 1950s chick magnet and the episodes very often were unbelievably cruel to Nancy Culp’s character. And he allegedly pissed off Julie Newmar during the making of My Living Doll, apparently quite an accomplishment as Ms Newmar has a reputation for being a real sweetheart. Bob Cumming’s acting rarely impressed me but in Saboteur he is on top of his game, start to finish. Especially in the last 20 minutes when he faces the home grown Nazi collaborator, played by Otto Kruger, and reads him the riot act. The man is not acting! Cummings is 100 per cent behind the war effort and believes every word he is saying, the man is on fire when he says “the whole world seems to be choosing up sides, I know which side I’m on!” Cummings burns a hole in the screen! Great stuff, add Priscilla Lane, a great sequence in the munitions factory, a whole parade of odd ball characters who would be right at home in a Preston Sturges movie and that final showdown on the Statue of Liberty and you have a Hitchcock masterpiece.
4. JOHN CARTER OF MARS
Another big budget loser with Taylor Kitsch in the lead, (and I insist on using the full title.) John Carter of Mars deserved a better fate than to be seen by almost nobody in theaters. It is true to the word and spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ swashbuckling epic and is a rousing adventure in the classic mold. When I was a young fan boy reading E. R. Burroughs and Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien I never dreamed we would see big budget Hollywood movies based on their work. Kitsch is simply excellent as a 19th century American miraculously transported to a Mars that existed only in ERB’s imagination. As good as he is Lynn Collins is simply astonishing as the best Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars that we’ll ever see. Actually she is probably the ONLY Dejah Thoris we are likely to see but that doesn’t lessen her impact on this wonderful, giddy, truly awe inspiring epic. And thankfully the Tharks, with their leader Tars Tarkas, are brought to believable life through CGI, the best use of CGI I have seen since the Lord of The Rings. Why movie goers stayed away I have no idea, having said that I have to admit I did not get a chance to see it in a theater myself. John Carter of Mars played St. Petersburg theaters for all of two weeks, while I was working hours that did not really permit my going. I wish I had, if ever there was a recent epic that needs a big screen John Carter of Mars is it.
As Willem Dafoe(the voice of Tars Tarkas) points out in the special features for the dvd release some fans may have thought this was a rip off of Star Wars or Star Trek or the Lord of the Rings, no, John Carter was there first, published in All Story Magazine in 1917 (how’s that for being ahead of the curve?). There is nothing wrong with John Carter of Mars, not one thing, I wouldn’t change one frame of this film. This is one title on my list I will proudly declare a full blown masterpiece, now and forever. Long live John Carter of Mars, Dejah Thoris the Princess of Mars, Tars Tarkas and all his tribe and long may the Empire of Helium stand on the red sands of Barsoom!
3. STAND UP GUYS
I am really swimming against the tide with this one. This very website, by vote of my associates, cohorts, co-workers and fellow movie geeks declared this film one of the worst of 2013. And I can see why someone would say that, I really do, and I don’t care, I really don’t care! I love Stand Up Guys. Firstly all three actors are at the stage of their careers wherein all they have to do is show up, especially Alan Arkin. I have been seeing Alan Arkin in movies since The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and that my friends was in 1968! And I saw it in a theater! The Berwan in Sullivan, Missouri, but that is another story. Arkin should be declared a national monument. Come on: Catch 22, The In Laws, Little Miss Sunshine, Freebie and the Bean!!!! And Pacino is so good, even in bad movies, how can you not love him? In Stand Up Guys Pacino looks like a dust bunny somebody swept out from under a bed in a room that hasn’t been cleaned since the White House had a swimming pool. And Walken? Christopher Walken? Has this guy ever played a character even close to normal? But what is normal my friends? One person’s mess is another person’s delight, and I find Stand Up Guys delightful, funny, sad, touching, genuinely moving, even sexy at times (not for the guys, no my friends!)
I adore the whole middle portion of the film where in our hero’s take under their protective wing a rape victim played winningly by Vanessa Ferlito and give her a shot at revenge on “the animals” that did her a terrible wrong. Ferlito is one of the most drop dead gorgeous women in movies right now, I fell for her in Death Proof like a load of cinder blocks. The woman has prettier lips than Cate Blanchett and that is saying something. Her revenge is shot, edited and acted as an homage to Tarantino’s style of movie making and it works beautifully. How nice to see a woman who is a rape victim and is not having a nervous breakdown over it. I love her reaction when the guys get out their tools of the trade “Who the fuck are you guys?” And her revenge is sweet indeed. But I love the whole movie, every minute of it. How can you not love dialog like “who made you the arbiter of whose pants are important?” I sincerely hope Fisher Stevens gets to direct again, many times, he’s got the goods and he deserves a long and interesting career behind the camera. I love the deserted look of the thing, a city where there only seems to be retired criminals on the street, even minor characters get a chance to shine and every single moment in the diner is a treasure.
2. ALL ABOUT STEVE
And you thought standing up for Batman and Robin was bad? Here is where half of the 17 people reading this article are going to bail out and see what’s new on You Tube! One of the most hated, reviled, thrown against the curb and stomped on movies in history, recent history anyway! And… you guessed it, I love it! I see everything that people hated about it and you know what, it’s still Sandra Bullock! Yes her character is weird and creepy, so are half the people I see on any given day in St. Petersburg, Florida. Yes her character is a stalker, so what? She doesn’t kill anybody, is actually quite funny, smart and yes,( it is Sandra Bullock,) sexy and beautiful.
Watch during the getting out of the bath tub scene, her weird little walk and body language when she says “Father you’re making me crazy!” Very funny, there is a lot of funny stuff in this film, I don’t care what anybody says. I even love the vinyl boots. And the very fact that Sandra Bullock won a Razzie for worst performance of the year, and picked up the trophy in person !!! And the next day she won an Oscar for The Blind Side?!?! That boys and girls is a class act! Any actor who picks up a Razzie in person automatically has my deepest respect and appreciation, a good sport and one hell of a great actor. “Thanks for not raping and dismembering me!”
1. THE LONE RANGER
Ok, no more Mr. Nice Guy. It’s been all fun and games up to now, I know the real reason this movie failed at the box office. This country is not ready to even begin to come to terms with what happened to Native Americans. Or with the crooked politics and gangsterism that ran the “Wild West!” Yes, The Lone Ranger is too long, has too many characters and a convoluted plot, and no happy ending and wants us to think about what we are seeing on screen. Good heavens! A Hollywood movie that wants us to pay attention to it and think about what we are seeing? Talk about programmed to fail! None the less, yes, I love the Lone Ranger. It is beautifully shot, the actors are all excellent, especially Armie Hammer who caught so much flak for NOT being Clayton Moore. Let’s face it, nobody was Clayton Moore, not even Clayton Moore! And yes, there is more of Buster Keaton to John Depp’s Tonto than Jay Silverheels. And his Tonto appears to have been in the desert for ten years eating nothing but peyote. So what? I love that both the Ranger and the Great Horse Silver are spirit warriors, summoned to put things right. And what a beautiful animal they found to play Silver, the horse steals every scene he’s in! I love all the references to older westerns, especially Once Upon a Time In the West, but The Lone Ranger is its own special animal, unique, splendid and one of a kind. And with the bad box office there is not likely to be a sequel, which is a shame. These guys would make a nice franchise, maybe even a limited series on cable television.
The action scenes are excellent; this is a summer action movie that should have been a sure fire hit. And in the last 30 minutes, as if the film makers said “Ok we’ve had some fun with these characters, you want the real Lone Ranger and Tonto? Here they are!” And when the William Tell Overture kicks in for real and the Ranger and Tonto take care of business as only they can it is a stand up and cheer moment that few movies even try for, in the theater it brought tears to my eyes, it does again just thinking about it. This movie delivers the goods, but when you find yourself rooting for the Indians to beat the Cavalry, knowing full well that they won’t and being horrified at the reality of “The winning of the West!” Well, your box office is going to take a nose dive, and it did, what a shame. The Ranger and Tonto deserved better. And I didn’t even get a chance to thank them!
A wiser person than me once said that it takes a lot of hard work, talent, money, ambition and hundreds of people, to make a lousy movie! I used to look for the bad in movies so I could complain about it, now I look for the best so I can praise it. And I do know a bad movie when I see one, I, FRANKENSTEIN any one?
And so I have to end with some honorable mentions, Road to Wellville, Exorcist 2: the Heretic, Exorcist 3: Legion, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Little Murders, Doc, The Fall, The Last Movie, Boom, Cobb, Hammersmith is Out, Bluebeard, Hickey and Boggs, Junior Bonner. And probably two dozen more I’ll think of later.