Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Matt B ""

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Matt B

Matt is a friend of mine from way back. Like Peter, Matt and I worked together at the same video store back in the day. He immediately impressed me with his love of the Marx Brothers and we further bonded over a quest to find the then very rare MIDNIGHT MADNESS on VHS and revisit it. We also did several movie marathons together including one now infamous Gary Coleman run which I still remember fondly to this day. I think I speak for both of us when I say that you should all see THE KID WITH THE 200 I.Q. asap. I am also quite glad he mentions both HIGH SCHOOL USA and AIRBORNE below. I love both and he introduced me to the latter which I am eternally grateful for.

To be honest, I don't want to talk about what is or isn't a bad movie.  That's because I long ago accepted the fact that people think everything I like is bad.  My music tastes are bad.  My fashion sense is bad.  My diet, attitude, athleticism, and general attitude about life: all bad.  As such, pretty much every movie that I like is a bad movie (with perhaps the exception of Black Rain, which is clearly awesome).  So these are movies that I love that other people tell me are bad.  And those people can go to hell.

FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (John Moore, 2004)
For no easily discernible reason, there  are three movies that, whenever they appear on television, I will drop everything I am doing and sit down to watch.  They are, in no particular order, The Birdcage (1996), The Perfect Storm (2000), and Flight of the Phoenix (2004).  The only common denominator I can identify is that they all came out 4 years apart from one another, and they're all about middle-aged gay couples who own nightclubs in Florida.  However, in addition to being about drag queens, Flight of the Phoenix is about a group of misfits gathered together for the last flight out of a rinky-dink airport in the middle of like, Mongolia or something, but they crash land in the desert and have to build a new plane from the wreckage of the old one.  This one contains numerous laudable qualities that make it a mainstay of my Sunday afternoons: Giovanni Ribisi doing his best to out-act everyone in the film; Jared Padalecki getting his flesh ripped off by sand (and I know you've all dreamed about it); Tyrese Gibson wearing an absurd eyepatch and yelling "They killed RODNEY!" in the most laughable inflection possible; and oh yeah, Dr. House and the tomboy from Lord of the Rings round out the cast, all while Dennis Quaid glares and sweats on everybody.  Somehow, despite a track record of this, Max Payne, and Behind Enemy Lines, John Moore managed to land himself the fifth Die Hard movie, which tells you that there's gotta be some magic in there somewhere.  Did I mention there's an upbeat "let's forget we're starving in the desert for three minutes" montage to an OutKast single? Oh indeed.

SECRET OF MY SUCCESS (Herbert Ross, 1987)
What's the secret of my success?  Banging my Auntie Vera, apparently.  I know what you're thinking: "What the hell? I love SOMS! I even refer to it by an acronym instead of its full title!"  Trust me on this: you don't like this movie.  It's particularly terrible because it's part of MJF's slew of 80s films, and you think it's going to be good, and you go a few years without watching it, and you're suddenly sitting there on like, a Saturday morning, and you're up too early because, I don't know, the upstairs neighbor is a Zumba instructor or something, and so you're sitting on the couch, browsing the streaming services, and then suddenly you're like OH MY GOD YES it's Secret of My Success!  Then you turn it on and realize that the first fifteen (15) minutes has three (3) montages of MJF doing...well, just sort of regular city working guy stuff, and then you watch for a while, and you can't for the life of you figure out why MJF's dual-identity character Brantley Foster/Carlton Whitfield would be attracted to the moose-faced Helen Slater, who clearly took a few steps down the fashion ladder since Legend of Billie Jean, and then you realize that the whole thing is like a bad Cary Grant film, which it could be, except that there is a segment where Brantley/Carlton faux-conducts an orchestral performance of his neighbors' orgasmic cries, just to make sure the adults are still awake for the third act.  But the best part is when Brantley/Carlton is getting started on his all-star corporate takeover scheme, putting all the wheels in motion, and he needs his secretary to go buy him colored pencils and posterboard.  I'm sorry, Mr. Executive Business Guy, but you need colored pencils for your big presentation?  Is glitter glue too 70's?  Seriously, this movie is terrible.  I don't even know why I'm talking about it anymore.

BYE BYE LOVE (Sam Weisman, 1995)
I want you to close your eyes, then ask someone to read the next sentence to you.  Matthew Modine's hair in the mid-90's.  That's right, you heard me.  Tab collar shirts, pleated pants, and a glorious attention to blow-drying make him one slender hunk of sensitive manhood.  I'm still not sure why I own this movie.  Paul Reiser, Matthew Modine, and Randy Quaid play divorced dads trying to make it in that complex world of single parenting and pre-internet dating. How do I cook for kids? Does my ex still like me?  What do I wear on a blind date?  From the director who brought you Mighty Ducks 2, George of the Jungle, and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star comes a ridiculously sappy rom-com that somehow manages to hit all the right notes. (Eat your heart out, Gene Shalit.)  Or, on second thought, this movie may make you want to kill yourself.  You get Eliza Dushku crying constantly (and before she was even remotely interesting, if she ever was), Janeane Garafalo being herself (and possibly the only actually entertaining character in the film), and some weird friendship between Johnny "Remember me? I was in Empire Records" Whitworth and an old guy.  Meanwhile, Randy Quaid is grumpy, Paul Reiser, is nervous, and Matthew Modine bangs anything with two legs and a smile.  Oh, and Rob Reiner takes a depressing turn as an obnoxious call-in radio DJ who counsels people through divorce.  Also look for "Bunk" Moreland as the McDonald's manager, Danny Masterson as a wacky best friend, and a young Jack Black doing nothing remotely noteworthy.  Actually, now I'm not even sure if I  like this movie.

AIRBORNE! (Rob Bowman, 1993)
Speaking of a young Jack Black, let's discuss The World's First Rock n' Rollerblade Movie, Airborne.  That's what it said on the cover of the box, and that's all it took to get me hooked.  When I try to get other people to see it, I simply say, "It's the world's first rock n' rollerblade movie," and then they either (a) come over to my place to watch it, or (b) do something I don't care about, because we're no longer friends.  In the grand tradition of fish-out-of-water sports movies such as North Shore and Side Out, Airborne stars Shane McDermott, which I swear is his real name, playing Mitchell Goosen, which I swear is the character's name, as a laid-back California surfer dude who has to move to Cleveland, where the rough-and-tumble students don't want to give him the time of day.  He lives with his cousin, the "Wiley Man," played by Seth Green sporting a haircut only Matthew Modine could love.  Mitchell immediately gets in bad with the frat boy/bully/leader of the pack when he starts dating the bully's younger sister--OMG LOL, right?--and has to ingratiate himself to a school and town that seems entirely populated by terrible, terrible people. This movie has everything.  It starts off being about hockey, but then it's about roller hockey, but THEN it's about--you guessed it--rollerblading, and once Mitchell manages to get in good with the gang of blue-collar hockey players/rollerbladers, who include a ridiculous Jack Black, doing the same thing he pretty much always does.  They draft Mitchell for the once-and-for-all rollerblade race down the "Devil's Backbone," which would be more intimidating if it wasn't just a bunch of hilly suburban streets, with the preppies who are always putting them down.  Which is interesting, since, you know, both groups are pretty much both made up exclusively of white kids from the suburbs who play hockey and race each other on rollerblades.  Oh, but wait, the good guys have a Mexican kid named Snake, so I guess that means they're really multicultural and down to earth.  Except, of course, that the only minority actor in the film gets to play a pseudo-gang member named "Snake."  But does it help that Snake is played by Jacob Vargas, who also appears in--that's right--2004's Flight of the Phoenix?  You bet it does!

ROCKY V (John Avildsen, 1990)
"Hey Rock, need some help?"
"This ain't no pie eatin' contest, fellas."

YES.  Every time I want to talk about Rocky movies, people want to talk about Rocky IV, and Drago, and stupid speeches that Rocky gives in order to bring nations together.  Screw that.  Rocky V is where it's at.  This is the film that Sylvester Stallone admits to making "out of greed."  It's the only other Rocky film directed by John "Karate Kid" Avildsen.  It's the one where Rocky was originally scripted to die.  And it has so many, many great storyline decisions.  Rocky loses all his money because Paulie somehow gave power of attorney to Rocky's accountant, because you know, once the millions started rolling in, you want to put Paulie in charge.  Rocky has brain damage so he can't box anymore, so he goes back to training.  We finally get to see exactly how ridiculously wimpy Rocky's kid is (sorry Sage, RIP but it's true), to the point where he's getting beaten up by Kevin Connolly, of all people, and who's about as threatening as a dead hamster in a sock.  Tommy Morrison's acting as Rocky's student/adversary is almost as ridiculous as his Tiger Beat-quality hockey mullet.  And of course, Adriane is still the least supportive malcontent of a wife in the history of film.

But the final fight...oh my.  Where to begin?  Not only is it a six-minute slugfest in the middle of the Philly streets, but you get flashbacks with Burgess Meredith looking like some sort of hell-spawned warlock, shouting "GET UP, YA SONOFABITCH...cuz Mickey loves ya!"...then there's that slow-motion El train overhead...and the Rocky theme comes up...and then you hear Rocky saying, "One more round."  It's, it's just... You know what it is?  It's beautiful, that's what it is.

THE NEW KIDS (Sean S. Cunningham, 1985)
From the director of the original Friday the 13th comes this sleeper teen thriller about a pair of siblings (Lori Loughlin and Shannon "I'm not a girl" Presby) who play, respectively, Abby and Loren (could they not have just given him a guy's name? Seriously. Weak.).  They move to redneck-ravaged Florida to live with relatives after their parents die in a car wreck, and one of their parents is Tom Atkins, who was in Night of the Creeps, which means he's my hero.  Of course, Loren has a hard time fitting in with the dudes, and Lori Loughlin becomes the target of the local sexual predator, who just happens to be JAMES SPADER WEARING AVIATORS, which means this movie is automatically awesome.   This is almost one of those parent-paranoia movies, a la Over the Edge, wherein wild drug-fueled teenagers are willing to stop at nothing to get what they want.  Meaning that, in order to get into Lori Loughlin's pants, Spader and his gang seem to have no problem murdering like five people.  Great showdown at the amusement park, of course, and you'll find yourself wondering exactly how it all managed to escalate so quickly from hitting on a girl in the cafeteria to kidnapping, attempted rape, and murder.  Also, just to reiterate: Spader.

HIGHWAY TO HELL (Ate de Jong, 1992)
Is this movie even bad? I'm not sure.  But it's a hell of a lot of fun.  Chad Lowe and Kristy Swanson are running off to get married.  Richard Farnsworth, the old man at the gas station warns them, "Don't stop until you pass the second Joshua Tree!"  Of course, the car breaks down or something, and they don't make it past the second tree.  Suddenly, a wormhole to hell opens up, and Hellcop appears, kidnaps the girl, and disappears from sight to deliver the young virgin to Satan, where she will become one of his demon mistresses, or something.  So Chad Lowe has to head into the underworld to rescue his girlfriend, with some help from Farnsworth's badass tricked-out hot rod and a sawed-off shotgun designed to kill hellspawn.  You get some mild to moderate gore, top-quality cameos from the Stiller/Stiller/Meara comedy family, a few minor celebs (Lita Ford, anyone?) and Patrick Bergin as Satan. This highway is going my way!

This is one seriously messed-up movie.  Five disturbingly creepy kids (including the ever-hunky Leif Garrett) escape from an insane asylum after their transport van crashes.  They find a ski lodge and quickly start dispatching the residents.  From the horror angle, this movie is fairly straightfoward slasher stuff.  From the "Bad Decisions the Director Made" angle, this movie is gold.  Apparently MacGregor got fired from the production early on, so it's hard to tell who's really at fault for the whole mess, but I'll put blame on him just the same.  First off, the murder scenes are done in a mind-numbingly stilted slow motion, to the point where you could get up, go make popcorn, come back, and the damned axe still wouldn't have hit the guy in the neck.  I kid you not, the first kill take five full minutes--I timed this--from beginning to end.  Even better, some kills get converted to black and white (or an odd sepia wash, depending on the print), just to keep it "interesting."  Better than that, MacGregor decided to cast his wooden-faced underage girlfriend as one of the psychos, but he had to wrap her in a nun's habit and put giant glasses on her to prevent people from seeing she's an albino.  MacGregor also definitely let a whole bunch of young kids drag a real naked middle-aged woman around in the snow for a while.  Oh wait, did I mention that the naked woman was the real-life mother of two of the kids in the film?  Ah, the 70s.

HOUSEGUEST (Randall Miller, 1995)
Man, I have a lot of movies from the 90s on here.  I should talk to my therapist about that.  Anyway, the poster/box cover for this one sums up everything you need to know.  What the heck is Sinbad doing in their mailbox?!  He sure looks up to no good!  Look at Phil Hartman's family--what're they going to do? Have some laughs, that's what!  Sinbad plays a guy running from the mob who cons his way into a straight-shooter, no-nonsense lawyer's life by pretending to be his long-lost childhood friend.  With the usual stuffy-high-society-meets-outgoing-black-man shenanigans at play, you can probably tell where this one is going.  Feathers are ruffled, awkward slang is exchanged, and attitude-laden pre-teens wearing backwards baseball hats are able to trust adults and communicate effectively once they receive the wisdom of a streetwise hustler.  If you can't make it through the whole thing, at least stick around long enough to watch a montage of Sinbad jumping on his new bed.  I kid you not.

HIGH SCHOOL USA (Rod Amateau, 1983)
Yep, I'm closing this one off with a Michael J. Fox vehicle that really knows how to entertain.  Pair up MFJ and Nancy McKeon as love interests, and zany hijinks ensure.  High School USA is really the standout of the two, as the cast is a who's who of teen stars both old and new: Anthony Edwards, Dana Plato, Todd Bridges, and Crispin Glover take care of the hip kid angle, and Tony Dow, Bob Denver, and Ken Osmond are just a few of the golden agers who show up to make this a film the whole family will love!  There's really not much of a plot, but Todd Bridges is definitely a super-genius who designs a robot for NASA, and he deems it ready to go when it manages to stay cold in the shower.  Anthony Edwards is the heavy, and a host of un-PC jokes about blind people and obesity are scattered throughout.  (On a side note, the cover art that the DVD shows on Amazon is woefully misleading and bizarre, since this is a movie about geeky kids who make robots and eat cheeseburgers in bed.)  Also, this one's far superior to the 1985 Michael J. Fox/Nancy McKeon made-for-tv summer camp movie Poison Ivy, just in case you're keeping score.


Jack Criddle & Anne Morgenstern said...

Dear Bob,

I'm a young filmmaker and a cinema buff. I recently completed a short film about Dwain Esper, who I think a case could be argued for as the greatest "bad" director ever. It is here on Vimeo, if you should like to see it. I wondered if I might guest-blog one of these lists?

Best regards, Jack Criddle
jwcriddle &at& gmail $dot$ com

Rupert Pupkin said...

Jack, very curious to check out your short, thanks for the link! Re: a list, I apologize, but I am closing out the "Bad" Movies Series this week(after a 3 month run) and I've filled all the slots before Monday which is when my next series starts. Perhaps I can ask you to guest post on another series at some point? Sorry about that.

Jack Criddle & Anne Morgenstern said...

I'd love to! Thanks.
- Jack

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