Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Worst of the Worst II: The Worsening

Let's do this.

LIVE - from the beautiful Villa Ihalainen in Eastern Helsinki. It is a Dark and Stormy Night and celebrities flock to the huge gala celebrating the 200th blog post of The Last Movieblog. I've already spotted David Hasselhoff on a T-shirt and Marilyn Monroe on a painting. And isn't that a cartoon image of Michael Caine? Oh - and this just in: There's double the reason to celebrate tonight, since the blog's visitor number has just passed 150,000! Over to blogkeeper Paavo Ihalainen for comments:

"Well, it's been a patchy year and I haven't been able to update as much as I've liked to. Oh, I've written plenty about movies to other places, but this live blogging is a means to show the world that this blog is still alive and kicking."

So, what's going to be the programme tonight?

"I wrote a rather popular text for my 100th blog post, that celebrated some silly and cheesy exploitation movies that had found newfound fame in YouTube and other media streaming sites. Since then I myself have subscribed to Netflix and get an incresingly big number of bad movies from there. The site has an impressive arsenal of famously terrible movies - many of which I have wanted to see but haven't dared to actually sit down and watch. So, as making fun of these universally loathed films is something akin to shooting fish in a barrel, and what better way to celebrate than to make me miserable, why not do both - and live."

What are we going to watch today?

"Well, I figured we could start out with the notorious Catwoman, and go on there to some other atrocities. Some possibilities include Rollerball, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and Green Lantern. You can also suggest your own pieces of cinematic shit on Twitter (handle @LastMB or hashtag #TheWorsening ) and if it makes me fear and shudder, I might get into it. This will go on until I pass out or die."

That sounds like quite an evening. I've just gotten word that we are ready to go live on to Netflix and start to view Catwoman, so get your popcorn ready and Tweets fired up and we'll go.

Catwoman (USA, 2004)
Director: Pitof

I'm guessing the Catwoman in this one isn't the first one. At least judging by the opening credits. There's been Catwomen before. And thus the one in this isn't that special.

Halle Berry starts out narrating dead in a pool. A Sunset Blvd. reference? Bad movies shouldn't acknowledge classics.

Sharon Stone had something of a comeback at this point. She did this and Basic Instinct 2, so it didn't go as well as it could've.

Eugh, I have to go through Halle Berry trying to act mousy and timid. Why can't superheroes ever start the movies already powerful?

Halle got saved by falling off a roof by a police officer. She went there to get a cat. That's this movie's strong female role model for you.

I think they picked the actor playng the love interest cop because he looks a little like Michael Keaton. He can't act worth shit.

Oh, the actor is called Benjamin Bratt and his character is, get this, Tom Lone. Han Solo's more boring cousin?

These aerial CGI shots look horrible. Like a cutscene from a PS1 game. Then again, this film IS 9 years old. Makes you think about your life.

Yeah, make the female protagonist have an opponent her own caliber. An evil cosmetics manufacturer. That's not sexist at all!

Halle died, then a group of cats wagged their tails at her and then her own cat (with serious halitosis issues) burped green radioactive gas on her. Thus, the iris in her eye changed and Catwoman was reborn! This is a terrible movie, in case you didn't know.

Was this Warner Brothers' first attempt of getting into the new wave of superheros (started by Fox & Sony's Marvel movies)? This became before Batman Begins, but after X-Men 2 and Spider-Man. It does not compare well to any of them.

Oh. Halle's still timid. Step up your game, girl!

Now she's showing her mad basketball kids to Lone Starr and a group of freaky chanting kids. They chant the "One of us" thing from Freaks, which is baffling.

Now for some faint praise. I think visually, the film isn't too shabby. It's bright, colorful and staged like comic book panels. I see they attempt the same unreal style that worked in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. Too bad the script is horrendous and the actors either bad or poorly directed.

So Halle becomes Catwoman only by night, steals jewelry and can't remember anything in the morning. Then she's back to being timid. The Mask was done already! Give us a good female character that can stand on her own and has no regrets!

Catwoman's powers are explained to us in detail. Silly me to think she was just an expert burglar and jewel thief without any supernatural powers. Goes to shows how wrong everything is that comics teach you.

Man, that bondage gear is a horrible superhero costume. Sexy only to S&M freaks, a pain to look at for others.

Catwoman's beau is dumber than a sack of bricks, if he can't tell the woman he took out earlier and the half-nude woman in a dumb cat mask are the same person.

Have I complained about the dreadful R&B soundtrack already? Cheap and as lazy as this movie's script.

What's this movie's theme? You shouldn't attempt to stop aging and rather go through life acting like a cat? You shouldn't be mousy, but rather go and hit and hit on your boyfriend at nighttime masked? Being schizophrenic makes you more attractive? This is all over the place.

Sharon Stone has a superpower of her own! She's had so many botox shots, she's impervious to any pain. She's unconvincingly pounding Catsy around in an ad studio.

Final thoughts: The movie had potential to be an emancipating female action movie, but they saw fit to overcomplicate Catwoman's character, had a terrible script and no style whatsoever. The film is mostly by-the-numbers boring rather than truly atrocious, thus resembling the similarly forgettable Elektra. Ugh.

★ 1/2

Dungeons & Dragons (USA/Czech Republic, 2000)
Director: Courtney Solomon

The film seems to have a Dune -like quality in that I didn't understand the strange concepts in the prologue text, and have a feeling you should know the source material to get anything out of this.

Jeremy Irons, what have you wrought? He plays a wizard that obtained a cheap-looking toy wand with an odd machine.

Now here's a (bad CGI) dragon. He obeys Irons' orders since he has a green-glowing candy cane.

Already this presents a more entertaining brand of bad moviemaking. Irons chews the scenery here and the horrible effects seem to be borrowed from Hercules: the Legendary Journeys.

Oh great, here's some Star Wars: Episode I -inspired political "intrigue", where a child queen is concerned about the well-being of her subjects, while politicians play their own hand. How interesting.

There certainly are also a lot of scenes of Marlon Wayans screeching. He's the Jar Jar of this picture.

Some thieves, the princess and a dwarf who likes to break the 4th wall and address the camera directly have formed a band. They met some brightly colored aliens and now the protagonist fought for his life inside various death traps for like 20 minutes. He then found a big red ruby.

They are pursued by Jeremy Irons' blue-lipped henchman and his guards. If he doesn't succeed, Irons will take out the tentacle monster he enchanted there before.

If the acting was bad in Catwoman, it was at least uniformly bad. All the characters in this one act as if they are in different movies. Sometimes that, and the horrible dialogue produce interesting results. The guild leader shouting "I never joke, when mages invade MY GUILD!" is pronounced in an odd mixture of Christopher Walken's extra punctuations, Nicolas Cage's mania and John Malkovich's disdain (plus baldness).

The director has an odd fixation on ears. Now, a girl is interrogated by a baddie growing tentacles from his ears that connect to her ears. Ears!

A lot of fantasy cliches in this one (duh). Dwarves hate elves, fear horses, and are generally a pain in the ass. Still, better than The Hobbit II.

Although the soundtrack sounds ripped straight from The Mummy, there's a surprising lack of Avatar-chanting.

The make up budget of this movie must've been smaller than most Halloween parties. The beards and other facial hair all look clearly glued on, the ears and whatnot plastic.

Jeremy Irons needed another plastic toy sword all along. This film isn't that clear about its MacGuffins. With that he can summon some evil dragons.

Of course the CGI effects are really bad, but with this epic battle raging around and dragons flying all around, one does not get the impression of that, you know, really happening. It seems all the actors just sort of pretend they're there.

Fantasy is a genre where phallic objects come to the spotlight, and they make good use of various wands and swords banging against each other here.

Final thoughts: They went for too much epic here. Since they hadn't the budget, it's foolish to attempt to do epic dragon battles, skeletal monsters and such. With a more low key approach, this could have been a Princess Bride -style modern swashbuckler or at the very least a Hercules: The Series: The Movie. But this was ruined by casting Marlon Wayans to scream around. I'm glad he's only around for half of the movie.


Highlander II: The Quickening (USA/France, 1991)
Director: Russel Mulcahy

Topical troubles: The Earth's Ozone layer is collapsing. The one Connor McLeod (Christopher Lambert and his impressive hair) helps around the main scientists to build a shield to protect the Earth.

In a surprising twist, we jump forward 25 years, where an elderly McLeod is still worried about shields and ozone.

He also watches a lot of Opera.

Here we go. He's not an ancient Highlander, but... an alien from planet Zeist! Sean Connery reminds this (entirely contradictory) "fact" to us in voiceover. He was also a zeistian, fighting against the evil General Katana (ha!).

The orchestral music makes this all seem like a Popeye cartoon.

Michael Ironside plays General Katana. Maybe he can bring an ounce of class to this.

I can't stand these references to Queen songs, when they are not playing on the soundtrack. The replacements are uniformly pretty terrible.

So these aliens were exiled on earth where they were immortal and apparently lost their memory, but now the elder McLeod remembers he could go back to space since he won "The Prize" of being the last Highlander left standing. What a load of gibberish.

Eurotrash aliens! They are Katana's thugs, of course.

Since new zeistians have arrived on Earth, McLeod is no longer "the One". They, of course attempt to behead him while giggling annoyingly.

But then one dies in the battle and McLeod gets stronger again.

I haven't liked any of Mulcahy's feature films, but I got to say, he's got a unique style in staging action scenes. It's an 80's music video type of style, which is one of the reasons his career went down the toilet. This movie is another.

It's funny to hear Sean Connery say "shithead". It's the word he was born to say!

Not limited to just flashbacks, Connery's gotten better from his beheading in the first film. He has to adjust to a brave new world and you know what that means: a montage of him trying on modern clothes with a bad synthesizer version of the Wilhelm Tell Overture in the background.

This is really idiotic: An airline video demonstrating safety procedures has a plane going down and the passengers screaming in terror. I'd like to see them try to put such a film to be shown in any real air travels. That's some Fight Club shit right there.

I've got to be honest, I haven't paid much attention on what's happening. They are attempting to destroy Katana's shield or something. There's little interest in any of he characters and their thrives on doing something or other. I like the bleak dystopian athmosphere, though, so it's not all a waste.

Mulcahy does get some extra mileage out of the fact that only beheading can kill these characters. So they're able to go through gruesome ordeals ans bounce right back.

Final thoughts: This was clearly a lot more carefully constructed film than the two previous ones. In fact, I think it's bad reputation is caused mostly by it shitting down its predecessor in a way very few sequels do. It's a shame, really, because all that stupid alien crap wouldn't be that hard to write around. Except of course, then you'd have to explain how all of a sudden McLeod isn't the only "One" out there. Plenty of Highlander sequels have since done just that.

Other than that, it has plenty of good old fashioned high concept action and a nice dystopian angle on it all. It's just sad thare aren't any stakes going on the viewer would care about.


Ghosts of Mars (USA, 2001)
Director: John Carpenter

Carpenter's idea of a future dystopia is a matriarchy? Or why is it so much emphasized?

This has a flashback structure too, we are solving what happened to a freight train on Mars that returned empty.

This is probably the only movie out there that has both Pam Grier and Jason Statham.

The blue-collar drones on a strange planet gives a definite Alien vibe. Carpenter has already stooped low since he has to copy oter people's ideas instead of making his own.

Mars doesn't look otherwordly and there really isn't a sense of presence. All the sets look like sound stages. Must be the lighting...

Also Carpenters use of special effects hasn't improved much since Escape from New York.

And also he can't use music like he used to. The cheap soundtrack that sounds it's from public domain is far fetched from JC's own athmosphere heavy synthesizer tracks from his classics.

They've wondered whether Ice Cube has gone around killing them, but they now found out there are a lot of Martian cultists that look like Marilyn Manson fans out there who like to behead their enemies.

Oh, okay, they are actually possessed people. Possessed by the Slipknot virus.

This wasn't really like Alien at all. In fact this is actually a pretty nifty twist on a basic trope, with the berserker virus carriers and all. Too bad so much on how it is presented has failed so badly.

With deputizing ordinary citizens, the movie's turning into a western, fast. Figures, this is the guy who did Assault on Precinct 13. Still, I kind of wish Carpenter would have managed to do a better space-western than Avatar. Also, couldn't Carpenter try to do a real western? With Kurt Russell?

They just went out guns blazing. It doesn't look that exciting, more like a company's weekend retreat at a paintball range. Odd that Carpenter didn't even direct the actors on how to hold the guns.

In the end it actually seems that this was a remake of Assault on Precinct 13. Wow. Loses to Carpenter's previous effort with considerable numbers.

Final thoughts: I may be a sentimental fool, but I've seen the potential in all of the films I've watched today. None of the other movies' failures pains me as much as this one's. It just appears that Carpenter hasn't been trying, from every which angle you try to look at it. It is a shame, I don't know what burned him out but it took a long while to get him to direct again and even then the result was the ho-hum The Ward.


Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (USA/Canada 2004)
Director: Raja Gosnell

They wiped he soundtrack from Beetlejuice, I hear.

Written by James Gunn. WHY?!?

This begins as the Mystery Machine twerps being super-popular, walking on a red carpet. Speaking of carpet, the fact that Velma has enthusiastic fan girls (shown right after Daphne's over-enthusiastic fan boys) does little to repel the lesbian undertones associated with the character. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Matthew Lillard is creepily similar to the cartoon Shaggy, right down to the voice.

Velma has spotted and immediately fallen for Seth Green. He'd be a beard if he could grow one.

Wow, after Dungeons & Dragons I didn't think there would be as terrible CGI effects on a big-budget movie. I was mistaken.

So a pterodactyl monster spooked everyone in a museum, and everyone blames the Mystery Inc. for that. We've got ourselves a mystery. Enh.

What would be a modern children's movie without "Baby Got Back" on the soundtrack? I shudder to think.

Another Dungeons & Dragons flashback: The black knight ghost is banging his sword at Daphne's crotch.

Scooby fakes he has rabies in oder to get out for "fresh air". Dog, if you really got rabies, you would be put down.

Peter Boyle! Why oh why does every bad movie includes someone genuinely awesome?

You know, I like Joe Dante -like cartoon buffoonery. The scene where Shaggy and Scooby try out various colorful science formulas is reminiscent of Gremlins 2 or Looney Tunes: Back In Action. Perhaps James Gunn's influence does shine through.

Then again, Scooby Doo rapping was not something I ever needed to hear.

I've always wondered, what age are these characters supposed to be? They say they haven't visited their high school clubhouse "in years".

The diver's ghost is a great visual. One of the most memorable creatures from the original cartoon.

Far be it from me to speak against fart jokes, but the ones in this are just shameful.

I laughed unironically at the cotton candy glob.

And of course the unmasking scene is always fun. How long did the villain have to wait in two rubber masks for the police to see who was under all that?

The pop music in this movie is kind of godawful.

Final thoughts: Y'know. For kids. It's a children's film, even though fussy, noisy and running all over the place. But it all doesn't have to appeal to adults anyway. There are a few genuinely funny cartoonish moments, which is more than I expected from this. But James Gunn's script would need a better director, that would keep the tone consistent (and perhaps the monsters a little more creepy). Raja Gosnell isn't perhaps the best choice for this, but certainly not the worst, either.

★★ 1/2

P.S. There's an additional scene after the credits with a secret code to a Gameboy game. Huh. Multimedia advertising.

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (USA/Germany, 2002)
Director: Wych Kaosayananda

This was still surfing on the tidal waves of The Matrix when long leather trenchcoats were considered cool.

I'm not keeping up with the plot. Antonio Banderas is a secret agent, whose wife has been misplaced. And he has amnesia? Something like that.

So far there hasn't been a single new idea in the film. I think this is so badly rated because it's so generic to the point of tears. It's hard to believe anyone remembering anything about the movie after a week.

Surprising technical troubles: The voice sync stopped working at about 20 minutes in. I'd say we call it a day. I'll try to finish watching this another time.

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