Sunday, April 25, 2010

Watching Bad Movies: A Visit with The Dug

Anyone who followed LoM knows that we're going to watch a lot of bad movies around here, and we're going to talk about them. In fact, my taste for the abso-awesome was called upon during my hiatus (a bit like Col. Trautmann pulling Rambo in for one last mission), by our own pal, Ransom, over at Chronological Snobbery. We were asked to watch "Birdemic" in its second public screening at Austin's own Alamo Drafthouse.

The review is here, but the experience itself... in my quietest hours, it haunts me still.

This week, however, League HQ was graced with a visit from Jamie's brother, The Dug, who is sort of the Santor of Irrationally Bad Film, gleefully doling out serving after serving of the terrible.

There are, of course, different kinds of terrible.

I should preface the discussion by mentioning that I watched all three movies with the benefit of RiffTrax, and recommend you do the same.

Please stop touching my robots

Terminator: Salvation is the kind of movie that, on paper, had everything going for it, but somehow didn't gel. One can guess that a bloated budget, a director of fading notoriety, a difficult star, a pre-packaged star, re-writes so obvious that the movie feels like three movies crammed into one, a heaping-helping of pandering to the audience while simultaneously demonstrating no small amount of disdain for the intelligence of the audience...

Terminator: Salvation isn't outright unwatchable, but its a trainwreck of good intention and ineptitude.

Look, McG is just NOT a good director. Also, his name is McG. As a producer, your first clue that you should fire yourself from a movie is that you've hired a grown man who wants to be billed as "McG". And then you should maybe IMDB him to see the laundry list of poppy, dumb junk he made before Terminator.

I know Christian Bale had his famous rant during the making of this film, but watching the movie, you have to wonder if he didn't know exactly how bad this was going to be...

The bitter irony, of course, is that around the time of the movie's release, Fox was running "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" which had an infinitely better understanding of what made the first two movies work, logically drew its storylines from the premise of those movies, and featured not just Summer Glau, but Lena Headey. And they managed to make David Silver cool. Which is, like, science fiction unto itself.

I hate..! I hate..!

Twilight: New Moon is the second installment in the Twilight series, which I've ranted upon previously.

This type of film is bad, not because people weren't all doing their jobs (well, I sort of question Kristen Stewart, but...), but because its part of a media-franchise bigger than any one part, and to deviate from the script would enrage the built in audience. In short, the source material isn't very good. Wildly and inexplicably popular, but so is "High School Musical".

In this second installment of Twilight, we're asked to watch the increasingly annoying Bella Swan alternately sulk and lash out because she's been dumped by her stalker boyfriend. She then becomes "just friends" with a Native America/ werewolf played by the persistently-baffled-looking Lautner.

By adding Jacob (our werewolf) to the mix, and drawing out the emotional anguish surrounding creep-o-zoid Edward (our vampire), the film imparts the message that the right thing to do when a young lady is dumped is find a guy who would actually like to date you (and is even hunky and nice and junk), string him along, but then duck and weave at the last minute as you cross continents to get back with the guy who, all things being equal, will absolutely demonstrate the same awful behavior again (in this case, wanting to kill you and drain you of all of your blood), and leaving the guy who wasn't too likely to kill you scratching his head. The fact that officially branded "neurotic/ unforgivably erratic behavior" is made into our hero's quest for "New Moon" should only fulfill many a young man's worst suspicions about what dating will be like their freshman year of college.

For a movie about werewolves and vampires, an amazing amount utterly fails to happen (or entertain) as we focus on the wretched Bella Swan. However, we are told some interesting stuff is happening off-camera; we just don't get to see it. However, we do learn more lessons, via werewolves, that women should really learn to just step back when their boyfriends "wolf out". And if they get hurt (permanent-like), its kinda their own fault.

Slow clap, Twilight franchise.

"Useless filler" does not do this deadly dull stretch of movie justice. You could literally cut the middle 50 minutes of the film, and you'd still get where this "plot" must have been heading in order to get to whatever the @#$% is going to happen in the 3rd installment.

Oh, hi movie!

But, of course, all of this pales in comparison to Tommy Wiseau's now notorious indie darling, The Room.

To say what is wrong with the movie is missing the point of The Room. What one must assume to be the intended goal of writer, director, producer, and star, Tommy Wiseau (possibly his real name) in making "The Room" is, in actuality, absolutely no longer the point of the object smart-alecks have been lining up to watch at hip indie cinemas for, and what my reading of the internets tells me has become an odd phenomenon of audience interaction, participation, and general mayhem.

Where Nguyen's "Birdemic" is a case-study in technical incompetence, Wiseau's "The Room" seems to have most of its technical ducks in a row, but reads not unlike the booze-soaked ramblings of a colleague who just figured out his girlfriend was cheating on him. With huge helpings of "I have never really thought about how a scene works in plays, TV or movies" thrown in. Also, someone thought lots of gratuitous "love scenes" would really sell the heck out of this thing.

To talk too much about "The Room" with those who've not seen it is unfair. I can only recommend you schedule your own viewing, with booze and Rifftrax in hand.

All things must come to an end...

For good or ill, the self-inflicted pain of bad movies has to end sometime. This afternoon The Dug and K took flight back to The Left Coast. Once again, its been a pleasure having him here to ensure that my life does not go by without the glory of the finest in American Cinema.


J.S. said...

Yeah, the nature of the romantic relationships in the Twilight franchise is fairly troubling across the board. Having worked in a domestic violence court and having sat through a training seminar or five on "cycles of violence" (abusive phase to honeymoon phase and back again) and unhealthy relationship patterns, I actually found the movie a little troubling (in this weird relationship with the vampire, you even see some of the socially isolating behavior you read here about in domestic violence). Yeah, first you've got the girl who falls in love with the guy who admittedly has urges to kill her and who warns her that he might lose control at any point (and who spies on her in her bedroom and sort of stalks her as she goes about her daily activities). Then, in New Moon, you've got these werewolves who apparently occasionally lose control (when they get angry) and tear half the face off their wives and/or girlfriends- girlfriends who stay with these guys after being maimed because no one else can understand the love of a werewolf except them.
Of course, the movies are ficitional and silly, but violent relationships where women are constantly in danger (but stick with their men, anyway) are very, very real. It's bad enough to see battered women in real life romanticizing their situations (it can be downright heartbreaking- especially when there are kids in the home). It's genuinely disconcerting to see a generation of pre-teen girls gobbling up these books and movies in which women find physically harmful, literally dangerous men (the "I might kill you" sort of danger- not just "I might break your heart" danger) to be dark, mysterious, and irresistably attractive. At the very least, I'm kind of surprised that these movies haven't generated more of a discussion.

The League said...

Curiously, our dreamy (but potentially deadly) vampire recognizes in himself that he's really, really dangerous and removes himself from the situation. But... Bella herself can't let it go and seeks him out when he isn't even trying to find her. I don't know what that says, but it isn't good.

Paul Toohey said...

From Jason's comments, I could imagine these books being written by a misogynistic male years ago to indoctrinate young girls to accept a life of servitude and abuse...

...kind of weird that in actuality it is penned now, and by a woman. Maybe the books/movies end with the Spice Girls coming to the scene and freeing Bella in a fit of GIRL POWER!?

The League said...

I would fully endorse an 11th hour Spice Girls course correction.

Paul Toohey said...

Who could be against it? And judging by her hosting a Reality Show, I think Spice Girl Mel B (Scary Spice) might need the career intervention that it might provide.