Cal puts his reputation on the line once again by admitting to liking some so-called “stinkers.”
Please go easy on me…
15) Wild Hogs (2007)
I was in a state of shock after watching Wild Hogs. This was an assured recipe for disaster considering the track records of some of the actors and the abysmal reviews the film suffered. I decided to skip the movie during its theatrical run due to the reviews, but word of mouth reached me that it was indeed funny. So I ended up watching it… and I laughed my ass off.
Credit goes to director Walk Becker for keeping the air around this film breathable with his deep focus on the intrinsic goofiness of watching the four leads play butch for ninety minutes. Wild Hogs is a lighthearted slapstick romp, and Becker does not back down from the challenge, dishing up healthy spoonfuls of road trip sight gags. Humour is also generated through watching the protagonists in various hues of panic as they dodge trouble throughout the heartland, and loosening up their stuffy lives through skinny-dipping and camping. It’s not The Godfather but when a bloated mainstream comedy title such as this can execute a joke well, an angel gets its wings.
While Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence are certainly tolerable (surprisingly), John Travolta and William H. Macy steal the film. This is the loosest Travolta has been in some time, and he looks like he’s really having fun here. His nervous reactions to the escalating threat are among the film’s highlights. Macy leans into the comedic potential of the material as well, really digging his heels into the tech-nerd personality contrasted with the leather-bound bike god.
The film is not exactly clever, and it’s not one of the best comedies you’ll ever see. Nevertheless, if this type of humour appeals to you, you’ll have fun watching Wild Hogs. I certainly did.
14) War of the Worlds (2005)
First of all, I know the screenplay is deeply flawed due to logical errors and just plain Hollywood touches. However, with Steven Spielberg at the helm, I hardly noticed the flaws (or wanted to notice them) throughout this powerful, excellently-crafted summer blockbuster.
War of the Worlds is an intense, visceral experience. The roar of the tripods is genuinely scary, and John Williams’ disharmonious score emphasises dread in a masterful way. For the majority of the film’s nearly two-hour running length, Spielberg propels us from one “out of the frying pan, into the fire” situation to another. The film is as relentless as its villains, only occasionally allowing us to catch our breaths before once again elevating the level of suspense. Along the way, War of the Worlds even finds time for a little social commentary – it underscores how dire circumstances can bring out both the base and elevated aspects of human nature. We see the mob mentality and instances of selfless bravery.
Technically speaking, the film is a marvel as well. Collaborating with ILM, Spielberg’s vision for Earth’s final moments is a bold study in CG fireworks and sickening brutality. It’s all sold with marvellous set design, visual effects, and intricate cinematography. The film couldn’t look better, representing the most money Spielberg had spent on a film up until 2005, and every penny is up on the screen. However, while marketed as a summer diversion, this is a horror film through and through, almost to a point of mean-spiritedness. Spielberg wants to submerge the audience in the confusion and claustrophobia the invasion brings, which he nails perfectly. Additionally, there’s comic relief thrown in to alleviate the pervasive sense of dread. Surprisingly, it works because the characters feel more human.
A rushed ending and a number of screenplay flaws aside, War of the Worlds is a film I thoroughly enjoyed.
13) 2012 (2009)
Critics absolutely detested this movie and it’s difficult to find a single person who found it enjoyable. Sorry, but I actually enjoyed it. I admit it has flaws – fuck yes, it has lots of them – but if a movie entertains me and is well-made, I’m more willing to overlook the flaws.
The average movie-goer doesn’t care about things like characters or the script, which is good since both are flimsy in the case of 2012. The driving motivation for anyone to see this movie is the mayhem… And boy does Roland Emmerich get that aspect right. As a film which delivers epic destruction, 2012 is unparalleled. Absolutely everything one could want in a disaster epic can be found in this film. Everything. There are earthquakes, volcanoes, collapsing skyscrapers, tsunamis, capsized ocean liners, plain crashes, and more. Normal disaster movies kill thousands, while 2012 kills billions without breaking a sweat.
The money shots here are impeccably sold by the special effects crew who deliver vast images of doom with remarkable detail – the CGI is amazingly close to photorealism. There’s some truly multiplex-rocking action to behold within this flick, such as the jaw-droppingly orchestrated and utterly gripping “California is going down” sequence. Reports of the budget for this film range from $200 million to $260 million, and no money went to waste. While plenty of action and a weak human element is a basis to hopelessly hate a movie, Emmerich has an advantage over films like the latest Transformers – he’s a good filmmaker. Emmerich has sound knowledge of how to construct breathtaking imagery and action without resorting to a dozen camera edits in a matter of seconds or distracting shaky-cam. He allows his audience to actually watch the mayhem rather than opting for cinematic techniques that induce headaches.
Is there any reason to care about the characters? Absolutely not – they are caricatures saddled with threadbare motivation and bad dialogue. The cast is more formidable than one might expect from a glorified B-movie, but the acting is still pretty below-par. Thus, 2012 only works when it immerses viewers in the epic action set-pieces rather than trying to develop characters or dole out exposition. It’s a highly enjoyable, paint-by-numbers disaster movie which contains some absolutely breathtaking popcorn moments.
12) Troy (2004)
Once Gladiator hit the big-time in the arenas of box office, critical/movie-goer reaction and Oscar night, it kicked off the beginning of a new series of old-fashioned Hollywood epics. Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy may have drawn a lot of criticism, but I personally adored it. This is a huge movie, bearing the DNA of films like Titanic, Lord of the Rings and Jason and the Argonauts, with huge sets and huge characters, and it’s nearly as enthralling as the glorious epics it emulates.
Loosely based off Homer’s The Iliad, Troy messes enough with the original source material to infuriate the purists, but manages to work for the open-minded viewers due to the epic scope and a mostly sublime cast. Director Petersen, adept at heart-pounding action (Air Force One, In the Line of Fire), guides the battle scenes with a sure hand and a sharp eye for exciting visuals. James Horner’s portentous musical score adds adrenaline as well, and the cinematography of Roger Pratt captures the vastness of the landscape and its inhabitants. As I said before, it’s a huge movie.
The special effects are absolutely seamless, and easily convince the eye that thousands of troops are waiting to do battle on the scorching beaches of Troy. Petersen kept the juices flowing by continually stoking the dramatic fires, and staging intermittent, intense one-on-one battles to keep the story as intimate as something this extensive can possibly get.
Unfortunately, however, Brad Pitt doesn’t quite cut it as Achilles. He’s a little too pretty, and a little too shallow. Another flaw, I understand, is that the material feels Hollywood-ised. But there’s enough here to overshadow these flaws. Petersen did the intricate story justice, guiding it effectively and respectfully. All the hate just baffles me.
11) The Hitcher (2007)
The Hitcher was delivered by the same production company which was responsible for the horrible remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as the abysmal prequel The Beginning. Despite this bad reputation, these guys did a perfectly decent job here. What can I say? The Hitcher worked for me.
Director Dave Meyers is a music video maestro without any big screen experience. While that should be enough to burn down the theatre in protest, Meyers appears to appreciate the basic fundamentals of horror filmmaking – he did not succumb to hip visuals and flash-cut edit rhythms. For the most part, Meyers keeps the visual artifice at a bare minimum too, and even went easy the genre’s recent reliance on boo-scares to power the thrill engine.
This remake also respects what propelled the original film: that clammy feeling of hopelessness while an unstoppable evil is stalking you with zero explanation why. Meyers was wise enough to not fiddle much with the original’s framework, instead falling back on the reason why the 1986 picture is still spoken of highly today: the atmosphere of dread.
And others may disagree, but I adored Sean Bean as the villainous John Ryder. He’s menacing, believable and scary. The rest of the cast is not so impressive, but this is one of the only drawbacks of an otherwise solid update of a horror classic. It’s not as good as the original film of course, but it remains a slickly-produced, enjoyed genre outing with a few genuinely chilling moments.
10) Rush Hour 3 (2007)
Rush Hour 3 is goofy, ridiculous, far-fetched, politically-incorrect, and even anti-American in the way a French cab driver views the U.S. as a breeding ground for killers and warmongers. It’s also a laugh riot from beginning to end, and a supreme slice of entertainment.
The plot doesn’t make much sense and is almost impossible to follow. This doesn’t matter, however. As the film’s crackerjack set-pieces play out, it’s easy to purposefully tune out of the story and concentrate on what matters: the remarkable chemistry between motormouth wisecracker Chris Tucker and ideal straight man/stunt extraordinaire Jackie Chan.
What gives Rush Hour 3 an added punch is the dynamite pairing of Tucker and Chan. It’s hard to say how much of what they say and do is scripted and how much is ad-libbed, but they have superb comedic timing and an amiable camaraderie. Tucker, whose acting career of the last ten years has virtually consisted of the three Rush Hour pictures, is great with one-liners (and much more naturally funny than comparable performers like Martin Lawrence). Chan, meanwhile, is a master at deadpan deliveries and reaction shots, and is, indeed, the yang to Tucker’s yin. The joke-to-laugh ratio is absolutely through the roof.
The third-act is set amid the Eiffel Tower, and is a thrilling elongated action sequence that incorporates a number of awe-inspiring moments, some exciting fight choreography (taking advantage of Chan’s fight skills), and convincing special effects. It’s an example of stylistic craftsmanship over substance, and that’s all one can really ask for. Rush Hour 3 does not encourage intelligence or reinvent the wheel. It’s not even one of the best comedies in history. However, if you have a soft spot for silly adventure and want to have a few good laughs, this film provides. I had fun and laughed a lot. Who can complain about that?
9) Fanboys (2009)
I get why a lot of people don’t like this movie. Critics who are up themselves find it unthinkable that a movie can be conventional, and thus criticise it hard because of its embrace of clichés. Even if the movie itself is actually fun. In the case of Fanboys, it’s conventional fluff, but it’s nonetheless very enjoyable fluff.
Fanboys plays out more or less as one would expect from a road trip picture. The characters interact, meet quite a number of strange people, and reach their destination only after some unexpected detours. Like most movies of this ilk, there are segments of the film that work better than others. One of the better scenes depicts Hutch taking a detour in order to go to Captain Kirk’s Iowa hometown and harass some rabid Star Trek fans. In fact, the Star Wars vs. Star Trek war rages on throughout the course of Fanboys (fairly ironic in 2009, as the latter franchise just became cool again thanks to a big-budget revival). This particular subplot is the film’s finest touch, permitting the two rival factions to slap each other around for a number of good laughs. Meanwhile, the characters’ final arrival at Skywalker Ranch – complete with ninja outfits, grappling hooks and Star Wars props galore – is a fitting finale that suits the movie’s silly, warm-hearted tone.
This is a very enjoyable, fun flick, and the humour is occasionally quite clever. The final sequence is particularly apt – when our heroes are camped in lines outside a theatre for the premiere of The Phantom Menace. In this single scene the filmmakers manage to accurately capture the tremendous anticipation for this particular movie event as well as the dedication of the fans. This is followed by a sly last-minute jab at the quality of the first Star Wars prequel. These moments, as well as other isolated scenes, are pure brilliance within an otherwise by-the-numbers motion picture.
8) AVPR: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem (2007)
I can’t recommend AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem as a good movie on its own merits since it’s stocked with cardboard cutout characters and a barely coherent plot, but it’s miles more interesting than the last AVP film.
Also, thankfully, directors Colin and Greg Strause kept the story moving at a quick enough pace that deficiencies in character development or general logic can go unnoticed pretty easily. The duo also relied on practical effects to give the creatures tangible dimensions. Over the years, the over-reliance on digital effects has lessened the impact of films like these (see the appalling Alien Resurrection). The creatures seen in this follow-up are stuntmen in suits, which is much more impactful as audiences can more easily believe that they exist.
At the same time, this is a fairly crass and clumsy way to rejuvenate the artistry of the Alien series, or even the testosterone-soaked appeal of the Predator franchise, but all in all there’s precious little to criticise in a film that manages to be quite so ridiculously entertaining. Ultimately, it’s competently executed, occasionally tense and frequently fun to watch, no matter whether you choose to laugh at or with it.
7) Get Carter (2000)
Due to this being a remake of a classic movie, Get Carter was likely destined to be criticised from the outset, but I personally find the criticising to be unjust and unearned. It’s not that I think the movie is perfect, but I found it to be a whole lot better than most people seem to think.
First of all, the story progresses at an agreeable pace, and director Stephen T. Kay displayed a talent for attractive visuals. While the protagonist is in no way deep or easy to connect with, Stallone’s performance is notably strong and focused. Added to this, the film is not entirely brain-dead – it only occasionally asks us to suspend our disbelief. The dialogue, meanwhile, is actually serviceable rather than cringe-worthily terrible, which is certainly saying something if we’re dealing with a Stallone vehicle.
Slick, enjoyable and arguably superior to its predecessor, Get Carter is a far better film than it has been given credit for. Comparisons to the original 1971 version are unfair because this version was clearly made with a whole different mentality and goal in mind. Give it a chance, and you’ll discover an action film with a surprisingly amount of brain and heart, which is definitely better than anything I’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal put out around the beginning of the noughties.
6) The Happening (2008)
No matter where I turn, everybody seems to hate The Happening, with its low Rotten Tomatoes score, its low IMDb score, and general word of mouth clearly conveying the message of “this film sucked big time.” But I saw this movie before everyone jumped aboard the hate bandwagon, and maybe that’s why I liked the film as much as I did.
For starters, I love the premise. Humankind may well be in their final act, and Mother Nature may well demand revenge after years and years of human pollution. It’s a genuinely thought-provoking, terrifyingly plausible notion.
Added to this, the criticism the film continues to receive seems to focus on the acting. While I do agree that the acting is at times pretty subpar (I don’t pretend to think the film is perfect), it’s somewhat fitting due to the nature of the events. Nobody knows the direct source of the “attack”, and everybody is in perpetual shock.
And I doubt anybody can deny the effectiveness of some of the filmmaking. The suicide scenes at the film’s beginning are truly unnerving, and there are disturbing images throughout. I found the movie absorbing from beginning to end. Of course, I don’t expect many people to agree with me, but that’s my take.
5) Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Like most entries on this list, I’ve made peace with the fact I could be – and probably am – quite alone in liking this movie, but I care not. I saw this movie on opening day before all the hate and backlash, and I had a great time. To this day, I still don’t understand most of the criticism.
Spider-Man 3 makes the most of its “3” numerical marker by including three villains, a love triangle, and roughly three times more material than it needs; it’s pretty much three movies in one! You get the sense that Raimi was more intent on cramming in everything he can into one film than making a coherent, focused feature. Yet, despite the narrative bloat (which has been the basis for a lot of ire), Spider-Man 3 maintains much of the enthralling energy and emotional pathos that made its predecessors the very definition of great popcorn moviemaking.
A lot of people seem to complain about “Spidey going emo”, but come the fuck on! That’s a character fault; with the symbiote, Peter Parker turns into a douche. The story concerns Parker’s changes due to the symbiote, and how he overcomes them. Saying the movie sucks because of “emo Spidey” is fucking childish.
Plus, the action sequences are frequently excellent. The CGI is borderline photorealistic, and the climax is a battle royale of excitement and pathos that takes care of all three villains, concludes the love triangle between Peter, Mary Jane, and Harry, and resolves any doubt about Peter’s split persona.
So yeah, I liked Spider-Man 3. Sue me.
4) Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)
While I’m friends with a number of people who appreciate Kung Pow and the inspired hilarity within, there are still hordes of folks who absolutely detest it. The critics in particular. I just don’t get it: Kung Pow had moderate aspirations of being a fun movie, and my word it accomplished that with aplomb.
Yeah, admittedly it’s one joke stretched out to feature-length, but I’ll be damned if the smile ever left my face while watching this movie. The energy never relents, and the laughs keep coming at a dizzying rate. Even if 1 in 5 jokes are funny to you, you’ll still be laughing a lot.
I’m well aware that comedy is subjective, so there’s no point in me going on and on about how funny this movie is because a lot of people will not accept this argument. I can, however, just say that this was my type of humour, and thus I loved the movie. If it’s your type of humour too, then you should love the movie as well. If it isn’t…whatever. Your call. But calling Kung Pow a bad movie seems a bit of a stretch, because the technical aspects are still marvellous, with director Steve Oedekerk and others being expertly superimposed into the old footage. Plus, how skilled must a writer be to construct a whole new storyline from old footage?
3) Predators (2010)
In the case of Predators, I’m genuinely baffled about the backlash it received. Now it seems the Internet geeks and fanboys have began criticising this left, right and centre. But what’s the hate all about? It delivered exactly what it promised: old-school action and the return of the Predator species.
One aspect people seem to complain about are the super-Predators. But really, what the hell is wrong with them? What’s wrong with introducing a new breed of Predator? Also, I’ve seen a lot of people calling the film rubbish because it had “no action.” Wait, what? Are you blind? There’s plenty of action. And look at the original Predator – it has roughly the same amount of action. If anything, the original Predator had less action, as it was concerned with machismo and one-liners.
I really, really liked Predators. So did my roommate, whom I saw it with. I don’t get why people say this film is rubbish.
2) Open Water (2003)
As with the other films on this list, I look around and everyone seems to hate this movie. I cannot name you a single person I’m friends with who likes this movie. They call it boring and dull, and say the low-budget was really obvious. To that I usually say: “What did you expect?“
Most people evidently expected Open Water to be really action-packed with gory shark attacks and overzealous shark behaviour for our entertainment. Well, if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll find that in Deep Blue Sea or something. Open Water is a different beast. It’s a patient psychological thriller and a realistic shark movie. I don’t know how so many people could find this film boring.
Open Water is a reminder that big budgets and lavish sets are not required to make a good film. The small fortune spent on Deep Blue Sea‘s dodgy CGI sharks is no match for a handheld digital camera, a real diver stuck trembling in the middle of a real ocean, and a real shark brushing up against said diver. Indeed, few films could produce the heart-pounding rush provided by Open Water. Even with the superior Jaws, we were protected from true fear by knowing that the giant shark wasn’t real.
The actors’ performances are at times terrifyingly realistic. This was no doubt are aided by the fact that the actors truly feared for their lives. After all, they are real people (with protective chain mesh under their suits), with real sharks in the ocean surrounding them. Director Chris Kentis positioned bloody bait in the water to provide the nerve-jangling shark/actor encounters.
I really liked Open Water. It was at times very terrifying, the interactions between the characters are realistic, and the handling of the premise was masterful. At times there were pacing issues, yeah, but as a whole I found the movie enthralling.
1) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Sometimes, I feel as if I’m the only person in the world who enjoyed themselves while watching the fourth instalment in the Indiana Jones franchise. IMDb is swarming with trolls who spend their time posting about their discontent with the movie, while Shia LaDouche himself spoke up saying he was dissatisfied with it, every article regarding Indiana Jones 5 appears to state that everyone disliked this movie, and the IMDb rating continues to decline.
Yet, I just don’t get it. I’m not sure about you, but I attended Indiana Jones movies to be entertained and to watch the famed archeologist on a hunt for some ancient relic. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull delivered on these goals. Whenever I watch the movie, I feel guilty about how much I enjoy and appreciate it.
With that said, I do acknowledge that it’s over-the-top nature is at times preposterous, and the digital effects are a tad cartoonish. I’ll let Jeffrey Anderson at Cinematical field this one:
Another complaint is that the stunts are “unbelievable,” including the long chase through the jungle on two seemingly parallel and obstruction-free roads, Mutt’s vine-swinging and going over three sets of waterfalls. I agree that these are ridiculous, but they’re cheerfully so and done completely within the gleeful, giant-sized guidelines of the movie and the series in general. (That’s why the film has such a deliberately artificial look.) After all, in the earlier films, we also have Indy jumping over a break in the tracks in a mine cart, falling out of an airplane in an inflatable raft, etc. If I remember correctly, the MAD Magazine parody of the first film was all about its “unbelievability.” This is not a new argument, and it never stopped the earlier movies. Realism is not, and never has been, a requirement for a good movie.
Lighten the hell up and enjoy the movie for what it is!