Friday, January 17, 2014
A Fistful of The Maligned! (Brad's Picks)
Oh January. What a wonderful dumping ground you are. The Awards Season is over. The Oscar Nominations have been picked. Goodbye 12 Years A Slave, hello The Legend of Hercules. For most moviegoers this is a time for catchup, snatching the good word of Lone Survivor, Frozen, The Wolf of Wall Street, and American Hustle. But we here at ITMOD dream of the great bad movie, or the next forgotten misunderstood gem. Sure, Renny Harlin specializes in write-off trash these days, but as you'll see below, he's ticked off a fun film or two in his time. Maybe his baby face Hercules will ascend to the art of high camp. Or what about this Jack Ryan fellow? Or Aaron Eckhart's sexy stick fighting Frankenstein? Look - these are long shots. But gold has struck in January. Remember The Grey, or Doomsday, or Rambo.
And I love to play contrarian. The Great Defender. While the world championed the arty ennui of Frances Ha, I was going to bat for the offensively weird The Lone Ranger. I don't think you can really call yourself a movie fan unless you've encountered and battled for the underdog. But in the batshit trenches of the Internet you can find fellow weirdos, and suddenly distributers like Shout Factory start producing Special Editions of Halloween III and Tank Girl. When putting together my own list of Favorite (Unfairly) Maligned films I found it difficult to choose older films - the problem being that given enough time even the most hated films find their fanbase. So who knows what popularity the films below will find in the future; all I can tell you is that when friends hear of my enthusiasm for these flicks a quizzical look crosses their face. My co-dork Matt joins me for some of these, but no matter how hard I try he can't bring himself to understand the films in slots 3 & 1. I'm gonna break him one of these days.
5. Your Highness: I'm generally not a fan of pothead humor. I've never smoked a joint in my life. And the glorification of weed and booze irritates the hell outta me. I'm a regular L7 (after all, I just used L7). But dammit, I can't help myself when it comes the stupidity of Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, and James Franco. Mixing their brand of idiocy with the absurdity of the Deathstalker genre ignites a childish glee within. Teaming the foul sloth McBride with Franco's Prince Charming in a latex heavy quest through mushroom wizards, wood nymphs, and minotaurs? Hell yes, that is hilarious.
4. Knight and Day: Released not to long after the couch jump incident, when the world turned against the smiling scientologist, Knight and Day is an inexplicably titled action romance from journeyman director James Mangold that tickled all my right fancies. Tom Cruise is utterly bonkers here, his Ethan Hunt persona cranked up to 11 and it's both terrifying & appealing to Cameron Diaz's bored bridesmaid. Their flirtation is adorable - a genuinely cute middle aged couple, something you do not often find in cinema these days and certainly not found within the action genre. The challenge for you is to separate celebrity from the movies - tear up your US Weeklys, your People Magazines, set yourself free and rediscover your love of fiction.
3. Die Hard 2 - Die Harder: "Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" Look, I'm not going to try and tell you that Die Harder is superior to Die Hard. That's just foolish. But Die Harder is a fascinatingly bizarre upping of the ante. The film is filled with scenery devouring performances from a variety of familiar faces: William Sadler, Franco Nero, Dennis Franz, Fred Thompson, William Atherton, John Amos, Robert Patrick, Tom Bower, Art Evans. Director Renny Harlin pushes the violence to extremes with blood splattered massacres, throat slicings, and icicle impalements. There are not two lines of dialog without at least one juicy F Bomb. Classy? No. But the sequel earns its "er" for sure. Dumb and goofy, I love it.
2. The Ladykillers: Filmed directly after a true abomination (Intolerable Cruelty), but before their critical renaissance (No Country For Old Men), Joel & Ethan Coen chose to transplant an Ealing Classic to the American South. They picked Tom Hanks for their ringleader and it's a shoot-for-the-moon performance not seen from the Oscar Winner since the early days of The Money Pit. People tell me its not funny. I don't get this. I bust my gut laughing every time I watch another weirdo crook attempt old lady homicide. The Ladykillers is not Fargo. I see similarities to the comedy on display in Raising Arizona and The Hudsucker Proxy, but at the end of the day it's a feast of caricature. You either accept that or you rewatch The Big Lebowski for the 100th time.
1. Domino: After years of photographic experimentation, Tony Scott took all his hand crank tricks, his splicing magic, his saturation pallet, and set fire to subtlety. The "Based on True Events" screenplay doctored by Donnie Darko's Richard Kelly is an absurd assault on Reality Television and our celebrity obsessed culture. Kiera Knightley gets pornographic with her posh accent, joining forces with the toeless Mickey Rourke, and showing Brian Austen Green & Ian Ziering how a true Beverly Hills diva throws a tantrum. It involves nunchucks, machine guns, and lapdances. There can't be a shot in this film that doesn't last more than half a second, but if you can train your brain to keep up, then Domino offers a sensory barrage like none other. One of my absolute favorite films of the last ten years.