Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 10 Guilty Pleasure Movies

It's been awhile since I did a top 10 list for movies.  So, here's another.  The theme: guilty pleasures!

Now, some people just don't get this concept.  Why feel any kind of guilt at all about watching something you enjoy?  Well, it's complicated.  While I don't actually feel bad or dirty watching a fun movie, I know these aren't the best films. Sometimes, they aren't even good films.

If a friend came up to me and said, "Hey, Venger, Tango & Cash is pretty cheesy, full of imperfections, and just plain not good."  I probably wouldn't argue with him.  After all, mine is a minority report, a love letter to lost films and obscure half-great almost-epics that never found traction... or an appreciative, mainstream audience.  Nevertheless, the following films are quite enjoyable, despite their less than stellar appearance and tarnished reputation.

The list goes from best to worst.  Ok, here we go...  WAIT!!!  Before we begin, I just want to say something.  Prompted by all the wonderful comments I've so far received, let me clarify this:  I like all these movies.  I think they're cool.  A few I even love and don't personally feel guilty watching them, nor would I place them in my top 10 best films of any genre.  So, even though I enjoy these 10 (12, actually), the mainstream movie-watching public has deemed each and every one of these films mediocre or kinda-sorta good but not worth viewing more than once (let alone dozens of times).

Alright, now that's out of the way...

1.  Big Trouble in Little China: (reverse this pick with #2 if you're a child of the 90's rather than the 80's).  There's something about the gonzo flavor of this flick that just makes me smile.  I love John Carpenter's early and middle work.  Super cool special effects with the magic and creatures.  I love the costumes, makeup, fast-pace, acting, and one-liners.  Even the subterranean neon gets a free pass, it just works even though it shouldn't.  I've probably seen this film around 15 times and it keeps getting better.

I recently found a muscle-shirt like the one Kurt Russell wears in most of this movie.  Can't wait to wear it this spring!

2.  From Dusk 'Till Dawn:  I was living in New Mexico when this came out.  Young, friendless, living with my parents who just re-located to Santa Fe / Albuquerque, and working a series of meaningless part-time jobs just to fill the void... movies are what kept me going.  Driving to the video store to rent awesome VHS tapes like Subspecies, going to the indie theater on Central to see great films like The Last Seduction, and visiting the big theater to watch From Dusk 'Till Dawn and the re-release of Heavy Metal was what kept me going, kept me sane enough to get through that bleak period.  Visiting a goth/industrial nightclub a couple times a month helped, too.

Besides nostalgia, I think the film plays with our expectations.  The 180 the film did was inspired in my view.  If memory serves, I believe I went on a total of one date while I was living in NM, and I took her to see this film.   It was my second viewing of Dusk 'Till Dawn.  I loved it even more the 2nd time.  She hated it and I never wanted to see her again.  So, should it be in the "all-time great" list rather than guilty pleasures?  I think most critics and audiences alike sealed this gem's fate long ago.  Am I wrong?

3.  Basic Instinct:  Ah, socially acceptable soft-core porn for the masses!  This seemed like Deep Throat for the early 90's.  It opened a few doors for imitators and flesh-peddling provocateurs who came later, but you wouldn't know it watching films from the last decade.  Good luck seeing boobs in a movie circa 2009, buddy!

Anyway, good story, solid acting, cool mood/lighting/aesthetic.  If you've never seen it, watch it.  Though not with your parents.  Also, this might be an uncomfortable first date movie unless your with a girl who's DTF (as the Jersey Shore called it).

4.  Body Double:  I recently re-watched this for the 11th time with my wife.  She kind of enjoyed it and saw why I liked it so much, but couldn't get into it that much.  I expected such an outcome.  Seeing it again through her eyes (that's the blessing and curse of watching a favorite movie with someone who's never seen it before), I realized that I probably come off as a perverted, voyeuristic, porn-loving freak.  Guess the guy who writes/draws Cinema Sewer and I have a lot in common.

Weird question:  did Body Double somehow inspire or make Basic Instinct possible?  Short blonde hair, sexual exhibitionist, self-confident and no-nonsense with a sense of humor.  Hmm... inquiring degenerates want to know.

Aside from all that, I dig the Hitchcock vibe, the music video for "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and the acting.  Bonus: Barbara Crampton has a cameo as the cheating girlfriend.  Re-Animator is far too awesome to be just a guilty pleasure.  It rules, I tells ya!

Though I think Body Double is a great film, there are silly parts (the Mexican) and parts that drag (Craig Wasson following the brunette).  BTW, when was the last time you saw a film with Craig Wasson in it?  He did a lot of cool things in the 80's.  Is it because he's not conventionally super handsome (sorry, Craig.  It takes one to know one)?  Or maybe he died?  Nope, just checked.  He's still kicking.

5.  Starship Troopers:  It's got the violence, cool scifi, and weird socio-political propaganda without desiring to be taken seriously.  In fact, I believe it was specifically filmed so you can't.  But without respect, the film still has lots of awesome going for it.  You won't be bored.  Plus, bugs are gross.  Kill 'em all!

6.  Con Air:  Some probably take this film as gold.  Others can't help but see it as B movie trash.  I say, why not both?  It's got some great talent, excellent performances, and a plot so ludicrously stupid-awesome that it's hard to beat.  Three words:  Nicholas Cage vehicle!  Say no more.

7.  The Devil's Advocate:  It feels like you're watching yet another lawyer drowning in corruption story, but it's so much more.  It's a supernatural thriller and morality tale and engrossing courtroom drama all wrapped into one.  The scene with Al Pacino at the end really brings it home.  Plus, an unexpectedly (at that time) great performance by Charlize Theron.  I believe it was her first major film role.

8.  Demolition Man:  Sylvester Stallone was becoming a cliched action-hero joke by 1993.  But this over-the-top scifi film costarring Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock doesn't take itself too seriously.  Some neat ideas of what the future might look like; shades of dystopia give it a weird realism you wouldn't expect.

9.  Tango & Cash:  Great chemistry from Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell.  Again, it's an action movie cliche but the cheesiness works somehow.  Stumble upon this while you're channel surfing and chances are you'll start watching it for a minute.  That'll turn into 10 minutes and before you know it, you've been watching it for an hour.  It's addictive machismo fluff that looks good for its age.  Jack Palance as the maniacal villain?  Perfect casting!

10.  A three-way tie between:  Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood, and John Carpenter's Vampires:  Yeah, I couldn't decide, so #10 is a menage-e-trois of good/bad horror comedies from the 90's.  Demon Knight is probably the best of the three.  It's more dark and serious than comedic, but there are times when it goes for laughs rather than scares.  And unlike Evil Dead 2, those laughs are more cringe-inducing than hilarious.  Still... give it up for Billy Zane.  The rest of the cast is pretty good, too.

Bordello of Blood is the almost completely unrelated sequal to Demon Knight.  It's actually funny thanks to Dennis Miller and not really scary at all.  I can't remember any good blood-letting scenes.  However, I do recall some boob-baring bordello action with squirt guns filled with holy water (or maybe that's just From Dusk 'Till Dawn - will have to watch it again).  So, it's a little sexy, a little funny, and not really horrifying (like, at all!).  But enjoyably cheesy.

Cunningham wake, anyone?

John Carpenter's Vampires... John Carpenter, what happened?  You used to be my favorite director of all time.  This is the last decent JC film, in my view.  It's got some cool moments.  I think the antagonist vampire is great.  But all his minions?  Beyond forgettable.  I love James Woods and the priest, but that Baldwin guy has too much screen time for my taste.  And his blonde, dysfunctional girlfriend/prisoner gets on my nerves after awhile.  This film seems like 2 or 3 films stitched together.  It needed to take a step back in order to re-work the script, do some re-shoots, and then better editing.  As it is, definitely worth seeing once.  And a handful of times if it's on TV late at night or you just like guilty pleasure residue same as me.

Was this worth the three hours it took to create this blog post?  Probably not, but what can I say?  I love bad movies, so long as they've got something inside them to love.  Give me a hot mess over universal blockbuster any day.

Got something to say?  Maybe I left off your favorite guilty pleasure or included one that you think shouldn't be there?  Want to virtually pat me on the back, kick me in the balls (again, virtually), or ask me questions about some film or another?  Feel free to comment and happy viewing!


p.s.  This, I believe, was my last top 10 movie list.

p.p.s.  Want to see the ultimate guilty pleasure movie?  It's here.

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