Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

I usually don’t like the term ‘guilty pleasures.’ I think if you enjoy something, you shouldn’t feel ashamed. Yet I feel a hint of shame whenever I think of the items on this list. These movies are so bad. Every time I hear someone mention hating one of them, I bow my head and quietly think but I like that movie…

Despite the poor quality of these movies, I can’t help loving them. I can’t help gleefully watching them over and over. So here are my guiltiest pleasures; five movies so bad they’ve turned the corner to entertaining.

Sharknado (2013)
I’m not a big fan of monster movies. But my brother-in-law is. The moment I heard about ‘sharknado,’ I knew he’d love it. This was one of the last movies we watched before we left for the UK. It’s clear the premise of sharks ending up in a hurricane, tornado, thing is meant to carry the movie, since they didn’t bother to try with anything else. As my mother-in-law pointed out, this movie features some of the most wooden and awkward acting ever. The plot basically consists of ‘a shark gave me a scar and now I hate sharks, let’s kill these suckers.’ The water level is consistently inconsistent (but that’s okay because street level water is deep enough for massive sharks!) and the writing contains such witty one liners as “It must be that time of the month!” when a shark has just devoured a person, leaving the water laden with blood.

I’m really selling this movie, aren’t I? But the thing is… this movie is so much better because they didn’t try. The whole premise is so ridiculous in the first place, if they had tried to take it seriously it would have been pretentious and stuffy. Plus, it’s hard to anticipate events in a movie that makes no logical sense. And that ending… no spoilers, but it is hilarious. Even now, almost two years after our first viewing, my husband will sometimes chuckle and repeat one of this movie’s witty one-liners. But hey, it’s sharks in a tornado, what else does it really need?

Escape from New York (1981)
Way back in high school, I caught the tail end of Escape from L.A.. The cheesy green-screen effects and laughable ending have always stayed with me. About a decade later I encountered an overwhelming desire to watch really old, bad sci-fi, dystopic movies. I was considering writing a futuristic dystopian story at the time. In any case, my husband was on board so I requested we start with Escape from New York. I had another reason for choosing it; Snake Plissken, the movie’s iconic main character, was the inspiration for Solid Snake, the main character of the Metal Gear series (which I adore).

The basic rundown is that, in some dystopic future, New York has been converted into a massive, high-security prison. The idea being that once someone is thrown in there, it’s where they stay forever. The prisoners live in the remains of the city, forming gangs and rules all their own. But when the US President crashes into the city, they need someone to get him out. That man is Snake Plissken. He’s kind of like a rugged, less refined version of James Bond; he’s a highly-trained soldier with the skills of McGuyver but he’s more likely to cuss you out than leave a good impression. Which is probably why I love him.

The plot is pretty ridiculous, at least by today’s standards. It’s got lots of action and, of course, the main character sticks it to the man in the end. Yet I can’t help thinking it’s actually a decent sci-fi/dystopic flick for its age. Plus, while we might find the effects cheesy compared to today, they were normal for the 1980’s.

Mad Max; Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
During the aforementioned binge, my husband and I watched all three of the original Mad Max movies. The first just narrowly missed being included on this list. In truth, there’s nothing particularly bad about the first Max Max movie, but it is kind of dull. There are a lot of drawn-out sequences and it’s never entirely clear what’s going on (though that may make it more interesting). In any case, I think it’s most well known for it’s iconic ending scene and it’s even more iconic sequel.

I think most people can agree Beyond Thunderdome didn’t live up to the legacy of its predecessor. For one, it doesn’t center around the concept of continued mobility which was a key theme of the first two movies. It does fall a bit deeper into the realm of dystopia, but it also brings a lot of nonsense with it. We join our hero as he treks through the desert in hopes of retrieving his car, which has been stolen. He arrives in Bartertown, where he is tasked by the city’s ruler, Aunty Entity, to kill her rival who has proven a constant thorn in her side. Hijinx ensue.

Possibly the most well-known and well-received scene in the movie features combat in the Thunderdome – where two men enter and one man leaves. This is a no-holds barred combat to the death in a post-apocalyptic arena. Epic is an apt description. But after that, the movie gets weird. Max encounters a tribe of children left stranded in the desert after a plane crash. Eventually there’s a car chase. It isn’t Road Warrior, suffice to say. But for some reason, I still love it more than the first Mad Max movie, and I’d gladly watch it over and over. Perhaps its good features simply allow me to forgive its less favourable ones.

Judge Dredd (1995)
Every time someone cites this movie as the reason for the failure of 2012’s Dredd, I hang my head in shame. Because I love this movie. Here we have another futuristic dystopia. This time most of humanity lives in a single city ruled by the police force who, to save time, also serve as judge and, on occasion, executioner. Judge Dredd is the hardest ass there is. I mean there’s a stick shoved so far up his butt, it’s amazing he can bend over. It stars Sylvester Stallone, so I probably don’t have to say much more.

Even my heart knows the plot of this movie is just awful. I’ve never understood who thought it was a good idea to just hand control over to some psychotic maniac as if that was going to make everything happiness and rainbows. Plus Dredd’s deep, dark past always makes me giggle (“I had a brother once…” “What happened?” “…I judged him! DUN DUN DUUUUUN!) The movie’s attempt to create an ultra serious future mixed with light-hearted humour makes it fall on its face.

Perhaps this movie simply came into my life at the perfect moment. I was a teenager. I had just started staying up later in the summers, exploring the sci-fi channel in hopes of finding more science-fiction and fantasy to scratch my incessant itch. And one night, during that special time when they play the really bad movies on TV because who’s watching anyway? I discovered Judge Dredd. And then, because I was so enamoured by it, I shared it with my friends. If they didn’t like it, they certainly humoured me. 1995’s Dredd can hardly compare to the new one (which is phenomenal), but it will always hold a special charm for me (which I’m sure has to make me some kind of evil monster).

Battleship (2012)
Last, but by no means least, the movie inspired by a board game. Because if they can sell four movies about giant transforming robot toys, surely all our other toys will make great movies, right? At some point during production, the people making this movie realized they were holding a giant stinking turd. They must have also realized they couldn’t do much about the fact that it was a turd. So they set about polishing that turd and, somehow, they ended up with something magnificent.

The opening sequence of this movie features a deadbeat guy who can’t hold down a job and, apparently, has no idea how the world actually works. On his birthday, he meets a pretty girl in a bar. All she wants is a chicken burrito and all he wants is to get in her pants, so he promises to deliver a chicken burrito to charm her. She gives him five minutes. He runs to the local 7-11, but they’ve closed for the night. Oh well. I guess we’ll just… break in through the roof. And steal a burrito. Oh wait heat it up first. And leave money on the counter (for the burrito, not the damage caused by the break-in). And then he runs down the street holding out the burrito as police taze him.

I’m not making this up, that is how this movie starts. And you know what? She dates him.

Other gems in this movie include an older brother who essentially speaks in military slogans, an actual session of Battleship versus aliens, and a bunch of old men helping to man an aging museum battleship (actually that part is pretty cool). And hey, the movie has decent computer effects and Liam Neeson. No one is ever going to hold a deep, philosophical conversation about the contents of this movie. But it’s great for a laugh. And make sure you watch the last two minutes of the movie really carefully… that final shot is sheer gold.

What are your guilty pleasures?

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