I’ve talked about how there is plenty of good to be found in B-movies before, but what about those A-list movies that everyone writes off? Aren’t there movies on your personal favorites list that elicit groans and eye rolls from everyone else? My lovely wife, for instance, swears behind Empire Records (1995), but I—and for that matter, the entirety of the critical community—just don’t get it. That’s okay, we’re allowed to not get things. Heck, I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks Diet Wrath of Khan… er… rather… Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) is the best interpretation of the grim voyages of the SS Botany Bay. I’m not sure how that might have happened, but I’m sure that person is out there.
Last week, I went through just a few of my favorite least-loved movies, but the list kept growing. So, without further adieu, here are a few more!
Mars Attacks (1996)
Quick. Name your favorite alien invasion movie of 1996. The Arrival starring Charlie Sheen. Close, but not quite. Contact? Not an alien invasion movie, and wasn’t even released in ’96! Come on, folks. Get it together!
Of course, most of you named Independence Day, and you’re still wrong. Roland Emmerich’s urban destruction-fest is so removed from any sense of irony, that it’s almost impossible to bear. On the other hand, Tim Burton’s running B-movie homage—à la the epic comedies of the ‘60s like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)—has a cast of what feels like thousands. Pam Grier! Tom Jones! Quarterback** Jim Brown! Also, Jack Nicholson channels his inner Peter Sellers and pulls double roles as the beleaguered American President James Dale, and casino developer Art Land***. What’s not to love?
Apparently, in the golden age of irony that was the 1990s, there wasn’t room for such a movie. But guys (and ladies), let’s get real. It’s a big Tim Burton movie that doesn’t have Johnny Depp putting a new wig through a shakedown cruise. How many more of those are we likely to get?
Speaking of 1996 films featuring multiple roles played by the stars of Batman (1989), this movie is pretty great, too. Directed by the late, great Harold Ramis, Michael Keaton plays a man slowly realizing he doesn’t have enough hours in the day to meet all his obligations. After taking a contracting job with a lab working on experimental cloning procedures, he finds the perfect solution. With two of him around to work and take care of the kids, everything should be fine. It isn’t enough, and another clone is needed to pick up the slack. Then the clones feel like they’re overworked, and they start cloning themselves. Hilarity ensues. Actually, as the 90s nostalgia industrial complex is now in full swing, a more horror-based remake of the same concept might actually work.
Some might claim that everyone involved has done better work—Ramis probably put the high-concept comedy genre to bed with the one-two punch of Ghostbusters (1984) and Groundhog Day (1993) but do not let this take diminish from the film’s accomplishments. The special effects—while not overwhelming—still hold up. Often when one actor has to interact him or herself, the eye-lines never quite line up. It’s clear that the scene was shot at two different times, and the film has been processed to within an inch of its life. Just watch any episode Star Trek: The Next Generation wherein Data’s evil twin brother, Lore, shows up for great examples. In Multiplicity, it really feels like Keaton is sharing the frame with himself.
Which brings me to my real argument for why this film is loved far less than it ought to be. Now, I’ve had a theory going for a number of years that the presence of Michael Keaton in a motion picture automatically adds 15% quality to the final product. Now, this movie has 4x Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film at a dim 42%. Therefore, with four Keatons running around, the movie actually deserves a 102% rating. If you are not interested in the only movie that garnered a 102% on the tomatometer, then I don’t know what to do with you anymore.
Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
Speaking of the various adventures of that precocious android, I’m not sure why the ninth film in the series—the fourth to feature The Next Generation crew—gets shit on so much. This is especially true when the series also includes the two-plus hour sleeping pill that is The Motion Picture (1979), the sloppy ode to mountain climbing that is The Final Frontier (1989)****, and that testament to uninspired mediocrity that was Nemesis (2002).
The most frequent complaint I hear about this movie is that, after the epic battle across time and space in First Contact (1996)*****, this follow-up is less an actual movie, and more a very basic, episode of the television series upon which it is based. To that, I ask: Why is that a problem? If anyone reading this has ever taken in any random episode of The Next Generation****** and not enjoyed it, then, maybe your problem with Insurrection is that you just don’t like Star Trek that much.
The ancillary material for the film is even better. The late Michael Piller wrote a no-holds-barred account of his experiences writing the screenplay. It’s one of the truly great screenwriting books, ranking right up there with William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade. It’s only recently available, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Whew! That second part of this entry nearly bled into a third part, so I think we’ll cut things off there. Now, if there are movies that no one loves, that you can’t help but like, feel free to fire away in the comments. Some new things are coming to this blog in the coming weeks. Next week may be a cheat week off of the regular posts. Soon, though, we’ll be having a few more guest blogs and some cross-brand promotion coming your way. Watch this space.
*Which, as it turns out, is a word that my spell check accepts as totally legitimate. I don’t understand things, sometimes.
**Which I’m told is some kind of footballman.
***Were the movie made today, those two roles could be filled by the same character. Courage, folks. We’ll get through this together.
****Which I actually kind of like, and almost made its way onto this list, except that I get that the movie doesn’t work for the most part.
*****I realize now that movies may have began and ended for me in 1996.
******First season being the only exception, naturally