Movies are a foundation of nerddom. No matter what kind of a nerd you are, there’s at least one movie you love passionately that a lot of other people also love passionately.
And then there are movies that we either hate passionately, or dismiss.
Here’s the thing: some of these movies really are absolutely awful. But others are genuinely good in their own right, and worth revisiting once the white-hot nerd rage has cooled a bit. Sometimes a movie is good, or at least acceptable, on its own merits, and enjoyable once you get over it.
Also, for the five of you that haven’t seen these, spoilers, but they’ve been out for years, decades in some cases, so no whining in the comments.
There are a few sticks you can beat this one with. Willie is shrill, although no less annoying and useless than Marion when you stop to think about it: pretty much Marion’s entire love from the fandom stems from punching Indy once, but the rest of the movie, she’s basically baggage, a tradition that extends through all the Indy movies until “Last Crusade”, when the love interest turns out not just to be a pain in the ass but evil. Also, the Indian government was right to be angry: “Temple” can be pretty racist, although pretty much the whole franchise has this problem.
Still, it is, to date, the one movie where Indy actually grows and changes as a person, going from a self-involved jerk to Hero with a capital H (people forget: this is a prequel). There is not a person alive who didn’t cheer when Indy hit a child slaver so hard he landed and slid. The setpieces are some of the best of the entire franchise, and the darker aspects actually make the movie work.
It’s not “Raiders”, but it’s not trying to be. “Temple of Doom” is actual, honest-to-God pulp fiction in film form with the budget to sell it as actually happening.
image courtesy Paramount Pictures
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s hard to make a good Punisher movie. This, however, comes the closest, partially because of the profoundly nasty and evil plot.
It helps to realize that this is basically a Jacobean revenge tragedy. It’s true that Frank in the comics would storm the Saint nightclub and kill every mofo in the place (something he does actually do, and something fans seem to have forgotten), but this version of Frank is actually a lot nastier and bloodthirstier, carefully setting up the bad guy who killed his family to murder most of his own before burning his house to the ground, calmly revealing how he’d set the guy up all along, and then tying him to a car and lighting him on fire before blowing him up.
Then there’s the scene with the Russian, a great bit of both action and comedic timing that a lot of Marvel movies took notes on.
Also helping is that this Frank is a psychological mess, something a lot of fans didn’t want to see but, let’s face it, even in the comics, Frank is nuts. Of course the movie chose to make him nuts in a way people could relate to, instead of a creepy sociopath. And it works; if you or I had our entire family gunned down in front of us, rage, depression and alcoholism are way more likely than stone-faced badassery.
image courtesy Lionsgate
All the prequels are unnecessary. We don’t need this movie. But if we had to have this movie, at least it doesn’t suck wildly.
Lucas’ belief that Darth Vader is the ultimate hero of the franchise is pretty questionable, but at least the script does its best to explain exactly what the hell’s going on in Vader’s head. Yes, the scenes of meetings are boring: meetings are not compelling, and it’s a little depressing Lucas thinks they are compelling, kind of like how Toho has to start every damn Godzilla movie with a press conference.
But there’s so much plot here, and so few miserably stupid decisions, that this movie is genuinely worth watching more than once. Which is more than we can say for the other prequels. Or “Jedi”, depending on our mood and how many Ewoks we’ve shot in the various licensed games.
image courtesy Lucasfilm
The Star Trek movies have a checkered history: they’ve largely been defined by the presence of Nicholas Meyer, a Victoriana fan and largely known as a screenwriter and novelist. Whenever he’s been missing, and by a funny coincidence, he’s never done an odd-numbered “Star Trek” movie or a TNG movie, his loss has been generally been felt.
And most of the odd-numbered movies suck. “The Motion Picture” has been made less awful by Robert Wise returning and actually getting a chance to edit it, but it still stinks. “Star Trek V” is actually highly entertaining…as a bad episode of “Star Trek”. But “Star Trek III” is actually pretty good.
Yes, Doc Brown as a Klingon wasn’t the best casting choice; Nimoy doesn’t have the verve as a director that Meyer does, and Harve Bennett’s screenplay is awkward at times.
But if “V” is a bad Star Trek episode, “III” is a good one, writ large: characters make hard choices, deal with the emotional pain of a lost friend, and everybody gets at least one moment to shine, whether it’s Sulu finally allowed to kick some ass; DeForrest Kelley showing off his acting chops, as well as McCoy getting one of the single funniest and truest lines in the entire franchise (“This is his revenge! For all those arguments he lost!”); or Scotty’s heart breaking as he watches the Enterprise fall from the sky.
Also, it’s aged a lot better than “Star Trek IV”. And Nicholas Meyer was brought in to save that one!
image courtesy Paramount Pictures
Here’s a question for you: why is Bruce Banner always on the verge of completely losing it?
Seriously, this guy is a bubbling cauldron of anger all the time. The littlest thing will send him flying into a fury so intense he has biochemical reactions that turn him into a monster. He’s blown a fuse over some incredibly petty crap.
This guy has problems. And Ang Lee’s movie tried to address why he had those problems.
People got furious Lee played fast and loose with the Hulk’s origin, but realistically, he had to. When the Hulk was created, we just didn’t understand radiation the way we do now: modern audiences would have laughed at his comics origin. And, yes, it took forty minutes for us to see the Hulk, but so what? Most of the movie is essentially the Hulk trashing a military base, San Francisco, and Nick Nolte, in that order. People who complained about how it wasn’t “true” to the comic seem to have missed the Hulk, in the desert, trashing tanks, is as true to the comic as it gets.
Along the way, though, Lee did something that action movies rarely do; give the action sequences genuine meaning beyond “hitting this guy really hard”. He also worked with Eric Bana to get a really great performance; especially if you’ve known people who grew up in abusive households, he nails the passive-aggressive, non-assertive nature they can develop. Not to mention using the Hulk as a metaphor for the fear of many abuse survivors that they will turn into an abuser themselves.
In other words, he made a movie you can watch as a straight action movie, or a movie that can actually be read as a metaphor. It’s a level of work we haven’t seen from Marvel since, and that’s just too bad.
image courtesy Universal Pictures
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