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Friday, March 27, 2009

Stonekettle Station’s List of SciFi Movies…

…that should never have been made.

Now I’m not talking about B-movies.

Oh, sure, there are plenty of crappy scifi B-movies that probably shouldn’t have been made – basically anything starring shlock scifi movie king, Michael Pare, other than maybe The Philadelphia Experiment for example – but those movies were never expected to be anything special. Hey, if you’re Stuart Gordon and you crank out Space Truckers, where Battle Beyond the Stars meets Billy Ray Cyrus, you never expected it to do anything but go straight to video. The MST3K guys will lampoon it, the critics will ignore it, it’s good for a few laughs, it didn’t cost diddly, and the studio makes a few bucks.

Those movies are a different post altogether.

No, what I’m talking about here are movies that cost millions, that starred big time Hollywood names – and made direhard scifi fans like me run from the theater holding their noses from the stench. What I’m talking about here are movies that the genre (and the world) would have been better off without. I’m talking about movies that when the idea was shopped to a major studio you have to wonder why in the hell nobody stood up and yelled for security. You have to wonder if there was some mind altering drug in the water during the pitch meeting with the producers. I’m talking about movies that may actually have hastened the heat death of the universe and lowered the collective IQ of the human race by a significant fraction.

Yeah, those.

I’ll bet you scifi fans can guess the first one.

- It’s the ultimate in cinematic disasters: Battlefield Earth. Remember all those Irwin Allen epic disaster movies of the 70’s? Battlefield Earth is like being trapped the Towering Inferno wearing a polyester one piece disco suit – you want to jump flaming from the upper windows and splatter on the pavement below just to make the pain stop. This movie was supposed to be a triumphant telling of L. Ron Hubbard’s novel – but it’s just like cooking folks, you can’t make Cordon Bleu from rotten ingredients. The novel is a thousand pages of endless suck, but it is brilliance personified compared to the movie. Battlefield Earth is the perfect storm of suck. The script sucks. The acting sucks almost beyond belief. The dialog, which mostly consists of Travolta’s maniacal laughter, Ahahaaaa Ahahahahaa Ahhaaha, brings suck to a whole new level of sucktastic. The cinematography sucks. The special effects suck. But with the force of the Church O Scientology behind it, directing it, acting in it, writing it, producing it, and advertising it nobody bothered to say, Hey waitaminute, this just plain sucks! This is why incest is a bad idea – eventually you’re going to end up with a hydrocephalic, hemophilic, cross-eyed, six-toed, retarded trick baby that looks a lot like John Travolta’s character in Battlefield Earth. The production company went bankrupt, hell they couldn’t even give the DVD away to scientologists. And Travolta? Well, see he thought it was going to be such a hit that he planned a sequel, two of them actually. Be damned grateful those never saw the light of day.

- Starship Troopers: Scifi fandoms needs to take out an open ended restraining order against Paul Verhoeven, a binding legal document that prevents him from ever getting within a thousand yards of another Robert Heinlein book, or one of Phillip K. Dick’s either for that matter. Ever. Don’t get me wrong, Verhoeven has done some decent, if not particularly profound, work. But, Troopers is like being forced to watch your beloved sister get raped to death by a gang of drunken Hollanders.

- Nightflyers: Most of you have probably never heard of this movie. Good for you. No really, good for you. Because it stinks. Based on one of my favorite George R.R. Martin tales, Nightflyers was supposed to be a summer blockbuster in 1987 – instead The Bobs, Robert Collector (director) and Robert Jaffe (screenplay) turned it into Zombies In Spaaaaace!

Unnecessary Sequels: Some sequels are great, better than the original – especially if you can get James Cameron to make them. But as soon as you start calling the idea a “franchise” the quality goes downhill fast.

The Star Wars Prequels: Lucas needs somebody to stand behind him with a mallet and smack him on top of the head every time he gets the urge to fiddle. George, seriously here buddy, go check out what happened with Frank Herbert’s Dune series, that’s you, Jar Jar. Please don’t let your kid start writing sequels. Thanks.

Alien Resurrection: Question, how in the hell did the producers of this piece of shit live with themselves? No, seriously. After watching Alien and Aliens and then seeing this and knowing I was responsible for it, I think I’d let the facehugger kill me. Alien 3: Alien Chicks in Prison, was bad enough, but at least it preserved most of the aspects of the originals, even if the GCI creature was a major letdown and the love scene with flea infested bald Sigourney Weaver made you want to barf up your jujubees. At least it had the fantastic Pete Postlethwaite in it. Resurrection? Resurrection should have been flushed out the airlock before a single frame was filmed. My pal, Eric, is right. Josh Whedon is overrated.

The Matrix Sequels, The Matrix Regurgitated and The Matrix Revolted. P.T. Barnum said, “Always leave ‘em wanting more.” Great advice from a master showman, and a formula that has worked for centuries. Too bad the Wachowski brothers never heard of it.

The X-files: I want to belive there’s a couple of bucks more we can squeeze out with this turd. To bad Chris Carter never heard of old P.T. either.

Terminator Rise of the Machines. Wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper to let the guys from Jackass the Movie drive around LA in a firetruck and a cement mixer? Was there actually a plot to this movie?

Star Trek Generations. Three words: Oh God, why? Say the first two words like a man just punched in the stomach, and the last one around a horrified sob.

- Johnny Mnemonic: Even Dina Meyer naked couldn’t save this, just as Dina Meyer naked couldn’t save Starship Troopers up there in position two. And really, if Dina Meyer naked doesn’t offset the level of suck in your movie, you should seriously consider a straight to DVD release. Straight to the dumpster would have been better for this abomination.

- The Bicentennial Man: Somebody, and I don’t care who, should have gone to jail for this. Show of hands, how many of you think Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy (and I’m not even going to mention Pluto Nash, no I won’t) should retire and open a bar or a bike rental stand in Key West? Actually, you know, it occurs to me that this just might be the sequel Travolta had in mind for Battlefield Earth.

Movies based on Video Games: and most especially movies made from video games that star Saffron Burrows, say like Wing Commander. Doom also comes to mind here.

- The Core: I’m in this movie. Yep. In the final scene, when the Navy comes to rescue the Terranauts stranded on the bottom of the ocean after returning from the center of the earth in their unobtainium ship. That’s the Constellation Strike Group. I’ve got the deck on the bridge of USS Valley Forge. I’m so ashamed.

- A Scanner Darkly: First rule of special effects: if the special effects are the whole movie, you don’t have a movie. You have a music video. And in this case A-ha did it better with Take On Me two decades ago. With a much cuter girl.

- Solaris: This movie should be sent to our enemies. I swear on Issac Asimov’s polished yellowed skull (I got it on eBay), if this movie doesn’t suck the soul right out of your body and destroy your will to live, I don’t know what will.

- Saturn 3: They spent millions on this for one little reason and one tiny little reason only, as vehicle to show fading pin-up girl Farrah Fawcett’s tit. And just to rub salt in the wounds, you got a ten minute, ulp, love scene between Fawcett and Kirk Douglas’ old wrinkled ass. Seriously, it was fifteen years before I could watch 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea again.

and last, movies based on comic books: Look not all of them are X-men,

some are Judge Dredd.

And some, well, some, my friends,

…are this.

27 comments:

  1. Instead of being Rick-Rolled, I've been Ducked.

    Dude, you suck.

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  2. You watched it though, didn't you?

    You were even tapping your toes a little, weren't you?


    You know, the Director's Cut of that movie just came out on DVD. The question is, who the fuck is buying it?

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  3. You do know that Lucas is going to revisist Star Wars


    again...


    in 3-D.


    ugh.

    We can only hope Han shoots first again.

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  4. I like Starship Troopers. It's not the book. It's a pretty damn funny--intentionally funny, unlike Battlefield Earth--satire. And I like Total Recall, and I'm pretty sure I'm the biggest PKD fan in the entire group (if there were a way to melt Recall and Blade Runner together, the world would finally have the perfect PKD adaptation, instead of three adequate ones*).

    Verhoeven's sensibilities (and politics) are, I think, very sympathetic to PKD's and probably 180° from RAH's, which may explain why I don't know too many PKD fans who get that upset over Recall (there are a few), but Troopers seems to pretty cleanly polarize audiences between RAH-fans and not-RAH-fans (and I like RAH, BTW... just not that much....)

    As for other films on your list: varying degrees of agreement, I guess. Johnny Mnemonic isn't good, but I don't think it's bad enough to rise up in arms over. Ditto for Generations, which isn't the worst of the Trek movies by a long shot (yes, everybody looked at you when I wrote that, ST-V, but don't worry: now you have Nemesis to keep you company on cold nights). I actually liked the second Matrix movie as much as the first one when I saw it, although my estimation went down after the third (and I actually saw where they were going--or not going--with the second); then again, I didn't think that highly of the first (it's a myth among my friends, I think, that I didn't like it--I liked it alright for a completely derivative pastiche of anime, PKD, Wm. Gibson, and wuxia movies that took itself far too seriously). And, finally, I think Attack Of The Clones is actually a better movie than Return Of The Jedi, tho' overall I think I would have been happier if Lucas hadn't made the prequels at all.

    ________

    *Yes, I can count: Minority Report is a perfectly cromulent PKD adaptation, a decent movie in general, and one of Tom Cruise's better offerings. But you only need elements from TR and BR to make a "perfect" PKD movie.

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  5. Sorry, I liked all three Matrix movies.

    I know, I know... there's no accounting for taste.

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  6. The second one had some nifty stuff, Michelle. I loved the idea that vampires, werewolves, ghosts et al. are buggy malware. And the freeway chase was so much fun I wanted to get on the ride again and again and again until I threw up in the line or the park closed or my Mom made us all go home because we'd had too much cotton candy and soda.

    One of the big problems in all three Matrices(??) was the college sophomore philosophy stuff; you could kind of ignore it in the first two, but the final one was Nearly Nothing But, and it kind of killed it. It might be kind of a metaphysical version of the point Vince and Tom made elsewhere about movies that try to be realistic and fail, and it taking you out of it in a way a totally-fantastic movie doesn't (however ridiculous it might be). Much of the philosophy in the Matrix movies just isn't good philosophy nor is it anything that isn't handled better elsewhere by other SF writers and filmmakers (not to mention, you know, actual philosophers). Matrix philosophy isn't any better than what you'd get sitting up all night drinking with your friends, but the Wachowskis act like they've stumbled upon something profound. Worse still, almost every time the Wachowskis try to go deep, they accidentally draw attention to just how goofy their world's premises are in general (using humans as batteries is more efficient that launching some kind of solar satellite above the clouds--really?).

    But when they're fun--including the third one--they're a lot of fun, I'll give 'em that.

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  7. Eric, I think there are some good scenes the Matrix sequels - and some that utterly suck, like the endless endless fight between Neo and the Agent clones. For fuck's sake, I got it - special effects. Woo fucking hoo, move on.

    But scenes don't make a movie. neither does endless variations of "bullet time." The mystic bullshit, the utter inanity of the "Humans as batteries" bit, the key maker (did anybody else think of Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters? No? just me. Right).

    I thought there were some cool concepts, the characters left over from previous iterations of the matrix, sure OK, I can dig that. But the whole concept of Zion and the Merovingian bullshit and christ the rest of it. Hell, all neo had to do was boot up a copy of Norton Anti-Virus and fix the whole thing.

    What they should have done was this: Morpheus has it all wrong, humans aren't batteries, that's a bit of information warfare on the part of the machines. No, humans are the spark of consciousness - see each intelligent machine needs a human consciousness in the matrix for it to be truly aware. Every time you wake a human up, you kill a machine's self awareness. The matrix wasn't made by machines, but by men interfacing with the machines... Which is alluded in the first movie.

    But seriously, dude, I can't believe you're not going on about the video. If it ain't funk you can't feel it...

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  8. The HtD video, d'ya mean?

    Y'know, last year I became a big fan of the original Steve Gerber comics. So now the movie is insulting on top of being injurious.

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  9. Yeah, but Lea Thompson was hawt in the teased 80's hair and spandex.

    What?

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  10. Oh man, now you tell me after I've got a copy of "A Scanner Darkly" still in shrink wrap. Sigh.

    And I'm with Jim on Lea Thompson. Redheads, my personal weakness.

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  11. Howard was one of the first American Sci-Fi flicks I've ever seen, at least of that kind. I thought it was pretty cool... 20 years ago.

    Thanks a lot Jim.

    BTW, one of the first American sci-fi movies allowed by Russian censorship to be shown on big screen was Starman with Jeff Bridges, at least what I can remember. Great movie.

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  12. I second the motion that while Starship Troopers ain't Heinlein, it's a helluva lotta fun. Beautifully filmed scientifically illiterate space scenes. (grin) Robocop style commercials. And Doogie Howser SS Psychic Xenophobe Sadist. To say nothing of getting to watch Michael Ironside chew up scenery with his dialogue.

    And Wing Commander is on my list of DVDs to collect BUT NOT PAY FOR so I can use it to show how to make a movie which doesn't know what the hell kind of naval war movie we want to emulate.

    But at the top of The Suck List in this household is a bit of embarrassment given to me as a joke called The Guyver (1991), starring Mark Hamill and Jimmie "J.J." Walker.

    Dr. Phil

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  13. "The Guyver"

    Ha!

    Part of the post Star Wars Mark Hamill career suicide run. I swear he must have the worst agent on the planet - well, that and he went to the Micheal Pare* school of acting.

    Hamill works steady, but his resume reads like a list of every grade-B straight to video piece of shit ever made.
    ____________________________

    The funny thing is Pare made two of my favorite movies, Eddie and Cruisers and Streets of Fire and Streets is just a freakin awesome movie.

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  14. I heard from a not particularly reliable source that Travolta wants out of the cult but they have something on him. Allegedly, they wanted him to to BE, he didn't, so he rebelled by making it the biggest stinkeroo he could and ensuring that another LRH movie would never be made.

    If that's true, then the man has to be congratulated for his success.

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  15. I'm not buying the idea that Travolta was goldbricking on BE. He's just trying too damn hard in that movie.

    Dr. Phil, re: Starship Troopers: exactly, amen, thank you, brother! Casting Doogie Howser as a psychic SS trooper has got to rank as one of the best pieces of stunt casting evah.

    Jim: Hamill's career has been mostly as bad as you say, but it has had rare moments: he was by far the best Joker of all time until Heath Ledger came along, and the rest of his voiceover work has pretty much been as strong as his onscreen work hasn't been.

    As for Streets Of Fire: it isn't a good movie, but it's a helluva fun one. I could probably deal with a long-overdue sequel to that one.

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  16. I assume when you mention Solaris, you are talking about the George Clooney/Steven Soderbergh version, not the original 1972 Tarkovsky classic. Although I enjoyed the Soderbergh version, it was most likely because I had seen the vastly superior Tarkovsky version beforehand, which was a much more complete film.

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  17. MedVed, you are correct, I was referring to the Cloony version. The Tarkovsky version is far, far superior.

    Eric, I love Streets of Fire, I love everything about it. It's a simply Boy Gets Girl story, fantastic Ry Cooder Rock and Roll, some great action, a little humor, the best movie opening ever filmed (everything before the credits, which don't come until fifteen minutes in) - and one of the best final fight scenes ever. Good Lord, man, how can you not love Pare and Dafoe fighting it out with fucking sledge hammers? And 20 year old Bill Paxton as Clyde the Bartender?

    JtS, Travolta may have retconned his enthusiasm for BE, but he was the guy that pushed, and pushed hard, to get it made, and he was the guy who went on every talk show blathering on about LRH and BE and how there'd be at least two sequels and it was going to be the movie of the century. He talked about the book being a major bestseller (while failing to mention that it was scientologists who were buying fifteen or twenty copies of the book a piece in order to keep it sold out). I saw something to the effect of what you said after the movie bombed so utterly badly and much of its failure was laid at the feet of Travolta, who produced, directed, and starred in the movie (along with fellow scientologists, Pepper, Whitaker, Coats, and his wife Kelly Preston). You can bet if BE had been a decent movie, Travolta would have been all over the credit for it - but, instead it's the joke of the industry, it's the new Plan 9 from Outer Space, Travolta had to distance himself from it.

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  18. Oh, and Eric? I agree with you about Hamill, mostly, but I'll go one step further and say his defining moment, post Star Wars career wise for me was as Cocknocker in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ;)

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  19. Eric, my snarky previous comment aside, I do think Hamill can act - his role as Pvt Griff in The Big Red One was beautifully done. If you haven't seen the extended version of that, you really should.

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  20. I haven't seen the movies of Starship Troopers. maybe I don't like too.

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  21. The sad thing about Johnny Mnemonic is that Gibson wrote that piece of garbage screenplay. Just sad...

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  22. I am very forgiving about movies, I like almost all of them because I go to the movies to be entertained not to be critical - but I agree with a lot of what you said. Battlefield Earth was pretty bad and the 3rd/4th aliens movies really missed the boat.

    They had a perfect setup, the alien hiding on the banged-up military vessel heading back to the main space-marine starbase. I remember thinking the next one would be so awesome. Instead the director said he felt hi-tech against the aliens had already been done and wanted to explore lo-tech..such a waste.

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  23. Aw, I liked A Scanner Darkly. It's not great, but there are some movies I think of as interesting failures and that's one of them. I love it when a movie takes chances, even it when it ultimately doesn't succeed. For me, that's enough to put it on my "Glad I Watched It" list, even with Keanu Reeves in it.

    I didn't have as much problem with Star Trek: Generations as you did, though, yes, it's wasn't very good. But it had Malcolm McDowell! I loves me some Malcolm McDowell! And it's still way better than Final Frontier and Nemesis. My g-d, what awful dreck.

    Poor HtD. I met Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (the writers) recently - very sweet people and, yes, they acknowledged that it was pretty bad. I got the impression that the script was changed quite a bit from what they had originally written.

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  24. I'm usually fairly forgiving about movies - hell, I find flicks like Moon Zero Two entertaining.

    But where I'm not forgiving is when the studio, producer, directors, and even the actors are just phoning it in. Or when they deliberately corrupt a classic work - such as Starship Troopers. SST is a classic work of the genre. To be done correctly, it would take a well done mini-series (like Band of Brothers). Verhoeven was making a b-movie called "Bug Hunt," somebody mentioned SST to him. Verhoeven read enough of the book to decide that Heinlein was a fascist, based on Verhoeven's own WWII experience no doubt - and turned the movie into an anti-Heinlein parody. Fuck him. If the movie was Bug Hunt instead of SST, I'd have no beef with it. But it's not.

    Generations, my major beef with the movie is that it is boring - it's not even a TV good episode. Captain James T. Kirk, like him or not, is one of the single most recognized names in genre - hell the character is recognized by people who would never know any other scifi character. His name is legend. Shatner is loved, hated, parodied (by himself more often than not), copied, and studied. And Generations is the best send off they could give him? Seriously? Some mystical cloud afterlife bullshit? For crying out loud, who'd they get to write that piece of shit, were there NO mainstream scifi authors around? What a lousy finale for Captain Kirk. Which is why I listed it instead of Nemesis.

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  25. I've never been much of a Kirk fan - Spock's my guy - so the method of his death didn't matter much to me. But yes, that was a G-dawful way for have him die and I can certainly understand why it's higher on your Movie Shit List than mine. At least when Spock died, it was to save the ship. That scene still brings tears to my eyes.

    In my estimation, Nemesis was far worse. You know what's worse, though? Insurrection. Because I always forget it exists.

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  26. Carol, no disagreement, well Ok maybe a little:

    Nemesis and Insurrection are what happens when a franchise goes on too long without new blood. The story is stale, the actors should have retired long ago, the budget gets smaller and smaller, they've done every idea already - save the whales, save the ship, destroy the ship, destroy the ship, destroy the ship, make a new ship, meet God, kill God, save the universe, save the Earth, save the Federation, save the Klingons, save a beloved character, toss in a singing android and viola - so I never expected either of those movies to be any good. But Generation? It should have been send off for a cornerstone of the genre. Seriously, every long running series but for BSG, owes its successful formula to Kirk and Co. All the ST spinoffs, Stargate, hell all the way back to Space1999 for crying out loud. The original series specific Con and Fandom is ST:TOS. There are hundreds of books, millions of lines of fanfic, there are ideas a plenty, some by mainstream Hugo winning authors like Joe Haldeman. Hell there are a dozen ST:TOS episodes that could have been a spark for a great ending, ala Wrath of Khan (hell the original pilot "The Cage" would have been ideal, or "The Doomsday Machine" or any of a dozen others. Instead the studio made Generations.

    Generations was just such a colossal failure on so many levels.

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  27. I would add 'Dune' to that list. Its been terribly brutalized twice now. What a shame, it could have been a classic.

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