Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Bookmark and Share
Wednesday, Jul 13, 2011
It's hard to tell what is scarier, the standard sequel, or these 10 superlative examples of the excellent fright film follow-up.

Audiences have a right to be afraid of sequels. For every good follow-up (The Godfather Part 2, The Dark Knight) there are dozens of duds. Nowhere is this more true than in an arena viewers really should fear—the horror film. Once the smell of success hits the genre effort, it is quickly spun into a pointless series of repeats and reconfigurations. Granted, a few of these fright franchises have more good (A Nightmare on Elm Street) than bad (can you say, Puppet Master???) but on the whole, the scary movie machine doesn’t deal in quality. Instead, it senses the always willing demographic is open to just about anything, and delivers the same in unhealthy, oft half-baked doses.

However, there are a few fright flicks which actually stand up to—and in a few elite cases, surpass—their fear foundations. Most, if not all, follow a simple, satisfying rule: explain the original while expanding the substance and storyline. Indeed, of all ten choices listed below, only one or two avoid that moviemaking mandate. On the other hand, a film like [REC]2 (new to DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), uses this strategy to take what was already a fantastic bit of dread and turn it into something almost… epic. Thanks to the vision and determination of the filmmakers involved, these ten films represent the best that terror has to offer…the second time around, beginning with the rebirth of a legend:

Bookmark and Share
Monday, Jul 11, 2011
Five ways the infamous director gets us to watch his awful movies again and again and again...

“Damn it. God damn it. God damn m*$%*#**!*#** c@*%$*%**&*. God damn *&#*$*%&*#&#*@&*#*$& MICHAEL BAY!” This was my exact, less poetic reaction to what I wrote about back in February after viewing the Super Bowl spot for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I’m sure many of you sounded off in your own unique and profane manner, but not because you thought the movie looked terrible. Sadly, if you were like me, we thought it looked kinda cool.

I know, I know. Obviously a lot of people thought it looked cool – the first two made more than $1.5 billion worldwide. But I hated those movies. I find them as awful as anything the explosion-obsessed director has ever done. Yet, even though Transformers was pretty bad and the sequel was surprisingly worse (how did they mess up something as simple as giant robots smashing into one another?), I’m going to go see Dark of the Moon. In theaters. Probably soon.

“Why?” you may justifiably ask. For a while, I couldn’t tell you. I assumed it was my own nagging curiosity about movies able to capture the minds and money of millions (which in itself is a cop out – I, like Doug, love movies). Then I got to thinking – I’ve seen every one of Michael Bay’s movies even though I complain after every one (even my surprisingly positive recent review for The Island was preceded by an awful opinion of it my first time through). How does he keep getting me to come back and shell out my hard-earned dollars? A few thoughts…

Bookmark and Share
Wednesday, Jul 6, 2011
10 Examples of the Craziest, Most Cracked Concepts Ever Forwarded as "Normal" By a Proposed Mainstream Entertainment.

They never cease to amaze, do they? No matter the amount of money spent or the specialization of the 3D F/X technology, Michael Bay’s massive Transformers films always find a way to shock and stun… and not with the movie material you expect. Sure, the splashy battles between giant alien robots are always impressive, as are the various standard action scenes which lead up to the metal melee, but it’s the little things, the pointless asides and scripted set-ups, which constantly challenge our concept of what a Summer blockbuster should deliver. In the past, Bay’s behemoth boy’s adventure tale has introduced us to mechanical testicles, softcore grease monkeys, inappropriate racial profiling, and a sense of humor so adolescent it makes Mad Libs seem sophisticated.

While not quite as blatant as its predecessors, the latest installment (entitled Dark of the Moon) does offer a few more halting head scratchers. Let’s face it, any movie which trots out Buzz Aldrin and then tries to tie his ‘60s walk on the lunar surface with a CG character played by Leonard Nimoy is functioning on its own insular cloud of clueless geek. Even among all the smoke, explosions, mirrors, and implied car commercials, we discover more surreal lessons that only Bay and his buddies can teach us. Listed below are the 10 craziest, most cracked concepts ever forwarded as “normal” by a proposed mainstream entertainment. While not always obvious, what is clear is that, as part of a typical genre dynamic, the Transformers’ films view the cinematic universe in a skewed, screwed way, beginning with the following financial reality:

Tagged as: list this
Bookmark and Share
Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011
Think the actor's recent rash of paycheck-cashing roles is something new? These 10 career-spanning examples will set the record straight.

Everyone loves to argue that, over the last decade of so, Nicolas Cage was a great actor making only wise decisions. They love to point to his filmography circa 2005 to present and conclude that, before this unfortunate binge as a play for hire paycheck casher, the award winning star was work smart and role savvy. They highlight his recent pathetic attempts at working within difficult genres—the comic book epic (Ghost Rider), the apocalyptic headscratcher (Knowing), the sci-fi actioner (Next)—and resolve that, prior to some bout of wild child tabloid talentlessness, a pre-middle aged Cage made all the right choices. In turn, they have gone from adoring to apoplectic, hating their one time hero in the process. 

In response to such a conclusion, all one can say is…WHAT? If anything, Nicolas Cage has made it his goal, every arduous step of the way, to thwart convention and instill anger. Even during his meteoric rise in the late ‘80s, he would temper success with sidetracks into the weird and eccentric. In fact, scattered throughout his near 25 years in the biz, he’s made as many blunders as brilliant moves. In celebration of the DVD release of one of his worst bank statement supplements—last January’s confused crap Season of the Witch—we look back at the 10 most flagrant film f*ck-ups any actor can claim. If you want clear reasons to hate him, this collection offers conclusive proof.  Clearly, Cage always had hack in him. It just took the last few years for it to fully flower.

Bookmark and Share
Tuesday, Jun 21, 2011
Lock up the wee ones... here are 10 films guaranteed to stunt their growth, as well as their sense of fun and imagination.

In 2011, the family film is a staple of the standard Cineplex experience. From anthropomorphic animals and objects to low brow live action lessons in caring and sharing, Hollywood can churn out the kiddie chum with shocking regularity. Every week, a new affront to taste and future therapist’s visits. Perhaps even more astonishing is the public’s—or make that, parent’s—lack of consideration in making choices for their wee ones. They will literally buy almost anything, just as long as it has the requisite amount of slapstick and stupidity to keep their offspring out of their hair for a while. As an ersatz babysitter, the PG to G rated entertainment has gone from being amiable to merely available. As a result, picking ten examples of cinema’s worst is a lot like shuffling CG penguins around a ritzy Manhattan apartment… possible, but not a very pleasant experience overall.

In creating our list, we had to apply a few caveats. For one, we didn’t consider the animated film when compiling this list. Noxious cartoons are their own stagnant slice of Hell. Similarly, we didn’t scour the shelves for knock-offs, clear copyright infringements like Ratatoing or The Little Panda Fighter, which leads to another category we tried to avoid. Bless them for their advances in style and concept, but the foreign film community can surely stink up the joint with their jaded, often harsh family fare. From the aforementioned Mr. Popper and his pooping water fowl (in theaters now!) to something like Thunderpants (about a kid gifted with the ability to fart really well… no seriously), there are plenty of regular choices to choose from. In this case, we guarantee that all ten will challenge your view of viable kid vid material, as well as your will to live.

Tagged as: list this
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2014 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.