Have you ever sat down and watched a movie so bad you couldn’t move? Something so bad that it still had its own greatness; an unknown humor, wild plot, crazy action, or supremely bad (yet perfect) acting? Well, as we sit slogging through the dog days of January (also known as Dumpuary, because studios dump their trash movies here), we were reminded of all those kinds of flicks. The ones we don’t hesitate to watch when it comes across our guides or need a quick entertainment while we’re otherwise occupied. The terrible movies we hear the name of and recall with a hearty laugh and an “oh my god, I need to watch that again”. We present our favorite bad movies, the terrible films we still manage to love. Bonus podcast coverage: favorite terrible movies!
Austin: I seem to have trouble following my own guidelines for each of these collaborative posts we do (HQ, not exactly a video game!) so why would I start now? While my pick, the 2004 movie Cellular, received pretty favorable reviews (55% on Rotten Tomatoes, 60 on Metacritic, and a WHOLE THREE AND A HALF STARS FROM THE GOD ROGER EBERT(!!!!!)) I do not think it could ever be considered a good movie. It’s been at least 12 years since I watched it, and, despite my young age at the time where I liked pretty much every movie I watched, even then I knew it was a bad movie. That said, bad movies can be enjoyable enough so a higher critic score isn’t shocking. Anyone can derive enjoyment out of certain crap. Everything can have its own charm.
And, boy, does Cellular have its charm. It is terribly acted with an absurd plot and major B-movie, corny vibes. A stacked cast is a prerequisite for turning an old bad movie into a beloved film and Cellular brings the heat in that section. Chris Evans, William H. Macy, Kim Basinger, Jason Statham, Noah Emmerich, Jessica Biel, and Eric Christian Olsen all appear and deliver performances perfect for this kind of movie – well, all except Basinger, who gives perhaps the worst performance I’ve ever seen, like something taken straight out of The Room.
Enough about that, let’s get into the details. Cellular centers on a man (Evans) who gets a desperate call from a woman (Basinger) saying she has been kidnapped by a group led by Statham. Evans begins by having to stay on the line with her to report to the police, but as he overhears the real danger he becomes Mr. Save The Day and embroils himself in the situation. He hops from phone to phone (somehow this works, despite Basinger using a broken home phone that only works when she taps the telephone wires together ever so carefully), losing signal to stealing a car to robbing a store for a phone charger. Statham’s kidnapping group is rounded out by dirty cops (a character’s name is Mad Dog, in case you needed any more convincing that this movie is perfect) who were inadvertently caught killing some drug dealers by Basinger’s husband. How did that happen? He accidentally recorded them using his, you guessed it, cell phone! God, this movie really earns its title. Anyway, WHM plays the cop who helps to save the day, Biel plays Evans girlfriend who almost gets him killed by yelling at him when he is in disguise, and Rick Hoffman (aka Louis from the USA show Suits) hamming it up as the very obnoxious and rude lawyer who gets his car stolen. Evans saves the day and the final line is him telling Basinger to “never call me again” jokingly. As I said, this movie is perfect.
They say the best movies feel timeless. Cellular is not one of those. It’s reliance on this weird cell phone focus as a narrative plot mover is hilarious to think about today but that just adds to its delight. It is dumb and corny and funny and action packed and hand-meet-face all wrapped in one, down to the final song that plays into the credits — Sinnerman (Felix da Housecat’s Heavenly House Mix) – that will bring instant chuckles the moment I hear it.
4. Super Mario Bros
Andy: Who would have thought a live action adaptation of Super Mario Brothers game set in a Dinosaur-Steampunk alternate universe wouldn’t be good? Casting wise, Bob Hoskins as Mario actually isn’t a bad choice, and while I remember loving John Leguizamo as Luigi as a kid, he really is the anti-Luigi in this film as far as personality goes. I had a major crush on Samantha Mathis as Princess Daisy back in the day, but Dennis Hopper as a spikey-headed, politically Trump-ish King Koopa is just hilariously bad.
As the story goes, back in the day a meteor crashed into the earth, except the universe is split into two dimensions: one where our heritage is closer to monkeys (real life), and one where humans evolved from Dinosaurs. Of course, there’s a portal to and from this alternate reality, and power hungry goon Donald Tru…er, King Koopa, wants to rule both worlds. Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach are eventually warped into this Dinosaur-humanoid dimension with a fungus infestation, in which they find out about Koopa’s ambitions. What follows is a bizarre and tonally awkward adaptation of the most beloved video game series of all time. This movie has NO idea what it wants to be from the start, and while it’s full of cute Easter-eggs and references to the video game, the gritty and dark world in the film is an unwelcome contrast compared to the lighthearted fun of the video game series.
My feelings about this movie clash about as intensely as the movies tone compared to the video game. Remember “Goombas”? Oooh! I ‘member! Let’s take a Goomba from the video game with their tiny feet and giant head and REVERSE it for no reason. While this unnecessary artistic change is straight up dumbfounding, the Goomba dancing scene is legit the best scene in the movie. Remember how cute “Yoshi” was? Let’s make him a JURASSIC PARK STYLE MINI VELOCIRAPTOR instead! That being said he looks actually realistic due to the decision NOT to create him with computer graphics, and opt for an animatronic puppet instead, and I really do like the design. At one point, in possibly the worst scene in the movie, Mario has to romance a voluptuous spikey-dressed BBW inbetween dino-worm shots of liquor and a strange dance number. While I hate the scene, I love the song.
All of this leads to a shakey third act in which Daisy finds out her father IS THE FUNGUS that is infesting the city, and that she is actually dino-human royalty and a dino-princess. King Koopa gets de-evolved into a terrible CG dinosaur, and gets blasted with a “Bob-omb!” to destroy him forever. We finally get a surprisingly hype ending scene that hints at a sequel, in which child me was frothing at the mouth for. Overall? This movie is so terribly bad but I can’t help but smile ear to ear when it’s on, in a world of gritty reboots and remakes, it was truly before it’s time.
Bonus Trivia: Did you know GlitchUp was almost called “BoBombed” based off this movie? Nintendo is notoriously lawsuit trigger happy, so we avoided it, but it might be back in some shape or form someday!
3. Godzilla (1998)
Pat: Okay, let me get some of my insufferable Godzilla snobbery out of my system right away. I’m writing about Godzilla ‘98 based on a suggestion. I had an immediate, almost visceral response to shoot the idea down. I grew up watching the old Toho Godzilla movies. Bad dubbing, awesome rubber suit Kaiju, and way too many scenes of humans talking. Everytime we would go to Blockbuster, I would always look in the Godzilla section and see if they had gotten any new entries in. Needless to say, I’m a massive fan of the Godzilla franchise. Helmed by the Earth-hating Roland Emmerich Godzilla ’98 is the first American stab at the franchise. For a Godzilla purist, this movie doesn’t really count. In fact, most refer to this movie as GINO (Godzilla In Name Only), because it ventures so far outside what we traditionally know Godzilla movies to be. After sitting with the idea for a bit I determined that this was actually the most appropriate movie for me to write about. So let’s dig in.
A marine iguana nest is exposed to nuclear radiation following weapons testing. Okay, so it’s certainly not as impactful as the allegory of the original ’54 Godzilla/Gojira and the horrors of the atomic bomb, but it still serves as a pretty cool origin story. Fast forward to 1998 as a Japanese fishing vessel gets destroyed leaving only one survivor. What destroyed the boat you ask? The traumatized survivor can only reply with one word: “Gojira“. (Ahhhh, see what they did there!) Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) an expert on the effects of radiation on wildlife, is brought in by the US Government to try to understand just what this new life form is. Needless to say Godzilla makes his way to New York (because of reasons?) and tears the city a new one.
So far it’s a pretty harmless setup for a monster movie. But here’s where it gets weird. Nick eventually collects a blood sample of the Big G and uses a HUMAN PREGNANCY TEST to determine that not only is the monster pregnant, but it also reproduces asexually. Errrr….what? It’s a pretty weird hoop to jump through just so they could set up the next act of the movie.
What ensues next is possibly the most fun part of the movie. Our cast of heroes enter the nest Godzilla created inside Madison Square Garden and attempt to cause a mass extinction before all the eggs hatch. Naturally, that fails, the eggs hatch, and suddenly we’re enjoying some tense (and to be honest quite adorable) action akin to Jurassic Park, complete with some really great practical effects, and my favorite scene in the movie. Eventually all these adorable little critters get completely obliterated via an air strike, wiping out any chance for these mutated creatures to become the new apex lifeforms on earth. Bummer.
The big finale involves the father/mother Godzilla rising from his/her now smoldering remains of what was a nest after previously believed to be eliminated from a skirmish with the army. Godzilla holds our heroes personally accountable for the extinction its’ entire species. A chase through New York ensues in which we get to see a nod to Godzilla’s atomic breath. Eventually, Godzilla ends up getting trapped in the Brooklyn Bridge as our military brutally assaults him and in one of the most heart wrenching looks of betrayal, the giant lizard finally closes his eyes and dies. Seriously, this ending slayed me as a kid and still slays me now. The brutal fashion in which Godzilla gets hit with those missiles, the giant, gaping, bleeding holes in the side of his body, the music that swells up as you know he’s going down. The look on his face as he knows he’s about to die, it just really hits you right in the feels. Thankfully the joke is on us as we then find out that one single egg survived the nest eradication and hatches and we hear the last living Godzilla let out a roar.
And yet that little survivor would never get his time in the spotlight. Godzilla was a box office disappointment. Although profitable, the filmed received scathing reviews landing at 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, negative receptions from fans and from Toho only further cemented the films eventually collapse and the two planned sequels were abandoned. Well sort of. They were eventually reworked a bit into a cartoon series that acted as a follow up to the movie.
Needless to say, the film is pretty hated. But there’s a lot of unpack here. Yes it’s a bad movie. I think they knew it was going to be a bad movie when they were making it, going as far as having parodies of Siskel and Ebert as characters in the movie. I think it gets a lot of hate because it “Takes the ‘God’ out of Godzilla.” People don’t like it in the same way that they don’t like any sort of re-imaging of their childhood favorites. Look I’ll be the first to say, “Nah this isn’t really a Godzilla movie.” But man, it’s a lot of stupid fun. I would argue because of that, it channels more of the older Godzilla movies than most would think. Let’s be honest here, outside of Godzilla/Gojira ’54, most of those movies are pretty much garbage. They’re a ton of fun to watch, but ultimately they aren’t “good” movies. So I’d say ’98 did a pretty good job of capturing that.
Line in the sand – I liked ’98’s design. Come at me. I think it’s a really cool, more realistic take on an giant animal design and logic. It looks like what I would imagine a giant mutated iguana would look like, which is perfect because you know, it’s a giant mutated iguana. It was built for “realism” and speed, while retaining some of the more familiar elements like the trademark doral spikes. I do have to say that I’m very curious how Stan Winston’s design would have worked out if that was the Godzilla that we ended up getting. While it’s done out of mockery, it’s still kind of cool that the ‘98 design got adopted into the Toho Godzilla cannon. “Zilla” as they call him now, even ended up making a return to the big screen, just so all the purists would be able to watch him properly receive a beat down by the true King of the Monsters. Everyone wins!
At the end of the day, Godzilla ‘98 is a bad movie and a worse Godzilla movie. And that’s okay. I still can’t help but love it. Even if you’re wrong and you don’t love it, nobody can argue that it had the greatest tie-in song ever.
Bonus Trivia: I always thought “Nick Tatopoulos” was a really weird name for a main protagonist in a movie. Turns out, he was named after the Godzilla ’98 designer Patrick Tatopoulos’ daughter “Niko”.
2. Wild Wild West
Chandler: Flashback to 1999. Fresh off the multi-platinum rap album “Big Willie Style” and well-received films, Men in Black and Enemy of the State, Will Smith is one of the most bankable A-list movie stars in all of Hollywood. Now tag-team Smith with Oscar winners Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline and you’re almost guarenteed another instant hit, right? Well, not even close, in fact this movie was such an epic failure that Smith has said it was the biggest mistake of his career choosing this over an offer to star as Neo in the Matrix.
Watching the film now, it certainly begs the question how a steampunk western action comedy set in the backdrop of racist post-Civil War America can even get made? But through the nonsensical story line and grandiose special effects, viewers were left with something that really did make for a fun viewing experience. Smith and Kline had great chemistry and banter on screen. The gunfights we’re ridiculous but visually engaging plus who doesn’t want to see this opposites-attract duo take down a gigantic mechanical tarantula!? Yes, it was campy but the movie was accompanied by the always catchy Will Smith–Sisqo collaboration song, “Wild Wild West,” which is still an iconic hit. Don’t lie, you’re already singing it in your head right now as you read this.
1. Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
Guest Contributor – Patrick_Gus: Sometimes in life, you’re an idiot 17 year old boy and you see a ridiculous movie that just completely fits your sense of humor. 2002’s Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (11% Rotten Tomatoes, 14% Metacritic) was that movie. I watched it in my best friend’s basement and we were in hysterics for the entirety of its 81 minute runtime. The film opens with an infant baby, whose parents have just been murdered by a masked figure, rolling down a rocky hill until he comes to rest on a footpath. A villager picks him, cuddles him, in a poorly matched overdub says “Oh, so cute!” then tosses him down the rest of the hill.
Kung Pow was directed, produced, written, and starred in by Steve Oedekerk. It is a “retelling” of Hong Kong’s 1976 movie Tiger and Crane Fist. Oedekerk and a skeleton crew of actors use overdubbing, green screens, composite photography, and new scenes to interject themselves into the 1976 footage. Kung Pow is the definition of a one-joke film. The re-running joke of the film is poorly synced and ludicrous overdubbing that shapes the narrative and provides the audible jokes as well as numerous sight gags.
If you don’t like the joke, there is nothing left for you in this film. You should walk out, as literally thousands of people did in theaters across America.
If you do like it, the movie is endlessly quotable and inventive. I had never before, and still haven’t, seen a movie that so seamlessly blended old and new film. Oedekerk fits into the nearly 30 year old scenes seamlessly. The insane dialogue and editing is incredible. It’s the perfect combination of hilarity and stupidity combined with technical brilliance. See this movie. Watch it. Enjoy the stupidity. Enjoy the pleasures of 1970s kung fu. Love a monster single breast and a GC lion. Revel in its glory.