Good things in mediocre movies

Finally got around to watching Final Destination 5. If you have seen the others, it was basically more of the same. Not terrible but nothing memorable either, until the end…

It turns out this wasn’t a sequel, but a prequel. The two main characters who survive, end up on a flight to Paris which turns out to be the flight to Paris that explodes in the first movie.

This twist surprised and delighted me. I had no idea it was coming and when it happened it suddenly made the entire movie better. Any other moments like that? Things that make a boring movie into something else?

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before on the SDMB, but one of the films from my childhood was Angry red Planet, a film about a trip to Mars produced by Moe Howard’s son-in-law*. It’s low budget, but an interesting flick with much more believable characters than you’d expect, including as the main character a woman who, although embarassing by current standards, wasn’t a complete ditz. They shot the Mars sequences in oversolarized film tinted red, a process called “Cinemagic”. The low-budget efects were done with minatures, rod puppets, and the like.
The climax of the film comes when they try to cross a lake (!!) to see a Martian city, and are attacked by a giant amoeba, which ends up digesting one crew member and almost getrting the arm of the Handsome Male Lead. They manage to get him away, though, tearing off a hunk of Space Amoeba in the process. They blast off, and, en route, find that the alien protoplasm is still alive, and trying to eat The Hunk’s arm, Blob-like.

The solution to saving The Hunk’s arm is ingenious and sounds as if it might actually work, if Space Amoebas existed and were a real hazard. It’s in the best tradition of written SF, and it makes you wonder what the hell it’s doing in a movie this cheap. I suspect that, like a lot of good SF, they found the basic idea in some article and adapted it to the SF premise. The cherry on top is that it’s the female lead who suggests and implements the cure. Take that, stereotypes!
The idea is that the ameoba likes eating The Hunk’s arm, so to get it off you have to persuade it that the arm isn’t hospitable, while offering it an attractive alternative. Carrot AND stick. So they start applying mild electric shocks to the arm, while placing some nice juicy, non-electrical tissue nearby. The Space Ameoba fragment decides that it doesn’t like this annoying arm anymore, and that this non-stinging tissue nearby is tasty, so it migrates off of the Hero and onto the Meat Snack.

Problem solved, and without gobbledegook made-up mumbo-jumbbo (“We used Solution X-0 and that gpt it all off!”) or Blob-like miraculous invulnerability (“It took everythin we could throw at it, but it didn’t give an ijnch! In fact, I think it’s BIGGER!”) leading to Gross Horror (“We can’t find capytain Square-Jaw anywhere! And I SWEAR that thing’s ten times the size it was!”)

Instead, extrapolation and scientific thinking and problem solving. What was THAT doing in a hackneyed film like this? It makes it worth watching.
*Yes, THAT Moe Howard, “leader” of The Three Stooges. Maurer had been drazwing the Stooges for the comic books in the 1950s and married Moe’s daughter. He was laterthe Stooges’ manager, and was instrumental in getting the Stooges into movies after the Columbia shorts stopped getting made, which, together with the showing of the shorts on TV, revived their career.

Weird Al’s opening credits for the (at best) mediocre movie “Spy Hard” is a piece of pure genius.

Thanks for that. I had no idea he did the opening and it was worth watching that.

We all know by now that The Phantom Menace sucked like a Hoover upright. There were, however, four seconds that very nearly redeemed the film. Those four seconds were Obi-Wan’s first clash with Darth Maul, after the death of Qui-Gonn. It is everything lightsaber combat should be: young Jedi in their prime battling with weightless blades and precognition. It’s beautiful.

But it didn’t fully redeem the film, because Lucas had already put in a fart joke, for which there can be no redemption.

I saw Prometheus last week and I think it fits here. Not a bad movie, but the idiotic characters and bland acting really killed it for me. I will say one thing about it though, the surgery scene was one of the most intense and disturbing things I have ever seen. Now that’s saying something coming from me, I’ve sat through Salo, Black Sun, A Serbian Film, and many other disgusting and disturbing films. I’ve been grossed out, I’ve wanted to shut movies off and bleach my brain, but never have I experienced anything like that. Once that scene started I felt almost ill, and it didn’t pass until the scene was well over. That scene got to me in a way that nothing ever has before, and I doubt ever will again. Forget everything else about that movie, that scene makes up for it all.

I thought the recent Dark Shadows movie was relentless mediocre, but I enjoyed Depp’s mimicry of Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins very much. It’s a shame about the script.

I thought Hellboy: The Golden Army was pretty average, but the “Del-Toro esque” scene with the giant death creature healing Hellboy’s spear wound was up there with some of his best stuff.

Thir13en Ghosts, the complete piece of shit turkey remake of William Castle’s 13 Ghosts, had some really awesome sets and really cool creature design for the monsters.

The deeply mediocre 1984 Vincent Spano film Alphabet City had exactly one redeeming feature. Lighting. It’s like the lighting director had taken control of the film while the director of record was stumbling around in a coked-out haze. It’s a hard-bitten story of a drug dealer, and the whole gritty “Alphabet City” area of New York is awash in Surprise Pink. Imagine New York, lit to look like Miami.

Although most critics liked it, I was very much underwhelmed by Cactus Flower. It does feature one of my all-time favorite snippets of dialogue though:

Walter Matthau: I think I’m going to kiss you.
Ingrid Bergman: When will you know for sure?

Sorry to hijack this thread but your bringing up the Final Destination series made think of a new direction they could go. I really should state, by the way, that I have no interest in the Final Destination movies and could not possibly care less if they ever did another one. The first one was mildly interesting but the increasingly ridiculous sequels were mostly examples of Hollywood cookie-cutter filmmaking at its worst. Thus, I have no idea why thought of this possible premise.

Basically, the movie starts off like all the other Final Destination movies: a man miraculously avoids dying in some horrible accident. Shortly thereafter, the guy, relieved at dodging the Reaper (at least temporarily), celebrates by making love to his girlfriend/fiancé/wife. Unfortunately, like the other movies, strange incidents occur until he’s finally snuffed out in some hideous fashion in some type of absurd “Rube Goldberg” scenario. This followed by news that his girlfriend/fiancé/wife is pregnant.

All this occurs in the first reel.

When the second reel opens, we’ve flashed ahead about 16 to 21 years. The rest of the movie is about the child of this man. Although death eventually caught up with the father, it did not stop him from siring a child in the short interim. Thus, if things had gone like they were supposed to, this child should not exist at all. As a result, strange horrible occurrences have happened around the kid and he (or she) doesn’t know why.

Anyway, I don’t know if there’s much of a potential movie there but it was an angle I thought might be a little interesting.

Well, Final Destination 2 is just a mediocre movie…but those DEATH SCENES! It elevates the movie into a whole other bracket. They’re tense, shocking, gory and often unpredictable.

Yeah, that scene was pretty amazing and will go down in the books as “classic.” Unfortunately, the rest of the film paled in comparison for more reasons than i can count.

Rodney Dangerfield’s empassioned poetry recital in Back To School-

“Do not go gentle into that good night!”

and so forth.

I agree with the first sentence. I too left the film feeling that it will be one of the few scenes from that movie to be regarded as classic. However, I think it’s a slightly above mediocre movie. Slightly.

I thought the Fifth Element, while a terrible film, was great looking eye candy.

My entry: Thor. The southwest desert town was wonderfully done. A good mixture of dusty old buildings with out of place shiny new ones* – just like some really are. And smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

*Not sure if the newish buildings were genuine, CGI, or purpose-built, but it doesn’t matter.

The Break-Up. Those who’ve seen it will know exactly what I’m talking about.

About 20 minutes in, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston have a big blow up about washing the dishes.

The scene is probably the most realistic depiction of relationship discord I’ve ever seen on screen, and does a great job of portraying how a seemingly petty argument can escalate into a full fledged, emotionally scarring scream fest.

The premise really was a great one, but the writers failed to build a very interesting movie around it, and the film pretty much runs out of steam after that point.

Armageddon: the President’s speech.