Tuesday, January 4, 2011

F These Good Movies from Bad Directors

Every f'ing must have an equal and opposite f'ing.

1. Dominic Sena, Kalifornia (1993) - When Dominic Sena arrived on the '90s scene with his moody, stylish serial killer drama Kalifornia (complete with a great, unwashed, look-ma-I-can-act performance by Brad Pitt -- yet another reminder of what a good character actor but dull leading man he is), it seemed like he was going to be a director to watch. Then he went on to make total shit like Gone in 60 Seconds and Swordfish and the upcoming Season of the Witch (which I'm positive will be a very good movie). Trashy, stylish, somewhat entertaining shit, but shit nonetheless. Oh, well. We'll always have Early.

2. Garry Marshall, Pretty Woman (1990) - It's difficult to remember a time when Garry Marshall's movies were tolerable (it's pretty much anything before his S&M comedy...the one in which he spanks Dana Delaney's ass...I know everyone takes shots at Rosie O'Donnell in a leather corset but SHE IS NOT WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT MOVIE). Pretty Woman isn't just tolerable. It's awesome. Too bad Marshall gets worse with every movie (culminating in Valentine's Day, the Once Upon a Time in America of romantic comedy shit barf). He must be stopped.

3. Simon Wincer, The Phantom (1996) - Australian director Simon Wincer's take on The Ghost Who Walks was ahead of its time in 1996: a good-natured adventure movie (because SLAM EVIL!) with a keen awareness of irony but which wasn't actually ironic. That movie -- and a few of Wincer's other works -- deserved better, making him one of the more talented hacks to appear on this list. Also acceptable: Quigley Down Under (1990); Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)

4. Stephen Sommers, The Mummy (1999) - Stephen Sommers is the worst, directing movies (including Van Helsing and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) like a retarded 11-year old jacked up on Pixie sticks and mescaline. But for his 1999 remake of The Mummy, he actually got things right for a change and updated the lumbering, potentially dull monster movie (sorry, Boris Karloff, but mummies are boring) into a tongue-in-cheek adventure movie that owes more than a little to Indiana Jones. In leading man Brendan Fraser, he found an actor who perfectly represents his movie: goofy, funny and stupid without apology.

5. Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys (1997) - Most people hate Joel Schumacher for what he did with the Batman movies, but those people are ignoring St. Elmo's Fire and 8mm and Falling Down and Bad Company and A Time to Kill and Dying Young and The Number 23. His movies alternate between hollow celebrations of physical attractiveness and hollow approximations of "grittiness." With The Lost Boys, Schumacher finally found a movie perfectly suited to his style: slick and superficially concerned with (male) beauty but a lot of fun -- which, for a change, suits the film's "life-long party" subject matter. Also acceptable: Flatliners (1990)

6. Renny Harlin, Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) - Finnish director Renny Harlin is more famous for fucking Geena Davis (as well as fucking Geena Davis's career, because Cutthroat Island) than for his movies. That's probably because he's been at the helm of stuff like A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Deep Blue Sea, Driven, Mindhunters, Exorcist: The Beginning, The Covenant and 12 Rounds. His career actually started out pretty promising, though, in large part thanks to Die Hard 2: Die Harder, a pretty worthy follow-up to the original classic. It may not be Die Hard, but that's only because no movie is Die Hard. The sequel is better than most people give it credit for. Also acceptable: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)

7. Jan de Bont, Speed (1994) - Director of photography-turned-Director of garbage Jan de Bont hit it big with Twister, a buddy movie starring Jamie Gertz and a cow that could fly. However, it was actually his first effort, Speed, in which he proved he's capable of making a near-perfect action movie that plays its ridiculous premise (mostly) straight and still holds up a decade and a half later. De Bont's career would shit the bed thanks to the sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control (because rush hour hits the water), as well as sucky movies like The Haunting and the second Tomb Raider movie. All of them could have used more Keanu.

8. Rob Cohen, The Fast and the Furious (2001) - Yes, it's just Point Break in muscle cars, but it's still totally enjoyable trash that knows exactly what kind of movie it is. A few of the stars have actual charisma and the practical stunt work is miles ahead of the CGI cartoon cars that Justin Lin would employ in future sequels. This is the movie that taught us all to live life a quarter mile at a time.

9. Jon Turteltaub, While You Were Sleeping (1995) - Jon Turteltaub is the perfect director for a list like this: a hack whose work alternates between terrible movies like 3 Ninjas, Instinct and Cool Runnings and terrible movies that a lot of people like: Phenomenon, National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Perhaps it was by accident that he made one very charming and sweet romantic comedy in the mid-90s, featuring great Chicago locations, a rare romantic leading man turn by Bill Pullman and Sandra Bullock at her most oversized-sweater adorable.

10. Michael Bay, The Rock (1996) - Yes, it's a stretch to call The Rock a "good" movie, but it is certainly the closest thing to a good movie that Michael Bay has ever made. The novelty of seeing Nicolas Cage play an action hero was reason enough to like it in the '90s (not to mention that he delivers one of his batshit fun performances), but it marked the start of some pretty depressing trends in movies -- namely, the subsequent careers of Nicolas Cage and Michael Bay. I'm just borrowing your Humvee.

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