Movies that I love and you don’t have to.
Rotten Tomatoes is a flawed system.
And that’s okay. The electoral college is flawed, but we still use it.
But it’s problematic to label a movie either good or bad, fresh or rotten.
Add in the fact that no one seems to understand how the computation works, it’s somehow become an all-knowing authority on a film’s reception.
Know how to use it and analyze it, it’s a fine tool.
I recently read Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Movies We Love: Cult Classics, Underrated Gems, and Films So Bad They’re Good, a book by the folks at RT that attempts to right their own wrongs, talking about the good in bad movies. They break down and defend 101 cult classics, maligned sequels, and a number of movies they believe to be ahead of their time.
It’s a fun little read and it inspired me to do the same. So, using the book as a jumping-off point, I’ve crafted a list of five rotten movies that I love and want to defend.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
It’s a major double-cross when former police officer Brian O’Conner teams up with his ex-con buddy Roman Pearce to transport a shipment of “dirty” money for shady Miami-based import-export dealer Carter Verone. But the guys are actually working with undercover agent Monica Fuentes to bring Verone down.
2 Fast 2 Furious is my favorite Fast and Furious movie.
Sure, there’s no Vin Diesel.
There’s no “family.”
There’s no espionage.
For those reasons, it’s very unlike the rest of the series. While all of those things have become synonymous with the franchise, it’s easy to forget that the first film is about stealing DVD players.
But I like it when the cars go vroom vroom, when they use their turbo and drive really fast, when they have illegal midnight street races: the things that are gone from the franchise now.
It’s essentially Paul Walker’s spinoff movie, but introduces us to Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, with a little dash of Eva Mendes and James Remar thrown in. All brought together by the late great director John Singleton, it’s got all of the pieces to be a solid vroom vroom with just a little more, and it doesn’t need much more. It’s totally fun and stands alone.
The Beastmaster (1982)
Dar, the son of a king, who is hunted by a priest after his birth and grows up in another family. When he becomes a grown man his new father is murdered by savages and he discovers that he has the ability to communicate with the animals, which leads him on his quest for revenge against his father’s killers.
It has long been known that The Beastmaster is a crappy movie. It wouldn’t have played on HBO on a loop if it wasn’t cheap, but it also wouldn’t have played on a loop if it wasn’t endlessly rewatchable.
When a genre film falls short now, it’s largely because it’s devoid of craftsmanship. It’s entirely CGI, or uninventive, or lacking any real personality.
When The Beastmaster fails, it fails in style. Sure, it’s a little hokey, a little goofy, but it’s all done with this sincere and intense conviction, with an honest love for the fantasy genre.
All of the kingdoms are real sets built in the desert. Real live tigers are painted black to play black panthers. Costumes feel lived in.
The whole world feels lived in and that’s what gives it its personality. And I’ll take a rotten movie with endless personality than anything cookie-cutter any day. The folks over at Vinegar Syndrome often feel the same way and their 4K UHD restoration of the films glows, shining a light on all of those homemade materials.
Mark, Mary + Some Other People (2021)
Mark and Mary’s meet-cute happens at a neighborhood drug store, where she is busy buying a pregnancy test, and he has to make an effort to remind her they met in college. After asking her out, he accompanies her as she takes the test, and upon it showing negative, she agrees to a date. One year later, they have fallen deeply, passionately, head over heels in love, and their whirlwind romance leads to marriage. So when Mary suddenly requests they open their relationship to “ethical non-monogamy”, Mark is taken by surprise, but agrees to try it. And that’s where this story really begins.
I will tell you right now that this movie is not for everyone, but isn’t that what this whole thing is about?
If you’re a fan of the classic rom-com, that’s totally fine, but your eyes will bulge out of your head watching Mark, Mary + Some Other People.
It’s not a will they/won’t they, it’s a who, how, when, where, and why when it comes to open relationships. It’s not something I know anything about and statistics say you don’t know anything about them either, so this film may be a bit eye-opening after the eye-bulging.
It’s an exploration of monogamy, sex, online dating, millennials, love and more — without being a condemnation of any of those things. That’s not an easy task and director Hannah Marks pulls off that balance in just her sophomore effort.
If you don’t like this funny, endearing picture, it probably says more about you than the movie — you might just be a prude.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)
When LeBron and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I., LeBron must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court. It’s Tunes versus Goons in the highest-stakes challenge of his life.
Rotten Movies We Love gives some credit to the original Space Jam, saying it still manages to be a good movie despite the fact that all “animated movies are designed to sell toys and live for eternity on the home entertainment market. It’s about the money, not the art…”
Well, when the 25-year-late sequel came out last year, all of those same complaints popped up again for the new one.
And for the same reasons, I would like to defend the new one.
Supplied with 80-year-old cartoon characters and a LeBron James who should’ve made this movie a decade ago, they were tasked with making a two-hour commercial for the NBA, Nike, Happy Meals, and crappy Warner Bros. movies like SCOOB, and they pulled it off with the weirdest list of ingredients: lesser tier basketball players, adult properties like Mad Max and A Clockwork Orange, and computer-generated Looney Tunes.
It’s actually funny and has a good message for kids and families. Compare it to Tom and Jerry from the same year and it’s a masterpiece.
The Strangers (2008)
After returning from a wedding reception, a couple staying in an isolated vacation house receive a knock on the door in the mid-hours of the night. What ensues is a violent invasion by three strangers, their faces hidden behind masks. The couple find themselves in a violent struggle, in which they go beyond what either of them thought capable in order to survive.
The Strangers is the only film on my list that also appears in the book, although their picks of Space Jam and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift obviously inspired some of my own. I originally wanted to only chose movies not in the book, but I just couldn’t shake the idea of writing about The Strangers, a movie I’ve been defending for a long time already.
It’s effectively scary for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the idea of being attacked, stalked, even killed — for absolutely no reason at all. Random. Random house, random night, random people.
The book says that audiences weren’t ready for it in the wake of the random terrorism of 9/11 because the “exact kind of random attack that Americans as a collective had experienced just a handful of years before” was too fresh.
Perhaps that’s true, and perhaps that’s why it’s been reassessed in the decade-plus since.
On my latest viewing, it definitely didn’t hold up for me like I wanted it to. It’s much more of a movie for 12-year-old me to discover nihilism than the much more educated viewer that I am today, but it still holds a special nostalgic place in my heart. And still scares me.
Credit: Each plot synopsis comes from Letterboxd via TMDb.
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