With most cinema chains remaining closed under Level 2, and major blockbuster releases being delayed, many are being forced to dig into online collections to find a spark of cinematic joy. Instead of delving into challenging, newer, critically-appraised films, Madeleine Crutchley and Brian Gu find some comfort in old movies that are less than popular. These guilty pleasures might have them sinking so deep into their couches, they’ll never be able to get out.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)/Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)
MC: I can pull out the ultimate nerd card here, and proclaim that I have in fact read the original Jules Verne books that these action movies are based on. And I can admit, more shamefully, that I only read the original books because of how much I enjoy these movies. I’ll clarify that neither of these films make for excellent, subversive or enlightening cinema. The first is the one of the most 2000s films I’ve ever seen (with Brendan Fraser in his prime). The CGI in the second one is clumsy at best, nightmarish at worst. However, it’s rare that a movie convinces me that I’d want to be along for the adventure. Both of these films fulfil that desire for me. I remember seeing both of these films in a theatre vividly. The first still feels like a big and silly Hollywood movie to me. It reminds me of the Sam Raimi Spiderman films, where every emotion present in the movie is felt loudly, without too much self-awareness that undercuts the fun of it. It uses both practical and CGI effects, which are again, silly, but refreshingly done in earnest, trying to make the audience have fun. The second film came out when I was at the tender age of 13, maybe one of the first times I was seeing the sequel to a big action film. I maintain that reintroducing the lovable nerdy kid on a motorbike, fleeing from police, is one of the coolest sequel moves ever. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island was one of the movies that made me want to pursue film and media (stop laughing!), so I’ll respect it forever. I miss action movies like this. Hollywood, give me more Bieber-haired Josh Hutcherson on a motorbike.
Cat in the Hat (2003)
MC: I’m aware that Brian is choosing to review movies a bit more seriously, but my brain just can’t take that at the moment. This childhood classic was absolutely panned by critics upon release. It was slammed for the unnecessarily crass humour, repetitive sexual innuendos and Mike Myers’ unhinged performance. This is one of the most cartoonish live action films I’ve ever seen. The movement of the characters is so uncanny, yet wildly inventive. The sets look cheap, but they’re so colourful and garish. The jokes are crude, but they’re also absurd and ridiculous. This film is an interesting case study for what a bit of star power can do. It really feels like Mike Myers had full reign on set and took full advantage of the $109 million budget. He simultaneously destroyed this film and created a cult classic. It turns out the negative reception prevented Dr. Seuss’ widow from allowing any more live-action adaptations. Unfortunately, this masterpiece of cinema will stand alone forever.
The Lorax (2012)
MC: Okay, I’ve chosen two Dr. Seuss inspired films. This baby sits at 53% on Rotten Tomatoes and I can go forth no longer until it is ranked in the high 90s. The Lorax is one of my favourite ever animation films, and every time I mention it in conversation (as one does) someone brings up the way it ‘butchered’ the book. First off, the book has nothing near the excellence of the rock ballad ‘How Bad Can I Be?’ This absolute banger comes in with a rad electric guitar riff and tears the fucking roof off. Secondly, every fluffy character looks unbearably soft and I can’t help but let out a few awes when they pop up on screen. The film also goes further than the book, depicting an capital-hungry city built upon the dirty, polluting process of uncompromising industrialisation. It’s more complicated and nuanced dystopia than anything in the whole Divergent series. It talks about the dangers of stripping the environment for resources, the need for collective change AND it’s a movie for kids. You can bet this is one I’ll be buying for my younger cousins and putting on once a week. It’ll be that, or a playlist dedicated to playing ‘How Bad Can I Be?’ over and over again.
White House Down (2013)
BG: There’s something about this Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx buddy-action film that makes it my top guilty-pleasure movie of all time. I’ve seen this movie at least ten times for whatever reason, yet knowing the plot doesn’t detract from each subsequent viewing experience one bit. I think I’m just a bit of a sucker for entertaining action – and on that front, this movie doesn’t have a single dull moment to detract from it. Ex-soldier John Cale (Tatum) is sent on a cat-and-mouse chase with the US President (Foxx) as the White House is captured by bombing terrorists. Yes, the plot is about as absurd as I just made it sound, but the movie makes it work by never taking itself too seriously. Carried by the palpable chemistry of its two leads, if you look past the action movie cliches, there’s undeniably some life to this film. At 51% on Rotten Tomatoes, I’ve just edged out Maddy’s Lorax pick here, but to know they sit on similar ratings makes me feel not so bad for loving this anymore.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)
BG: Okay, I feel like my moral and ethical obligation first and foremost is to vindicate Maddy of any part in this review. This one is out there, but hear me out – I think musicals are great. They tap into your emotions through a shortcut inaccessible to regular movies. And plus, the pure fun of it, bundled with the charisma of its performers, can detract your attention from the musical cliches, or plot holes. There truly are some great musicals out there, and I had picked Hairspray to go on this list, however as a truly great movie, Arts editor Lachlan was having none of me terming it a ‘guilty pleasure’. So instead of turning only a little left-field, I’ve driven straight out of the park with the choice of Sister Act 2. By no means am I calling it the Holy Grail of cinema, but it’s got some fun musical numbers, an inspiring story about inner-city kids, and plus Whoopi as lead makes it enjoyable to watch. AND LAURYN HILL! I have to admit though, I haven’t seen the movie in a while, and the 7% Rotten Tomatoes rating it carries is getting to my head a little – perhaps I’m just reflecting on it too fondly. If that’s the case, then just know I really had Hairspray ranked first – that musical is undeniably brilliant.
Logan Lucky (2017)
BG: It’s a heist movie starring Adam Driver. What more do you fucking want.
LM: So like, due to a little miscommunication about the movies, there might have been a stronger emphasis on Hairspray to the artist than intended. So now I’m providing a quick addition, mainly because Brian slandered this movie for all the wrong fucking reasons. The actress who played Tracy Turnblad? Turns out John Travolta is less problematic than her. She committed a hate crime in an airport! Nikkki Blonsky! Who knew? But while that can’t be pushed to the side, Hairspray is a great film, in spirit at least. It has the numbers, it has the heart, it has Michelle Pfeiffer trying to fuck Christopher Walken, the works. It’s a simple Racism 101 story for the Nickelodeon generation, though I wish it retained some of the John Waters tackiness of the original in the upgrade to slick 2007’o’vision. Shame Tracy didn’t realise it offscreen.