One of the many household goals during the holiday season involved clearly material off of our heavily burdened DVR, a task with which, I must admit, we only had limited success (we seriously have about twenty hours of Boardwalk Empire alone on there). We’re relentless collectors of movies from the handful of premium channels we get, but many things linger on there for ages before we’re in the right mood or have the right amount of time to watch them. While searching for a way to fill an evening over the weekend, we took a lot at what we had accumulated and realized that what was actually beckoning us was that tried and true, widely beloved exercise in cinematic masochism: a Bad Movie Night!
Actually, there was some initially some internal debate as to whether our first feature was really proper fodder for our pastime. I seem to remember a few moderately warm reviews for Predators (Nimród Antal, 2010) when it first played in theaters. No raves certainly, but there were a few critics who admired its genre verve. I’d also been impressed by the panache demonstrated by one of the director’s prior outings. Surely this thing had a chance to be good, right? Maybe so, but it didn’t turn out that way. Predators actually has a bizarrely fun premise, as random fearsome toughs are dropped onto a distant planet to face off against the beasties from the eminently mockable 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick. There’s barely any effort given to developing any plausibility to the premise or establishing the logistics in a realistic way; it’s a thinly veiled effort to get right to the agenda of picking off the character one-by-one in agreeably ludicrous fashion. As it should be.
Adrien Brody plays the main transplanted warrior, discarding any vestiges of his prestige status as an Oscar-winning actor to instead see how gravelly he can make his voice. He may be drastically out of place in this film that strives to make it seem as if it were shot through a fine vellum of solidified testosterone, but that’s the least of the problems. Honestly, it’s just not trashy enough. The whole film is insufficiently in touch with its own kinetic nuttiness, making it into a dull slog that’s instead overly mired in aspirations towards seriousness. From the standpoint of our evening, it was disappointing because of its blandness. It’s not that it wasn’t bad. It definitely was. It just wasn’t bad in a way that was at all fun. Well, Laurence Fishburne’s utterly confused performance as a deranged survivor of the Predator planet was that kind of bad.
With the first movie lacking, we turned to that modern maestro of bad movies: Nicolas Cage. There are few movies from the past year that are so clearly courting disaster as Season of the Witch (Dominic Sena, 2011). Besides Cage, there’s the guy behind Gone in Sixty Seconds and Swordfish in the director’s chair and the simple fact that it’s a movie set in the 14th century, dealing with soldiers who’ve abandoned their post in the Crusades helped to ferry an accused witch across treacherous terrain to a distant monastery for trial because she’s accused of causing the Black Plague. It’s hard to fathom why anyone–anyone!–thought investing tens of millions of dollars in this project was a good idea.
The execution is right in line with the harsh expectations. The film is preposterous and a complete mess. Of course, it’s filled with wearisome anachronisms as Cage and his onscreen cohort Ron Perlman trade banter that seems like it was barely rewritten from some buddy cop movie that way lying around unused at the studio. And the abundant special effects achieve a level of visual garishness that technological evolution carried movies past a generation ago. It’s clamorous, ugly and insipid, making it a wholly characteristic of Cage’s career choices since getting sentenced to a long haul in Hollywood’s debtors’ prison. Like many of our worst second features on a Bad Movie Night, this left us intellectually battered. That’s not quite what we were hoping for, but, let’s face it, that’s what we asked for by cuing it up in the first place.