What defines a “Guilty Pleasure”?
The notion that the concept of a “Guilty Pleasure” should be dropped altogether, has become popular lately, as it indicates that one is supposed to feel shame about something he/she likes, which is hypocritical.
While I, as someone who is against the strict separation of how to perceive art in any shape (like the division of “popular” and “serious” art), do fully agree with this notion, I still think the term “Guilty Pleasure” has some validity to it and should not be dismissed completely. Because everybody still enjoys a certain number of movies, music etc. that goes against his/her personal tastes, world views, sensibilities, and so on, against his/her own expectations.
Using the term “Guilty Pleasures” loosely – the following choices are defined as such for very different reasons I will elaborate on*- I present you my personal Top 9 “Guilty Pleasure” movies from the time frame of 2000-2015.
*In any case, this list was mainly created for the purpose of entertainment.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Why I should hate it:
- It’s a rather unneeded revitalization of a franchise that has been relentlessly kiddified over the years.
- It stars Megan Fox in a leading role, rarely a signifier for a good movie.
- The humanoid redesigns of the Turtles are kind of jarring.
- It is produced by Platinum Dunes, probably the worst film production company out there, founded by the cinematic Antichrist Michael Bay and specialized on putting out reaaaally crappy horror movie remakes.
There is potential to make it a genuinely good and not merely enjoyable movie, but that was squandered by using a slightly confused “Frankenscript” that was spliced from 5 or more drafts, including tedious origin story conventions and the silliest reveal in recent film history. Yet simultaneously, said reveal is also a milestone of unintentional hilarity (hint: it concerns the origin of the Turtles) that will be hard to beat in the future. What’s pretty surprising though is the fact how accurately they nailed the personalities of the Turtles (whose new design works better in motion). Okay, Splinter getting his Martial Arts wisdom from a self-learning book is kind of lame, but let’s be honest, the original version was not really much better in that regard. The action is also pretty fun and well-shot, not a given in a Bay-production. It also has Megan Fox jumping on a trampoline, for reasons.
Why I should hate it:
- The disaster movie genre has never been exactly a favourite of mine. It never proved to be a paragon of quality movies either and looks to be almost unsalvageable after Roland Emmerich got it into his greedy clutch.
- What was Wolfgang Petersen’s last good, or at least enjoyable movie?
- Josh Lucas in the lead.
- Nostalgia aside, the original wasn’t all that. Let’s be honest.
Make no mistake, this movie is still a piece of shit, if a very well-made one. But, in an unexpected twist, it unintentionally is almost simultaneously an examination and spoof of all the genre tropes and conventions I hate about it. Like the simplistic characterization and the off-putting social-darwinist undertone with its self-righteous, half-true messages about how people show their “real” face in extreme situations and how nature judges us all equally, etc.
Poseidon takes those cliches to new extremes with a baffling earnestness and thereby accidentally reveals their reactionist underpinnings, but even more important, it crosses the line into delightful camp territory. Every convention is amped up to 11: Calling the characters woodcut-like is not an insult to woodcuts (*not sure if that analogy works, but you get the drift). You immediately know Kurt Russell must be the greatest of all heroes, as he is an ex-firefighter and former mayor of NYC (remember, that was post-9/11). Kevin Dillon is the sleazy opportunist, identifiable by the John Waters-moustache and the Hawaii shirt. The moment he says something particularly opportunistic and egotistical, an engine crashes through the ceiling and crushes him. Seriously.
Josh Lucas is just the main hero, with no personality at all, as always. Freddy Rodriguez is the hard-working Mexican immigrant, who finds a needlessly aggressive demise by getting tossed into an elevator shaft, only to be impaled by rusty spikes on the bottom and subsequently being crushed by a burning elevator, after Josh Lucas told Richard Dreyfuss to shake him off following a risky climb. Petersen sure loves to let things fall on actors! It’s not the only occasion where the “heroes” are revealed to be quite some assholes, which just adds to the fun for the discerning trash-connaisseur. It’s a little complicated to explain without delving into endless plot descriptions, but if you follow the dialogue and plot closely, you will notice that they are also dooming the other survivors at the bottom of the ship with their actions to get to the surface. If you are inclined, you will appreciate Poseidon as a treasure chest overflowing with gold/shit.
I Know Who Killed Me (2007)
Why I should hate it:
- The movie was a star-vehicle for Lindsay Lohan during her party animal prime, when she was still omnipresent in the tabloid headlines.
- Everything about the production screams “crap”.
- To add insult to injury, Lohan plays a stripper who went to the “Jessica Alba school for Exotic Dancing”, means she never sheds a piece of clothing. ‘Nuff said.
Another underappreciated masterpiece of unintentional hilarity. The exact plot description might give you a headache, just let me say that it involves Lohan in her first double role since Parent Trap (1998), a flamboyant serial killer who mutilates female piano students and an artificial leg whose battery (!?) always runs low in the most unfortunate moments. Picture it as a Gaga- Giallo-homage that tries to appeal to horror hounds, underage Lohan-fans and amputee-porn fans at the same time. Solid. Gold.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Why I should hate it:
- The terrible, terrible Stephen Sommers took place in the director’s chair.
- It’s another thinly veiled excuse for pouring an avalanche of mediocre CGI over the screen, accompanied by LOUD NOISES.
- The first major toy-based franchise, Transformers, felt like a bad omen for things to come.
- It features the questionable ensemble of Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans and Sienna Miller, whose back-catalogues aren’t exactly instilling hope.
My friend and appreciated co-Supernaught Stalkeye will vehemently disagree with this choice, as he is known as a diehard fan of the source material and from his perspective, I can fully understand that stance, as the film makers apparently took a lot of “creative freedoms”. But as someone who is not familiar with the mythology of G.I. Joe at all, I took the movie as it is and was surprised how much it entertained me. First, while it might not be a great adaptation of G.I. Joe, it is still pitch-perfect as a live-action adaptation of an action figure- based franchise in general, in terms of visuals, (silly) story and tone. What sets Rise of Cobra apart from other tedious, borderline unwatchable CGI spectacles like Transformers and Battleship is its oddly sincere and almost naive tone. The earnestness and focus with which this movie tries to tell its ludicrous story is nothing short of impressive, a welcome change of pace from the cynicism and disjointedness of the aforementioned “Bayformers”. In supporting roles shine a hammy Christopher Eccleston, the underrated Rachel Nicols and, the secret star of the movie, Dennis Quaid, who chews the (CGI-) scenery with his incredibly straight-faced performance as General Hawk.