Bad Movie Report: Battlefield Earth

We read the reviews of Battlefield Earth on the day it came out back in May 2000, and we could not stop reading more reviews of it. It was addictive.

We decided we needed to see it in the theaters. There was no way we were going to miss this. Battlefield Earth sounded like it put the “epic” in “epic failure.”

However, we did not see it opening weekend. We waited a week so we could properly dance on its corpse. We were two of six people in the theater that Friday evening in the north of Chicago. Six, tops. Four of those people did not realize they were about to watch a comedy.

At first, our guffaws echoed in the cinema. I don’t think the other folks in the theater were staring at us, per se, but they clearly did not see what we were seeing. Yet.

Yet. Because about the fourth or fifth time someone dropped to their knees and screamed “NOOOOOOOOO!,” suddenly everyone else was bursting out laughing along with us. I’d like to think we turned them, but really it was all Battlefield Earth‘s doing. Because Battlefield Earth is amazing, a glorious send-up of sci-fi tropes that is willfully unaware of the fact that it is a send-up of sci-fi tropes.

It is not often you see a big movie so universally panned in such gleeful, delightful ways. Here are some of our favorite take-downs.

Wesley Morris, San Francisco Examiner
(And bless Battlefield Earth for introducing us to Wesley Morris.)

As menacing as Terl appears, (John) Travolta’s performance scales the walls of camp, as though he was starring in “Butterfield Earth.” His scenes with dim sidekick Forest Whitaker – who, wearing day-glo contacts and mounds of fake hair, looks like a sleepy doppelganger for rapper Lil’ Kim – resemble episodes of the Warner Bros. cartoon Pinky and the Brain.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Some movies run off the rails. This one is like the train crash in The Fugitive. I watched it in mounting gloom, realizing I was witnessing something historic, a film that for decades to come will be the punch line of jokes about bad movies.

Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide

Clumsy plot, misplaced satire, unbelievable coincidences, and a leaden pace trample Travolta’s weird but amusing performance.

Nathan Rabin, A.V. Club

A film too staggeringly inept to be believed, Battlefield Earth is a contender for the worst movie of any year, decade, or century.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

He tries to make Terl into one of those literate, crisply enunciating villains, but all that means is that he sounds like a fifth grader impersonating Dr. Frankenstein, complete with a vaguely British accent that comes and goes.

Elvis Mitchell, New York Times

Sitting through it is like watching the most expensively mounted high school play of all time.

Desson Howe, Washington Post

But hey, let’s cut to the chase: We’re talking “Ishtar of the Apes.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

With this journey into the heart of rubbish, this full-throttle adventure into the hyper-space of drivel, Travolta not only incinerates what is left of his own reputation, but takes someone else down with him: Forest Whitaker, making a prat of himself as Terl’s sidekick.

Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

Seriously on par with Wood’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space as one of the worst motion picture in science fiction history, this bloated, brain-dead, narcissistic, almost completely nonsensical cinematic disaster is likely to make anyone with any kind of summer movie standards long for the return of movie-mocking Comedy Central series Mystery Science Theater 3000.

(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)

Bad Movie Report: Valley of the Dolls

Valley of the Dolls is one of the trashiest movies ever made. It’s so trashy that even Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert’s X-rated sequel/parody Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is tasteful by comparison. And that one ends with a mass murder.

Valley of the Dolls starts off as a laugh riot, but then it drags a bit in the middle. Fortunately, after one of the characters commits suicide, the hilarity returns in full force, leading up to one of the iconic finales in camp movie history.

There is so much to love here: Susan Hayward’s diva turn as an egocentric Broadway star. Paul Burke playing the prototype for Kyle MacLachlan’s role in Showgirls. Barbara Parkins and Sharon Tate’s phonetic line readings.

And then there is glorious, glorious Patty Duke. An Elizabeth Berkeley of her time, Duke was trying to transition from teen TV star to big name movie star by chewing the scenery and everything else in sight as Neely O’Hara. Neely O’Hara!

We have watched Valley of the Dolls a lot, so much so that we came up with a game to play along during viewings.

Because it came out in 1967, online reviews are a bit scant. We included three reviews from the time, plus a clip of the review from Leonard Maltin’s almanac and, of course, a snippet from the book that introduced me to the joys of camp cinema, 1993’s Bad Movies We Love.

Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello, Bad Movies We Love

It’s extremely unusual for a box office smash to not help the careers of its three stars, but perhaps the clue to why that happened to the trio of hopefuls here is contained within the dialogue. Barbara Parkins: ‘I’m not an actress.’ Sharon Tate: ‘I don’t have any talent.’ Patty Duke: ‘You call this acting?’ (No, Patty, we call it Bad Acting, of the very highest order.)

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

What we have here is a dirty soap opera. It is dirty because it intends to be, but it is a soap opera only by default. It tries to raise itself to the level of sophisticated pornography, but fails. And it is dirty, not because it has lots of sex in it, but because it firmly believes that sex is dirty.


Parkins and Tate, the latter particularly good, suffer from under-emphasis in early reels, and corny plot resolution.

Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide

Scattered unintentional laughs do not compensate for terribly written, acted, and directed adaptation of Jacqueline Susann novel about three young women in show biz.

Bosley Crowther, New York Times

It’s an unbelievably hackneyed and mawkish mish-mash of backstage plots and Peyton Place adumbrations in which five women are involved with their assorted egotistical aspirations, love affairs and Seconal pills. It’s every bit as phony and old-fashioned as anything Lana Turner ever did, and all a fairly respectful admirer of movies can do is laugh at it and turn away.

(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)

Take us out, k.d.

Bad Movie Report: Glitter

Years ago, we wrote a post that collected our favorite quotes from the reviews of our favorite Bad Movie We Love, Showgirls. I called the post “Schlechter Filmbericht” because I like to pretend I can speak German. It was meant to translate as “Bad Movie Report,” although I think the meaning is more that the report on the movie was bad, not the movie itself.

Anyway, it’s time to dust off this idea for a recurring feature (if not the name) because we are about to have a friend over to watch the ultimate double feature of films about the dark side of the entertainment business: Showgirls and Glitter.

Glitter is essentially a remake of A Star Is Born with Mariah Carey in Judy Garland’s role (or Barbra Streisand’s role; we’re not picky). It was a huge flop when it came out. This was in part because it opened 10 days after the September 11 attacks. But mostly it flopped because it’s terrible.

If you are not familiar with Glitter and want to get a good synopsis of it or if you are familiar with Glitter and do not want to watch it again, I suggest you read the review Bobofett posted February 12, 2002. It captures the subtle nuances of Glitter in ways I can only dream of, and also because of it I still think of Terrence Howard as Tommy with the Smashy Hat.

Yes, Terrence Howard is in this, as is British actor Max Beesley, whose character is named Dice. Dice speaks with what I believe is a New York accent. The way he says, “This is escargot” has to be heard to be believed. Well, maybe “believed” is not the right word. Is “unbelieved” in the dictionary?

There are many unintentionally funny highlights to Glitter, but our favorite has to be when the cat came back.

As you might expect of a movie that was released in September, Glitter was widely panned when it came out. It currently sits at 7% on Rotten TomotoesTomatometer, and I’m pretty sure the critics who gave it a positive review simply found it as hilarious as we did. Here are some choice quotes from our favorite critics.

Dana, Bobofett

Oh, oh.  And lest I forget:  this giant pile of shit is filmed in the most bizzare (sic) way.  It’s blurry and choppy.  You’ll be looking at someone, and then the camera will take like three giant hops in, and there’s a person! Take three giant hops back, and they’re gone.  This classic technique is used like mad, in totally inappropriate places, so every time it happened, I’d bust up laughing.

Lawrence Van Gelder, New York Times

In fact, Glitter, the pop star Mariah Carey’s feature film debut, is mostly dross, an unintentionally hilarious compendium of time-tested cinematic clichés that illustrates the chasm between hopeful imitation and successful duplication.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Glitter barely even allows Carey to do much singing. She looks truly comfortable only when Billie is cradling the one character in the movie more passive than she is – her cat.

Claudia Puig, USA Today

At one point the camera inexplicably leaves her to follow two burly furniture movers heaving a bed around a narrow hallway. It’s as if even the camera operator tired of her one-note performance and sought distraction.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

At any rate, she is comfortably out-acted by the cherrywood kitchen counter-top in her spiffy Manhattan apartment.

Robert Koehler, Variety

As phony a vehicle as one could possibly concoct for a wannabe movie star, pic carries Mariah Carey into a swamp of gloppy melodrama.

James Berardinelli, Reelviews

For a tearjerker with modest ambitions, Glitter is excruciatingly inept. Even in this dismal motion picture climate, this is about the last thing you would want to stumble into at the multiplex.

Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

Carey has no weight as an actress. She can speak her lines without looking entirely foolish, but she’s utterly flavorless emotionally and garners so little sympathy that the audience at the preview screening I attended (consisting of target-demographic Top 40-listeners) laughed hard and long at many of the picture’s tender moments.

Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide

Vehicle for pop star Carey is tiresome at best and awash in clichés.

(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)

Movie Soundtrack of Your Life

A friend of ours challenged us on Facebook to make the movie soundtrack of our life (based on this post from Pajiba). In short, we needed to pick out songs to fill the following slots:

  • Title sequence
  • Action scene
  • Love scene
  • Tiny Dancer moment
  • Closing credits
  • Alt closing credits, for the director’s cut

Here’s mine:

  • Title sequence: Marc-Antoine Charpentier – “Te Deum” (aka the Eurovision Song Contest theme) leading into Dolcenera – “Ci Vediamo A Casa”
  • Action scene: Missy Elliot – “Hot” (Ratatat Remix)
  • Love scene: Percy Faith – “Theme from A Summer Place”
  • Tiny Dancer moment: ABBA – “Waterloo”
  • Closing credits: The Replacements – “Here Comes a Regular”
  • Alt closing credits, for the director’s cut: ByeAlex – “Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix)”

And here are Jen’s:

  • Opening title: XTC – “Garden of Earthly Delights”
  • Action scene: Zdob si Zdub – “So Lucky”
  • Love Scene: *NSYNC – “This I Promise You”
  • Tiny Dancer moment: Dimitri from Paris – “Une Very Stylish Fille” (during which we dance like this)
  • Closing credits: Roger Cicero – “Frauen Regier’n die Welt”
  • Alt closing credits: Peter Murphy – “Socrates the Python”

(Jen adds this about the alt closing credits: “Please note, this is not for a directors cut, but the extended credits sequence, because, seriously, what movie soundtrack has only one song on its credits sequence? This is the music when you’re deep into the credits where they show the union logos and assure us that no animals were harmed in the making of this picture.”)

Lemur Love Returns: Let’s Pod Shuffle!

Darth iPodWhen we started the original Lemur Love site, it was when iPods were the established music-playing device and blogs were the established way to mouth off about pop culture. So what better way to restart a blog than with a Pod Shuffle!

The Pod Shuffle is inspired by an old A.V. Club feature that they don’t do anymore. The rules are: you start up your iPod, set it to shuffle, and then comment on the first 10 songs that come up. In this case, I am using iTunes so I can roll the dice with all the tracks we have. You cannot skip tracks, so this may mean I am forced to discuss meditation tracks, musical cast album spoken word interludes, or Craig Morgan singles.

Let’s begin!

01. Backstreet Boys – “The One”

This is probably the ultimate example of a late 90s boy band single, from the relentlessly chipper orchestration to the lyrics that appeal directly to teen-aged girls.

02. This Mortal Coil – “Andialu”

Perfect to set the mood for a Halloween party because “Andialu” is three minutes of creepy mood and utterly devoid of any actual music.

03. Doug Benson – Doug Loves Movies: Live in Chicago (Track 2)

Given that I don’t really watch movies anymore, it seems odd that I am so enamored with comedian Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies podcast. But it’s a lot of fun, and the games that Doug has his guests play don’t necessarily require you to be up on the most current titles. I’ve bought all of the premium episodes, which pop up as albums in iTunes. Seeing as this track is 50-plus minutes, I am going simply note it and then skip ahead…

04. “That’ll Show Him” (A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum – Original Cast Recording)

A short trifle of a number thrown in at the end of Forum in which slave Philia promises hero Hero that when she is forced to marry Miles Gloriosus she will get revenge by pretending Miles is Hero when they have sex.

05. Simon & Garfunkel – “I Am a Rock”

It’s been years since I’ve listened to “I Am a Rock” and I had forgotten how Summer of Lovey-dovey it is. I have no idea when the Summer of Love was (and can’t be bothered to look it up), but this sounds like it would have been in heavy rotation then.

06. Pet Shop Boys – “Some Speculation”

B-side track from the “Yesterday, When I Was Mad” single that shows up on Pet Shop Boy’s b-side collection Alternative. My seven-year-old son said, “This is some good music,” and started dancing.

07. XTC – “Dear Madam Barnum”

This sounds like Andy Partridge trying to write like Colin Moulding.

08. Oingo Boingo – “Stay”

“Is this a song you liked as a kid?” asked my seven-year-old. Yep. Yep I did. (At least Jen did. All I knew of Oingo Boingo as a kid was “Weird Science.”)

09. Alexandre Tharaud – “D. Scarlatti: Sonata In A Minor, Kk.3”

Jaunty Baroque-era keyboard sonata.

10. Faze Action – “Moving CIties”

Disco-inflected, string-heavy dance track that is perfect for cranking while driving through New York or San Francisco in the middle of the night.

P.S. The Darth Vader image up top is a random desktop wallpaper I downloaded years ago. I have no idea where I got it from anymore, but I did use it on my business cards for awhile.