The Criticwire Survey: The Dud You Love

The Criticwire Survey: The Dud You Love

Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you their responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week’s question:

Q: What movie widely regarded as a cinematic dud do you like (or maybe even love)?

The critics’ answers:

Samuel ZimmermanFangoria:

“Easiest question. ‘Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.'”

Alan ZilbermanBrightest Young Things/Tiny Mix Tapes:

“I kind of love ‘Billy Madison‘ and ‘Happy Gilmore.’ They came out when my sense of humor was at its most infantile, so they stuck. I’m not the only one who thinks this; according to Roger Ebert, Paul Thomas Anderson watches Adam Sandler movies when he’s lonely on a Saturday night.”

Mark YoungSound on Sight/New York Movie Klub:

“Well, there are a number of films that I enjoy even as I acknowledge that they’re terrible (‘The Room,’ ‘Miami Connection,’ the filmography of Jean-Claude van Damme, etc), but that’s not quite what this question is asking for, is it? Instead I’d like to acknowledge ‘Willow,’ a film which I know a great many critics point to as the genesis of George Lucas’ later fumbles. And I’ll admit, I have no use for the unfunny comic-relief Brownies played by Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton. But I loved every other moment of the movie when I first saw it at age 10, and love it still.”

Scott WeinbergTwitch/

“I choose 1979’s ‘1941!’ I’m sure my own sense of childhood nostalgia plays into these opinions, I can still sit down with ‘1941’ and ‘objectively’ point out tons of little things that make me smile: the opening scene cameo from Susan Backline; the banter between Tim Matheson and Nancy Allen; the dummy on the ferris wheel; the tank that goes through a paint factory and then a turpentine plant… for no reason other than a silly joke. I love the weird contributions from Christopher Lee, Slim Pickens, Toshiro Mifune, Warren Oates, and Robert Stack. I love the jitterbug scene in the middle, the house destruction at the end, and just about every single stocatto syllable that pours out of Dan Aykroyd’s mouth. Read the rest of ‘In Firm Defense of Steven Spielberg’s ‘1941” right here.”

“George Cukor’s ‘Sylvia Scarlett‘ was such a flop that, according to Hollywood lore, Cukor and his star Katharine Hepburn offered to do their next movie for free. Cary Grant and Hepburn, who dresses as a boy for most of the film, have so much wild energy and achieve a richness of Shakespearean clownery that matches their future collaborative masterpiece ‘Holiday,’ also directed by Cukor. ‘Life is a Bed of Roses‘ directed by Alain Resnais is another overlooked favorite that daringly condenses civilizations into one architecturally ambitious castle in the forest through time.”

Luke Y. ThompsonTopless Robot:

“There are so many, but putting aside a lot of the ones that I enjoy on their campy merits, the most recent example is ‘John Carter,’ a genuinely epic movie with some great characters (Willem Dafoe’s Tars Tarkas particularly) and an unusual structure that eschews standard 3-act formula for something more akin to book chapters and old adventure serials. And that ending, with its heartbreak after triumph, then triumph again, takes my emotions for a ride. I’m really disappointed we won’t get further adventures in that world, especially knowing what happens in subsequent books.”

R. Emmet SweeneyMovie Morlocks:

“If the 1975 blaxploitation comedy ‘Darktown Strutters‘ is regarded at all, it’s as a camp curiosity booked in trash movie marathons. It deserves a better fate, or at least a DVD release. A chaotic whirl of old styles married to new politics, it’s Black Power slapstick. There’s the old guard action chops of director William Witney (who started in the serials), the ferocious charisma of Trina Parks (the Bond girl Thumper in ‘Diamonds are Forever’) and the backbeat of soul group The Dramatics — who play their hit ‘What You See Is What You Get’ in the underground prison of a fried chicken mogul (did Louis C.K. see this before making ‘Pootie Tang?’). Parks is part of a gang of Black drag racing chicks searching for her mother Cinderella — who disappeared after opening a secret abortion clinic. Chased down by a resurgent KKK and a trio of racist Keystone cops (including Dick Miller), the movie espouses a kind of Black separatism amid the manic pratfalls.”

Andreas StoehrPussy Goes Grrr:

“Ed Wood’s ‘Glen or Glenda.’ It’s still on plenty of ‘worst movie ever’ short lists, right? Because, for all its comic ineptitude, it’s nonetheless a rich and fascinating film with an overwhelming weirdness about it. Is it an unusually poignant work of horror and exploitation? A surrealist fantasy inscribed with Wood’s erratic ideas about gender identity? Both, probably, and it certainly has more going on than the so-bad-it’s-good label would suggest.”

“My memory may be slipping, but I don’t think ‘Mystery Men‘ was highly praised by critics, nor did it do well at the box office, back in the summer of 1999. This goofy superhero ensemble comedy, for whatever reason, still makes me howl with laughter even now that I’m an adult. I have a bit of nostalgia reserved for the film, if only because it’s the first I bought on DVD, one I own proudly today. ‘Mystery Men’ is nowhere near perfect or even truly accomplished — its script is messy and Kinka Usher’s oddball directing style is sometimes distracting. Flaws aside, I don’t deny that ‘Mystery Men,’ with its inexplicable ensemble cast — William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, Tom Waits, and many more — and clever dialogue and hero-skewering, always fills me with glee.”

Don SimpsonSmells Like Screen Spirit:

“There are so many for me to choose from, but I’ll go with Richard Kelly’s ‘Southland Tales.’ And, no, this is not just a contrarian stance. I honestly do love this film, despite all of the haters out there.”

Michael SicinskiCinema Scope:

“Over the years it seems to have become critical orthodoxy. even among avant-garde film aficionados, that Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s film ‘Riddles of the Sphinx‘ is a ‘dud.’ There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, its makers created it in part as a demonstration of certain theoretical principles that have never been less than controversial; the film an attempt to imagine a film that avoided the ‘male gaze’ that Mulvey described in her foundational article ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.’ In 2013, Mulvey’s article does seem reductive. But at the same time, we have all spent decades arguing with it, which only proves how generative it was. But too often ‘Riddles’ has been shunted aside as a mere historical curiosity, an aesthetic cul-de-sac that offers little but a demonstration of why academics should stick to their bailiwick. If we can free ourselves from ‘Riddles” historical baggage, we can actually see a rather odd and lovely film that, among other things, displays Mulvey herself engaged in a Godard-like reflexive process of critical production (the sections ‘Laura talking’ and ‘Laura listening’), a segment that reflects early film/video experimentation much like Chris Marker’s ‘Sans Soleil”s ‘Zone’ passages, and above all, a long, bravado midsection comprised of 360-degree pans that both ‘tell a story’ (a divorce, the formation of a child care collective) and demand an engagement with spectatorial distance. The film also captures 1970s Britain — the broad collars, the boxy cars, the dingy look of a suburban Sainsbury’s. It’s time to reconsider ‘Riddles of the Sphinx.'”

Jason ShawhanNashville Scene/Interface 2037:

“Where to begin… ‘Alien 3,’ ‘White of the Eye,’ ‘Alexander,’ ‘Cloud Atlas,’ ‘Grace of my Heart,’ ‘Pathos: Segreta Inquietudine,’ ‘Skidoo,’ ‘Mommie Dearest,’ ‘Boom!,’ ‘Let’s Go To Prison.'”

Andrew RobinsongmanReviews:

“My response: ‘Too many.’ The one however that I feel more and more people are beginning to rally around and I loved ever since my first viewing was ‘Speed Racer.’ The film is completely art. It’s what I consider the children’s film that I want to show my future children because not only is it an entertaining lovely family movie but it feels like it has the elements that if someone were predisposed to it would help spurn on a deep interest in film in a way many other children films don’t. Also, where else are you going to find John Goodman throwing down with a ninja?”

Rania RichardsonCommunity Media:


Pat PaduaDCist/Blogcritics:

“People still think of ‘Ishtar‘ as the quintessential Hollywood debacle, but the tide is starting to turn. The movie is a prescient political satire and a great New York buddy movie. Paul Williams’ songs are a wonderful example of deliberately bad songwriting. That’s right, it’s deliberately funny, and Hoffman and Beatty have a great chemistry playing against type.”

“Of late, I really liked ‘The Paperboy, even though I don’t know a single person who agrees. I was honestly surprised when the reactions were so uniformly negative. Sure, it’s not for everyone. But Daniels had a really clear vision of something he was trying to realize, and I think he took a lot of risks to make that happen and that most of the time it worked. Kidman gives a fantastic performance, as does Macy Gray of all people. I wonder if it’ll be re-evaluated as years go by.”

“I am going to have to go ahead and stick up for ‘Sucker Punch.’ The film is dark, fucked up and really unsettling under the surface and I don’t think anyone gave it a chance.  The themes of female empowerment are great and the commentary on how men want to keep women suppressed is biting. Its greatest fault is that these messages could have been a bit more clear and coherent, but they are there if you are looking for them. Beyond the intriguing and dark vision wrapped up in giant blockbuster film, it is a gorgeous and wonderfully executed action picture. Sure there is a lot of CG, but it looks great, and I love the added bits to the Director’s Cut. There is a lot of originality and imagination on display here and it is a shame that our community that claims they crave for more of those adjectives wrote this one off so easily. Why does the sexualization in ‘Spring Breakers’ (which I loved) get a pass and ‘Sucker Punch’ doesn’t? I would say the deeper themes of both of those films go over the common audience’s head just as easily as one another. Those two films would make an intriguing double bill.”

“The options here are almost endless, but considering ‘Speed Racer’ has become more agreed upon, or at least accepted as a cult favorite, and ‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ has almost become a genuine classic, I’m going to take a moment to champion ‘Iron Man 2,’ which is not only the best movie Marvel’s yet produced, but easily one of the best superhero films ever made. Like all the best of that genre, it actually takes the time to craft a fully realized character, and constructs the story around that, to the point that the low point that must come at the end of every second act of every mainstream film is dictated not by the fact that Mickey Rourke or whoever is being really mean to Tony Stark, but because Tony has so thoroughly alienated himself from everyone he knows that he has to atone for that. Jon Favreau smartly sidelines the action (admittedly, far from his strong suit, and there are really only a handful of them here) for a laid back, almost Hawksian ‘hangout movie’ that just happens to involve people in wacky costumes (Tony having doughnuts in his Iron Man suit is a gorgeous touch). I’ll also throw some honorable mentions to ‘Nacho Libre,’ one of the purest cinematic comedies, and ‘The Green Hornet,’ which is the greatest expression of Truffaut’s ‘joy of making cinema’ that the superhero genre has yet produced.”

“There are actually a lot of films people are shocked that I enjoy (including ‘Revenge of the Sith,’ ‘Marley and Me’ and the ‘Clash of the Titans’ remake), but for this I’m going to give two semi-recent films I love and many people seem to really hate. The first is ‘TRON: Legacy.’ I’m not a huge fan of the first ‘TRON,’ yet this film’s pacing (helped a great deal by its awesome Daft Punk score) really grabs me every time I watch. I’ll preface my second choice by saying I understand its flaws, especially in the shadow of the great trilogy before it, but I really enjoy ‘The Hobbit.’ Yes, I am annoyed that Jackson is dragging the smallest book of the series out to three long films, and yes, the pacing suffers somewhat in the beginning, but once the journey begins, hell, once the dwarves come to the Shire, I am onboard for this great, and sometimes goofy ride 100%. There are hints of Jackson’s silly past on display here, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I have so far enjoyed his return trip to Middle Earth.”

Amy NicholsonBadass Digest:

“I’ll concede that the ‘Step Up‘ films are no great shakes when it comes to their plots and actors. There’s always a ballet-trained brunette who gets funk lessons from a cardboard hunk, and both are as forgettable as last year’s Grammy winner for Best New Artist. But c’mon: are we really watching ‘Step Up’ for its story? The series, especially numbers 3 and 4, reaches Busby Berkeley levels of inventive brilliance. The dancers spring at the camera strapped to elastic chords, stomp their feet in six inches of water, and marshal themselves into a full-on cinematic spectacle. Do you remember the plot of ‘Footlight Parade?’ No, but you can still picture Berkeley’s pool of choreographed mermaids. And Adam G. Sevani, aka Moose, is a modern Fred Astaire, a geek who becomes glorious in flight.”

Mike McGranaghanThe Aisle Seat:

“I’m starting to think the Criticwire Survey is designed to make me look insane. Last week, I copped to not liking ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and this week, I’m telling you that I’ve always enjoyed ‘Howard the Duck.’ Call the men in white suits! I went to the first showing of ‘Howard the Duck’ on its opening day, August 1, 1986. Walking out two hours later, I thought to myself, ‘That was great! This movie is going to be an enormous hit!’ Hey, I was only 18, okay? I’ve seen the flick several times since, most recently about two or three years ago. Sure, it’s a bit Daffy, but the movie really quacks me up. Maybe I just suffer from some sort of mallard-y that makes me find such fowl humor funny, or perhaps I just nostalgically remember wishing I was a talking duck so that I could make out with Lea Thompson. Whatever the reason, I find the film delightfully kooky. I even have a copy of the soundtrack album on vinyl somewhere in my basement. I can’t believe I just admitted that! If I don’t stop now, you’re gonna get me to confess that I also love ‘Xanadu,’ ‘Career Opportunities,’ and ‘Nothing But Trouble.’ Dammit!”

Joey MagidsonThe Awards Circuit:

“I have a handful of duds that I feel confident in defending as better films than their reputations suggest (for example, I contend that ‘The Fountain’ is just misunderstood, and as the years pass it seems like that movie is having its imagine rehabilitated slowly), but I really have no excuse for loving ‘Elizabethtown‘ like I do. It’s certainly not Cameron Crowe’s finest hour, but inexplicably I downright love it. I can argue for the quality of a couple of scenes in the flick, but overall it’s a film that I really love in spite of itself. Even my girlfriend judges me harshly for being as much of an admirer of it as I am.”

“‘Slackers.’ It’s a really, really bad movie. But the seeds of a great movie are so apparent, and it fails on so many levels, that I can’t help but watch and rewatch… and rewatch and rewatch and just analyze ever single thing about it.”

Shawn LevyThe Oregonian:

“I was an out-of-the-gate fan of Robert Longo’s ‘Johnny Mnemonic‘ and Rachel Talalay’s ‘Tank Girl,’ both of which debuted in the mid-’90s when I was teaching and writing about cyberpunk culture. So maybe I had a built-in bias in favor. They were poorly received then, and they still have bad reputations (and not the good kind of bad reputations, either). But I still think ‘Johnny’ is quite stylish and knowing and ‘Tank Girl’ is filled with unguilty fun. Also, both feature Ice T, which is something I can’t quite figure out but makes me quietly happy.”

Joanna LangfieldThe Movie Minute:

“Of course, the ‘correct’ answer is ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ or maybe even ‘Ishtar,’ but I’m going to go further out on the old limb. Years ago, I sat in a screening room with one other critic. We watched a movie called ‘Nuns on the Run.’ And we both laughed ourselves silly at this gleefully silly, not particularly good, but merry romp, where Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane go all out bonkers, disguised as nuns, just to make us giggle. The movie opened to some of the harshest reviews of the time. Critics were horrified at the blasphemy of using nuns as a joke. I interviewed a rather shell-shocked Idle upon the film’s release. He was practically crouching under the weight of it all and told me the days of Python-y humor were over, so he might as well just retire and read books or something. Thank God he got over that. Because sure, ‘Nuns’ isn’t The Greatest Comedy Ever Made, but, two fine stars going for broke just to make us laugh? Gee, maybe this movie has more in common with ‘Ishtar’ than I originally thought.”

Peter Cinephiliacs:

“Most of them. I just like moving images. I never really end up caring what other people love or hate, and often if I find myself liking or hating a film for reasons can be very different from anyone else. I just want critics to believe in what they see in an image or sound and articulate it as thorough as possible. There are no party lines when criticism is used as a pure form of self-expression. I guess I’ll mention Jazmin Lopez’s ‘Leones,’ a film that just played at the New Directors/New Films and creates a certain spirituality through the tracking shot I’ve never quite seen articulated before. It’s played a number of festivals and doesn’t have distribution, so you might call that a ‘dud,’ though most of the people I convinced to see it were quite fond of it. If anyone with money is listening, I’d love it if the film were widely available.”

Gary KramerGay City News:

“I unashamedly enjoy ‘Ishtar.’ I saw it in the theater when it came out and loved it then. It’s reputation for being an expensive flop seems to ignore the fact that it’s really quite funny. Seriously, to quote a song from the film, ‘Telling the truth is a dangerous business/Honest and popular don’t go hand in hand.’ I’ll tell the truth and go against popularity and say this comedy is an underseen gem.”

Q: What movie widely regarded as a cinematic dud do you like (or maybe even love)?

The critics’ answers:

Dan KoisSlate:

“I really, really like ‘Ishtar.’ It is a great road comedy shot through with a vein of end-of-an-era sadness, made even richer by its total commercial and critical failure.”

Eric KohnIndiewire:

I’m not alone in adoring Otto Preminger’s ‘Skidoo,’ a kaleidoscopic homage to LSD that’s also — in a sublime, ridiculous role — Groucho Marx’s final screen performance (his very last line in the movie is ‘Pumpkin,’ which he utters moments after sucking on a joint). This is what critics tend to call ‘a mess,’ but it’s a glorious one, and while certainly the least ‘Preminger’ of all of Preminger’s films, it’s a delightful, colorfully weird satire of seemingly everything in its sights — free love, drugs, mass media, movie genre clichés — and Preminger seems to celebrate its eventual descent into narrative chaos at the very end, when Harry Nilsson actually sings the credits.”

Chris KlimekWashington Post:

“I’ve always unabashedly, unironically loved — not liked — the reviled 1991 Bruce Willis caper comedy ‘Hudson Hawk.’ Directed by a fresh-off-of-‘Heathers’ Michael Lehmann (although he seems to have been subjected to a lot of bigfooting by Willis, who co-wrote the script, and producer Joel Silver), I’ve always found the film’s wholly intentionally cartoonishness to be charming, where everyone else seemed to find it insufferable.  Different strokes for different dorks, I guess. Willis plays a cat burglar released from prison after a long sentence who is immediately blackmailed by the C.I.A. and other nefarious parties into stealing the various pieces of an alchemy machine invented by Leonard Da Vinici, which are now hidden inside various of his artworks on display in some of the world’s best-defended museums.  It was an expensive picture for its time — ‘Terminator 2’ was probably the only would-be blockbuster that summer that cost more — as bombs must be to get written about, but you see that cash on the screen. Yes, Andie MacDowell is terrible in it, but you get Danny Aiello as Bruce’s mentor/sidekick, Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard as tongue-killing sibling supervillains, ‘Our Man Flint”s James Coburn as a C.I.A. heavy, and a pre-‘NYPD Blue’ David Caruso who is very likable in his sunglasses-and-dialogue-free role as a killer mime. Just the fact that Aiello and Willis time their burglaries by singing their way through them (they have a large songbook, and they know how long it takes them to sing each standard, down to the second) is enough to make me love it.”

Jette KernionSlackerwood:

“I have a nostalgic fondness for Mark Rydell’s 1976 movie ‘Harry and Walter Go to New York,’ a period caper film that’s such a dud you might not have heard of it. The actors, however, should sound very familiar: James Caan, Elliott Gould, Michael Caine, Diane Keaton, Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Lesley Ann Warren, and Burt Young among others. I stumbled across it with my dad when I was a teenager on vacation with my family in Florida, on a rainy night when we had nothing to do but watch local TV indoors. We were fascinated — it wasn’t good, obviously, but we were enjoying the hell out of it. Every few years I find the film and watch it again. It’s flat and poorly paced and has some awful, heavy-handed scenes but I still sigh over Caine as a gentleman thief and giggle over the operetta at the climax. Sadly, it’s currently out of print on DVD and expensive to watch online so I’m overdue on a viewing. Oh, and I have the poster; it’s an early Drew Struzan.”

Adam KempenaarFilmspotting:

“I loved the first hour or so of Billy Bob Thornton’s ‘All The Pretty Horses,’ which qualifies as both a critical and financial dud with a 32% Rotten Tomatoes score and a $39 million loss at the box office. Unfortunately, thanks to ‘Harvey Scissorhands,’ the second hour is legitimately horrible… so, my answer is Tim Robbins’ ‘Cradle Will Rock.’ Made for $36 million, it grossed just $3, and most cinephiles I know think I’m crazy for liking it. But I was completely swept up by the Depression-era tale of Marc Blitzstein’s titular play being performed against all odds. The artistic passion — the compulsion to express one’s self — that Robbins portrays is at the heart of why I love movies.”

Sean HutchinsonLatino Review:

“It’s a film previously synonymous with failure, but I think Michael Cimino’s ‘Heaven’s Gate‘ is an absolute masterpiece. When it was released in 1980, following speculation of a troubled production lead by the megalomaniacal Cimino, critics had a field day unfairly insulting the film. New York Times critic Vincent Canby noted that it was an ‘unqualified disaster’ and was like ‘a forced four-hour walking tour of one’s own living room.’ Maybe some critics felt the need to put Cimino in his place following the resounding creative and critical success of his previous film, and Best Picture winner, ‘The Deer Hunter,’ or maybe they legitimately disliked the film, but they ostensibly buried ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ New Hollywood, and Cimino’s career along with it. I, on the other hand, could not disagree more with people like Canby who feel the film is a disaster. In fact, I see the film as an extension of Cimino’s immersive technique he began with ‘The Deer Hunter.’ Scenes extend so the viewers get used to the environments, and the patient way the film ambles through the plot veers towards the true reality Cimino worked so hard to capture. It also subverts Western tropes and cleverly informs the class warfare of the film’s time period. I also think it’s probably the most beautiful looking film ever thanks to the talent of DP Vilmos Zsigmond and Cimino’s tenacity. You might hate it, but I love it, and the film’s recent reassessments — including its inclusion in the Criterion Collection — show that people might finally be coming around.”

Peter HowellToronto Star:

“I may be abusing the assignment again this week, since many critics have yet to weigh in on it, yet I suspect Terrence Malick’s ‘To the Wonder‘ is in need of a champion or two. I’m happy to volunteer, since I found it moving and majestic, and I’m eager to see it again. Malick takes his Affleck/Kurylenko/McAdams love triangle and strips it to emotional basics, absent the usual narrative ballast, and the effect is both direct and disorienting, like a hypo to the heart. It may not be the masterpiece that ‘The Tree of Life’ is, but it shouldn’t have to be.”

“Time and context can sometimes change everything. For years ‘Heaven’s Gate’ was a punchline. Today an inchoate cineaste reading film blogs would be forgiven for thinking it is the greatest frickin’ movie of all time. (For the record, there are some great moments, but no amount of will can transform it into a lost classic.) With that out of the way, let’s unveil my embarrassment. While I only saw the film once, and therefore hardly consider it a personal fave, I’ve been on the receiving end of good natured ribbing for saying nice things about ‘Green Lantern‘ for close to two years. Here’s what I said in my review and I still stand by it. ‘Perhaps now’s a good time to look in the mirror and admit that, by and large, your average issue of a superhero book maybe isn’t an intellectual text worthy of the McSweeny’s-style lionization comics have enjoyed of late. For every Alan Moore there are dozens of writers pushing a plot and tweaking a retcon and making a deadline. Which is not to say they don’t have value. But perhaps that value rests more in plain, dumb fun than in a representation of ‘our modern mythology.’ ‘Green Lantern’ is, more so than most, an accurate representation of this artform: brisk, enjoyable and, like a 30-page single issue, ephemeral.”

Eric HavensDownright Creepy:

“So much of a dud it may now live in cinematic oblivion, ‘The Brothers Solomon‘ is a movie I cannot help but adore. Starring Will Forte, Will Arnett, and Kristen Wig under the direction of Bob Odenkirk you kind of know what sort of movie this would want to be, you just couldn’t be sure if it would succeed at it. For me, and apparently three other people, it worked so well that I still manage to revisit it from time to time when I need a bit of empty giggle time.”

Melissa HansonCinemit:

“‘Land of the Lost‘ with Will Ferrell. Completely nonsensical at times (see the lobster scene), it was mindlessly entertaining.”

“Personally, I’ve never had the problems most people have with Steven Spielberg’s ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.’ So call me crazy, but yes, I’m cool with Shia LaBeouf and I’m cool with the aliens (I mean, it’s not like Spielberg hasn’t dealt with aliens before, especially in the context of a story about people seeking something far greater than themselves), among the other usual complaints about this widely derided fourth installment in the beloved Indiana Jones series. For me, the film has something of an autumnal, reflective feel to it underpinning the action-adventure intrigue that I find kind of moving. All that said, I’m okay with the series stopping here and not continuing with a fifth installment, as has been rumored; this strikes me as the perfect endpoint, anyway.”


“Hmm, because Criticwire already has me thinking Spielberg, I’ll go with ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.’ I went long on why I think it’s a pivotal (and rather great) film for Reverse Shot.”

Alonso DuraldeTheWrap/What The Flick?!:

“It’s been universally reviled — particularly by many of those involved with making it — but I think time has been kind to ‘Myra Breckinridge,’ a movie that was postmodern and deconstructionist when postmodernism and deconstructionism weren’t cool. From its daring gender politics to its pioneering recontextualization of vintage Hollywood clips, this is an audacious comedy. And it’s enough of a departure from the source novel to be considered on its own merits. Raquel Welch may never acknowledge it as such, but this is arguably her greatest performance.”

Edward DouglasComing Soon:

“It depends on what you mean by a ‘dud.’ If you’re talking box office, there’s lots of movies I liked or loved that didn’t do that well at the box office, such as Edgar Wright’s ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.’ If you’re talking about a critical dud, a movie that’s genuinely hated by critics and will never make any Top 10 artsy film lists, then I’d have to go with ‘Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,’ a movie that is far more entertaining than recent critical faves like ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ I saw the movie opening weekend with some friends on a lark and I’ve probably seen it a dozen times since then because I’m just so entertained by the ‘we don’t give a f*ck about art’ attitude that movie has. It’s obvious they were just having fun and it makes me smile every time I see it.”

Tony DayoubCinema Viewfinder/Press Play:

“It’s funny how off the mark I was about Baz Lurhmann’s ‘Australia.’ ‘You’ll definitely hear about ‘Australia’ in the Oscar buzz,’ I wrote back in November 2008. But get this, I’ve watched it several times since then — voluntarily — and I still love it. I find its mixture of spectacle and intimacy quite touching. I’m immensely besotted by its love of cinema and country, and its willingness to express regret over Australia’s unsavory part in the plight of the Stolen Generations (when aboriginal children were forced from their homes, turned over to white families to be raised, and usually ended up as servants). Lurhmann does lay it on thick with sentimentality and artifice, but isn’t that what the movies are for?”

“There are many films I love that are widely considered duds, however perhaps one of the most striking, is the Mike Myers version of ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ This was a film that I found hilarious as a young child upon release and was surprised to find upon a recent re-watch, that it more than stood up and in my mind, had become funnier. Currently sporting a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, this modern interpretation of the classic Seuss tale is undeniably flawed, yet in my mind equally inventive and funny. It is perhaps simply a case of what most found unfunny I found funny, however I genuinely believe that if many were to give it a second look, or if it had come out at a different time, it would have been met much more positively than it was. Visually the film is surprisingly inventive, it’s self-aware, Mike Myers delivers what was perhaps his best comedic performance in years (Although that is perhaps more a reflection of the trajectory of his career rather than the particular performance) and there is some commendable craft in regards to how the titular cat is presented and constructed. However at the end of the day it simply made me laugh, a lot, and continues to do so whenever I think of, and quote, certain jokes.”

“Ever since I first saw it I’ve always kept a special place in my heart for ‘Big Trouble In Little China.’ It failed miserably at the box office mostly because people just didn’t get it. It’s no secret that ‘BTiLC’ has become increasingly more popular in the years after its release thanks to the cult following that embraced Carpenter’s style/visuals and Russell’s haughty swagger. Yet it just goes to show how a film’s initial financial success isn’t always the earmark of a terrible movie. Sure it’s cheesy, and nonsensical at times, but it’s also a whole lot of fun any day of the week and I love it to no end.”

“‘Glen or Glenda.'”

“‘Joe Versus the Volcano.’ One of Tom Hanks’ five best films and yet has unjustly been ignored for too long. Meg Ryan is in three roles, one of them a marvelous love interest. In this whimsical comedy-adventure, Hanks is a working stiff who gets the diagnosis that he has six months to live. He can live rich for his remainder if he agrees to jump into a volcano at the end of the line. Less than scary, just enchanting.”

“While I think maybe it’s gained a small cult following over the past decade, the critics’ scores and box office numbers for Antonia Bird’s Western-cannibal-horror flick, ‘Ravenous,’ are pretty anemic: 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 45 on Metacritic for a movie that didn’t even manage to make back 20% of its $12 million budget. That response has always surprised me, as it’s a movie that I immediately became attached to when I first saw it, and go back to regularly. Yes, it’s a film of wild mood swings, starting out on the bloody battlefields of the Mexican-American war, moving to a bleak and isolated military outpost in a Sierra Nevada mountain pass in what looks to be a turn towards frontier survivalism, and then out of nowhere it becomes a supernaturally-inflected, gory cannibal horror piece. But the genre mashup works, thanks to really fantastic performances from Guy Pearce as a cowardly army captain and the scene-chewing Robert Carlyle, tapping the same reservoir of villainous likability that fueled his turn as Begbie in ‘Trainspotting.’ Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, Neal McDonough, and yes, even David Arquette round things out nicely with a lot of really well balanced black comic relief. On top of all that, ‘Ravenous’ boasts one of the most striking scores from any film of the 90s, featuring off-kilter riffs on 19th-century Americana from Blur’s Damon Albarn along with Michael Nyman.”

“This is a relatively recent movie, but the 2010 Akshay Kumar vehicle ‘Tees Maar Khan‘ fits the bill perfectly. Its horrendous critical reception derived primarily from three factors: first, that it was a comedy; second, that it was an unauthorized remake of the Vittorio de Sica/Neil Simon/Peter Sellers headscratcher ‘After The Fox,’ and the power of the names involved with the picture obscured everyone’s memory of the fact that it wasn’t any good; and third, and most importantly, the lead was originally supposed to be played by King Khan himself, Shahrukh Khan. There are two things in life one does not cross, the streams, and Shahrukh Khan fandom. Affronted Shahrukh Khan fans (many of whom, to all appearances, were film critics) exerted an enormous amount of energy saying the nastiest things imaginable about ‘Tees Maar Khan,’ and though the movie made money and had the smash hit item number ‘Sheila Ki Jawaani,’ it’s widely regarded as being terrible. This is not true. It’s one of the funniest movies in the entire world in the last decade, features a brilliant lead performance by Akshay Kumar, a masterful supporting turn by Katrina Kaif, and some all-time classic gags, not to mention one of the catchiest theme songs extant. Atrocious reviews (and dear me were they atrocious) be damned: ‘Tees Maar Khan’ is awesome. Endlessly rewatchable, as well.”

“When I tell people that I love Robert Altman’s ‘Popeye,’ they groan. When I tell them it’s my favorite Robert Altman movie, they threaten to un-friend me on Facebook. Not that ‘Popeye’ is Altman’s most meaningful or accomplished film — it’s light years behind ‘Nashville,’ ‘The Player,’ ‘McCabe and Mrs. Miller’ on that score — but it’s a unique and unusual adaptation of a cartoon that actually feels like the cartoon itself. I suspect that very disconnect is most people’s problem. If ‘Popeye’ were 2D animated, it might have been remembered fondly. But since it’s a live-action film, and the production design, costumes and the movements of the background extras feel so eerily cartoonish, it tends to put people off a bit. That’s fine, it just means more ‘Popeye’ for me. Robert Altman combined his penchant for creating fully realized worlds in a two-dimensional story with two-dimensional characters, and the end result is so insidiously unlike any other film out there that I adore it. And the precisely off-key musical numbers, written by Harry Nilsson, are the most unexpected kind of earworms.”

“David Fincher’s ‘Alien 3.’ Looking back, it’s hard not to cite his contribution to this franchise as anything other than a ballsy move. To the naysayers, of which there are many, this has to be one of the darkest, overly cathartic brooding sci-fi flicks in mainstream cinema. And while Fincher himself distances himself from the film, it marks the beginning of a defiantly talented career for one of the most accomplished directors working today. Those approaching it with an open mind will see that it does indeed have moments of quotable dialogue and a dourly potent narrative. Fincher never started out making compromises and, like it or hate it, ‘Alien 3’ is certainly a film worthy of your attention.”

“People keep telling me that 2001’s ‘Josie and the Pussycats‘ is widely regarded as a bad movie. It makes sense. Most misunderstood masterpieces are hated by mere simpletons who find it easier to dislike things than to coweringly embrace their own intellectual limitations. Meanwhile, Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s movie starring Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson as the titular trio who go from indie obscurity to mega-stardom is perhaps the most ingeniously subversive film of the past two decades. It’s so candy-coated accessible to the audience it’s mocking that it makes ‘Spring Breakers’ look like ‘Gummo.’ Disguised as a commercially safe paint-by-numbers adventure (not to mention a lazy, television cartoon adaptation), it successfully satirized corporate control, groupthink, rampant consumer culture, exploiting disposable teen income, boy bands and shirts with sleeves. It got MTV to make fun of itself while pointing out how terrible it is. Jonathan Swift would have been proud. Orange is the new pink. And, seriously, like what you like, people.”

“Some of my favorite films are maligned by many, with Michael Cimino’s ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ Paul Schrader’s ‘Exorcist’ prequel and Michael Mann’s ‘Miami Vice’ all held in high regard by yours truly. But alas, and for the purposes of this question I’m going with Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘One From The Heart,’ a film which I recently selected as my favorite film of my own lifetime (the last thirty years). From the sublime Tom Waits score to the unique cinematography that blended in-camera technique with an innovative set, there truly is no other film quite like it. On a wider note, it’s worth placing the film within a historical and technological context too, with some of the advancements being made by Coppola et. al. at the time via Zoetrope Studios directing the way in which the film industry itself would flow in the age of the digital.”

“Definitely ‘Overnight Delivery.’ I’d rented it when it came out, thinking it would be an ok B-movie background flick to play while I geeked online. But then I kept laughing, stopped geeking, focused solely on the film, and fell hard. It didn’t hurt that I knew a guy who looked, acted, and spoke the Wyatt Tripps. And it’s so much better than ‘Road Trip,’ the film that unabashedly ripped it off.”

“‘Hook‘ is certain to top many Worst Film lists in this week’s Spielberg Survey, but not mine. Along with my fellow elementary schoolers in the early ’90s, our two go-to movies were ‘The Sandlot’ and this tale of a grown up Peter Pan.  Spielberg’s film was my introduction to Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts and offers all the adventure, fantasy, humor, and fun that a kid can handle. Peter rediscovering his true identity with the help of the Lost Boys is pure joy, and with a wealth of quotables it’s pretty much the perfect movie for youngsters. Now as an adult, I fully admit that nostalgia has a great deal to do with my love for ‘Hook,’ though it’s an affinity that has not wavered.  Bangarang!”

“To preface my response by acknowledging and bracketing your ‘Rules of the Game’s, which were reviled in their own eras but are now appreciated (by most) for the masterpieces they truly are, my own selection is far less ambitious and successful — but at least people continue to sneer at any mention of the film: James L. Brooks’ ‘Spanglish.’ Well, not Armond White who actually wrote an anti-awards diatribe suggesting that ‘Spanglish’ was the closest thing we’ve seen to a Renoir film set within the clashing worlds of upper-class Hollywood and lower-class immigrant L.A. White’s claim might not be as crazy as it seems, given the (at least occasional) warmth, honesty, ambiguity and even visual unevenness — signifiers of the Renoiresque all — that mark Brooks’ film. My wife suggests a second film that I will cite as a runner up, not because it is inferior to ‘Spanglish,’ it is substantially better, but because it is less generally despised: Bela Tarr’s ‘The Man from London.’ Tarr’s exercise in genre is one of the best looking films in eons that, nonetheless, was looked down on by some critics for all the wrong reasons.”

The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on April 1st, 2013:
The Most Popular Response:Spring Breakers
Other Titles Receiving Multiple Votes: “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Beyond the Hills,” “Leviathan,” “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” “Stoker.”

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Danny Bowes has hit himself on the head. He needs medical and psychiatric attention.

Albert Sanchez Moreno

My choices: "Man of La Mancha" (1972) and "Camelot" (1967). Both were critical duds and box office flops (although a large portion of the general public seems to like them now). And both were harshly criticized for using actors that "couldn't sing" although they are musicals.

Scottie Knollin

I've always really liked Forces of Nature. Most people don't even remember that it was made, but I've seen it more times than I want to admit and I feel comfortable saying that it's easily Sandra Bullock's best work and is way better than people give it credit. I think it's a victim of mis-marketing and bad word-of-mouth. Trust me, it's worth revisiting.

Eric Harris

Thank you for this compilation because it made me feel less crazy for liking so many of the movies listed. As for movies not named that I loved and (seemingly) everyone else hated: 8MM, Kiss of Death (the Nic Cage version), Snake Eyes (yes, I am aware of my Nic Cage problem), BASEketball, Bringing out the Dead, The Ladykillers (Coen version), The Postman, Escape from LA, MacGruber…that's all I can think of.


Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Down With Love. I'm not sure if these movies are considered duds exactly, but they are certainly not great movies, but I like them so much. both movies look like they were made in different times but with modern actors.

Juvenile Cinephile

Two movies derived from music: Head starring The Monkees and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band starring The Bee Gees (and Peter Frampton). Both movies are just so clearly a fabric of their decade and their industries of music and Hollywood. Difference is Head was arty and made no money, mostly because The Monkees had become so blase by 1968 and the R-rating clearly alienated their remaining fan base from seeing it (and I am sure those who put in for its $16,000 gross were turned off from the moment of its completely impenetrable opening that not even "Porpoise Song" could save them). The movie had cross-cutting of the horrors of the Vietnam War to an excellent live performance footage of "Circle Sky". It was the late 60s can really be the only answer to the choices in that movie.

Sgt. Pepper did make some money and is so accessible- almost too accessible for its own good. Robots, various rock acts of the period, and George Burns singing tunes by The Beatles. I am still not quite sure what this movie had as its target audience other than to profit off both entities of The Beatles and The Bee Gees (and Peter Frampton). Head is looked at more as a launching pad for director and producers Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson (who supposedly co-wrote the "Ditty Diego" meta-riff off the theme of The Monkees TV show for the movie) so it does live on in the America: Lost & Found Criterion Collection box-set dedicated to works by Rafelson and other filmmakers. It certainly can be reevaluated now and hopefully people realize it is up there with A Hard Day's Night in terms of rock movies. Sgt. Pepper needs no reevaluation. It is just a thoughtless joy that at times feels like you are experiencing a drug trip and crash at various points that I am certain the filmmaker were experiencing during the making of it.

Glad Ishtar and Josie & The Pussycats got love on the survey.

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