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"Swept Away": The Only Greek Tragedy Madonna Knows

Madonna, bless her heart. Is there anyone quite like her? She can dye her hair a variety of colors and style it in numerous ways. She never appears in the same outfit twice. She can sing, sort of. She can dance. She can pose. She dated Warren Beatty and was married to Sean Penn. She's a Material Girl and we're living in a material world. What would we do without her?

When Madonna first burst forth on the world's collective radar, many pundits predicted that she had the makings of a movie star. This rosy prediction was based largely on the impact of Madonna's early videos and her appearance in the low budget comedy, "Desperately Seeking Susan."

Of course, Madonna also felt she had the makings of a movie star. So, starting in the mid-1980's, the Material Girl set sail on the celluoid high seas, searching for the right vehicle for her unique talents.

Madonna Speaks Turkey...Fluently

Alas, Madonna's quest for Hollywood glory often resembled a voyage of the damned. From "Shangai Surprise" to "Who's That Girl?" to "Bloodhounds of Broadway" to "Dangerous Games" to "Body of Evidence" to "The Next Best Thing"...are you still with me?...Madonna released one cinematic gobbler after another, until it looked like the Material Girl was about to become the Mrs. Paul's of the turkey industry.

Those made of lesser mettle would have quit long ago. But not Madonna. In the best Capt. Ahab tradition, she refused to give up until she harpooned The Great White Turkey that would finish off her film aspirations for good:

2002's "Swept Away."

Everybody's A Critic

Greetings, movie lovers. Are you ready to "spring forward" with a new post? Ready or not, here we go!

Film critics are the Hall Monitors of the entertainment industry: they do a job people resent, yet at the same time acknowledge is important. Studio flacks hate that negative reviews can have a fatal effect on a film's box office success--yet they trumpet a critic's rave review as proof of their film's greatness. Movie goers, on the other hand, use film reviews to decide if a flick in question is worth parting with their hard earned money to see.

Love 'em or hate 'em, film critics are as important to film as celluloid and sprocket holes.

The critical snippets featured below are excellent examples of movie critics doing what they do best: demolish a movie and/or performance with the kind of articulate nastiness that is a work of art in itself. In fact, some reviews are more memorable than the films they trashed. Read below and see why!

Peter Buckley in Films and Filming on 1971's "Such Good Friends": "No, it's not particularly dirty or sexy or anything fun like that, it's merely, totally, thoroughly disagreeable, like a closet full of smelly underwear."

Penelope Gilliatt in The New Yorker on 1976's "W.C. Fields and Me" suggested that this flick "is best approached with a pair of tongs."

"You haven't lived until you see (Jack) Palance play Fidel Castro!" declared Leonard Maltin on 1969's "Che!" To which Time magazine added,"It's a pity the actors could not grow in insight or force along with their beards."

Tell The Spartans That Gerard Butler Is Coming...And He's Not Wearing Any Pants!

Hi Keeba and hello, movie lovers.

Today we are going to discuss the Battle of Thermopylae, where a group of plucky Spartan soldiers went toe-to-toe with the much larger forces of Persia's King Xerxes.

But don't worry. This won't be some dry slog through ancient history. Instead of consulting the dusty parchments of the past, we will be consulting Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, which, in turn, became the souped-up, pumped-up, gore-filled (in 3-D!) CGI epic "300" (2007).

This movie has it all: a heavy metal soundtrack; boil-covered priests; sniveling, corrupt politicians; a rhino decked out in chains and piercings; freaks of every stripe; explicit sex; stylized battle scenes that amount to war porn; a cast of handsome warriors in bikini briefs so tight you can tell what religion the actors are; and a fat, bald executioner with a ring in his nose and lobster claws for hands.

Fat, pierced lobster men! That's why we go to the movies! Well, that's why I go to the movies...

Sparta: Bad Ass Capital of the World

The fun begins with a verbose voice-over where we learn that the Greek city-state Sparta was a cross between a fascist gated community and the gym class from hell. From the time a Spartan baby boy can crawl, we are told, he was "steeped on violence", taught to fight, straved, beaten and forced to wear skimpy Depends in the middle of winter. One such lad, named Leonidas, is even dumped in the middle of nowhere and forced to do battle with a CGI wolf-type critter. Needless to say, Leonidas wins the day and eventually becomes the King of Sparta.

What Junk Cinema Teaches Us: Part Two

Welcome back, movie lovers! Just as promised, here is the second part of "What Junk Cinema Teaches Us", an exploration of ten valuable insights that the worst movies ever made give their fans. And away we go!

6) A perfect, utopian society run by computers is bunk.

This point Junk Cinema makes clear in movie after movie after movie.

In "Logan's Run" (1976), for example, viewers are presented with a youthful society where computers run everything. That leaves humankind free to endlessly shop, hang out and have lots and lots of no-strings-attached sex. The catch? When a person hits 30, they must partake in a ritual known as "The Carousel" in hopes of being "renewed."

Actually, you are merely vaporized. No one is EVER renewed.

A little closer to home, scientist Fritz Weaver in "The Demon Seed" (1977)  develops a computer so advanced, it not only runs his house, it may even "make obsolete many functions of the human brain." This upsets his wife Julie Christie--especially when the super computer (named Proteus 3) traps her in the house, assaults her and forces her to bear its humanoid child.

And you thought your ATM was nuts for charging you $3 bucks to withdraw your own money.

1964's "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", meanwhile, dared to show that an overly mechanized society makes kids sullen and listless. The solution? Create a Christmas holiday to brighten up the children's lives--and bring Kris Kringle over to supervise. As the King of Mars declares, "Earth has had Santa long enough!"

Santa is indeed brought over (along with two earth tykes) and he sets up shop. However, he arranges for a really irritating homegrown martian named Droppo to head this Red Planet X-Mas so he can return to earth.

What Junk Cinema Teaches Us: Part One

If you are a regular reader of this website, you may wonder why I, The Movie Maven, devote so much time to the celebration and preservation of rotten movies.

Well, I have no life.

Just kidding!

No, the reason I want proclaim, preserve and protect Junk Cinema is because it's fun. Even more than that, Junk Cinema is educational. You can learn things, important things, insights that will help you live a better life.

And to prove my point, here is Part One of a detailed list of what Junk Cinema teaches us.

1) Animals, insects, veggies, plants, cars--you name it--can turn on you.

Lulled into complacency by your hum-drum life? Better watch out. Countless Junk Cinema movies have warned generations of viewers that anything ANYTHING can be turned into an evil, slobbering hell beast. All it takes is an alien energy ray, an atomic bomb, a comet coming too close to the earth--really, any unexplainable phenomenon will do--for the mayhem to begin.

"I never thoguht it would be the bees!" wailed bee expert Michael Caine in 1978's uproarious "The Swarm". "They've always been our friends!"

Not anymore. Along with bees, grasshoppers, bunny rabbits, frogs, cell phones and ants, TV's ("The Twonky"), computers ("The Demon Seed") and even babies ("It's Alive!") have been featured in flicks that dared to show their dark side.

Motor vehicles are especially prone to evil. In the Stephen King epic "moron movie" (his words, by the way) "Maximum Overdrive", cars, trucks, big rigs etc. take over the planet. In the ensuing mayhem, an extra who would become the second Mrs. Donald Trump (Marla Maples, in a pink headband) would be offed by a fatal conk on the head from a rogue watermelon.