The turkey is out of the oven, the potatoes have been mashed, and the relatives are all sitting around waiting to eat. What better time to go around the table and share everyone’s favorite terrible movies? That’s right, everyone, it’s time once again for Give Thanks For Turkeys Day! It’s the one day a year where we actually admit to enjoying unlovable trash, because let’s be honest: We all really do.
JORDAN SAÏD IS THANKFUL FOR NO HOLDS BARRED (1989)
Despite the ubiquitous racism and colonialism (which, of course, reminds me of Thanksgiving), the then-WWF/now-WWE during the wrestling boom of the 1980s has always held a small, gaudily-decorated place in my heart. It encapsulates the colorful, meretricious fight scenes of Batman ‘66 with the cocaine-fueled toxic masculinity of the Reagan years. This reaches a kitschy peak in No Holds Barred, a Vince McMahon-produced vanity project for wrestling’s then-alpha male Hulk Hogan.
You’ve heard critics say that a movie looks like a teenager wrote it. No Holds Barred literally has the kind of pacing and dialog and plot that I scribbled into secret superhero-idea notebooks in middle school. Hulk plays “Rip” Taylor: just Hulk Hogan with yellow and red changed to white and the occasional teal. Rip has to face a slimy network exec (Kurt Fuller) who launches a dogged campaign to coerce Rip into joining his network. This escalates into a public wrestling bout between Rip and an enormous murderer yclept “Zeus” (Tiny Lister). At one point, Rip thwarts a restaurant robbery with superheroic wrestling moves, to the inexplicable delight of the proprietress as she stands amidst thousands in property damage that Rip caused. Rip later thwarts a kidnapping by riding a motorcycle in circles. Amid the torrent of unintentional humor and gaping plot holes, Fuller makes the film as the Rip-obsessed CEO who runs an entire network but somehow cares only about the professional wrestling programming.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a villain chew scenery until he chokes, you have to watch No Holds Barred. And if you can find it, watch No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie, the pay-per-view turd where Vince tries to wring a last handful of pocket change out of this turkey and do some Blair Witch-esque blurring of fiction. It culminates in 15 minutes of Hulk Hogan throwing around a non-wrestling actor inside a cage redolent of cocaine and ennui. Despite its conspicuous absence from the on-demand WWE Network, I’m as thankful for this awfulness as Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan are thankful for capitalism. That’s pretty damn thankful.
JOSEPH WADE IS THANKFUL FOR SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)
In my attempts to hash out my thoughts on Justice League (review forthcoming!), I’ve got Superman on the brain. To be perfectly frank, I’ve never understood the utter contempt most people hold for this movie. Sure, it’s a cut-rate version of a Superman movie that more or less got released unfinished. Most of the effects are recycled, the direction can best be described as present, and the whole cast is starting to show their age. There are more than enough reasons why a person wouldn’t care for this movie, and I respect that. But the kind of outright hate that always seems to land this movie on every single “Worst Movies Ever” list? I just don’t see it. Maybe this one looks better in hindsight than it did at the time.
I’m thankful for this movie, because you know what it isn’t? It isn’t Superman III. God, I hate Superman III. At some point, Richard Lester got it into his head that what Superman really needed was a bunch of shitty slapstick comedy, and the whole movie suffers for it. Superman IV was not only an attempt to crank out one last Super-film, it tried to take the Man of Steel seriously again after Lester turned the whole thing into a farce. Most see this film as the point where the series went from bad to worse, but there’s a sincere sort of charm to this one that the previous film lacks. Christopher Reeve gets a story credit here, as Superman makes it his mission to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It’s like the kind of movie Superman would try to write about himself if a Hollywood producer gave him the chance. “I’m awesome. I saved the world from itself. Also Lex Luthor’s nephew wears a stupid hat.” I kinda love it.
ASH HERALD IS THANKFUL FOR VAMPIRE ACADEMY (2014)
Vampire teen romance is surely played out by now, you say. The world-building garbage is excessive and strangling an otherwise light film, you claim. I can’t be bothered to care about teen movies, you insist. Well, you’re right (except for item three: everyone watches teen movies.) I will agree up front that Vampire Academy is drowning in problems, most of them extending from an insistence on including taxonomical classifications and other meticulous details from a book series that you probably have not read nor will ever read (apologies to any teens that read Front Row Central, we appreciate you!)
And yet Vampire Academy shows up to bring all the stuff people complained Twilight didn’t have enough of. Vampire Academy has plenty of blood-drinking, half-breed vampires, bloodthirsty monsters, death, violence, and witty one-liners. Zoey Deutch earns her paycheck delivering levity to the movie regardless of the quality of the lines, and in between the blood and the punching and the wisecracks there’s still time for blossoming teen romance with the school outcast. Is the movie unbalanced and weird? Sure. But it’s also what a lot of other supernatural teen movies aren’t: fun.
MARTIN R. SCHNEIDER IS THANKFUL FOR MIAMI CONNECTION (1987)
Look, there’s probably not a lot I can say about the internet’s favorite Taekwondo promotional film that hasn’t already been said. But when you’re in the business of watching bad movies, there’s something refreshing about the authenticity of this ‘80s delight. For nearly a decade, small-time filmmakers have been attempting to cynically cash in on the “so bad it’s good” niche market of cinema. So this lost gem – about a synth-pop band of 35-year-old college students/Taekwondo black belts who defend the city of Orlando (not Miami) from cocaine-dealing motorcycle ninjas – is something beautiful and unique: A movie that’s good because it’s bad.
Writer/producer/star Y.K. Kim is not a Hollywood guy. He’s just a dude who loves Taekwondo, and somehow got the money to make a movie about it. (And put some kickin’ rad Pat Benatar-influenced tunes.) The storyline is incoherent, the editing is a mess, the acting is stilted, the tone switches every scene, and the entire movie stops halfway through for martial arts class. But in-between biker rallies and corn-syrup spewing swordfights, there’s such joy in this bad little movie. Everyone involved is loving making this movie, everyone is as committed to it as children playing pretend. In a way, it’s moviemaking in its purest form.
When someone wants to understand the appeal of a “bad film”, I’m grateful I have Miami Connection to point them to. Without the depressing cynicism of Birdemic, the corporate cash-in nature of The Asylum films, and the gross uncomfortable misogyny of Manos or The Room (excepting one Tex Avery-like beach sequence), Miami Connection is a bad movie for true movie fans. In a world where everything is branding and every media has a motive, Miami Connection will always be beautiful, a ninja-filled tribute to authenticity in a world where that’s a commodity.
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From our movie families to yours, we here at Front Row Central wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!