Let’s face it: some movies are bad. Not just bad from one person’s perspective, but bad from everyone’s perspective. But sometimes there’s one redeeming quality in a bad movie, a particular piece that makes you say “Hey, that part was a shiny golden nugget in a steaming pile of horse manure.” Sometimes it’s a cameo performance, or a particular scene, and sometimes, it’s the score. Here are 5 movies that fall under that category.
The Last Airbender
The Last Airbender was a live action adaptation of the award winning cartoon series that Nickelodeon aired for three seasons from 2005 to 2008. Things got off to a rocky start when the name was changed from Avatar: the Last Airbender, to just The Last Airbender. Why? Because a certain James Cameron film with a remarkably similar name came out at around the same time, and they didn’t want people to get confused. When you’re worried that your fanbase might not understand that one word can describe different movies, you’re not exactly getting off to the right start.
Then we discovered who was the driving influence behind the project, as the director and the producer: M. Night Shyamalan. Everyone groaned at news of this. This man had one success, The Sixth Sense, and he let it go to his head. He began seeing dramatic plot twists everywhere. We like to think that when Barack Obama was elected President, he remarked to no one in particular, “That’s nice, but what if he were actually an alien the whole time.”
So we have a director that specializes in BS plot twists that he thinks is dramatic, and that’s fine, we guess. But the problem is that for this franchise, there are no plot twists. Everything was already mapped out by the cartoonists, the entire story arc was wrapped up with no room for interpretation. So what the hell was Shyamalan there to do? As it turns out, nothing. He made a picture that seemed to be created with the sole purpose of showcasing all the neat tricks we could do with CGI. Did it follow the plot for the most part? Yes. Was there any Shyamalan surprises for us? No. But at the same time, it was awful. It’s like he expected us to watch this film and be awed by the special effects for two hours, and call it the greatest film ever because “that guy’s flipping water through the air! In 3D!”
But then, amidst the chaos that was this movie, sat James Newton Howard, writing music as though he didn’t know that monkeys were flinging poop at a notebook and the director was calling them storyboards. Howard’s been a musical badass for years, serving as Elton John’s keyboardist before moving into film scores. He’s been nominated for 7 Oscars, composed the theme music for freaking ER, and even collaborated with the great Hans Zimmer on Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. This won’t be his last appearance on this list, he’s got a history of hooking up with bad movies. After all, he’s composed the music for every single Shyamalan film since Sixth Sense.
Best Piece of Music:
Days of Thunder
NASCAR has never really been portrayed well in Hollywood. It doesn’t make much sense, because on paper, you would think the sport was tailor made for film. A bunch of crazy dudes in souped up vehicles smashing into each other as they race at 200 miles per hour for trophies, prize money, and women hanging on your arm. It’s been done in other formats, from street racing to open wheel, the only reason we can think of for NASCAR in particular not getting any love is that filmmakers don’t like the sponsors on the hood and the accompanying paint jobs.
Jerry Bruckheimer made an attempt in 1990 with Days of Thunder, which went awry almost from the beginning when it became apparent that they were making Top Gun on wheels. Top Gun was a great movie, to be sure, but it doesn’t transfer so well when you take away Tom Cruise’s wings and put him in a Mello Yello firesuit. Because, they totally did that.
But literally, the plots of the two movies were the exact same. A cocky hotshot (Tom Cruise, of course) thinks he can do anything, and is skilled and confidant enough to make it into Top Gun School/Winston Cup Series. He’s educated in the ways of flying/racing by a grizzled old flight instructor/crew chief, and chases a woman civilian specialist/doctor, who’s smarter than Tom Cruise and plays hard to get. After an accident, Tom Cruise loses his confidence, and it’s up to his chief rival to reinstill it in him, the two becoming friends in the process. Then, in the heat of the moment, when the combat with the Chinese/Daytona 500 depends on him, he suddenly regains his magical ability, and smacks around everything in his way to blow away some MiGs/wreck out the jerk off driver and win the race. Role Credits.
But the soundtrack for this film was composed by that gifted German, Hans Zimmer. Chances are, if you’ve watched a movie made in the last 25 years, you’ve heard a Zimmer score or two. He’s won an Academy Award for his score on the Lion King, and a Badass award for writing awesome music for multiple badass films, from Beverly Hills Cop to Gladiator to the new crop of Batman films, to Inception. This particular film had a rock themed soundtrack in line with its subject matter, and while Hans has called the music for Days of Thunder his worst composition, we think he’s too hard on himself. Listen to this and say you aren’t ready to go out there and beat the snot out of a dude.
Alexander the Great was one of the world’s great bad mofos. He single handedly (well, him and 40,000 of his best friends, but still) conquered a tract of land from Greece to India, and if you don’t know how big that is, consult a world map.
So, any movies made about the man were bound to be awesome. And that’s what we thought we were getting through the first half hour of Alexander. It opened with this huge and epic battle scene that made everyone get up in their seats and shout, “YES, BLOODLUST.” And then, the battle was over, and everyone sat down to watch the rest of the movie with anticipation of more awesomeness. What they got was Colin Ferrall attempting to seduce his boyfriend and yelling incoherently for two hours while Angelina Jolie tries to have sex with a teenager and a snake at the same time while a one eyed Val Kilmer looks on.
The key problem with this movie was Oliver Stone, the director. Up until this point, he’d been primarily known for dark, gritty, political tales of conspiracy theories and backstabbing. Platoon, JFK, Nixon, all dripped with a sense of unease that no one knew what the hell was going on. Stone took this style of moviemaking (which was very good, in its element) and applied it to the political climate of ancient Macedonia 2300 years ago. What’s wrong with this? First of all, no one cares about the political climate of ancient Macedonia, it has no bearing on the current politics of the world, which is why political
movies work in the first place. Second of all, Alexander did so many cool and awesome and badass things, and you choose instead to focus on his screwy childhood and sexual dalliances? This would have been like if half of Patton was shown in Flashback depicting how his strict father beat young George S. and forced him into the army when all he wanted to be was a Shakespearean actor.
No one wants to watch a movie about that, they want to see the crazy hijinks he got up to once he was in the Army. Fine, you want to show Alex’s father’s assassination, that’s pretty cool, but don’t show me a bunch of BS that implicates Angelina Cradlerobber in the crime, that’s just more of that JFK “the wicked gain power and don’t get punished thing.” And then the rest of the movie was about Alexander suspecting all his generals of treachery and trying to get into Hephaestion’s tunic. Seriously, show us the Siege of Tyre, when he turned an island into a peninsula simply because he could, don’t show us him yelling at his army because they want to go home.
But the score, the score was worthy of the epic story of asskicking we deserved, and hopefully they’ll just recycle it when they inevitably make an action-adventure about Alexander. It was composed by Vangelis, who only has one name because he’s Greek, and that’s apparently a thing. He first gained fame as the composer of the 1982 Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire, for which he pulled in his own Oscar for music, which included the slow mo piano music set to dudes running on a beach that has become synonymous with people running in slow motion. He’s an innovator in electronic music, and gained the supreme honor of composing music for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Here’s what he did for the aforementioned lone scene of asskicking in the film, “The Drums of Gaugamela.”
This movie had all the elements that make good movies happen: source material popular with fans, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, swords, dragons, and magic. So what happened?
The problem is that they rely on the movie goer to have already read the books, and for those people that actually did, promptly spit in their face by pulling a bunch of crazy BS to make the film not really compare to the book. The director of the film was a first timer, only having experience as a special effects director. And, you’re never going to guess what the movie appeared to focus on. Here’s a hint, it was the special effects.
In the book, the dragon grew from a baby into an adult over the course of a few months, you know, like everything else living. But, our director didn’t have time for that, so he had the dragon fly up into the air, and through the magic of special effects, transformed the dragon instantly into a fully grown beast, complete with the voice of Rachel Weisz. Oh, and then he stuck feathers on it too, making it look less like a dragon and more like a blue Griffin from Hell. The performance by the actors wasn’t that great, even John Malkovich had bad lines (the first words out of his mouth in that movie were “I suffer without my stone,” said like one of those automatons from Disneyland. Jeremy Irons was the only one who didn’t act like this was a high school play.
But the score–that was good. Patrick Doyle, a Scotsman whose credits include a Harry Potter movie and Thor, composed the music, and the battle music alone almost makes up for the fact that this CF of a movie ruins any chance of a real movie about Eragon anytime soon.
What can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said? Kevin Costner spent 300 million dollars to portray a post apocalyptic world covered in water, where people live on boats and pirates on oil tankers terrorize honest folks, and it’s up to mutant Kevin to save the day by shooting everyone with a spear gun.
This movie generally ranks on most people’s movie lists as one of the most awful movies ever made, and that’s taking into account the fact that John Wayne once starred as Genghis Khan in a movie made by Howard Hughes. But guess who came in and made pretty music to salvage something from this flop? Our friend James Newton Howard.
Almost makes you cry knowing that Kevin Costner was killing people to this music, wearing no shoes and peeing into a filter for water.
By Ben Adelman