Shanghai Surprise Recap

Jamie

Shanghai Surprise! I believe Patrick has a better perspective on this film so I’ll sit quietly over here and just talk a little bit about the book (‘The book?!’ exclaims the crowd, blissfully unaware until that moment that Shanghai Surprise was based on a book that Jamie would read). That’s right, the book. Originally called Faraday’s Flowers, it was written by Tony Kendrick and came out in 1985. For whatever reason (perhaps George Harrison loved the author or something), it was almost immediately optioned and adapted into a film. I ended up having to watch the film first and then read the book for practical reasons. I didn’t think this would be much of a problem since it seemed pretty straightforward from the book jacket synopsis: a man is convinced by a missionary to search for opium in 1937 China and falls in love with her in the process. But when I watched the film I was shocked by some of the more bizarre twists and turns that the storyline took. I presumed that in an attempt to spice up an otherwise incredibly boring film a screenwriter had inserted some weird-ass stuff, right? Wrong. After reading the book it is essentially a straight adaptation (with some of the more explicitly violent and sexual parts cleaned up and the order of events somewhat scrambled). The moral of all this is that you cannot blame the storyline on the filmmakers, the book is just really strange (making it all the stranger that it was targeted for adaptation). Almost Mortdecai level weirdness at times. Now as for Madonna’s horrific acting, Sean Penn’s ridiculously bad hair and makeup, and an overlong and dull storyline? Blame away.

Important day guys. That’s because for the first time since we’ve been doing Settings 101 in the email we have finally arrived at an A+ film. Shanghai Surprise not only opens with a meta-acknowledgement of the setting via intertitle and has the setting play a vital role in all aspects of the film, but also has the name of the setting in the title! I had always kind of assumed that London Has Fallen would be the first film to get the coveted A+, but I obviously forgot that any 1986 cycle would have to include Shanghai Surprise. I feel pretty good about it. It joins When in Rome, Texas Rangers, Bangkok Dangerous, Battle: Los Angeles, Ghosts of Mars, Pompeii, Sweet Home Alabama, The Haunting in Connecticut, and Harlem Nights as our clear A+ BMT settings films. There are some other candidates that would need to be debated (I Dreamed of Africa, Jupiter Ascending, etc.), but those are the solid ones. Congrats everyone. We made it.

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Shanghai Surprise? More like Makes Patrick Sigh! And it does. As I watched this film I just sighed to myself and thought “Yup. This is my life”. I don’t really get some of these films. I understand that De Laurentiis was going bankrupt and was throwing shit at the wall when Raw Deal and King Kong Lives was made. That makes sense. But optioning Shanghai Surprise for a Penn / Madonna vehicle with inordinate international filming costs? Bewildering. Let’s get into it.

  • The Good – It seems like most people disagree with me, but I thought the basic storyline here was okay. No joke. I was pretty interested in the happenings for a good third of the film. The soundtrack was bonkers and banging, just so bizarre and weirdly catchy and maybe culturally insensitive. George Harrison is a madman. I can forgive how confusing the film was because it ran like Indiana Jones crossed with a Noir film, Penn is the detective in this scenario, just his skillset is supposed to be that of an adventurer.
  • The Bad – The movie is certainly dull. The back third is bizarre in a bad way with a very annoying businessman who is obsessed with baseball and talks in the third person tagging along for a solid chunk of it. Madonna might be one of the worst things we’ve seen in a BMT film, just a terrible actress. The twist at the end was telegraphed from the beginning. I wrote in my notes: “That guy is actually this other guy, book it”. Don’t be too impressed, it was literally the same actor with a terribly fake mustache on. Speaking of bad facial hair, Penn has bar none the worst makeup for the first twenty minutes of this film as you’ll ever see.
  • The BMT – Hmmmmmm, I’ve kind of psyched myself into this one a bit. I would give it a 25 probably, median BMeTric. The movie is weird, I still don’t quite understand how it has a 3.0 on IMDb, that is just so incredibly low. I just don’t really understand how anyone watches it now and proclaims it as one of the worst movies ever made. It doesn’t feel like one of the worst movies ever made. But I would watch it in a BMT movie marathon. It could sneak into some Worst of the 80s medley or something.

Phew. Let’s see. I wouldn’t want a remake to this film for Sequel / Prequel / Remake, but which would be better, a prequel (outlining the hilarious misadventures of Sean Penn’s character in his trading travels in China) or a sequel (Penn and Madonna as drug kingpins in post-WWII China)? They are both good. So why not both? We’ll get Chris Pratt for the prequel, make it kind of a Indiana Jones in China affair, except as a goof he’s always just inexplicable looking for opium. For the second old-strongman-body Sean Penn will reprise his role and we’ll run it like The Gunman, shaky cam action. Madonna’s character is gunned down in the streets as Penn realizes he’s lost the territory battle for the heroin market in 70s China. Time for some payback. The first will be called Shanghai Surprise: Legacy. The sequel will be called Shanghai Surprise 2: Street War. Oof, these both sound terrible. Netflix, I’m waiting by the phone, I’ll direct it for free.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Shanghai Surprise Preview

This week we move to a romantic epic for the ages for our Girls Night Out. That’s right, we’re watching one of 1986’s worst picture nominees Shanghai Surprise starring Sean Penn and Madonna. Filmed back when they were married, it was made as a starring vehicle for Madonna after her breakout role in Desperately Seeking Susan. Obviously didn’t go great and was the first of many bumps in the road for Madonna’s acting career. I’m actually somewhat excited for this film considering it has an astonishingly low IMDb user rating (3.0). I honestly trust that a bit more than the Razzies. Let’s go!

Shanghai Surprise (1986) – BMeTric: 42.6

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(Well … I guess I can’t not acknowledge the weird rating dip in 2003 for this movie. It goes from 2.9 to 2.3 in a matter of months and has since just kind of regresses to the mean. The rating it also astonishingly low, at one point the film was likely in the bottom 100 on IMDb. The BMeTric trajectory is very very similar to King Kong Lives. Someday I’ll do a meta-analysis on graphics like this. I would call this the Classic Bad Movie trend. The BMeTric plot just goes up in a straight line because the rating is so low and the votes were already high enough when IMDb began that is never crosses from non-BMT to BMT, it is always BMT.)

Leonard Maltin – BOMB –  Missionary Madonna hires adventurer Penn (her then real-life husband) to capture a cache of stolen opium (for medicinal purposes only) in 1937 China. It’s all stupefyingly dull. As one critic noted, it’s tough for Penn to succeed in the grand adventure movie tradition when the screen legend he most reminds you of here is Ratso Rizzo. Coexecutive producer George Harrison, who appears briefly as a nightclub singer, wrote the songs.

(This cycle has so far been 2.5 stars, BOMB, 1.5 stars, BOMB, BOMB … there are no words. The irony being that this cycle has also been terrible by BMT standards. I think it is because bad films from 1986 are basically all stupefyingly dull. Sigh, We aren’t going to like this are we?)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhX89dDoAw4

(Oh wow that ending. Does seem more of a comedy that you would have thought given the leading actors. Looks low budget and bizarre and I can see this either being one of the worst or one of the weirdest BMTs we’ve ever had the displeasure of viewing.)

Directors – Jim Goddard – (BMT: Shanghai Surprise; Notes: Nominated for the Razzie Award in 1987 for Worst Director for Shanghai Surprise. He was fifty at the time of release which seems relatively old for the golden age of the blockbuster. British and primarily known for his television work his almost complete anonymity in the US was even noted in his obituary.)

Writers – John Kohn (screenplay) – (Known For: The Collector; Theatre of Blood; BMT: Shanghai Surprise; Notes:  Nominated for the Razzie Award in 1987 for Worst Screenplay for Shanghai Surprise. He was sixty at the time of release! His last screenplay. Nominated for a screenplay oscar in 1965 for The Collector. Mainly known for his production work he died of cancer in 2002.)

Robert Bentley (screenplay) – (BMT: Shanghai Surprise; Notes:  Nominated for the Razzie Award in 1987 for Worst Screenplay for Shanghai Surprise. I can literally find nothing about this person on the internet. His only credit is this movie.)

Tony Kenrick (from the novel “Faraday’s Flowers”) – (BMT: Shanghai Surprise; Notes:  An Australian advertising writer he’s had two books adapted into movies and at least three others have been optioned with stars attached and never made. He wrote 14 books and Shanghai Surprise was adapted from his fourth.)

Actors – Sean Penn – (Known For: Angry Birds; The Game; Mystic River; Risky Business; Fast Times at Ridgemont High; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; The Tree of Life; The Thin Red Line; Carlito’s Way; 21 Grams; Milk; Taps; Fair Game; At Close Range; I’m Still Here; Colors; Dead Man Walking; U Turn; This Must Be the Place; Bad Boys; Casualties of War; Persepolis; The Interpreter; BMT: Shanghai Surprise; The Gunman (BMT); It’s All About Love; All the King’s Men; The Weight of Water; Hugo Pool; Crackers; Gangster Squad; I Am Sam; Notes: Nominated for the Razzie Award in 1987 for Worst Actor for Shanghai Surprise. This movie is notable for the fact that Penn and Madonna were in a relationship at the time. Five time academy award nominee for best actor (two time winner) and famous (some might say notorious) speaker on human rights. He is no stranger to controversy over the years including accusation of domestic violence towards Madonna, explicit support of the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, allusions to Argentina’s claims towards the Falkland Islands (not a good look, I can tell you the Brits are sensitive about that guy), and the recent El Chapo interview. Most recently seen in The Gunman.)

Madonna – (Known For: A League of Their Own; Die Another Day; Dick Tracy; Desperately Seeking Susan; Vision Quest; Evita; BMT: Swept Away; Body of Evidence (BMT); The Next Best Thing; Who’s That Girl; Shanghai Surprise; Girl 6; Arthur and the Invisibles; Razzie Notes: Won the Razzie Award in 2000 for Worst Actress of the Century for Body of Evidence, Shanghai Surprise, and Who’s That Girl; Nominated for the Razzie Award in 2010 for Worst Actress of the Decade for Die Another Day, The Next Best Thing, and Swept Away; Nominated for the Razzie Award in 1990 for Worst Actress of the Decade and New Star of the Decade for Shanghai Surprise, and Who’s That Girl; Won the Razzie Award in 2003 for Worst Actress for Swept Away, in 2001 for The Next Best Thing, in 1994 for Body of Evidence, in 1988 for Who’s That Girl, and in 1987 for Shanghai Surprise; Won the Razzie Award in 2003 for Worst Supporting Actress for Die Another Day, and in 1996 for Four Rooms; Won the Razzie Award in 2003 for Worst Screen Couple for Swept Away; Nominated for the Razzie Award in 1992 for Worst Actress for Madonna: Truth or Dare, in 1990 for Worst Supporting Actress for Bloodhounds of Broadway, in 2003 for Worst Original Song for Die Another Day, and in 2001 for Worst Screen Couple for The Next Best Thing; Notes: A very strange career now that I look at it. She’s worked incredibly consistently (26 films in almost exactly 30 years). A smattering of small and big films. A smattering of great and terrible films. Even her Razzie acumen seems out of place considering how few movies she’s been in. Strange stuff. The two actors are really the only thing this movie will have going for it likely.)

Also stars Paul Freeman – (Previously in BMT future HoFer Getaway and Double Team)

Budget/Gross – $17 million / Domestic: $2,315,683

(Wow. What a complete unmitigated disaster. That boxoffice doesn’t even really make sense. Then again, I had literally never heard of this film that appears to be considered one of the worst films of the 80s, so maybe just no one has ever seen it?)

#44 for the Off-Screen Couples On-Screen genre: Movies with Real Life Romance Between Lead Actors at the Time of Release or Shortly Before

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(Huh, the waves don’t really make sense to me. Maybe we follow certain couples until they stop making movies (see Brangelina) and then it takes a few years to find the hot new couples? I don’t know. Kind of funny how ubiquitous the movies have been through the years though. Indeed looking down the list of recent examples nearly all couples are now broken up.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 13% (1/8): No consensus yet.

(Uh oh, time to make a consensus: Madonna’s incompetence gave her an acting reputation she’s never shaken, all for a movie that appears to function solely as a vehicle to star the real-life couple as a novelty. The consensus seems a little scattered, but there is little anyone said about it that was good.)

Poster – Sklogging Surprise (D+)

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(I don’t like this poster. It is way way way too close in on Penn and Madonna. It is merely a shot from the movie (you can see it in the trailer). The red words are too bright atop the soft focus blues elsewhere. Why the plus? That’s sweet S on that Shanghai Surprise. Just complex enough that Sklogging Surprise would be a delight to produce (in that I wouldn’t need to change the S and it would make the title look snazzy). But what would it be? Soft focus Patrick kissing his wife? You would barely be able to tell I did anything! Boring.)

Tagline(s) – A romantic adventure for the dangerous at heart. (F)

(What in the hell? For the “dangerous at heart”? Is that a phrase? The answer is no. In fact, the only other time it appears in google searches is for a 1994 book of that very title. Here’s the synopsis of said books: Life was the pits for Rachel Hart. Single and pregnant, at least she’d had the good sense not to marry the no-good father of her child! Things couldn’t get worse, she assured herself. Then her ex-fiance turned up dead. And Rachel was the prime suspect… Big-city cop Delaney Parker didn’t fancy working undercover in this two-bit town. He liked even less getting involved with beautiful, sexy Rachel – she aroused his feelings as a man, a lover and a substitute daddy. Del was in over his head… he had to remember he was a cop first. But could he really send a pregnant woman to jail? You’re welcome. That’s an F.)

Keyword(s) – china; Top Ten by BMeTric: 59.6 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008); 49.8 Independence Day: Resurgence (2016); 48.2 The Man with the Iron Fists (2012); 47.9 Chandni Chowk to China (2009); 47.9 Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003); 46.2 Blackhat (2015); 46.1 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007); 43.2 Babylon A.D. (2008); 42.6 Shanghai Surprise (1986); 42.4 Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014);

(Methinks this list will be growing in the future with the growth of the Chinese market in determining the profits of Hollywood films. Transformers 4 is a perfect example of this. Something like Pacific Rim 2 and Need For Speed 2 could easily enter this list with a few missteps.)

Notes – Apparently, after principal photography wrapped, executive producer George Harrison allegedly said of lead stars Madonna and Sean Penn: “Penn is a pain the ass . . . [whilst] she has to realize that you can be a fabulous person and be humble as well”. (Brutal George, although I assume this is mostly him being a bit bitter about the inevitable financial loss of the film)

Ex-Beatle and executive producer George Harrison performs five songs on the movie’s soundtrack. (And apparently this is the only bright spot in the movie)

Lead stars Madonna and Sean Penn were married at the time the movie was made and released.

Awards – Won the Razzie Award for Worst Actress (Madonna)

Nominated for the Razzie Award for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Sean Penn), Worst Director (Jim Goddard), Worst Screenplay (John Kohn, Robert Bentley), and Worst Original Song (George Harrison)

The Choice Recap

Jamie

This week was our Romance category, and nothing screams Romance like Nicholas Sparks’ instant classic The Choice! The Choice presents an interesting case for the based-on-a-book cycle. This is primarily because I found the book to be somewhat offensive. And not even in the hyperbolical sense (like “the editing in The Choice offended me”). It was truly offensive. For those who haven’t read the book, the plot isn’t too far off from the film: boy meets girl, girl has boyfriend, they fall in love, she leaves boyfriend, they get married, there is an accident, the boy must make a choice regarding whether to take the girl off life support. Thus the title The Choice. Now all this would simply be incredibly sad if this choice had to be made because Travis and Gabby (our main characters) had not thought through the situation in advance (which would be pretty common given how young they are). With no advance directives laid out, Travis would have a gut wrenching decision to make regarding the woman he loves. Is he ready to let her go given the quality of life that she would endure otherwise? Here’s the rub though: she did have an advance directive. She signed, with Travis and a lawyer witnessing, an advance directive stating that she wished to be taken off life-support in the event that she was in a coma for more than 120 days. So the choice is actually whether he is going to follow her advance directive… … … and he chooses not to. I understand that this is an incredibly tough decision, but ignoring an advance directive and going against Gabby’s wishes… that’s not right. That’s the wrong choice. I’m sorry. It is. It was her (and their) choice and they made it together and then he disregarded it. And then for Sparks to have the gall to have Gabby come out of the coma and imply to the reader that Travis made the correct choice is even worse. It’s offensive. Straight up. It’s all a little less offensive in the film for two reasons: 1. The movie is poorly told and edited, so the offense in question is actually kind of hard to grasp. I don’t think this is on purpose, but it softened it a bit nonetheless. 2. They seemed a bit more aware of the problem. There was a particular scene where Travis’ dad (a vet) decides that he is going to buy a new lizard for a little girl  whose pet has died and pretend that it lived by some miracle, instead of breaking the bad news to her. It’s almost a metareference to the entire story, “Yeah, here’s a miraculous story of Gabby coming out of the coma (when we know that the truth is much harder and harsher a reality). But it’s nicer for you sweet, naive audience.” As you can probably tell I had OPINIONS about the adaptation.

Alright, well this can hardly be judged for Settings 101, but here it goes anyway. Everyone everywhere always knows that this book/film is set in North Carolina. Why? Because it’s a Nicholas Sparks book, duh. They are all set in North Carolina. Like Phantoms, though, they don’t really go out of their way to mention it much. Fortunately for The Choice it has a few things going for it: 1. License plates confirmed the location. 2. It was shot on location in the actual setting of Wilmington, N.C. so the restaurant and beaches and stuff are well known Wilmington landmarks (!). 2. Gabby is from Charleston and we see Travis drive there (passing a Welcome to South Carolina sign no less) along the coast, so realistically they can only either be in North Carolina or Georgia. All adds to a C. Now normally for a film that only definitively proves its location through license plates and the like you would be in the D range, but come on! They filmed in the small coastal town where the book took place! That’s kind of crazy. Gotta bump that up to a C.

Patrick

Olá a todos! That’s right, I was on holiday (as they say) in Portugal for the week and naturally I carved out some time to watch The Choice (more like … My Choice is Nope! (?) I’m not sure, there isn’t a good rhyme [EDIT: My brother pointed out that using the version of nice pronounced like noice you could get something like “The Choice?! More like Not Noice!”, it is pretty good. Better than the garbage I put out into the world. Thanks bro]) … not really, I watched it when I got back. And I must say, let’s get into it.

  • The Good – Huh, the main woman was kind of cute in a I-Can’t-Quite-Figure-Out-How-To-Do-An-American-Accent-Properly kind of way, so that’s nice for a rom dram. The scenery was unbelievable, really putting NC right up and center. Fighting the good fight in showing how the 1% are just like us, you know? (Seriously though, everyone in this movie was quietly and absurdly wealthy and they almost conspicuously don’t mention it).
  • The Bad – The main guy looks like a cartoon, in such a way that he could only ever exist in Civil War movies (jelly much Patrick? Whatever, he looks like a cartoon). The movie is pretty dull. The ending is absurd (you don’t just shake off a 100 day coma lady, c’mon!). The movie is 20 minutes too long. Both main actors are terrible. If I could freeze this movie in a time capsule I would as a testament to “this is what a bad romantic drama is”. The perfect ending to Nicholas Sparks’ production company I must say.
  • The BMT – Hell yeah. This movie is crazy bad and there is one scene that kind of saves it for me (think motorcycle ride in the rain ending with a singing church scene, it is amazing). But if someone said let’s watch this and make fun of it I would definitely do it … for an hour and then tell them to stop because it isn’t worth it at that point.

Phew. I did have opinions. Major opinions. I’ve felt like my responses have gotten a bit stale over the past few weeks so I’m going to go back to Sequel Prequel Remake and then start mulling over some new games when Jamie goes on vacation. Here I think we definitely need a Prequel where we see Travis just smashing it in NC for a summer. Fresh out of college you see him rebel a bit against his father’s dreams for him as a vet. He buys a boat, buys a sweet adirondack chair and makes a life promise with his best buds that they’ll never get married! But oh, a blast from the past as his old high school squeeze blows in threatening to derail all of the summer shenanigans for the newly minted graduates. Can this sleek southern gentleman juggle his friends, his summer plans, and his heart?! The Choice 2: Summer Fling. There is definitely some southern dreamboat on the CW who would kill in this role.

Obrigado,

The Sklogs

The Choice Preview

This week is the Romance category. Usually we look for a RomCom, but in based-on-a-book there is only one possible choice and his name is Nicholas Sparks. Given that we are already a little behind on the (admittedly mediocre) crop of 2016 films, it seemed appropriate to go for the latest (and last?) Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Choice. I know little about the film other than the certainty that it could not possibly live up to the insanity of Safe Haven (with it’s spooky gh-gh-gh-ghost), but let’s hope it tries its best. It’s weird too, cause if you look at the cast I know a lot more of the side actors (Maggie Grace, Tom Welling, Tom Wilkinson, Alexandra Daddario) than either of the stars (Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker). Seriously, how did they get Daddario to be in this as a super minor character? Let’s go!

The Choice (2016) – BMeTric: 10.1

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(Let that ratings plot sink in for a second. There was the initial plateau in which the movie reached just about the IMDb average of 6.3 which already seems high, but whatever. Then, when the DVD comes out, the votes spike and … the rating goes up! People are rating this movie a 7+! It stands at 6.5 at the moment, but this is straight up nonsense I feel like. Warcraft-esque in never being able to represent the actual quality of the films. Oh IMDb, why you got to be so bad with recent films?)

RogerEbert.com – 1.5 stars –  You, too, have a choice to make while looking for diversions this weekend. Unless you desperately want to hear the football term “take a knee” associated with a marriage proposal, seeing “The Choice” should probably not be on the list.

(What a weird thing to nitpick. Did it really bother you that much that they used that football term during a proposal? Stretching too hard to be clever here.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3igwHv6Msjo

(I felt like I was getting whiplash from that trailer. So many cuts and so many things happening. I’m not sure I understood the plot at all and in particular what choice must be made by the characters. They also gave away what is supposed to be the “twist” in the book, so… Spoiler alert. You know, if you cared.)

Directors – Ross Katz – (Known For: Adult Beginners; BMT: The Choice; Notes: Nominated for two Oscars as a Producer for Lost in Translation and In the Bedroom. More recently turned to directing.)

Writers – Bryan Sipe (screenplay) – (Known For: Demolition; BMT: The Choice; Notes: Worked to get Demolition made for more than 6 years. It was also released this year.)

Nicholas Sparks (novel) – (Known For: The Notebook; BMT: The Last Song; Nights in Rodanthe; Message in a Bottle; Dear John; The Lucky One; Safe Haven (BMT); The Choice; The Best of Me; The Longest Ride; A Walk to Remember; Notes: His films have been in box office decline the last few years (his last three are the lowest grossing of all 11 adaptations) and unsurprisingly shuttered his production company last month.)

Actors – Benjamin Walker – (Known For: In the Heart of the Sea; Flags of Our Fathers; The Notorious Bettie Page; Kinsey; BMT: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; The Choice; Notes: Started his career as a stand-up comic. Turned down the role of Beast in X-men: First Class in order to star as Andrew Jackson on Broadway in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.)

Teresa Palmer – (Known For: Lights Out; Triple 9; Knight of Cups; Warm Bodies; The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Wolf Creek; December Boys; Wish You Were Here; BMT: The Grudge 2; Point Break; I Am Number Four (BMT); Bedtime Stories; Kill Me Three Times; Love and Honor; Take Me Home Tonight; Cut Bank; The Choice; Notes: Was supposed to star in Jumper (one of the early early BMT films), but was replaced by Rachel Bilson before filming began.)

Also stars Maggie Grace (recent star of The Fog 2005).

Budget/Gross – $10 million / $19 million

(Has the 72nd worst opening ever for a film released in 2500+ theaters. It came in just worse than Everyone’s Hero(!). That animated film about a talking baseball bat? What?! You lost to a film about a talking baseball bat? No wonder Sparks shuttered his production company.)

#72 for Romantic Dramas

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(Wow, look at that mid-2000’s collapse! I think it has to do with a couple bombs in a row, but it could easily be that some other genre was sapping things up. Everyone knows that the trough there is the true heyday of bad movies! The dizzying heights we live in now I think is the result of micro-budget film companies. But it is hard to tell. To put all of this in perspective there was a single romdram in 2006, and in 2016 there has been four already so far (9 last year, 12 the year before, it is slowing down). All very interesting. Especially how consistently profitable the genre has been through thick and thin.)

It is also 11/11 for Nicholas Sparks movies on box office mojo.

Rotten Tomatoes – 12% (9/73): Like the 10 Nicholas Sparks movies before it, The Choice finds tragedy striking star-crossed lovers in the sun-dappled South — yet even for those who loved its predecessors, this gauzy melodrama may feel painfully formulaic.

(Really? Considering I’ve already read the book for this one I have to say: this is probably a horrible consensus. I’m sure it doesn’t score a 12% by just being a bit too formulaic.)

Poster – From the Best-Selling Author of The Sklogbook and Sklogwagon … The Sklog (D+)

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(While this poster is the worst, I couldn’t totally pan it because I actually think the color tone is surprisingly pleasant. Unfortunately that zoom is bizarre, the text font is too simple, and the spacing on the poster is not working for me.)

Tagline(s) – Let your heart decide. (D)

(Cool story, bro.)

Keyword(s) – lawn chair; Top Ten by BMeTric: 41.5 A Dirty Shame (2004); 36.4 Track of the Moon Beast (1976); 30.5 See Spot Run (2001); 19.2 Swing Vote (2008); 16.4 Hail, Caesar! (2016); 9.9 The Choice (I) (2016); 9.8 Jodi No.1 (2001); 9.0 Snowtown (2011); 6.3 Desert Blue (1998); 5.8 All Over the Guy (2001);

(An inaugural entry into the booming lawn-chair genre! I don’t know how the hell this is the top keyword for this film. It makes no sense. But I look forward to finding out. I’m also incredibly intrigued by the 1976 flick Track of the Moon Beast. A BMeTric of 36.4 is incredible for such an old movie. It was a Mystery Science Theater film, which pretty much explains that I suppose. Lawn chair has to be a joke keyword. But what kind of sick weirdos find making a mockery of IMDb’s prestigious keyword system funny?)

Notes – Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood, was originally cast in this film but was replaced by Tom Welling. Eastwood ended up starring instead in The Longest Ride (2015), another Sparks adaptation, which came out in April 10, 2015.

The Choice (2016) is Nicholas Sparks’ eleventh book made into a movie. (I threw up in my mouth, but was kind of happy too, you know?)

Second film where Tom Welling and Maggie Grace co-star. The first was The Fog (2005). (Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes)

This is the first Nicholas Sparks adapted film where no character (whether they’re main or supporting) dies by the end of the movie.

Material Girls Preview

You know we need a clean slate after a terrible film like The Fog. Just gotta pick something that’s not too bad and not too good. Just middle of the road… … … JK! We are watching Material Girls starring Hilary and Haylie Duff! A Girls Night Out travesty sure to destroy our will to live. The Calendar cycle is truly a wonderland of BMT Street Cred. This film was released on August 18th and beat out the likes of Mortal Kombat and Accepted to hold the spot for that day. The fact that it was actually released is a minor miracle in itself (and in 1500 theaters no less). Let’s go!

Material Girls (2006) – BMeTric: 68.3

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(The rating plot for this is unbelievable. So unbelievable I had to do an entire BMT:CSI:SVU (We’re the Special Victims) on it. To add a bit to that post: First, I find the votes/rating trajectory interesting for another reason, it has that distinctive 2011 inflection point in the IMDb votes. But not only that, it has the same inflection in the ratings plot and the BMeTric plot! You can’t move that rating without votes, so it makes sense, but I think that is a first and kind of an amazing example of regression to the mean and how IMDb likely expanded their user base around 2011. Second, the fact that this almost has a 70+ is absurd. The Calendar just keeps on giving street cred, thanks Calendar.)

Leonard Maltin – 2 stars –  Two spoiled cosmetics industry heiresses lose their money after a controversy involving face cream and a disfiguring skin disease. Forced to suffer indignities like riding the bus and wearing last year’s fashions, they eventually learn the value of hard work and fight to reclaim their company’s reputation. This movie glorifies the “high life” while praising its heroines for transcending it. Filled with absurdities, but fast paced, colorful, and painless.

(Two stars!? Color me shocked. I love how Leonard goes to this length to critique a film like Material Girls, especially when he takes umbrage with the hypocrisy of the plot. It’s Material Girls Leonard. I don’t think they cared. Also a note: this plot is hilariously similar to that of Catwoman starring Halle Berry. [Patrick’s Note: TWO STARS?!?!])

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT_mqkj9ht4

(We will see if this trailer lasts. There was another one which was apparently taken down or something. Oh yeah, this movie looks like a non-movie and awful and I do not look forward to this viewing experience.)

Directors – Martha Coolidge – (Known For: Real Genius; Valley Girl; Rambling Rose; BMT: Material Girls; The Prince and Me; Out to Sea; Angie; Notes: Saaaaay Whaaaat? Real Genius for reals? She was the first female president of the DGA.)

Writers – John Quaintance (written by) – (Known For: Aquamarine; BMT: Material Girls; Hot Pursuit; Notes: Showrunner in television. Executive produced Whitney, Ben and Kate, Undateable, and Workaholics.)

Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin (written by) – (BMT: Material Girls; Notes: Writing partners, most of their credits are for An American Girl stories. Co-executive producers of the shows Selfie and Jane the Virgin.)

Actors – Hilary Duff – (Known For: The Lizzie McGuire Movie; Playing by Heart; Human Nature; Bloodworth; BMT: Material Girls; Agent Cody Banks; Cheaper by the Dozen 2; The Perfect Man; Cheaper by the Dozen (BMT); War, Inc.; A Cinderella Story; Raise Your Voice (Seen in); Stay Cool; What Goes Up (BMT); Notes: Nominated for the Razzie Award in 2007 for Worst Actress and Screen Couple (Material Girls), Nominated for the Razzie Award in 2006 for Worst Actress (Cheaper by the Dozen 2, The Perfect Man), Nominated for the Razzie Award in 2005 for Worst Actress (A Cinderella Story, Raise Your Voice). Former Disney star and also a musician. Currently on the show Younger.)

Haylie Duff – (Known For: Napoleon Dynamite; The Lizzie McGuire Movie; BMT: Material Girls; I Love Your Work; Notes: Nominated for the Razzie Award in 2007 for Worst Actress and Screen Couple (Material Girls). Currently does a lot in cooking with a blog, television show, and book called Real Girl’s Kitchen.)

Also stars Anjelica Huston as the eeeeeevil Fabiella (I assume she’s the bad guy)

Budget/Gross – $15 million / Domestic: $11,449,638 (Worldwide: $16,907,725 Worldwide)

#22 for the Summer Girl Power genre – Late Summer (July/August) Girlpower. Ever since Clueless, appealing to the young female audience in July and August has proved quite profitable.

summergirlpowerAnalysis

(Funny that it almost made its money back domestically despite being a gigantic bomb. Not the worst “Summer Girl Power” film of all time. That would be Undiscovered starring Ashlee Simpson which we are definitely watching for BMT. That looks like the worst. Yay! Once again though we are looking at a film in a “dying genre”. Whether this is with how boxofficemojo defines genres there hasn’t been a summer girl power movie since 2010 and this movie appears at the tail end of its existence (sorry for how the plot looks, there are just not than many summer girl power movies so it gets a little jumpy). My guess is that “girl power” movies now tends to come out later, think Hunger Games, but they were amazingly and consistently profitable for a while there.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 4% (2/54): Plagued by paper-thin characterizations and a hackneyed script, Material Girls fails to live up to even the minimum standards of its genre.

(You mean the minimum standards of the “Summer Girl Power” genre? This is truly one of the lowest reviewed films of the 2000’s probably.)

Poster – Double Trouble (D-)

material_girls

(There are four rules of thumb for posters: don’t use white as the principal color, don’t feature people without artistic modification, employ some symmetry, and jazz up the font. This (nearly) fails all of them. On top of this, the Duff sisters are on the poster twice(!). It’s like Shaq in the Steel poster (unlikely connection). Only didn’t get an F because of the lipstick “I” in the title.)

Tagline(s) – It’s A Short Trip From The Penthouse To The Poorhouse. (C-)

(… … Oh sorry, I fell asleep while reading that tagline. Too long, needs to be more clever, and needs another “p” word to get some nice alliteration pop.)

Notes – Written for Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen. (Obviously)

This is the first film that both Hilary Duff and Haylie Duff are in together. (Obviously)

Hilary improvised many lines and moments in the film, Coolidge noted on the DVD commentary. Among others, Hilary came up with the Lucy walk when the girls are dressed up as Sassy maids and added the reference to women having their own buses in Japan when the sisters are riding the public transit on the spot. (Can. Not. Wait. To listen to the commentary)

Based on Sense and Sensibility, a novel by Jane Austen. (“Based” might be a strong word here)

Awards

Nominated Razzie Award Worst Actress Hilary Duff Haylie Duff

Nominated Razzie Award Worst Screen Couple Hilary Duff Haylie Duff

Down to You Recap

Jamie

Was there some fad in the early 2000s that I don’t remember where romance films eschewed the typical “meet cute” device in favor of a super earnest “we were always meant for each other even if we didn’t always know it but we still kinda knew it” device? Why do I ask? Because Down to You and Here on Earth are essentially the same movie and were released within weeks of each other. I’m not saying that Down to You is as good a BMT film as Here on Earth. That would be impossible. Here on Earth is a unique star in the BMTverse that shines with no comparison. But it feels the same. So if there wasn’t some earnest teen romance film fad, then I like to think they this is some bizarre example of a twin film scenario. Like Deep Impact and Armageddon or White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen. As if Miramax heard that Fox was putting Here on Earth into production and Harvey screamed at his assistant, “Get Freddie on the phone, we’re making a movie,” while dusting off an old script of Here on Earth he had lying around and grabbing the closest intern to be the director. They even play the same god damned song in the middle of the movie! You know, the song that plays when Chris Klein is dancing in the barn before drunkenly crashing the fair… what am I saying, obviously you remember it. That’s all my mind was able to focus on while watching the film… it was just so similar. And yet, it wasn’t nearly the BMT film that Here on Earth was. Felt a little in on the joke… which makes sense, it’s a comedy after all.

Quick game for me. This film was not based on a book. Strangely, though, Stiles is a book cover artist in the film and in the end gives Freddie a book called Down to You that she illustrated. So what was that book about? My guess? It’s the story of an endless love between a girl and a boy who always and forever knew they were meant for each other. Life gets in the way, but they always find their way through. Yeah, she cheats on him and he can’t handle their drifting apart, but when all’s said and done they recognize their own faults and how they make each other better… Oh, and the book also stars Chris Klein and is the best and is actually called Here on Earth: the Book and it won the Pulitzer. Perfect.

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Down to You? More like Down on This Movie! And I was, let’s get into it.

  • The Good – I think I’ve said this every week in our one and done director cycle, but passion. The writer-director here had a vision (I think). He wasn’t that successful, but I appreciate it. See below for more details. I did appreciate that they shot it in NYC though. It was obviously NYC. It was so NYC it hurt.
  • The Bad – I don’t think I appreciated how not-good Freddie Prinze Jr. was as an actor until this movie. The movie was really kind of gross-weird in a gross-weird kind of way (you know?). The fact that the characters talk directly to the camera was just a horrible horrible (horrible) decision.
  • The BMT – What? Yes. I would give it a 50 on the BMeTric which is where it was really. It is a poor man’s Here on Earth. But who would be shocked? Freddie Prinze Jr. is a poor man’s Chris Klein (in BMT terms). Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Not sure.

One last thought on the film. Basically, I have the distinct feeling this movie was the director’s passion project. It is extremely reminiscent of Cusack films like One Crazy Summer. A little bit more drama (so maybe throw in a bit of Hughes for good measure), The main characters talked directly to the camera, it felt like a person telling their own story of their one great college romance (and how fleeting that can be and feel), and there is a strange surreal storyline woven throughout the film with Zak Orth as a porn auteur. And yet … the film kind of falls flat on its face throughout. Who to blame? Impossible to know. Perhaps seeing a young writer-director’s singular vision of a film just slo-motion explode is punishment enough, I don’t know. I think I’ll have to come back to this movie someday (ugh), just to really sort through things ….

Quick Sequel Prequel Remake, Sequel duh. Fast forward 16 years, the movie is called Down to Earth (I’m already excited about the potential Here on Earth, Down to Earth, Down to You trilogy!) and shows our protagonists struggling to rekindle the romance after ten years of marriage and two kids later. Hard drama. Revolutionary Road style, it comes out to rave reviews and snags both leading actor awards at the Oscars. One reviewer notes the “real pain behind Freddie Prinze Jr’s revelatory performance, … demanding your attention and admiration all at once”. First time writer-director Patrick Smadbeck was shut out of all major awards much to his chagrin. Bah, now I’m angry.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Down to You Preview

Alrighty girls, time to settle down with your boo and bust out that bottle of wine, because this week is a romantic … comedy? Drama? I actually can’t tell. Teen Romance. There it is, that is a genre, right? Anywho, BMT legend Freddie Prinze Jr., teen star legend Julia Stiles, and a one-off writer-director once got together and made what is apparently a truly baffling movie. There is a story here, I know there is!

Down to You (2000) – BMeTric: 46.7

DownToYou_BMeT

(Nice. Looking like it will just stay a shade under 50 BMeT for all of time. Congrats Down to You, you did it! Otherwise a pretty standard chart at this point. I am genuinely surprised at how high the BMeT is though, 45+ is still incredible.)

Leonard Maltin – BOMB –  Prinza and Stiles futilely try chumming us up by speaking directly into the camera, explaining how their once-idyllic college romance went bust (though not as bust as the movie). Somehow, this manages to find room for subplots about a TV cooking show (hosted by Winkler as Prinze’s dad) and a buddy who dabbles as an adult-movie entrepreneur with a kind of bohemian/intellectual porn actress. Numbingly inept comedy.

(Holy cow Maltin, BRUTAL. Buzzed right past passive aggressive and slid face first into straight-up aggressive! This movie is straight busted. The irony is just dripping off of that “somehow”, dirty. And the closer. So succinct and just soul destroying. I’m obsessed with this review for some reason, he just murders this film.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdnZYsDOxfI

(That looks like the 90s alright. Really just sickly sweet stuff. Cannot wait to sit down with my boo and watch that. I hope they get together in the end!)

Directors – Kris Isacsson – (BMT: Down to You; Notes: see below)

Writers – Kris Isacsson (written by) – (BMT: Down to You; Notes: one-time director and writer? Uh, yes please. He is also an anomaly in that I can find very very little information about him. I think I found his twitter (~100 tweets, mostly retweets) and his instagram (~100 posts, nothing interesting). I don’t really know what happened to him. He did a few tv movies up through 2008, but nothing else on IMDb. There is a story here … [Jamie’s Note: Here’s a little bit of his background. Also here is a link to the short film he did that won a Sundance award.])

Actors – Freddie Prinze Jr. – (Known For: The House of Yes; Brooklyn Rules; BMT: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer; Scooby-Doo; Wing Commander (BMT); Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed; Happily N’Ever After; Summer Catch; Down to You; I Know What You Did Last Summer; Boys and Girls; Head Over Heels; She’s All That; Delgo; Notes: Best buds with BMT darling Matthew Lillard (in my dreams). Only son of late comedian Freddie Prinze. Now more known for his voice acting work, and was heavily involved with WWE for years. Nominated Razzie Award 2003 Worst Supporting Actor Scooby-Doo)

Julia Stiles – (Known For: 10 Things I Hate About You; Silver Linings Playbook; The Bourne Identity; The Bourne Ultimatum; The Bourne Supremacy; Save the Last Dance; O; Closed Circuit; State and Main; Hamlet; It’s a Disaster; Edmond; I Love You, I Love You Not; The Business of Strangers; BMT: Down to You; The Omen; A Guy Thing; The Prince and Me (BMT); Out of the Dark; Girl Most Likely; The Devil’s Own; Misconduct; Mona Lisa Smile; Notes: We saw her last in Prince and Me. Her filmography is incredible considering she hasn’t been a leading lady for years. A former vegan.)

Budget/Gross – $35 million / Domestic: $20,069,008 (Worldwide: $24,419,914 Worldwide)

#28 for Teen Romance (right above another Prinze gem, Summer Catch)

(Ooooooooof. First, how could this movie cost that much? I guess maybe the NYC setting and actors? And yes, this was actually shot in NYC according to IMDb. I suppose you expect a Prinze/Stiles film to do better, but first time writer-director? There is a story here, I feel it.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 3% (2/59): Down to You is ruined by a bland, by-the-numbers plot and an awful script.

(That is a spectacularly low score. Also, everything about this film screams “This person had no idea how to write or direct a film and yet was somehow given total control”. The question is why and how? My guess … we’ll never know.)

Poster – Hideous Purple Background (D-)

DownToYou

(I have a confession to make: I hate this poster. I hate how they are just kind of cut into it. I hate the background color and pattern. I hate the font and how easy it would be for me to change this into Down to Sklog with me and my dog Tolstoy hugging (and no, I didn’t do it … I was too busy, otherwise you’d be looking at my fake poster right this minute). Why isn’t it an F? Because I like Prinze and Stiles, so there.)

Tagline(s) – A new comedy about giving first love a second chance. (B-)

(Above average, you heard me right. First love. Second chance. I hate the “new comedy” bit, but I like the idea. And hey, as far as taglines goes there are far far far far far worse. Change that to “Sometimes first love needs a second chance” and you got a solid B.)

Notes – First time that Shawn Hatosy and Julia Stiles worked together. Later they would both join the cast of Dexter during Season 5. (cooooooooooool)