There are good movies and there are bad movies. And then there are bad movies that are way too much fun to turn off. Guilty pleasures. Movies that, no matter how quickly I’m channel surfing, I just have to stop and watch. Here’s my top three:
“Road House” – Between “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” lies “Road House.” Patrick Swayze (who my wife still mourns) plays Dalton, a celebrated bouncer who bounces from tough bar to tougher bar, keeping the peace with his sidekick, Garrett (Sam Elliott, who does “grizzled” better than anybody). Pluses: The aforementioned Elliott. Old time actor Ben Gazzara chewing up the scenery as bad guy Wesley, who runs the town with a Snidely Whiplash sneer. Blind blues legend Jeff Healey as front man for the house band. Lines like, “I thought you’d be bigger” (used as a running gag), and Dalton’s instructions to his staff, “I want you to be nice. Until it’s time not to be nice.” Minuses: Everything else.
“The Quick and the Dead” – Full disclosure: I love Westerns. Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones. They don’t make enough of them. “The Quick and the Dead” makes “Road House” look like an Oscar-winner. It stars Sharon Stone, arguably the most wooden actress of her generation, looking hot in black hat and matching chaps. This is a one-note film, with Stone as gunslinger Ellen, out for revenge in a dingy backwater prairie town, squaring off in an endless series of quick-draw duels with the dregs of humanity. Pluses: Old time actor Gene Hackman chewing up the scenery as bad guy Herod, who runs the town with a Snidely Whiplash sneer. (Do you see a pattern here?) Famous actors Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio and Gary Sinise before they were famous. Director Sam Raimi’s affectionate, extreme close-up tribute to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Minuses: Everything else.
“Starship Troopers” – Part sci-fi war movie, part heavy-handed social satire, “Starship Troopers” is beyond stupid. Based on the book by Robert A. Heinlein (probably turning over in his grave), it features the most photogenic cast in recent memory – Denise Richards, Dina Meyer and Caspar Van Dien, among others – exactly the type of soldiers you’d expect to see in a protracted space battle with giant alien insects. The film’s fatal flaw is the premise itself. In a futuristic world where space travel is a reality, why on earth would you send troops down onto hostile planets to face certain death? Why not just vaporize the planets from high above? Of course, if they took my advice, the movie would last five minutes. Pluses: Denise Richards in her prime. Fantastic special effects, especially the Alamo-like last stand on a forgotten outpost planet. The shower scene (see “fantastic special effects” above.) Always reliable sci-fi stalwart Michael Ironside (“Scanners,” “Total Recall”). Minuses: Everything else.