Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Recognition of a bad movie

Winter means indoor biking. I have never heard of an indoor cyclist who put forth minutes on the trainer without some form of entertainment. The techies will have one of those computer training programs linked between the bike and monitor. They have digital courses on screen and automatically adjust the trainer resistance to mimic hills. Feedback from the software will match power output and heart rate data by the second and they can re-watch the entire training session from the computers point of view.

Others of us are poor. Luckily, I have enough money to rent movies from one of those places that send movies in the mail. They have thousands of movies to choose from, most of which I have never heard of. I have an open mind and am willing to try new things. That's the culture of triathletes anyway. Despite the availability of movies on the system, I loathe spending the time to research the good movies from the bad. I have been known to randomly pick films based on the site's recommendations. My queue currently lists over 80 titles and I haven't logged on for a few months now. Many of those I selected last winter and just haven't watched yet. I am often surprised when a new movie shows up. I don't remember picking it. Doesn't matter. The trainer awaits and the movie will be watched. Through experiential analysis, I have learned to immediately tell the difference between a good movie and a bad one before pushing play (again, I will still be watching it). I shall impart this knowledge upon you.

How can you tell if you rented a bad movie before you start watching? Here are some clues...

1. There is no studio disclaimer. The views and comments blah blah blah expressed are not necessarily blah blah blah representative of the studio, workers, or its parent company. As if we really thought that the mental spewing of the actors or producers matched that of the CEO of Universal studios, let alone those of the staff working at NBC (the parent company of Universal, in case you didn't know).

2. There are no previews. You put the disk in the player and the first thing that pops up is the main menu. There's a reason that previews start playing without any additional work from you. Hollywood is all about attention and self-promotion. No need to waste 10 minutes advertising movies on a film that no one will watch anyway.

3. Lack of subtitles. Most (not all) major movies will have paid someone to type up the script, watch the movie, and graphically place the words synchronized with spoken language. Some will even incur the additional expense of translating the movie into other languages like Spanish, French, or Swahili. Bad movies, typically, won't bother.

4. Read the description. If the words 'scantily clad', 'bikini warrior', or 'Kevin Costner' show up, there's a high probability that the movie is bad. The latter will not actually get watched.

5. Straight to DVD sales. That's right. Some movies were so bad that the studio didn't even bother watching them, let alone attempt to put them on the big screen. However, since they spent money making the movie, the studio tries to make up a budget deficit by copying it to a DVD and selling it for cheap. Most movie-affectionados won't buy this movie for themselves. They tend to purchase these movies for friends and family, mostly those that they don't like too much but are obligated to gift anyway.

6. Low to non-existent special features. Look at the main menu. It generally has at least Play Movie, Set-Up, Scene Selection and Special Features options. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes action not shown in the movie. The stars and the director have quips that you need to hear. The costume person has a talent for accurate designs. There's so much more to learn about the era. Special features not there-indicative that the director wasted his entire <coughing> "talent" on the movie or that the studio didn't give them an extra $15 for additional film. 

I am interested growing my bad-movie-sighting skills. Any suggestions?


  1. I decided to apply your test. I'm pretty sure "scantily clad," "bikini warrior," and "Kevin Costner" all appear in the Waterworld description. Your case is rock solid.

  2. I'm not much on movies, but I do enjoy the commentaries. Bad movie sign...when even the previews can't make it sound interesting. Typically I watch whatever my husband or kids pick out. At least I get to choose my own books.

  3. It has actors whose names you recognize, but cannot remember anything they were in. Or they were in a movie/tv show so long ago that they can now only make money in the direct-to-dvd market.

    Cover art is cheesy and/or evidently low budget. Name can also be in this category. There's a movie on Netflix (Canada) that's called Thankskilling and I'm pretty sure the cover art is a turkey holding a knife...