My Top 10 Guilty Pleasures
#7: Bloodsport (1988).
This is one of those movies I’m not ashamed to admit I like. In the 80’s, Jean-Claude Van Damme was at the height of his popularity, and Bloodsport was one of his biggest successes. In it, he plays Frank Dux, a U.S. Army member who abandons his unit to take part in the “Kumite,” the biggest and most deadly underground martial arts tournament in the world. The fact that Dux is a real person and the film is based on his own real-life experiences make it that much more enjoyable. It was interesting to see other martial artists from around the world showcase their own style of fighting here: there was muy thai kickboxing, karate, kung fu, there was even a character who showcased a “monkey” style of martial arts. Van Damme was his usual butt-kicking self; his acting didn’t require much of a stretch. He found himself faced against a great villain in Chong Li (Bolo Yeung), a ruthless and unrelenting fighter who would take his brutality way too far. The film didn’t need the requirement of a plot or well-rounded characters; action was what audiences were looking for, and action is what they got.
#6: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Forget It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or A Christmas Story (1983). As great as those two movies are, in my family’s household, The Muppet Christmas Carol has become our traditional holiday film. In it, the classic Jim Henson muppets play those classic Charles Dickens characters: Kermit the Frog as Mr. Cratchit, Gonzo as the narrator, Statler and Waldorf as the Marley Brothers, and so on. The center of the movie, however, is not a muppet, but a human. The film would not work if it weren’t for the great performance by Michael Caine, playing Ebenezer Scrooge. Here, he plays his role completely straight; he does not wink to the audience, letting us know that he is acting with muppets, but treats it as if he were performing with other actors, and as a result, the emotional transformation he undergoes is believable. The film is funny when it needs to be funny, emotional when it needs to be emotional, and surprisingly, dark when it needs to be dark. Sure, if you step back and realize you’re watching a bunch of stuffed animals acting like humans, it could be rather silly, but if you suspend your level of disbelief just a little bit (and perhaps more than that), the film can actually be pretty enjoyable.
#5: The Godfather, Part III (1990)
Was this film made nearly 15 years too late? Yes. Was it made for monetary reasons? Most likely. Was Sofia Coppola the worst actress in the film? Absolutely. Is it the worst of the three Godfather movies? Of course it is, how could it possibly be anywhere close? The first two are considered two of the greatest films ever made, even the director, Francis Ford Coppola, couldn’t possibly recapture the magic those two movies had again here. Despite its flaws, I feel The Godfather, Part III is a strong film, and a fitting end to the story of Michael Corleone. Here, we see the aging Don (played once again, magnificently, by Al Pacino) attempt to bring his family in to legitimate business. He has sold his casinos, prostitution, and gambling rackets off, and has attempted to align himself with the Catholic Church. However, he cannot escape the sins of his past, and the guilt over what he did to his brother, Fredo, in the previous film, haunt and punish him. At the same time, his nephew Vincent (Andy Garcia) risks forcing his hand back in to a life of crime. Pacino is in great form here, playing a man trying to keep everything together while his world is crumbling around him. Just look at the scene where he attempts to confess his sins, but loses his composure and breaks down. This scene alone can justify the existence of the film.
#4: Surf Ninjas (1993)
I recently re-watched Surf Ninjas not too long ago, and remembered how much I enjoyed it as a kid. This is a really hard film to defend: the comedy is corny, the plot is ludicrous, and the casting is questionable (Rob Schneider, Leslie Nielsen, and rapper Tone Loc, all in the same movie…really?), the list goes on and on. But for some reason, I found the film extremely easy and entertaining to watch, it’s one of those movies that knows what it’s doing, and goes for it one hundred percent. In it, actor and martial artist Ernie Reyes Jr. plays Johnny, an Asian-American surfer who is destined to save the island of Patu-San from the evil Colonel Chi (Nielsen), and take his place as the rightful heir to the throne. He is joined by his brother Adam (Nicolas Cowen), friend Iggy (Schneider), future wife Ro-May (Kelly Hu), and lead by the mysterious warrior Zatch, played by Ernie Reyes Jr.’s real-life father, Ernie, Sr. The Reyes men are real martial artists, they have a physic and athleticism that cannot be acted, but developed after a lifetime of training. The highlight of the film is the simple and silly way it presents its story: you can tell that the entire cast had a fun time making this movie, in how they throw themselves head first in to the ridiculousness of it all. As a result, we have a fun time watching it, despite how terrible it may actually be.