Welcome to Four Horsemen Films!

Here at Four Horsemen Films, we're dedicated to some of the very best and worst cinematic masterpieces you know, love, and despise. Think of us as Bad Movies for Bad People, or as a liaison to the inner sanctum of cinema. Or, just think of us as quick and entertaining reads. That's what Four Horsemen Films is all about.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fatty Drives the Bus (1999)

Fatty Drives the Bus (1999)

Written By: Mick Napier

Directed By: Mick Napier

Starring: Scot Robinson, Joe Bill, Ken Manthey, Dave Adler, Mike Coleman, Susan Messing

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
When I originally posted the poll to determine just what films would make it into reader request month, I thought including this Tromatic-gem (that’s right, it’s a Troma Team Release all over again) would be taken more as a joke and would bottom out in the voting. Thanks, everyone, for once again proving me wrong and making me review a movie that, by all accounts, should be totally unwatchable.

That said, Fatty Drives the Bus is the kind of movie that you can take something away from. Forget about the multi-million dollar success flicks you’ve seen in the past or plan to see soon. In fact, scrap all movies that both the Academy and the MPAA recommend. If you get the chance, take a seat, present an open mind, and be delighted at the wonder that is Fatty Drives the Bus.

This movie features no actors you’ve ever really heard of. Director Mick Napier’s other screen credits include: NOT A GOD DAMN THING. He’s done veritably nothing with a few writing credits on television shows not even the purest fans would watch. And, if that’s not enough, and as if you couldn’t feel anymore detached from this film from the onset, you get one of the most absurd and outstanding (as in out standing in the rain) plots in the history of cinema. Picture this: Satan sits in his lair, assuming that this day is just like any other. However, when he is informed that a bus full of tourists that was supposed to crash in Chicago has had its course altered because Jesus is in town, he becomes enraged and decides to pay a personal visit to the surface disguised as the bus tour guide. Jesus hears of this news and attempts to thwart the demon’s crusade towards annihilation throughout the course of the day. If that doesn’t sell you, stop reading right now.

Though I could spend all day telling you in detail about the passengers, rest assured that there is not a single character someone could not either identify with or pray gets smashed to bits by the climax. We’ve got a broken down scientist who worked on experiments with puppies, a pair of blissfully negligent parents, the world’s most abusive mother and her emotionally unprepared daughter as well as their cross-dressing girlfriend, a pair of post-modern schlock artists in it for their kicks, and, in case I neglected to mention anyone pivotal the whole shebang, a duo of guys who are optimistically idiotic. I tell you now, a stage adaptation leaves room for nearly a dozen desirable parts.

Anyway, the majority of the 90-minute movie is spent with sight gags, overdone jokes, and terrible filmmaking played intentionally for laughs. Seriously, this movie is about as low budget as it gets, complete with Ed Wood-esque re-cuts, reuse of footage, and visible crew or equipment. As the movie ambles all across the Windy City (literally, we get to see a great depiction of Chicago), we begin to wonder just what hand fate has dealt these souls that Satan is attempting to fill his quota with. Once we have a final confrontation brewing, the literal unthinkable happens.

Yes, Jesus and Satan do meet up just moments before imminent doom, and sit down to a friendly game of chess. The final five minutes of the movie interpret not only the outcome of the game, but the entirety of existence both fictional and non-fictional. Rather than spoil the whole damn thing for you, I’d rather allow you to sit back and enjoy this surprise twist with a keen sense of understanding and recollection that sometimes, this is what makes B-movies worth watching: they try harder, and are terribly charming all around.

Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: None. I refuse to acknowledge that given how poor everything was (and was intended to be) in this movie that anyone did their job any worse than anyone else. If anything, all members should be rewarded with promotions. BIG FAT PROMOTIONS.

Best Name in the Cast: Not that any name stands out here either, but just for argument’s sake, Matt Walsh does make an appearance in this movie before moving on to a career playing bit parts in almost all of the “Frat Pack” films. I guess that’s an accomplishment, right?

Quote of the Film: For the first time ever, we have a two-way tie!
“Good Morning, Satan! Want a donut?” -Jim, Satan’s humble assistant
“You know, most people fly to Heaven. But Fatty, he drives the bus.” -The Narrator

Final Thoughts: This review is shorter than most, and with good reason. I can’t review this movie with any serious analysis to speak of. Simply put, it’s a light and frothy romp through the inner city with a surprise moral hiding in the outskirts of the plot that lunges forward just when things can’t get anymore outrageous. Fatty Drives the Bus is the kind of movie you can watch over and over again and not get sick of the style it is made in. If the biggest directors in the world saw this movie, they’d react just like the normal folks in the crowd do. A simple tip of the cap and appreciation that, no matter how bad it may be, you can make a movie this well (or unwell) too. Without anything really witty to end on, I’d like to reiterate that “most people fly to Heaven. But Fatty, he drives the bus.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flash Gordon (1980)

Flash Gordon (1980)

Written By: Lorenzo Semple, Jr.

Directed By: Mike Hodges

Starring: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max Von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde

Country of Origin: United States of America (though based upon the cast, you could guess any country in Europe and be spot on)

The Idea:
When the voting procedures completed and all votes were tallied, I was surprised to see that you requested a review (in larger than expected numbers) of Flash Gordon. I’ve reviewed campy films before, some of which became camp fodder years after their original release. Night of the Demons, Sleepaway Camp, and Batman & Robin fall into the category of better known reviews, while certain pictures, like The Toxic Avenger and Leprechaun 4: In Space, fall by the wayside when we observe their camp value on this site. Now that I’ve provided you with links to many classic examples of “so bad its good” films, you should be well versed in what you’re looking at with my dilemma on Flash Gordon.

When it was proposed, produced, filmed and released, Flash Gordon pulled no punches about its cinematic purpose: it was intentionally campy and was made as such to hark back to the days of the comic strip it was printed on as well as more classical examples of science fiction. Though we’ll examine old school pictures like that in our December lecture series, we could easily have seen Flash Gordon as one of those movies despite its release date occurring several years after those movies. The tribute and parody we’ll see in this movie create quite the impossible task: reviewing a movie that could easily be summed up as “intentionally bad.” If you’re content with that estimation, stop reading right now. If not, I humbly implore you to continue reading as we delve into the cinematic synopsis of Flash Gordon.

From start to finish, Flash Gordon is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most over-the-top exhibition of science fiction/fantasy flicks in the history of motion pictures. Despite any other films that claim (or even appear) otherwise, this is the patron saint of bad, campy movies. Within the first five minutes of the picture, we, the objective viewer having never heard or seen anything related to this Flash character or his escapades, are bombarded by comic strip flashbacks and ripping chords from Queen. Hey, we even get to see bright switchboards that flicker faster than you can say epilepsy with phrases such as “Hot Hail” on them. I question, and in fact, defy you to explain what purpose an evil genius could have with HOT FUCKING HAIL. If it’s hot, it isn’t hail. It would melt and thus this precipitation would be rain. HOT RAIN. Hot hail seems to more imply that a volcano is just dispersing with a new form of heated snow, but I digress.

Moving to our actual plot and series of events that we call a movie, title character and avid self-promoter Flash Gordon (whose shirt also says Flash in case you somehow didn’t remember his god damn name) is, through a series of strange and bizarre events, transported to the base of Ming the Merciless in outer space with his associates. Not surprisingly, Ming intends to build from his home planet of Mongo (what a name for a planet, by the way) where he is emperor onto the universe. Earth, the next planet in his path of world domination, has been somewhat of a spot of bother and its up to Flash Gordon to save the world. Thankfully, Flash is in great shape to tackle the job, as he was doubling as quarterback for the New York Jets. No fucking joke. Flash Gordon, apparently predating a real superhero in Brett Favre, was the quarterback for the New York Jets, and his first name is Flash. This review could be nine pages long with statements about the sheer stupidity of everything going on in the movie (including Flash himself taking a steel ball off the forehead and break-neck speed), but that would get pretty redundant, don’t you think?

Flash (along with the others, but who cares about them) eventually falls into disarray in Ming’s quarters and is presumed dead until he is saved by one of Ming’s accomplices, Princess Aura. Her fascination with Flash leads him to a massive conflict where he will have to choose between the feminine desire she presents and his dedication to his comrade Dale (a woman, by the way). Meanwhile, Ming the Merciless is determined to marry Dale as part of an insidious plot to continue his conquest, yet his own world has fallen to shambles as an intergalactic crisis is on the horizon and the fate of the universe depends of this very conflict. Obviously, Ming has never played Risk or Axis and Allies and is therefore completely hapless in his mission.

Much of this movie takes place in the far off locales previously described, some of which look like a cross between Endor and any treetop level in Donkey Kong Country. Despite the lack of, well, coherence this film gives the media literate, it delivers some very nice makeup, costuming, and special effects as well as impressive scenery. That’s right, I’m giving the movie some much needed praise through all of its audacious butchering of common sense. In fact, the entirety of the movie is solidly invested behind these visual idiosyncrasies and makes for quite an entertaining romp for the senses. Combine it all with that awesome soundtrack from Queen and we are astounded as an audience.

Nothing more I could say could help you fully understand this incredible movie unless I told you to simply watch it. I recommend watching each and every film I review, and this one is at the pinnacle of that mountain of information. After all, even as the movie concludes, we are left with one more campy element of suspense that trumps all others. What could possibly conclude a movie like this so perfectly that it is the most clichéd bit of cinema in history. Well, that’s simple. One screen graphic that shows the following statement verbatim: “The End?” Nothing tops that.

Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: Anyone involved with the stunts and the stunt coordinator/choreographer should not just be fired, but imprisoned for their acts against humanity. As cheeky and fun as some of the fight sequences can be in this movie, one particular duel takes the cake. In his greatest moment as a football player, Flash attempts to fight off Ming’s troops through various incarnations of sporting plays. In case you’re wondering how this could possibly give anyone a pink slip, I have included this link to better illustrate the lunacy.

Best Name in the Cast: Sam J. Jones went on from this breakout role as Flash Gordon to star in more forgettable television shows and scripted films than David Naughton. His horrible acting, often rumored to have been dubbed over after a disagreement with the director, is just the start of his inclusion on this dubious list. He has opened the door for several others following him to do the exact same thing: make one big time movie (regardless of quality) despite never having believably acted before. A short list of model followers includes Hayden Christensen and directorially, Roland Emmerich.

Quote of the Film:
“As I was going under, I started to recite Shakespeare, the Talmud, the formulas of Einstein, anything I could remember, even a song from The Beatles. It armored me, girl! They couldn’t wipe those things away. You can’t beat the human spirit!” -Doctor Hans Zarkov, and seriously, WTF?

Final Thoughts: Commercially, Flash Gordon was a total failure that suffered backlash and criticism for intentionally wasting an audience’s time with an almost spoofy and clichéd version of science fiction cinema. Many considered it neither fun nor enjoyable, and rather, disregarded it as a simple exercise in ridiculous ends to a once purposeful means. Still, Flash Gordon is heralded almost 30 years later as one of the only classic examples of an intentional camp film that fulfilled its own legacy and became a cult cinema must for film aficionados. 30 years from now, when this film is a senior citizen, I expect that movies like Snakes on a Plane will follow in key because of their absolute absurdity. I myself, am an absurd mind, and I plan to watch this movie again, more than likely this week. Most people don’t get the absurdist enjoyment of movies like Flash Gordon or others in the genre, but then again, seeing as how it is absurd, isn’t that the point in the first place?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin (1997)

Written by: Akiva Goldsman

Directed by: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
When I opened up my doors to the viewing public for an opportunity to make their voices heard on a broad list of films for this month’s “Reader Request” theme, I was overwhelmingly bombarded by requests to see a review of the following piece of cinematic history. Over 76% of the voters, an astoundingly large mark in comparison with other films, chose to see a review of what is recognized as one of the worst movies in the categories of super heroes, sequels, releases of 1997, releases of the 90’s, action flicks, and, in case that’s not enough, all time releases.

The movie in question, obviously, is Batman & Robin has directed by Joel Schumacher. Unsurprisingly, Schumacher’s idea for the fourth installment in the Gotham crusader’s escapades was to capitalize on the success he had with the former film, Batman Forever. Keep in mind that the majority of Batman Forever was played with a satirical nature not found in Tim Burton’s first two movies, and it was also accompanied with unrivaled special effects and over the top action and characters. No wonder Jim Carrey received such praise. He could have been dressed as a garbage man with a sign that read “Riddler” and people would have bought it.

When it came time for Batman & Robin to become reality, the producers, writers, and Schumacher (of course) thought they should go bigger and better than their last exploit. What they inevitably did was front-load the cast of characters with some of the “greatest” of all time, ignoring that the script sucked and that Schumacher himself was not very good at his directing job. They also figuratively and literally raped the Batman franchise for 10 years. That’s right, even with the socially redeeming Batman Begins, it took 10 years, upon the release of The Dark Knight to critical acclaim, for the movie world to finally forget about Batman & Robin. That was, until you all suggested dominantly that I review it. Thanks.

This movie is the epitome of a super hero cartoon on Saturday Mornings, except that instead of being literal animation (thus suspending belief at the onset), it progresses ever so slowly for two of the longest, boobless hours in history. Batman & Robin is the story of Batman (no fucking shit?) and his trusty sidekick Dick Grayson (that’s Robin) fighting a new menace to Gotham City in the form of Mr. Freeze. A tortured soul, Freeze is played laughably by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a pre-Governor stage of his career. Freeze finds that he can only survive by infesting his suit, vehicle, and hideout (a freezer, real original) with large diamonds, most of which he steals from various Gotham gatherings. Sooner than later, Freeze is accompanied by Poison Ivy, a sexy spit of woman out to destroy Gotham City so “Mother Nature” can take its course. She too has a sidekick in the form of Bane, a steroid-induced freak that was once a convict on death row. I hope you’re following all of this, because there will be a quiz.

The majority of the movie is spent jumping from one pointless action scene to another with Freeze’s lackeys trying to overcome Batman and Robin while they fight amongst themselves over the seductive Poison Ivy. Oh sure, there’s the whole side plot about Alfred being on his death bed due to a rare disease that Freeze’s wife also has, but that only has significant for five non-sequential minutes of the movie, four of which are spent introducing us to Batgirl. Seriously, is there a fucking union on sidekicks in Gotham?

Ambling (aimlessly might I add) towards the climax, all of the characters brawl until the good guys get the advantage and send the bad guys off to the loony bin, but not without convenient resolution for Freeze and Ivy. Not that this is surprising, but this Batman movie does more to point out the old cliché of gadget and plot “convenience” for the lead characters. Sure, Batman doesn’t have his “Carousel Reversal Spray” but its pretty damn close. In the first ten minutes, its evident that he didn’t know what he was matching up against in Mr. Freeze. Hell, he didn’t even know who that was until Chief Gordon told him so, yet sure enough, and in a pinch, when he clicked his heels together, Batman’s boots sprouted ice skates. Fucking ice skating in a Batman movie. I know I should avoid the overused “Batman On Ice” jokes, but it is way too hard. During the same sequence, he’s got heat lasers able to zap off any ill effects from being frozen, because unsurprisingly, the boy blunder suffers that very fate. At least I haven’t attacked the homosexual convenience of nipples on suits and constant shots of BATMAN’S ASS. Soft core pornography isn’t this bad, EVER.

Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: While this is another classic example of cinema that is an indictment on everyone involved, if I had to pick one (instead of the bailout answer of everyone) crew member to give the axe, I’d wield it smoothly and rapidly towards writer Akiva Goldsman, who scripted a total piece of shit with bad lines, bad story, and incredibly over the top puns. If Arnold says Freeze one more time, my television will commit suicide all by itself. For a better example, click here.

Best name in the cast: How about that cameo appearance by former professional wrestler and Minnesota Governor Jesse “the Body” Ventura? Just a few years before Ventura’s “We shocked the world” campaign, he was a simple and gullible guard at Gotham’s famed Arkham Asylum. He also dies in the movie. There’s a payoff.

Quote of the Film:
“That's right, Dick. I want them so much, I can taste it.” -Bruce Wayne, giving us another line that, while delivered deadpan, is perfect fodder for the sheer stupidity of it all.

Final Thoughts: I know, we’ve already gathered that this movie sucks and you should all be ashamed of yourselves for forcing me to review it. But, through all of the complaints, at least we know that we’re (or at least I’m) not alone in the constant flood of hatred for this film. While The Dark Knight makes huge bank because Christopher Nolan “gets” the Gotham City regime, Joel Schumacher’s career has never recovered from the hits he got in his Batman directing prowess. Schumacher moved on to becoming something of an enigma himself, showing up every once in a while to direct films like The Number 23. Oh, guess what? That movie sucked, too. Maybe he should quit his day job. I’ve watched this movie dozens of times. I mean really, dozens of times, and I can safely say that it gets worse every single time I see it. How bad does a movie have to be to get worse each time you watch it? It’s like a contest in endurance, but even when the credits roll, I feel like I’m always on the losing side.