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10 Really Bad Movies that Define "Bad Movies"

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Yesterday I linked a story about the movie The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. The children's film opened last weekend in 2,160 theaters, and earned less than half a million dollars on its opening weekend. That means it only made $206 per theater, a record low for a movie in wide release (more than 2,000 theaters). The reviews for The Oogieloves are awful. Of course, there are other bad movies that never got a chance to set a box-office record because they opened in few theaters, went straight to video, or their awfulness wasn't promoted as well (leading to a decent opening followed by a steep dropoff). The news about The Ooogieloves was posted at MetaFilter, and MeFites wasted no time in suggesting other candidates for the title of "worst movie ever." Some I had never heard of, others were somewhat familiar. Here are a few of them presented for your perusal, in no particular order.

1. Food Fight!

Food Fight! was apparently either an experiment in product placement or someone honestly thought breakfast cereal mascots would be a sure hit with kids. The setting is a grocery store where brand labels come to life and battle "Brand X." And yes, they throw food at each other. The inclusion of Nazi imagery and adult innuendo did not sit well with parents. The 2009 movie was never released in theaters, and went directly to video in 2012.

2. Manos The Hands Of Fate

Manos The Hands Of Fate is a 1966 film that particularly illustrates the unintentional comedy of a low-budget film. A vacationing family stumbles upon a pagan cult and must escape their clutches, but the plot suffered from bad acting, poor timing, bad sound, awful lighting, bad sets, and horrible editing. Then there's the nonsensical background music. Few people actually saw the film until 1993 when MST3K aired it as a so-bad-it's-funny movie, helping it to achieve cult status. Manos has a rating of 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the full film at YouTube. If you want to.

3. Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck is the only movie on this list I saw in a theater, on its opening weekend. It was awful. The budget was quite adequate, and the production values were excellent, but putting an animated duck into a live-action film was never a good idea. George Lucas, after the success of the Star Wars films, was at the height of his clout and no one questioned his judgment (at least out loud) until after the film was released.

4. The Room

The Room is a 2003 labor of love by one man, Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it. Ransom Riggs tells more about it in a previous mental_floss article, in which you can judge the quality of the writing and acting for yourself by watching clips from the movie. Take your time, and take a deep breath between each clip. Thanks to the efforts of screenwriter Michael Rousselet, who recognized the comedic value in a badly-made drama, The Room became a cult classic. Wiseau now says that he meant to make a comedy all along.

5. After Last Season

After Last Season is a 2009 sci-fi thriller about new technology that records thoughts as images. Or maybe it's about something else, because the synopses vary by website. The movie reportedly had a $5 million budget, but where the money went is not evident from the finished product. After Last Season opened in four towns. and closed soon after. Some thought it had to be a spoof film, or maybe a marketing prank. Even bad film fan Michael Rousselet was confused by this movie.

6. The Apple

The Apple is a low-budget science-fiction disco-rock musical set in the future. The movie was released in 1980 when "the future" was 1994. A small-town couple enters a global talent show and is lured into drug abuse. Thirty years later, the campy film has a cult following. Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 17%, but the majority of audience members say they liked it.

7. Zyzzyx Rd

Zyzzyx Rd (or Zyzzyx Road) was a 2006 thriller about a traveling businessman who ends up involved in a killing. It ran for a week in one theater, and earned a total of $30 from six people. One of them later asked for a refund. Since no one was going to pay to see it anyway, it is now available online to watch free.

8. Birdemic: Shock And Terror

Birdemic is a horror film about birds on the attack. It was reportedly made for around $10,000, far too little for a feature-length special effects horror film. It was released on DVD in 2009, then in theaters in 2010, and again on home video in 2011. Birdemic has a rating of 21% at Rotten Tomatoes. By the way, a sequel is planned for release this fall.

9. Delgo

Delgo, a 2008 children's film I never heard of until yesterday, was the previous record-holder for low earnings in a wide-release movie, just $237 per screen. The CGI alien fantasy probably should have gone straight to DVD, where it found a better market, along with the Barbie straight-to-DVD movies. Delgo has as 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

10. The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

The Oogieloves, a G-rated life-size puppet film, reportedly cost $20 million to produce followed by a $40 million marketing push, so the bad box office is a true financial disaster. Reviewers find watching it to be painful. Even a review from a child (or someone writing from a child's view) points out the movie's flaws.

You could include dozens of films in a list of the worst films ever, but most of those are the result of low budgets and inexperienced filmmakers. Movies like Robot Monster or Plan 9 From Outer Space eventually become somewhat charming in their amateur earnestness. Then there are films you never smile about. If you have other suggestions for the worst film ever, please tell us about them.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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