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10 Really Bad Movies that Define "Bad Movies"

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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Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
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Scarface is Returning to Theaters for Its 35th Anniversary
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures

Pop culture history was forever altered on December 9, 1983, when Scarface arrived in movie theaters across America. A loose remake of Howard Hawks's classic 1932 gangster film, Brian De Palma's F-bomb-laden story of a Cuban immigrant who becomes the king of Miami's drug scene by murdering anyone in his path is still being endlessly dissected, and quoted, today. To celebrate the film's place in cinema history, the Tribeca Film Festival is teaming up with Screenvision Media and Universal Pictures to bring the film back into theaters next month.

Just last month, Scarface screened at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival as part of a 35th anniversary celebration. The film's main cast and crew—including De Palma and stars Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Steven Bauer—were on hand to discuss the making of the film and why it has endured as a contemporary classic. (Yes, that's the same conversation that left the panel momentarily speechless when moderator Jesse Kornbluth asked Pfeiffer how much she weighed during filming.) That post-screening Q&A will be part of the upcoming screenings.

"Scarface is a timeless film that has influenced pop culture in so many ways over the last 35 years. We're thrilled to partner with Universal Pictures and Tribeca Film Festival to bring it back to the big screen in celebration of its anniversary," Darryl Schaffer, executive vice president of operations and exhibitor relations at Screenvision Media, said in a press statement. "The Tribeca Film Festival talk was an important commemoration of the film. We're excited to extend it to the big screen and provide fans a behind-the-scenes insight into what production was like in the 1980s."

Scarface will screen at select theaters nationwide on June 10, June 11, and June 13, 2018. Visit Scarface35.com to find out if Tony Montana and his little friend will be coming back to a cinema near you.

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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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11 Magical Facts About Willow
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Five years after the release of Return of the Jedi (1983) and four years after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), George Lucas gave audiences the story for another film about an unlikely hero on an epic journey, but this time he had three Magic Acorns and a taller friend instead of a whip and gun to help him along. Willow (1988) was directed by Ron Howard and starred former Ewok and future Leprechaun, Warwick Davis.

Over the past few decades, Willow—which was released 30 years ago today—has become a cult classic that's been passed down from generation to generation. Before you sit down to explore that world again (or for the first time), here are 11 things you might not have know about Willow.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR WARWICK DAVIS.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Warwick Davis revealed that George Lucas first mentioned the idea for the film to Davis’s mother during the filming of one of the Ewok TV specials in 1983, in which he was reprising his role as Wicket. Lucas had been developing the idea for more than a decade at that point, but working with Davis on Return of the Jedi helped him realize the vision. “George just simply said that he had this idea, and he was writing this story, with me in mind,” Davis said. “He didn't say at that time that it was going to be called Willow. He said, 'It's not for quite yet; it's for a few years ahead, when Warwick is a bit older.'" The role was Davis’s first time not wearing a mask or costume on screen.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED MUNCHKINS.

Five years after he mentioned the idea, Lucas was ready to make his film with Ron Howard directing and a then-17-year-old Davis as the lead. The original title was presumably inspired by the characters from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the subsequent Victor Fleming film.

3. IT WAS CRITICIZED FOR BEING A COPY OF STAR WARS.

Having thought of the two worlds simultaneously, Lucas may have cribbed some of his own work and other well-known stories a little too much for Willow, and some critics noticed. “Without anything like [Star Wars’s] eager, enthusiastic tone, and indeed with an understandable weariness, Willow recapitulates images from Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Gulliver's Travels, Mad Max, Peter Pan, Star Wars itself, The Hobbit saga, Japanese monster films of the 1950s, the Bible, and a million fairy tales," wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times. "One tiny figure combines the best attributes of Tinkerbell, the Good Witch Glinda, and the White Rock Girl.”

Later in her review, Maslin continued to point out the similarities between the two films: “When the sorcerer tells Willow to follow his heart, he becomes the Obi-Wan Kenobi of a film that also has its Darth Vader, R2-D2, C-3P0 and Princess Leia stand-ins. Much energy has gone into the creation of their names, some of which (General Kael) have recognizable sources and others (Burglekutt, Cherlindrea, Airk) have only tongue-twisting in mind. Not even the names have anything like Star Wars-level staying power.”

4. IT WAS THE LARGEST CASTING CALL FOR LITTLE PEOPLE IN MOVIE HISTORY.

Lucas has previously cast several little people for roles in Return of the Jedi, and there were more than 100 actors hired to portray Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. But, according to Davis, the casting call for Willow was the largest ever at the time with between 225 and 240 actors hired for the film.

5. THE DEATH DOGS WERE REAL DOGS IN COSTUME.

The big bad in the film, Bavmorda, has demon dogs that terrorize Willow’s village. The dogs are more boar-like than canine, but they were portrayed by Rottweilers. The prop team outfitted the dogs with rubber masks and used animatronic heads for close-up scenes.

6. IT WAS THE FIRST USE OF MORPHING IN A FILM.

While trying to use magic to turn an animal back into a human, Willow fails several times before eventually getting it right, but he does succeed in turning the animal into another animal, which is shown in stages. To achieve this, the visual effects teamed used a technique known as "morphing."

The film’s visual effects supervisor, Dennis Muren of Industrial Light & Magic, explained the technique to The Telegraph:

The way things had been up till that time, if a character had to change at some way from a dog into a person or something like that it could be done with a series of mechanical props. You would have to cut away to a person watching it, and then cut back to another prop which is pushing the ears out, for example, so it didn't look fake ... we shot five different pieces of film, of a goat, an ostrich, a tiger, a tortoise, and a woman and had one actually change into the shape of the other one without having to cut away. The technique is much more realistic because the cuts are done for dramatic reasons, rather than to stop it from looking bad.”

7. THE STORY WAS CONTINUED IN SEVERAL NOVELS.

Willow has yet to receive a sequel, but fans of the story can return to the world in a trilogy of books that author Chris Claremont wrote in collaboration with Lucas between 1995 and 2000. According to the Amazon synopsis of Shadow Moon, the first book picks up 13 years after the events of the film, and baby Elora Danan’s friendless upbringing has turned her into a “spoiled brat who seemingly takes joy in making miserable the lives around her. The fate of the Great Realms rests in her hands, and she couldn't care less. Only a stranger can lead her to her destiny.”

8. THERE IS A MISSING SCENE CONCERNING THE MAGIC ACORNS.

Hardcore fans of the film have noticed that there is a continuity error that involves the Magic Acorns Willow was given by the High Aldwin. During an interview with The Empire Podcast, Davis explained that in a scene near the end of the film, he throws a second acorn and is inexplicably out after having only used two of the three Magic Acorns he had been given earlier in the film. Included in the Blu-ray release is the cut scene, in which Willow uses an acorn (his second) in a boat during a storm and accidentally turns the boat to stone. Davis says that his hair is wet in the next scene that did make it into the original version of the film, but the acorn is never referenced.

9. JOHN CUSACK AUDITIONED FOR THE PART OF MADMARTIGAN.

Val Kilmer in 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Val Kilmer famously played the role of the reluctant hero two years after played Iceman in Top Gun (1986), but he was not the only big name to audition for the role. Davis revealed in a commentary track that he once read with John Cusack, who in 1987 had already starred in Sixteen Candles (1984), Stand by Me (1986), and Hot Pursuit (1987).

10. THERE IS A NOD TO SISKEL AND EBERT.

During a battle scene later in the film, Willow and his compatriots have to fight a two-headed beast outside of the castle. The name of the stop motion beast is the Eborsisk, which is a combination of the names of famed film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

11. THE BABY NEVER ACTED AGAIN.

A scene from 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

As is the case with most shows and films, the role of the baby Elora was played by twins, in this case Kate and Ruth Greenfield. The IMDb pages for both actresses only has the one credit. In 2007, Davis shared a picture of him posing with a woman named Laura Hopkirk, who said that she played the baby for the scenes shot in New Zealand, but she is not credited online.

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