The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000)

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It is possible for a movie to be traumatic, even if it's not inherently disturbing like a Captivity or Saw 33 and 1/3. I didn't know this until five minutes ago, when I finished watching Battlefield Earth. Every five minutes the characters say "leverage", and while I was capturing images of the film for the blog I turned on the NBA playoffs on TNT (just saw a nice shot of the Riverwalk in San Antonio), and they were advertising the new season of their show Leverage, and each mention of it made me cringe. It was like having a hangover, and seeing a beer commercial.

Battlefield Earth is based on a novel by L. Ron Hubbard about some aliens called Psyclos, from the planet Psyclo, who conquer Earth and subject its humans to slavery. 1000 years later, the remaining humans live in little tribes, but one, Barry Pepper, is a little smarter than most, and he's captured by the Psyclos at a very opportune moment: Mr. Travolta was just told he'll be stuck on Earth for another 50 whatevers, and he's pissed. He decides he wants to mine some gold Psyclos can't get to, so he teaches Pepper how to use all the mining stuff and sends him and some humans in there. In the process of teaching him how to mine, he also teaches him astrophysics, molecular biology, and whatever else the plot requires he'll need to vanquish the Psyclos and free our planet.

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Every time I start to type, I stop and go "no, not there." This film is like a very messy room, and it's hard to know where to start tackling it. How about the annoying device used to jump to the next scene, where the picture would split down the middle, revealing the next one under it? Yeah, that wasn't stupid enough. Or just the direction as a whole. At times it felt more like a music video with the bad slow motion and over dramatic acting. Then there was the music itself, meant to tell us how amazing certain scenes were, when they were pretty bad and nowhere near amazing. That's just the movie from a technical standpoint. Want me to get into the story?

Well I won't. Making fun of cavemen learning to fly fighter jets in 7 days is just too easy. All I have to say is Man Animal. The film makes fun of itself. What irks me isn't how dumb it was, it's how smart the people who made it thought they were. You could see them patting themselves on the back (or patting L. Ron Hubbard's back posthumously) for the thing about the Psyclos thinking dogs were of a higher status in society than humans. And I loved how the writers didn't have a very extensive vocabulary, so they had to be as wordy as possible to make the characters sound intelligent. Again, it's just too easy.

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John Travolta is the face most associated with this frightening ordeal. When I was looking it up on imdb, it said the film won 10 awards, and I was like "what?", but I saw those were all Razzies and whatnot, and Mr. Travolta got one for it too. Battlefield Earth even got one for worst film of the decade, which is huge, considering everyone else had ten years to catch up. I get that Travolta is a devote Scientologist, and he wanted to make this for his hero, L. Ron Hubbard, but he had to see how much this was sautéed in wrong sauce; and he, more than anyone else involved, had the power to fix it. Instead, I remember him in all the press junkets telling us how amazing it is. Man Animal! Again, it just drives home the point that Tarentino made a great Travolta in Pulp Fiction, and we've been sold him as an A list movie star ever since, when he really has C list talent.

Someone who it turned out had A list talent was Forest Whitaker. Can you believe that six years after this he won an Oscar? I've heard that the US is the land of second chances, but the fact that he and everyone else involved in this pain fest were even allowed to make another film again, let alone be trusted for a role good enough for Whitaker to win an Oscar in, is astounding. Good for you, Mr. Whitaker, you took your second chance and made the most with it. A real American success story.

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A while back I went to Barnes and Noble to buy Anna Karenina, and found their $9 version, and the $15 Oprah Book Club version. I was telling everyone I knew that story, and one friend said "why don't we make our own book club and read silly things, like Tek War and Battlefield Earth?" I loved the idea... until I found out Battlefield Earth is over 1000 pages. What? As you can imagine, that was out. I thought to myself, who would've read that? Then I went to the Modern Library Top 100 Books of the 20th Century site, and saw not only their list, but their reader voted list. Guess what number three on the reader list was? You guessed it. Some things are just better not commented on.

If you haven't seen this, right now it's on Watch Instantly, so maybe you and your buddies should check it out. Don't do it alone like I just did, it's just too depressing. With the kinds of movies I review, we often hear the classification "so bad it's good", as in it's fun time to make fun of, etc. I don't know that that applies here. Sometimes there's "so bad it's ridiculous and not worth my time" or "so bad it hurts my soul" and I think this one might be in those latter two.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185183/

8 comments:

  1. I thank you for watching this so that I never have to!

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  2. So-bad-it's-good was exactly how I saw this film, i'd definitely rather see this film again over most Oscar winning films honestly, Especially Titanic, which is one of my all time most hated films.

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  3. What an embarrassment this film was, I was actually a senior in high school when this came out and you could tell it was a motorcycle wreck!

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  4. When I heard this movie was coming out, I went out of my way to get punched in the face as many times as possible, just so my eyes and ears would swell up enough that I could pretend this wasn't happening.

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  5. I still haven't brought up the courage to sit through this yet. I just saw easily the worst film of all time last week though - 'Roller Blade Seven'. It's far beyond 'so bad it's good' and is in the 'too bad to sit through' category. Myself and a couple of friends managed to sit through it somehow, mainly out of sheer disbelief that it got made.

    Anyway, just came across your site today whilst searching for Bloodfist IV reviews and love it. I'd be interested in swapping links if you're up for it? I've already taken the liberty of putting a link to your site on mine (don't feel this means you have to do the same though).

    My site can be found here:
    http://www.davesfilmreviews.blogspot.com/

    Cheers

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  6. I'm all in favor of a cheesefest or something horrible to make fun of, but this wasn't that for me. This was no Road House, this thought it was way above Road House, and it let you know how good it thought it was throughout, and that kind of thing makes me angry. I don't have any desire to watch Titanic anytime soon either, but at the very least that movie had the awesome boat breaking scene. My dorm neighbor in college woke me up at midnight so we could get baked and watch that scene when Titanic showed on the campus movie channel. Amazing stuff.

    When I watched Battlefield Earth the first time, I think it was easier to deal with having my buddies there for moral support, because we were all going through the same thing. This time it really felt traumatic. When Heolstor talks about wanting to be punched in the face, on some levels I had a small scale reaction in my brain after when I heard the word "Leverage" that was on the same lines of someone remimded of a violent attack-- again, obviously on a much smaller level, but I still had it.

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  7. Tell me truly that you don't find it somewhat hilarious to see Travolta give what is the worst performance on not only his career but of any career. Only Nicolas Cage could've made it cheesier.

    Actually the problem with Battlefield Earth (well aside from everything) it's too long to really enjoy, So bad their funny movies never shatter the 2 hour mark and there comes a time before what was once amusing becomes tiresome and pathetic.

    I mean it's like Jerry Springer (and before he just made shit up, like the blind foot fetishist who would sniff out drag queens, midget doms, and obese bastards who crushed jelly donuts on their stomachs, or an obese fat woman who would go shopping naked and then hit on 18 year old guys, that shit admittedly never got old, although sadly it takes a John Waters like creativity to maintain such, which is why I always read the syn before tivoing Jerry Springer) However seeing love triangles, fist fights, chair throwing, white supremacist meatheads and trailer park drama is all amusing and such for a little bit, but I don't think anyone can really watch such religiously.

    Ergo, it's the same with Battlefield Earth, for the first hour or so it's funny but then it becomes the same old crap. Also the film is also competently made, I mean it's made with professionalism, it's just that the story, the action and so on are just hideous. Also the film and the characters just look too murky.

    Like I said, this is a film for those to tread carefully by, I mean yeah it has its unintentional amusements but it's not truly inspired or even incompetent enough to enjoy.

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  8. I agree with you about that being Travolta's worst ever performance, but that's saying a lot when you look at his rap sheet: Wild Hogs, Lucky Numbers, Old Dogs, Phenomenon, General's daughter, Get Shorty, [whatever the sequel was called], Swordfish, Basic, Michael... do you need me to keep going? There's also one that I didn't like that some people cared for, Face/Off. But Battlefield Earth was the worst of the worst. The Razzies actually didn't give the worst actor of the decade to him, they gave it to Eddie Murphy, which when you look at the damage he's done, it makes sense. It's amazing that anyone could've outdone Travolta though.

    The length is a great point. "So bad it's good" should be right in the 88 minute window.

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