Saturday, 28 September 2013

List #21 | My Guilty Pleasures

Next up in my Listography series is the 21st list from Lisa Nola's book.

This list asks for my most embarrassing guilty pleasures, but as there aren't that many that I'm actually embarrassed by I just went for films that a generally not considered that great but which I have a soft spot for. This list was a lot of fun to come up with and as I don't exactly seek out films that I'll be embarrassed to enjoy I think I'll be able to put together another 10 pretty soon.

But for now, here are the first 10 entries for my biggest guilty pleasures.

Hocus Pocus

Many of the films that feature on this list are ones that I was first exposed to as a child. When we're that young what we watch is entirely dictated by either our parents or the television, and we really don't have the context to distinguish what is good and what is bad. The quality of a film at that age was based purely on the enjoyment gained by watching it, a factor that is exactly what constitutes a guilty pleasure. Hocus Pocus is still my go-to Halloween film. The Sanderson sisters, along with a few Disney villains, shaped my view of witches as eccentric women who were glamorous and menacing as hell. Bette Midler is camp perfection as Winifred and masterfully controls the tone of the entire film as she effortlessly switches her persona between comic and sinister. It's funny, it's sad and at times it's scary, something not many children's films can pull off very well. Kathy Najimy is hilarious and Sarah Jessica Parker is actually really good as Winifred's hapless sisters, while Max holds a special place as my first screen crushes. If for nothing else, watch it for a fantastic rendition of I Put A Spell On You that I could to this day perform at the drop of a hat.

High School Musical

Here we have an entire trilogy getting a spot on the list. Disney Channel movies have never been particularly good, but Disney Channel was one of the only channels I was aware of when I was younger and so their films were a huge percentage of my film viewing. I'll admit that by the time the first High School Musical made its debut on TV I wasn't a child anymore, I was 15, but that doesn't change the fact that I got sucked into the teen musical phenomenon like so many others. The acting is nothing special and the central romance is pretty dull, with the same plot points shamelessly being recycled in each film but the songs are too catchy and fun for me to not enjoy these films. The second is my personal favourite but the higher production values of the third make it the better film of the three. The third also lays claim to being one of my favourite cinema experiences, as me and my friend were one of only two small groups in the screening and so were able to enjoy it more vocally than you usually can in a crowded cinema.

Legally Blonde

I think that chick flicks will always feature heavily in anyones guilty pleasures list, and mine is no exception. The main issue was narrowing which chick flicks to choose so that the entire list wasn't made up of them. Legally Blonde is undoubtedly my favourite of the so-called chick flick genre. The story is completely ridiculous but has so much heart that I completely fall for it every time I watch it. Reese Witherspoon was born to play Elle Woods and does so with such amazing conviction that the films final act will give a great deal of satisfaction to anyone who has been swept away by the film at that point. While I still manage to get some enjoyment from it I find the sequel to be pretty unnecessary as it takes Elle's story too far. That said, this film will always be a firm favourite whenever I want some mindless fun to watch.

Mortal Kombat

I grew up on Mortal Kombat. Me, my two cousins and my best friend spent far too much of our youth button-mashing violent battles on my Nintendo 64, playing Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Much of the appeal of this live-action adaptation of the game series is in seeing the characters that you've spent countless hours playing as come to life, something that I discovered still hadn't changed when Mortal Kombat Legacy got released on YouTube last year. Unlike the sequel, Annihilation, which was a slap to the face of the games, this film stays true to the tournament narrative and the characters that inhabit it. It is by no means a great film but there are some great performances from actors who actually try to faithfully translate the characters from the game, while the use of an announcer whenever a new character enters to fight is a brilliant touch that flicks the inner fanboy nerve every time. I'm certainly looking forward to the upcoming film that is being made by the director of the Legacy series, but this one will always have the benefit of nostalgia.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

The second seasonal-themed film in this list, is one for Christmas. I'm a sucker for Dr Seuss and Jim Carrey's films were such a huge part of my childhood that this pairing was always going to get my approval. Long before Taylor Momsen starting styling herself like a gothic crack-whore she was an adorable little girl who helped Carrey's grumpy, green Grinch save the Christmas celebrations that he wanted to destroy and caused his heart to grow three sizes. And if that doesn't sound too good to resist Jim Carrey is hilarious with a perfectly timed mix of snappy dialogue and slapstick physical comedy that makes the Grinch so enjoyable to watch. Things do get a little sappy towards the end but that is the case with almost any Christmas film, and the humour makes it a lot easier to swallow.

Bridget Jones's Diary

Of all the films on this list, Bridget Jones's Diary is probably the one is most out of place. I'd never consider it embarrassing to admit that I love this film, and I know that a great deal of people do actually think this to be a good film as well. But still, it's never going to be considered brilliant cinema and is one that I'm sure many others would refer to as a bit of a shameful favourite. Renée Zellweger's physical transformation for this role is commendable given her Hollywood status and her characterisation of Bridget is also pretty incredible. She is hilarious and cringe-worthy and I love her. The opening scene in which she smashes a pyjama performance of All By Myself sets a perfect tone for what is to come and is my favourite scene from the film. This one is also responsible for the naming of my first car, after the line 'Come the fuck on Bridget' resonated particularly well with the experience of driving in it.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Reboots of horror film franchises have become one of the biggest, and most frustrating, trends to become big in cinema recently, with all the heavy hitters of 80s and 90s horror getting a facelift over the past few years. On the whole these reboots are pretty worthless, but something about the reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street appealed to me. It's no secret that I'm always drawn to films with a strong emphasis on visuals, and seeing the nightmarish sequences of the original films being remade with a bigger budget and better graphics is something that I really enjoyed. Jackie Earle Haley also made for a much more terrifying Freddy Krueger, however part of the originals success was down to the ridiculousness of Robert Englund's oft-comedic approach and so I understand why this reboot didn't please many fans of the originals.

The Phantom of the Opera

Joel Schumacher and his fondness for a exuberant, campy aesthetic pretty much tarnished the filmic reputation of Batman and burned the disturbing image of bat-nipples into the minds of everyone who saw them, but the lavish excess that made his Batman films so bad is what makes his adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical so good. Firstly, Gerard Butler singing should be enough to justify at least some intrigue in this, and he is actually pretty great. His acting is also top notch here alongside Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson and Minnie Driver who are also all on top form. Obviously musicals are always divisive, and Andrew Lloyd Webber can be equally as divisive, but the story of the Phantom is a great one at this film tells it so well. Everything is over-the-top excess but it is cinematic escapism at its best. There are some big explosions and sword fights too, cos they always draw in a crowd.

Bring It On

I genuinely don't think I could ever convicne anyone who doesn't already think so that Bring It On is a good film. To be fair it isn't, but as is the case with most films on this list, it's a lot of fun. The novelty of having two of my favourite supporting actors from Buffy in this film, Eliza Dushku and Clare Kramer, was certainly a factor in my enjoyment but this was also one of the first times that I'd enjoyed Kirsten Dunst in a film at the time I first watched it. The film features a few great songs that I've never been able to get out of my head since, along with a few catchy cheer chants that will definitely stick with you. It launched a fascination with competitive cheer-leading that really didn't last very long, but was entertaining for the week or so that it lasted. This is probably my guiltiest pleasure on the list just because it's the most recognisably bad of the bunch, but I do love it.

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is a difficult beast. I was surprised by how excited I was for this film in the lead up to it's release, and I came out of the cinema feeling happy that it had met my expectations, and then I read the reviews. Boy do people hate this film! I've seen some really hateful, scathing reviews and it has featured on a number of 'Worst Film' lists that I've seen. I understand that the story is pretty simple and many see it as Zack Snyder realising some pervy fantasy, but I actually really enjoy this. The action sequences are mindless fun, and the soundtrack is complete perfection. It probably helps that I adore Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish and have a bizarre fascination mental asylums, but I can even tolerate Vanessa Hudgens in this, something not even High School Musical could achieve. I've read a lot of theories about the multi-layered plot and opinions about what actually happens and I find it all actually very interesting. The extended version also has a great scene between Browning and Jon Hamm that makes the plot slightly more understandable. This was the first film that I ever saw in IMAX, so I may well have been wooed by the booming speakers, gigantic screen and shaking seats. I know that I'll not change anybodies opinion on this one, but I don't care much.

So there are 10 of my biggest guilty pleasures. Be sure to let me know which you would agree or disagree with, and let me know which would make your lists.


  1. I love Hocus Pocus!!! I watched it on tv just last night. I own the DVD, but I never have to use it in October... I'll be watching it a lot on tv this month...
    I watched Bring It On when it first came out at my local rental place. I've seen it so many times. I actually own it.
    Sucker Punch was great! I don't know why people hated it so much. I think it just got really bad word of mouth. I also own this film, aha.
    I'm happy to say I've never seen any of the HSMs, but I won't judge. :)

    1. HSM is too awesome! But in a completely lame kind of way.
      I'm glad you appreciate some of these choices. It's always nice to hear something nice about films you love that often get hated on.
      I agree about the effect that word of mouth had on Sucker Punch. I think people were expected something more that it was ever trying to be, or it tried to be more than they wanted. Something like that anyway. I love it.

  2. I really don't think Legally Blonde or Bring It On should be on this list. They are actually great movies within their genre. ESPECIALLY Legally Blonde! Great list though :)

    1. Thanks :), I totally agree with what you say. Sadly they're still the kind of films that get a bad reputation and a lot of people don't bother with, which is why I felt they were right to be called guilty pleasures.
      Legally Blonde is bloody great though! I'm glad you like them as well.