A Letter to My Dog, Half Pint

This last year may have been the worst one of my life, but at least I've got the world's two greatest dogs by my side to help me stagger into 2018. Today's post features a letter to Half Pint. Benjamin will be getting a letter later this week--he'd never let me hear the end of it, otherwise. Also, this posts features a lot of short video clips of Half Pint being silly. Since I apparently can't do anything right these days, they are exclusively shot in vertical mode. Please accept my apologies (and cut me some friggin' slack).

Top 10 Great Movies That Got Terrible Reviews

Everyone has at least one movie (usually more) that is a guilty pleasure. We watch these atrocities (which in my case are Broken Arrow and A Night at the Roxbury) while fully aware of how badly both the majority of film critics and the general audience considers them to be. But for some reason, we still love these movies in spite of our better cinematic judgement.

Some films, however, get completely panned by the film critic community despite that fact that they are actually pretty good. One well known example is The Night of the Hunter (1955), which is now considered a classic and receives rave reviews. When it was released, however, the film received an incredibly negative response.

A few other movies that have received similar treatment and critical revisionist history were Blade Runner, The Thing, Scrooged, and even the original Godzilla.

While you will have trouble finding a critic today that will say something negative about any of those films, they were out in full force at the time the movies were initially released. Unfortunately, many of those negative reviews don't exist anymore. Maybe it was due to a lack of archiving, unavailable bandwidth/storage, or embarrassment by a group of people that really hates to be wrong.

But lo and behold, the magic of the internet machine has completely changed the game. Sites like RottenTomateos and MetaCritic help us to not only to get an idea of what the overall critical reaction to a movie is, but also keep a historical record of poor critical reviews that may not hold up over time. (They even get the really good ones, like this glowing review that Roger Ebert gave to 'Speed 2: Cruise Control' because he was in a good mood that evening).

Listed below is RamblingBeachCat.com's Top 10 great movies that got terrible reviews. Before you dive into this treasure chest of unappreciated cinematic greatness, here is some of the criteria that went into it.

--To be considered a movie that received generally "bad reviews," we will be using the RottenTomatoes.com 'Tomatometer.' The film must have at least 25 total reviews and a score under 50%.

--Most of these films are from the last 15 years (with only one of them being made before the year 2000). This is due to the fact that those reviews are still archived and the general critical response can still be analyzed/mercilessly mocked.

Interestingly, many of the bad reviews listed were still not saved in their entirety...which was surely done just to save bandwidth space on the reviewer's website and not out of embarrassment. Fortunately in these cases, Rottentomatoes.com still archived their reactions and a blurb from the original articles

--There will surely be some movies that you see on this list and think "No, that movie really does, in fact, completely suck." There will also probably be some that I missed. Please feel free to tell me why in the comments below. Even though I'm always right, you may have a good point worth debating (or a great movie for me to check out).

And now, onto the list. Let's get things started with some 90's basketball action...

10. Blue Chips (1994)



Nick Nolte plays a Bobby Knight-esque coach named Pete Bell. His (fictional) Western University basketball team was at one time an elite program, but has fallen on hard times due to his insistence on doing things the right way (i.e. running a clean program and not cheating to get recruits). Bell must eventually make a choice between maintaining his standard of  ethics or his career...and deal with the fallout.

Tomato Meter Rating 

37% (17 rotten reviews out of 27)

Why it's great

Aside from the excellently choreographed basketball scenes, Nolte delivers a powerful performance as an old school coach who feels that the game is passing him by. It's clear that he truly loves and cares about his players, but his desire to win and still do things the right way has him questioning everything about his job (on which his sense of self worth hinges to an unhealthy degree).

His interaction with each character feels incredibly true, even when his own personal reactions swing wildly from compassion to desperation and pure contempt.

Other great performances include J.T. Walsh in his type casted "sleaze bag" role of a dirty, overbearing booster, which he plays to perfection. Mary McDonnell (as Belle's estranged wife) occasionally comes across a bit too strong as his moral compass, but still does a great job, as well.

Shaquille O'Neal's is in there too, but don't worry; he doesn't say much.

Why the critics hated it

"Much of the movie's problem, I suspect, comes from the vast use of non-professionals in dramatic roles, whose charismatic abilities should be restricted to the basketball court and not the dramatic arena."

...except that the athletes really didn't do much acting, and when they did, it kind of worked. They seemed bewildered and out of their element compared to the excellent cast surrounding them.

"If it wasn't for some exciting roundball action, Shaquille O'Neal's hulking-dunking presence, and a wonderfully guttural performance from coach Nick Nolte, you'd slither off the bench asleep."

You mean that if you took out three of the main components that made the movie great (especially Nick Nolte's performance), it wouldn't be great anymore? Nice analysis, numbnuts.

"The filmmakers don't get the ball into the Shaq-man's hands enough -- both literally and figuratively -- to make this personable giant's screen debut memorable."

Seriously? You're disappointed because Shaq didn't act more? Then let me recommend his starring role in the movie Steel for your viewing pleasure, Mr. Hinson. It's terrible, but it also has exactly what you're asking for.

Movie Trailer

9. Orange County 2002



Colin Hanks stars as Shaun Brumder, a high achieving student from Orange County, California that feels he must get into Stanford to follow his dream of becoming a writer (and get out of his superficial surroundings).

When a problem with his transcripts leads to being rejected by Stanford and the prospect of being stuck living in his hometown, Shaun goes on a last ditch effort mission to make sure he gets in.

Tomato Meter Rating 

46% (65 rotten reviews out of 121)

Why it's great

Colin Hanks' (Tom Hanks' son) is great in this. He strikes the perfect balance of being a sympathetic character while also being neurotic enough that he's fun to laugh at. Jack Black is also funny in a way that won't make you roll your eyes (those were wonderful, long bypassed times).

It's also one of the few teen comedies to have a message that actually resonates with people in it's target age group rather than just throwing in a moral at the end of a bunch of jokes involving sex and bodily fluids.

Why the critics hated it

"Strictly a vanity vehicle with a mess of star babies on board"
-Rita Kemply, Washington Post.

A lot of the reviews hinted at or touched on this notion, but Rita here just came out and said it. Sounds like some folks were ready to hate this movie before they even saw it.

"With little visible talent and no energy, Colin Hanks is in bad need of a major acting lessons and maybe a little coffee."
-Steven Rhodes, Internet Reviews

Yeah...I'm going to go ahead and disagree with you there, Steven (along with anyone else that has seen Colin Hanks act).

"This is mostly weak stuff, with a timid and reactionary final message about how it's better to stay in your home town, rather than go for a big-city college education."
-Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

If you've already seen Orange County, than you know that The Guardian paid a critic to watch this movie and completely miss the point of the ending.

"Strictly a vanity vehicle with a mess of star babies on board."

Movie Trailer

8. Battle: Los Angeles (2011)



Aaron Eckhart plays a marine staff sergeant who is about to retire when Los Angeles (and the rest of the world) is invaded by aliens. The extraterrestrial invaders proceed to commence a ground invasion, leaving Eckhart and his platoon stranded and looking for a way out of the city...and possibly a way to win the war.

Tomato Meter Rating 

35% (127 rotten reviews out of 194)

Why it's great

Besides Eckhart's strong performance, the ensemble cast works incredibly well together. When a character dies (and plenty do), it's usually unexpected and appropriately tragic.

The action sequence are spectacular, both from a visual effects standpoint and in how they were choreographed. If you are a fan movies in an urban warfare setting, it doesn't get much better than this.

Why the critics hated it

"...a kind of cross between what I imagine the first person shooter video game experience to be and an episode of the HBO series Generation Kill."

Not only is that a pretty accurate description, but it also sounds awesome.

"There is a lazy editing style in action movies these days that assumes nothing need make any sense visually. In a good movie, we understand where the heroes are, and where their opponents are, and why, and when they fire on each other, we understand the geometry. In a mess like this, the frame is filled with flashes and explosions and shots so brief that nothing makes sense."

I may have seen this one back when I was just a wee 32-year-old whippersnapper, but I had no problem at all following where the action was on screen. Maybe it's one of the few benefits of my severe A.D.D.

"If the talk had been surgically removed, leaving only the sights and sounds of combat, this could have been a striking, semiabstract display of aggressive energy; as it is, any viewer over twelve will go for the laughs."

Aside from sounding like a caricature of a writer for the New Yorker, Lane is completely wrong (in my opinion, at least) about the cast. Yes, there were a few moments of cheesy dialogue that one is bound to find in any dramatic war movie. But for the most part there was a refreshing lack of schmaltz and forced, dramatic discussion. Instead it was pretty straight forward and realistic feeling interactions that actually made you care about the characters on screen.

Movie Trailer

7. Jennifer's Body (2009)



Anita Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfriend) and Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) have been best friends since childhood, despite their opposite outward appearances. But when Jennifer (the town's promiscuous hot girl) is possessed by a demon in a failed sacrificial ritual, she begins killing at will during the night while her more undesirable personality traits run wild during the day. Anita must try and stop her best friend while trying to convince everyone else that what's happening with Jennifer is real...and that she's not crazy.

Tomato Meter Rating 

43% (96 rotten reviews out of 168)

Why it's great

While Megan Fox may have gotten top  promotional billing as the movie's eye candy, it's Amanda Seyfried as Anita that really does a great job carrying this movie. Diablo Cody's dialogue, observations, and metaphors for the teenage experience are also dead on.

The film also manages to strike a perfect balance of comedy, tension, and horror. It's definitely not your typical horror or comedy (or horror/comedy), but that's part of why it's such an enjoyable movie.

Why the critics hated it

"[Cody's] glib teen-hip dialogue mostly feels like self-conscious splatter over a sorely lackluster scare flick."
-Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

Hate to break this to you Robert, but as someone who is a teacher (and teaches the same kids year after year), I can confirm that the dialogue and conversational tone is pretty accurate...minus the excessive swearing, of course, which I'm sure the little darlings never do when I'm not around.

"In trying to create a modern horror take on Mean Girls (2004), in which the protagonists redefine their rivalries through physical instead of verbal viciousness, she has merely delivered an updated, dumbed-down rehash of Carrie (1976)."
-Simon Foster, sbs.com.au

...except that's not at all what Cody and director Karyn Kusama were going for. While there were definitely aspects of the high school social hierarchy (and plenty of dark comedy), this film was much more about personal relationships and how they can be strained by the ways that the people in our lives change.

"The tone wavers, the direction's slackly indecisive and visually drab, and in the middle of it is a thinly conceived antagonist played by Megan Fox. Honestly, she's a pretty bad actress. She doesn't seem to get Cody's sense of humor. At all."
-Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The movie came out at the height of the Megan Fox backlash, so a lot of the reviews read pretty much like this one. But while Fox isn't a great actress, she's definitely not terrible (in this one, at least).

And like I said before, she got star billing for the eye candy factor. Amanda Seyfried, who is an excellent actress (and can also be some pretty nice eye candy, as well) carries the movie.

Movie Trailer

6. Waiting (2005)



The film examines the lives, conflicts, and hi-jinks of the wait and kitchen staff at a typical TGIF-esque restaurant.

Tomato Meter Rating 

30% (62 rotten reviews out of 89)

Why it's great

There's a part of me that wonders if you had to have worked in a restaurant to truly enjoy/appreciate this movie. While I still believe that it's funny enough on its own merits, the film parodies every single stereotype and behavior perfectly. The great cast also makes things hilariously fun to watch. (And yes, even Dane Cook managed to be good in this in a minimal role).

There are various subplots and themes that are explored, but they are secondary to the characters, who perfectly capture the various personalities that many have dealt with (or embodied) while working in the food service industry.

Why the critics hated it

"You can do gross-out stuff and be funny, but it has to have some decent dialogue and characters."

The gross out comedy was hardly the driving force of the film and the characters were great. Maybe Mr. Roper has never worked in a restaurant before.

"You'd have more fun actually working in a restaurant. Probably."

You can tell that this guy didn't. I'd rather watch Steel and Ultraviolet back-to-back than work another shift as a server or dish washer.

"McKittrick neglects to realize that his target audience (males, ages 18-25) presumably aren't interested in seeing or hearing about the male genitalia at any time..."

I must have missed/blocked out the part where they actually showed a dude's junk (or the critic was too busy clutching his pearls to pay attention to the movie), but Kevin is still right; males in the 18-25 age range never make penis jokes or find them hysterically funny...ever...especially when they get older... 

Movie Trailer

5. Smokin' Aces (2007)


When a drug addled and hedonistic Vegas magician turns mob informant, FBI agent Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) must try to protect him from a plethora of deranged and ruthless assassins. 

Tomato Meter Rating 

28% (110 rotten reviews out of 153)

Why it's great

In addition to the incredibly well shot and frantic action sequences, Ryan Reynolds finally gets a chance to play a character that is not heavily reliant on comedy. For those of you that saw him in Buried, you know how good Reynolds can be in a serious role (and he definitely doesn't disappoint in this one).

The wide array and personalities of the various assassins also make the film a lot of fun while at the same time keeping the audience on their toes. You never know who is going to die, and the ending (while a bit complex) is about as dramatic and gut wrenching as it gets.

Why the critics hated it

"It wants to be a Tarantino-esque dark comedy about gun-slinging, substance-abusing lowlifes. But instead it's a convoluted, slap-happy, humorless bloodfest."

Ms. Puig actually does make a good point about this movie being very Tarantino-esque. The problem is, it doesn't feel like it's ever aspiring to simply just be a Tarantino film. 

The dark comedy moments don't take time out of the film to wink at the audience and remind everyone how cool it is. It's very subtle and flows right along with some incredible action sequences, tense moments, and great dialogue.

"Did [director Joe Carnahan] think these sickening scenes would give Smokin' Aces a moral complexity that's generally absent from this genre? I think they make the picture seem even more morally bankrupt."

A movie about a drug addicted mafia informant, a corrupt FBI power structure, and a group of ruthless assassins seems morally bankrupt? You don't say...

"It's instantly engrossing, stays great for about 45 minutes and good for another 20, then begins collapsing under the oppressive weight of taking itself very, very seriously."

Mr. Perry is correct that the movie's opening half is definitely stronger than the latter (and it does lag in the middle). But the ending, while a bit convoluted, gives Reynolds and Jeremy Piven a chance to really show off some great dramatic work. 

The final shot of the movie is also beautifully haunting.

Movie Trailer

4. The Perfect Host (2011)



John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) has just committed a robbery and needs to get off the streets and tend to a nasty injury. After stumbling around for a bit, he comes upon the lovely home of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce), who is preparing for a house party (and prides himself on being an exceptional host).

What Taylor doesn't realize however, is that there is much more to Warwick than than he could ever want to know...which he will get to find out during the craziest night of his life.

Tomato Meter Rating 

43% (17 rotten reviews out of 30)

Why it's great

While the plot is pretty standard (criminal has the tables turned on him by a psychotically deranged victim), David Hyde Pierce is absolutely made for a role like this. He is somehow able to perfectly balance moments of comedy, tension, fear, and confusion, all while making it look about as effortless as pouring a glass of wine.

'The Perfect Host' somehow manages to be hilarious and a bit terrifying (in a slow burn type of way) at the same time...and if you think that the main twist of the movie has already been ruined for you, you're dead wrong. 

Why the critics hated it

"Around every corner is a new twist, a strategically placed misdirection or another switch of predator and prey. But while the gamesmanship is satisfying in moderation, it becomes a little monotonous in excess."
-Ian Buckwalter, NPR

While it does have quite a few twists and turns, I've watched movies with a lot more that were also much worse. Part of the fun of this film is watching David Hyde Pierce expertly slide from one situation to the next while his victim (and the audience) struggle to keep up.

"What aims for Hitchcockian slyness ends up an inconsequential jumble in the comedy thriller"
-Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

If this movie was trying to be "Hitchcockian," than it totally failed due to the fact that it's way too aware of itself. While the film definitely has some tense moments and keeps you guessing, the humor and brilliant insanity are what really make it good.

"...a bizarre train wreck of unfortunate circumstance piled on top of perverse, illogical fantasy and caught somewhere between psychological thriller and bemusing dark comedy."
-Christopher Null, Filmcritic.com

Sounds exactly like what the film was going for...and pulled off with flying colors.

Movie Trailer

3. Final Destination (2000)



While on a plane that is about to take off for a class trip to France, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) has a premonition that everyone on board will die. When he and a group of classmates make it off the plane, it turns out that his vision was tragically correct.

Unfortunately for Alex and the rest of the survivors, if death's design included your cheated demise, than the world around you will stop at nothing to make sure that all the loose ends are tied up.

Tomato Meter Rating 

33% (63 rotten reviews out of 93)

Why it's great

While some people will probably argue that the second or fifth installment of the 'Final Destination' franchise is the best, this is the one that started it all with a great premise and very unique execution (pun intended).

The idea of death as a force/entity rather than a physical hack-and-slash maniac/monster makes every setting and surrounding a potential death trap. The tension is ratcheted up even further by some very well done misdirects and a couple of legitimately surprising twists.

There are a couple of acting performances that aren't that great, but at least those characters end up dead.

Why the critics hated it

"The characters are paper-thin, and many of the plot's contrivances are just plain silly."
-Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide's Movie Guide

It's about a bunch of kids who cheated death, are now chased by the presence of death, and are being threatened by every object around them in their daily lives...the whole movie is a plot contrivance!

"Avoid this obvious exercise in re-inventing the Scream formula."
-Bob Thompson, JAM! Movies

...because all movies that feature teenagers getting killed are using the "Scream formula."

You'll actually find quite a few negative reviews for this one that are fixated on the fact that teenagers are often used in horror movies. Some of the reviewers sound like they're two seconds away from yelling at you to get off their lawn.

"Tedious and derivative, it will soon be long forgotten."
-Ben Livant, Cinemania

HA! Sorry Ben, but unlike the film's main character, you do not have the gift/curse of premonition.

Movie Trailer

2. K-Pax (2001)



Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) is a psychologist at a mental hospital who is having issues at home. Then one day, a patient calling himself "prot" (Kevin Spacey) arrives claiming that he is from another universe. While at first he seems to simply be a delusional man with a high degree of intelligence, prot (it's spelled that way and specifically not capitalized) begins making everyone around him (both the patients and the staff) wonder if he might actually be the real deal.

Tomato Meter Rating 

41% (81 rotten reviews out of 138)

Why it's great

There is a lot to this movie besides the "is he or isn't he" debate over whether or not prot is actually an alien. That part of the film, however, is incredibly well done. The audience is constantly given varying degrees of believable evidence in favor of both answers.

The greater theme, however, is about making the world around you a better place simply by caring for the people in your life the right way. The talks between Spacey and Bridges are filled with some great moments that manage to be thought provoking, touching, and sometimes even hysterically funny.

Why the critics hated it

"... a mixed bag, containing some interesting moments but filled with unrealized secondary characters."
-Ted Murphy, Baseline.Hollywood.com

Not only were the secondary characters in this movie very well fleshed out, but many of them were patients in the mental institution. Instead of just painting all of them as nutcases or lovable savants, the film turns them into complex and engaging characters that the audience also becomes invested in.

"The story doesn't work, the logic is dreadful, and no one I talked to understood what the ending meant."
-Victoria Alexander, FilmsinReview.com

I'm the type of person who gets his ass kicked by a treadmill, but somehow I still managed to understand the movie's ending just fine.

"It tries to frighten us into doing the right thing by declaring that there is no grace, no forgiveness, and no escape from our lives once we are done living."
-Jeffery Overstreet, Looking Closer

Maybe I'm just sick and twisted (or incredibly brave since the film's message never "frightened" me), but I found the movie to be incredibly uplifting.

Movie Trailer

1. Fallen (1998)



Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) and his partner, Jonesy (John Goodman) are investigating a string of murders by a serial killer that seems to be mimicking the methods of another mass murderer that Hobbes had recently brought to justice (and had just been executed by the state).

But what seems like a basic copycat case becomes much more dangerous than Hobbes imagined. The killer is actually a demon that can pass from host to host simply by touch...and he wants revenge on Hobbes for trying to stop him.

As the demon escalates things by entering various criminal suspects, witnesses, and even family members and friends, Hobbes desperately searches for a way to stop the ancient killer while everyone around him believes that he is losing his mind....and maybe a murderer himself.

Tomato Meter Rating 

40% (33 rotten reviews out of 55)

Why it's great

While this premise could have easily turned into a far fetched and ridiculous tale of the supernatural, director Gregory Hoblit manages to somehow keep a story about demonic possession in some very real and unsettling territory.

Denzel Washington turns in his usual excellent work (especially since it's in his "tortured protagonist" wheelhouse), but the passing of the demon from person to person also helps gives us some fantastic performances by many of the supporting players, as well.

The ending of the movie is also a complete and total doozy (in a good way).

Why the critics hated it

"Maybe the devil made the filmmakers do it. Although the acting and production values are good, don't be tempted to see this tedious film. It only reinforces society's fears that evil is everywhere -- and no one can do anything about it."
-Susan Tavernetti, Pao Alto Weekly

So a movie that explores the idea of evil being everywhere is bad? Okay, moving on...

"None of the protagonists are humanized enough to elicit our concern for their well-being, and a puzzlingly sporadic narration takes audiences out of the moment."
-Christine James, Box Office Magazine

While the acting performances of the secondary players can be debated, (though I challenge anyone to watch them and say that they weren't great), the performances of John Goodman and Donald Sutherland were top notch.

And as far as Denzel is concerned, humanizing a tortured hero is his bread and butter. Even 15 years later and after many roles and Oscar nominations, this is still some of his best work.

As far as the narration goes, I can see what Ms. James is talking about (though I didn't find it nearly as distracting as she did). But trust me, it's needed. You'll see why by the end of the film...

"Denzel Washington has the almost impossible task of holding together a convoluted picture that's only intermittently suspenseful and not very engaging emotionally or intellectually."
-Emanuel Levy, Variety

Not sure what to say here except that I disagree with Mr. Levy on all accounts. Watch the film and I'm pretty sure you will, too.

Movie Trailer

And that's it, ladies and gentleman. I hope that this list has given you at least one of the following three things:

1. Some great movies to check out that you hadn't seen yet.
2. Vindication of your love for a movie that you secretly felt ashamed of.
3. A reason to call me an idiot and list movies that I may have missed in the comments section below.

I am well aware that there are some I may have missed, even when you take into account the criteria listed at the beginning of the article. Please let me know if I did; Netflix and Blockbuster well help me rectify the mistake immediately.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter. 

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