by David Cornelius
David Hewlett and corpse, "A Dog's Breakfast."
Lousy direct-to-video flicks, most of them starring Wesley Snipes, may still be a dime a dozen, and studios are as crazy as ever over the quick-buck DTV sequel. Even so, 2007 was a terrific year for the DTV market, with good, even great, movies becoming the rule, not the exception. Never before have so many quality movies received the DTV treatment.
So let’s celebrate these woefully underseen gems by revisiting the best of the bunch. And, for good measure, let’s also recap the worst of the worst, just in case you forgot which ones to avoid next time you’re at the video store.
As always, I must preface these rundowns with the usual disclaimer: the DTV market is, as always, flooded beyond reason, and it’s impossible for anyone to keep up with every single title. As such, there may be a movie or two worthy of inclusion on these lists that I’ve missed. Think I ignored your favorite DTV film? Upset I didn’t namecheck an unwatchable stinker? Let me know about it in the forums.
With that out of the way, let’s get on with the list-making goodness…
The Best Direct-To-Video Movies of 2007
1. “A Dog’s Breakfast.” Nothing less than a comic marvel, David Hewlett’s dark indie plays like a modern version of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” with murder and mayhem surrounded by giant laughs and giddy, twisted delights. Hewlett, who made the film with a handful of his “Stargate: Atlantis” costars while on break from that show, has crafted an airtight work that delicately balances gruesome humor with cartoonish exaggeration, and the result is hands-down the smartest comedy you’ll see this year.
2. “Planetfall.” Yes, this sprawling jumble of a sci-fi/western adventure is an overloaded mess. But I love every gloriously messy minute of it. The grand ambitions of this no-budget labor of love from a devoted handful of Minnesota filmmakers are matched by its sheer entertainment value and explosive imagination.
3. “Gamerz.” Ignore the dopey spelling - this one’s a bright take on geek angst that deals entirely in characters, not caricatures. The result is a lovely ode to nerd life that’s refreshing in its dramatic honesty while also being brutally funny.
4. “Always Will.” The film’s backstory - it was made almost entirely by kids and teens over the course of a school year - is enough to get it noticed. But the real treat about “Always Will” is that it’s a compelling drama with a time travel twist, a sort of “Butterfly Effect” improved with intelligence and heart.
5. “Big Nothing.” Simon Pegg and David Schwimmer may be an unlikely comic duo, but they sure click in this black-as-night screwball caper in which their blackmail plans go horribly, horribly wrong. Big laughs all around, especially from Pegg, who’s as hilarious here as he is in his more noticeable productions.
6. “The Man from Earth.” From “Twilight Zone” scribe Jerome Bixby comes this clever, introspective story about a man who claims to be 14,000 years old. Essentially a one-set, all-talk drama, this story stands tall on the strength of its ideas and a sharp central performance from David Lee Smith.
7. “Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy.” Those seeking old fashioned family fun should look no further than this rip-roarin’ tale of Butch Cassidy’s teenage nephew, caught up in a wild race to find hidden gold.
8. “Futurama: Bender's Big Score!” The first of four overdue DTV movies reviving the brilliant sci-fi cartoon turned out to be very much worth the wait. The series’ trademark combination of smart genre parody and goofball humor is in full force here, although newcomers will surely enjoy themselves as much as lifelong fanatics.
9. “The Call of Cthulhu.” After teasing us with festival screenings and an online mail-order release, this haunting, ingenious silent movie adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s most popular story finally received a wide DVD release this year, allowing a larger audience to behold the sensational wonders of “Mythoscope.”
10. “I'm Reed Fish.” Jay Baruchel effortlessly carries this self-consciously whimsical autobiography (written by the real Reed Fish) about a twentysomething who reluctantly returns to his quirky small town home. Shuyler Fisk, meanwhile, steals the show as a crush-worthy songstress.
And now, on the other, more miserable hand, we have…
The Worst Direct-To-Video Movies on 2007
1. “Illegal Aliens.” Yikes, jeepers, and ugh. Anna Nicole Smith’s final movie is also her very worst, and if you’ve ever seen her other movies, you’d know just how low we’ve sunk. A wholly unwatchable blend of limp jokes, plotless meanderings, stock footage, and something about “mind-control suppositories.” And it’s even worse than it sounds. One of the dumbest movies you’ll ever have the misfortune of watching, and did I mention there’s a scene where Anna Nicole turns into a car?
2. “Creepshow III.” This in-name-only follow-up walks all over the good name of the “Creepshow” franchise, but even without the comparisons to those 80s anthology flicks, we’d still be left with a harsh, clumsy debacle, with rambling, crudely written (and lazily directed) stories tripping over themselves in failed attempts to thrill. What a horrible mess.
3. “Farce of the Penguins.” If you’ve ever heard Bob Saget get raunchy, you know he can be both very funny and very smart about being very funny. Not one ounce of that humor know-how pops up in this woeful “March of the Penguins” spoof, in which Saget’s comedy buddies dub in lifeless dick-and-fart jokes over documentary footage.
4. “Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon.” Few titles this year are as awesome in its earnest stupidity than this one, although I suppose the sequel, “Max Havoc: Ring of Fire,” comes in a close second. Featuring bad martial arts, a terminally dull leading man, and David Carradine, this movie was the focus of a scandal that ended with the producers essentially screwing over the entire population of Guam. That’s some feat, and this is some bad flick.
5. “Die You Zombie Bastards!” It’s a darn shame that such a fabulous title should go to waste on such a lousy movie. This sub-Troma splatter comedy grows increasingly tiresome as it becomes increasingly convinced that it’s being hilarious.
6. “Bunny Whipped.” I’d love to discuss what this movie is about, but it’s such an incompetent, half-assed clutter - something about a self-made superhero, a rapper, and romance - that I highly doubt even those who made it could provide an answer.
7. “Return to House on Haunted Hill.” The year’s most useless studio-approved sequel fails on two levels: as both a basic horror story and as a Choose Your Own Adventure-style piece of interactive entertainment. The multi-ending “movie-as-game” version, released as part of the HD-DVD and Blu-ray editions, only allows the film to have more ways to suck.
8. “Disaster!” Think of this one as “Team America” by way of “Robot Chicken,” minus anything resembling a laugh. Intended as a parody of big-budget disaster epics and Michael Bay actioners, this animated effort lands with a hopeless thud thanks to a seemingly unending pile of poop jokes and bad puns.
9. “Transmorphers.” The Asylum shows no sign of slowing down with its particular brand of knock-off cheapos, and “Transmorphers,” a limp giant-robots adventure retooled at the last minute to cash in on a certain summer blockbuster, is the lamest of the bunch.
10. “The Reef.” A miserable “Finding Nemo”/“Shark Tale” wannabe, this CGI cartoon is so lazy, cheap, and downright ugly, it makes “Doogal” look good by comparison. Worse, the cast is a who’s who of awfulness, including Freddie Prinze, Jr., Rob Schneider, Andy Dick, and Fran Drescher.
And lest you think I forgot them, yes, “Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance,” “Bring It On: In It To Win It,” and “American Pie Presents: Beta House” are completely awful also. That they did not make the final list should clue you in as to just how terrible these ten junkers are.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2331
originally posted: 12/29/07 07:25:52
last updated: 12/29/07 07:50:19