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The Greatest Megabudget Movie Ever Made

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Mark Kermode | 11:41 UK time, Tuesday, 29 September 2009

In this week's virtual mail bag of blog replies, the question of mammon and the movies has opened up a mine of conjecture regarding the budget versus creativity dynamic, and at your request I offer up my own candidate for the greatest ever multimillion dollar blockbuster. Feel free to volunteer your own...

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  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Dr. K,

    I bring up the subject about Batman Begins, because although it had a multi-million dollar budget it had (as you said) the tendencies of an independent film. While this is on the issue about whether a budget is characteristic of its film, could this be the most dynamic use of multi-million dollar budget?

  • Comment number 2.

    the right stuff is a fantastic big budget flop. For me its still one of the best films of the 80s and that no-one went to see it was an outrage
    Gotta love the cheesy blockusters of the 90s though, robin hood:prince of thieves and the fifth element are really fun, if ridiculus, popcorn fests

  • Comment number 3.

    Another choice might be David Lynch's DUNE - a weak movie by Lynch's standards is of course still a terrific movie. Was it the most expensive film ever made in its day? You can certainly see a lot of the money on the screen, and what I really liked about it was that it was a space fantasy that didn't look a bit like STAR WARS.

  • Comment number 4.

    For Blockbuster - aren't you revisiting one of your summer talks you did with Simon? There you mentioned Jaws and Godfather - both great films.

    Note that many films you quoted as loathing in this category didn't lose money. As its hard to define "multi-million blockbuster", I quickly wikied the most expensive list:

    There - yes Cleopatra gets an honourable first equal, adjusting for inflation. But the trend is not new - also mentioned is Metropolis - estimated at $200m! Was it just the money?

  • Comment number 5.

    "Dune" is absolutely dreadful.

    I think the most impressive small budget film of the last few years is "Brick", how they pulled that off for half a million is beyond me.

  • Comment number 6.

    On the subject of my indifference to how much a movie cost, I am surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the following misquote:

    "What can you do for me? A very personal, very important thing. You ready for it?....... SHOW... ME... THE.... MOVIE!"

    (with a silent 4)

  • Comment number 7.

    Massive budget blockbuster which actually works as the genre intends?

    Independence Day, genuinely hits the brief successfully.

  • Comment number 8.

    Howard the Duck is a truely awful film, there is nothing good about it whatsoever, I remember as a kid being bored by it.

    Dune however is an excellent film, for its excessiveness, for it being disjointed, and occasionally strays from the novel, but unlike the Star Wars clones of the 80s, it does stand alone as being truly original, even though it's a complete mess, and it has Sting who is terribly miscast as Feyd-Rautha, in a strange tight blue underwear.

    Imagine what Lynch could have done with Return of the Jedi.

  • Comment number 9.

    Lest we forget, you also loved Hudson Hawk, another big-budget disaster, much to Richard E. Grant's chagrin.

    My favorite film of all-time is Apocalypse Now which went staggeringly over-budget but still managed to pull off something extraordinary despite its troubled production.

    Funny story about Howard the Duck. My dad auditioned for the Tim Robbins part and apparently came pretty close to getting it. Some time later, he was called back to read for the voice of Howard the Duck, but only for certain scenes. That's when my dad knew things wouldn't bode well for the film.

    My mistake re: Cleopatra.

  • Comment number 10.

    so what you're saying is you prefer George Lucas' Howard the Duck to his Star Wars film? unbelievable

    you might have forgotten about Basic Instinct 2, cost 70 million and made 6

    my favourite megabudget movie is Richard Donner's Superman

    my favourite mega budget flop is Hudson Hawk

  • Comment number 11.

    If the story is good could these blockbusters be made on a budget?
    Could Stephen Spielberg make a film for £5 mill?( $7mill ish)?

    Hitchcock made a lot of his film in the studio and not a comparative amount of cash

    I would like to see a small film but good story

  • Comment number 12.

    This was a tough one doc, cause lets face big budget flicks where there seems to be more money spent on marketing the dam thing rather than on film quality deserve to flop. So i tried in vain to find one that i truly enjoyed, my result; " The Long Kiss Goodnight" which had a modest enough budget of '65' million and only flopped upon release in the U.S but eventually raked in a profit of '25' million worldwide. Sorry Doc they all deserve to flop cause they suck.

  • Comment number 13.

    You know, I've never seen Howard the Duck. There are hundreds of tripey films on tv every week, and yet Howard the Duck is never shown anywhere. It'll never make money if they don't put it around, is it that embarrassing?

  • Comment number 14.

    OK, apparently the entire thing is on YouTube... ten minutes was enough. They should never put this on TV. George Lucas should be embarrassed... except of course, as we know, he's not capable of that.

  • Comment number 15.

    Terminator 2 gets my vote. That thumb is worth $100M alone!

  • Comment number 16.

    Did I just read someone bad-mouthing Hudson Hawk? I saw it for the first time a few years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. That running joke about Hudson's search for a Cappuccino is even funnier in retrospect, coming from the pre-Starbucks era when only Italians and pretentious fops knew what a Cappuccino was ...

    "Would you like to swing on a star,
    Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
    And be better off than you are ...
    Or would you rather be a mule?"

  • Comment number 17.

    I seem to recall walking out of Wild Wild West and saying "that was terrible - but I enjoyed it" A completely stupid film played with rather a lot of glee by Kevin Kline and Will Smith with a very cheesy Kenneth Brannagh. I also enjoyed Hudson Hawk because of the chemistry between Danny Aiello and Bruce Willis. I also got a laugh out of Ishtar but I think that is because I knew it was going to be bad and that it had cost a fortune to make. I am having a hard time thinking of a recent megabudget film that didn't bore me stupid. The Bourne films would be the most recent and of course Harry Potter which doesn't spring to mind as a megabudget film becuase of the quality of the story.

  • Comment number 18.

    David Lynch's Dune is in my opinion the best multi-million dollar failure of all time. It's supremely underrated, even by Lynch himself, and visually gorgeous.

    Havig said that, nobody got it and they still don't, and it was a financial disaster. Although it will always live in my heart as a triumph.

  • Comment number 19.

    True Lies. A near perfect blend of popcorn fun, laughs, jaw dropping action and fx and genuine film craftsmanship. It was the last great blockbuster before everything turned into an over edited, vacuous, cgi mess.

  • Comment number 20.

    It's very easy to bash Hudson Hawk, none more so than me during each viewing, but it makes me laugh and smile and it's one of my guilty pleasures. Thanks to this blog, I'll be watching it again (on VHS)this week, and I'll be singing and swinging on a star.

  • Comment number 21.

    Dune is an interesting misfit of the film. It's sprawling, all over the place and the effects are dated, but Francesca Annis is great in almost anything she does.

    My personal favourite megablockbuster is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The best of the original trilogy (haven't seen the fourth one), with the last great performance by Sean Connery and wonderful combination of action and dialogue.

    Would Showgirls fit the bill as a great box office bomb?

  • Comment number 22.

    Dr. K

    Totally agree with you on Howard The Duck, one of the all time great "Rubbish" films...however judging by your recent hp6 review surely your favourite big budget film in recent years must be 'Prisoner Of Azkaban'? It's definitely in my top 5

  • Comment number 23.

    Off topic but film-related looks like I won't be watching many films in the future. In the wake of the Polanski affair my boycott list has grown from one (Woody Allen) to many. Basically everyone who signed that petition; Michael Mann, Wim Wenders, Pedro Almodóvar, Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam, Julian Schnabel, the Dardenne brothers, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Wong Kar-Wai, Walter Salles, Jonathan Demme, Tilda Swinton, Monica Bellucci, Asia Argento et al. Maybe that's just what goes on in the entertainment business and it's no big deal, but I suspect if he'd been Father Polanski, Catholic priest, they would have felt differently.

    In any event your reviews are more entertaining than the films anyway so I'll still be listening :)

    As for money and films, there comes a point where I think you have to consider whether we can morally accept a film that spends several hospitals worth of money on nothing worthwhile. So I think it's okay to say a bad film is made worse by the money wasted on it (including ours as punters) and a good film is made better if it was made cheaply. I think an expensive film has a duty to be good, and deserves more scorn if it isn't.

  • Comment number 24.

    Dear Dr K (Oh my God this is exciting, cos I've been a listener/viewer for ages, but have never posted before and the idea that your gonna read this is making me tremble with glee... is that sad??)

    I would have thought the obvious answer to the best multi million dollar budget film was obvious: LORD OF THE RINGS OF COURSE!

    3 of the greatest films ever made, I watch them at least once a month (again, is that sad??) and still find them gripping, moving and jaw-droppingly spectacular. The make-up and costumes are beautiful/terrorfying (whichever is required), the speacial effects are stunning, the script is fluid and the acting ranges from above average to mesmarising. Even Orloondo Bland gives a good performance, in the role he was undoubtadly born for (but sadly cannot seem to fall out of!) As the for the soundtrack, it is the single greatest musical achievement of all time, bar none, full stop.

    Come to think of it, I've never heard your opinion on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy... care to give me a brief review?

    Many thanks,

  • Comment number 25.

    The Towering Inferno and the original Poseidon Adventure, which sadly seldom pop up on TV anymore. I am sure they spent (adjusted for inflation) way more money on the remake of Poseidon Adventure but it doesn't have the heart of the original.

  • Comment number 26.

    Finally, someone else who likes Howard The Duck. That film is one of my most vivid memories of the 80's, it was one of those films that you noticed on the shelf straight, right beside the likes of Hellraiser, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown and Masters of the Universe. Yet despite nobody liking it, all the major shops here in Ireland have slapped a high price tag on it of 25 euro's. So far i haven't seen it in any sales, for a film that they probably want to get rid of, shouldn't they drop the price a little. I mean they clog up half the shop with The Matrix for 3.99 which everybody has already, yet upstairs in the "H" section lies a single copy of Howard The Duck for 25 bloody euros which i refuse to pay. A pity.

  • Comment number 27.

    I recently watched Masters of the Universe, that was a god awful film done on the cheap by Golan Globus, producers of other tripe such as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

  • Comment number 28.

    Where does SUPERMAN THE MOVIE fit in? Much was made at the time, I believe, of the umpty million dollars shovelled into Mumblin' Marlon's wallet for his opening reel appearance (and first place in the credits - Christopher Reeve himself only gets third billing). It's still a terrific movie, though, and despite the occasionally hokey effects and dodgy model shots, has more charm and heart than the soulless and computerised SUPERMAN RETURNS.

  • Comment number 29.

    Howard the Duck is awful film with jokes that fall completely flat and are childish and so immature they wouldn't look out of place in a Judd Apatow film. Firstly it supposedly allows us to believe that ducks with human attachments are funny, that a duck having an intimate scene with a human is subversive when actually it is terribly misjudged. On top of this you have the ridiculous of no one freaking out over an intergalatic duck that dances and talks, then it goes into absolutely outrageous (and not funny) territory when he gets a job. Irritating performances, lousy special effects give us a turkey of gigantic proportions. Trust George Lucas to come up with a stinker like this.

  • Comment number 30.

    Oh also, as mentioning Howard the Duck as the greatest multi-million dollar blockbuster you are placing it above the great Lord of the Rings. Which is utterly stupid.

  • Comment number 31.

    Lord of the Rings wasn't a mega budget film. It just looked like one. It was produced by New Line.

    Oh, and Last Crusade is the worst 'original trilogy' Indy film. Its lazy film-making and uninspired compared to Raiders (the best) and a lot of Doom.

  • Comment number 32.

    Lord of the Rings not mega budget?? It was made on a budget $300 million

  • Comment number 33.

    Williamchadwick, I like you already! Yes 300 million is most definately a mega budget!

  • Comment number 34.

    It is of course right not to review a film along different lines according to its budget size, just as we refrain from judging a book.... However, the budget has an inevitable impact on your evaluation whether you like it or not.

    I am not a film buff but trust implicitly your view ever since stumbling upon your notorious Pirates critique. Knowing your frame of analysis quite well now, it seems your first point of reference is the director. That is to say, what he/she (normally he) was hoping to achieve with that particular piece of work in the context of his/her cinematic career progression. Often, I am unfamiliar with the director, their life path, or the motivation behind the film and can still enjoy There Will Be Blood without knowing anything of Paul Thomas Anderson (I just looked it up), or loathe Transformers without having the foggiest about Michael Bay (I recall you review).

    This lack of knowledge may indeed leave me with a constrained appreciation or contempt for a certain film. But arguably, this information is equally as superfluous or pertinent as the budget size, since it is not directly relevant to the film at hand. That is to say, the film should be judged on its own merit and with no external impinging considerations. And yet, your comprehension of the director unavoidably encroaches (positively or negatively) on your perception of the film. As do the extraneous knowledge of the actors in it, the broad social context in which the film was made, and the specific circumstances in which any given film was put together, including the financial clout behind it. The objective vacuum in which you hope to dissect a film simply does not and cannot exist. Is this a fair point?

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm as surprised as everyone else to see that the good Doctor prefers Howard the Duck over Apocalypse Now, Terminator 2, Jaws, Aliens, or any of the other classic big-budget films.

    But ... Doctor ... please, can you explain to me.....


  • Comment number 36.

    I think he just mentioned one that came to mind.

  • Comment number 37.

    It shouldn't be about how much the film costs but more about what can be done with money available. Whether a shoe string budget or a multimillion dollar budget showing creative resourcefulness in the craft gives the viewers an idea of the kind of talent that has be working on the picture. Werner Herzog and Terry Gilliam can do it with small budgets and yet studios give the opportunities to hacks(McG, Brett Ratner) and pyromaniacs (Michael Bay) who make very dumb films and get away with it.


  • Comment number 38.

    I was bored stiff throughout Dark Knight.

  • Comment number 39.

    Dear Doctor K,

    This is completely unrelated to the video blog but I was wondering if you saw Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe last night on BBC4? I know you're not a fan of games at all but there during one of the montages of the show where Brooker was explaining how the media looks down at video games there was a shot of you in Newsnight Review being rude to the format! Later on he made a comment about Simon Mayo defrosting a vege burger!

  • Comment number 40.

    In healthcare we often talk about moral distress in the context of not being able to do the required job because of external forces that are beyond the control of the healthcare provider. Budget, resources etc. Having read the Bride Wars discussion I would say the same concept could be applied to Dr. K's situation given that he can only review what the studio's release in any given year. This leads me to ask what is the role of the film critic? Is it your job to goad the studio's into making better films? Do you represent the voice of audience? How much influence does a critic have when it comes to huge blockbusters? Can bad reviews overcome the studio marketing machine and turn the audience away? I have gone to see films that I might otherwise have missed because I read or saw a good review by a critic I respect. I don't know how many people who wanted to see Tranformers Revenge of the Fallen would have skipped it had the film been universally panned. The lukewarm to poor reviews didn't do it any harm as it already made back double its budget. Are the days when the critics could effectively kill a film gone now that DVD sales can replace box office revenue? Do the studios take notice of the critics or has the very notion of film criticism become another studio marketing tool? Over to you Dr. K what do you say your brief is and how is your level of moral distress? Have you had enough positive film going experiences to innoculate you against the irredeemably awful ones?

  • Comment number 41.

    True Lies. A far from perfect blend of popcorn racism, boredom, jamie lee curtis screaming, weak action and fx and genuine film craftsmanship except acting, screenwriting and direction. It was the first over hyped blockbuster where everything turned into an over edited, vacuous, cgi mess.

  • Comment number 42.

    I like Vanfilms comment and would also like to see what Dr K says!!

  • Comment number 43.

    I have a fantastic idea for a big-budget film... Transformers 3... in 3D: A Michael Bay film!

    I'm sure Mark would love it!

    For workout, Michael Bay blows up houses and runs away from them - in slow motion.

  • Comment number 44.

    Snappy comeback LaptopAcid but it'd help your argument if you actually had any idea what you were talking about.

    There's a shot near the end - a close up of Arnie in the cockpit of the Harrier Jet, when it suddenly banks away from the camera and the whole plane swoops into shot. Still more exhilerating than anything I've seen since. Plus, there was very little cgi used in it, most of it was done for real. Which probably explains why it's so exciting.

    Cameron knows how to shoot, stage and edit action scenes, unlike todays music video/lucky TV directors who seem to think shaking a camera about in front of stuff and editing it together faster than you can take it in is somehow exciting!

  • Comment number 45.

    Surely some of the best big budget films of all time are Victor Fleming's entries in 1939?

    'The Wizard of Oz' - $2,777,000

    'Gone with the Wind' - $3.9 million

    That's mega money in the '30s, and these films have got something that the Blockbusters of today lack; staying power. People across the globe still sit down to watch these glorious films, I highly doubt that in 2060, people will be watching anything by Michael Bay.

  • Comment number 46.

    Spider-Man 2 is definitely a great big-budget film. It's easily the best of the trilogy, delivering vertigo-inducing action while managing to be thoughtful and engaging at the same time.

  • Comment number 47.

    On the subject of good mega budget flops I always thought that despite being bit of a mess that Last Action Hero was a cleverer film then it's ever given credit for

  • Comment number 48.

    Chrishaydon, I have to agree, and we can only hope that, by 2060, all traces of Michael Bay and his work will have returned to the firey hell holes from hence they came. But that's not to say all of todays big blockbusters are without merrit or unworthy of recognition. The Dark Knight for example, which achieved regignition, as Dr K rightly pointed out at the time, for being an arts film with a rediculous budget. I strongly believe that film will be remembered in 2060. Also, I think the chances of The Lord of the Rings films being forgotten, are as unlikely as the text on which they ae based being forgoten. Never gonna happen!

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree that Last Action hero is actually a really well made film. The film within a film scenes, though intentionally preposterous, are so well executed that many of todays film-makers could learn a thing or two from them. It was just a bit too post-modern for its own good.

    The lord of the rings trilogy though?. I enjoyed them but take out the gob-smacking second unit stuff and you're left with some pretty flat and banal story-telling. I take my hat off to Peter Jackson for getting them made but re-writing the books and extending the Elf stuff just kills the story and/or grinds the film to a halt.

  • Comment number 50.

    The reason Last Action Hero bombed not because of the story, it was the fact that the audience of the time just wanted to see Arnie send himself up in a spoof Action movie.

    The movie was patronising, particularly, the last part of the film when Arnie goes in to the real world, and realises that the things that happens in the movies don't really happen in real life, which I guess that was another turn off for the audience, because they felt patronised.

    We know Arnie, Stallone, and Willis movies don’t really happen in real life, but we love seeing those movies for escapism.

    Last Action Hero came out at the time Hollywood wanted to make kid friendly films, and tried to make movies that would be aimed at the adult market in to PG-13 (12A) friendly movies.

    Classic example Army of Darkness, where the first two were unrelenting shock fest , limbs flying, and blood splattering, AoD was basically a slapstick comedy, with talking skeletons.

    The studios wanted a PG-13 but the MPAA still ended up giving it an R rating, and the BBFC awarded it a 15 certificate.

    The same with Terminator 2, Arnie no longer went around killing people, he just knee capped them, or beat them up instead of ripping their guts out to acquire their clothes. Which was a bit extreme, but that was the character of the Terminator, that was what he was programmed for, an unstoppable killing machine.

    Robocop 2 was I think, a satire on the studios, and parent groups, who wanted to water down violent action heroes in to kid friendly ones. Robocop 2 was about OCP reprogramming Robocop in to a street friendly cop, instead of a violent no nonsense crime fighter.

  • Comment number 51.

    Also the fact that the producers of Last Action hero thought most people in the audience would recognise Death from The Seventh Seal shows how out of touch they were. Doesn't stop it being a very interesting film though. We're unlikely to see anything like it again.

    The Hamlet trailer is still inspired though.

  • Comment number 52.

    A great big-budget flop: Chronicles of Riddick. Anyone who lambasted that film is a philistine. I never thought I'd enjoy a big-budget Vin Diesel vehicle so much, but it was a gorgeous, brooding Shakespearean meditation on the power of power.

  • Comment number 53.

    Hey Mark, love the blog but could I please make one request? Could you get someone to turn the volume level of the main section up a teeny bit? Every time I watch I have to crank you up after the intro (which is at a sensible level) and then back down as the closing music kicks in. Just a small thing, but mildly irritating every time.

  • Comment number 54.

    On old ground here . . .

    Lord Of The Rings . . . starts great & tails off. And yeah, $300 mil is still a lot of money!!

    Batman Begins is (I think) about as good as a modern blockbuster gets (TDK is good, but but not that good)

    Spider Man 1&2 are great (no. 3, not so)

    Last Action Hero is let down by the kid (not likeable enough), but that's it - a cult classic

    But as ever, it's in the eye of the beholder -you'll like whatever works for you.

  • Comment number 55.

    I think that Southland Tales is a great mess of a movie. It is beautifully shot, funny, smart, dumb, chaotic and surreal all at the same time. It recieved a kicking when it was reviewed and I bought it cheap and was pleasently surprised that I enjoyed it so much.

    I do have to say that Chronicles of Riddick is rather a good blockbuster. I am sure the reason people don't like it, is down to the dumb names they give to the bad guys and planets.

  • Comment number 56.

    Wilder Napalm was a total flop at the box office but is one of my faviourite romatic comedies. Anytime a kiss can set a mini-golf course on fire you have my attention. I am laughing now just remembering some of the scenes.

  • Comment number 57.

    Roadblaster, I must admit I am slightly confused... What exactly do you mean by LOTR tails off. I can only assume you mean the individual films and tnot the trilogy as a whole because how you can describe something like a sequence of ten thusand scream horsemen riding towards the forcess of darkness accompanied by the most heart-renchingly beautiful combination of irish fiddle and full orchestra in history as "tailing off" is anyones guess. Now, if you mean the individual films I can understand, since the conclusion of the third film, whilst absolutely nessacary and, in my opinion, effective and still gripping, is admittedly very drawn out.

  • Comment number 58.

    Could you please enlighten me why most Hollywood movies insist at the end of the film upon blaring out at a thousand decibels thrash metal or terrible gangster rap across the credits,even when its not appropriate to the movie.I have noticed this to be a fairly modern phenomenon,but I'm sure if say ' snow white ' was made today nine inch nails will be screeching down my ear holes until they bleed.Is there any sane reason for this or are all the executive's at the studios puerile adolescents boys.Just curious if you had any insight in to this.
    Many thanks

  • Comment number 59.

    At the risk of flogging a dead horse, and veering off-topic, here's another word on 3D. After venturing to the local multiplex to see 'Up', I was subjected to relentless trailers for the latest 3D offerings. Scenes from 'Cloudy with a chance of meatballs', 'G-force' and 'Toy Story' made me wonder whether i would be able to keep my lunch down through a feature-length movie. Everything was thrown at the audience from the screen, or bodies leaped up in front of you. Exhausting, unimaginative fare. The comes 'Up', which, frankly, was a fantastic film in my view. Does it need the 3D? Well, i think it augmented the viewing experience. Take the finale (Spoilers), where the main characters duke it out on the surface of the blimp. The 3D effects really gave a feeling of perspective, peering over the edge of the blimp to see the drop into space, upping the tension in this sequence. A great success, most likely still pretty good without 3D, but enhanced with it.

  • Comment number 60.

    The biggest problem with Lord of the Rings (for me) was that all the first unit stuff was shot and editied like an early, low budget Pete Jackson movie then all the grandiose and epic second unit stuff was cut in. Take Gandalf's last minute appearance at Helms Deep - That should have been one of the most spine tingling and rousing scenes in the whole trilogy, instead it was just flat and lifeless, just something else that happened before they went somewhere else.

  • Comment number 61.

    ......see, I did find Gandalf's appearance at Helms Deep incredibble spine-tingling...

    I guess it's an opinion thing. These things work for some people, and not for others. But you can't deny that the moment is bisually impressive, and the one thing that makes most of the best moments in those three films come alive is (as I think I've already mentioned) the music. Howard Shore created a master piece with that musical score. And to think before that he'd been scoring creepy music for David Kronenberg!

  • Comment number 62.

    Ah, Howard The Duck. Nice to see some love for this film, as bizarre and ridiculous as it is. I guess the main problem was that you simply cannot market a film with a talking duck that somehow manages to include jokes about beastiality and sexually transmitted diseases. Too saucy for the kids and too naff for the adults. Of course I didn't understand those jokes when I was twelve. I was watching because I just wanted to see lots of explosions and a huge stop-motion-animated scorpion. But I have re-discovered it recently and I still find it immensely enjoyable. For many reasons:

    - Lea Thompson's legs.
    - The look of excruciating embarrassment on Tim Robbins' face.
    - Paul Guilfoyle when he actually had some hair.
    - Jeffrey Jones' genuinely scary transformation from possessed scientist to giant stop-motion arthropod.
    - Brilliant retro-style visuals from ILM that still look great.
    - Great soundtrack from Thomas Dolby, inlcuding the cheesily awesome eponymous title song.
    - Howard playing electric guitar with his bill.
    - Some genuinely witty dialogue.
    - Moments of misguided sexual humour that are so crass and inapropriate they become wonderfully subversive.

    Yes, it's a galloping mess of a movie but is all the more unique because of it and exists beyond all niches. It's a kids' movie that shouldn't be a kids' movie in that it refuses to patronise and be over-sentimental. But if only more kids' movies were like this. Forget your inane cutesy talking mice and give me a politically incorrect, cigar-smoking, sexually frustrated dwarf in a duck-suit any day.

    But yes I could have done without the 'duck-tits' as someone mentioned before.

  • Comment number 63.

    I've never seen Howard The Duck, and I really don't know if I want to see such a notoriously terrible film. Swept Away and Freddy Got Fingered were panned and I didn't last 15 mins watching either.

    Anyway, some big budget blockbusters I very much enjoyed were:

    Spider-Man 2
    The Dark Knight
    Batman Begins
    Lord of the Rings trilogy
    The Bourne Ultimatum

    I really enjoyed Last Action Hero - it's just a funny and fun spoof. Do you like it, Mark?

  • Comment number 64.

    Dear Dr.K

    How could anyone ever see anything of merit in Howard the duck? It is totally useless, and dare i say worse than exorcist 2 the heretic. Honestly, a talking duck? Oh and one more thing, George Lucas was involved in that film, and even he of so little talent, has disowned it.

  • Comment number 65.

    I'm quite proud to admit that even as a kid I knew the appearance of Death in Last Action Hero was meant to be a reference to the Seventh Seal I am however slightly ashamed to admit that I only knew it was reference to it because it had previously been parodied in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi Mark

    You may have contradicted yourself here when you say that film critics should not take into account the budget of a film when reviewing it. Something of a hard task for you guys I imagine.

    Your contradiction lies in a comment you made on the show early this year – the structure of which impressed me so much that I wrote it down so I could adapt it for my own gripe*. Which is why I've remembered it.

    You said, while reviewing Tropic Thunder, "Comedy is inversely proportionate to finance. The more a comedy costs, the less funny it is."

    This suggests that you yourself as a film critic entwines a film's budget with its artistic worth. The two are inseparable, your excellent epithet dictates.

    I think you're brills mcgills BTW!

    (*My enjoyment of a DVD film commentary is inversely proportionate to my love of the film. The more I love a film, the less likely I am to enjoy the DVD commentary. I expect a lot of info and no digressions!)

  • Comment number 67.

    Kingdom of Heaven (the director's cut) gets my vote - of course there are problems (imagine how good it would have been if Neeson's character had been the heart of the film), but I think it's one of the most sumptuous, beautiful films made in the last few years, and an interesting one to boot.

  • Comment number 68.


    Bernard_the_King - which was your favourite LOTR film? Mine's Return of the King. The final charge into battle on the fields of Palinnor are just cinematic magic. I wish I'd seen all 3 at the cinema; they must have been breath-taking.


    My favourite big budget film is probably Independence Day: it does exactly what it says on the tin. Though I have to admit the entire LOTR trilogy share first place, too. Oh to hell with that, I can't decide!

  • Comment number 69.

    I_am_I.... that's a really tricky one for me to answer. You're quite right, the Rohan Pelanor moment is one of the single greatest moments in cinematic history (thanks in part to Theoden aka Bernard Hill (hence my blogger name)'s amazing speech, wonderful actor, simply wonderful). But I have to say, my favourite is The Two Towers. It really boils down to comparing the big battles. The Siege of Gondor is so intense, so dramatic and so emotional, it verges on being stressful (which makes the eventual victory for the good guys all the more effective after all the horribleness they've been fighting.) The Battle of Helm's Deep, on the other hand, is more of a grungy, hands on, full fist (metaphorically speaking!) fight. For me, it's much more fun to watch this one, especaially when they ride out at the end, to be met by Gandalf, a breath-taking moment (although fortunesfool73 doesn't think so...) so, yeah, that's my answer, hope that made sense...

    I'd be interested to know which is Dr K's favourite. I think I can guess which one he likes best and why, and if he tells us, I'll let you know if I got it right. Also, does he prefer te theatrical version, or the extended version?

  • Comment number 70.

    I predict James Cameron's Avatar will not be 'da bomb, yo' like people expect, but that it will just 'bomb' and fall flat on its face like the funny lass who fell off that crate on air at some news thingy and made those walrus sounds.
    lol that was hilarious.

  • Comment number 71.

    Your contradiction lies in a comment you made on the show early this year – the structure of which impressed me so much that I wrote it down so I could adapt it for my own gripe*. Which is why I've remembered it.

    You said, while reviewing Tropic Thunder, "Comedy is inversely proportionate to finance. The more a comedy costs, the less funny it is." Watch Alice In Wonderland

    This suggests that you yourself as a film critic entwines a film's budget with its artistic worth. The two are inseparable, your excellent epithet dictates.

  • Comment number 72.

    veering off-topic, here's another word on 3D. After venturing to the local multiplex to see 'Up', I was subjected to relentless trailers for the latest 3D offerings. Scenes from 'Cloudy with a chance of meatballs', 'G-force' and 'Toy Story' made me wonder whether i would be able to keep my lunch down through a feature-length movie. Everything was thrown at the audience from the screen, or bodies leaped up in front of you. Exhausting, unimaginative fare. The comes 'Up', which, frankly, was a fantastic film in my view. Does it need the 3D? Well, i think it augmented the viewing experience. Take the finale (Spoilers), watch Iron Man 2 where the main characters duke it out on the surface of the blimp. The 3D effects really gave a feeling of perspective, peering over the edge of the blimp to see the drop into space, upping the tension in this sequence. A great success, most likely still pretty good without 3D, but enhanced with it.

  • Comment number 73.

    I'm not sure that I could decide which is the best, but I certainly know which is the worst. I watched 2012 recently and all I can say about the film is its much better if you watch it at x2 speed on your dvd player. Not only is the film only half the length but they have that funny speeded up 'Benny Hill' style walk.

    Joking aside, I thought it was rubbish. Special effects cannot make up for the absence of plot and the complete lack of empathy I felt for any of the characters.


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