It’s hard to want to be lighthearted today. The past week of news has been, in a word, nightmarish and has only gotten worse. We’re all varying degrees of afraid about so many things and it’s difficult to know what to do to alleviate it.
As always, know that you are loved, you are important and you are wanted. Stand up to hate, to anger and to those who would fearmonger. Do not be silenced. Be afraid if you need to, but let it fuel you. Never give up.
For those who, like me, need brief periods of respite — not to bury your head in the sand, but to catch your breath before the next round of raging, fighting against hate and trying to work out how things got this way, I offer you some light relief.
Welcome to this week’s Weekend Binge. This week, I’ve been rewatching some of my favourite ’90s movies, guilty pleasures, and just genuine pleasures in equal measures.
First up on my list is the ‘so bad it’s good’ 1997 Jennifer Lopez vehicle, Anaconda. I saw this film in the cinema with my dad and distinctly remember finding it genuinely fun, though mostly because it was all just so silly.
Even if you haven’t seen this film, you have seen this film as it, follows pretty much the exact same plot as any number of SyFy made for TV Monster Horror movies.
In Anaconda, Jennifer Lopez is Terri Flores, the director on a documentary crew that is sailing the Amazon River to try and locate an isolated Indigenous tribe. Some days into their journey, they run into Paraguayan snake hunter, Serone, played by an exhausted looking and definitely not Paraguayan, Jon Voight.
Serone is exactly as sinister as you are expecting a snake hunter played by Jon Voight to be, and it comes as absolutely no surprise at all, to anyone, to learn he is evil. He’s obsessed on tracking and capturing a gigantic anaconda, which he hopes to sell for a million dollars to … it’s not clear who. Serone quickly reveals what a dick he is, takes over the boat at gun point and immediately leads the entire crew into terrible danger by forcing them to help hunt his snake. Things only get worse from there, and the casualties start building up fast. Serone uses what might be actual sorcery to bring Owen Wilson over to his way of thinking, leaving J-Lo with Ice Cube, Jonathan Hyde and a comatose Eric Stoltz to back her.
There are lots of reasons to watch this film; mostly drinking games. You can make a drinking game of every time the gigantic anaconda makes loud shrieking noises that no snake has ever made, or a drinking game of every time the snake utterly and completely defies all known laws of physics (seriously, you will spend much of the Final Battle wondering what the snake is hanging from). My favourite drinking game is to chug whenever Stoltz’s character and line readings are so pompous and stuffy that you actually find yourself cheering when he gets stung in the throat by a giant wasp.
Which, in case you wondered, might have been caused by Jon Voight. Somehow. But of all the reasons to watch this film, the most important are all of Jon Voight’s villain faces. Behold.
And, just because who needs to sleep comfortably? — this one again.
Look, go with me on this one. Waterworld is really only ridiculous for two reasons; crappy bullshit science fueling the entire plot, and the amazing task of trying to sell a gently balding Kevin Costner as a steely badass hero.
For those who, somehow, don’t know, Waterworld is for all intents, Mad Max On The Sea. It takes place mmmmaybe 500 years in the future, after the melting of the polar ice caps. Bad science explains that the whole world was entirely flooded, leaving human survivors to live on atolls and ships they salvaged out of the ruins of our world. Real science says such flooding will be devastating and costly, but will not cover all the world’s landmasses.
Kevin Costner plays the mysterious Mariner, a gifted sailor and drifter who is accidentally dragged into a fight between good and evil, to secure a map that may lead the way to the last remaining dry land on the globe.
The twist? The map is tattooed on the back of a small girl who was found, Moses like, floating in a basket many years before.
The child, Enola (Tina Majorina, now far more famous for turns in Veronica Mars and Napolean Dynamite) is also hunted by ‘Smokers’, the movie’s Just Plain Evil bad guys. They’re marauders who attack peaceful settlements, still use gasoline powered vehicles to get around, live on the literal Exxon Valdez and also … ? Smoke and drink on the regular. They’re so ’90s evil, it’s almost too much to handle. I’m sure had the film had time for a scene of them throwing puppies overboard, it would have been included.
Dennis Hopper is The Deacon, the Smokers’ leader, whose entire motivation for everything he does appears to be ‘because the plot needs him to’. He is unhinged and maniacal, though because it’s Dennis Hopper, he’s naturally the most likable dude in the entire picture. He comes across as the only person in the cast actually having a good time, second to little Enola, for whom much of shooting must have been like living at a water park.
Jeanne Tripplehorn rounds out the cast as Helen, Enola’s adoptive mother and the Mariner’s eventual love interest, and pretty much just those two things. Costner plays a mutant with functional gills and webbed feet; the whole script is riddled with funny future-speak that is still largely presented in standard American accents, and it’s one of those films where somehow, the last survivors of humanity still manage to be hapless fuckwits until the right hero comes along.
The end result is the kind of silly, perfect, Saturday night fun that you just can’t help but enjoy, even while you baffle at the insanity, and it’s another one primed for any kind of drinking or eating challenge. You could drink every time someone (the Mariner, always the Mariner) uses overly complex mechanics to run the short distance across his boat, or you could drink every time Helen makes everything worse. What you definitely will do is spend a couple of hours giggling and thinking about what a Netflix series of this show would look like. There’s been some call for a remake of the film, and I’m all for it. I think we’re ready.
Now this is a film that is just plain fun. Even if you haven’t seen this film you probably have seen one of the sequels because there are many. They suck and are terrible, but the original movie, which starred Brendan Gleeson, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt and Mira Sorvino, is just good old fashioned black comedy gold.
Lake Placid in Maine is struck by a mysterious but violent animal attack that has left a man dead and chewed to pieces by a creature that appears be a fanged reptile. Mira Sorvino’s prickly Kelly is an anthropologist in New York, who was recently dumped by the boyfriend who also happens to be her boss. Mostly to get her out of his way, this jerknozzle dispatches Kelly up to Maine to help investigate the strange animal attacks. She is not invited or wanted, and she absolutely does not want to be there — and has no intention of hiding this from anyone.
At the lake, Brendan Gleeson’s acerbic sheriff is caught between a rock and a hard place; his lake has a monster that is killing people and he needs outside assistance to stop it. But also, he hates absolutely everyone. So, you see his problem.
Their effort is backed up by Bill Pullman’s quietly cool Fish and Game Ranger ,and Oliver Platt’s delightfully eccentric, helicopter-piloting, mythology professor.
They quickly deduce that somehow, the lake has gained itself a crocodile, and the group sets out to try and capture the thing before they’re forced to kill it. Lake Placid is funny, sharp and it leans on its actors’ best strengths and skills to sell the hell out of a plot that in other hands, is so often totally ridiculous.
Gleeson and Platt are the highlight of the whole thing, both men absolute champions for crafting characters that you love more and more, not in spite of their eccentricities or gruffness, but because of them.
I hope these offer you the same lighthearted relief they offer me in these trying times. Until next time, stay safe.