“Guilty pleasure” implies that you know something is bad, and yet you love it anyway. I’d go so far as to amend the term so that it acknowledges that part of you that actually enjoys the badness.

Both Susan Sontag and Pauline Kael have written extensively on what attracts people to bad movies, though I wonder if either of them quite knew just how bad movies could get. Sontag for sure spent most of her time tracking down and then stunting on behalf of eight-hour-long Straub-Huillet art epics, so you could say her compass was a little skewed. (And thank God for that.)

On the other hand, Kael — who at her peak was unquestionably the most influential critic of her (or any) era — oftentimes seemed to be fighting on behalf of badness. Good intentions and acceptable standards aimed at the most common denominator were her enemies.

To say that I’ve taken a cue from Kael would probably be an understatement, since I consider Showgirls the best film of the 1990s, and also count Xanadu, Earthquake and Mommie Dearest to be all-time faves.

But there’s gloriously bad, and then there’s lazily bad. Taken was probably a contender for categorization in the former. Taken 2 is sooo the latter.

What made the first film work was the incongruity between Liam Neeson’s bulky, slow-shifting frame and the copious ass he kicked. The element of surprise made a surprise hit out of a movie that everyone would’ve summarily dismissed with someone like Colin Farrell or Jeremy Renner in the lead.

Now that we know what Neeson’s anti-kidnapping warrior and ex-CIA op is capable of, doesn’t the fact that he falls into the exact same predicament as he faced in the first film render him … well, kind of stupid?

Written and produced like the first by Luc Besson — the French answer to Michael Bay — but directed by Olivier Megaton (!), Taken 2 finds Bryan Mills taking his ex-wife and daughter (who was snatched in the first one) to Istanbul, where a whole new army of vengeance-seeking terrorists are waiting to snap up all three.

Neeson looks absolutely disinterested going through the motions, but Famke Janssen can’t even stay awake through major portions of the film, and she got stuck in the neck halfway through. I could relate.


Pitch Perfect is much closer to assuming the “guilty pleasure” mantel this weekend, mostly from the bonus points it might earn from anyone who kinda sorta can’t stand Glee.

Oh yes, I’m in that group. Once a band geek, always a band geek. Swing choir kids will probably always been the New York Yankees to our breed’s Boston Red Sox.

Anna Kendrick’s college-bound character doesn’t toot a sax or tingle a triangle, but as an aspiring DJ and club remixer is way too invested in the power of the backing track to give a cappella singing the time of day. When her humorless, divorced professor father tells her she has to join a club to get the true college experience he’s footing the non-existent bill for her to enjoy, she decides to go ahead and try out for The Bellas, a leggy crew whose uptight legacy of snoozy Ace of Base covers is being upheld by their puke-prone leader Aubrey (Anna Camp).

But only if she, along with some of the other misfits deigning for spots in the crew (foremost among them Rebel Wilson, Bridesmaids‘ rising star), gets to flip their script.

Pitch Perfect had me torn. On one hand, it’s a movie that subscribes wholeheartedly in the pure power of pop cliches. The most sympathetic character says The Breakfast Club and Rocky are two of the best-scored movies of all time. For real.

But on the other hand, it’s a film in which a near-mute suicide girl is practically pinned against her insert close-ups, whispers about eating her twin fetus in the womb, and makes snow angels in piles of vomit. Again, for real.

It resides somewhere in the vast middle ground between Glee and Drop Dead Gorgeous, but since Azealia Banks’ immortal “212” and David Guetta’s “Titanium” (speaking of guilty pleasures) pop up on the soundtrack, I can say I a capprove.

Just don’t rope a beatboxing Liam Neeson into the sequel.


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