Once more we return to my personal confessional, delving into the top five most embarrassing things that I watch or read—usually with the blinds pulled lest someone see. Without further ado, here are my top ten guilty pleasures part two.
5) “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”
Does it get better than watching the exploits of Bill and Ted? I think not. At this point, I am not sure how many times I have seen this film. It is ridiculous; it is contrived, but then it is supposed to be. There is no attempt at seriousness and that is what makes it so much fun. I especially love popping in this DVD when I have been hard at work on a paper for one of my classes. I admit I have frequently wished I had a time machine when I was writing massive papers for my Ethics class. It would have made it so much easier if I could have traveled through time and stolen Socrates from the past.
For those of you who have somehow missed it, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is a late 80’s comedy about two high school slackers (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) who decide to traverse time (in a telephone booth) in order to collect famous people from history, all so that they can keep from failing an assignment. This movie is the epitome of what makes 80’s comedies so fun to revisit. And, now Reeves and Winter are dropping hints to a new installment. With the 80’s far behind us, and the actors now passed their high school years, I can only wonder what this new movie has to offer. But if it is as delightfully bad as the first one, I am willing to bite.
4) “Collision Course (Star Trek: Academy)” by William Shatner
The original “Star Trek” captain never really left the Enterprise behind, or at least his actor, William Shatner, never did. He has written several books set in “Trek” universe, along with a memoir of his life on the show. I have always had a soft spot for the original “Star Trek,” but the
J.J. Abram’s film really raised my curiosity about the academy years of the characters. Luckily for me, Shatner was there to help. “Collision Course” was the first in a proposed series and, though no more have been released, the first one definitely left me wanting more. It was exciting, full of the youthful exuberance of the young Spock and Kirk. I loved it.
That is not to say that it is great from a writing standpoint. The cocky assurance that made Shatner such a perfect fit for the character of Captain Kirk rings through every page of the novel. I do not mean the characters. The novel itself feels cocky. The same melodramatic tone Shatner has become famous for somehow flows into his words. It is a strange experience. The best example of this, and the scene that stands out most clearly in my mind, is one where a character realizes his failings as a person when he stares into a fish bowl and sees how bad a pet owner he is. The fish bowl scene is handled with such heavy-handed seriousness that it honestly comes out hilarious. The whole novel takes itself seriously, and that is why it is so deliciously enjoyable in the it’s-so-bad-it’s-good category.
3) “The Princess Dairies” (Books and Movies)
I never really cared for the Disney princesses, not even as a kid. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were born out of fascinating tales, but their subsequent Disney releases left a lot to be desired in my mind. Maybe that is why I found Meg Cabot’s books so interesting. So, Mia has the dream of so many five-year-old girls realized when she finds out she’s royalty. The only problem is she never actually wanted that. Then she realizes that being royalty is actually a job with a lot of work. Most of the time, it’s not even fun. Cabot’s take on the classic idea was fun and intriguing. It is a series of beach books with little depth, but it was fun and at least a new take. It may not have even made it this far down on my list if it was not for one thing: I actually love the movies, too.
“The Princess Dairies” and “The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement” are a far cry from Meg Cabot’s original work. Just as it did with the original Grimm’s fairytales, Disney waved its wand and cleaned up Cabot’s story. The characters in the novels are flawed—sometimes dramatically so. Julie Andrews portrays a caring queen that does not really compare to the cynical woman of the books. They are a lot different, and yet, I still enjoy them. They are less thought-out than the books, but they are so much fun to watch. I especially love the second one for the interesting antagonistic romance between Anne Hathaway’s Mia and Chris Pine’s Nicholas. Number two is definitely sillier in some ways than the first, but it embraces the silliness in a way that is fun to watch. It is a fluffy romance with no pretense and I cannot help but like it.
I may not have ever been a princess girl, but I did always have a soft spot for their fire-breathing fairytale counterparts. Give me dragons on TV, in movies or in books, and I am there. When the dragon flies on the scene in “Merlin” I always find myself getting excited. As a kid, I adored the movie “Dragon Heart.” So, because of my early love for these creatures, this straddles the nostalgia line and almost did not make this list, but a lot of the dragon related stories I love have only happened lately.
Mainly, this manifests in the form of two particular movies: “Eragon” and “Reign of Fire.” Most fans of the Christopher Paolini book series hated the theatrical release of “Eragon,” being that it strayed so far from the novel. For me, I actually hated the books and thus did not have that bias against the movie. In fact, the only thing I liked better about the books than the movie was that Murtagh was not in the movie as much as the novel. Yet, with only a short amount of screen time, Garrett Hedlund managed to take the character and display a wealth of depth that was incredibly intriguing. Even better is the amazing deleted scene with him and the dragon. It boggles my mind that this did not make it into the movie. Add this with the performance of Jeremy Irons as Brom and the fact that there are dragons, it makes up for the stiffer acting of the other leads.
Then there is “Reign of Fire.” The fact that this movie exists confuses me to no end, and yet I am so glad it does. The plotline is that dragons are terrorizing England. Christian Bale is the leader of a
small band of survivors that are trying to just get by, with Gerard Butler at his side to help. Then comes the gun-toting American played by Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey is of romantic-comedy fame; though, he is more Jason Statham than Romeo in this part. It is some of the weirdest casting I have ever seen, and yet it works in a bizarre way. It is impossible for me not to watch this movie every time I see it on TV.
Here we are, at the final part of the list. This is the one I rarely own up to in conversation. Here is my most embarrassing guilty pleasure.
1) Regency Romance
In my senior year of high school I discovered Jane Austen. I was instantly in love with her work and have been since then. It launched an interest in the Regency time period. So, when one day I discovered a section in the local used bookstore, “Willow Tree,” devoted entirely to Regency Romance, I was intrigued. These are modern works set in the brief span of time when the Prince Regent ruled in his father’s stead. The genre is far more romantic-novel than Austen-literature. They rarely stray from a formula and after you read a few, that formula becomes quite clear. Even the language bares more similarity to each other than actual literature from the time period—I’ve found the word “lilthe” in nearly every Regency romance I’ve ever read. They are the novel equivalent of candy; enjoyable but dissolve as soon as they are consumed.
My favorite is a novel by Laurie Bishop called “The Best Laid Plans,” which involves romance, gypsies and kidnapping. It, also, skirts around some of the difficulties of writing woman in the staunch Regency society by making the heroine American. This decision seems to be a fairly common excuse in these novels to write the lead female in whatever way the writer wants, so that everything can be dismissed with a hand wave by the other characters and the simple phrase, “Well, she is American.” It is a fun romp of romance to put in your beach bag and read in the sun. And it will leave no lasting damage to the mind since you will forget it soon anyway.
These are my guiltiest pleasures, but there are many other great ones out there. Leave a comment or tweet @QuillChris and let me know what some of your guilty pleasures are.