I’m a strong believer in the notion that you get what you pay for.
Though a perpetually underemployed scribe, I’m known to drop nearly two hundred dollars on Acela Express train tickets rather than pay $20 for vomit-inducing, bumpy bus rides down to the nation’s capital to visit friends. Time is money.
That said, I can’t seem to bring myself to sign up for Netflix’s movie streaming service. I already pay $7.99 a month to watch a plethora of television shows and a handful of free films on the site, so why would I cough up an extra eight dollars a month to have even more distractions at my fingertips?
I’ll tell you why: Netflix’s free movies are atrocious. I’ve known this ever since summer 2011, when I signed up for the site’s trial period out of immense loneliness. My roommate had just moved out and my buddy Nikki had recently relocated to California, so all the time by myself was really starting to affect my sanity. I was especially frightened to endure Hurricane Irene alone in my apartment, so I had my own personal marathon of awful Netflix freebies to keep me calm. Netflix has since added dozens more bad free movies to my cue, and here are some of the worst ones:
With the exception of “Animal House,” it’s impossible to take a movie about Greek life seriously. “Sorority Wars” does not give the archaic system the massage it desperately needs, but fuels the idea that sisterly love is conditional and easily broken.
The flick follows Katie, a college freshman who starts higher education believing that she will join her mother’s sorority. Though her legacy status makes her a shoo-in with the pearly, ultra-exclusive Delta girls, Katie prefers the down-to-earth, unpretentious Kappas. This doesn’t fly with Delta Queen Bee Gwen (“Center Stage” star Amanda Schull), who decides to make Katie’s life hell for rejecting the sorority and reporting their recruitment misconduct to the university.
“Sorority Wars” is bizarre from the start, but things get especially uncomfortable when Gwen likens Katie’s Delta reluctance to wedding nerves.
“Cold feet are no big deal,” Gwen says in hopes of swaying Katie to pref Delta, but when that backfires, the sorority launches a campaign against Katie and threatens to disassociate with any fraternity that grants her entrance to parties. This keeps many of the terrified frat guys away from Katie, but not everyone. A non-conformist, Beau, reaches out to Katie and assures her that he’s not going to treat her like a pariah as everyone else on campus has done.
“I’m Beau and I’m not as bad as you think I am,” he says.
She later concludes that he’s “less ass-ey” than she expected, but trust me, he’s as “ass-ey” and bad as they come.
Five-second review: Amanda Schull should have retired from acting after “Center Stage,” and sending the message that women who join different sororities than their mothers are free thinkers is one of the most offensive things the entertainment industry has come out with in a long time.
2. From Prada to Nada
You know your entertainment career is in trouble when your most recognizable film is “Spy Kids,” or the Disney Channel original movie “Rip Girls.” Such is the unfortunate case for “From Prada to Nada” actresses Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega, who portray wealthy Los Angeles sisters who lose everything when their father dies. This forces them to relocate to east L.A. to live with relatives and embrace the Hispanic roots they’ve been denying all their lives.
The worst part of “From Prada to Nada” isn’t the title, or even Alexa Vega’s embarrassing attempt at sexiness, but the dialogue. Angry that they’ve moved to a bad part of town, Alexa’s character likens their new home to Calcutta.
“I’m out of here,” Alexa says.
“And where will you go?” asks Camilla.
“The Four Seasons? There’s lice on this mattress.”
“At least you won’t sleep alone.”
When a dapper male student-teacher fishes for more details on Alexa’s personality, she delivers the most fascinating line in film history: “My favorite color is red, my iPod is full, and I don’t wake up before 10…and oh, no habla espanol.”
Five-second review: Former Disney stars should be thankful they had a fun ride during childhood and move on to some other career upon turning 18, like life insurance sales or something. Okay, I’ll amend that argument: Ryan Gosling, my favorite person on “Flash Forward,” is exempt from the above statement. He can continue beautifying all my screens with his chiseled abs and soft smile. The others should just pray they’ll be Ryan Gosling’s offspring in another life.
3. It’s a Boy Girl Thing
Though definitely the best on this list, “It’s a Boy Girl Thing” is pretty painful to sit through, and since the opening scene features Zac Efron doppelganger Kevin Zegers dancing around shirtless, that’s saying something. Zegers plays Woody, a brotastic high school senior who likes to get a rise out of his brainiac classmate/next-door-neighbor Nell (University of Arizona’s very own Samaire Armstrong!), a secretly hot Yale-bound nerd who knows her life will improve once she starts college. Until then, she has to deal with Woody, who is way behind on the times for a quintessential cool kid. He raps Eminem’s “Without Me” and “Baby Got Back,” even though those songs had faded in popularity years before the filming of “It’s a Boy Girl Thing.” The loud music inspires many complaints from Nell, and Woody decides this makes her a “pencil neck virgin.” They find themselves arguing before an ancient statue at a museum and magically switch bodies as a result. The unwanted swap freaks them out until they realize it’s an opportunity to destroy each other’s lives.
Though the “Freaky Friday” theme is overdone, I can’t help but enjoy watching Woody and Nell take turns making fools of each other. Imagine the things you’d do in the body of your high school arch-rival. When they tire of fighting, Nell and Woody realize they’re in this thing together and become friends. It’s only through this unusual experience that they’re able to connect, but when they return to their regular selves towards the end, you’re left feeling like they haven’t quite earned it. Then Nell makes the biggest mistake of her life and we’re supposed to stand by her. My standards have been low in the past, but I’d never date a guy who referred to me as the “pencil neck virgin,” even though I held that title into adulthood.
Five-second review: As much as I enjoy the budding friendship between Nell and Woody, Kevin Zegers and Samaire Armstrong are too good for the hackneyed body swap storyline.
4. Beauty and the Briefcase
Compared to Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega, Hilary Duff is a mega-successful child-actress-all-grown-up, even with a film like this on her resume. “Beauty and the Briefcase,” which I watched to calm my nerves during Hurricane Irene last August, follows novice writer Lane (Hilary Duff) as she poses as a businesswoman to pen an undercover story for a ladymag. She learns that it’s insanely difficult to work in finance and that others won’t cut her slack for being cute. Meanwhile, she can’t seem to find a guy who fulfills everything on her checklist. As many Serving Tea To Friends contributors know, the life of a journalist is anything but glamorous, even in New York City.
The highlight of “Beauty and the Briefcase” takes place towards the end, when Lane decides she has been wrong to only date men applicable to the silly bullet points on her check list. Of course, she has to date fake British man Liam to figure that out. Why must all these movies begin with the lead female canoodling with creeps before realizing that the nerdy guy at work was right for her all along?
Five-second review: Hilary Duff may have a decent career for herself at 24, but this movie goes to show her real glory days ended in 2003. Hopefully motherhood will work out better for her.
5. According to Greta
I know I’ve roasted Hilary Duff a lot in this article, but her performance in “According to Greta” is unforgettable. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s good. In this 2009 drama, Hilary Duff plays a suicidal, troubled teen who is sent to live with her grandparents until she can clean up her act. The journey to happiness is no cup of tea (maybe all she needs are some friends to pass her a cup!), and it’s not until after she is unsuccessful in seducing another fellow bad kid and tries to drown herself that she begins to change her ways and behave.
Though Hilary Duff’s moody character is a relieving break from her chipper typecast, she simply can’t pull off the angry girl. As I put it in my blog last summer, “‘According to Greta’ is a poor man’s version of Lindsay Lohan’s 2007 flop ‘Georgia Rule,’ yet Duff remains a calming presence. Like Miley Cyrus in ‘The Last Song,’ southern belle Duff isn’t so good at depicting a bitter teen. These actresses weren’t given exceptional scripts to work with, but there’s nothing resentful or angry about either of them, so I don’t totally understand the casting behind these flicks. Nevertheless, Duff maintains her charm, even though she’s not as smooth as Lohan’s similar character in ‘Georgia Rule.'”
Five-second review: See “Georgia Rule” instead.