Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2010 Year in Review: The 10 Worst Films

I still have 5 films to see before I release my Best of lists - although I will see The Illusionist, The Company Men and The Way Back this weekend, leaving only The Tillman Story (out on DVD February 1 or 8 depending on which site you read) and Biutiful (out in theaters apparently on February 11. I may or may not wait for those final two films - but if any of them deserve placement on the Worst of list, I guess they get a pass this year. Anyway, on to the list.

I tried more than ever this year to avoid as many bad films as I could. But as always, there are some you simply cannot avoid – or at least I didn’t. People like to decry the death of cinema, and if you simply concentrated on these film, you’d have a point. Below is my bottom 10 films of the year, but before we get there, here are some other ones I wished I skipped: Agora (Alejandro Amenabar), The A-Team (Joe Carnahan), Burlesque (Steve Antin), Charlie St. Cloud (Burr Steers), The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Michal Apted), Dear John (Lasse Hallstrom), Eat Pray Love (Ryan Murphy), Extraordinary Measures (Tom Vaughn), Grown Ups (Dennis Dugan), Gullivers Travels (Rob Letterman), Hereafter (Clint Eastwood), Hot Tub Time Machine (Steve Pink), Jackass 3-D (Jeff Tremaine), Jonah Hex (Jimmy Hayward), Little Fockers (Paul Weitz), The Last Airbender (M. Night Shyamalan), MacGruber (Jorma Taccone), The Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa), A Nightmare on Elm Street (Samuel Bayer), Partir (Catherine Corsini), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Mike Newell), Step Up 3-D (John M. Chu), The Tourist (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), Valentine’s Day (Garry Marshall), Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn), The Wolf Man (Joe Johnson), Year of the Carnivore (Sook-Yin Lee).

And now, onto the worst of the worst. I am happy to say that I skipped many films that will find their way onto these lists this year, yet there are still some horrid ones that I did see. These are them.

10. Tamara Drewe (Stephen Frears)
I can’t say I’m too surprised that some of the other directors on this list made it – but Stephen Frears? The man who directed Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity and The Queen among other great films? But Tamara Drewe is easily the worst film of Frears career – even worse than his complete bust from last year Cheri. Here is a film where practically every character is hateful and cruel – and it’s all played for laughs, and the film even tries to win over our sympathy. True, watching Gemma Arterton move was one of the chief reasons to go to the movies this year (she truly is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and made watching this, Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans at least somewhat bearable, and she even proved she could act in The Disappearance of Alice Creed), but she is as bad as the rest of the people in this movie – perhaps even worse. I can’t really pick on the acting in the film – they play the roles the way they were meant to be played – but to me this is a movie that celebrates shallowness and tabloid culture – and was practically insufferable.

9. How Do You Know (James L. Brooks)
How does someone as talented as James L. Brooks make a film as bad as How Do You Know? This is, after all, the same filmmaker who made Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets – smart, funny films all of them. But How Do You Know is one of the most inept romantic comedies of the year – and that really is saying something. Reese Witherspoon tries really, really hard to convince us that she is a female jock – and perhaps if she had better writing it would have worked. Paul Rudd, elevated to leading man status after years of being the second fiddle, looks lost. Owen Wilson delivers the same performance he always does – in films both good and bad. Worst of all is shocking Jack Nicholson who seems completely bored by the film and isn’t even trying. The film clocks in at just over two hours, but feels way longer. It is a laugh free void, and it all stems for the lazy screenplay by Brooks – a filmmaker I expected much better from.

8. Cop Out (Kevin Smith)
Kevin Smith lashed out at critics who slammed Cop Out – saying that attacking this movie was like attacking a retarded child, because this movie was perfectly harmless and never meant to be serious. The difference between Cop Out and a retarded child is simple – the child was born that way and has no control over who they are – Kevin Smith and company chose to make this movie. Yes, the movie is harmless. But worse for a comedy it was also laughless. Bruce Willis completely sleepwalks through this role, and Tracey Morgan is, well he’s Tracey Morgan, who can be great on 30 Rock when he is given brilliantly stupid lines to say, but is painful here when he is merely given stupid lines. This is supposed to be an action comedy, but Smith cannot direct action very well, and the movie isn’t the least bit funny. I have no problem with stupid comedies as long as they are funny (I praised the similarly themed The Other Guys this year for example), but when they’re not, retarded child or not, I’m going to complain.

7. Clash of the Titans (Louis Letterier)
If you ever want to make an argument AGAINST 3-D, all you need to do is watch this horrible film (or The Last Airbender, which was just as bad in terms of visuals). Done on the cheap, the 3-D in this movie probably made it seem worse than it actually was – the visuals were so bad at times I had no freaking idea what was going on. The movie is horribly written and acted – Sam Worthington is the blandest action hero ever, Liam Neeson is sleepwalking through his role as Zeus, and it almost appears like Ralph Fiennes got lost on his way to the Harry Potter set in his role as Hades, so this probably would have made this list no matter had I seen it in 3-D or not. But if Avatar showed us just how good 3-D can be, if you are James Cameron and spend years and hundreds of millions of dollars on it – than Clash of the Titans shows just how god awful it could be.

6. The Bounty Hunter (Andy Tennat)
I pick on romantic comedies a lot – mainly because I don’t think there has been a truly great one in years now, and nothing comes close to matching what the Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s produced (the only recent one that comes close in 500 Days of Summer, and considering that is about a failed one, I don’t really consider it part of the genre anyway). I typically try and avoid as many as possible, but for whatever reason I saw this one – and the result was one of my most painful trips to the theater this year. Gerard Butler is an actor I have never warmed to – he can’t sing, as he proved in The Phantom of the Opera, and he’s rather generic as an action hero. Here in a romantic comedy, I found him completely without charm. Jennifer Aniston is shrill and annoying as hell here as well. The shaky plot involves this ex-couple being thrust together and rediscovering their love – something that Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn excelled at. But these two are not Grant and Hepburn. They are just annoying.

5. Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine)
I’m not going to deny that Harmony Korine is an artist – he is clearly a filmmaker with a worldview that he expresses through his films. And yet, he is a filmmaker that I have found nearly impossible to get into his films – I think he is purposefully trying to keep his audience at a distance. His new films stars himself, his wife and supposed some friends, all in horrible old age makeup who do exactly what the title of the film implies – hump trash (they also fellate tree branches but I guess Trash Humpers and Tree Branch Fellaters was too long). I’m sure if I wanted to, I could come up with a defense for the film – crudely shot on VHS video – like many have done, but I don’t want to. To me, the film was slow and boring, and when it veers off and shows us scenes with real old people, some of whom seem to have some mental problems, the film may cross a line into exploitation. Korine is an artist – he’s just not one that I particularly like.

4. Sex and the City 2 (Michael Patrick King)
The TV show Sex and the City was groundbreaking in its depiction of female sexuality in all its brutal glory. The first movie was more about fashion than anything else, and was way too long, but it was hardly the atrocity that this film was. The four women bitch and complain about their lives of luxury so needlessly at the beginning of the movie that you want to grab them and shake them and tell them to snap out of it. Really, Carrie’s biggest problem is that Big wants to curl up with her at home and watch old movies? Samantha’s is that she is bored with yet another of her young studs? Charlotte that her kids ruin her designer clothes that she for some idiotic reason wears to bake? Okay, Miranda has a real problem with her husband’s adultery, but her problem with her boss feels forced. The movie introduces some interesting ideas, and then jettisons them all to take the women to the Muslim world, so they can attack and mock them for their backwards ways. The movie is offensive, but perhaps even worse it’s boring, poorly written with none of the zippy dialogue that was the shows trademark, and all four leads appear to be completely and totally bored with this series. It’s time to put it to bed.

3. The Human Centipede (Tom Six)
The Human Centipede was the most talked about film of 2010 that no one actually saw. I know no one else who actually sat through this film, and yet, I don’t think I was asked if I saw a film more than this one this year. It became famous because of its concept – and it’s because of its concept that no one actually saw it. It is a about a mad German scientist (based on the evidence I have seen in movies, I believe all German scientists are mad) who for whatever reason (they are never explained) kidnaps three people – and then attaches them to each other – ass to mouth. That’s right, the first people eats, then shits into the mouth of the second person, who then shits into the mouth of the third person, who then shits onto the ground. Happy days. Yes, the concept is gross – and watching the film is a trying experience at times. And yet, I think the biggest sin that director Tom Six’s film commits is that it is mind numbingly boring. The first half of the film is a low grade, Texas Chainsaw Massacre knockout – with beautiful girls stumbling across the freak show that is the mad scientist, and then trying to escape. The second half is all about the so called human centipede – that it must be said, never actually does anything. The film is gross – but I can handle gross. It’s boring I cannot stand.

2. Film Socialism (Jean-Luc Godard)
Jean-Luc Godard’s place in film history was secured decades ago – hell if he never directed another film after his first, Breathless, he would still be one of the most important filmmakers of all time. But in a year where that film celebrated its 50th Anniversary, he made what he says will be his last film – and one only hopes that is true. Film Socialism is a bundle of images and non-sequitor dialogue – that if you don’t speak French you are stuck reading in “Navajo English” subtitles, which simply makes it more meaningless. I suppose you could argue that the film – told in three parts, one on a ocean liner with passengers who cannot connect, one with a family and their gas station and finally a collage of images recounting the horrors of the 20th Century – is about the death of language. But if it is (and I say if, because I doubt most viewers would get that if they didn’t read some reviews from Godard’s defenders), is he really saying anything new? Anything of value? Is there anything here he didn’t do better in the last decent film he made – Notre Musique? I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Godard’s film – even some of his masterpieces from the 1960s are hopelessly dated and pretentious (I may have given up on Two or Three Things I Know About Her when the child talks about his dream of North and South Vietnam holding hands) – but I don’t think I’ve ever hated one of his films more than this one. So please, Godard, retire.

1. Remember Me (Allan Coulter)
There is no way to tell you why I hate Remember Me as much as I do without giving away the ending. This is yet another movie about whiny college students, falling in love, and bitching about their problems. Robert Pattison is pretty bad in the lead – he has zero charisma, and I’m sick of his pseudo bad boy routine, and I’m also sick of movies about rich kids who just want daddy’s love. Emile de Ravin is better as his poor girlfriend, but she is given such a horrible role that it hard to take her seriously. The movie was progressing at its regular, lackluster pace until we get to the big climax – Robert Pattinson’s character was in his father’s office in the World Trade Center on September 11th, and was killed. 9/11 deserves to be treated with more respect than to be the climax of a shitty teen drama. They threw it on at the end to try and get tears from the audience – tears that the movie doesn’t deserve and hasn’t earned. It was a cynical attempt to drawn emotions from a national tragedy – and that’s why Remember Me is far and away the worst movie of 2010.

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