Friday, January 18, 2013

2012 Year End: The Most Disappointing and Worst Films of 2012

I don’t like to dwell too long on the films of the year  I didn’t really like, but as much as I try to cut out the films I know I won’t like, I still see a lot of bad movies. And not just bad movies, but ones that I walk out of the theater disappointed in. So I will quickly go over the films that disappointed me, and then the ones I just down right didn’t like before getting into the 10 worst films of the year.

Most Disappointing Films
Not all of the following films were bad – some were even good – but all left me wanting more – which can be an even worse experience than simply hating a film.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Timur Bekmambetov) should have been a wonderful guilty pleasure, but never quite finds the right tone. Arbitrage (Nicholas Jarecki) was praised by many, but what I saw was an average thriller, with not much to get outraged by, and a fine performance by Richard Gere, but was still forgettable. Antiviral (Brandon Cronenberg) had such a great premise, that even though it was Cronenberg Jr.’s first film, I left me feeling let down. Battleship (Peter Berg) is probably better than it had any right to be, but considering how good Peter Berg can be – and how good Rihanna looks in an army uniform, I couldn’t help but think it was a missed opportunity. Being Flynn (Paul Weitz) has two great actors in Paul Dano and Robert DeNiro, and a fine story, but never quite hits you in the gut like it should. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden) was senior wish fulfillment that wasted a fine cast. Chernobyl Diaries (Bradley Parker) had a great premise, but the most unimaginative execution possible. Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman) was Whit Stillman’s long awaited return to filmmaking, and it wasn’t worth the wait. Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi) doesn’t do the Master justice, with its ridiculous inventions, and ho-hum casting. Hope Springs (David Frankel) was one of the few films to seriously tackle sexual issues in a long term relationship – but other than a great Tommy Lee Jones, has nothing to recommend it (not even Meryl Streep, who was thoroughly unconvincing as his meek wife). John Carter (Andrew Stanton) was Pixar genius Andrew Stanton’s live action debut – and while it’s never boring, it’s never all that involving either. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik) contains some great performances, and perhaps the best final scene/line of the year, but is so over directed and pretentious, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Lawless (John Hillcoat) is really quite entertaining – especially when Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce are involved, but it’s becoming clear than John Hillcoat may never come close to matching The Proposition again. The Loneliest Planet (Julia Loktev) was a beautiful film, but didn’t give me a reason to care about what was going on. Mirror Mirror (Tarsem) once again proves Tarsem is a gifted visual director, with no idea how to tell a story. The Moth Diaries (Mary Harron) tried hard to be the anti-Twilight, but ended up being just as lifeless. The Paperboy (Lee Daniels) started as a fine guilty pleasure, and does contain a great Nicole Kidman performance, but goes too far, even by its own standards, in the third act. Perfect Sense (David McKenzie) has an interesting premise, and a good Ewan McGregor performance, but has no idea what to do with either. Red Hook Summer (Spike Lee) has a raw intensity that I admired, and a great performance by Clarke Peters, but never really comes together, and flies off the rails in the third act. Trishna (Michael Winterbottom) takes Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles and places it in modern India – but has a blank Freida Pinto and a schizophrenic Riz Ahmed as the leads, so it’s doomed from the start. Total Recall (Len Wiseman) is further proof that Paul Verhoeven is a sorely underrated director, and needs to make more films. Tabu (Miguel Gomes) is beautiful to look, but to me anyway, never comes together in a meaningful way. 360 (Fernardo Meirelles) is yet more proof that when it comes to Meirelles, the law of diminishing returns is in full effect.

Bad Films
The following films were bad – not bad enough for the 10 worst list, but that’s about all you can say for them.

Act of Valor (Mike McCoy & Scott Waugh) proves why most all non-professional actors should never make a movie. Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster (Nathan Morlando) has a good premise, but is quite simply the dullest bank robbery story imaginable. The Five Year Engagement (Nicholas Stoller) can never decide if it’s a comedy or a drama, and fails at both. 4:44: Last Night on Earth (Abel Ferrara) is an end of the world saga that does nothing new with the tired concept. Get the Gringo (Adrian Grunburg) was supposed to be a comeback for Mel Gibson, but there is a reason it went straight to video in North America. Hello, I Must Be Going (Todd Louiso) has some nice performances, but doesn’t really know what exactly it’s trying to do. The Intouchables (Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano) was an offensively simplistic French film. Man on a Ledge (Asger Leth) was a ridiculous heist film with the ever so bland Sam Worthington in the lead. Pitch Perfect (Jason Moore) was like a bad episode of Glee – and considering I don’t like good episodes of Glee, you know my feelings on this one. Project X (Nima Nourizadeh) was a celebration of everything that is wrong with American culture. The Raven (James McTeague) has the interesting idea of making Edgar Allan Poe into a detective, and then does nothing with it. Red Tails (Anthony Hemingway) has some great aerial scenes, but the dramatic scenes were awful. Rock of Ages (Adam Shankman) was the dullest musical in (sorry for this) ages. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Lasse Hallstrom) was a bland, forgettable would-be romance. The Samaritan (David Weaver) was the dullest con game imaginable, with a sleepwalking Samuel L. Jackson. Seeking Justice (Roger Donaldson) was a barely released, awful thriller with a boring Nicolas Cage, a comatose January Jones and directed by a guy who should have known better. The Three Stooges (Peter & Bobby Farrelly) proves why I am not a fan of the Stooges. Underworld Awakening (Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein) may be the best Underworld film in a while but that’s not saying much. Wanderlust (David Wain) has an interesting premise, but takes the easy way out too often. Womb (Benedek Fliegauf) had some striking visuals in the service of a forgettable story. Wrath of the Titans (Jonathan Liebsman) was an unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake.

The Bottom Ten
10. Klown (Mikkel Norgaard)
If Klown proves nothing else, it’s that there are reasons why some lines are not crossed. Some loved this Danish comedy, because it crosses all the lines of good taste – even those that even the sickest gross out comedies in America never do. But the general rule of comedy is nothing is offensive as long as it’s funny – and I sat there stone-faced throughout this movie about two idiots who take a young boy on a canoe trip and expose him to all sorts of inappropriate, lewd sex acts. Most of this is just not funny, and I was bored throughout most of the film. But it’s the film’s final scene that truly crosses all lines of taste that crosses the line between simply not funny and downright offensive and wrong. There are reasons some lines are not crossed – and Klown doesn’t seem to realize that.

9. The Comedy (Rick Alverson)
The Comedy is a film by hipsters, for hipsters that pretends criticizes hipsters, before trying to make us realize that hipsters are people too. Now, had the film been more honest with itself, and the audience, it could have been a very good movie. Instead, the movie subjects the audience to scene after scene of its main character (actually played very well by Tim Hedecker) being a complete asshole, and mocking anyone who has a job or actually cares about anything, and scene after scene of him seducing dumb women with his patented pickup lines of being “hilariously” inappropriate and ironic (“I’m not saying Hitler was right, but…”).  All this bludgeoning over the audiences head would be bad enough, but then the movie tries to convince us that this little sociopath is actually a real guy, with real feelings, and it’s just too painful for him to face them head on. What a crock of shit.

8. Dark Horse (Todd Solondz)
I have been a longtime supporter of Todd Solondz – from the days he was a critics darling with films like Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness to his days when he wasn’t with Storytelling, Palindromes and Life During Wartime. But his latest film, Dark Horse, is quite simply awful. It is about a 30 something year old man who lives in his parents’ house, works at his dead’s company (doing nothing) and driving around in a bright yellow hummer – all the while insisting that he is the “dark horse” and will eventually make something of himself. He starts dating an equally damaged woman (Selma Blair, possibly a reincarnation of sorts of her character in Storytelling), but unlike a Judd Apatow comedy, the love of a good woman doesn’t cure this arrested development case, in part because she isn’t a good woman, and in part because he’s hopeless. The film’s bizarre left turn into surrealism in the final act simply doesn’t work at all. I love Todd Solondz – think he’s one of the most daring filmmakers in the world right now. But when you risk big, and Solondz always does, you risk losing big. And this time, Solondz lost big.

7. To Rome with Love (Woody Allen)
Perhaps it was silly of me to think that last year’s Midnight in Paris represented a true return to form for Woody Allen – ushering in a new golden age of the master’s work. He followed up one of his best films ever with quite possibly his worst film ever. To Rome with Love feels like four half baked, discarded ideas thrown together into one movie in the hopes that some of it will work – none of it does. Not even a rare appearance by Woody himself – playing his typical neurotic self – or the presence of Jessie Eisenberg, who should be one of the best Woody surrogates available, can save this dud. Part of the reason it doesn’t work is bizarre casting choices (Alec Baldwin as the voice of reason? Ellen Page as a sexy seductress?) but mostly it fails because Woody didn’t seem to put too much thought into any of it. Let’s hope we get more Woody films like Midnight in Paris, and less like this dud.

6. Hyde Park on the Hudson (Roger Michell)
Bill Murray struggles valiantly but ultimately in vain to try and save this horrible movie about FDR meeting with the King and Queen of England on the eve of WWII. That sounds like an interesting story, and had the movie actually been about that, it may well have been good. Instead, the movie uses this important event as a mere backdrop to the dullest, creepiest would-be romance between FDR and his plain Jane cousin (Laura Linney) who is so passive she’s practically not there at all. Roger Michell is usually a fine director, but somehow he completely misses on this one – not only is the movie poorly written, poorly acted (other than Murray), but Michell makes some extremely awkward editing decisions. The film is supposed to be funny, but isn’t, is supposed to be romantic, but isn’t, and overall, I’m having trouble figuring out why it was made at all.

5. Taken 2 (Olivier Megaton)
I didn’t really like the first Taken – it seem so obvious, blunt, silly and stupid to me, and Maggie Grace delivered the most annoying performance in recent memory. But Taken 2 makes it look like a masterpiece by comparison – at least the first film moved! This one spends a half hour setting everything up, at a painfully slow pace, and when the action does kick in, it’s even more ridiculous than before (seriously, no one seems to care that Grace is lobbing grenades all over a crowded city). The villains are ridiculously one note, Grace is as annoying as ever, and Famke Janssen is even worse. There is only so much the manliness of Liam Neeson can do – and while he may be able to save his family, again, he cannot save this movie.

4. 2 Days in New York (Julie Delphy)
Julie Delphy’s 2 Days in New York feels like being stuck in a small apartment with the most obnoxious, annoying people on the planet. I may not have liked her 2 Days in Paris all that much, but I don’t remember it being this shrill or annoying. There are two things that make this movie even quasi-bearable – Chris Rock, who is the only normal guy in the movie, and a great scene between Delphy’s character and the real Vincent Gallo, who has just bought her soul. Everything else in the movie plays like a writer/director/actress aping Woody Allen circa 1977, and doing a horrible job of it. Delphy, who can be quite charming, is insufferable here – but not nearly as insufferable as her family. This movie moves from one shrill, disagreeable scene to the next until I wanted to run screaming from the theater.

3. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)
The directing duo of Neveldine and Taylor are perhaps the worst thing to American movies in years. They somehow fooled a lot of people into liking their vile, racist, sexist and incoherent Crank movies, but at least most seem to have ignored their last two films – Gamer and this unnecessary sequel. Nicolas Cage once again makes it hard to be a fan, but this film has the opposite problem as Seeking Justice. If Cage toned himself down in that film to match it’s boring, dull pace, than he cranks it up full bore here and goes wildly over the top. There is very little connecting this to the previous Ghost Rider film – and they were obviously trying to save on costs, which explains the low rent no-name, supporting cast, and Eastern European location. This film is just loud, overlong and incoherent and will hopefully put in the nail in the coffin of Neveldine and Taylor’s career.

2. 2016: Obama’s America (Dinesh D'Souza & John Sullivan)
Let me be very clear about something – I think there is a very real case to be made about the failures of the Obama Administrations first term. Yes, I was glad he won re-election, but no, the last four years have been far from perfect. But Dinesh D`Souza`s documentary isn’t an intelligent, reasoned critique of Obama, but the kind of insane ranting’s you would expect to hear from some crazy guy on the subway. D`Souza`s main thesis is not that Obama is a failed President, but that his entire purpose as President is to destroy America because of his anti-colonist views – that he has no proof of, but feels that is true because some people Obama knew – including the father he met twice – had some radical ideas. Liberals should be offended by this movie, as it is nothing more than a hit job on Obama – and Conservatives should be offended because it makes them look insane.

1. That's My Boy (Sean Anders)
Adam Sandler can be a fine actor when he wants to be. In films like Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and Funny People, he has shown range and sensitivity. Unfortunately, more often than not he makes films like That’s My Boy – an offensive, unfunny comedy where Sandler once again dons one of his silly voices, and thinks he doesn’t have to do anything else to be funny. The worst part about That’s My Boy is that it could have made a fine dark comedy had the filmmakers taken the concept – about the child that was the result of a teacher-student relationship – seriously. Instead, the film makes one silly, stupid sex joke after another – and wow, raping a 13 year old boy sure is funny. And so is incest! And Vanilla Ice! I`m actually kind of proud of the movie going public, who can usually be counted to lap up whatever crap Sandler slaps his name on, pretty roundly rejected this one. Easily the worst film of the year.

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