Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2013 Year in Review: 10 Worst Films

It never ceases to amaze me just how many bad movies I see in the course of a year. In the past few years, I really have tried to avoid movies that I know will be god-awful – you won’t see films like Grown Ups 2, G.I. Joe Retaliation, Safe Haven, The Smurfs 2, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Internship, A Haunted House, R.I.P.D, Scary Movie 5, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Host, 21 and Over, The Big Wedding, Baggage Claim, Runner Runner, Jobs, The Last Exorcism Part II, Getaway, Paranoia or anything related to Tyler Perry that will dominate many critics “worst of” lists on mine for precisely that reason. But looking at all the films below that I really didn’t like and then the Worst 10 still means I wasted a hell of a lot time on shitty movies this year. Oh well.

Runners-Up: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Jonathan Levine), The Angels Share (Ken Loach), Beautiful Creatures (Richard LaGravenese), The Book Thief (Brian Perceival), Broken City (Allan Hughes), Bullet to the Head (Walter Hill), Byzantium (Neil Jordan), The Call (Brad Anderson), Camille Claudel 1915 (Bruno Dumont), The Canyons (Paul Schrader), Dark Skies (Scott Stewart), Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer), The Heat (Paul Feig), The Iceman (Ariel Vroman), Identity Thief (Seth Gordon), I’m So Excited (Pedro Almodovar), The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Don Scardino), The Invisible Woman (Ralph Fiennes), Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa (Jeff Tremaine), John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli), Kick Ass 2 (Jeff Wadlow), The Kings of Summer (Jordan Vogt-Roberts), Kon-Tiki (Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg), Love is All You Need (Susanne Bier), Mama (Andres Muschietti), Man of Tai Chi (Keanu Reeves), Now You See Me (Louis Letterier), Olympus Has Fallen (Antoine Fuqua), Oz: The Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi), Parker (Taylor Hackford), Parkland (Peter Landesman), Renoir (Gilles Bourdos), Riddick (David Twohy), The Sapphires (Wayne Bright), Shadow Dancer (James Marsh), Snitch (Ric Roman Waugh), Texas Chainsaw 3-D (John Luessenhop), Trance (Danny Boyle), Upside Down (Juan Solanas), V/H/S 2 (Various), The Wall (Julian Polsler), We’re the Millers (Rawson Thurber Marshall)

Bottom 10

Now it’s time for the worst of the worst – the 10 films this year that were truly, unredeemable.

10. The Hangover Part III (Todd Phillips)
The original Hangover movie was hilarious – truly one of the great mainstream Hollywood comedies in recent years. It was so funny because it was so unexpected. Since then, it has been a slide backwards for the series. I’m not sure if this film is better or worse than the second film – does it really matter, they both suck. This time, the boys return to Las Vegas and have to once again save their friend, who has been taken hostage by a brutal gangster, played by the great John Goodman – slumming it this time. The biggest problem with the movie could well be that the filmmakers do not seem to realize that when it comes to Zach Galifianakis, less is often more. As the series went along, he became the center piece, because he was the most popular character, but he’s also a character who wears out his welcome fairly quickly. This time, he’s pretty much the whole show as Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms have pretty much checked out, cash their paychecks and are looking forward to their next project. The result is a painfully unfunny comedy. Judging by the box office returns on this one, I’m not the only former fan of the series who hated this one.

9. After Earth (M. Night Shyamalan)
After Earth was supposed to be another blockbuster for Will Smith – an sci-fi epic that turned his son Jaden into a star, and helped get the once great M. Night Shyamalan back on track. Unfortunately, what the film ended up being was a dull and lifeless religious parable – whose message was muddled. It doesn’t help that the screenplay is poorly written, the acting wooden at best, and the pacing is brutally slow. Smith can normally be counted on to at the very least be charming and entertaining – but he’s dialed back that natural charm to pretty much zero. Jaden Smith proves he cannot carry a movie by himself – a tall order for any actor who has to spend long stretches at a time by himself – a nearly impossible one for an actor of his age. No matter how you slice it, the movie just doesn’t add up to very much – and is slow moving and dull to boot.

8. Disconnect (Henry Allen Rubin)
Disconnect is like Crash for the internet instead of racism – but made for people who thought that Crash was far too subtle. I didn’t hate Crash like many did – it’s an average movie – but I fully, and truly hated Disconnect. In theory, a movie about all the ways the internet can destroy our lives could well be timely – but director Henry Allen Rubin combines his stories – about cyber bulling, internet porn, gambling and identity theft in the most ham-fisted way possible – and beats you over the head with misery for two hours. The result is a ridiculous, unbelievable film in which the talented ensemble cast is left adrift, trying in vain to make unbelievable characters work. They fail.

7. A Good Day to Die Hard (John Moore)
Count me as somehow who has enjoyed all of the Die Hard films up until this latest installment, no matter how ridiculous they became – Live Free or Die Hard may be wholly unbelievable, but it’s also extremely entertaining. This latest (and hopefully last) in the Die Hard series finds a sleepwalking Bruce Willis reprising his role as John McClane, as he heads to Russia to try and get his out of trouble – and finding himself in the middle of an internal incident in which father and son have to team up and kill a lot of people. The film is completely lacking in the charm and humor of the original films – and worse, the technical merits of the film seem more in line with a direct-to-DVD action film rather than a would be blockbuster. It was a dicey proposition to bring back Die Hard after so many years with Live Free or Die Hard – but one that paid off. They should have left well enough alone, but this film is an embarrassment for all involved.

6. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Only God Forgives is what happens when a director starts to buy into his own hype. Nicolas Winding Refn received lots of great reviews for his last film – Drive (including from me, who named it the second best film of 2011). So, naturally, he decided to see if he could push the style of that film even further – make the hero of the film even more passive, the violence even more over the top, etc. The result is an absolute mess – a film that is both over-the-top and incredibly boring – a hard thing to pull off, but Winding Refn manages it. Ryan Gosling seems to be on the verge of falling asleep in every scene in the movie. The film is 90 minute wallow in hell – which may make it sound like a guilty pleasure, but believe me it isn’t. There is nothing – save for a batshit crazy performance by Kristen Scott Thomas – to remotely recommend this movie on.

5. Assault on Wall Street (Uwe Boll)
There was a time when I watched quite a few Uwe Boll films. I never expected them to be good – and none of them were – but the man kept getting attention for just how awful and offensive his films were, and me being who I am, I felt the need to see them because of the controversy around them. I still think I’m right in thinking that you really cannot have an opinion on something unless you actually watch it – but I am now fully okay with not having an opinion on anything Uwe Boll makes ever again. I don’t know why I watched Assault on Wall Street – it was a spur of the moment decision, and I almost instantly regretted it. This is a laughably written, directed and acted movie about one man who gets screwed over by Wall Street and decides to take matters into his own hands, and kills everyone who contributed to the mess he’s now in. Or it would be laughable if it weren’t so painful. Count me as someone who has never quite gotten the appeal of movies that are apparently “so bad they’re good” – to me, they are just plain bad. Assault on Wall Street isn’t the worst film that Boll has ever made – hell, it may even be the best- but it’s still god awful.

4. Aftershock (Nicholas Lopez)
Eli Roth did not directed Aftershock – but he may as well have. He co-wrote it and co-stars in it as an American on vacation in Chile when a massive Earthquake hits. He and his buddies – and the girls they want to bang – escape from an underground nightclub – and discover that’s just the beginning of their problems, and the city has turned into an apocalyptic hellscape – a prison has collapsed, spilling out rapists and murderers into the streets to do what they do best – rape and murder. Like the Hostel films, this is a film about ugly Americans on vacation – except there is only one American, and while he’s the ugliest, he’s from the only one. The film’s violence veers between over the top and comical, to downright disturbing and misogynistic – the rape of one woman who then gets shot in the head right after, comes between some more “comical” deaths. Maybe one day Roth will make a good film to justify his reputation– I’m still waiting though.

3. The ABCs of Death (Various)
Omnibus films are almost always a bad idea – it sounds good in theory to bring together various directors and all have them direct a short, connected by some sort of theme – but the result is almost always the same – one or two good segments, surrounded by crap. That’s the case with The ABCs of Death – and what makes it even worse is that there are 26 films – one for each letter of the alphabet. 7 of them are decent – only one is great – but the other six are inventive or at least interesting. Pretty much the other 19 are awful – including some of the worst, most ridiculous things I have seen in any film this year - worst of all is probably a segment concentrating on masturbation – although humanoid dogs, killers poops also appear to give it a run for its money. When you have an omnibus film – especially a horror one – you know some are going to be awful and offensive – but I didn’t know just how awful and offensive the worst of this film would be. Much of the film is borderline unwatchable – almost none of it is the least bit scary – and worst of all almost all of it is dull. This was apparently enough of an success to justify a sequel. Count me out.

2. Movie 43 (Peter Farrelly et al)
If Movie 43 is not the worst movie to feature SEVEN Oscar nominated actors that it’s got to up there. Again, an omnibus film – this one spearheaded by Peter Farrelly (I guess his brother Bobby wisely decided to sit this one out). The movie is not really a movie at all – it’s basically the longest, most profane and gross and least funny episode of Saturday Night Live ever filmed. Apparently most of the films were shot in a day – which explains why they were able to get so many talented people to agree to be in the damn thing. But shouldn’t someone have read the scripts for the skits before agreeing to be in it – and shouldn’t someone have read them before they agreed to put up the money to make the film? For the most part, I cannot even imagine how anyone thought any of the movie would work. Yes, Terrence Howard telling his high school basketball team that is exclusively black that they’ll kick the ass of the other team who is exclusively white was funny – in the trailer. But other than that watching the film is quite simply painful. I think it’s best that we simply don’t discuss the movie ever again.

1. Pieta (Kim Ki Duk)
I really have tried to see what others think is so great about the films of Korean director Kim Ki Duk. He is a director who has won some of the top prizes in the world – including winning the top prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival for this film – and yet all I see when I watch his films are lonely, pathetic psychopaths who Kim insists on portraying as victims - outcasts too pure for a cruel society. Pieta is about a loan shark who takes out insurance policies on those he lends money to, so if they cannot pay him back, he can just maim them and collect. It’s an asinine plan, but it seems to be working for him. Then his long lost mother shows up to try and reconnect with him – and he does the logical thing – rapes her. Then the two bond and have a wonderful mother-son relationship, until she drops a bombshell on him. The film is shallow and superficial in the extreme – it’s “critique” of capitalism isn’t thought through, or very interesting. It must be said that unlike most of the film on this list, the film is at least competently made – but that doesn’t stop it from being the worst film of the year. It’s the worst because it thinks of itself as profound – and it’s really just profoundly stupid. Some love it – but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

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