Friday, January 30, 2015

2014 Year End Report: Worst Films of 2014

I really do try and avoid the worst of the worst in a given year. So the fact that Ride Along, Let’s Be Cops, Dracula Untold, No Good Deed, Ouija, Blended, Horrible Bosses 2, The Best of Me, The Awkward Moment, The November Man, Endless Love, I Frankenstein, A Haunted House 2, And So It Goes, America, Left Behind, Saving Christmas, Winter’s Tale, Vampire Academy or probably countless others do not feature on the below list is not an endorsement of those films – but simply an acknowledgement that I really had zero interest in seeing any of them.

But there were still many other bad films I did see this year. Ones that could have made my worst 10 list, but didn’t include: Divergent (Neil Burger) which took a mediocre YA book and turned it into an awful movie (I shudder to think of the next movie – as the books get far worse as the series progressed). The Expendables 3 (Patrick Hughes) was the worst of the series, which still hasn’t figured out that fans of the 1980s/90s action stars may want to see action filmed the same way as it was back then. A Field in England (Ben Wheatley) was a ridiculous, incoherent movie from the extremely talented British director. A Million Ways to the Die in the West (Seth Macfarlane) was painfully unfunny – like the worst family guy episode which dragged on for more than two hours. Mood Indigo (Michel Gondry) was Gondry at his absolute worst – all cuteness, no content. Need for Speed (Scott Waugh) had no story, but still managed to run for more than 2 hours of loud action. Pompeii (Paul W.S. Anderson) was another horrible film by the less talented Paul Anderson. The Quiet Ones (John Pogue) was a dull, unscary horror movie, which went nowhere and did so slowly. Sabotage (David Ayer) had a good premise, but devolved into nothing but action, rather than storytelling – and not good action at that. Serena (Susanne Bier) was a soap opera that took itself way too seriously, and wasted its two very talented leads. Sex Tape (Jake Kasdan) should have made an entertaining sex comedy, but instead was simply boring. Tusk (Kevin Smith) has a bizarro premise which Smith somehow completely screws up. Wish I Was Here (Zach Braff) was indulgent in the extreme – a vanity project in the worse sense of the word.

Bottom 10

10. Third Person (Paul Haggis)
Paul Haggis’ Third Person is, like his Oscar-winning Crash, a film that hopes between multiple stories lines, connected by a uniting theme – this time about love, both romantic and parent-child. But unlike Crash, which in spite of what its biggest detractors will tell you is not an awful film (merely a mediocre one); Third Person is really, really bad. The storylines don’t make much sense together – and strain credibility at every turn, stranding talented actors like Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, James Franco, Olivia Wilde, Maria Bellow and Liam Neeson with nothing to do. And when you get to the “big twist ending”, it’s simply ludicrous. 90% of Third Person is a bad movie – the last 10 minutes or so are simply god-awful, which is why it earns a spot on this list.

9. Are You Here (Matthew Weiner)
How does a guy as talented as Matthew Weiner – who has guided Mad Men from the beginning – make a film as tone deaf as Are You Here? The film is supposed to be a comedy about two overgrown men-children who eventually grow up – but it isn’t funny, and the man children don’t really grow up, simply get duller. Owen Wilson and Zach Galifiankis are better than they are given a chance to do here. Even worse are the two main female characters – one of whom is a clichéd nagging bitch, and the other gives herself, sexually, to the various men in the movie as a “reward” on a number of occasions. For a man who has helped to create some great female characters on Mad Men to make a movie that could easily be called misogynistic is mind boggling. That he could make a film that shows such horrible levels of acting, directing and writing is unthinkable. But he did.

8. Dumb and Dumber To (Peter & Bobby Farrelly)
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Dumb and Dumber – but I will admit that it makes me laugh out loud several times every time I come across it on TV. The 20 years in the making follow-up is just as dumb as the original – which isn’t really an insult, given its title – but doesn’t contain a single laugh out loud moment – or even one that produced as much as a giggle from me. The Farrellys and Jim Carrey seem to trying way too hard to make the film work, and Jeff Daniels seems to not be trying at all – and the less said about the supporting cast, the better. The film is quite simply, a pain to sit through.

7. The Other Woman (Nick Cassavetes)
It’s a shame it is that Hollywood doesn’t make more films starring women – and it’s even worse that when they do, they make something as wretched as The Other Woman. Here is a film where the three main characters are women – played by Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton – and yet it still may not even pass the Bechdel Test, since all these three do is talk about the man who is screwing them all over. It’s an even bigger shame that the movie saddles talented comedic actresses like Diaz and Mann with such clichéd, misogynistic roles (Upton is also saddled with one of those – but I’m not sure how talented she is). Nick Cassavetes is the son of John Cassavetes, who in films like A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Opening Night (1977) and Love Streams (1984) featured his wife (and Nick’s mother) Gena Rowlands with complex, brilliantly written role to play. And his son makes this crap. It’s just sad.

6. Moebius (Kim Ki-Duk)
For reasons that even I do not understand, I keep watching the films of Korean director Kim Ki-Duk, despite the fact that every single one of them are horrible. Here, he has made a movie about the most screwed up family of the year – where the mother, after finding out her husband is cheating on her, decides to cut off his penis – and when he runs away, cuts off her sons penis instead – and that is far from the only penis removal in the film. The film has no dialogue, and almost plays like a gleeful exploitation film (which would have better, even if not by much), but Kim seems to also think he has something real to say about sexuality and masculinity. He has nothing interesting to say about women though – the two main ones are played by the same actress, who is there just to serve the male characters, either by cutting off their penises, or being raped or otherwise being sexually exploited. Misogyny has been a running theme so far on this worst of list, and Moebius certainly fits the bill.

5. Devil’s Knot (Atom Egoyan)
How sad is it that Atom Egoyan, who could once be counted on to deliver a fine film every time out, has sunk as low as Devils Knot. This is the first of two (and the far worse) or his two films this year, a feature based on the infamous West Memphis Three murder case that finds nothing interesting or new to say about it. Oddly, it focuses on Colin Firths investigator – shunting everyone else off into the background. Poor Reese Witherspoon is given nothing to but looked shocked or saddened (or both) in every scene, Alessandro Nivola pretty much twirls his mustache as a bad guy, and the two most interesting characters – played by Kevin Durand and Mirelle Enos are barely given any screen time. Then he goes ahead and wastes the talents of Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Amy Ryan and everyone else by giving them nothing to do. Worst of all, Devils Knot is just plain boring and dull from beginning to end. Egoyan is capable of WAY better than this. I just don’t know if he`ll ever be as good as he can be again.

4. Big Bad Wolves (Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado)
For reasons that I do not understand, somehow this Israeli thriller, which Quentin Tarantino inexplicably named the best film of 2013, got mostly good reviews. It is a revenge thriller, about an insane man who kidnaps the person he believes killed his child, and tortures him into confessing. The film is violent, to say the least, but that wasn’t my problem with it – it’s that it has nothing interesting to say about all the torture is displays – but certainly thinks it does. In fact, it almost justifies what is being done onscreen. It’s a vile little movie, one that I didn’t find entertaining or interesting on any level.

3. God’s Not Dead (Harold Cronk)
I understand that Christians think that Hollywood doesn’t make films aimed at them – I really do. But is there a reason why when those Christians go out and make their own movies, they have to be as poorly conceived and executed on every level as Gods Not Dead. The film takes as its premise that a University Professor (played with evil glee by Kevin Sorbo) tries to convince his philosophy class that God is Dead – and the one brave Christian who stands up and argues that he isn’t. That could, conceivably anyway, make an interesting movie – but Gods Not Dead is not that movie. It such broad, condescending preaching from beginning to end – with actors who cannot act, and a director who cannot direct, whose argue is infantile. I would love to see more movies that took religion seriously, even if I am an atheist – but Gods Not Dead doesn’t take religion seriously at all. That’s a shame.

2. Child of God (James Franco)
James Franco certainly has good taste in source material – Cormac McCarthy is one of the best living writers in the world right now. Child of God is one of his simpler stories, but seeing as it is about a man who has sex with dead bodies, it had to be approached in the right way if it was to work as a movie – and Franco messes that up. Part of the problem is the horrible overacting of leading man Scott Haze – who you can barely understand what the hell he’s saying. Part of it is that Franco doesn’t figure out a way to translate all that dead body sex onto the screen without making it unintentionally funny. And part of it is that Franco doesn’t seem to know how to translate the rest of the novel to the screen either – the movie literally has text from the McCarthy novel appear onscreen. The movie is a painful sit, because Franco never has any idea how to make the movie. Franco also directed a demo reel for McCarthy's masterpiece Blood Meridian to try and get that directing job. Thanks but no thanks James.

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Michael Bay)
Michael Bay's fourth Transformers movie is probably the most movie I have seen this year. The film runs nearly three hours, but never has a coherent plot. It’s all just loud, metallic clanging, fast cut editing and giant robots fighting each other in one incoherent action sequence after another. The film is headache inducing in the extreme – as Bay doesn’t seem to find anything worthy of being cut, so he simply throws everything at the screen. I could go on about the misogyny in this movie as well – the creepy control Mark Wahlberg wants to have over his daughters sex life, or how the romantic leading man carries around a paper that proves that technically he is not a stator rapist, or how the camera leers at young Nicola Peltz throughout (and why, by the way, do all women in a Bay movie glisten that way). The saddest thing about a movie like this is that as maligned as he is, Bay is actually a talented director – I quite liked his film from last year, Pain & Gain, and two of the previous Transformers movie had awe inspiring action sequences (the second one is almost as abysmal as this one though). But Bay simply doesn’t know when enough is enough – either in terms of making Transformers films in the first place, or while directing and editing this film either. There was no worse movie going experience this year than this monstrosity.

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