I will start my rant here with a puzzling question:  why is it that some of the worst films are oftentimes the most memorable?

Answer: I have no clue.  I dunno...maybe because failure is always more looked at than success?

As much as I found 2004 to be a very, very good year for cinema, I am still, nevertheless, amazed by the relative menu of crap-infested entertainment that modern studios release rather willingly to the public in some sort of malicious way of saying, "Here ya go, eat this up!"  Well, I am by no means a sucker and I do not fall as an easy prey to the clap trap marketing theatrics that studios use to garner attention.  Yes, there were films that I absolutely loved this year and will fondly remember for the years to come.  Unfortunately, there were other offerings from the year that were not, how shall we say, palatable.

Much like the light side of the force, there is inevitably a dark side.  Movies are no different at all.  I have seen many films this year in the cinemas and on DVD, and sometimes it can be a really polarizing experience.  There have been a handful of strong films that I feel confident by stating that they are the best achievements of the year.  However, 2004 was also a year of  BIG FAT STINKERS.  The following TEN FILMS are prime examples of what is wretched and polluted in today's contemporary film world, not to mention that, after watching them, I became so jaded that I began to have doubts as to why I even bother to go to movies!  Oh well...it's kind of like an abusive relationship...these bad films keep mentally raping me...and yet I keep on going back for more.

So here there are, and I have placed them all in random order, outside of citing what I feel is the worst film of the year.   Keep in mind, my reasons for some of these entries is extremely personal.  Some offended me, so failed to make me laugh, some failed on their expectations, some failed on moving me emotionally, and some were...well...just plain terrible.

Enough!  Here we go...

 

 
     
 

THE VILLAGE

 
 

How could this happen?  It is not so much that THE VILLAGE is a awful looking film, but it is the single most disappointing film of the year.  From a director and writer that gave us masterpieces of the macabre like THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE (which is criminally underrated) and SIGNS comes THE VILLAGE, a film that wounded me so emotionally with how inept it was that it kept me up awake the night I saw it.  One of the best new filmmakers of the last five years, one whose name is often used in conjunction with Hitchcock in many a critic review (including yours truly) has, regrettably and ultimately, made one of the worst and most unsatisfying  films of 2004.  THE VILLAGE isn't so miraculously bad in its style or look.  It's miraculously bad  based on the fact that it was written and directed by the same man that has such talent and has created such interesting and exciting films of tension and mood.  The problem with the film is not in its  performances or confident visual style - it's that its premise holds no weight whatsoever upon close scrutiny.  It also suffers from silly and moronic payoffs that should have inspired real surprise and horror, and not just groans.  This film should have been great...instead its one that I "dare not speak of..."  Mr. Shyamalan, you are indeed a great talent...it's time to recover and rediscover it.

 
 

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

 
 

Okay, I thought that I would try to get this one off of my chest right from the onset.   Now, before you flood me with criticism and emails, hear me out.  Is Mel Gibson's telling of the biblical story of the last hours of Jesus' life all that bad?  Not really.  There are elements to admire, and I appreciate the fortitude that Gibson placed upon himself to tell the story that he wished to tell.  Yet, the film is all content without any meaningful context.  Gibson focuses so narrowly with a sort of warped, fetishistic glee on the final hours of blood drenched torture that Jesus went through (important to understand, yes) that he makes the cataclysmic error of basically forgetting to investigate the real meat n' potatoes of his life.  Surly, the way Jesus lived his life was as, if not more, uplifting and inspirational than how he died.  Gibson's film does not seem to care about Jesus the man and Biblical figure and instead seems distastefully preoccupied with the endless (and I mean endless) scenes of maddening, barbaric, tortuous and gory footage of him being beating, whipped, punched, kicked, spat on, impaled, ripped apart...and so on and so on.  THE PASSION is a film, more than any this year, that missed real dramatic possibilities with telling a thorough and worthy story of Christ, and the film's narrow minded and heavy handed exploration of his masochistic torture is more cruel and painful for the audience than it is spiritually uplifting.  For non-stop blood, gore, and sadistic mayhem, THE PASSION is for you.  However, if you want a much more introspective, revealing, and rewarding story of Christ, rent Franco Zeffirelli's 1977 JESUS OF NAZARETH.  Sorry Mel, you kind of blew it with this one.

 
 

COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE

 
 

I am a big comic fan...I have never, ever denied that fact.  I have collected comics for a better part of my life and I like super heroes.  I also like Mark Hamill.  I worshipped him as Luke Skywalker as a child in the STAR WARS films and appreciated his voice work in later animated features.  However, his directorial debut, a would be mock-documentary known as COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE is such a raging train wreck of a film that it perversely defies the very physics of mediocrity.  Abysmally shot, painfully acted, and uninspired...this one is a comic deadzone and travesty, and a big slap in the face of comic fans who seek out this film for something introspective or even satirically funny.  COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE is not even a adept film for comic lovers, more or less, it's a below-the-belt insult.

 
 

ENVY

 
 

No one should ever envy anyone seeing ENVY.  If one were to write a graduate research paper on how to cast two of the funniest men in motion pictures today, team them up with an Oscar winning director, and make every cardinal mistake in the book at making an even watchable and serviceable final product - ENVY would be the top of the list.  How, how, how, H-O-W could the combined talents of these men make a comedy that is void of wit, charm, and laughs?  I stared at the screen in stupefied disbelief for the entire running time of this film, with two conflicting thoughts that were preoccupying me - (a) why is this film so terrible and (b) do I want BURGER KING or McDonald's on the way home after the film is over?  Ben Stiller and Jack Black, two of the most entertaining and funny men in modern movies, are so lackluster and bored in this film.  They occupied a scene in ORANGE COUNTY that lasted only a minute, but it was a million times as funny as the entire 90 minutes of ENVY.  

 
 

THE WHOLE TEN YARDS

 
 

There is nothing more disconcerting and unnecessary than sequels that are equally unnecessary.  Why was a sequel to an already funny film like THE WHOLE NINE YARDS  produced without any insight as to how to make an effectively funny comedy?  THE WHOLE TEN YARDS is an example of absolute desperation: desperation for a useable screenplay, desperation for any type of laughs, desperation to justify re-teaming the cast, and desperation to try to sucker in the audience and fan base of the first film by convincing them that this new film is NOT a big scam job of a comedy.  What a waste of time.  Bruce Willis...two words..."for shame"...and Matthew Perry, call your agent and tell him you want your old day job back as a TV actor, because this film proves that you have the cinematic staying power or a Matt Leblanc.

 
 

EUROTRIP

 
 

You know, there is nothing wrong with a good ol' teen sex comedy, only if it's handled just right.  Yes, the art form of the teen sex comedy is a delicate matter, all right.  Some of the better, more uproariously funny sex comedies came out of 2004 (like the surprising THE GIRL NEXT DOOR to the wonderfully titled HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE).  EUROTRIP represents the lower level of the spectrum of this genre, a film that is so bad that it does not even work as good trash.  And by the way, didn't NATIONAL LAMPOON'S EUROPEAN VACATION say everything we needed to know about the wacky antics of a bunch of dumb Americans trekking through another continent?  Witless, childish, and unfunny in an off-putting and vile kind of way.

 
 

SUPER SIZE ME

 
 

Speaking of scam jobs, this Morgan Spurlock documentary that tries to examine the obesity crisis in North America is about as revealing as earwax.  His film, a shameless exhibitionist stunt that involves him going to McDonald's to eat three meals a day, for thirty days without exercise, is only carried forward to fruition to prove a few truths: that eating bad food will make you fat (like we did not know that!) and that Spurlock, despite the fact that he is charming and funny, does nothing in the way of seriously probing the real possible sociological reasons that contribute to our growing waste lines.  The most offensive part of this documentary is the pool of hypocrisy that it's bathed in - Spurlock points out a Corporate level of responsibility for obesity, yet he willfully goes into McD's and pigs out and gets fat on his own initiative.  This was one of the most frustrating films of the year, one that was unbearable to get through because, outside of his ridiculous stunt, he opens no real doors towards discussion into other possible variables.  A real letdown, and consider, why not have a documentary that has a man eat healthy food at McDonald's for 30 days, with 30 minutes of exercise everyday?  Oh, I know why, because it would prove that you can eat at fast food joints and still be healthy!!

 
 

BROKEN LIZARD'S CLUB DREAD

 
 

Ouch, watching this film was like seeing your favourite hockey player get 50 goals his rookie season and then score none his second.  This comedy, made by the crazy comedy troupe that gave us the insidiously funny SUPER TROOPER, BROKEN LIZARD, return to follow up their rookie film with one that is a send up of slasher and resort films.  C'mon guys, you are better than this, I know it!  A real misfire and disappointment, especially for those of us who felt that, after SUPER TROOPERS, these guys were destined for greatness.  I am still confident in these guys, this is just a big cinematic roadblock in their way...that's all.

 
 

VAN HELSING

 
 

Wow, this was howler...no pun intended.  This film is an example of wicked CGI excess gone completely amok.  VAN HELSING is one of the best looking bad films of the year, one that is wall-to-wall with grand art direction and cinematography, but fails to tell a story that is of any interest.  Van Helsing fights his way endlessly through bad CGI creatures for two hours...who cares!  A mistake from the same man who gave us the whimsically cheesy and entertaining MUMMY.  Hugh Jackman, listen to me, you were enormously charismatic and ferociously charming as Wolverine in the X-MEN films, but there is none of these trademark qualities in this film...your abilities are vacant here.

 
 

KING ARTHUR

 
 

Jerry Bruckheimer's revisionist (ha!) look at the "legend" (note the term and emphasis on "legend") of KING ARTHUR proves one thing: "revisionist" is just a Hollywood euphemism for a big, bloated action film that wants to strip away all of the fantastical elements that we want to see and instead goes for a dry, boring, and dreary historical account.  How can this film possibly be considered a historical account, when no two historians will agree on the particulars of the story of King Arthur.  Inane, dull, and lacking in life.  Clive Owen, whom seems to be the one everyone is thinking will be the next JAMES BOND, hurts his chances with his bland performance in this one.  For Clive at his greatest, see CLOSER, and try to forget this one.

 
  Hey wait, my cinematic bludgeoning of the worst of 2004 is not over yet.  I still have more verbal firepower for more stinkers for the past year, ones that will occupy and sensitive spot on my runner's up list:  
 

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS: One of the worst Christmas films of recent memory, and one that would be considered a career killer for Ben Affleck if GIGLI was never made.

CATWOMAN: A nearly two hour exercise in watching Halle Berry's breasts and to see her hiss, purr, and make bad puns.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS was one of the most forgettable and needless remakes of modern memory, and not even the playful charisma of Jackie Chan could have saved it. 

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR was equally unnecessary, and did not, in any way, develop further the mythology of the characters (or should I say creatures) of the other superior classic films that featured them. 

THE BIG BOUNCE achieved the impossible: it made an Elmore Leonard story boring and did not make me laugh at Owen Wilson. 

HELLBOY was too silly to be taken seriously and too serious to have fun with. 

MAN ON FIRE had a great Denzel Washington performance that occupied a screenplay that was not as equally serviceable.  

OCEAN'S 12 was a decidedly inferior sequel to the first one, and one that was way to convoluted for its own good.  

Frank Oz has never made a bad or unfunny film until this year's THE STEPFORD WIVES, a would-be comedy where his talents as a director appear to be vacant. 

THE TERMINAL, much like THE VILLAGE, was a woefully unsatisfying film in the sense that a great filmmaker (Steven Spielberg) made such a meandering and undisciplined Capra-esque story that had me rolling my eyes more than it should have. 

WALKING TALL featured The Rock with a glimmer of hope that he has yet to be in truly great action films.  

13 GOING ON 30 had the irrepressibly cute charisma of Jennifer Garner in a film that was better when it was called BIG.   

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN was just more of the same, and this new sequel more or less regurgitates the same Potter formula as the first two superior films.  

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW was absolutely beautiful to look at, but did not have a memorable story that sustained any interest.

NATIONAL TREASURE was one of the silliest film of many a moon, with a premise that could not tread into the shallowest of narrative waters.

And, finally, BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON just was not cute and funny enough to sustain the level of interest that I had with its original...and Bridget in a Thai prison, what was that all about!?

 
 

 

 
 
     
 

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