To quote Han Solo, "Here's where the fun begins!"

 

Creating a TEN WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR list is a lot more fun - for some strange reason - than creating my TEN BEST LIST.  I think that the reason for that lies with the fact that paring down a list of the TEN BEST FILMS of a certain year (that might have had so many great films to offer) is a daunting and somewhat frustrating challenge.  It feels more like mentally trying work than it ought to be.  My TEN WORST FILMS lists feels like a stress reliever by comparison.  It could almost be equated to doing something very cathartic - it feels really good to stick it back to these raging crapfests that robbed my of several precious hours of my life and several dollars of my money, all of which I will never, ever get back.

 

The full spectrum of the modern cinematic machine continues to baffle me in enormous ways.  This - as hard as it to believe - is the same year that saw such creative and visionary works occupy the same theatrical shelf life with films that were remakes of already questionable TV shows; were sequels to first films that did not need sequels; were films starring Oscar winning actors slumming it through their respective parts; were films of mind-numbing and painfully nauseating visual overkill; and were films that starred "man whores" of the European variety.

 

How utterly void of singular, original  ideas with an inkling of taste is Hollywood these days?  Well, judging by some of the films that I've had to endure...Hollywood is not only hungry for new ideas...it seems to be starving for them.  2005 did show that - if one looked hard enough - there were films out there worth your time and effort.  Unfortunately, 2005 also demonstrated that some studios were willing to throw any horrendous and putrid idea on the silver screen and attempt to feebly pass it off as an acceptable form of entertainment.  For that...to take a page out of Chuck Heston's playbook...

 

 "Damn them...Damn them all to hell!"

 

Okay, let's get this over with!  Here are my:

 

 
  First on the list is 2005's most gut-wrenchingly awful film, followed by nine other worthy candidates in random order:  
 

 
     
 

DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO

 
 

You know what is the most pathetic thing about the completely unnecessary DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO?  The fact that it represents such a seemingly unattainable low for the cinema that I wanted to tell actor Rob Schneider to go back to his day job…but writing and acting in  comedies like this is his day job.  The film reveals the nastier underbelly of the contemporary film world, where the most jaw-dropping and atrocious of subject matter is deemed acceptable and worthy of entertainment value.  This movie is for troglodytes, as only prehistoric cavemen would with peanut size brains would find any value in it.  EUROPEAN GIGOLO is bad, but it’s also an offensively miserable film going experience.  I knew I hit absolute rock bottom with a film this year when I had to endure a scene where Bigalow (Schneider) was going out on a date with a woman that had a congenital birth defect (masked, but present and obvious, on her face).  You see, she was not born with a nose on her face, she was born with a “male appendage” that, when she sneezes, does not emit the usual bodily fluid that comes from one’s nose.  Instead, she sneezes out...well...fill in the blanks.  This film is a horrifying indictment on the makers involved, all of whom thought that there was an audience for this kind of grime-infested drivel.

 
 

THE DUKES OF HAZZARD

 
 

Watching the big budget adaptation of the classic 1980’s TV series THE DUKES OF HAZZARD let me have a few distinct reactions – the General Lee is one cool looking car and Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson) is about as gorgeous and eye catchy as the car itself.  Beyond its visual beauty with one character and one vehicle, this film – yet another pathetic attempt to cash-in on remaking old TV shows – is a terrible waste of time.  It tries desperately to generate laughs but fails.  It’s a loosely cobbled together series of witless skits and episodes that – when all considered together as a whole – makes the film about as intellectually backward as the old show itself.  THE DUKES OF HAZZARD is tedious, lifeless, and inert – a film completely dead on arrival.  Aside from that super sweet 1969 Dodge Charger and Daisy Duke, the film does not cement itself as being anything more than nostalgic schlock.  Not only that, but after 2004’s horrible CLUB DREAD and now this, director Jay Chandrasekhar (member of BROKEN LIZARD, the latter who were responsible for SUPER TROOPERS, one of the funniest films of the decade) needs to redeem himself mighty fast.

 
 

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

 
 

Okay, maybe it's just me, but I simply just don’t get THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY…at least this pitiful film adaptation of one of the “trilogy” of five books by Douglas Adams.  I am sure that there are legions of diehard Adams fans that worshipped every fibre of his HITCHHIKER series, so much so that they will be willing to forgive this film’s noticeable flaws.  As for the rest of us agnostic viewers who have no exposure to the original works?  Well, the film is an utter, convoluted comic mess.  What results is a comedy that is muddled, confusing, all over the narrative map and back again, and one that is self-referential with its comedy to the point of being kind of smug and arrogant.  There have been some that have labeled this film’s style of comedy as a modern-age MONTY PYTHON; try distant cousin twice removed.  THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY is woefully lost in space, a film that will inspire more puzzlement and incredulous boredom than laughs or genuine amusement.

 
 

MAN OF THE HOUSE

 
 

What’s worse, dear readers?  A bad film or a bad film with an Academy Award winning actor that – on his good days – is one of the most revered and dependable of contemporary performers?  If any of you had to suffer through the painful and artificially contrived MAN OF THE HOUSE with the usually great and commanding Tommy Lee Jones, than you will clearly see what I mean.  This is one of those joyless and uninspired comedies – a lowest common denominator entertainment – that tries to drag itself through its 90 minutes with a one joke premise. Tommy Lee Jones plays his Sam Gerard-like authority figure that must baby-sit a group of ditzy cheerleaders who are now in his protection after witnessing a murder.  I don't know what was the least appealing aspect about this would-be comedy; the fact that Jones not only acted, but produced, this film, or that I just wrote that its about Tommy Lee Jones playing a Sam Gerard-like authority figure that must baby-sit a group of ditzy cheerleaders who are now in protection after witnessing a murder.  An embarrassingly shallow and mediocre turn for an already proven talent.

 
 

xXx: STATE OF THE UNION

 
 

I proudly placed the original xXx on my list of the WORST FILMS of 2002.  I guess it’s of very little surprise that I found this needless sequel – the wickedly lame entitled xXx: STATE OF THE UNION - to be even worse that its predecessor, if that was possible.  No wonder that the star of the first film – Vin Diesel – is utterly AWOL from this new film and is replaced by Ice Cube.   The result is an 94 minute exercise in suffering through halo after halo of machine gun fire, vast and loud explosions, and some of the most hammy and corny dialogue of the year.  The film reeks of desperation at every turn and has would-be virtuoso action sequences of such incredible implausibility that it makes the first SPEED look like a National Geographic documentary on freeway travel.  XXx: STATE OF THE UNION is a film that defines wicked excess, an action picture that is forced to be slavish to a nonsensical plot and lines uttered by Ice Cube that yearn to be hilarious zingers, like, “Hey cracker-hillbilly boy, you need to lighten up!”  The film inspires a lot of unintentional laughter and frustrating contempt if one considers that it was directed by Lee Tamahori, who once helmed great films like ONCE WERE WARRIORS.  For shame, Lee.

 
 

MISS CONGENIALITY 2: ARMED AND FABULOUS

 
 

If you are beginning to see a pattern with my picks of this year’s most dishonorable films, then you are not the only one.  MISS CONGENIALITY 2: ARMED AND FABULOUS is yet another in a long line of pointless and brainless sequels to films that were already fairly pointless and brainless to begin with.  Much like the desperation that could be sensed with xXx: STATE OF THE UNION, this MISS CONGENIALITY sequel reveals a hidden desperation of its star-producer, Sandra Bullock.  Now, as I did in my review of the film, I will state here – again – that I have always liked Bullock as a screen presence of cute and adorable exuberance and spunk.  She has an energetic and bubbly veracity and charm in many films that, despite not being too good on there own terms, where pleasant enough diversions because of Bullock’s presence.  This could not be any more the opposite with MISS CONGENIALITY 2.  Her charisma was not enough to save this comedy from being the wearisome and abysmal work that it was.

 
 

RENT

 
 

I hated this movie.  There...I said it.  At the risk of terribly offending all of the gigantic fans of the original 1996 Broadway musical, I hate to admit the fact that I cheerfully despised Chris Columbus big budget adaptation of RENT.  This musical is one that is bloated, self-indulgent, and contains more manipulative story threads than a typical TV after-school special.  Okay, I know what it’s trying to be – a modernized adaptation of Puccini’s 100-year-old opera LA BOHEME that focuses on several lives of New Yorkers that are all unemployed, trying to make their way in the world, and who most – but not all - are dealt with crushing blows of having life threatening diseases.  Yet, consider – why should I feel sorrow for a bunch of lazy, degenerate, twenty-something slackers who, throughout most of the film, complain about not having any money, not wanting to work, and being stuck in some sort of existentialist funk?  Oh, to spread on even more reprehensible sentimentality, we are supposed to feel even more sorry for them because most of them are habitual drug abusers and, as a result of sharing needles, have AIDS.  Sorry, no deal.  The film lumbers around at its horrendously long running time of nearly two and a half hours which, by my watch at the time, was two and a half hours longer than I wanted to spend with the film.  Also - a word of advice to the film's "struggling" souls (if I may get a bit uncharacteristically testy): try getting goddamn jobs to pay the rent and stop carelessly using highly addictive drugs!  Life is so much simpler that way.

 
 

DOMINO

 
 

If not for the presence of DEUCE BIGALOW: MALE GIGOLO to hog the dubious honor of my WORST FILM OF THE YEAR, than Tony Scott’s viscous assault on my senses – DOMINO – would have taken that top prize...with HIGH DISTINCTION.  This represents a major step backwards, a film going experience that puts – at the forefront – everything I detest about many modern studio pictures.  Scott’s film – a retelling of the life of the real female bounty hunter, Domino Harvey (played by the usually enchanting Keira Knightly, all but wasted here) – was like a cruel, vile, and repugnant shotgun blast to my face; a kaleidoscope of audio-visual indulgence that wore me out at the ten minute mark with it’s prediction to Michael-Bay-on-acid style of camera work and dizzying editing.  DOMINO was a film for people with Attention Deficit Disorder; a meandering, volatile, and over stylized biopic that was one of 2005’s most exasperating films purely on the excesses of its director.  This film was utterly and unmistakably soulless, a work that shows how contemporary films use mind-numbing style to all but suffocate substance.

 
 

SLAP HER, SHE'S FRENCH (aka - SHE GETS WHAT SHE WANTS)

 
 

Well…damn it…someone slap me in the kisser for seeing this!  SLAP HER, SHE’S FRENCH (aka SHE GETS WHAT SHE WANTS) was original filmed and to be released in early 2001, but was only finally able to secure a North American release on DVD just this past Spring.  That is a telltale sign of this comedy’s low sense of worth – the fact that it was deemed too terrible to be released for four years speaks volumes.  SLAP HER, SHE’S FRENCH wants to be a winning and scathing social-high school satire in the uproariously funny vein of ELECTION and CLUELESS.  However, films like ELECTION worked fabulously because of its tack and subtlety with its pointed laughs and dealt an equally harsh hand to most of its characters.  SLAP HER, SHE’S FRENCH is a huge misfire in the sense that it takes great pains to make the audience sympathize with its most egotistical, vain, and self-righteous figure and pit her against an antagonist that is neither believable, nor is altogether unjustified in her battle of wills with the hero.   Not only that, but we are forced to sit through silly and infantile jokes at the expense of two easy targets – Texans and the French – which all parade around in the cliché factory, never to venture out of it.  Not even the effortlessly cute presence of Piper Perabo can save this laughably inept comedy.

 
 

STEALTH

 
 

STEALTH is a gigantic, stink-bomb of an action thriller.  The fact that Rob Cohen’s adventure thriller STEALTH plays a lot like a live action TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE is not a judicious compliment on my part, but more of a pointed criticism.  STEALTH just may be – for lack of a better word – the dumbest film of 2005.  This semi-futuristic work details how a Stealth plane is given a Hal-9000 style computer on board and, in place of the normal human pilots, soon and inevitably goes crazy and engages on a spree of destruction.  STEALTH is a film of such glorious degrees of implausibility, inanity, and sheer and unbridled idiocy that you actually can’t wait for those laboured and overbearing action scenes involving turbine jet engines to drown out all of the insipid dialogue that seems to have been written at the witless soap opera level.   Perhaps even equally moronic and unsettling is seeing good actors, like Josh Lucas, perform in disgracefully ridiculous  scenes where they have to speak lines like, “This computer lacks what humans have, like moral judgment and feelings.”  Perhaps even more disconcerting is seeing Jamie Foxx in a performance of such a phoned-in emotional range that he should have been forced, at gun point, to relinquish his Best Actor Oscar for RAY. STEALTH is loud, crude, and nauseatingly gratuitous summer filmmaking at its most absurd.

 
 

 

 
 

Okay, the TEN WORST is complete...but I'm not done yet!  Here's a few more films that were not altogether wretched enough to make the TEN WORST, but were disagreeable all the same.  Consider these:

 

 

CrAiGeR's NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2005

 
 

THE WEDDING DATE: Excruciatingly bad Debra Messing romantic comedy that contains a premise that can't tread water.

 

AEON FLUX: Charlize Theron has her Oscar statue.  Now, she has her very own CATWOMAN AEON FLUX is another attempt by Hollywood to make yet another brain dead, post-apocalyptic, futuristic sci-fi film that sacrifices ideas for moronic action.  It also headlines how to take an gifted actress and reduce her down to looking sexy in tight outfits while parading her around for 90 minutes in scene after scene of lumbering and dull video game-inspired bits of mayhem.  This is the realm of Mila Jovovich, not Academy Award winners.

 

A SOUND OF THUNDER: Horribly inept and stupid remake of Ray Bradbury's classic 1952 sci-fi short story parable about the dangers of time travel and paradox.  Thought-provoking at inspiring for anyone that's an idiot.

 

WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE: Frustrating one-sided look at the retail giant's forceful and questionable practices at making huge profits.  Surprisingly shallow and lacking in any didactic investigation into some of the larger issues and variables at play.

 

BAD NEWS BEARS: Not even a very funny Billy Bob Thornton can save this completely unnecessary remake of the classic kiddie baseball film from the 1970's.  Writer/director Richard Linklater needs to awaken from his mediocre, cinematic slumber.

 

THE BROTHER'S GRIMM: Yet another lavish and incredible visual tour de force by director Terry Gilliam, who once again proves to be bested by eye-popping visuals over a cohesive and well-realized story.

 

COACH CARTER: Yet another "based on real events" formula sports picture where a tough as nails coach (Samuel L. Jackson - doing his best with little) must teach a ragtag group of misfits the true nature of not only basketball, but of life as well. 

 

ELIZABETHTOWN: This romantic comedy, by the usually very confident and competent Cameron Crowe, has too many clear echoes of the vastly superior GARDEN STATE to be considered a wholly original and invigorating work. 

 

THE LONGEST YARD: In what appears to be some of the worst casting of the year, Adam Sandler stars in the immortal Burt Reynolds role in this useless and silly remake of the gritty 70's football/prison film, THE LONGEST YARD.  It does improve on the original in one way - it increases the number offensive homosexual stereotypes and jokes.

 

MONSTER IN LAW: As much as I found Jane Fonda's over-the-top, lively, and spiritedly lampooning performance a laugh riot and hoot (who says she has to do a straight role after a 20 year absence?), she alone can't save this predictable and routine dark romantic comedy.

 

MR. AND MRS. SMITH: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have obvious on-screen chemistry, and Vince Vaughn gives one of 2005's most hilarious cameos, but MR. AND MRS. SMITH lacks that required dark and cynical edge to be a fully successful black comedy of the battle of the sexes.

 

ONG-BAK: THE THAI WARRIOR: Works as an exercise in seeing its star - the remarkably athletic Tony Jaa - hurtle himself with limitless energy and gusto into acrobatic stunts of the improbable and insane, but fails as anything else beyond its novelty.

 

SAHARA: Imagine a fratboy-looking Indiana Jones (Matthew McConaughey) teamed with the least plausible United Nations doctor ever (Penelope Cruz) and you have SAHARA, an adventure film that feels pitifully manufactured from other, better elements of superior action films.

 

UNLEASHED: The great Morgan Freeman is forced to crawl on his hands and knees through one of his worst performances as a blind man that befriends a wild, caged martial arts animal played by - yes - Jet Li.  An incredibly stupid marriage of kung fu mayhem and would-be endearing sentimentality.

 

FUN WITH DICK AND JANE: Jim Carrey is funny in small dosages here, but this remake of the 1977 film sort of fails at marrying a silly, sight gag-infested comedy with the more serious themes and overtones of the repercussions of the Enron debacle.  For a better laugh riot, see BRUCE ALMIGHTY or LIAR, LIAR.  For a sensitive and provocative look at the Enron fiasco, see ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM.

 

THE ISLAND: Michael Bay...when has he ever gone right.

 

MATCH POINT: Woody Allen has now entered his fifth decade as one of the most significant filmmakers of his generation.  Unfortunately, this makes it even more disappointing that his much ballyhooed MATCH POINT is nothing more than a dry regurgitation of CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS.

 
     
 

And finally, here's a dishonorable mention list of films that I felt were more disappointing than terrible.  Consider these:

 
 

CrAiGeR's MISSED OPPORTUNITIES of 2005

 
 

BE COOL: Travolta was definitely cool in this somewhat watered down and troubled sequel to the wonderful GET SHORTY.

 

BEWITCHED: Will Ferrell is more laid back hilarious in this remake of the classic TV series, whereas co-star Nicole Kidman seems aloof.

 

BROKEN FLOWERS: Bill Murray delivers yet another masterful, low-key performance with his quintessential dead pan deliver in this drama that ultimately lacked meaning.

 

ELEKTRA: Criminally spit on comic book action film that is not as terrible as many of the other films that came out in 2005.  Jennifer Garner is a force and charismatic presence that simply deserves to be in a better film than this.

 

FANTASTIC FOUR: Fun, lively, and modestly entertaining adaptation of the "World's Greatest Comic Magazine".

 

FLIGHTPLAN: First half: one of the best and most involving films of the year.  Last half: shamefully pedestrian, routine, and formulaic.

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE: Visually majestic and strong, but this Harry Potter entry felt oddly disposable.

 

LORDS OF DOGTOWN: Interesting biopic of the legendary skateboarders from California who single-handedly re-invented the sport. 

 

MILLIONS: Danny Boyle goes all cute and wishy-washy in this morality fable with good performances, but a story and tone that lacked focus.

 

WAR OF THE WORLDS: Spielberg is at his best with grand and spectacular visuals, but this alien invasion film missed the mark completely on its premise.

 

CAPOTE:  Philip Seymour Hoffman is undeniably brilliant as the effeminate, pioneering author in the film, but this is a biopic that is a bit too transparent and narratively hollow for its own sake.

 
 

 

 

 
     
 

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