"Well, opinions are like assholes.  Everyone has one."

-Dirty Harry Callahan, THE DEAD POOL

Making these lists every year of the ten single worst excuses to enter a darkened cinema is beyond pleasurable.  Maybe it has something to do with me exorcizing past cineplex demons that have haunted me from the very moment I saw these respective movies.  When you get right to it, going to see a movie is a serious deal: We are talking perhaps a ten minute drive to the theatre, several minutes to find a parking spot (especially if the theatre – like the one I frequent – is located at the heart of the downtown district), waiting in line to get a ticket, sitting through all of those devastatingly annoying pre-movie commercials (not theatrical previews, I’m talking commercials!), and then finally sitting in a dimly lit room with hundreds of total strangers and enduring a few hours of what’s akin to a giant hand raking its demonic fingers on an enormous, silver screen sized chalkboard. 

See what I mean?  This is time that I will never get back.  So...it's time for critical payback!

I continued to be personally baffled by how deceptively easy it is for me to make these lists every year in December.  I thought that I was fairly forgiving to the films released in 2007, but 2008 was a different beast altogether.  Just after scanning through my log of every film that I screened I was a bit stunned when I discovered that I saw enough brutally wretched movies to make not one, but two TEN WORST lists.  This “wall of shame” list is comprised of films varying from comedies, remakes, action thrillers, big budget sequels, fantasies, adaptations of video games, and even one documentary made by a filmmaker who, coincidentally enough, had a film also appear on a previous WORST list a few years ago.  Oh…that dubious distinction can also be applied to another well-known director.  I’ll give you a hint: his last name rhymes with…er...uh...Shyamalan. 

So, as with all other previous lists, I will begin this year's compilation of the ten flimsiest examples of the cinematic form with the single most nauseating entry of 2008 and will then follow that up with nine others, in random order, of mind-numbing ineptitude and stunning low worth.  Unlike my TEN BEST lists, I have never found a reason to rank the remaining nine worst films:  Honestly, they are all equally unworthy and loathsome, so why give them the satisfaction of a ranking?  So, sit back, enjoy, and with any luck, my list will help many of you out there make some sensible choices at you local video store during your next visit.  Just consider this list as a large cautionary warning.  

Because, let’s face it, time is a precious commodity. 

So, enough from me.  It’s time for me to get some movie baggage off of my chest.  Here are my… 

 

 
  First on the list is 2008's worst excuse of a movie, followed by nine other worthy candidates in random order:  
 

 
     
 

FUNNY GAMES

 
 

This film commits one of the more unpardonable movie sins: it’s intellectually and artistically smug and, as a result, it thinks it’s a hell of a lot smarter than the audience viewing it.  What makes the film all the more damming is that there are respectable, highly competent, Oscar nominated actors trudging there way through this hypocritical film.  In the ultimate example of the pot calling the kettle black, writer/director Michael Haneke decided for some inexplicable reason to make an essential shot-for-shot remake of his 1997 Austrian horror film.  Having an academic background in psychology and philosophy, Haneke wished to look at the context of movie violence and bloodshed and, in turn, make it come across as distasteful and uncomfortable as possible.  In many ways, Haneke is saying that many lay North American filmgoers would never see his original film, so by making an American version he hoped to make a dent in their movie-going consciousnesses by showing them a film that does not use violence for commercial reasons, nor does it use it for sensationalistic effect.  This type of portentous grandstanding and academic self-importance makes me want to vomit.  FUNNY GAMES is so condescending and offensive in approach – not to mention ironic – because it commits all of the same mistakes that Haneke goes out of his way to criticism American films for committing.  Smugly hiding within the veneer of an art house film, FUNNY GAMES is nothing more than an unendurable, SAW-style snuff film with the a voyeuristic penchant for carnage.  I hate it when films show such an alienation and putrid contempt for their viewers.

 
 

88 MINUTES

 
 

If you would have told me that the great Al Pacino – one of my most cherished actors – would have appeared in the second worst film of 2008 and would give the single most phoned-in performance of his long and illustrious career…I would have laughed at you with sardonic ridicule.  Well, I am not laughing now.  88 MINUTES has to be the, for lack of a better descriptor, the single dumbest thriller that the Oscar winning actor has ever allowed himself to appear in.  For a performer of such raw power and histrionic charisma, Pacino has never looked as comatose and as bored stiff as he does here.  The storyline is preposterous and incredulously executed, the acting – including Pacino – is dead on arrival, and as far as thrillers go, suspense, tension, and a sensation of dread are never felt.  Originally filmed in 2005, 88 MINUTES was shelved (an industry kiss of death) until it was unceremoniously released early in 2008.  I could go on and on and give you 88 reasons why 88 MINUTES was one of 2008’s most incompetent films, but I will save you from a tired diatribe on my part.  Yet, I will say with glowing respect that the film has one redeeming quality: Pacino’s hair is entertaining.

 
 

BANGKOK DANGEROUS

 
 

Oh yes…this film is indeed dangerous…but in more ways than one.  BANGKOK DANGEROUS just may be the most lethally God-awful film of Nicolas Cage’s career.  It also marks a second film on this list that was a needless remake of film that was helmed by the same filmmaker.  In BANGKOK DANGEROUS’ case, the makers were the Pang Brothers, whose prime motivation with revisiting this listless and dull material was obviously to film the new version in a maddeningly dark, murky, and washed out cinematography, so much so that it appears like mud was thrown on the camera lenses.  If those lackluster stylistic choices were not depressing enough, I had to sit through Cage essentially sleepwalking though his performance as a hitman that has the obligatory “I wanna retire and start a new life clean” worldview change.  What’s also shocking, aside from the horrible production values, an asinine script, and Cage’s monosyllabic acting is the fact that the star himself served as producer for the film.  What possible reason did he give himself that there was a film here that was worthy of being released?  Beat’s me, because BANGKOK DANGEROUS is unbearably unwatchable.

 
 

THE HAPPENING

 
 

After M. Night Shyamalan released THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and SIGNS I never once thought that his next three films would all assuming a dishonorable spot on my worst films of the year.  He did so with THE VILLAGE in 2004, ditto for THE LADY IN WATER in 2006, and now has made the reliably terrible new eco-thriller THE HAPPENING.  With a premise that would certainly make the hosts of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000 chuckle with irreverent and mocking glee, Shyamalan attempts to spin a tense and unnerving DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL parable, but in his story’s case he has substituted vengeful plant life and nature itself for aliens and on those completely outrageously and absurd levels, I guess that he has achieved his goals.  There is nothing wrong with making a post-9/11 parable with a Green Peace agenda, but Shyamalan’s script and direction is executed so flimsily and without any effort whatsoever to scare the audience that I found myself looking at my watch and for the theatre exit sign when I should have been gripping my seat in terror.  This marks three strikes in a row for Shyamalan, and his once noticeable spark as a director that could have become the heir apparent to Spielberg is all but gone.  I mean…honestly…trees and wildlife that willfully want to exterminate mankind?  Are you kiddin’ me?!

 
 

IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE

 
 

My first experience to the soulless and deplorably bad Germany tax sheltered productions of Uwe Bole was one of the categorical low points of my film viewing in 2008.  By working outside of the Hollywood studio system, Boll has amazingly been able to acquire vast sums of capital from investors thanks to Germany’s tax laws that reward investment in films.  Those same laws, alas, have no penalties whatsoever for investing in films that are egregiously terrible and mishandled in every way shape and form.  The genius of this investment system is that any German citizen that invests in Boll’s crapfests can write off 100 per cent of their proceeds as a tax reduction (you only pay taxes if the film investment turns a healthy profit).  So, yup, if the film tanks and is a dud, then the investor gets a super sweet tax write-off.  Boll got $60 million hard earned money from German investors, and I can guaran-damn-tee that very little of it shows up in this LORD OF THE RINGS-lite (make that extremely-lite) fantasy.  Bereft of skill, professional polish, and workable performances (you know you’re in trouble when you have Burt Reynolds and Matthew Lillard ham it up to irreproachable levels, not to mention that Ray Liotta shows up, dressed more like a goodfella than an evil wizard), IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE tale is proof positive that desperate changes need to be made to German tax laws.

 
 

OVER HER DEAD BODY

 
 

And the reward to the most teeth-gratingly unfunny romantic comedy of 2008 goes to…envelope please…why, yes…OVER HER DEAD BODY!!  There have been wretched comedies that seem desperate for laughs in all the wrong places, but OVER HER DEAD BODY effortlessly manages to be incomprehensibly unfunny all the way through its painfully long 97 minutes.  The film also manages to fail at achieving the most basic tenant of reasonable good rom-coms: Introduce us to two likeable leads that we will grow to appreciate and yearn for their inevitable get-together before the end credits.  This film manages to give us a male and female lead that we never once – for a second – truly invest in as characters and then, in the final kick to the groin of viewers, we have to endure a third female character (in ghost form, played in one of 2008’s most annoying performances by the inhumanly tanned Eva-Longoria Parker) that attempts to stop her former fiancé on earth (played by Paul Rudd, whose natural hilarity is never properly harnessed here at all) from hooking up with another woman.  Trust me…if you were to die tomorrow, the first thing on your "To-do" list would be to find answers to all of those nagging spiritual questions about the afterlife and the last thing you would do is to go back to earth to make sure that your former husband-to-be doesn’t get some tail.  This comedy has the wit, personality and charm of a head-spinning, possessed, and projectile vomiting Linda Blair. 

 
 

MAX PAYNE

 
 

A second  Mark Wahlberg-led film appears high on this list of 2008’s most dubious and mediocre entries.  No WORST OF list would be complete without a characterless, bleak, and hyperactively stylized video game adaptation, and MAX PAYNE certainly fits the bill most nicely.  The film suffers from a complete lack of visual interest in the proceedings (it tries for a gothic film noir palette that’s dark and intense, but instead displays no evidence of creativity or invention) and director John Moore seems to have no knowledge base for the basic syntax and grammar of the film genres he’s trying to emulate.  The performances are even more elephantine, with Wahlberg ahead of everyone giving a dependably wooden and moody performance as a vengeful cop that constantly looks like he just ate razor blades for breakfast: there’s simply no life to his work here at all – Wahlberg just looks gruff, grim, and utters his lines with the minimal effort to be audible.  Perhaps the most unforgivable offence of MAX PAYNE is that it took the physically radiant, pleasurably bubbly, and joyously enthusiastic Mila Kunis from FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and had her horribly miscast here as a grungy, sullen and ill tempered hit-woman.  Payne-ful, indeed.

 
 

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?

 
 

Morgan Spurlock wasted my time with his loathsomely overrated 2004 documentary SUPER SIZE ME (proudly placed on my worst list of that year) by spending more time than was needed to tell viewers…wait for it…that eating a steady diet of McDonald’s food for 30 straight days would make you fat.  Spurlock, to be fair, is a spirited and happy-go-lucky presence in his documentaries, but that’s also precisely what was wrong with SUPER SIZE ME and now with WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN: His irreverent and jokester image distracts and undermines the hot button issues he’s trying to address and tackle.  Spurlock thinks his films are high concept and take great strides to enlighten us on polarizing issues, but they ultimately are low concept because they never really edify us beyond what we already know.  In this documentary’s case, Spurlock takes it upon himself to locate the world’s most notorious terrorist leader.  Yup.  Sure.  Uh-huh.  Showing us his true form as a cinematic clown that engages in cheap and self-indulgent stunts, Spurlock takes a highly simplistic look at a very problematic issue that has vast and far-reaching implications.  He trivializes the material he tries to place on an alter of self-importance.  In the end, the film asks where in the world is Osama bin Laden?  Spoiler alert:  Spurlock has no idea.  Gee, thanks a pantload.

 
 

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR  

 
 

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is definitely the most disposable and awful for the MUMMY films, and is easily one of the most disagreeable third films in movie trilogy history.  The first MUMMY film (and to a very small degree, the second installment) was largely enjoyable as a lightweight throwback adventure serial romp that had a nice mixture of high-octane cliffhanger  thrills, mild horror, decent visual effects, and nicely timed humor.  THE MUMMY: PART TROIS (helmed by Rob Cohen of xXx, FAST AND THE FURIOUS, and STEALTH fame, replacing Stephen Summers) lacks much of the gee-whiz gumption and playfulness of the previous entries and unintelligently tries to immerse and bombard viewers with confusing editing, horribly handled action sequences, and a head-shaking number of computer generated images that barely look like they have gone beyond the rough stage of inception (the inclusion of two fierce, powerful and pixalized  Abominable Snowman garners considerable eye rolling).  Rachel Weisz, showing unmatched intuition, decided not to return, and was replaced by Maria Bello, never once making the character her own.  And, for Pete’s sake, did anyone out there ever buy the 39-year-old Brendan Fraser playing a father to 26-year-old Luke Ford?  Seriously, casting has never been so short-sighted.

 
 

THE SPIRIT

 
 

How in the hell could a film based on a character created by one of the pioneers of the comic book art form (Will Eisner) and written and directed by another revolutionary and influential graphic novel creator (Frank Miller) be such an unhinged and unsavory movie fiasco?  This should have been a recipe for success that should have made giddy fanboys frothing at their collective mouths (this fanboy included).  Regrettably, Frank Miller’s take on THE SPIRIT (using the same digital backlot techniques used to much better effect in SIN CITY and 300, also based on Miller comics and both making my TEN BEST FILMS of their respective years) is one of the most undisciplined and crummy comic book adaptations to come out in a relative Golden Year of noteworthy super hero films (see IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT).  The film is a bravura accomplishment on a visual and artistic level (Miller knows how to frame shots with Bill Pope’s gorgeous noir-inspired cinematography with the best of them), but his total failure to frame these virtuoso images with a story, characters, and performances that we can latch on to unavoidably does this film in.  And the performances – oh, my…those performances! – have the emotional weight and complexity of wooden marionettes.  Samuel L. Jackson in particular overwhelmingly hams it up like it was going out of style, and the rest of the cast just looks lost and confused.  Very few comic book films have done such a disservice to the original works that inspired them, but THE SPIRIT shows that Miller owes fans, and the late Eisner, a heartfelt apology.

 
 

 

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

CrAiGeR's NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2008

 
 

RIGHTEOUS KILL The long-awaited return of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino (last seen together sharing coffee in the best scene in 1995's HEAT) was 2008's most disappointing WORLD'S FINEST team-up of thespian heavyweights.

 

STEP BROTHERS: Will Ferrell - usually monstrously funny - and John C. Reilly think that gratuitously throwing out f-bombs equals high hilarity; all it shows is comedic laziness.

 

EAGLE EYE: Here's a techno-thriller with Big Brother inspired themes that is the year's crowning achievement at ignoring all know earth-based logic and any sense of realism; my vision took weeks to recover from all of the eye rolling I experienced watching this.

 

HANCOCK: A nifty premise - a super hero that's a Jack Daniel's guzzling bum - that is completely unraveled by a would-be shocking plot twist that can be seen without the aid of super vision, not to mention that it suffers from an all-over-the-map tone.  

 

JUMPER: Hayden Christensen and his STAR WARS prequel co-star Samuel L. Jackson engage in a lot of teleportation battle scenes in a film that shows that a cool premise without a respectable payoff is a very dull thing.

 

LAKEVIEW TERRACE:  The third Sam Jackson film mentioned here (not a good year for the actor) playing a racist cop that torments his new mix-married neighbours; far too ludicrously predictable and inane to be considered serious and thought-provoking with its underlining themes of trouble race relations.

 

STREET KINGSKeanu Reeves shows up as an alcoholic cop with irreproachably unethical behaviour that also likes to drop ethnic slurs that - in one unintentionally funny scene - sleights Asians, Jews, and blacks.  Naw...I didn't buy him once in the part either.

 

VINCE VAUGHN'S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW: 30 DAYS AND 30 NIGHTS - FROM HOLLYWOOD TO THE HEARTLAND: How could a concert documentary lead by the reliably money Vince Vaughn be so lacking in humor?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the comedians headlining the concert footage are not all that funny.

 

YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHANMore repetitive comedic garbage from Sandler, who this time plays an ex-Israeli commando that wants to become a hairstylist - and gigolo to elderly women - in America.  Sigh.  This actor needs to grow up.

 

APPALOOSAViggo Mortensen and Ed Harris make an appealing Western dynamic duo, by Harris' script and direction are kind of flat and listless in this western.

 

BABYLON A.D.: Sci-fi actioneer staring the reliably gravel-voiced Vin Diesel that has some astounding visual flare that rivals CHILDREN OF MEN, but nevertheless has a story that never pays off it any meaningful way...and that ending was an absolute hatchet job.

 

CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN: To rabid Christian fundamentalists and obsessive fans of C.S. Lewis' literary world, this film adaptation of PRINCE CASPIAN will be a win-win; for the rest of us agnostic viewers, the film is tedious and never really compelling.

 

DRILLBIT TAYLORIt was nice to see Owen Wilson make comeback in a comedy after his very public bout with depression...it's just a shame that this high school bullying comedy is not a worthy one of his considerable talent.

 

FOOL'S GOLD: Matthew McConaughey parades around dazed, confused, and shirtless and Kate Hudson slums around in another banal romantic comedy.  And what is Donald Sutherland doing in this mess?  Three words of advice to you: Fire your agent.

 

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM Next to the mighty disappointing team-up of De Niro and Pacino mentioned earlier, this martial arts dream film pitting Jackie Chan and Jet Li was almost as large of a disagreeable letdown.

 

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY:: I described this comic book film - a direct sequel to the 2004 entry - as a combination of a Heironymus Bosch painting crossed with something out of Mad Magazine; there's no doubting writer/director Guillermo del Toro's skill with creating lavish visual spectacle, but his vision is marred by a disinteresting story and an odd hybrid of tones.

 

THE LOVE GURU: This Michael Myers comedy is not as putrid as other critics let on, but when compared to his other comedic successes, this one could have benefited from some much needed sage-like advice.

 

MADE OF HONORAnother blasé and inordinately predictable romantic comedy, this time starring McDreamy himself, Patrick Demsey, as a late thirtyish man that battles over his real feelings for his BFF, Michelle Monaghan, after she reveals she's about to be married. 

 

PASSCHEANDALEA very honorably intentioned Canadian-made WWI film (with the largest budget in Canadian film history) that looks fantastic, but the love story framing the film is the stuff of routine Harlequin romance novels.

 

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE: Neither a direct sequel to 2004's THE PUNISHER nor a remake, this third attempt at cracking Marvel Comic's Frank Castle is hyperactively violent and gory - and lovin' it - but the film as a whole is joyless and dreary.

 

QUANTUM OF SOLACEA highly disappointing follow-up to the critically raved Bond reboot, CASINO ROYALE, still has one of the best 007's in Daniel Craig, but this new entry is way too wall-to-wall with mindlessly choreographed action and has one of the least imposing Bondian villains ever.

 

RUN, FAT BOY, RUNA British farce and comedy of manners starring the usually delightful Simon Pegg and directed by Ross from TV's FRIENDS; yeah...it never gels together very well.

 

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS  Lacking an incredibly amount of Yoda-esque wisdom is this new STAR WARS entry, the seventh theatrically released film in George Lucas' space opera universe, but it's also surprisingly one of the most uninspired looking of all the WARS films.  Clumsy and lifeless, this animation is.

 

TWILIGHTOne of the clear-cut hits of the fall filmgoing season, based on the teen vampire novels by Stephenie Meyer; more a lame-brained DAWSON'S CREEK and 90210 than a scary and intense INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE for the adolescent sect.

 
     
  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 2008

 
 

BE KIND, REWIND: A Here's another film with a neat-o premise that gets bogged down in too many subplots that never germinate towards a satisfying conclusion; however, the "Sweded" films within the film are an unapologetic riot.

 

BURN AFTER READING Befuddling follow-up to the Coen Brothers' masterful NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN; some laughs are here and there, but this new farce from the duo that has made so many memorable ones lacks hearty and consistent merriment.

 

FOUR CHRISTMASES: Vince Vaughn's second X-mas comedy in as many years, and his rapid fire spontaneity and verbal tirades are the only real reason to see this formulaic and tired yuletide romp.

 

HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE GUANTANAMO BAY: The second stoner film taking place right where WHITE CASTLE left off, but this time Harold and Kumar are drowned in a sea of puerile and vulgar gross out gags that are not as funny as the creators think they are.

 

LEATHERHEADS: Likeable, spunky, agreeable, but limp, screwball farce - directed by George Clooney - about they heyday of professional football; good acid-tongued dialogue and an easy-going repartee between all the actors could not make up for the film's lack of comic velocity.

 

NEVER BACK DOWNA beyond obvious KARATE KID knockoff with UFC trappings; rarely dull or boring, but way too silly for its own good.

 

THE READERAcademy voters fell in love with this film, but I loathed its shoddy manipulation with its story that kind of shamefully combined low-key eroticism with the horrors of The Holocaust; it's attempts at asking viewers to identify with its key Nazi character left a stale taste in my mouth .

 

SEMI-PRO: Will Ferrell stars as an aging basketball veteran in the 1970's that tries to put his franchise on the map; Ferrell's opening song number, "Love Me Sexy," is a hoot, it's just too bad the rest of the film is not.

 

SEVEN POUNDS: Will Smith and co-star Rosario Dawson give heartfelt and powerful performances in this sentimental fable about the extremes of one man trying to achieve personal redemption and forgiveness for past ill deeds; more depressing than uplifting.

 
 

 

 
 
     
 

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