Posted January 3, 2011 / Updated February 9, 2011
"A good movie is three good scenes and no bad scenes."
- Howard Hawkes
augment Hawkes' above comments to include the truism that “bad films have
a multitude of bad scenes and zero good ones.”
People often ask me what are the easiest film reviews to write and I often respond that it's typically the ones for films that I really hated. Why? Perhaps because my intense abhorrence to them that festers over the course of nearly two hours in a darkened cinema filled with strangers gives way to a cathartic release of stress as I punch away on my keyboard to viscously lambaste them. I find a similar – in the opposite extreme – sensation when I write about my feelings about the truly great and transcending films that I have screened. The excellent films out there are ones to champion and celebrate; I want everyone out there to know of their existence so they can actively seek them out. The mournfully wretched films elicit in me the same call to duty as the great ones: I really believe it to be a serious responsibility of mine to inform the public of how they could save $11-plus dollars ($14-plus if it’s in 3D...sigh) and several hours of their valuable lives to avoid movies that don’t deserve to be seen.
And...trust me, folks...the ten films I
list below definitely do not require your investment.
As was the case with my WORST
FILMS OF 2009 list, I could have easily compiled not one, but two
WORST FILM lists for 2010. As
with all of my lists – good and bad – I always look for variety when
I make my selections. Yes, they certainly have to attain my personal poor to
zero star (redemption-free) grade to make the list, but I like depth on any
list. 2010 certainly had its
fair share of equal opportunity offenders from a variety of genres.
The ten most putrid reasons to enter a movie theatre this year
includes a straightforward comedy, a romantic comedy (two, actually), a
sappy melodrama, a buddy cop action flick, an alien invasion sci-fi
thriller, a fantasy adaptation of an animated TV series, a religious
end-of-days thriller, and so on. I
did, however, detect obvious patterns:
I list two films involving Ashton Kutcher and another pair that
involved Robert Pattinson, not to mention that I also listed a film from
one of the most reliable perpetrators that contributes to these
compilations in Adam Sandler. Since 2003, films that the actor has either starred in
or had some behind-the-scenes involvement in have made it to my wall
of shame lists five times. This
man deserves a medal of some kind. Oh...and then there's M. Night
Shyamalan...I'll touch on him soon.
The following ten films listed
have cumulatively robbed me of 20 hours of my free and valuable time, and
I certainly hope that you take this anthology with a stern face solemnity.
After all, wouldn’t you like to invest your collective energies
into films more meaningful that these witless and uninspired ones offered
Anyhoo’, enough with introductions. Let the unflinchingly harsh critical spanking begin. Here are my…
|First on the list is 2010's worst reason to buy a movie ticket, followed by nine other worthy candidates (in random order):|
REMEMBER ME is not so much a
badly directed or acted film as it is a grossly offensive one.
It’s one thing for a weepy and emotionally charged romantic
melodrama to engage in woefully artificial and contrived plot developments
to drive its story forward, but what REMEMBER ME does its kind of
inexcusably schlocky and unpardonable.
The film takes stock characters – the moody and angry twenty-something male, the precocious innocent girl, the overprotective cantankerous father – and places them in a dime-a-dozen plot, but those perfunctory elements did not bother me as much as the way the film shamelessly uses 9/11 as an economical and manipulative way to guide the tragedy of the film’s conclusion. The entire romance and story within the film is completely superseded by our collective memories of the magnitude of what happened in 2001 in New York. Lazily evoking 9/11 not only does the film a horrid disservice, but to use it as an artificial and throwaway plot device that dishonors the event and the lives lost for the sake of melodrama is disgraceful. A “zero star” film, in my estimation, is as follows: one that (a) is artistically vacant and/or (b) is immoral or offensive in its subject matter. REMEMBER ME adheres strongly to the latter criteria, which made grading it as the Worst Film of 2010 all the more easy. That, and Robert Pattinson’s self-indulgent manner of glowering, squinting, and screaming a would-be soulful performance that tries to echo what James Dean did six decades earlier shows that he’s a acting rebel without a clue.
were not for the existence of REMEMBER ME, then this newest wall of shame
entry of M. Night Shyamalan would most definitely have been my worst
filmgoing experience of 2010. Oh,
how far the once mighty has fallen, and Mr. Shyamalan has the dubious
reputation of making not one, not two, three, but now four of my Worst Of
compilations (see THE VILLAGE, THE
LADY IN WATER, and THE
Yet, for as resoundingly putrid as his last three films were, there was nothing really to prepare me for the onslaught of mind-numbing ineptitude that was on display during THE LAST AIRBENDER. What happened to the precision and skill that this writer/director displayed in films like THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and SIGNS? I don’t have the foggiest idea, because Shyamalan's AIRBENDER is a Titanic-sized fiasco and mess, harnessing probably one of the single worst 3D upconversions that borders on ocular trauma, child performances that are so wooden they might as well have been played by action figures, and a story – based on the TV Nickelodeon series – that’s so incomprehensible that it requires a road map. Beyond having not one character that even remotely garners our emotional interest and having a senselessly written screenplay that feels like it requires about a dozen re-writes, THE LAST AIRBENDER commits arguably the biggest sin that any escapist fantasy should avoid: it lacks magic. Shyamalan's career may officially be on the chopping block because of this depressingly mediocre film, the kind of effort that perhaps only an Ed Wood Jr. could have made if he had a few hundred millions dollars kicking around in financing.
SKYLINE is almost absurdly admirably in its stupidity, so much so that you come out of the theatre kind of revering its head-shaking awfulness. Very few sci-fi alien-invasion thrillers start of so promising (albeit, within its first 2-3 minutes) and then take a mournful nosedive into the worst aspects of “The Idiot Plot Syndrome”, an affliction that permeates films that contain imbecilic characters that could solve even the most minute problems if they were not such morons. The plot plagiarizes from the recent canon of better extraterrestrial invasion pictures down to the most mechanically routine details. In SKYLINE's case, brain slurping (no, seriously) aliens come to L.A. and ensnare its residences for their own fiendish purposes, but during all of the destruction we have a hapless and dislikeable group of yuppie Los Angelino douche bags that put their wits together to survive at all costs. One nagging problem with the film is that we never really give a hoot about any of these survivors, considering that they are all essentially cardboard cutout types instead of living and breathing personas. The other issue is that SKYLINE – despite some big budget looking visuals captured for such a low sum of $20 million – becomes so annoyingly silly and brainless as it progresses that you begin to question the collective intelligence of the makers involved. And that ending – my God, that ending! – is as uproarious and pitifully rendered as any single scene from PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.
Just how crazily unfunny and
God-awful is the Tim Allen directed comedy CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE?
Just consider the miracle of this film:
How on earth did Allen manage to assemble such a good supporting
cast (including, in random order, Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, J.K.
Simmons, and Kelsey Grammar) to agree to sign the dotted contractual line
for a comedy that would not be eligible to appear on the death time slot of
network, prime time TV? Considering
that Allen himself once did time in prison during the 1970’s, you would
think that he'd have some insight and a darkly sarcastic comic sensibility
to the basic plot of CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE, which concerns an
ex-con released from the slammer trying to go legit.
No dice, because Allen and his screenwriters go for the lowest
quadrant of lowest common denominator comedies with the set up and
execution of would-be gut-busting scenes of merriment.
With camera moves and the framing of shots that would make porn
directors look like Scorsese-gifted artists, performances that are manic
and undisciplined, and a premise that is dead on arrival, CRAZY ON THE
OUTSIDE is one of the most eye-straining screen comedies since NORBIT.
At least Allen had mercy on our souls by making it a merciful 90
minutes. The theatre exit sign never looked so good after seeing this
pretend your…uh…God. Yes…that
One. You have decided that
humanity does not need to exist anymore.
As a a result, you want to wipe the Earth and slate clean by
eradicating them. Now, if
you’re God taking out mankind should be as simple as waving your
omnipotent hands, but in films like LEGION you realize that you need to unleash the
apocalypse by sending down armor and mace-clad angels to go down to earth
so that they can – really? – possess certain unholy people and turn
them into mindless, George A, Romero-esque zombies.
These undead creatures will hunt the rest of humanity and, in turn,
end the world as we know it. Oh,
and you also send a special squad down to eradicate a woman that is
carrying the unborn child that, when born, will become a John Connor-like
savior to humanity.
Ummm…okay…how extraordinarily dumb is LEGION? There is absolutely nothing wrong with a horribly overwrought and infectiously campy end-of-the-world action thriller, but this religious-themed entry is so preposterous and unthinkably wrongheaded that many viewers just may wish to throw their Bibles at the screen. Calling the film an offensive affront to Christianity is frivolous and silly; after all, if you believed in the all-powerful and He was capable of anything, then He would not take the illogically stupid steps He takes in LEGION to bring about the apocalypse. This film’s God is a moron.
become incessantly difficult for me to give a damn about the exploits
of Bella and her choice as to whether side with the
vampire-centric “Team Edward” or the Wolfpacking “Team Jacob.”
ECLIPSE - prefaced by the annoyingly self-important title THE TWILIGHT
SAGA – is based on the third book of Stephenie Meyers' adolescent Harlequin
romance/horror series that concerns Bella (Kristen Stewart, who
has never look so bored, stiff, and hopelessly mannered in a film) and her
decision to spend her life with Edward the vampire (Robert Pattinson, a
wooden performer who should be offered a forced retirement from the
profession) and Jacob the
lycanthrope (Taylor Lautner, whose abs and pecs override his thespian
skills, pointing towards a relatively short career after these films).
Stripped down to their essence, the TWILIGHT films are all about teen lust, not love, and watching the third film I was kind of taken aback by just how dislikeable Bella emerges as a character worthy of our rooting interest. By sort of selfishly and ruthlessly leading on her two highly odd male suitors, Bella becomes less an innocent victim caught between two monsters and more of an indefensible tease. In the end, there is not much progression of this basic storyline, and not even a proven directorial minds like David Slade (who made HARD CANDY) can save this series from a snore-inducingly repetitive script that only appeases to its core, 12-14-year-old female demo. And, yikes, the most horrific and scary element of this film is the dialogue uttered by Stewart with the least amount of emotional resonance to make it audible to a microphone, like: (Bella to Edward)) “This wasn’t a choice between you and Jacob. It was a choice between who I am and who I should be.” Oh, the horror!
To label GROWN UPS as a "family comedy" is not only ludicrously funny in its own right, but also an insult and slap in the face to family viewers. Considering that this Adam Sandler (which he double dipped as a co-writer and star) “family” flick is rated PG-13 for “crude material including suggestive references, language, innuendo, and nudity" and…yeah…you got the perfect night out for the entire household, young and old. Now that my tongue is out of my cheek, I will solemnly state that few comedies in 2010 have been so antagonistically unfunny and have made such calculatingly feeble attempts to score big laughs as GROWN UPS. The film’s flimsy script involves a reunion of boyhood pals (played by the likes of Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, and David Spade, and those the latter two should never be allowed to be in any more mainstream comedies) and it takes them on a series of mindless and childish gags and pratfalls involving intoxication, public urination, grotesque toe bunions, hairy asses, toupees flying in the wind, animal feces in one’s mouth, breastfeeding a child well beyond breast feeding age, small animals being crushed by obese people, old people acting like sexual deviants, and so on and so on.
family comedy? What a sick joke.
Katherine Heigl is a lovely and inimitably likeable screen presence. So why does she continue to debase herself in one witless, infantile, and backwards minded romcom after another? Beat’s me. After participating in nauseating efforts like 27 DRESSES and THE UGLY TRUTH (both of which should have made WORST OF LISTS for 2008 and 2009), Heigl once again reveals how shortsighted she is for picking good projects to be in with KILLERS, an utterly boring, charmless, and largely forgettable Poor Man’s MR. AND MRS. SMITH if there ever was one. The films contains a brainless script on crude autopilot, showcasing Heigl’s courtship with a covert secret agent (played by the monumentally bland Asthon Kutcher as one of the least plausible secret agents of all time) and hits every predictable beat in the playbook. Worse yet is that Kutcher and Heigl exhibit no real chemistry and even more damning is that Heigl once again subjects herself to playing a, unstably uptight, screaming, humorless, and helplessly subservient female role that only begins to become in tune with her gorgeous looks and sexuality when just the right man enters her life to coach her. Heigl infamously lambasted her part in KNOCKED UP for her shrewish-like role of the love interest, but it’s kind of astonishing how little regard she has for that film – boasting her finest film performance ever – and how much narrow-minded focus she has on playing the types of female roles she has stated she despises. This film is a killer all right: career killer.
If you want a reason to hate Valentine’s Day than just watch VALENTINE’S DAY, which is a cinematic first: a pretentiously obvious, mass marketed, and 124-minute (Jesus H, that long?!?) infomercial for the Hallmark Holiday of the 14th of February. The film – directed by Garry Marshall with the emotional resonance of a cheap greeting card and scripted by the woman who made a career out of writing XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS episodes – is a parade of limitlessly attractive and, for the most part, gifted screen actors that wallow away in multiple-story arcs that show the boring and tedious trials and tribulations of their love. Some of the individual story threads are incredulous and gag-inducing at the same time, like the one involving Jessica Biel that plays a sports publicist that is so out-of-touch with her own inherent hotness and raw sex appeal that she throws yearly “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties that is also attending by a squadron of other gorgeous, but relationship failing women. Honestly? Really? On what fantasy planet do women that look like Biel throw parties like this and have such an ineptitude with getting men into bed? VALENTINE’S DAY is a slickly packaged product/date film made to appease the audience members that don’t require wit, freshness, and originality in romcoms.
here’s the ultimate cop out excuse provided from Kevin Smith in defense
movie like COP OUT, while an easy target for critics, is clearly not intended
to impress those prone to show off their cinema erudition.
Critics can stab at COP OUT with their poison pens all they want,
but it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s a funny flick.”
These are highly perplexing and odd comments from a writer/director that I have championed and defended on more than one occasion, the same smart, savvy, and indelible writer that gave us such inspired and original comedies like CLERKS 1 and 2, CHASING AMY, DOGMA, and JERSEY GIRL. For him to label the genuinely laugh free COP OUT as a “funny flick” reveals a startling naiveté on his part, not to mention that he sort of negates any personal responsibility from making the singe worst film of his typically rock-steady comedic resume. I am willing the bare the film for its utter lack of visual imagination and gamesmanship (Smith, by his own admission, is not a gifted artist when it comes to framing shots), but it is his complete lack of slyness when it comes to the buddy/cop story here, which regurgitates the pathetically archaic formulas of too many antiquated cop films of old. Smith certainly holds films like LETHAL WEAPON, RUNNING SCARED, 48 HOURS, and so forth with a high level of hero worship, but someone forgot to inform him that gambling on outright mimicry of those films is not the same as paying loving homage to them. This makes COP OUT borderline skitzo: it has no idea whether to be a straight comic farce or a semi-serious action-thriller or a cheeky satire of the action genre...or all of those things.
|Ahhh...that felt good. My TEN WORST compilation is complete...but I'm not done yet! Here are a few more films that were not altogether bad enough to make the TEN WORST, but were forgettable and disenchanting all the same. Consider these:|
CrAiGeR's NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2010
DUE DATE: Robert Downey JR. and Zach Galifianakis should have been comic gold together in Todd Phillips' follow-up to the hilarious HANGOVER, but consider this one a pitifull Poor Man's PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES.
LITTLE FOCKERS: One focking film too many in this tired comedy series.
SPLICE: Hey...I have an idea: let's artificially create a strange and dangerous human/creature thingy and then secretly stash it away in...a...barn. Yeah, it reads dumb, and it certainly plays dumb in this insipid sci-fi thriller.
PIRANHA 3D : How on earth could so many critics stand behind this disposable schlock-fest? Some films are so bad they're good, but this 3D-ified sequel to the early 1980's James Cameron PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING was so bad it was just bad.
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE: Nicolas Cage, hotly looking for his next paycheck effort, appears yet again in a hooky and silly Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action-fantasy. No magic in this film, folks.
ROBIN HOOD: The virtuoso cinematic tag-team of Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott should have been a win-win when it came to injecting new life into the Legend of Sherwood Forrest, but all it did was persuade viewers to fervently check their watches and look for the theatre exits.
THE SPY NEXT DOOR: I officially declare that their should be a forced moratorium placed on Jackie Chan appearing in any more kid-friendly action films; an endurance test to Chan-fundamentalists of old.
REPO MEN : This sci-fi parable felt like someone repossessed the spare parts of better and more compelling sci-fi parables.
PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF : This ever-so-desperate HARRY POTTER wanna-be is so woefully preposterous that not even the immense power of Zeus could have punched the mocking smirk off of my face as I exited the screening.
WHEN IN ROME: When in Rome, try to avoid Kristen Bell making a fool of herself in a disposable and wasteful romcom efforts like this.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1: Sigh. When will the HARRY POTTER series fiiiinnnaaallly reach the much touted, much discussed, and much anticipated final battle between the hero and the villain? This film's answer: not right now.
CHLOE : Hey, I like girl-on-girl action as much as any red-blooded man, but this erotic melodrama from the typically assured Atom Egoyan mixes carnal pleasures with a giggle-inducing, FATAL ATTRACTION-esque climax
THE NEXT THREE DAYS: Writer/director Paul Haggis should have spent three or many more days re-drafting the script for this thriller, which wallowed IN eye-rolling disbelief more than it should have.
HEREAFTER : Clint Eastwood deserves to be on a short list of the great, masterful, and iconic filmmakers, but HEREAFTER emerges as an inconsistent and undisciplined effort from the typically restrained and focused director.
Speaking of repugnant...how about the gut-wrenchingly sickening spectacle of seeing Casey Affleck's psychopathic lawman bashing Jessica Alba's face in for what seems to be an eternity? Some called THE KILLER INSIDE ME mesmerizing and unflinchingly real, but I found it off-putting and cheaply voyeuristic.
: They say that beggars can't be choosers, but I certainly begged for a refund after enduring this pedestrian and dull heist thriller.
THE E XPENDABLES: A 1980's action film lover's wet dream, to be sure, but the mighty high pedigree of Reagan-era beefcake felt kind of wasted in Stallone's direct-to-DVD-video worthy and blood spattered ode to wanton carnage.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS: Rule #1 for making films accessible to patrons: don't condescend to them to the point of making them feel like schmucks, and this Jay Roach-directed, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd starring comedy did just that.
SALT : Here's a Phillip Noyce helmed spy-action thriller that felt like one long first act without a middle and with no discernible conclusion. Cue to writers: make sure your first film stands proudly on its own before you go out of your way to set up a sequel.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME : Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of my life...and I assuredly felt like I was in the theatre for days watching this video-game adaptation; BTW - has Jake Gyllenhaal ever look more out of place in a film role?
GUNLESS: Paul Rudd is a very funny and talented Canuck performer and frequent filmmaker, but this North-of-the-border-made western sending up Can-Am relations lacks laughs and a satirical bite.
THE BOUNTY HUNTER: Bounties should be placed squarely on the heads of Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston for appearing in a moronic action-romcom like this.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND: The kooky and offbeat eccentricities of Tim Burton teamed with Lewis Carole's 1865 literary classic should have been a home run, but the lackluster 3D upconversion and stilted plotting seemed to do the film's gloriously wacky and inspired visual palette a disservice.
EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES: It took extraordinary fortitude and resolve for me to sit through this sluggish and mechanically scripted terminal tearjerker.
The wonderful Amy Adams is like a ray of proverbial sunshine in just about every film she occupies, but even her charm and innate likeability is tarnished by this long-forgotten January released romcom.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER: The Pevensie kids are once again whisked to the magical land of Narnia, during which watch checking takes precedence over being engaged in the film.
|And finally, here's a dishonorable mention list of films that I felt were more disappointing than painful to endure. Consider these:|
CrAiGeR's MISSED OPPORTUNITIES of 2010
RED: Geriatrics packing heat and taking out the trash; think THE EXPENDABLES but with older action heroes and just about as forgettable.
127 HOURS: > James Franco deserved his Oscar nomination for his gripping performance in this shocking and nerve-wracking true story of survival, but Danny Boyle's unnecessarily hyper-charged visual eccentricities stunted the story's emotional and human element. > added February 9, 2011
LEAVES OF GRASS: There's something to marvel at here with Ed Norton playing the dual role of twin brothers, but this Tim Blake Nelson directorial effort suffers from too many multiple personalities.
LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE The director of hard-R rated epics of gore and carnage goes family friendly? Zack Snyder's makes this CGI animated film simmer with beautiful visuals, but the storyline felt derivative and disenchanting.
SOLITARY MAN: Michael Douglas gives one of his finest tuned performances in years that's not benefited by a screenplay that feels rushed and incomplete.
THE RUNAWAYS: I liked the audacious tenacity and spirit of this biopic of the famous 70's female rock group, but this is the standard stuff of dime-a-dozen genre pictures about the excesses of living hard rocking lifestyle.
DESPICABLE ME: Steve Carell makes a despicably vile evildoer indeed, but this Dreamworks animated film plays the laughs a bit too cute and cuddly when it wants to be a biting satire.
KNIGHT AND DAY: This film has likeable and charismatic star power up the yin yang, but not even Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz could save this fairly underwhelming spy-rom-com-thriller.
JONAH HEX : Hardly the nightmarish train wreck that many critics labeled, yet many of them were spot on by saying that this DC Comics property failed on even basic narrative levels.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER: This is one SHREK film too many, and the film's extraordinary aesthetic polish can't override a sense of been-there, done-that..
THE A-TEAM: Fundamentalist die-hard fans of the schlock- filled 80's TV classic dug this big screen treatment, but this action blockbuster emerged as both satisfying and superfluous at the same time.
IRON MAN 2 : What a difference a sequel makes, only this go around most of the key players in front of and behind the camera could not rescue IRON MAN 2 from being too overstuffed, too busy, and too rough around the edges for its own good.
DATE NIGHT : How I love the comedic pairing of Tina Fey and Steve Carell; it's just regretful that their supreme abilities at tickling our collective funny bones were not harnessed in a more worthy romcom vehicle.
DEAR JOHN: Dear viewers: if you love methodically manipulative tear jerking melodramas, then seek this film out; all others, stay clear.
BROOKLYN'S FINEST : A cops and robbers potboiler of such resoundingly high potential quickly regressed into crudely constructed genre contrivances
THE WOLFMAN : An evocative and haunting gothic atmosphere mixed with appealing lead performers could not one up this horror film's aimless and disjointed script.