Posted January 6, 2013 / Updated February 6, 2013

To ever-so-loosely paraphrase Henry Hill from GOODFELLAS, as far back as I could remember I always wanted to be a film critic. 

Yet, for as passionate as I am in regards to writing about the world of great cinema, I am always faced with the task every year to revisit some of my most painful memories of being in the dark and experiencing films that should be best left forgotten. 

Grandstanding aside, I always find making my annual compilations of the Ten Worst Films of the year to be both perversely enjoyable and cathartic at the same time.  In defense of 2012, though, I will go on record that it was perhaps the finest year for quality movies since the late 1990’s.  Granted, I developed this assertion rather late in the year, because by nine to ten months in I was foreseeing 2012 in a vastly different light altogether.  Obviously, most years are quite back heavy with Oscar caliber films vying for Academy attention, but 2012 was among the most back heavy of recent memory.  I gave out more 4-star reviews from late September through to December than I ever have before.  What came before all of those superlative films…well…let’s just say a whole lot of ‘em didn’t get the 4-star seal of approval from dear ol' me. 

There were definitely some foreseeable certainties when it came to my selections on this year’s list of the most valueless films of the year (an Adam Sandler vehicle makes yet another appearance, as does a wretched sci-fi and horror thriller, not to mention a movie – make that two – involving a love triangle between a selfish little flirt of a girl and a vampire and werewolf, and star Robert Pattinson appeared in not one, not two, but three of my picks...a new record for one actor).  Yet, as I always emphasize every year, my selections charted below reflect not only my hatred of them, but also a staggering sense of variety.  Awfulness is merciless in that it often does not discriminate based on genre.  All in all, I’ve got a romcom, a sci-fi flick (based on a…board game!?), a 3D horror film, a murder thriller, a found-footage effort, and, among other surprising things, a film directed by a typically refined and gifted auteur.  Go figure. 

So, let my undying hate of the next ten films begin!!  Here are my...

 

 
  First on the list is 2012's single worst film, followed by nine other very worthy and deserving candidates (in random order):  
 

 
 

 

 
 

THAT'S MY BOY

 
 

There was absolutely no hesitation on my part to place this Adam Sandler comedy at the highest point of this list as the single worst reason to enter a cinema in all of 2012.  He graced my list last year as well in a rare feat – both his JACK AND JILL and JUST GO WITH IT tied for the most dreadful film of 2011.  This deserves some sort of medal of shame. 

Believe it or not, THAT’S MY BOY is the most incessantly bad film on Sandler’s resume, which I thought was impossible after seeing JACK AND JILL.  Alas, only in a Sandler comedy (the latter term used very sparingly) is pedophilia, incest, and statutory rape uproariously amusing.  Yet, all of that – and much more vulgar, tasteless, and toxically unfunny material - are here in abundance in THAT'S MY BOY, which becomes some sort of unbearable minefield of comic desperation all through its excruciating 116 minute running time.  By the time the film was over we witness – let me get out my list – Sandler-brand pratfalls directed at minorities, poolside erections, gay-hating military men, obsessive masturbation, horny elderly woman, semen-filled Kleenex, and brothers and sisters fornicating.  Hardy har. 

I will leave you with this: THAT’S MY BOY cost a mind-blowing $75 million to produce.  75.  LES MISERABLES cost nearly $15 million less.  All in all, the last three Sandler crapfests have cost a combined $235 million to make.  Everyone associated with these three films – and THAT’S MY BOY in particular – should be ashamed of themselves, including a pair of Oscar nominated actors – you know who you are! – that agreed to lend their talents to this mess.  Shame, shame, shame on you.

 
 

BATTLESHIP

 
 

BATTLESHIP is so mind-numbing awful in so many incalculable ways that I simply lost track while watching it.  It does not even attain the level of an enjoyable so-bad, it’s-good entertainment.  Here’s a film directed by a proven talent like Peter Berg of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and THE KINGDOM fame (for shame, Pete!) that has an extraterrestrial invasion from the cosmos, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, a pop singer, the Irish-born star of the TAKEN films, a level of Michael Bayian visual overkill that assaults the senses, and – to make matters even more head-shakingly absurd – the film is based on, seriously, a decades-old Hasbro board game.  The Irish actor in question is, of course, the great Liam Neeson, whose screen time is so inanely limited in this film that you have to question if he asked to have a majority of his role cut in the editing room out of sheer embarrassment to be associated with this witless summer action film.  I will forgive Neeson’s participation (or lack there of) here, but Berg’s willingness to sell out his skills, reputation, and pride to mimic the worst elements of the TRANSFORMERS films is mighty hard to pardon.   BATTLESHIP is dead in the water as far as alien invasion flicks go, not to mention that it shows incredulous desperation on Hollywood's part to turn to board games for cinematic inspiration.  

What’s next…a 'Hungry, Hungry Hippos' film?  Oh wait…that is coming.  Shit.

 
 

A THOUSAND WORDS

 
 

I think that I must have written over a 1000 words to describe how putrid A THOUSAND WORDS was in my original review from earlier this spring, so instead of regurgitating my thoughts again, I will allow a tweet from Seth Rogen about the film to succinctly reiterate to you just how awful this Eddie Murphy stinker is: 

"Of all the movies about people who become linked to trees who’s leaves fall as they talk, leading to death, “A Thousand Words” is the worst."

Amen.

 
 

LOCKOUT

 
 

 

LOCKOUT is so borderline derivative and tedious as a sci-fi action exploitation film that it barely registers as an original thought for a film.   It's a pathetic and obnoxiously plagiaristic riff of John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, right down to its gruff, macho, ripped, wisecracking, and tough anti-hero that is recruited by the government to rescue a person of great political interest and significance.  Hmmm…sounds very, very, very familiar, eh?  The biggest sin, though, is perhaps Guy Pearce’s casting as the imposing and murder-death-kill dealing misanthrope.  Pearce is one of our truly finest actors, but it’s deeply beneath his talents to have him wallow in such a woefully one-dimensional cretin.  His excruciating lack of chemistry with co-star Maggie Grace (why is she always requiring rescuing in films?) is the further kiss of qualitative death to LOCKOUT.  The film was a bomb when released in April, mostly because audience’s radars for an uninspired spring films like this hit levels of 11 on the rip-off meter. 

 
 

GONE

 
 

GONE is a murder-mystery thriller that happens to be an Amanda Seyfried starring vehicle that operates on the “Idiot Plot Syndrome” during all of its mercifully brief 94 minutes.  The Idiot Plot Syndrome, of course, refers to any film where the actions of one or more of the characters are explainable only because they are indeed idiots.  Not only is the central and substandard mystery in the film unexciting and tension-free, but it also – while incessantly boring us – showcases a massive manhunt for a deeply troubled and missing girl who would be located in roughly ten minutes in the law enforcement officials in the story were not imbeciles.  More dreadful is the way the script here craps out red herrings in its plot to potentially throw us off, which becomes more cheaply manufactured by the second.  Seyfried is an appealing screen presence, to be sure, but what on earth is she expected to do in a film like this that places here within an overly telegraphed and manipulative plot?  So very few thrillers are as comatose and lifeless as GONE. 

 
 

THIS MEANS WAR

 
 

The script for THIS MEANS WAR was apparently making the rounds for well over a decade in Hollywood before being produced and ultimately released.  A decade was not enough, though, to polish and fix this blatantly stupid, insipidly rendered, and charmless triple threat dud.  THIS MEANS WAR is a romance film without any chemistry between its three attractive main leads.  It’s also a madcap comedy that’s laugh-free.  Finally, it desperately tries to be an action-thriller that manages to not contain one iota of suspense or intrigue.   Even more damning is that it all but squanders its main actors – Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy, the latter whom looks positively uncomfortable during many of his scenes in the film.  Hardy has emerged as one of our most ferociously powerful actors and was such a physically imposing and freakish force of nature in films like BRONSON, WARRIOR, LAWLESS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  In THIS IS WAR he’s sheepishly reduced to being horrendously miscast as a romantic suitor that has to partake in would-be hilarious physical sight gags and scenes of sitcom-level contrivances.  What a colossal waste of a colossal talent.

 
 

PROJECT X

 
 

Audiences – mostly teen ones, I assume – ate up every single second of PROJECT X (definitely not to be confused with the Matthew Broderick 1987 film).  For the rest of the adult members in the cinema that endured this puerile and demoralizing found-footage film showcasing and sensationalizing adolescent debauchery, PROJECT X was an unnerving experience.  It made me want to rush home and take a shower after witnessing its teen characters behave in all manners ethically nauseating while participating in the house party to end all house parties.  Am I being a Debbie-Downer prude, here?  I don’t think so.  I have loved some of the raunchiest films of all-time, but there is just something perverse about this low-budget, cinema verite comedy that strips its main characters of any semblance of humanity and instead makes them “winningly” come off as despicable “bitch” seeking hounds.  The boys in the film are constantly on the prowl to drink, do drugs, and get laid whereas the young females here are photographed and presented as if they belong in a GIRLS GONE WILD video.  Lastly, this film is more disturbing than funny.  In its hellish climax the city’s SWAT team descends on the block where the party is taking place to return order to it, but are instead greeted by an army-like mob of inebriated teens hurling objects at the cops while destroying nearby cars.  Teens in the audience I was with while screening the film cheered-on this sickening spectacle.  I, for one, depressingly slumped in my seat.

 
 

UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING

 
 

I’m not sure what’s worse about this fourth – and, please dear God, hopefully last – entry in the mostly forgettable UNDERWORLD franchise: That it was released in eye-punishing 3D, which is all the more punishing seeing as the film’s dark and murky visual palette makes scenes all but indecipherable when given a multidimensional uplift or that it’s an ugly and pointless film, one that never significantly contributes to the already shaky narrative foundations of the original films.  Of the film’s virtues, I will say this: Kate Beckinsale looks uber sexy in skin-tight black.  Beyond that, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is a deafening exercise in testing our collective patience; it’s one of the most crudely bombastic and  unnecessary sequels that I have ever seen.  Hopefully, this entry will be the stake to the heart of this series once and for all.

 
 

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PARTS 1 and 2

 
 

Yeah…yeah…I cheated a bit here.  THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 actually came out in 2011, but its follow-up, BREAKING DAWN PART DEUX, came out this year.  Hence, I decided to screen both of them at the same time and review them as one big…piece of crap film. 

I have run out of ways to describe how truly ridiculous and terrible the TWILIGHT films have been since the first entry was released in 2008.  Perhaps the finest accolade I could bestow upon them is  – with BREAKING DAWN 2’s release this fall – that the series is finally…completely…and irrevocably over.   No more eye-rollingly dopey and soap opera-esque melodramatic writing that reaches a level of high camp.  No more laughable performances (Robert Pattinson – with this and the film listed below – is a repeat offender here).  No more agonizing Team Edward or Team Jacob posturing.  No more romance between Edward the sparkling vampire and Bella the selfish and sullen tease.  No more horrid dialogue exchanges.  No more inept special effects.  And no more – thank goodness – squandering of proven talent to make these films (director Bill Condon – GODS AND MONSTERS and KINSEY – is certainly above this material).  The tagline for the last film read “The epic finale that will live forever.”  Yup.  Sure.  Uh-huh.  Forever will these films suck (vampire pun not intended).
 
 

COSMOPOLIS

 
 

David Cronenberg’s COSMOPOLIS is the ultimate cure for insomnia as it nearly put me to sleep while viewing it.  This film is inordinately long at just 90-plus minutes.  Maybe it has something to do with the wrongly cast Robert Pattinson (making another appearance on this dubious movie wall of shame list) playing a cold-hearted and ruthless American asset manager that lives within the tightly sealed world of his decked out stretch limousine (he does everything there, from conducting business to committing adultery to even having his prostate checked).   He rides through the Manhattan streets (with Toronto doubling for the Big Apple, and horribly I might add) on a quest to get a haircut, all while the world around him is crumbling under the weight of Occupy Wall Street-esque protests that are declaring war on financial systems.  There are very few films that I’ve seen in which their central weakness is having characters talk.  And talk Cronenberg’s characters do…over and over and over again about nonsensical and preposterously head-spinning diatribes that make less sense as the film progresses.  COSMOPOLIS is made by the man who directed THE FLY, DEAD RINGERS, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, EASTERN PROMISES and A DANGEROUS METHOD…and it has no business being as self-indulgently awful as it is on display here. 

 
 

 

 
  Sweet Lord, that felt good to get all of those off of my chest.  My TEN WORST list is complete...but I'm not done yet!  Here's a few more films that were not terrible enough to make the TEN WORST, but were easily forgettable all the same.  Consider these:  
 

CrAiGeR's NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2012

 
 

THE WATCH:  How could a comedy starring the likes of Ben Stilller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill - and written by Seth Rogen - be so aggressively and offensively unfunny?

 

THE BABYMAKERS: A sort-of Broken Lizard film (its directed by one of them and co-stars another member) that subverts their talents in this sperm donor clinic comedy, a sub-genre that needs to be put on ice.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING:  An instantly disposable and unfunny ensemble romcom where many an attractive performer pathetically feigns chemistry with one another.

 

THE RAID REDEMPTION:  What's being redeemed in this film?  I don't have the foggiest clue.  All I know is that this martial arts flick is all about numbing violence porn that's more exhausting than exciting.

 

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN: Definitely a very odd and shallow minded bit of claptrap about a boy that is grown in a garden from the wishes of a couple that can't conceive children.  

 

ONE FOR THE MONEYThis dreary and dull Katherine Heigl caper film is definitely not one for the ages. 

 

THE VOW: I'll make a solemn vow to all of you: I promise that this banal and tailored made date flick is altogether gag-inducing.

 

MIRROR, MIRROR: This retelling of the story of Snow White should have been a slam dunk for director Tarsem Singh, but it instead was a sluggish and snooze-inducing bore.

 

ACT OF VALOR:  aka: CALL OF DUTY: THE MOVIE.  It has the moral and political complexity of a mindless, low-grade, and murder-heavy first-person-shooter game.

 

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCEDid we really need another GHOST RIDER film, this time starring the cash-strapped, paycheck seeking Nicolas Cage?  Nope.  

 

THE GIRL:   2012's first Alfred Hitchcock-centric film - made by HBO - crafts a rather sensationalistic and unsavory portrait of the "Master of Suspense."

 

THE MASTERPaul Thomas Anderson is indeed one of the finest directors in contemporary cinema, but his thinly-veiled Scientology drama is too thematically convoluted and misshapen for its own good.

 

THE BOURNE LEGACYHey, let's make a fourth JASON BOURNE flick where Matt Damon's Jason Bourne character is distractingly referred to and mentioned throughout the story and never makes an appearance.  

 

TOTAL RECALLColin Farrell is a fine actor, but he lacks the Schwarzeneggerian testosterone and muscle-bound magnetism to carry this unnecessary remake of the much better 1990 original. 

 

GET THE GRINGO: Reminded me of the types of better action thrillers that the gravel voiced Mel Gibson made before he went a bit bonkers.

 

TO ROME WITH LOVEWoody Allen at his most prosaic.

 

SAVAGESOliver Stone at his most prosaic.

 

JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOMEI strained to find what this film was trying to be about because, quite frankly, I honestly don’t think that the makers of it had the foggiest idea either.

 

CHIMPANZEE:  Another Disneynature venture that will appease small little tykes in attendance and mostly likely bore adults.

 

FRIENDS WITH KIDS: An indie-romantic dramedy that wastes its refined performances on sitcom-worthy plotting and conventions.

 

GOONIn the tragic wake of oh-so-many NHL enforcers passing away over the last few years, there was not really much to laugh about in GOON's portrait of a professional hockey pugilist.

 

BIG MIRACLEA by-the-numbers and perfunctory feel-good true story about people coming together to save an arctic trapped whale.  Ho-hum.

 

SAFE HOUSE: An action thriller that yet again commits the immoral error of having its director shoot all of its mayhem with shaky-cam hysterics that becomes borderline headache-inducing.

 

CONTRABANDAnyone else remember this Mark Wahlberg-starring one-guy-forced-to-go-bad-to-save-his-family-from-a-sadistic-drug-lord thriller from January of 2012?  Didn't think so. 

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

CrAiGeR's MISSED OPPORTUNITIES of 2012

 
 

THIS IS 40: I love most of what writer/director Judd Apatow has bestowed upon us, but at a punishingly self-indulgent 134 minutes, THIS IS 40 felt like it should have been called THIS FEELS LIKE 4 HOURS.

 

PROMISED LAND: This Gus Van Sant directed and Matt Damon co-written anti-fracking drama has sincere performances and a noble message, but it all gets buried somewhat by contrived third-act scripting. - added February 6, 2013

 

HITCHCOCK: This second feature film about Hitchcock is better than THE GIRL, but still seems a bit befuddled as to given viewers a well rounded investigation into what made the enigmatic director tick.

 

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY:  Visually stunning and containing amazing effects, THE HOBBIT's hyper-real and distractingly smooth 48fps footage made it look like THE LORD OF THE RINGS via the Discovery Channel.  

 

PERFECT SENSE: A compellingly designed end-of-days apocalyptic drama/thriller that gets bogged down in a lot of self-congratulatory high mindedness.

 

KILLING THEM SOFTLY:  A superlative cast and bravura and stylish direction can't completely save this mob drama's attempts to draw strained correlations between American politics and gangster violence.

 

RED DAWN: A not great, but not altogether bad retelling of the deliciously entertaining anti-Commie 1984 original.

 

MAGIC MIKE: A Steven Soderbergh film about the world of male stripping.  Yup, it is what it is.

 

FRANKENWEENIEA gorgeous stop-motion animated film from Tim Burton that is perhaps too macabre and too unsettling for young viewers.

 

END OF WATCH Intense and gritty found-footage flick about the day in the life of two L.A. police officers that's too stylistically unhinged and wallows in cop thriller clichés.

 

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE I loved this Clint Eastwood film about a cantankerous ol' son of a bitch that finds a new lease on life when it was called GRAND TORINO; Eastwood is a pleasure to watch, though, even when he's phoning it in.   

 

THE WORDSHere's a few words for this Bradley Cooper plagiarism drama: misguided, meandering, and ill-focused.

 

THE CAMPAIGN This Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis comedy should have been a political satire home-run; instead, it barely got on base.

 

BEING FLYNNI was in like Flynn to see Robert De Niro return to his dramatic roots, but for as refreshingly good as he is here the rest of the film's unremarkable scripting betrays his stalwart performance.

 

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: The baby-faced Daniel "HARRY POTTER" Radcliffe as an emotional traumatized Victorian-era father?  Yeah, I didn't buy his casting here either. 

 

DARK SHADOWS: The umpteenth Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration in which they create a dark, gothic, and kooky character - based, in turn, on the same one in a cherished and long-running TV series.  Been there, done that in terms of look and feel.

 

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT: I love Jason Segal and Emily Blunt to death, but their winning chemistry in this romcom suffers the same fate of THIS IS 40 by being too long and bloated for its own good.

 

THE HUNGER GAMES: Critic proof for the legion of fans of the book series, this film adaptation felt like a middling example of speculative science fiction at best..

 

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND: A lively and energetic, but essentially perfuctory sequel to the 2008 original.

 

MAN ON A LEDGEAn entertaining, but ridiculously plotted heist thriller. 

 

RED TAILS:  This long-gestating George Lucas financed and produced film about the Tuskegee Airman of WWII is a forgettable war melodrama made up of spare parts of other better genre films. 

 

 

 
 
     
 

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