Posted January 10, 2014

There are some absolute certainties in life.  Death.  Taxes.  And, yes, the reliability of a relative smorgasbord of absolutely awful films being released during the calendar year that was, which makes producing lists like this both cathartic, enjoyable, and relatively easy for yours truly. 

Okay, so why do I find these lists more oddly enjoyable than making, say, my list of the Top 10 Films of the Year?  Well, I think that the commonality of producing my compilations of the worst reasons to enter a cinema is that I can revisit certain films that robbed me of two-hours (and sometimes more) of my life that I will surely not get back and send a message to readers to not make the same mistake.  Also, 10-Best lists are inordinately more difficult to write, seeing as I frequently scrutinize and reflect on my choices and don’t wish to overlook and/or omit a work that I believe is worthy of inclusion on it.  Comparatively speaking, assembling a Worst-of list is as easy as proverbial pie for me.  There’s no second-guessing.  No anal-retentive analyzing.  No worries over what to put on and what to omit.  When I make these Worst-of lists my picks are swift and unconditional:  I just know in my heart of hearts that these are film that, without any hesitation, I know are the single nastiest movies perpetrated on the filmgoing masses.  Beyond that, this process for me further allows a sense of therapeutic comeuppance: it allows me one last parting shot against these truly worthless films.  

And for that…I like it.  Perhaps too much. 

Upon reflection on my list below, I begin to note some alarming patterns, like the fact that a new Adam Sandler comedy (yet again!) makes the cut, as his previously ones have managed to have a habit of doing.  Also, with TWILIGHT a thing of the past, a new clone/rip-off of the series makes the cut.  Bad comic book adaptations and terrible action films are also here, as are a dopey romcoms, an seriously dreadful romance drama, and one film in particular that just might be the most putrid film that I’ve seen since I began this site in 2004.  

And don’t forget, I’ve seen DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO

So, enough from me…let the critical bombardment commence!

 

 

 
  First on the list is 2013's single worst film, followed by nine other very worthy and deserving candidates (in random order):  
 

 
 

 

 
 

MOVIE 43

 
 

Question:  How could I not put MOVIE 43 at the very top of this wall of shame list?   

It not only represents the single worst film of 2013, but a criminal misappropriation of proven acting talent.  Outside of having either (a) guns pointed at their heads in a threatening fashion or (b) a mighty hefty paycheck, I don’t have the foggiest idea as to why the likes of Kate Winslet, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Greg Kinnear, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, and Terrance Howard decided to appear in this excruciating endurance test of a comedy.  I use the term comedy ever-so-loosely. 

Not only is the film’s title completely nonsensical (the number 43 refers to absolutely nothing in the film), but MOVIE 43 – envisioned by the Farrelly Brothers and directed by the likes of James Gunn, Brett Ratner, and Griffin Dunne from a script from 20 writers – is also a complete and utter comedic black hole.  There are 14 “comedic sketches” on display here, some of which involve – ahem – Hugh Jackman playing a man with testicles hanging from his neck, Anna Farris playing a house wife that wants to be defecated on by her husband, Chloe Grace Moretz having her period in front of her boyfriend (in graphic detail)…and so on and so on.  MOVIE 43 is not funny, not enjoyable, and certainly not worth anyone’s hard paying dollars and 90 minutes of their free time.  It’s a film of inexcusable and offensive awfulness.   If the makers here think that this is what passes as entertainment for the masses, then I fear for the utter devolution of modern filmgoer tastes. 

 
 

GROWN UPS 2

 
 

This is the inhumanly terrible sequel to the already inhumanly terrible 2010 film, which just happened to make my list of that year's worst films as well.

'Nuff said.  

 
 

GENERATION UM...

 
 

I knew that I was in trouble very early on in screening GENERATION UM when the most exciting thing that occurs in the film is a lingering shot of star Keanu Reeves eating a muffin that goes on and on…and on…without contributing anything of substance to the overall story trajectory.   

Yeah, yeah…this Mark Mann written and directed indie drama is trying to show a portrait of the daily lives of three downtrodden and pathetic characters, all living an equally pathetic existences in the Big Apple.  Some of the best films that I have ever seen have been about fascinatingly loathsome and redemption-free losers.  Yet, GENERATION UM is  amateurishly conceived and shot and contains performances that either barely register or are histrionically all over the map.  The film is a scant 97 minutes, but considering its elephantine pacing, it just as well might have been 997 minutes.  Like its menagerie of soulless, societal rejects on parade here, GENERATION UM is maddeningly aimless and meanders around with no readily identifiable purpose.  As I said at the conclusion of my review of it last July, “There is nothing on screen here that could possibly convince me to see GENERATION UM ever again or…ummmm…convince me to convince you to ever see it for the first time.” 

Yeah.  That sounds about right.

 
 

THE HOST

 
 

 

THE HOST was funnier than most comedies that I saw in 2013, which is not a ringing endorsement of this Andrew Niccol (!?) directed film adaptation of the would-be serious sci-fi young adult novel of the same name by Stephanie Meyer.  I thought that I would never be privy to something as god-awful as Meyers’ own TWILIGHT film versions, but THE HOST has miraculously proven me completely wrong. 

Not only is THE HOST kind of – paradoxically speaking – plagiaristic of Meyers’ own TWILIGHT series in narrative, tone, and themes - adolescent focus, its annoyingly angsty love triangle subplots, and its stale and cringe worthy dialogue exchanges – but it also lazily cherry picks elements of infinitely better sci-fi film properties like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS for good measure.  Yet, honing in my disdain on Meyers’ work itself is kind of easy, but what’s really hard to swallow is that this film was directed by the great New Zealand-born Niccol, who previously made stellar films like GATTICA and THE LORD OF WAR.  To witness a man with his talents make a film like THE HOST that’s so terribly maculated is a cruel endurance test of will of its own.  Dragged down with him is star Saoirse Ronan, a young actress of such limitless talent that really becomes submerged within this film’s mediocrity.  

 
 

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS

 
 

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS approaches levels of horridness from so many divergent tangents that, months after seeing it, I still grow dizzy just speculating about it.  Here’s a film “adapted” (ahem) from the 19th Century German folk fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm into a ridiculously shoddy 3D Will Ferrell/Adam McKay produced action fantasy that just happens to star – rather embarrassingly – a two-time Oscar nominee in Jeremy Renner.  Oh, did I also mention that it was shot nearly two years ago before being rather unceremoniously released (make that dumped) in movies theatres across North America last January? 

HANSEL AND GRETEL; WITCH HUNTERS is insanely schizophrenic to boot.  What is this film trying to be?  Seriously?  A spoof?  A satire of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale milieu?  A wink-wink modernistic take on fairy tales laced with self-acknowledging irony?  A sorta-serious, sorta-campy blood curdling horror film?  Or, a combination of everything mentioned?  This film, frankly, has no idea what it is.  And frankly, you’d be crazy to waste 87 valuable minutes of your time with this drivel. 

 
 

R.I.P.D.

 
 

What possessed a man of such proven talent like Oscar winner Jeff Bridges to allow himself to appear in one of the most dubiously terrible comic book film adaptations in a seriously wrong time?  Beats me. 

Actually, Bridges does manage to have a bit of fun mocking his own image playing past roles like Rooster Cogburn and the Dude – traits of both that are certainly on display here in his part of an avenging angel-like law man that battles monsters in the real world – but so much of R.I.P.D. seems so obviously and painfully ripped off from MEN IN BLACK that it becomes positively distracting at times.  There is no one hint of daring originality, intrepid innovation, or, for that matter, anything truly memorable that occurs all through this sci-fi action comedy.  Sporting one of the shoddiest 3D presentations I’ve ever seen and containing an overt amount of lethargic blandness (could co-star Ryan Reynolds look anymore stiff and bored here?), R.I.P.D. was better off dead and buried at the pre-production concept level.  

The Dude would definitely abide by this logic.

 
 

THE BIG WEDDING

 
 

THE BIG WEDDING is a big, disastrous flop of a family/nuptials comedy.  Watching it was kind of akin to attending a party against your will surrounded by detestable people that you don’t want to be around.  What perhaps makes THE BIG WEDDING all the more uncomfortable to sit through is that is contains four – THAT’S FOUR!? – Academy Award winning performers.  I can excuse the film also starring Katherine Heigl, but a quartet of Oscar winners…ouch.

As for the offendees, here?  The film stars the likes of Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, and Robin Williams and was adapted from the 2006 French comedy Mon frère se marie, but the resulting film essentially is a one-note premise riddled with clichés and conventions that is absolutely tone-deaf when it comes to comedy.  From the film’s would-be hysterical opening scene (during which time De Niro and Sarandon engage in a kitchen sex scene, throwing out the word “cunnilingus” in hopes of securing big laughs) to its paint-by-numbers and predictable-as-hell conclusion, THE BIG WEDDING offers little in the ways of merriment.  Trust me, you should be all very glad that you were not invited to see this.

 
 

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD

 
 

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD makes its predecessor, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, look like the original DIE HARD.  Does that make sense? 

The fifth film in the iconic action series should have been a relatively modest pleasure to sit through.  Bruce Willis’ John McClane deserves worthy placement on a list with James Bond and Indiana Jones as the greatest cinematic action heroes of all-time.  Yet, everything about A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD seems to miss the quintessence of what made McClane and his earlier films so exhilarating and engaging.  Willis looks bored, mannered, and lacks the yippee-kiya macho posturing of old, but also gone in this new film is the sense of McClane’s sarcastic, deadpan wit and, more importantly, his well-established vulnerability.  McClane seems less like a human being that’s hard to kill here than he does come off more as a super human being that has an almost laughable level of invulnerability (especially considering that he’s approaching Grumpy Old Men age).  Perhaps most damning is that McClane is reduced to be a side-player in his son’s (Jai Courtney) own story.  The real John McClane would never allow for such nonsense. 

What's most bizarre is that OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN emerged as the best DIE HARD film of the year...and in the same year that an actual DIE HARD film was released.  Not good.  

 
 

IDENTITY THIEF

 
 

There is relatively nothing funny or endearing about IDENTITY THIEF.  One of the problems with the film is that it deals with one of the most unpardonable of social crimes that exists and then goes utterly out of its way to sympathize with the perpetrator because, yeah, she had a really messed up childhood and is played by the cute, likeable, and larger-than-life Melissa McCarthy.  The manner that the film takes a loathsome human being that ruins countless lives through her petty crimes and desperately tries – as it only know how – to make us warm up to her and forgive her during the film's unendurably long 111 minutes is flabbergasting.  Not even the presence of Jason Bateman – who arguably has the slyest deadpan wit of the movies – is totally wasted here, not to mention director Seth Gordon, who previously made one of the best documentaries of recent memory in THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS and the reasonably funny HORRIBLE BOSSES.  That alone kind of stinks. 

 
 

SAFE HAVEN

 
 

Of the two things I liked in SAFE HAVEN: (1) Star Julianne Hough is endlessly easy on the eyes and (2) the film’s takes great delight in framing its picturesque North Carolina settings with a real painterly eye. 

That’s where the positives end.  SAFE HAVEN – yet another in an awfully long list of cinematic adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books – is one of those would-be teary-eyed romance films that contains a screenplay that desperately required several re-writes before finally being made into a feature.  Considering that the typically stalwart veteran Lasse Hallstrom directed it is kind of shocking in itself in this regard.  Yet, what’s perhaps even more shocking is the manner that the film goes from being inoffensively clichéd and conventional towards a conclusion that will have many a filmgoer banging their heads up against a solid wall out of sheer, eye-rolling incredulity.  There is a plot twist contained here – which I will not spoil – that emerges as something so hysterically false (considering the story that built up towards it) that you want to throw you popcorn at the screen in disgust.  Very few romance films have an ending as gag-inducing silly as SAFE HAVEN; it creates a nasty whiplash effect for the film that never allows for it to recover afterwards.

 
 

 

 
  Well...that felt good.  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 2013

 
  WHITE HOUSE DOWN:  For the infinitely far superior White House gets taken over by terrorists action film, seek out OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN instead!   

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION:  A near-two hour live action toy commercial...and not much more. 

21 AND OVER: A paint by numbers and egregiously unfunny party comedy that's not nearly as uproarious as it thinks it is. 

PARANOIA: I left this film feeling very paranoid how a corporate thriller starring Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford could be so remorselessly dull.

THE CALL: One of the year's more insipidly plotted and far-fetched serial killer thrillers; the ending is an unintentional, head-shaking howler.

WE'RE THE MILLERS:  Sporadically amusing, but the gaps between the hearty laughs in this pot-smuggling comedy are few and far between. 

THE COUNSELOR:  One of the most wasteful filmmaking exercises of 2013, especially considering that it marked the cinematic dream team of director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Cormac McCarthy.  That, and a superlative cast wasted as well.

PARKLAND:  A well intentioned, but ultimately tedious and uninspired J.F.K. assassination drama.

RUNNER RUNNER:  Ben Affleck camps it up to infectious levels here, but the clichéd-riddled script failed to leave an impression.

PASSION:  Brian De Palma's erotic thriller lacked eroticism and thrills.

GETAWAY:  A vehicular action film with a silly plot and sensory pummeling direction of the chase scenes.

RED 2:  A ho-hum sequel to its mostly ho-hum prequel.

THE LONE RANGER:  A western that cost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to produce that's almost 3 hours long.  That is all.

NOW YOU SEE ME:  A mostly forgettable thriller about illusionists that feels like a poor man's THE PRESTIGE through and through.

THE HANGOVER PART III:  An utterly unnecessary third film in a series that hardly required a trilogy treatment.

AFTER EARTH:  The latest M. Night Shyamalan misfire is not as soul-suckingly awful as his previous films, but it still emerged as a film where the director's past talent was all but AWOL.  

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS: An absolutely spiffy looking sequel to the 2009 reboot suffers from ample creative laziness from a narrative perspective.

ADMISSION: A pleasurably, but thoroughly clumsy comedy that fails to make adequate use of stars Tina Fey and Paul Rudd.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER:  CG fakery stands out more than anything else in Bryan Singer's attempts to bring the iconic English folktale to life.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES:  Yet another TWILIGHT clone that fails to contain a fascinating mythology or characters that we care about.

GRUDGE MATCH:  An aggressively gimmicky old geezer comedy featuring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro battling it out in the squared circle.  

     
  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 2013

 
 

THOR: THE DARK WORLD:  A fantastic looking and action packed sequel that forgot to provide for a cohesive story.

 

LAST VEGAS:  Robert De Niro old geezer comedy number two of 2013, but even pairing him with the likes of Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Michael Douglas couldn't elevate this comedy's banal material.

 

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE:  A promising horror thriller that suffers from a somewhat confused execution of its core ideas.

 

JOBS:  A well acted biopic of the legendary Apple Computers founder and pioneering that feels too much like a series of best-of hits of his career than a fully realized chronicle of Steve Jobs' life.

 

LOVELACE:  Another would-be compelling biopic - this time about the infamous 1970's porn star - that's too short and lacking in complexity. 

 

THE COLONY:  A sci-fi post-apocalyptic thriller that has a great premise that never fully develops it to any sustainable level of intrigue.

 

KICK-ASS 2:  I loved the darkly funny and sarcastically satiric original film, but this sequel seems to be spinning its wheels far too much.

 

THE BLING RING:  Latest from director Sophia Coppola can't seem to decide if it's embracing its toxically unlikable characters or condemning them.

 

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES:  Hey, another in a long line of TWILIGHT knock-offs is arguably the best of the bunch, but it nonetheless lacks a satisfying payoff in the end.

 

PACIFIC RIM:  Stupendous visual effects, propulsive large-scale action, and stellar production design can't help hide the film's wantonly conventional screenplay.

 

THE INTERNSHIP:  This Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy lacks the consistent laugh quotient of their previous team-up.

 

TO THE WONDER:  Director Terrance Malick's command of mood and style is masterful here, but what's not on display is an involving story to capture audience's attention spans.

 

THE PURGE:  A fairly well-oiled micro-budget home invasion sci-fi thriller that lacked the satirical refinement that it should have contained.

 

MAMA:  This horror film has a sensational opening, but then thoroughly runs out of gas the longer it progresses.  

 

THE GREAT GATSBY:  Baz Luhrman's long-awaited adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has ample visual pomp and circumstance, but the rest of the film lacks an emotional soul to go with it.

 

PAIN AND GAIN:  Fact-based Michael Bay vehicle desperately tries to attain the level of shrewd social/crime satire, but its over-caffeinated stylistic hubris subverts those aims

 

42:  A truly honorable biopic about Major League Baseball's first African American player contains handsome production values and a stellar lead performance, but the film lacks edge and dimension.

 

TOP GUN 3D:  Multi-dimensional upgrade/re-release of the 1986 original looks and sounds fantastic, but the film is as cornball as ever.

 

BULLET TO THE HEAD:  Pure, unmitigated action trash from director Walter Hill and star Sylvester Stallone, which is oddly what's good and bad about this film.

 

PARKER:  Umpteenth Jason Statham kicks everyone's asses action vehicle was a couple of screenplay drafts away from being something worth a recommend.  

 

HOMEFRONT:  Hey, another Jason Statham kicks everyone's asses action vehicle, scripted by Sylvester Stallone on formulaic autopilot

 

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG: Middle Earth has never looked as pristine and detailed here, but this HOBBIT sequel still suffers from ample narrative heft and sluggish pacing.

 

 

 

 
 
     
 

  H O M E