Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Ten Worst Movies Of 2013

Should I be taking pride in my so-called ability to better sniff out "bad" movies?  I skipped a lot of films this year that I figured simply wouldn't be very interesting, be they predictable (from the trailer) family dramas, or blockbuster summer action shoot-'em-ups or various other wastes of my time and money.  Judging by most reviews, I probably wasn't wrong in not watching these movies, but how can I be so sure?  All I'm doing is judging books by their cover.  Maybe I missed a few would-be stinkers that I would've ended up secretly loving or considerably vastly underrated…or, maybe my list of the year's worst films would've been even longer than ten pictures.   

There were a number of allegedly bad movies that I saw this year that ended up being…well, okay, bad, but at least enjoyable in a dumb way.  Stuff like the Sly/Arnie "Escape Plan," which was the kind of goofy 80's style action movie that they simply don't make many of these days --- by all measures a bad movie but dammit, I had fun.  I bledit* my buddy Dave, a living connoisseur of terrible action movies, for honing my taste in such films.

* = a combination of blame and credit

Picking on stuff like "Escape Plan" is low-hanging fruit anyway.  It's a movie that knows it's bad.  My bottom 10 worst movies of 2013 were those truly unlikable films that either thought they were legitimately making an artistic statement, or thought they were being purposefully tongue-in-cheek, or (in a couple of cases) it seemed like the cast and filmmakers knew they were in a shitty movie and just went along with it anyway.

Behold, the real turds of 2013.

10. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Almost escaped the list due to Jim Carrey doing some passable Jim Carrey-style physical comedy and a genuinely amusing Steve Buscemi subplot about trying to help the children of Cambodia by distributing magic kits (instead of, y'know, food or medical supplies).  But really, when a movie has this much notable comic talent involved and I have to scrape to find things to like, it deserves a spot on the list on principle alone.  Big disappointment here given that I like almost everyone in the cast.  On the bright side for Olivia Wilde, she officially shed her Eric Bana Award albatross by appearing in Drinking Buddies, Rush and Her last year, all of which I liked-to-loved.  Congratulations, Olivia!

9. GI Joe: Retaliation
I almost held off placing this one on the list since it clearly had no illusions about being anything more than a dumb summer action movie.  I just needed *something*, you know?  Any spark of wit or any sign that this was anything but a glorified toy commercial?  Anything?  At all?  Oh well.  (Also, while all of these movies were good enough to escape my shitlist, there were a lot of pretty weak action sequels this year.  Star Trek Into Darkness, Machete Kills, Iron Man 3?  No reason you couldn't have been a lot better, gang.)

8. Man Of Steel
And hey, speaking of underwhelming superhero movies!  Part of me thinks that it's because I love Superman so much and have such a distinct image of the character in my head that I'm being too hard on any film that deviates from my narrow vision.  Or, since I've got taste, maybe it's my love of Superman that makes me roll my eyes at overwrought nonsense like Man Of Steel.  "Superman II" came out in 1980 and I was born in 1981, so there literally hasn't been a good Superman movie made in my lifetime.  Just one, Hollywood.  That's all I ask.  One movie where Superman's persona isn't buried under Christ imagery, or does dumb out-of-character stuff like let thousands die in ruin around him or let his father die 10 metres away from him.  Or geez, I can even get on board with Superman being forced to kill Zod (he does it in the comics, after all) but at least make him distraught about it.  In the movie it's just well, Zod's dead, cue the happy ending!

6. (tie) Out Of The Furnace, A Single Shot
I couldn't separate these two in my mind since they're both would-be action thrillers that are really predictable, and they're both a little too up their own asses about hard men going through hard times and being forced to do bad things to protect themselves and their families.  If a single word describes both movies, it's DREARY.  Rural, rusted-out settings under grey and rainy skies with nary an interesting or semi-likeable character to be found.  (And even the ones that are likeable are just the token love interests.)  What a waste of good actors like Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson….you can tell from these casts that I was expecting good things from these movies, eh?  Winter's Bone eats these two movies for lunch.

5. I'm So Excited!
No, I wasn't!  Here's a real letdown from Pedro Almodovar, who's generally one of my favourite directors.  What I like most about Almodovar's movies is that a) I never have any idea where the plot is going and it often goes in wholly unexpected directions and b) things are always teetering just on the edge of outright farce, but they're kept just straight enough.  The problem with this film, however, is that despite actually being a farce, it's weirdly straight-forward.  What kind of self-respecting farce just sticks its characters on a plane and lets the plot meander like this?  This is easily the worst film I've seen from a director I expect much more from.

4. White House Down
This is one of those "thought they were being tongue-in-cheek" movies I was talking about, when they think they're being clever but you really just want to rub your temple  in quiet disgust.  I think all I need to say is that Roland Emmerich directed this one and he's a master of this craptacular style.  Impossibly, this was one of two "terrorists take over the White House" movies this year, and while i never saw Olympus Has Fallen, I can only presume it was a D to this one's D-minus.

3. Spring Breakers
I'm risking some of my film student cred here, as Spring Breakers is seen by some critics as a clever satire and an avant-garde look at Hollywood stereotypes.  It even showed up on several critics' ten-best lists for 2013 and James Franco won a couple of supporting actor trophies at critics' awards.  Anyway, with all that being said, this movie was atrociously bad and I literally can't understand how anyone could like it.  What's there to like?  This is every pretentious student film you've ever seen, stretched to 90 minutes and starring James Franco, whose body composition is 80% water and 20% pretentious student film.  Franco's performance *seems* pretty good in this movie but it's actually an illusion on the Piven/Dillon scale of optical trickery, which charts how it's easy for good actors to appear great if they're the only good actors in a scene.  It's not hard to imagine Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson all showing up in the Entourage movie, so imagine those anti-Streeps against the brutal acting law firm of Grenier, Connolly and Ferrara.  Wow, I just spent five minutes trying to figure out who'd be the best actor of those six and I'm legitimately stumped.

2. To The Wonder
Aha, now I'm REALLY risking my film student cred, since while opinion on Harmony Korine is split 50-50 between underground genius and living joke, Terrence Malick is widely hailed as a filmmaking savant.  Let me begin by saying something nice….To The Wonder, like all of Malick's films, is has absolutely gorgeous cinematography.  Emmanuel Lubezki is (finally) going to win a long overdue Oscar for shooting Gravity this year, yet without hesitation I would say that his work on To The Wonder is better.  Then again, Lubezki's camerawork could make a pile of cow dung look good, so you can see where I'm going with this.  To The Wonder is another one of Malick's films that is "beyond narrative," which is an artsy-fartsy way of saying there's no plot.  The camera just flies around the characters and you can pick out fragments of a story in a few places but, yeah, this link wins my award for the most baffling five paragraphs of 2013.  THAT's what was happening?  It all seems so straight-forward.  I at least could pick out the 90 minutes of family drama within The Tree Of Life (y'know, the part that didn't involve the fucking dinosaurs and the Big Bang) but yeah, To The Wonder was a complete mystery to me.  Given how good this movie looked and its total lack of substance, watching To The Wonder must've been like talking to INSERT REFERENCE HERE.  Oh, what's that?  You expected me to actually fill in that punchline?  Sorry, my jokes go beyond humour.  #YouJustGotMalicked

1. The Hangover Part III
The phrase "phoning it in" doesn't even apply here.  I'd watch two hours of Bradley Cooper chatting to someone on the phone, he seems like an interesting dude.  Same with Ed Helms.  I'd definitely watch two hours of Galifianakis chatting it up, he's hilarious.  Also, you'd figure that if any of these guys were in a two-hour long phone conversation, they'd have to be interested in what was going on and generally giving a crap, right?  None of that is apparently in Hangover 3, the worst movie of the year by a fair margin and quite possibly the most blatant paycheque cash grab in recent memory.  All three lead actors might as well have been wearing t-shirts that read 'Contractual Obligation' written on it.  Maybe this whole movie was the filmmakers' revenge for pointing out that the second Hangover film just stole the plot of the original.  They were like, "oh, you want a different plot, do you?  Well try THIS shit!"  and then served up this nonsense.  Heck, maybe they just grabbed a rejected script from a late-90's gangster movie and just inserted their characters' names since it's not like there are any actual jokes in here.  This is one of the most baffling comedies of all time since it seem like they're not even TRYING to do anything funny.  On the bright side (for everyone except maybe Justin Bartha), this trilogy is finally over. 

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