Nothing gets movie lovers more juiced up than when you tell them one of their favorite movies stinks. So you probably don’t want to read this article if you’re still wound up from the holidays.
Barring the occasional exception, I’m not into bashing material. I like to celebrate movies, not call them names. Or at the very least, celebrate what we can learn from them, regardless of whether the screenplay/movie is any good or not. However, there are some situations where the claws come out. I hate when productions clearly don’t put any effort into the screenplay. It drives me mad. They think they can cover up a bad story with cool effects or a hot actor, even though that’s proven to never work. And then there’s that passionate movie-lover side of me that just gets pissed off when I’m watching a piece of junk. It’s no one’s at fault. But I paid for the thing so if I have a strong opinion on it, I wanna to share it with someone (or someones). Believe me, I know how hard it is to make a movie. I’ve tried to do it myself. Just getting a production in the can and then releasing it in movie theaters? That’s something 99.999999999% of the people on this planet could never do. So there’s a certain respect I have for anybody who can achieve that. But I’m still a film lover at heart, so when I feel passionate about something, good or bad, I want to get it out. So are you ready? Here are the ten worst movies I saw this year…
10) Brave – This is an interesting one because I wouldn’t use the word “hate” to describe my reaction to it. It was more like, “Huh?” We’re so conditioned to expect greatness from Pixar, particularly on the screenwriting side, that it’s baffling something like this could get through their system. They rewrite their scripts over and over again after numerous pre-viz previews and feedback sessions from some of the smartest story guys in the business. So why was this story so lame? And odd? And uneven? It just never seemed to know where it was going. I’ll tell you when I knew it was doomed – when the main character visited the witch in her little hut. That scene felt desperate as opposed to focused, like a production that knew it couldn’t dig itself out of the hole it’d dug and had to do a lot of dancing and ranting to distract you from the reality. Which was that this movie stunk. I still don’t really know what Brave was about. Talk about disappointing.
9) Paranormal Activity 4 – Look, let’s not forget what’s going on here. Paranormal Activity 4 is a cash-grab of the highest order. We shouldn’t be expecting much. Add onto that the tired “Paranormal Activity” format and this script had an uphill battle from the get-go. But seriously, ya gotta give us SOMETHING to latch onto. ANYTHING. This is the first scary movie I’ve ever seen…WHERE NOTHING SCARY HAPPENS! Even the promotional scare was lame (a girl rising above her bed). My friend and I looked at each other after this was over and said, “That’s it?” Then we looked down at a couple below us and they turned to each other and said, “That’s it?” I’d rather watch a 24 hour marathon of Honey Boo-boo than this again. What a boring movie.
8) Get The Gringo – Here’s the thing. Crazy Mel Gibson has been blacklisted from Hollywood. It means all his movies go straight to video now. But Mel’s still an interesting storyteller. He likes to try different things and has a pretty good eye for material. So I’m still willing to check out the stuff he does. That is until I saw “Get The Gringo.” This movie…was just…awful. As best I can explain it, Mel Gibson ends up in a Mexican prison, but this prison is actually a little town (yes, a Town Prison! WTF???). He then roams around this town speaking in long drawn out voice-overs that give us redundant insight into what he thinks about this new life of his. At some point, of course, a kid shows up and I think Mel becomes a surrogate father to him or something. But by then I was so bored I wanted to melt my eyeballs in the Mexican sun so I would never have to watch the second half of this dreadful movie.
7) Expendables 2 – I’ll probably take some flak for this one because the movie is supposed to be fun and stupid and silly and shouldn’t be taken seriously. But I just found the whole thing to be tired and obvious. Oh, they’re battling an army and then that army is mysteriously taken down by someone and then who should come out of the shadows but…Chuck Norris! I don’t know. I just felt like I was always ten minutes ahead of the jokes here. Nothing was surprising. The ONLY credit I give the movie is when I found out Jean-Claude Van Damme’s character was named “Villain,” yet pronounced in a French accent (so “Vil-ann”). Except I only got that joke by stumbling on the name when I was checking Expendables 2’s IMDB page. So the only good joke is one I didn’t get from the movie itself! And then there was the cinematography. Did they shoot this movie on a Best Buy camcorder? I mean seriously. This was the cheapest looking production I have seen for a Hollywood action film since the 80s. And then every scene felt like it was done in one take. There were awkward pauses, almost-botched lines – an overall feeling that actors had flown in for their 2 days of shooting and didn’t have time for second takes. I admit this is not my thing but this movie was stupid.
6) Battleship – This was bad. Wanna know how bad? It actually proved that you can try to make a movie like Transformers and do worse. I have a newfound respect for Michael Bay. I don’t know where to start with this one. You base a movie on the game Battleship, yet you turn it into an alien invasion movie? When were there ever aliens in the Battleship game? Then you populate your film with models and pop stars instead of actual actors? If we don’t believe the words coming out of the characters’ mouths, how can we believe what’s happening to them? Then there’s just the fact that the movie blatantly rips off Transformers, right down to the sound effects, which literally feel copy and pasted. I remember being halfway through this one, seeing a bunch of still ships sitting in the water, and thinking to myself, “This is quite possibly the most boring scenario you could’ve constructed for this movie.” On the plus side, the awfulness of this film should protect us from future board-game-turned-movie-properties like “Operation” and “Hungry Hungry Hippo.”
5) Rock Of Ages – You know how sometimes you can tell right away that a movie is going to be bad? There’s just something about the tone or the production or the directing or the acting (or all of the above) that isn’t synching right? That’s exactly how I felt watching Rock Of Ages, which follows a young girl on her way to Hollywood in a bus (which she sings about with her other passengers) then stumbles around a famous club when she finally gets there, then bumps into the famous owner and asks him for a job. It just felt…wrong. I have a lot of sympathy for musical productions because if you don’t nail the tone, they’re disasters that go far beyond typical movie disasters. And you could tell the director (who was it again?) wasn’t connecting with this material. It was overly cheesy, in-your-face and proud of itself before it had any reason to be. By minute ten I was actually starting to get angry. Like I wanted to beat the shit out of the characters. It was that bad. I may not have loved Les Miserables. But that movie knew what it wanted to be and it achieved what it set out to do. Rock of Ages misfired on every shot it took.
4) Total Recall – All I can say about this movie is that it was DOA. There was clearly nobody involved in this production who wanted to make this film. The writer didn’t seem interested in writing a good script (this script had the most boring intro you can imagine). The director didn’t seem interested in doing anything different (the evil soldiers were basically storm troopers – the set was a wannabe Blade Runner set). But worst of all, the actors didn’t want to be there. Colin Farrel was working at about 60%. Kate Beckinsdale was sleeping through her role. I dare you to watch the first ten minutes of this movie and be interested. It’s impossible. This movie is dead. It really is. It’s like watching something that has died on the side of the road.
3) Looper – Okay okay. So maybe I was a little rough on this one in my review. I didn’t list a single good thing about it when there were a couple. The scene where the guy is slowly losing his body as he’s trying to run away was great. And really, the whole first act was solid. But after that, this movie completely falls apart, and it really is one of the most poorly told stories of the year. The China stuff was weird. Everything that happens at the farm house is boring. And the telekinesis plotline was forced in by the writer solely so he could shoot those gravity effects. There was nothing natural about its inclusion at all, which is what revved me up so much. What’s strange is I get all these hush-hush e-mails from people saying, “I went to see Looper, Carson. And you were right. I can’t believe how much love this film is getting. It’s terrible.” As if we’re living in 1936 Germany and the mention of Looper as a bad movie will get you executed or something. Rian Johnson is a well-loved geek-centric director so I understand it’s not trendy to dislike his movies. I get that. But you gotta call a spade a spade. This is 1/3 of a good movie. The rest is a mess.
2) Dark Shadows – I was actually excited to see this one when it came out on video. The previews made it look funny. Johnny Depp as a fish-out-of-water ancient vampire unleashed upon a modern world? That’s comedy gold right there. But Holy sh*t! NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS MOVIE. And I mean NOTHING. Johnny Depp wakes up, shows up at the house, then hangs out and does nothing for the next 90 minutes. There was no point to this story, no urgency, nothing for the characters to do. You know how you’ll be watching a movie and at a certain point you’ll sit up and declare out loud, whether there’s anyone around or not: “What the hell is this about????” That’s what happened to me. Thank God for Twitter, which allowed me to get some of my frustrations out on this one. One of the few movies of the year where I considered asking for my money back.
Tie-1) John Carter of Mars – I thought Cowboys Vs. Aliens was the most misguided concept of the last five years. Well move over CvsA. John Carter’s taking the poll position. Here’s what I don’t understand. This character was created in 1912, when, like, it wasn’t unheard of to think that aliens lived on Mars. But we live in 2012, when we definitively know there are no aliens on Mars. It’s just a big dry dusty rock. So how do you convince audiences that that’s not the case? I just don’t see anybody making that leap other than 6 year olds and people who loved the old novels. So it was such a misguided concept to begin with. But when John Carter started jumping? Like we established his power as “super-jumps,” I’m not going to lie, I started laughing. I mean how can I take a movie like that seriously? And then it just got worse from there. The designs of the ships didn’t seem to have any connection to the world itself. The mythology was bizarre and hard to wrap your head around. I didn’t like any of the characters. The aliens were most boring and annoying. This was an easy pick for biggest misfire of 2012. But it’s not the only pick!
Tie-1) The Master – This movie was just freaking awful. It’s as if PTA was drunk when he wrote it and high when he shot it. You can tell me a PTA screenplay can’t be judged by conventional screenwriting methods until you’re blue in the face. It doesn’t give the writer license to make a boring wandering piece of crap. I mean at least “There Will Be Blood” had a design to it. You could feel it building. This was just a mess. It was a student film with a 20 million dollar budget. One of those Saturday afternoon deals with your classmates where you try a whole bunch of shit on camera and figure out how you’re going to edit it together later. You’ll never be able to convince me that PTA had a plan in place here. He was making this one up as he went along, and you could feel it in every minute of the movie. The only thing saving this one from a universal drubbing are the performances. But even those, while interesting, are inconsistent, especially Phoenix’s. If this would’ve been shown at midnight at some offbeat film festival and it was labeled as “experimental,” I wouldn’t have been so hard on it. But if you’re going to package this as a real movie, that’s how I’m going to judge it. And on that level, this was a monumental failure.
Whoa! I got a little revved up there, didn’t I! I fully expect retaliation for the “Master” and “Looper” choices, but after you’re done yelling at me , let me know what your least favorite movies of the year were. And for those who can’t stand movie-bashing, I’ll be listing my favorite movies of the year either Thursday or Friday. So re-join me then!