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Jan 22, 2014

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS AND WORST MOVIES OF 2013



I know that most people like to get their "best of" and "worst of" lists out of the way before the end of a given year, but I like to make sure I view all the films I need to in order to make comprehensive selections.  There is still one more film I want to see before I lock down my top ten of 2013.  However, I am anticipating having that up sometime next week.  I consider January the "bubble" month thanks especially to all the late year "prestige" releases which can make keeping up with everything in December a challenge.

At one point I had decided not to even do a "worst of" list, so this is a mix of movies I completely hated along with movies that I found to be more disappointments than being outright "bad".  It was actually the viewing of one of these films (which I will indicate when I get to it) that I suddenly felt the need to compile this.

Really what these lists come down to is personal taste (with some degree of a professional approach thrown in), not everyone is going to agree with all selections.  I am fully expecting a few of these titles to rile up someone and I'll get some flack, but then I remember "forget it Jake, it's the Internet".




A little bit about the subject on film debate before I get to the list.  I listen to the excellent Linoleum Knife podcast (which you should all stop reading this now and go to iTunes and subscribe to it, then come back) a weekly podcast "of the cinema" that features critics (and real-life couple) Dave White and Alonso Duralde.  Over the past few episodes, they have also been covering their best and worst of 2013 and Dave made a great comment about how they don't like to argue about movies since it really comes down to a difference of opinion, and a majority of the time someone hating something that they liked are not going to be successful in making them feel otherwise.  Dave will watch something again if an argument is made convincing him to do so, and I feel the same way.  Some of the movies I mention below I do plan to give a second look, and some of them I even own on Blu-ray or intend to own at Blu-ray at some point.

You may notice I don't keep the comments option open on this page and the reasons for this are that I don't have the time to moderate them, and when I did have them on the majority of them were links to porn sites and bit torrent illegal movie streaming sites which I absolutely am against (I work in the industry and don't like encouraging people to "steal" content and put me and my friends out of work).  I also don't like the idea of having the power to erase a comment from someone who might have a differing opinion than mine (and let's face it, it's the Internet so some of them may be overly opinionated in a violent or disparaging way) which I view as a kind of censorship.  Social Media allows for people to state their opinions on their own forum via sharing articles like this, and I encourage that if your opinion is different than mine.

So knowing full well that not all of these will sit well with everyone (you'll notice that The Lone Ranger, which I didn't hate at all, is absent from this list), here are my top movie disappointments and (in my opinion) some of the worst movies released in 2013 in no particular order of preference (ok except maybe the first 4).



ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Dir: Nicholas Winding Refn)

I feel like selection is going to be one of those polarizing ones given the ambitious visuals of the movie as well as the creative team involved.

I was a big fan of Drive, and I put it on my top 10 list for that year so was very excited to hear that Ryan Gosling and Nicholas Winding Refn were collaborating on something new.




For the most part - outside of the visuals which I admit are stunning - I found this movie to be unwatchable.  I have a policy that if I start anything - a movie, a book, a season of a TV show - I will see it through to the end no matter what.  I have only once stopped reading a book midway through (Stephen King's It) but never have stopped a movie.  This one almost became the first.

With a relatively short running time of 90 minutes, it felt like sitting through this movie was a 4 hour challenge.  I didn't pause once, even for a bathroom break or food and left my second screen devices across the room knowing that I might abandon this monstrosity for any reason that presented itself.  I'm a masochist you see.  Yet still this movie seemed to drag on forever threatening to never come to a conclusion, and I felt I had entered some sort of hell where my eternity would be spent trying to make it through this thing.




It has an almost incomprehensible plot, and a majority of the movie is spent in silence with Gosling never changing his facial expression once.  I'm not sure if it meant to do this, but it felt as though this movie was taking itself so seriously that it comes off as incredibly pretentious, wanting desperately to be an "art" film.  That it is not, nor is it remotely a "commercial" movie either.  Instead it is a test of patience for anyone who dares enter here, a task I recommend nobody embarks on.

The reason I feel this will be polarizing in terms of likes and dislikes as this strikes me as the kind of movie that Fanboys (a category of which part of me - unwillingly - falls into) will gush over given the people involved and the ambitious nature of the fight sequences and the visuals.




The one thing I will say is that Kristin Scott Thomas really stands out in it.  Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen.




THE HANGOVER PART III  (Dir: Todd Phillips)

Had I actually posted a disappointments/worst list in 2011, The Hangover Part II would have been very prominent on it - probably #1.  Dark and unnecessarily nasty, that movie had nothing at all in terms of charm or humor that made the first Hangover so enjoyable.  That being said, this one is worse.




There are sequels that are so obviously a cash grab by the parent studio where it is obvious that none of the creative team involved care about it at all except to get it in the can, on the screen and over with so they can move onto greener pastures.  This movie is very much one of those as well.  I mean look at Bradley Cooper.  He's now making waves in much more highly-regarded fare such as Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle and receiving Oscar nominations.  I don't think anyone is more checked out than he is in this movie.




Abandoning the whole getting wasted and having to retrace their steps through a mentally blacked out night to find one of their own, this movie has John Goodman as an angry mobster appearing and taking one of the "Wolf Pack" captive, forcing the other 3 (Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper) to go in search of Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow character to trade him in as ransom.  What follows is a series of events so unfunny that it's hard to imagine what anyone was thinking when they wrote this.  Scenes like a Giraffe getting its head knocked off by a freeway overpass and Jeffrey Tambor dying from a heart attack while his "son" Galifianakis sits nearby oblivious with headphones not only mirrors the unfortunate black "comedy" of the second film, but also barely registers a note of anything at all resembling entertainment.  Even worse is when the only reference to the second movie happens to be to one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever witnessed in a comedy, one that involved Ed Helms at a transgender strip club.  Bringing that up just reminded me of how much I hated Part II, and how much more I was hating this.

A movie to steer clear of at all costs, and one I am sure all involved will try to keep off their resumes...or at least shove it to the bottom where nobody can see it.  I'm sure the payday was decent though, and you can't fault them that.




A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD  (Dir: John Moore)

25 years after the original and amazing Die Hard, Bruce Willis is still at it collecting (I would imagine quite large) paychecks playing John McClane, continuing to find himself in over his head against larger-than-life bad guys.




In this the fifth installment of the franchise, McClane heads to Russia to aid his estranged son (played by Jai Courtney) only to discover that he's really an under cover CIA operative, and the two of them find themselves up against the usual assortment of baddies whose evil plans are more than meet the eye.  Oh and they argue with each other the entire time.




A complete waste of a movie with bland yet over-the-top action sequences one of which is a car chase in where it appears that McClane kills or injures more innocent bystanders than the bad guys do.

Willis doesn't exactly sleepwalk through this, but you can tell that stepping into McClane's shoes is not exactly a stretch for him anymore and it's not like appearing in duds like this are going to hurt his career at all.  This however did do well at the box office so we may not be finished with this franchise yet.




BEAUTIFUL CREATURES  (Dir: Richard LaGravenese)

One thing that Hollywood Studios do very well is to jump on bandwagons when they appear.  As the success of the Twilight franchise proved, a solid Young Adult book following - in this case teenage girls - can translate into blockbuster film profits.




Beautiful Creatures is yet another YA book series.  It features an outcast "Caster" (don't call them witches) who falls for a mortal boy.  They live in a small southern town where teenagers prattle on about what their "Mommas" say about demons and spouting Bible verses.  First of all, what "cool" teenage girl constantly quotes their mother at any time in the history of being teenagers?  The dialogue is so bad in this it's laughable, and the movie - 124 minutes too long - feels like it tries to cram as much in as possible.  There's a love story, a coming of age story and a supernatural element none of which are even remotely engaging.




The shocking thing here is that the creative talent involved are for the most part, A-list.  Writer and Director LaGravenese has been nominated for an Oscar (for writing The Fisher King) and his credits include The Bridges of Madison County and The Horse Whisperer.  Then there's the cast which include Brits Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson forcing the most atrocious American southern accents they can muster.  Thompson especially feels ridiculously out of place in this movie.

So bad it makes the Twilight franchise - which arguably has its moments - seem like masterpieces in comparison.



R.I.P.D.  (Dir: Robert Schwentke)

This is one of those obvious additions to this list as it got a lot of press for bombing badly at the box office, a demise that was predicted well before it opened.

A cold, heartless Men In Black knock off that squanders the talents of Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Ryan Reynolds and Mary Louise-Parker.  Nothing more to be said.




GROWN UPS 2  (Dir: Dennis Dugan)

Another obvious addition to this list in a pointless sequel that wasn't begging to be made, yet somehow was.

The movie includes a gag where Adam Sandler is urinated on by a deer he awakens to find standing by his bed - and this is how the movie begins.  I am just going to leave it at that.

Another example of a "collecting a paycheck" movie.



AFTER EARTH  (Dir: M. Night Shyamalan)

So at first glance, there's the fact that this was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and instantly you know it's probably going to be bad (and it is).  Even the addition of very box office friendly Will Smith and his son Jaden can't save this lifeless movie, who I believe have taken more heat for this dud than Shyamalan has.



STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS  (Dir: J.J. Abrams)

There's a reason this one (and a couple of other choices) are in the middle of the pack like this as I am sure they are the ones to get the most comments - whether positive or (more likely) negative.




First off let me make clear that I am a hardcore Star Trek fan.  I used to call myself a Trekkor (or Trekkie, I wasn't one of those people who argued about the label) and still swear by the Original Series, love The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (even more so than TNG actually), like Voyager and have been giving Enterprise a second chance thanks to the great Blu-rays released by CBS Home Entertainment.  The Wrath of Khan is my favorite of the movies, and I gave the 2009 reboot movie - also directed by Abrams - high marks.

At first, I was entertained by Star Trek Into Darkness, but then the "scene" happened which began my questioning things that continued well after I left the theater.  I won't spoil anything here, but the scene in question is a reversal of a big moment from The Wrath of Khan, a moment in this movie that I call "lazy screenwriting".  I can imagine the writers all going "hey, let's do a reverse, I bet the fans will love that."  Some probably do, I don't.  It's lame...and the resolution to it is set up so perfectly that any bite that was in the original Wrath of Khan scene is diminished here because well, you know how it's going to be resolved even as it's happening.

Then there are the gaping plot holes that for a while are covered up by the great performances, outstanding visuals and effects and action-packed sequences.  There are so many logic questions in this movie that the more I thought about it, the more my animosity towards the film grew.




I also am going to complain about something I don't think I've seen anyone else mention - Khan is played by a PASTY WHITE BRITISH GUY.  Ok, so he's a cool Pasty White British guy but come on, the character's name is Khan Noonian Singh.  I know what you're thinking.  In Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan, Khan was played by an actor of Mexican descent - not exactly an Indian either.  At least though he had SOME ethnicity to him and let's face it, Montalban brought his A-game to make Khan the most memorable villain in Star Trek history.  Now I'm not saying that Benedict Cumberbatch was weak, I'm just saying I didn't buy this guy as Khan - not to mention that Khan's involvement in the overall plot is weak.

I do plan to give this movie a second chance as it is part of the Star Trek franchise.  It is saying something that it's the first Star Trek content I did not purchase on the day of it's Home Video release.  Although this also is due to the fact that Paramount botched it by releasing several "retailer incentive" editions which spread the special features out - meaning you had to buy multiple copies just to get everything.  As well, some of the features you had to download (and only available on a particular edition) - including a commentary track which is one of the key elements I enjoy.



MAN OF STEEL  (Dir: Zack Snyder)

Man of Steel made a killing at the box office.  Man of Steel also has gotten a lot of flack from fans of the comic book for some of the liberties it took with the material.  It also didn't help that 90% of the movie is just wall-to-wall action sequences filled with the most violent destruction possible in which it is hard not to imagine millions of innocent bystanders perishing.

There may be a few spoilers ahead - nothing earth shattering (I'm going to avoid a BIG one even while referring to it indirectly) but you've been warned.




I don't mind liberties being taken with material being translated to the screen as let's face it, it's not just comic book fans that go to movies but it also has to appeal to a broader audience that want to see something they can engage with (for example, Spider-man's web shooters being organic in the original Sam Raimi film).  So the idea that Lois Lane is going to know that Clark is Superman (which in the 21st century makes more sense then her NOT knowing) and a major action that Superman pulls at the end of the movie which, the way Zack Snyder presents it, the argument for or against can go either way.  It's like Superman has to make a snap decision in an extreme time of crisis and at the time, that's the only option he really has.  Then again, it's something that goes against everything Superman stands for.  I'm not going to say what it is, but anyone that has seen the movie knows it.  I also need to point out that in the comics, Wonder Woman did something similar to save Superman and it was televised making her an outlaw and sparking a multi-issue conversation about whether or not she stepped over the line which was intriguing.  The move in Man of Steel could have the same effect.




My real problem with Man of Steel though is the fact that as I mention above, 90% of the movie is just everything being destroyed by Superman as he battles Zod.  Metropolis is almost all wiped out and the death toll has to be astronomical.  I also disliked how Superman is introduced to the world in this film.  Zod shows up, demands Supes be turned over so Superman's introduction is basically "hey guys, so I'm the one he's looking for" not some act of great heroism inspiring a who or what is that (the 1978 version was perfect with the lines "don't worry, I've got you."  "You've got me, but who's got you?"), but instead we get this very lame and uninspired "so I'm the guy" moment.  I also found the death of Jonathan Kent to be...well...silly.  A tornado is headed towards the Kents as they are stuck in traffic, and as they evacuate the car, they leave their barking dog behind.  They get to shelter, and realize "oh wait, the dog is about to die" so Johnathan (played by Kevin Costner) tells Clark to not use his powers and rushes in to save the dog that they could have easily saved earlier.  I almost laughed out loud at this...yes...put in 21st century terms it's an LOL moment.

Hopefully in the next installment as they add Batman and Wonder Woman, the destruction level won't be as devastating.  However, it is a sequel so usually things like that double.



IRON MAN 3  (Dir: Shane Black)

Here's one that I am pretty sure I will get a lot of feedback on.  To put it bluntly, Iron Man 3 bored me to tears.  Yes it had some decent moments, but overall I just found the movie to be ho-hum.  While I liked the twist with Ben Kingsley's The Mandarin (no spoilers), I found the other villainous elements to be uninspired.  Also, they team Tony Stark up with a kid.  WITH A KID.  That's when the movie truly lost me.

Thankfully though, Shane Black keeps up his record of having his movies take place during Christmas.



PARANOIA  (Dir: Robert Luketic)

3 great actors - Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth - are wasted in a run-of-the-mill, cliche-ridden bore fest.  Oh and Harrison Ford channels Jeff Bezos with a shaved head which doesn't suit him at all.




I wasn't too surprised to see this movie come out at the end of August, that dumping ground period where studios tend to unload their duds as we head into festival and awards/prestige movie season.




SPRING BREAKERS  (Dir: Harmony Korine)

Another addition to my list that will probably get me some flack.  I hated this movie intensely, while at the same time was taken with how much of a statement it makes about 21st century youth culture, or at least a perception of it.




If you ever watch the beach or surf movies from the 1950s/1960s, or even the frat movies from the 1970s/1980s, they contain nothing compared to what takes place in this movie.  Here, Spring Break is comprised of engaging in the most raunchy, animalistic sex and violent acts and taking as many drugs as inhumanly possible, then bragging about it in a cold, detached manner.  Nobody in this movie is even remotely likable, even Selena Gomez who is kind of reluctantly pulled into it in the first place, and the one who is first to run back to her "normal" life away from this cesspool.

It's a movie that shows a culture where we celebrate disgusting people like the drug and arms dealer that is played by James Franco, and the idea that we all want to be as badass as possible (it's also one of my major complaints about Sons of Anarchy, a topic for another post though).




On top of all this I  found the movie to be dull and so heavy handed that by the end I just wanted it over and done with as quickly as possible just so I could distance myself from it.



DRINKING BUDDIES  (Dir: Joe Swanberg)

Ok here it is, the movie I promised to indicate during my preamble as the movie that inspired me to break down and post this list.

I caught this on Netflix last week, and was bored to tears.  Now here's the thing...I loved all the performances in it, especially Olivia Wilde who is phenomenal.  While unlike a lot of movie romances, the relationships in this movie are a lot more realistic, however the movie ultimately becomes this exercise in watching these characters flirt with each other constantly, only to end on a completely awful narcissistic note that makes you wonder why these people are bothering to put up with each other in the first place.  For instance, Jake Johnson cuts his hand yet while the wound is gushing blood, Wilde is still pestering him to move her sofa.  My reaction = so what!




Here are co-workers who work at a brewery that spend almost every night heading out to the bar for a night of drinking (I think I'd kill myself if I spent every night hanging out with co-workers this much, only to have to deal with them again the next day for another 8 hours) and from the beginning it sets up that Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson are more meant for each other than they are with their significant others.  The significant others (Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick) also seem to be gravitating towards each other, and it's at this moment that the movie started to lose me.  Nothing much happens here.  The entire movie is improvised with no real shooting script to speak of, and according to IMDb, the actors had no idea what they were doing until they showed up to set each day - and it shows.

I will say this, Wilde as a performer really won me over in this movie.  As a woman in a state of arrested development that is usually reserved for male movie characters, she is instantly likable and un albeit flawed and a train wreck waiting to happen that makes her come off as a full-fleshed out true-to-life character.  She's not enough to save what is otherwise a completely boring film.

Oh and for the record - I'm single, and in the same age bracket as these characters, so it's not like I'm "not the demographic" or "can't relate" (yes, I've heard these arguments already).