As the year comes to a close, most critics hover around their keyboards blasting out lists on this or that – Top Tens, Best Performances, Coolest Stunt Involving a Bunny Rabbit – and cutting through all the praise is the purely gleeful opportunity to take aim at the worst of the worst – those films that left us shuttering, that inspired us to reach out to friends and family and warn them off, that wouldn’t just melt away with time but rather forced us to remember their terribleness throughout the entire year. And though many may expect the likes of Haunted House 2, Tammy, Heaven is for Real, Blended, God’s Not Dead, The Identical, The Best of Me, etc. to make an appearance here, they won’t make the list because I didn’t subject myself to their nominal abject horror.
Last year, our Absolute Worst of 2013 List included Getaway, Oz, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Movie 43, The Hangover: Part 3, The Fifth Estate, After Earth, The Mortal Instruments, The Canyons and The Host and though this year’s worst weren’t quite as bad as last’s year putrid bunch, they were still some bad, bad mommas. So before we get to the worst of the worst, let’s blast through a quick list of films that were quite thoroughly offputting but not quite enough to crack the top ten. Nonetheless, avoid these trash piles whole-heartedly.
The Foxy Merkins
Ping Pong Summer
The Purge: Anarchy
Into the Storm
About Last Night
The Better Angels
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Decoding Annie Parker
300: Rise of an Empire
Exodus: Gods and Kings
10. GIMME SHELTER
Vanessa Hudgen‘s scrubby mop and her horrendous Jersey accent aren’t really to blame for the emotional wash-out that is Gimme Shelter. Nor is Brendan Fraser and his Brendan Fraser-iness. Director Ron Krauss, on the other hand, is. Coming off a human trafficking billing, Krauss wrings the welts of abused children for every weepy sentiment he can and in doing so makes a despicable and entirely ugly product. Miles from the brilliant Rolling Stones song from which it takes its name, Gimme Shelter paints the wholly wrong picture of child abuse with boorish abandon, mixing ice-cream parlor super-88 montages with a cracked out, stanky skanky Rosario Dawson.
9. BRICK MANSIONS
Were it not for the untimely passing of star Paul Walker, I’m convinced Brick Mansions would have been a straight-to-DVD release. It’s a parkour movie that edits out the parkour, an action thriller without any octane, a remake of a French film that keeps its French star inexplicably intact, supplanting him in a racially divided Detroit. There is literally a moment where the two leads simultaneously backflip over the bad guys. This actually happened. In an actual movie. Not to mention the entire plot is one big borrowed MacGuffin from other Walker franchise, the wholly more enjoyable Fast and Furious. The whole thing is frustratingly scrubbed of life and energy, mistakenly betting on the starring power of Walker and a red-pepper-slicin’ RZA.
8. THAT AWKWARD MOMENT
In terms of chemistry gone wrong, none can top That Awkward Moment. With 3/4 of its cast entirely likable (Miles Teller, Imogen Poots, Michael B. Jordan), this rank “comedy” supports a borderline violent, totalitarian anti-feminist worldview in which woman are doormats to be treated as such. I can’t think of another film this year that so actively tried to disarm womankind and did so with such gross snarkiness. I found the film distasteful to say the least and even borderline damaging for those unfortunate enough to mistake its message for reality. That Awkward Moment presents a backwards zeitgeist that needs to be put in the rear view as a prize to be won. Zac Efron has never stooped so low.
7. THEY CAME TOGETHER
I make a point of avoiding movies that will too easily make its way onto this year end list of worsts. I don’t see Sandler nut-kicking vehicles. I don’t watch Seltzer-Friedberg spoofs, I don’t bathe in Nicholas Sparks waters. I won’t bother with Christian-pandering flickolas. I go into movies fully expecting some modicum of entertainment and if I know that I’m going to be sighing and watch-checking for a number of hours, I just don’t bother. Then came They Came Together, a well-disguised trap; a nut-twisting landmine that reels you in with promises of satire only to deliver brain-crushing wallops of stupidity. Even the oddball charm of Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd couldn’t wash away the stench of absolute failure in this Larry the Cable Guy-level spoof. The amazing thing is some people actually liked this. Critics recommended it. I don’t know if I watched the film in an alternate universe or if some critics were getting paid off to hand out passes but there was nothing in this movie that made me even think about cracking a smile.
To me there’s a monumental difference between bad movies and lazy movies and my disdain for the later far outweighs the former. Transcendence was a bad movie – it got jumbled up, dotted the T’s and crossed the I’s and went haywire – but at least it tried something. It wasn’t a rehashed conglomerated of old parts mashed together clumsily and without regard. Oujia represents this other side of the spectrum, the side in which nothing new is attempted, where everything reeks of lethargic malaise. Entirely lacking in inertia and completely devoid of novelty, it’s the kind of film that gives horror a bad name, that has the nerve to off its hapless teenagers in the most predicable of ways, that fails to present even one reason for its existence. In a word, it’s shameful.
Disney’s 1997 animated Hercules is a thing of magic. The gospel-fed songs are inspiring and catchy as all hell (“Herc was on a roll”), the hero’s journey is handled with a weighty, classical approach, the animation absolutely soars and Danny Devito was a half-man, half-goat. I love it. Now take Brett Ratner‘s shatner of a flick and try and describe just one thing about it. It stars a man named The Rock. He battles stuff ‘n’ things. He pulls down a pillar at one point. I’m not sure if he was a God or not. It didn’t really matter. 2014’s Hercules is so bad because it’s so nothing. There is not one single memorable thing about it. Too bloodless to revel in and too thoughtless to engage with, it’s a white-washed mash of “Who gives a shit?” I’ll tell you who, not me.
Angelina Jolie‘s inhuman cheekbones stars amidst a wash of CGI in an origin story that takes a meaty dump on the beloved Sleeping Beauty fairytale lore of yore. This revisited Disney saga is a Frankenstein’s monster of blockbuster glitz that batters its audience with allusions to rape and then has trees fighting men. Utterly without a voice and any discernible perspective, Maleficent rests on the starring power of Angelina Jolie, an actress more apt to strike a pose than to, ya know, act and you feel the strain of the film’s weight upon her underfed shoulders. Yucky, grossly dull and entirely fake, Maleficent represents rock bottom for Disney’s live action re-tellings and is an absolute task to endure.
3. IF I STAY
Chloe Grace Moretz is a darling. She is not however dramatically inclined and the wholly incompetent If I Stay is bitter proof of that. The story is tragi-porn city, with a plot that involves a coma, dead parents, a dying brother and, gasp, an on-the-rocks teenage romance. 2014 has been the year of shoehorning calamity into romance – cancer cough, Fault in Our Stars, cancer cough – but none did it worse than If I Stay. Like a battering ram trying to bust down the gateway to our tears, the film wears its cheesy intent on its sleeve and is all the worse for wear for it. There’s a threshold for how much an audience will believably endure before we just begin to snicker and If I Stay crosses that line early on and proceeds to cross it again and again and again.
At 139 minutes, Divergent is the most punishing motion picture of the year – a recklessly lengthy stretch of kids jumping over shit and yelling “dauntless”. Plastered in black pleather and smeared with Jai Courtney grimaces, this popular kids book turned wannabe hit franchise is the worst derivative young adult dystopia of the (growing) lot in many parts because of its utter narrative incompetence. There’s class-based factions, shifting power structures, social uprisings – basically the makings for timely political intrigue – but it’s all handled with the good grace of a date with Bill Cosby. Did I mention Jai Courtney was in this?
Joe Hill’s novel Horns was warmly met by fans and critics, receiving a nomination for the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, a prize that had in the past gone to the likes of Thomas Harris and Steven King. Alexandre Aja, director of The Hills Have Eyes remake, Piranha 3D and last year’s widely panned Maniac takes Hill’s novel and bastardizes its mania into harebrained stupidity. Daniel Radcliffe sports an anaconda boa and horns that make people confess their wildest sins (like wanting to eat a whole box of donuts!), religious allegories saunter into and out of frame and I think the whole thing is supposed to be some wildly miffed commentary on puberty and masturbation. But who the fuck knows. The result feels like a vision distilled down more times than good vodka, losing parts and pieces along the way until it wound up the ugly, pointless, plodding movie it was, one that is aggressively frustrating for its absolute missed potential and even worse for supposing all the while that it does have a point, a heart and a brain.
So there we have it, the worst flicks according to moi. On the way out the door though, we’ll take two more quick pot-shots, this time for the worst performances.
Worst Actress: Cameron Diaz “ANNIE”
The singing. The acting. The faces. I don’t know which was worst. In a movie crammed with a brazen lack of charm, Cameron Diaz added log after log to the awful fire, hamming her way to this man’s Razzie chart-topper. As I noted in my review, there’s a very fine line between satire and mockery and it’s one that Diaz tragically misunderstood in the role. An actor’s journey is to find the humanity in their character – no matter how despicable, cold or inhuman – and from that understanding create a living, breathing human. We buy into the fact that this is not just a celebrity caked in makeup and dressed funny to be captured on camera so long as they ready themselves to convince us. It’s an unspoken contract that actors make with their audiences, one that Diaz violently violates as the ham-fisted Ms. Hannigan, a puppet of a character that’s more Oscar the Grouch than woman.
Worst Actor: Jai Courtney “DIVERGENT”
The latest in “let’s make him a Hollywood “it” boy” (following in the footsteps of the somehow infinitely less dull Sam Worthington) Jai Courtney is the most fruitless actor working today. With a resume that includes franchise bed-pooper A Good Day to Die Hard, I, Frankenstein and Divergent, he’s got very little talent and even less pathos, set with the kind of face that invites a hearty punch. His work may not ever be aggressively bad but it’s always been aggressively careless. Maybe it’s because we got in a tiff before the premiere and I was harboring feelings of distain towards the Aussie actor but I earnestly can’t think of a performance that annoyed me more than his work in the endlessly punishing Divergent.