Sunday, December 29, 2013

Worst of 2013

I haven't done a "worst of" list since 2011, but there have been some particularly bad movies this year that I had to get off my chest.    Keep in mind, these are only movies I've actually seen so until I view Lone Ranger, Scary Movie 5, Grown Ups 2, and Last Vegas, this is what I've got.....

10.  Olympus Has Fallen/White House Down - I know I am cheating right off the bat by putting two films together, but I honestly had trouble distinguishing the two when it came down to writing about them.   Hollywood has continually had dueling movies with the same theme over the years (meteors, magicians, animated insects, Mars, volcanoes, underwater horrors), and almost all prove to be equally bad.   I won't say much about these two, but they are both good for a few laughs (at it, not with it).

9. Evil Dead - I'm a huge horror movie fan and while I appreciate the original Evil Dead, I have no problems with it being remade, especially since essentially it already was in Evil Dead II.  Ignoring the poster promise, which is always a bad idea and a set up for failure, the film has some nice nods to the original and I actually like an idea or two thrown into the mix.   But as the movie slowly progressed, I realized the characters were more idiotic than their 80's counterparts.  Whereas the original Evil Dead films were far from terrifying but kind of fun, this one was neither.

8. You're Next - A lot of hype on this one and a pretty cool movie poster, but this thriller quickly fell apart as you watched it unfold.   Some movies I'll give a pass if they tricked me into thinking it was better than it was while I'm watching the movie, but this one began to stink faster than you can say Crystal Skull.   Again, there are some good ideas hinted at here, but are quickly thrown away or just dumped on by the filmmakers.   Maybe if they had cut it down even more it wouldn't have given the audience much time to think things through, but as it is, all the seams are showing and the "twists" are telegraphed loudly.

7. Prisoners - I should be nicer to this one since I saw it as a premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, but... no.   Way too long and suffering from unlikable characters all around, I was kind of hoping to be kidnapped myself during the film.   Hugh Jackman gives an astounding performance... astounding as in surprisingly bad and unbelievable.   Jake Gyllenhall fares a bit better as he channels some Robert Graysmith with some fantastic 90's hair.   The wives are relegated to bed or the kitchen for most of the movie, while Melissa Leo gives a genuine Lifetime Movie Network performance.

6. Now You See Me - I pray the executive that greenlit this one is unemployed.   I remember seeing the trailer for this one and questioning if it was a legitimate film or a spoof.   It is neither.   It did a reasonable disappearing act from theatres thankfully...

5. Pacific Rim - I went in to this one expecting some goofy fun without the chaotic cinematography of Transformers.   While this one is certainly better than anything Michael Bay has done, it is still full of stock characters and stereotypes.   Now, I'm not expecting "Ordinary People" in giant robots, but please give us something better than nerdy/screaming scientists running through the scene after scene telling the military guys to "Stop!!!!"    The actress and character of Mako also ground every last nerve I had making me wish for Megan Fox of all people....

4. Carrie - Remakes are a necessary evil that I've come to accept as a film viewer.   What I will not accept is producers and directors putting little to no effort in bringing something new to the table.   The 1976 version is a perfect little film of the time that probably has zero interest from today's young people (as the 2002 remake already proved).    When this remake was being bantered about, I thought it could be interesting given the national awareness and notoriety of bullying that has gripped our society, let alone the alarming growing violence of our youth.   How does the new film address this?  It doesn't.   With the exception of a few dropped-in lines about cell phones and youtube, this film follows all the beats and plot curves of the original film.   The promise of the town destruction alluded to in the teaser trailer?  Not here.   The promise of following the book more faithfully?  Not here.   The promise that "you will know her name"?  Okay, that doesn't even make sense.   Total failure.

3. Last Exorcism Part  Part II - So the original "Last Exorcism" was not that great of film ,but not that bad either.   Did it need a sequel?  No.   Did it have a great poster?  Yes.   Was I curious about where they would take Ashley Bell's character?  Yes!   Well, where it took here was to a "transition house" which is strangely reminiscent of American Horror Story: Coven.   A whole lot of nothing happens in this movie except for the occasional loud noises and screeches.   I actually plopped money down to see this one in the theatre.   Not sure if it was the intent of the theatre owner or the filmmaker, but the music during the ending credits was so incredibly loud it literally forced the entire audience running out of the theatre.  (By entire audience I mean seven people.)

2. Texas Chainsaw 3D - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series has taken and a strange and non-continuity path through sequels and remakes.   Its rewritten history and time-travel makes even the Friday the 13th series' writers look like they are using the same bible for scripts.   For the latest entry, it was announced this would be a true sequel to the original 1974 film (ignoring the first true sequel in 1986 I guess).   The first fifteen-minutes are pretty good, quickly recapping the original with the proper film utilizing a fantastic facade of the house from nearly 40 years ago.   Things quickly seem go astray even in this early scene, especially with all sorts of other family members mysteriously appearing in the house.   Anyways, sequel history is rewritten and the townsfolk burn down the house and kill the entire family with the exception of an infant girl, Heather.   The story flashes forward to the "present" and we see the girl all grown up.  Now the actress playing Heather was 26 at the time, and appears to be playing her as an early 20's character at best.    However, it is quite obviously we have moved forward in time almost 40 years!   The filmmakers realized this mistake after the fact and digitally obscured any 1974 dates.   And by obscured I mean just blacking out the year or covering that part of the gravestone with grass.  Pathetic.  Now, if they had asked me to believe the original was set in the late 80s or early 90s, yes I would give them a bit of a pardon.   But the hair and clothing styles of the townies were clearly still 1974.    But the worst of the film is the plot and characters.   You think with a pretty formulaic movie you can't mess it up too bad, but they certainly do.   They pick up a stranger at the gas station and within hours, leave him alone at the mansion she just inherited?   They leave Heather in a room alone with all the evidence from the townies' massacre from 40 (or 20) years earlier?   Heather immediately decides to side with Leatherface despite him just murdering her friends?   I'm at a loss for words....

1. Man of Steel - I would consider myself a casual Superman fan.  At my age the original Superman: The Movie and Superman II were childhood classics.   But at 13-years-old, even I knew Superman III stunk, enough that I couldn't even bother going to see Superman IV: The Quest For Peace in the theatre.   When Superman Returns hit the screens in 2006, I thought it got more right than wrong and was a worthy successor to the film series.   And though some fans thought Brandon Routh was horrible, I liked him as both Superman and Clark Kent.

When another Superman reboot/reimagined/retool was being bantered about so quickly after the last one, I immediately began to question what they were really going for that would be so much better.   The leaked pics and trailers leading up to the release didn't help things, so I didn't bother seeing it on the big-screen, which is good as it took me several sittings just to get through it.   The film's prologue again begins on Krypton, albeit a very different version than we've seen before with floating hand-held-mirrors and the flying dog from the Neverending Story.   Since we all know where this is going, this part seemed a little long and excessive when we're really just anxious to see Henry Cavill in his tights (and out of them).  The middle part of the film is told in non-linear fashion, which I'm okay with, but really felt like we were just seeing trailers for other, better Superman films.

Now I can't tell if Clark Kent was drawn to the crashed spaceship or if he just has really good luck, as the film gives us no indication one way or another.   But hitting the extremely good luck/coincidence is perky Lois Lane, who is on the scene and has no trouble with the fatally severe temperatures at night she was warned about.    I know it's hard to make this reporter character work in a 2013 setting.  In a scene a day or two later, Perry White is telling her he won't let her publish her story, when in the real world, she would've immediately tweeted about it.   I am really not a fan of Michael Shannon, I think he is overrated and I still question what the hell he was trying to do in Premium Rush.   Here, he continues to overact and go bug-eyed with his oh-so-evil plotting.

Making even more of an impression than the actors were the product placements.   Sears, Ihop, 7-Eleven, and many more companies all make blaring appearances throughout the film.  I know, I know, the first two Superman films had quite a bit of product placement too, but this is just jarring during crucial scenes when you are immediately brought out of the film and realize this should probably be free with all the inside-commercials we are seeing.

As for Cavill, I'll give him a pass.  He's pretty to look at and he did the best he could with the material.   The role is pretty heavy-handed to begin with, but the writers and director do everything short of actually renaming him Jesus Christ to get their point across.  (I wouldn't put it past them from the idea showing up in an early draft.)

I'm not familiar with the all the variations of Superman, but I was pretty surprised at the amount of mayhem and death our hero let happen, or in many cases, brought about himself.   Both Smallville and Metropolis have a crazy amount of destruction that would make ID4 blush.   Buildings explode, skyscrapers topple, office towers ripped through.   I would estimate thousands of people perished in these battles without a blink of an eye from Superman.  Which made him rushing to save just one woman even more baffling and selfish.   He must finally got a bit of guilt at the end where he must save a poor traditional nuclear family from the evil eye-lasers from Zod.   The family cowers from the oncoming deathray, when to most it would seem obvious you should be able to flatten yourself out and skedaddle out of there.   But no, this awkward moment is saved for the character turning point where he must snap the neck of our villain (rather than just turning his head in a different direction so the family can escape?).   I don't know, in a lesser film I would say they just ran out of money and time and in true George Lucas fashion, said "good enough."

But the biggest sin of all for a superhero film is that it is flat out boring.   Nothing in this film really go the audience going or rooting for any character in particular.    The closest redeemer would be Kevin Costner as Pa Kent, but his throwaway death here obliterates the assumed and intended message of sacrifice, but instead shows we should live in fear and give into it.   Exactly the message we need in 2013.  Tirade over, fade out.


  1. Hugh Jackman was brillant in Prisoners. You are way off on that one.

  2. Great forum, very well put it, as I thought you could get help here.