Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Don't Let Go: The Worst Films of 2013

This year, even Michael Bay can't make the cut.
I'm going to go on record and say that 2013 has been a horrible year for movies. Truly, sincerely horrible. Only in the past few months have we seen the few great titles of the year be released, with only a few honest gems and a vast majority that proved mediocre or worse making the vast majority of what we saw January-September. I can count those truly excellent ones on just my fingers, though to be fair, there are still a few award bait pictures that clamor for my attention.

Still, I've seen enough to present what I consider to be 2013's worst examples of cinema to see the light of day, and there were tons of titles to choose from. Though a number of stumbling blocks prevented me from visiting the theater as much as I had the last few years, I still managed to pack in over 100 movies these past twelve months, and of those, around 30 were bad enough to be considered. Yes, with almost a third of the movies in contention, it was extremely tough paring it down. Between January 1'st and now were some truly awful titles released that even last year would have easily made the cut, if only they hadn't been fortunate enough to be born in 2013.

As regular readers know, I have two rules with this list:

1) I only put movies that were deemed worthy of a wide release (600 theaters or more at any given time) in the "Bottom 10." It doesn't excuse their (sometimes epic) badness, but comparing a typical Adam Sandler movie to something horrible but from an unknown filmmaker doesn't feel right, in that the more experienced and popular filmmaker ought to have known better, whereas the no-name might be doing something crazy simply to be different. I give these smaller movies a break, if only because hardly anyone saw them anyway.

2) I won't rag on movies that I haven't seen. As I said before, I saw a bit less in 2013 than in previous years. One only has to look at Rotten Tomatoes to see a good number of movies I did NOT include here that perhaps I WOULD had I bothered to see them in the theater (or in some cases on DVD). Before I get into the list itself, I'll roll out an "Honorable Mentions" list of these unwatched titles and their respective Tomatometer rankings (I'll stick to scores less than 20%). If you REALLY want me to review any of these, leave a note and as a self-admitted masochist I'll do it when I get the opportunity.

Honorable Mentions: Getaway (2%), Scary Movie 5 (4%), Battle of the Year (4%), The Big Wedding (7%), Safe Haven (12%), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (12%), The Smurfs 2 (14%), Baggage Claim (14%), The Last Exorcism Part 2 (16%), Tyler Perry's Temptation (16%)

And now, the 10 worst films of 2013 (as seen by Mr. Anderson)!

10) Dark Skies

Director Scott Stewart returns to these rankings after making both the 2010 and 2011 lists with his crimes against cinema, Legion and Priest, respectively. His new alien invasion flick, Dark Skies, is actually the best movie he's made so far, although it's still plainly obvious he shouldn't be offered gigs that put him behind the camera. I mean, even Shyamalan made a few decent movies, before his name became a joke, to somewhat justify his repeated job offers. Stewart is essentially the same gag, but with a worse setup. And this effort isn't good enough to make me think that will ever change.

9) The Hangover: Part III

This was the trilogy finale even Hangover diehards weren't anxiously awaiting. As I've said before, I do applaud director Todd Phillips and his crew's efforts not to simply repeat the previous movies' pattern and recycle the same gags over again, and also for adding talents such as John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy. But in the process they also took away everything that was charming and (at times) hilarious from the franchise, turning Part III so dark it often forgot to add "comedy" to that mix. The distinct lack of humor - I would have settled for Part II's crude, unfunny jokes - and complete lack of comprehension as to what makes a GOOD movie is what ultimately sinks it worse than its predecessors (and that's saying something), though thankfully most of the cast has already moved on to bigger and better things. Hopefully this will be the last we hear of THIS franchise...

8) Runner Runner

Let me say this as loud as humanly possible: JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS NOT A GOOD ACTOR. If you have a movie with the former N'Sync frontman cast as your leading man, that should be the first sign that the product has problems. Everything here feels phoned in, from the screenplay to the frenetic direction  to the acting; if anybody had bothered to see this, they would have been shocked by Ben Affleck's talent regression to his early 2000's Daredevil form. Timberlake's presence is really the nail in the coffin, and he can host Saturday Night Live as often as he likes; endless charisma is no substitute for legitimate acting qualities.

7) Machete Kills

Although I added the original Machete to 2010's list, I'll also be the first to admit that it carried a light campiness that helped mitigate some of its more egregious flaws. As dumb as the final product was, it never took itself seriously, and was a near-perfect homage to the era of exploitation films. In fact, if I could go back in time and take it off the list, I just might. However Machete Kills, as similarly hokey as it is, never captures that flavor, taking itself far too seriously and straying far from the low-budget charm that made the original so admired. It also wastes a potentially excellent cast with a do-nothing script, pointless plot threads, and Robert Rodriguez's over-inflated ego. With as badly as this one bombed, I'd be surprised if they went through with the promised Machete Kills Again... In Space sequel that they teased in the opening... which also happened to be the best part of the whole film.

6) A Good Day to Die Hard

For true Die Hard aficionados (and despite liking the movies, I don't count myself within that group), it must be difficult to see a sequel to their beloved franchise suck THIS much. Many thought that Live Free or Die Hard's PG-13 farce was the ultimate insult to the universe's favored everyman superhero (I actually didn't mind it too much), but director John Moore proved that the series hadn't stopped going downhill when he cranked out this turd, in which he rehashed tired cliches, set the whole thing in Russia (for no particular reason), and worked off of a script that stripped away all the charm and fun that MADE Die Hard such a successful brand in the first place. Bruce Willis didn't even want to be there; you can tell from his monotonous, dead-soul performance that he was just on screen to cash a paycheck. That might be A Good Day's biggest offense: taking an immortal character and absolutely destroying his soul. I almost want another Die Hard movie just so the character can go out on a sufficiently high note and wipe the stink of 2013 away forever.

5) Bullet to the Head

The Expendables franchise has helped reinvigorate the careers of many older action stars, but not all Hollywood reboots are created equal. Some are actually good (The Last Stand), some mediocre (Parker and Escape Plan) and some are downright bad (scroll up one). Falling into this last category is this mess, which has Sylvester Stallone as a hitman out to avenge the death of... someone... and... yeah, it's one of THOSE movies. It even has a decent bad guy (Game of Thrones' Jason Momoa) and manages to segue into a classic "buddy cop" variant. But the film is so mean-spirited, humorless, racist, sexist, and completely out of touch with the progress of today's society, that it becomes a black hole into which all perceived quality is irrevocably lost. If this had been released twenty years ago, it might have become a cult classic. Released in 2013, it reminds us how much we've moved on as a species.

4) After Earth

I think I have to explain not why this movie made the list, but why I don't have it at #1. Certainly, that's where many people will have it, most of them much smarter and more worldly than I. As I said way back at #10, M. Night Shyamalan has become a running joke, and film promoters know it now: they actively hid his name in the marketing efforts for After Earth in a vain effort to sneak some butts into seats. But the sad part is that you can't really heap all of this mess upon his shoulders. One might blame more Will Smith, whose creative passion behind the project (in which he would star with son Jaden, though neither of them was any good) could easily have mucked things up more. That's not an apology for Shyamalan's artistry, mind; he's still terrible. So what is it that makes this movie better than three others released this year, when it failed at direction, creature design, acting, screenwriting, creative thinking and plain old logic? Well, the landscape shots were kind of pretty. So there's that.

3) Movie 43

There is one legitimately funny scene in the otherwise abhorred Movie 43, Peter Farrelly's sketch movie in which horrible things happen for no good reason beyond the There's Something About Mary director's own amusement. Proof that more talent is not better (a total of 13 directors and 19 writers produced the final product), the movie was almost entirely unfunny (again, with the exception of one scene), and while the filmmakers desperately attempt to cater to the gods of tastelessness, their efforts were instead consumed by it. There's a reason half of the cast is pretending this debacle doesn't exist, and that none of them would promote it. Hopefully we'll never see a sketch movie this bad again in my lifetime.

2) The Counselor

What makes The Counselor such a sad addition to this list is that it had the ELEMENTS to be one of the year's best: a consistent director (Ridley Scott), a talented, all-star cast (Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz), and a screenplay by one of America's most celebrated living authors (Cormac McCarthy). It's this screenplay that carries the weight of the movie's flaws, as it fails in conveying emotion, tension, sex appeal, subtlety, and pretty much everything that comes standard with the truly refined motion picture many expected this to be. It didn't help that the director and cast could do little to improve upon the material, and they certainly tried their best. Unfortunately, The Counselor was destined to show up here, among not just the worst of 2013, but of the past decade as well.

1) Grown Ups 2

Yes, in a year of truly awful science fiction, dull thrillers and all-around horribleness, it's the unfunny comedies that really hit hard in 2013. And Grown Ups 2, Adam Sandler's first sequel, is absolutely the worst. There is no real central plot, as the four main characters move from scene to scene without motivations, or not any that can't be solved by one minor mid-film event. And then there's a party at the end, I guess? This was a project so half-assed, there's practically none involved, unless you really want to include the countless poop and fart jokes that is the joie de vivre of your typical Happy Madison audiences (even if they'll never know what that means). However, this is a sad state of affairs even by those historically-low standards, and I'll never, ever forgive Sandler for allowing Twilight's Taylor Lautner to become the hands-down best part of the film. These are just some of the reasons Grown Ups 2 is the absolute worst movie of 2013.

So that's it! What do you think? Is there any film here you think I'm treating unfairly? Was there anything you saw this year that you think should have been on the list? Write in and let me know, and together we can stop financially supporting the worst that Hollywood has to offer. Thanks for stopping by, and have a Happy New Year!


Richard J. Marcej said...

I haven’t ranked my good and bad of 2013 yet, but I do agree with your assessment of all of the HORRIBLE films that filled the theaters this year. Because of all of the crap that came out in the first six months, I’d fallen way behind in my moviegoing. I just couldn’t see wasting time/money on dreck. It wasn’t until the last four months when because of all the good releases I was hitting the theater twice, sometimes three times a week!

You’re a better man than me, sitting through any film that has Adam Sandler or any movie made by Shyamalan or Bay. I refuse to piss my money away on them any more.

I agree with your inclusion of “A Good Day To Die Hard” (it was my #1 worst film for much of the year) and would add “Olympus Has Fallen” (loud and pointless), “Star Trek Into Darkness” (an unnecessary and poorly made remake filled with ams characters and situations), “Man Of Steel” (A movie that made Superman boring, had the longest lasting fight scene ever filmed, and wiped out more people and buildings than a hundred action films combined, in the history of movies had)

Making my #1 worst film of 2013 is “The Counselor” for just about everything you said. This also makes, for me, two years in a row where Ridley Scott film finishes #1 for worst of the year (2012’s “Prometheus”) Mr. Scott is dangerously slipping into Shyamalan or Bay.territory.

Mr. Anderson said...

'Olympus Has Fallen' ALMOST made the list, but I just couldn't justify taking any of the titles off to include it. If I'd made it 15 movies instead of 10 it would have been a shoo-in.