Unfortunately, some movies take you to places you rather you didn't go, introduce ideas you probably already knew, and make you feel things that precede foul language and the throwing of things at the screen.
Now as many of you know, I try to see as many good movies as I can, so my bottom list of the year is usually pretty small, and composed of movies that are not really bad, just not worth paying money to see. This year I was especially interested in making my top ten list the best I had, so I purposefully avoided movies that would have made this list more interesting; movies like Grown Ups 2 and After Earth, because, to put it mildly I did not have the balls for it. So basically any list I make involves the worst movies I was just unfortunate enough to wander into, expecting a good one. I once watched The Lone Ranger to see if it would be bad enough to warrant a mention, but alas, it was only sort of offensive and stupid, but, for the most part, pretty entertaining. So, basically, I didn't even have enough movies to make a full "worst of 2013" list; even the one I have includes a few movies that aren't that bad, and at least one that I think came out last year.
But, the show must go on! For every black there is a white, for every good there is an evil, for Democrat there is a Republican, and for every top ten film list there must be a bottom film list! So let's see what awfulness I stumbled into this year.
|20th Century Fox/Marvel Studios|
I'm sure putting this on my list is almost as controversial as putting Iron Man 3 on my best-of list, so please here me out. For one thing, The Wolverine is not exactly a bad movie. Hugh Jackman is great as usual as the gruff, grumpy, immortal warrior, and it's pretty cool to see a movie actually try and evaluate the man as a character. I was also happy with how most of the cast is a whose-who of talented Japanese actors, including an inspired performance from Rila Fukushima, and Lost's Hiroyuki Sanada. Then there's at least one pretty cool action scene, and it leads in nicely to this year's Days of Future Past so, what's my problem with this movie? Well, as you can already tell, I'm reaching with this list, and yes, this movie is Citizen Kane compared to the last Wolverine movie. Hell, it's bound to please X-Men fans more than Last Stand did too. However, a lot of that has to do with the fact that nothing of real consequence happens. It kind of feels like a long commercial for the new movie, as well as a way to cash in on the character. There's no real interesting twists, the villain, a slimy mutant named Viper, gives Malekith and Zod a run for their money as the most boring, vaguely motivated villain of the year, and the ending is very, very, silly. Not a bad movie, hell it might even be worth checking out for an X-Men fan. I did actually like it. However, if you're not really that interested in the characters, it might not be for you.
The Lone Ranger
|Platinum Dunes/Blumhouse Productions|
The year's breakout horror movie, in a year that apparently had several far better ones, was this, admittedly creative film, about 12-hour period of time that occurs once a year, when everything short of starting a nuclear war is legal, just so everyone can get all the theft, murder, rape, and (let's be honest) illegal downloads out of their system. While this year's sequel, Anarchy, will show a broader sense of this night, this film focuses on a small, upscale neighborhood, where a man who has made a ton of money off of security systems for this very night (modern-day scream queen Ethan Hawke) has his house on lockdown, and plans to wait out the night in luxury. But when his son allows a homeless man into the house, they become the targets of a roving group of angry rich white people with guns (why yes, this takes place in California, how did you guess?) who are enraged that they couldn't kill the homeless man, so start trying to break into our hero family's house. I kind of liked The Purge, it had some interesting social allegories and I admire the film's attempt to use the horror medium to tell a story about class warfare. It's not wrong, it's just hopelessly cliche; the characters (as they always do in these movies) make infuriating choices, and a lot of the dialogue is cartoony. This easily could have been a horror comedy, but it wasn't. There's also a great introduction to Rhys Wakefield as the villain. Not as awful as its been made to seem, but not necessarily a must-watch.
Man of Tai Chi
In the end, Man of Tai Chi is a pretty inoffensive movie. It's a martial arts film directed by, and starring Reeves, and if thats what you're looking for, that's what you're going to get. Just don't expect anything more.
The director is Ridley Scott, the writer is Downs-family legend Cormac McCarthy, and the star is The Fass? Questionable reception or not, you bet your ass I was going to watch this movie! Too bad I did, too. This movie, about an unnamed legal Counselor who gets in over his head with a drug cartel he invests in, prompting them to try and kill him and his whole family, is wrought with the tropes of a good McCarthy novel; the good man getting involved with bad people, the villain who stands for something elemental about humanity, the hit man who means well and wears white, Javier Bardem. Unfortunately, it's rife with holes (how does the cartel trace him again? Something about a guy he bailed out of jail? Wait, why does he need the money anyway if he's that fucking rich? How does a legal counselor have that much money and not have at least some experience with illegal activities?), and, as I'm sure I'm not the first to point out, even more philosophical dialogue, at least a quarter of which is about sex. This would have made a great Kevin Smith movie, is what I'm saying. The rest of the dialogue is about moral philosophy, which is a bit straightforward for Cormac. The talented cast, including four of the best actors working, is game for the task (although Pitt and Fasbender are clearly struggling with some of the more awkward lines), but the pacing and story isn't.
It seems weird to admit after the director's recent slump, but the saving grace here isn't McCarthy, or even Fassbender, it's Ridley Scott. He makes some of the scenes appropriately murky and very suspenseful, and that's when it works best. Unfortunately, the suspense that made No Country and The Road so great just gives way to more pandering here. I would have liked to exit the movie saying that Cameron Diaz blew me away as a great, McCarthy villain, but she's probably the most awkward of all here. Did I mention she has sex with a car?
Now, we're getting more into the territory of movies I really couldn't get into. I'm well aware that Ender's Game is based on a supposedly brilliant book by Orson Scott Card, and while I can see the movie working on paper, it didn't work for me on film. Apparently, I'm not the only one who felt that way; the film bombed on it's release, a factor attributed to Card's blatant homophobia, and not the fact that it's just a really boring movie. Let me start by getting the plot out of the way, and explaining how, far in the future, humanity is almost wiped out in an interplanetary war with a race of bug-monsters called the Formics, and now young children are picked from a young age for their intelligence and ferocity to attend space-school so that the future military can be properly prepared for another attack. Ender Wiggin is one specific boy who is picked by Harrison Ford (does his character name matter?) as a prodigy that will one day save the human race. Now, let me also start by saying that, contrary to what is taught in the nitpicking culture of today's film geeks, plot holes do not ruin a movie. However, they can really hurt the movie's internal logic if not properly dealt with, and they can be hard to ignore when everything else about the movie; from the characters, to the actors, to the action, to the special effects, is aggressively bland.
For example, why are children recruited as the primary tacticians in this warfare? We get some vague explanation about how they have the empathy to understand their enemies and how their minds work better. But, then the superiors like Ford and Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis constantly judge their choices (if they know so well, how come they aren't leading the war effort?). How do we know Ender is brilliant enough to fight the formics? Because he plays video games and solves puzzles in ways most people don't think of, but only because he fails multiple times and then just fucks around. It's sort of like Harry Potter, only without the magic and sense of wonder, and with ten times the amount of douchey entitlement in its main character. Furthermore the cast is completely on autopilot (you know, in a cast with this many Oscar nominees; if the lone bright spot is Moises Arias, something's wrong), the special effects are not that impressive, and the inevitable twist, while interesting, is kind of predictable. The last five minutes are brilliant enough to warrant reading the book, but everything up to that is not just bad, it's completely forgettable.
Man of Steel
|Warner Bros./DC Entertainment|
This, like Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 is another installment in the most love-it-or-hate-it year for comic books in a long time. Well, it's on this list, so you can imagine how I felt about it. Man of Steel is so much more than the worst superhero movie of the year, it's a pretty awful movie overall. This reboot/remake/reimagining/rewhogivesafuck of the greatest superhero story of all time, makes the ambitious, but unwise, decision to retell (there's another one) Superman as a gritty, realistic, hero. For one thing, when your idea of accomplishing this is by taking a guy who flies around with the underwear on the outside of his pants, and just removing the underwear altogether, then you're probably not approaching the premise appropriately. Now I'm not one of the many to make the assertion that Kale-El of Krypton is uninteresting, I always thought there was something very charming about him as a character, but that charm is missing here. In fact, any charm is missing here.
Now I suppose I don't hate the movie, I'll even sit down and watch it if its on at Fry's. I like the foreshadowing, that awesome score, and "Lorie-darlin'" herself, Diane Lane. Some of the shots are breathtaking beyond belief, the special effects are impressive, and I kind of like the central story, about a man trying to find out what huge role he's going to take in the world, and then just decides "fuck it I'll get into journalism". I can relate to that. There's also an extended scene where Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe yell at each other while wearing silly astronaut suits, which should be worth the price of admission. The problem is nearly all of the actors are playing this ridiculous material so straight, it makes them look stupid, rather than making the material look better. Half of them (primarily Adams and Shannon) look like they don't even want to be there half the time. I get that Snyder and Goyer want to describe the concept of how the world would react if something this powerful came into existence, but that's hardly a new angle for a superhero movie, and stripping the material of all it's joy and replacing it with post-9/11 cynicism and some of the worst dialogue I've ever heard, is not the way to do it. Did I mention the fact that this movie has more penis-shaped spaceships than Alien?
Oz: The Great and Powerful
|Walt Disney Pictures|
Zach Braff is a monkey.
Not Fade Away
Well, for what it's worth, I saw Enough Said too late to put it on the "Best of" list. It was really good.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Johnny Knoxville gets his penis stuck in a vending machine for some reason. That's about it.