Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Worst movies 2013

Movies are magical things. They can take you to magical places, introduce incredible ideas, and make you feel strange and new things. Especially if you're going through puberty.

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.

The Wolverine
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

Okay, let me get something off my chest. I love this movie. Okay, love is a strong word, but after hearing the enormous hate surrounding it, I was prepared to see one of the stupidest films of the year. And......that's what I saw! The Lone Ranger is full of offensive stereotypes, including a clearly white man wearing face paint to play a Native American; shockingly dark tropes, including a scene where hundreds of Native Americans are gunned down but our white hero is saved; and a ridiculous character arc, where the main character learns to not care about the law and just rob and kill like a vigilante. It's abominable, and it's aware of it. There is one fantastic scene, where our hero meets Tonto's tribe, and speaks to them in the broken-english tongue of his friend, only to get offended and confused looks from the articulate tribesmen. It all leads up to a bugshit ridiculous scene involving the hero riding a horse on top of, not one, but two trains. It's ridiculous and stupid and it deserves a watch.

The Purge
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
Village Roadshow/Universal Pictures

Let me get something off my chest: I really like Keanu Reeves. I'm a fan. Not only is he supposedly one of the friendliest people in Hollywood, if not the entire city of Los Angeles, but I don't really mind him as an actor. He's learned to underplay himself so well that sometimes his screen presence and delivery give me chills. So when I learned that he was getting into directing, a martial arts movie no less; in which he would play the villain, I have to admit, I was pretty psyched. Man of Tai-Chi is a modern-day action parable that follows Tiger (played by newcomer, and friend of Reeves, Tiger-Chen); a young practitioner of Tai-Chi, who decides to use his skills in the traditionally meditative art for more combative applications, so he can put the money and fame towards building a better life for himself. However, while working security for a guy named Donaka Mark (Reeves), he winds up in a fight club; where his purpose, art, and soul face corruption. It's a very simple movie, with some good fight choreography courtesy of Yuen Wo Ping, but it gets bad when it tries to do too much. Reeves should work as the stoic, steely Donaka, and for the most part he does; it should be the kind of role he was born to play. However, unfortunately, he gets into some serious overacting territory, which is bad territory for him. The results are hilarious. This keeps the movie down; like Reeves himself, its good when it's just playing straight; the second it tries to hard, as it often does to avoid blandness, it gets silly.
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 Counselor
Scott-Free Productions

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?

Ender's Game
Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

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
Oz is not the first prequel to The Wizard of Oz, nor is it the best, nor is it even the most famous. Most of those things describe Wicked. What this movie actually is is several hours of James Franco mugging for the camera. Like the Spider-Man movies, the film is directed by Sam Raimi (no stranger to actors who chew the scenery), and like those movies, Franco's character feels less like a character and more like James Franco sarcastically trying to imitate one. He seems like he was on drugs the whole time. We also get the great Michelle Williams who is too good to be playing the two-dimensional and mostly bland Glinda the good witch, and Rachel Weisz plays Evanora, the wicked witch, although whether she becomes the most famous sorceress of all time or the one one who gets flattened by a house is meant to be open to interpretation, except it obviously isn't. Finally, in the one convincing role in the entire film, Mila Kunis is Theodora, whose part to play is initially ambiguous. During this stage, she's pretty great, as usual, and nearly saves the film, but as the film goes on she gets extremely hammy and ridiculous, to the point that she actually becomes the worst thing about the film. The latest attempt in the "darker, more serious, reimagining of a fairy tale" isn't very dark or serious, which is probably a good thing. Raimi's direction at least knows to keep the fun. But it's just sort of kiddy and insipid and, ultimately, pretty boring.
Zach Braff is a monkey.

Not Fade Away
Paramount Vantage
Ok, so this came out last year, but I deliberately did not put it on last year's list because I thought it came out in January of 2013 for some reason. Also I need it to pad out this list a little so work with me. To be honest, there's a lot of reasons why this shouldn't be here, the foremost one being that I forget most of it. But I was trying super hard to pay attention, I swear. The problem is, this origin story of a young man trying to find his way in the musical world of the sixties is every bit as pretentious, boring, and uninteresting as that sounds. And don't watch it for the late, great, James Gandolfini, whatever you do; the guy's barely in it. Yeah, it sucks that the first film from Sopranos creator David Chase, and one of the last films from Sopranos star Gandolfini, is this dull and unlikeable, but it is.
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
MTV/Dickhouse Films
Bad Grandpa is a hidden camera movie where an old horny man played by Johnny Knoxville has to escort a little boy across the United States. Along the way, they pull hidden camera stunts to trick people for the amusement of the viewing audience. Some of it is funny, but most of it is tactless and kind of stupid. This would be fun to watch as individual segments on youtube but not as a movie.
Johnny Knoxville gets his penis stuck in a vending machine for some reason. That's about it.

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