It’s that time of year again. Time to air out the dirty cinematic laundry by naming those films that hit the absolute bottom of the pile. 2014, much like every year, had its fair share of awful films, but this year, it was particularly hard to narrow down the playing field to a mere ten, and even harder to put them in any kind of sensible order of awfulness. Also like every year, you could rearrange most of these and make a strong case for it, but when it comes right down to it, I find it easiest to ask myself which of these terrible films I would more readily watch before the others, which has led to the following list. So let’s get right to it, for the faster we give them a sendoff, the sooner we can forget they ever happened.
10. Inherent Vice – Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has given us some amazing films, including “There Will Be Blood,” “Magnolia,” and “Boogie Nights,” but unfortunately his latest opus was not one of them. “Inherent Vice,” based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, is a meandering mess that stretches on for an unforgiveable two and a half hours, never adding up to a cohesive hole, nor ever really even trying to. The story is partly about a detective (Joaquin Phoenix) investigating a conspiracy involving an ex-girlfriend of his, but as the film goes on, it seems to be less and less about that and more and more about throwing in random scenes that have nothing to do with anything else in the film. Basically this is a film that suffers terribly from “Wandering Narrative Syndrome,” much like Anderson’s previous film “The Master,” but even more so. Anderson, in an attempt to adapt Pynchon’s supposedly unfilmable book, tries to tell a story here, but never seems sure as to what he wants to do with the story and characters, leaving us with a 150-minute mess that’ll have you losing interest well before you’re even halfway through.
9. Need for Speed – An obvious attempt to cash in on the “Fast & Furious” craze, “Need for Speed” offers nearly the same material, but with even less plot to hold it together. That’s right, even less plot than the “Fast & Furious” films, which barely have any to start with. This was merely an excuse to throw in as many car chases and races into one film as possible, leading it to hit a new level of monotony that stretches on and on for 131 agonizing minutes. This was indeed a film made for motorheads, featuring lots of fancy cars going really fast, so perhaps they’ll find something to like about it, but everyone else will merely be bored silly waiting for this never-ending junk heap to come to an end.
8. Godzilla – This remake of the classic monster film starts off with such promise, setting up a story that you think you might be able to get engaged with, but it quickly shows its true hand as it becomes a whole lotta nothing, featuring a ton of CGI and noise and nothing more. Not even the incredible cast of Oscar nominees, including Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, and David Strathairn, could save it. What’s perhaps even more unforgiveable is that the film also features Bryan Cranston, misleadingly marketed as the star of the film, only to have him killed off very early on. The best way I’ve found to describe this is as this year’s “Pacific Rim,” one of the worst films of last year. It has very little in the way of story, features large creatures fighting, it’s way too long (138 minutes), suffers from CGI overload, and yet mysteriously got good reviews, which very much begs the question as to whether we were seeing the same film or not.
7. Transformers: Age of Extinction – There’s no beating around the bush with Michael Bay anymore. When you go to see one of his “Transformers” movies, you know exactly what you’re going to get, and you know it’s not going to be good. With “Age of Extinction,” he’s pretty much made the exact same film again, with just a few plot changes to make you think you’re watching something new, and yet it still features the exact same elements you find in the others: a thread of a plot, filler dialogue, and lots and lots of giant metal robots fighting and explosions. Another problem that has devastated the last couple of entries in this series has been the extremely bloated runtime, with “Revenge of the Fallen” and “Dark Side of the Moon” both reaching two and a half hours. Bay’s latest monotonous mess stretches all the way to 165 minutes. You read that number right. 165 minutes that mostly consists of explosions, gunfire, and fighting robots. Perhaps he’ll learn a little restraint for the inevitable fifth entry? Who’re we kidding? If he hasn’t learned it by now, there’s little chance he ever will.
6. Nymphomaniac: Volumes 1 & 2 – Writer/director Lars von Trier has made some pretty bad films in the recent years, including the dreadfully abhorrent “Antichrist,” which earned its place as the worst film of 2009. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like he’s stopping his streak anytime soon. His latest project, a two-part, four-hour film about a young girl who’s a sex addict, has a multitude of problems that include a very choppy, episodic nature, a distracted plot, and the fact that it never adds up to anything. Von Trier obviously wanted to say something about the nature of sex, but unfortunately he never gets around to saying much of anything at all, which is very shocking given that he had FOUR HOURS to work with. It was a rather ambitious project, but overall, it feels like he merely wanted to tie together a bunch of random stories and completely failed to do so, resulting in a massive, sprawling mess.
5. Under the Skin – This is one of those films that will lead many to believe that some kind of trick is being played on them at the start as it begins to repeat itself over and over again. At the beginning, we meet a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) who is trying to lure men into her car. When she does, she takes them to a mysterious black room where the man believes they are going to make out, but instead, he is consumed by a pool in the floor. You may think the plot moves on from here, but no, we witness this several more times over the course of more than half of the film. As it turns out, this young woman is an alien, an alien who eventually undergoes a change and wants to explore humanity. It’s just a shame that it takes all of eternity to get to that point. By then, thanks to a complete lack of character development and substance, it’s very hard to care about anything she is going through. It’s a film that had so much potential, but merely ends up being hollow, detached, monotonous, and tedious. There’s no doubt that the film has a beautiful look, a look that distracted many critics from its overwhelming emptiness, but it doesn’t do a thing to cover up the more important elements that needed tending to desperately.
4. The Rover – “Under the Skin” had indeed been very monotonous, but at the very least, it had tried to do something. “The Rover” is incredibly tedious for the very fact that it doesn’t try to do anything. The story, such as it is, takes place in the Australian Outback ten years after a Western economic collapse. Eric (Guy Pearce) has his car stolen and goes about trying to get it back with the help of the brother (Robert Pattinson) of one of the criminals. There really isn’t a whole lot to be said about the film because there simply isn’t a lot going on within. As an audience, all we can do is sit back and wait impatiently as Eric tries to get back to his car and finally have the inevitable confrontation with the criminals. It’s a bland, forgettable, and stretched-out tale that will leave you desperately wishing for something to come along and develop the flat storyline or the two dull main characters. Pearce and Pattinson are an interesting screen combination, but the terrible screenplay gives them absolutely nothing to work with. This may have worked as a short film, but as a feature with no substance whatsoever, it’s a complete failure.
3. Ouija – I’ve seen a lot of awful horror films in my time, but it’s rare to come across one that tries as little as “Ouija,” based on the popular spirit-summoning board game. That should be your first hint right there. The fact that someone has made a film based on this particularly board game shows just how low on horror ideas some people are. First, it takes more than half of its 83-minute runtime just to get going, and then it desperately tries to throw together the most generic horror story possible with what little time it has left. It becomes all too painfully clear that absolutely no thought went into this whatsoever. If you want to see such a movie done better, check out the film “Witchboard” from 1986. It’s incredibly cheesy, but far superior to this dreck.
2. The Quiet Ones – Speaking of incredibly generic horror films, “The Quiet Ones” has to be the biggest pile of horror clichés stuffed into one film in quite some time. Here we have one of the dullest horror offerings of the year, packed to the brim with plenty of jump scares just to make sure that the audience stays awake. But why is the film so dull? Because there is hardly any effort made to tell a story here, and what they do try to tell is so flat and unoriginal that there’s not a shred of hope in getting the audience engaged. This is basically a really sad attempt at telling a demon possession tale, one where the writers and director are just completely lost as to how to make it effective, leading to a stretched-out, 98-minute mess. The film is a failure on practically every level. It’s badly directed, choppily edited, and has the feeling of something put together in a rush on an assembly line. In the end, the only thing it’s able to accomplish is smearing the name of Hammer Film Productions, a company that used to present quality and class in their horror films. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
1. Tusk – Every once in a while, you come across a film that makes you sit back and ponder the question: Who in the world would even conceive of an idea like this? Or better yet: Who in the world would think for one second that this would make a good idea for a film? “Tusk” is that very film, and Kevin Smith is that very person. The film tells the story of a podcaster, Wallace (Justin Long,) who tries to get an interview with an old man, Howard (Michael Parks), who claims to have led a very interesting life. However, shortly after arriving at the old man’s house, Howard drugs him and attempts to turn Wallace into a walrus (Howard used to be very good friends with a walrus while he was surviving on an island as a young man). This is a grotesque, dull, and stretched-out film that offers absolutely no entertainment value whatsoever. To make matters worse, Smith based it on a bizarre classified ad that he found rather amusing. That’s right, he based an entire film on a classified ad. It’s a terrible film that merely raises a ton of questions about why it was made and why on Earth anyone would want to star in it. On the whole, this is basically a slightly less awful version of “The Human Centipede,” a film that featured a psycho who sewed three people together to make the titular creature, except this time the result isn’t quite as gratuitous. In fact, that is probably the nicest thing that can be said about this travesty as it takes its rightful place as the worst film of 2014.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for my list of The Best Films of 2014.
Recent Theatrical Reviews: Unbroken, Into the Woods
Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: The Skeleton Twins, Lord of Illusions, Magic in the Moonlight, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Seven, Guardians of the Galaxy, Natural Born Killers, What If, The November Man, 22 Jump Street, Jersey Boys, Dolls, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Extended Edition), Maleficent, Hercules (2014), Kingdom of Heaven: Ultimate Edition
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