Being a film critic is pretty awesome. Straight up, it’s a lot of fun if you’re someone who loves movies as much as I do. But damn, do I hate it sometimes, too. I always hear “Oh, it must be great doing what you do” and that much is true…when the movies are good. But when they suck so does this job because I can’t simply go home and forget about it. I have to actually keep these movies in mind for longer than I’d care to. Want to sit around and think about Justin Long in a walrus suit? Me neither, but that’s what I had to do after Tusk.
And in general I take no pleasure in tearing down another person’s hard work, but sometimes the movies are so bad it’s pretty tough. There were so many good movies this year that the ones which made me want to run from the theater screaming in agony stand out like a sore thumb. The movies that appear on this list are what I consider the worst of the worst. Some are major studio efforts with huge budgets, others are smaller indie movies. No excuses; big or small if the movie sucked and I had to endure it then this is where it belongs.
Maladies (review here)
Sometimes James Franco outsources his pretentious, experimental flicks to his buddies. Directed by some dude with the single monicker of “Carter” (douche alert!!!) , this painful, unfunny existential comedy is one of those “art imitating life” pieces celebrities love. Franco plays a former actor (he watches himself on General Hospital THROUGHOUT THE DAMN MOVIE) with a mental disorder who gives it up to be a serious author. If Maladies were a person I’d want to shove it in the lockers or give it a swirlie. The worst thing about it is the lost opportunity and wasted cast. There’s a good story to be had in an actor of Franco’s stature trying to start anew in a different field, but instead what we get is a dull series of oddball occurrences that make no sense, with increasingly bizarre characters we could care less about. Catherine Keener plays his cross-dressing friend; Fallon Goodson and her moony eyes plays his nutso sister; and David Strathairn is the neighbor infatuated with Franco. And through it all Franco is struggling to kind of play himself. Whatever, man. Fortunately, nobody is EVER going to see Maladies unless they seek it out and then why in the world would you do that?
Winter’s Tale (review here)
What the **** was Winter’s Tale about? No, seriously. Look, I know the book by Mark Helprin pretty well, and never thought for a second that it should be made into a movie. Why? Because it makes no sense. It involves flying horses and time warps and thieves and devils and…wait, is this Lord of the Rings or something? No, it’s a quasi-religious soup starring Colin Farrel as a thief who falls in love with the girl whose house he’s trying to rob. Oh, and she’s dying. And he’s being chased by a demon mob boss played by Russell Crowe. Will Smith is in this, too. Don’t ask him about it because he’ll deny it but he plays a sewer-dwelling Satan. How does this cast come together for such a doughy pantload as this? Blame writer/director Akiva Goldsman, an uber-producer who must have won a bet or something.
Behaving Badly (review here)
The obvious joke here is that the people who made this movie behaved badly by allowing it to happen. This wretched high school comedy stars Nat Wolff, Elisabeth Shue, Mary Louise Parker, Heather Graham, and a perky Selena Gomez; a cast I could watch all day under other circumstances. But it’s one of those films that wants so badly to be raunchy that it ends up looking kind of desperate. 90 torturous minutes go by without a single laugh, and you know things have taken an awful turn when Shue, Gomez, and Graham at their most frisky doesn’t help. Not even the most die-hard Gomez fans can justify her being in this. There should be a penalty. Reduced fan club numbers. Banned albums. Something.
Jimi: All is by My Side (review here)
How do you make a movie about Jimi Hendrix without being able to do use his music? Why the Hell would you want to? Points to Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley for trying to do something different with Jimi: All is by My Side, taking an approach that emphasizes the mood of the era and the personality of the man rather than focusing on his music. Unfortunately, the man is played by Andre Benjamin who seems stuck in a perpetual “Purple Haze”. He simply lacks the enigmatic aura to play Hendrix, and without the iconic music that made him famous there is a hole that simply can’t be filled.
Tusk (review here)
I love Kevin Smith. Really. Well, more accurate is I love Kevin Smith’s old work. He hasn’t really made a good movie outside of the View Askew universe, though, and Tusk is the absolute worst thing he’s ever done. Cop Out looks pretty awesome by comparison, that’s how bad this is. Non-nonsensical, poorly staged, unfunny, and painfully timid, Tusk accomplishes zero of what Smith was probably aiming for. It doesn’t work as a horror because the sight of Justin Long in a fat suit is comical, and since Long is aggravating as shit anyway we kind of root for his continued torture. Only his grunts of shame sound authentic, and they probably had nothing to do with the suit. While Michael Parks’ delightfully goofy performance as his captor is one to seek out, you’ll be too freaked out by the appearance of Johnny Depp as a Pepe le Pew caricature, who will be in the next two movies as well. Yes, Tusk is the beginning of a godforsaken trilogy, one that wild horses couldn’t drag me to see. Just keep saying to yourself, Travis, “Clerks 3 is coming, Clerks 3 is coming…”
Exodus: Gods and Kings (review here)
This one is almost too fresh. The wounds from Ridley Scott’s disastrous Biblical monstrosity are still unhealed. Boasting a red sea of special effects but not a single droplet of heart or faith, the white-washed cast is only the most visible of its many issues. Scott, who has decided all of his movies must look exactly the same from now on (that’s how he keeps getting $150M budgets to squander), is more interested in the CGI plagues than he is in the story of Moses. Christian Bale does his best to portray the Hebrew savior despite a script that does him no favors, but when he’s asked to squabble with a bite-sized version of God it’s just too ridiculous to overcome.
Are You Here (review here)
Amy Poehler’s funny. So is Owen Wilson. Zach Galifianakis has his moments. Are You Here is not a funny movie. At all. Not only is it not funny, but it’s hard to figure exactly what it was trying to do. It just sits there like a lead balloon without any kind of perspective or narrative thrust, but at least it’s so flat you don’t wonder why there’s a question mark missing in the title. Supposedly this was about a womanizing weatherman played by Wilson at his most irritating, who joins his eccentric tree-hugging pal (Galifianakis) to figure out what to do with a huge inheritance. I can barely remember any of that. Good for Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner for making his directorial debut and all, but he might want to stick with TV.
The Bag Man (review here)
The Bag Man is about a guy carrying a bag. The end. Okay, that’s not exactly true but not really far off. This seedy, half-baked attempt at film noir stars that guy who used to be John Cusack (I refuse to believe he’s the guy I loved in High Fidelity and Better Off Dead) as a criminal charged with holding on to a bag with mysterious, supposedly important contents. He can’t look in the bag or let others get it, otherwise a pompadoured Robert De Niro will get really angry. The entire two hours is spent keeping the mystery of the bag’s contents. You won’t care what’s in it. You’ll be too bored to care what’s in it. And when you find out you’ll be pissed at the time wasted trying to figure it out.
The Legend of Hercules (review here)
It almost seems unfair putting The Legend of Hercules so high on this list. It never really had a chance, did it? Not with goblin-faced Twilight mass Kellan Lutz as the mythological hero, and not with the washed-up Renny Harlin behind the camera. Lutz flexes his considerable muscle while Harlin struggles with murky 3D special effects he clearly doesn’t understand and we don’t give a crap about, anyway. Tedious and badly acted, the film doesn’t even appeal to somebody like me who adores the stories of Greek myth. If there’s an upside it’s the commanding performance by supporting actor Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), who uses his gladiatorial experience to overshadow Lutz in just about every way. To be fair, Dwayne Johnson couldn’t make a Hercules movie work later in the year, but that’s not an excuse for this movie being so terrible.
And So It Goes (review here)
This one was tough because I like Rob Reiner. A lot. Meathead is the man as far as I’m concerned. And I appreciate that he wants to make simple, harmless comedies nowadays, although it’s probably because that’s the box Hollywood has sealed him up in. And So It Goes might have been pretty good in 1987 or something, but now it might as well be covered in moss. Michael Douglas plays a crotchety, totally racist womanizing real estate agent who is forced to become guardian to the granddaughter he didn’t know existed. Meanwhile, Diane Keaton is his chirpy next door neighbor who you just know he’s going to hook up with after they’re done arguing for 80 minutes. It’s all pretty distasteful, cheap in its sentiments, and the kind of dud that could destroy any hope for older skewing comedies.
Rage (review here)
Just when you thought Nicolas Cage was bouncing back, his performance in Joe a reminder how good he can be, the guy goes and drops a stinker like Rage. This plodding, atrocious revenge thriller is dumb even by Cage standards, and features one of most fantastically bad final scenes ever. Directed incompetently by Paco Cabezas stars Cage as former criminal now a semi-respected citizen who goes on a demented crusade of violence when his daughter is murdered. Supposedly there’s some kind of question as to who killed her? But a mystery only matters if you care about the suspects or the victims, and this thinly-drawn, distasteful piece of crap doesn’t come close to making that happen.
Were there more that could have made the list? Hell yeah! Too many, in fact. Marlon Wayans’ A Haunted House 2 where he (again) has sex with inanimate objects….Simon Pegg makes everybody sad with the unfunny, condescending Hector and the Search for Happiness….Race relations gets set back a few years by Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer in Black or White…Trust Me proves Clark Gregg should never ever leave the Marvel universe….Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s Blended is low hanging fruit at this point…Not even Pierce Brosnan could save bland espionage flick, The November Man…and I bet you already forgot Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was a thing, didn’t you?