In talking about what would be the worst films of 2014, just know that whatever I write is limited to whatever I actually saw. As a working guy with “two-under-two” little ones at home, I had to choose my spots very carefully of when to go to the movies or catch something via Video On Demand. Since my start in 2010, this was my lightest year yet for reviews. I did my best, but I couldn’t see anything and everything. There simply wasn’t enough time and I wasn’t going to waste it, or my hard-earned money, on something that I knew was going to be terrible ahead of time.
Therefore, I self-screened much of what I see. I’m in a position where I can and, on many levels, have to get the most out of my opportunities. That means there are a bevy of films from this past year that I am sure would make my list or a more official list of the worst films of the year in a heartbeat. So, I’m writing two lists for this column. The first are the ranks of all of the movies I refused to pay money to see. The second list are the actual worst movies that I did see and review. Altogether, I saw nine two-star movies this year and reviewed three one-star movies. With a few spots for honorable mention, all will make the list. Enjoy and happy new year! The classier and better “10 Best of 2014” will shine this past year right up in the days that follow after this.
THE MOVIES I REFUSED TO PAY GOOD MONEY TO SEE
1. “Blended”— This is often shouted on this website. I have no tolerance anymore for Adam Sandler. He’s dead to me and you people keep giving him your money to make stuff like this. Shame on you.
2. “Left Behind”— Nic Cage and a religious remake of the Rapture? Couldn’t he have just had a cameo in “This is the End” last year? I do hear that this film could reach the “Showgirls” level of so-bad-it’s-good someday. I’ll keep passing.
3. “Saving Christmas”— I’m pretty sure there are a multitude of reasons why Kirk Cameron’s brand of crazy just landed atop IMDB’s rankings of the 100 worst movies. I’m not willing to watch it to keep score or find out. Sell your brand somewhere else, Kirk.
4. “Transformers: Age of Extinction”— These films blew out my eardrums and my brains for the last time two years ago. Add Mark Wahlberg and that clinched my non-return. I saw the last hour of this movie on mute on a plane, rubbernecking the gentlemen next to me who was watching it on his iPad. Even small and with no sound, it was incomprehensibly terrible.
5. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”— Speaking of ruining my childhood, of all of the films I didn’t see this year, this one sent me the most friend questions of “did I see it.” I refused and it sounds like I missed a bomb. I’ll mention it again later, but this one received the most criticism from my circle of friends this year.
6. “Transcendence”— Johnny Depp is quickly becoming kryptonite and another actor who is dead to me right there with Adam Sandler. Of all the films on this list, I wanted this one to succeed the most, with director Wally Pfister stepping out from the Christopher Nolan mold.
7. “Into the Storm”— This cinematic and natural disaster landed atop my friend and critic colleague Tim Day’s list of the worst of 2014 over at Day at the Movies. Follow the link. His words say it all.
8. “Winter’s Tale”— Worst trailer of the year likely begets one of the worst movies of the year. After these two minutes and thirty-four seconds, I was throwing up in my mouth.
9. “Tammy”— Remember when Melissa McCarthy’s act was so funny and fresh? Yeah, me too. Now, it’s become a repetitive sideshow and a broken record.
10. “Ouija” and every single horror movie this year— Call me one foot in the grave or call me Clint Eastwood from “Gran Torino,” but I really don’t have time for the carnival of bad horror movies that get thrown out there every year, starting with a lame board game adaptation. Add “Annabelle,” “The Purge: Anarchy,” “V/H/S/ Viral,” and everything else. Get off my lawn!
HONORABLE MENTION: Those were just ten. You could add “I, Frankenstein,” “A Haunted House 2,” “Pompeii,” “The Other Woman,” “The Legend of Hercules,” “Hercules,” “Lucy,” “Annie,” and dozens more and still have a terrible list of never-ever’s.
SPECIAL MENTION: “The Interview”
I will cave and see this movie at some point, thanks to the hype, but I don’t have high hopes. I haven’t heard very good things about it, top to bottom. If I see it, it would be only to justify my social media rants against it because then I could at least say that I’ve seen it and it still sucks. I really don’t want to give Sony a dime, even for a $6 rental. Watch me go illegal and torrent this mess.
THE WORST FILMS I ACTUALLY SAW IN 2014
In putting together ranks, I had three two-star films that couldn’t fit into the final worst ten. Those three are “Snowpiercer” (uninspired, over-loved, and overrated by everyone but me, apparently), “Let’s Be Cops” (funny, but it wasted the full potential of the premise), and “Winter Sleep” (longest three hours of my life this year that somehow won the Palme d’Or at Cannes ahead of a dozen other Oscar hopefuls). “Winter Sleep” was so long, I couldn’t even muster a full review to try and talk about it, though it made my capsule reviews for the 50th Chicago International Film Festival. Also, believe me, I wouldn’t hear the end of it if “Snowpiercer” made this list below. Instead, here are the rest!
10. “The Drop”— Last year, I called “American Hustle” a brand of Scorsese Lite. Until the last maybe ten minutes, “The Drop” makes “American Hustle” look like “Goodfellas.” If “American Hustle” was Scorsese Lite, then “The Drop” is Scorsese Miller Sharps. (full review)
9. “Young Ones”— I like Michael Shannon and director Jake Paltrow has potential, but this movie didn’t work. A great possible premise and setting with rich potential is ruined by a ridiculously weak and melodramatic soap opera story. (full review)
8. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”— Robert Rodriguez’s movies, especially fun stuff like this, will always look good and star beautiful people, but, somewhere, the storytelling has to back it up. Intentionally disjointed or not, the movie was a narrative mess of story chapters that gave you little difference or variety and even less to root for. With the talent and source material involved, it should have been better. (full review)
7. “The Expendables 3”— This was the movie equivalent of chemical castration (Sorry “The Imitation Game”). By watering this down for a PG-13 audience, the filmmakers and parade of stars lost the balls and bravado that made this series a fun guilty pleasure. They had the right villain in place with a game Mel Gibson, but wasted it on an elementary effort. (full review)
6. “Sex Tape”— I didn’t really expect this movie to be good, but I liked “Bad Teacher” enough to go back to that well. Even after an OK trailer that grabbed decent interest, the film couldn’t deliver the goods to really go for it, as advertised. It beats around the bush with lame comedy schemes rather than giving us something fun and daring on the premise. It’s never a good sign when the most daring thing about your film is a Jack Black cameo. (full review)
5. “The Monuments Men”— If you would have asked me a year ago (or even two years ago) about this movie, I would have called it bulletproof with its pedigree and cast. I’m a fan of George Clooney as a director, but he missed the mark with the most uneven film I saw this year. It may not be the worst film of the year, but it was the one that fell the farthest from where it was supposed to be. (full review)
4. “Happy Christmas”— My tolerance for the “mumblecore” genre is fading fast. Sure, it’s nice to see household name actors and actresses like Anna Kendrick riff and challenge themselves with smaller fare and intimate material, but the essence of this genre is becoming way too minimalist. You’re allowed to shed layers and get down to basics and let the acting shine, but you have to give them something to do and have a compass direction. It can’t all be improvisation. At some point, you need direction and a director. I enjoyed mumblecore to a fault with Joe Swanberg’s previous film “Drinking Buddies,” but “Happy Christmas” is a step backwards. (full review)
3. “Ride Along”— Speaking of fading fast, if Kevin Hart keeps up his one-note joke and routine of being the black equivalent of the Chicken Hawk mini-tough-talker character from the Foghorn Leghorn “Looney Tunes” cartoons, he’s going to be the next Melissa McCarthy. He will be topical and burn bright, but then be tired and overplayed because he plays the same character every time out. “Ride Along” may have been his best box office turn as a lead so far, but it’s the biggest example of his repetitive act too. Watch out for “The Wedding Ringer” or “Get Hard” which will both probably make this list next year…. if I even care to see them. (full review)
2. “Walk of Shame”— This egregiously bad rom/com starring Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden that fell out of theaters at the last minute to VOD-only showed me exactly why with its sheer dumbness. Seriously, this is like Katherine Heigl-bad and I feel for Banks and Marsden cashing paychecks. It was so bad I couldn’t even bring myself to write a full review.
1. “The Zero Theorem”— I’ve used this spot to trash supposedly great filmmakers in the past like Terrance Malick and his abysmal “The Tree of Life” from 2011. I will chastise another supposedly legendary filmmaker in Terry Gilliam and “The Zero Theorem,” anointing it as the worst film I saw and reviewed in 2014. Odd, misplaced, slow, ugly, and pointless, this movie had “everything,” and I mean that in a “Saturday Night Live” Stefon way where the obscurity of this science fiction outweighs its creativity. Like “The Tree of Life,” I get the big picture Gilliam was aiming for. It didn’t go over my head. It just didn’t work as a film. Where is that #sorrynotsorry hashtag? (full review)