Sunday, 4 January 2015

Top 20 Worst Films Of 2014

Before getting into our list proper, I want to give out a couple of dishonourable mentions; these are films that, by all means, should be on this list but only came out here in Australia on DVD, thus making them ineligible. First off is Keith Lemon: The Film, one of the worst ‘comedies’ I have ever seen. I should not be able to predict as many of the terrible jokes as I did with this film. The other mention goes to The Starving Games, a Seltzerberg parody film so lazy that I’m not even going to dignify it with any real analysis.

And now, with those out of the way, time for the top 20 worst theatrically-released films of 2014:

#20: 300: Rise Of An Empire

When the scene with the best acting in it is the sex scene, something is seriously wrong with your movie. Aside from that, and one of the best unintentional laughs of the year which I’m fairly certain was just me laughing out of desperation at how the soldiers yelled out “Rocks!”, everything about this film is done ineptly: The CGI blood looks fucking horrible, the male lead is the store-brand knock-off of Leonidas with zero added charisma, the writing reads like bad fanfiction complete with the lack of character restraint that some of the more notorious works out there have, and the less said about the tacked-on sequel baiting, the better. I’m glad I got to see Eva Green be her psycho-sexual persona on screen again, but this film doesn’t do her any favours.

#19: The Giver

As a big fan of the original book, I was definitely sceptical about this but it was actually working for me at first: Jeff Bridges is great as the titular role and the additions made in the adaptation process made sense in terms of stretching out the story. Unfortunately, once the third act comes around, the enhancements made start to lose their grip: The Chief Elder and Fiona, who get beefier roles in this version, open up massive plot holes with their very presences in the story and the ending, which tries to keep the same tone as the source material, makes no sense in context to this film because of the changes made to the story. Aside from the issues involving adaptation, the acting is extremely weak for the most part especially from Jonas, Fiona and Asher, our central characters. As much as I applaud Bridges for how hard he worked to get this adaptation off the ground, I can’t help but feel that he has wasted his time if this is all he has to show for it.

#18: Transcendence

For the one guy out there who watched The Eternal Mind episode of Amazing Stories and thought that that episode wasn’t long enough and featured too much characterisation, this film is perfect. For everyone else, this completely fails to live up to its premise. Any attempts it makes to raise questions about the nature of artificial intelligence are never fully fleshed out, nor does the film even attempt to answer most of them. Given how one of the bigger questions is whether or not Will as a personality still exists within the machine, it is extremely poor in how they characterised him and the resolution to that question feels tacked-on and rushed, despite the more than sufficient running time. To make matters worse, the film is book-ended by a prologue that spoils the ending and an epilogue that makes what happened in said ending pointless. Will Pfister undoubtedly has a good eye for visuals and this film is at least pretty to look at, but he should think twice before directing again.

#17: Deliver Us From Evil

I have to admit, given how badly this film manages to come together, it should be placed several spots further down the list, but the amount of unintentional laughs I got from this movie bumped it up a few places. It feels at times like it’s aware of how stupid it is, given how often it tries to be funny at its own expense, but other times it genuinely wants the audience to think that an exorcism scene where The Doors’ ‘Break On Through’ is playing is terrifying and not hilariously out-of-place. Throughout the running time, the amount of jump scares we get is ludicrous and, on occasion, rage-inducing. The only legitimately good part of this film is Edgar Ramirez, who is not only the best actor in this film but also gets the character that’s the best written as well, making for one of the few things that had me engaged throughout. However, with all that said, this is the only film on this list that I actually recommend for readers to check out because this is one of those films that is perfect for bad movie nights where you can get friends together to do your own MST3K routine. Otherwise, deliver yourself from Eric's performance, among other things.

This is like if Hollywood thought that The Asylum was making too much money with their mockbusters and decided to make their own: The effects are cheap and sometimes even worse than some Asylum productions, the acting is pretty much non-existent throughout with a pathetic male lead and some of the most blatant ripping off of 300 I’ve seen yet.

#15: And So It Goes

You know you’re in a classy film when it’s below an M rating and it has a rape joke within the first five minutes. The writer seems to have forgotten that, when you make a crotchety old man character, you need to at least make him funny as all the jokes in this movie fall with a very audible thud to the ground. The story is completely devoid of focus and aside from the couple of scenes with Diane Keaton singing, there’s not much to give credit to this movie for.

Admittedly decent actors let down by absolutely awful material. The setting is painfully generic and feels like it was ripped straight out of several other movies, the plot is not only idiotic but actually is ripped right out of another movie (Van Helsing), the characters constantly make dumb decisions because the plot needs them to and the effects are among some of the worst this year.

To contrast the previous pick, this has some of the best effects work of the year. Unfortunately, it is let down by incredibly stupid studio meddling to include bad voice acting, insipid narration and an almost unbelievably juvenile script. While the effects work should keep this off the list entirely, out of merit that it shows more effort was put into this than almost every other entry here, it makes it this far down the list purely because of how much of a colossal screw-up this film became in comparison to how good it could have been.

95% dull, with little to no actual plot to speak of and instead just meandering through its relatively short running time. Then it gets to the ending and not only effectively wasted our time because how much of the film wasn’t real, but also personally offended me because of its portrayal of the male lead’s mental breakdown. It, for some reason, thought that this guy going into a psychosis for two years was a good thing because it helped him build his confidence; I am kind of taken aback at just how offensive this film became, given the incredibly bland majority of it. The ending is just that bad that it alone warrants this film’s place on this list.

#11: Annie

Being a bad adaptation is one thing; doing so while having zero respect for your source material, while simultaneously trying to convince your audience of how much better you are than previous adaptations, is something else entirely. While the cast is mostly decent and there were a couple of good musical ideas floating around in the production, the soundtrack is bland pop garbage complete with Auto-Tune, which should be made illegal in musical films, and any attempts to go into this film with an open mind and ignoring the 1982 version are futile, considering how often this film tries to be cute and poke fun at it itself. Rarely do I see a Hollywood film be this kind of pretentious.

While having a rather mouth-watering cast list, their performances are only good within the context of a stage production; as a film, it’s way too over-the-top and melodramatic to take seriously. Not that I see the original play being all that good anyway given this script, its need to make every character unlikable and its abject failure at getting us to pity them when bad things happen to them. I believe that this is meant to be a black comedy as much as I believe that The Room was meant to be a black comedy.

#9: Planes: Fire And Rescue

It’s hard to imagine a film being worse than the original Planes but at least that film had a couple of interesting characters, even if they were shoved to the side for most of it. This film has all of the problems of the original: A script that thinks endless vehicle puns are the height of comedy, a roster of stereotypes pretending to be characters, a plot that is recycled from countless other movies, an arc for the main character that goes nowhere, a setting that makes little sense given how its presented and animation that is unbearably cheap-looking, especially for a theatrically-released film. No joke, after watching both this and its predecessor, I was so burnt out that I considered giving up on film watching entirely; it’s that bad.

#8: 22 Jump Street

After how much I enjoyed the first movie, I was hyped for this one. What I ended up getting, however, was an overload of gay jokes and innuendos and fewer deconstructive jokes that are just beaten into submission until they are completely unsalvageable. The literal best joke in the film is the end credits, where the writing is at its sharpest making fun of movie sequels, but this has since gone flat after it was announced that 23 Jump Street was indeed being made. Knowing that Lord and Miller, the same duo who brought us the surprise juggernaut of The LEGO Movie, were behind this one is very disheartening and I can only hope that this is a one-off in an otherwise promising filmography.

#7: The Other Woman

A watered-down version of She-Devil with Roseanne Barr, only with three scorned women instead of one and no justification for why we should root for them to win. Given how one of the three main characters, Leslie Mann’s Kate, is characterized, it feels like this film was originally meant to be a lot darker before it was rewritten, which sucks because it feels like whatever movie that would have been would at least be better than this. This is all kinds of cringe-inducing, with some pretty bad sexist jokes and some of the most clichéd music selections I’ve seen in a long time; this is the kind of film to play the Mission: Impossible theme unironically and think that it’s still a fresh joke.

#6: Into The Storm

Trying to give your found footage disaster film credibility by including an environmental message, and roping in Hurricane Katrina to help justify it, is pretty hackneyed and more than a little insulting but I’d be thankful if that was the only thing wrong with this movie. The characters are beyond clichéd and feel like they’re actively trying to get themselves killed with how stupid they are; the redneck comic relief is jarring and completely unnecessary; the found footage aspect is warped and twisted to the point where they shouldn’t have even bothered with it, with the shaky-cam making it so that we can’t see anything in a lot of the shots, and the effects work is average at best. It’s rare that a film will leave me with nothing good to say about it.

Even for a cheesy romance flick, this is horribly written. Whatever themes of fate and love they were trying to convey are extremely cookie-cutter and taken to rather ridiculous levels; the male lead is wish-fulfillment personified without any attempt at hiding it; the editing is shoddy and the ending is easily one of the most rage-inducing bits of fluff I've seen all year. This is a ‘chick flick’ in the worst possible sense of the term.

Even putting aside this film’s persecution complex that makes GamerGate look rational by comparison, the writing here does a pretty effective job at making everyone look bad, even its intended Christian demographic: Atheists are complete monsters; Muslims are violent zealots; and Christians are judgemental and self-righteous douchebags. Kevin Sorbo is the only actor who seems to have any fucks to give about his performance and makes for the most interesting part of the film, but even then he’s playing a completely transparent straw man that will probably only serve to offend most Atheists and be too over-the-top for most Christian audiences to take seriously… at least, I hope that’s how they’ll see it because, quite frankly, thinking that this is how Christians see non-Christians is kind of terrifying.

#3: Any Day Now

The only thing this film was missing was being set in Nazi Germany for it to tick every single box for Oscar bait: A gay couple take in a child with Down Syndrome after his drug addict mother goes to jail, the mother believes that they are unfit to raise her son because of their sexuality so they hire a black lawyer to defend them. However, it can’t even do Oscar bait right since the writing keeps falling flat on its face. Every frame of this film feels cold and calculated, designed to emotionally manipulate its audience and while a lot of films are like this, it shouldn’t be this easy to see through. Add to this an ending that exists for no other reason than for the audience to feel sad, and the rather pathetic attempt to ground this film in reality by saying it’s “based on actual events”, which is complete bullshit, and not even Alan Cumming’s decent performance and singing can save this movie.

#2: Winter’s Tale

Hands down, the dumbest film of the year and easily one of the dumbest of the last few years. The writing only has two modes: Nonsensical and brain numbingly trite, with the writer clearly forgetting that, even in a fantastical setting, there still needs to be a sense of logic in why things are the way they are in-story. Instead, we get events happening out of nowhere with no rhyme or reason, not to mention plot conveniences-a-plenty. Also, the characters are all different varieties of badly drawn from the pretentious Beverly who does nothing but spew Malick-esque platitudes to the moronic Pearly whose plans to get the main character are the kind of thing that 50’s cartoons were already making fun of. Aside from Will Smith as Lucifer, which I give credit to for giving a well-done interpretation of the character, this film is just a sink-hole of time, effort and any form of sense.

#1: Divergent

This may seem like a pretty odd pick for my worst film of the year, especially given its competition, but here’s my reasoning: As bad as every other film on this list is, as well as a few that didn’t make the cut, at least they managed to convince me that their worlds existed. Their worlds would be unfathomably stupid, but at least they did that well enough. Divergent, on the other hand, has a premise and setting that are so flimsy that I did not for one second buy into anything that I was seeing on screen. The acting is definitely better than I was expecting, but the plot literally requires for the characters the actors are playing to be one-dimensional ciphers, showing how little this film understands about basic human nature and good screenwriting. This is a film that fails at its concept and goes down from there, and as a work of fiction that is unacceptable.

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