Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Worst of 2014 So Far

This has been the smallest number of films I've seen since I started.  Officially, I have reviewed 40 films, which surprised even me. 

Part of it was school, which became harder this year than last year.  Part of it was a small number of screeners sent to me.  Part of it was that I didn't review some films I saw.  I didn't see 40 films the whole year.  There were films pre-2014 that I reviewed, and at least three films that I saw I didn't review (The Equalizer, No Good Deed, and Let's Be Cops). 

Now, as is the case let us now look at those ten films that I found at the bottom of my list.  Ten films that I found either failures or simply appalling. 

Let's just get this over with.

NUM. 10

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn't a movie.  It was a damn two-hour-plus trailer for The Sinister Six.  You could have cut all of Paul Giamatti's embarrassing Rhino out of the film and it would have worked much better.  TASP2 had the same problem as Spider-Man 3: too many villains, which then creates so many story threads it soon overwhelms everyone and everything.  This was a movie by committee, a vain and blundering effort to create an instant Marvel Universe without any forethought. 

The only real good moments were between Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy (and by the way, cutting Shailene Woodley's Mary Jane was an equally dumb idea).   The fact that they are lovers in real life I figure helps, but boy was TASP2 a jumbled mess.  A couple of interesting revelations from the SONY hacking scandal were that a deal was in the works for a Spider-Man appearance in a Marvel movie, and that SONY was seriously considering dumping Garfield as Spidey.   It's not a big surprise given this recent high school graduate is 30 and that TASP2 was neither a critical or box-office hit (like the first two Tobey Maguire films).   Odd that I think Garfield makes a great Peter Parker but Maguire makes a better Spider-Man, so for me it's a case of I couldn't care less. 

I really disliked the movie, primarily because it simply could have been better if more thought and less villains were involved.

NUM. 9

The praise The Theory of Everything is getting is truly puzzling to me.  People seem to love it, and many of my fellow critics seem to love it too.   I'm told it's 'beautiful' and 'inspirational'.  I found it dull, self-important, and empty.  I never once saw Stephen Hawking in the film.  What I saw was Eddie Redmayne giving a naked plea to a.) be taken seriously as a 'serious' actor a la Daniel Day-Lewis, and b.) for an Academy Award.  Redmayne was mechanical, perfectly efficient in his performance, but he never got to the core of Hawking.  It was an impersonation, not a realization.  Further, The Theory of Everything is so dry and paint-by-numbers that you'd think the screenplay was from a template, not real life.  Personally, I think Redmayne's hammy, campy performance in the Jupiter Ascending TRAILER is better than this highly-vaunted performance.

Jupiter Ascending is scheduled to be released February 6, too late to influence Academy voters who will be swamped with "Redmayne is this generation's Day-Lewis or Olivier" tripe that might get them to vote for a biopic of a disabled British man.  I can only pray that both bad buzz about Jupiter Ascending and the ascension of another actor can throw Redmayne off the pedestal he's placed himself in.  Now, let me be clear: I LIKE Eddie Redmayne as an actor...mostly.  I just hated him in this, and I just hated The Theory of Everything as well.

NUM. 8
The first of two efforts to simultaneously cash in on and mock people of faith.

Noah was not a religious movie, if director Darren Aronofsky is to be believed.  That's pretty much a bad starting point when making a Biblical epic.  By turning a story about an obedient man of God into this hallucinatory tale of environmental apocalypse where our hero is a murderous lunatic bent on destruction, you simply aren't making anything close to the story of Noah and the Ark.  Why were they so afraid of using "God", putting in this "Creator" business?  God wiped out almost all humanity, if the Bible is to be believed, because of their sin, not because they cut down too many trees and were mining the Earth.  The Rock-Monsters made it look like a sci-fi film, and Noah, far from believing God wanted to destroy all humanity, knew God wanted to simply start fresh.

I have no problem accepting that the Genesis story of Noah may be symbolic and literal as the same time.   I do have a problem when the original is so altered it is unrecognizable.  Believers were mostly hoodwinked into thinking Noah wasn't going to, shall we say, take liberties, with Scripture.  Some were warned, but others didn't get the message. 

Even all that could be forgiven if the film was actually any good.  I did fall asleep for a few minutes, never a good sign, but apart from the pretty colors and nice music Noah sunk. 

NUM. 7

The second of two efforts to simultaneously cash in and mock people of faith.

Why, oh why can't Hollywood stick to the script?  I'm not saying that the people who made big-budget Biblical epics in the 1950s were of deeper spiritual fortitude than people today.  They had their drugs, their booze, their mistresses (and male lovers) while making films about the Redeemer and His work/workers.  However, at least they understood that you will never make a financial impact if you deliberately go out to ridicule your audience. 

Cecil B. De Mille understood that, which is why he gave audiences what they wanted when he remade his own The Ten Commandments.  Many cineastes may hate De Mille and think he made shallow films with bad acting and big sets, but if you look closer The Ten Commandments is a deeper film than perhaps given credit for, an allegory about the Cold War cloaked in Biblical robes.  That, and it was also entertaining and moved to where you never noticed how much time had gone.

None of this can be said about Exodus: Gods and Kings.  It was boring.  It was badly-acted.  It was lethargic.  It had a lead who thought Moses was barbaric and schizophrenic, which I'm sure wouldn't go over well with Jews, Christians, and Moslems who think him a prophet and a great leader/lawgiver.  Oh, and making God take the shape of a tempermental child rather than a burning bush (which was all a result of hallucinations on the part of the barbaric schizophrenic), all pretty much doomed Exodus.

Again, say what you will about De Mille, at least HE understood his audiences and gave them what they wanted, and did it well.  Which do YOU think will be shown on television next year, and every year henceforth?

NUM. 6
It's a shame really since the subject of The Monuments Men is really a fascinating story.  Pity that George Clooney drowned it in such airless seriousness.  Whether Clooney wanted to make an artistic Dirty Dozen or the more intellectual Saving Private Ryan I can't say.  I know he felt the failure of The Monuments Men deeply (thanks, SONY hackers!).  I think it was because it tried too hard, tried to be too inspirational, and only ended up boring.

Well, Clooney is allowed a few bombs.  Just try to make a film George, not a triumphant Academy Award-winner.  At least you were better than that which follows you...

NUM. 5

I have been one of the few people to defend the first two Atlas Shrugged films, though I argued that it would have worked better as a miniseries.   I thought the first two films were pretty good, though nowhere near the best films I've seen.

Part III, subtitled Who is John Galt?, was simply a disaster.  Bad acting to where it was comical, scenes that were unintentionally hilarious (John Galt and Dagny Taggart's consummation of their lusts elicited howls of laughter in the theater), and an inept series of montages that were suppose to explain things. 

What a mess.  Even Objectivists objected to the destruction of Ayn Rand's magnum opus. 

NUM. 4
I never understood the Marshmallows, this cult built around a television show that was never popular.  Bless them for keeping Veronica Mars alive, but this film was simply the worst way to introduce these characters to a non-Marshmallow. 

The story itself was boring.  I think it was because it was basically a television movie made larger, almost like the series finale the VM fans wanted.  I thought the characters, particularly Veronica, pretty stupid.  I certainly wouldn't have chosen the man she picked at the end.  The mystery wasn't all that interesting, and you needed to have a little knowledge about who and what the characters were if you wanted to get everything out of it.

Veronica Mars the movie didn't inspire a desire to watch Veronica Mars the series.  In fact, it did quite the opposite.  I just hope the Marshmallow-brains are satisfied and can now peacefully shut up about this show.

NUM. 3
I think Anton Yelchin is one of our better younger actors around, so seeing him in Odd Thomas was so sad.  I'm told that the Dean Koontz series is quite good, but the film adaptation of the first Odd Thomas book wouldn't show it. 

Odd Thomas played like a television pilot, with a dull story and almost bad acting save for Yelchin, who gave it his all and made it tolerable, almost believable.  I hope that films like Odd Thomas will be a hiccup in Yelchin's career rather than the norm. 

NUM. 2

My review for Godzilla was quite simple.  I fell asleep at it.  I know many people absolutely loved Godzilla and found it all so exciting.  They're free to think that.  I found it all dragged, waiting and waiting and waiting for Godzilla to finally appear. 

Seriously, how much screentime did Godzilla actually take up in Godzilla?  I'd venture to say at most, MOST, ten minutes (and I imagine I'm being generous by at least eight minutes).   For all the Strum und Drang the film pumped at us, Godzilla dragged.  I understand there will be a sequel. 

Maybe the King of Monsters will appear for at least three scenes.  BOY did Godzilla take itself so seriously...

NUM. 1

That Awkward Moment...when you realize a film is garbage.

We have two of the best actors around, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, and reduce them to juvenile idiots.  Even Zac Efron, whom I am two minds of, deserved better.

There was no story in That Awkward Moment. There was no pleasant characters to which to hold onto and identify with.  The whole film is cringe-worthy in what it does, what tale it tells, and in its sorry and predictable way.  That Awkward Moment was empty, vapid, insulting and worse, thought itself witty.  It takes a lot to get some really incredible actors to do terrible things on-screen and to act badly.  If I were Teller or Jordan, I'd burn every copy of That Awkward Moment and deny ever appearing in it.

Congratulations, That Awkward Moment.  You are 2014's Worst Film.      

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