Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Worst Films of 2013

This list comes with a few provisos:

a) There were lots of movies that I didn't see this year;

b) I don't know that much about movies really;

c) I don't know that much about anything.

With that in mind then, an otherwise definitive guide to the worst films of the year.


South East Asia is a nice place to visit. And an even nicer place to spend Christmas, at least if you're white, Western and loaded enough to hire your own private plantation replete with army of dark skinned servants. Shame that a big wave had to come and spoil the fun. But, if you've not seen this, you can rest easy knowing that the wealthy white folks get away safely, ensconced in their own private plane while the grubby natives look on disconsolately from behind a barbed wire fence. Sucks to be them! This film was rightly lauded for the special effects that re-created the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, but unfortunately this only lasts for about 5 minutes. The remainder of the running time is taken up with fatuous melodrama, which is offensive when it isn't mundane. The only thing they didn't show was Naomi Watts stepping on the head of some local nobody, as she sprinted for the getaway plane.


This wasn't the worst zombie movie of the year (see below) but nevertheless, problems remain. Fans of Night of the Living Dead, for example, will be surprised by the lack of scares. And fans of the popular novel this is based on will be surprised by how it’s no longer set in the future and told from multiple points of view. And fans of entertainment will wonder how $200 million could be spent to produce something so devoid of any entertainment value. This film has a few good moments and Brad Pitt tries his best as a hackneyed everyman, but it’s mostly just overblown, silly and dull. Humanity's central defence against zombie takeover – they won’t attack people who are injured – also means that pretty much everyone alive on planet earth today would be safe from them (who hasn't had an injury or two), thusly negating the film’s existence. Which would have saved everyone a bit of time, if nothing else.


JJ’s first Star Trek reboot was a lot of fun; New Spock and New Kirk took to their roles with relish and quickly established some chemistry that seemed set to power the franchise. And the preliminaries on this follow up could hardly have been better; a thunderous trailer and Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain (yay!). This good feeling lasted through the pre-credits sequence – a vigorous run through the jungle on a primitive planet – but began to fade about the time a mysterious set of tubes were entrusted to the Enterprise’s crew. 


‘That’s right, tubes Kirk. Tubes!’ 

The tubes contain… bodies? Which were put there because… not too sure. But the bodies themselves had come from a failed experiment of some sort, conducted by someone, somewhere else. The ship’s cute new lady engineer then shimmies down to her undies to try and work out what’s going on, by which time I was looking around the IMAX trying to see if anyone else’s mouth was hanging open. The whole thing wraps up with a bizarre re-telling of the famous ending from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, only with the principal roles reversed… for some reason. This made squillions and was liked by Trekkies (for the most part) but for me, was the worst tent pole of the year.

7. THIS IS 40

Pity Pete and Debbie; they live in an enormous mansion, have tonnes of disposable income, two cars, four laptops, 8 TV’s, 16 i-Devices, live in the richest country on Earth and have never wanted for anything in their entire lives. Wait… What was that thing at the start? Oh right, the pity thing. Oh, yes, well, it seems that both of them are getting a bit older. And Pete spent $25000 on a neon sign for his business which he should have given to his dad. And one of the employees at Debbie’s hobby homewares shop is hotter than her and makes her feel a bit dowdy. It makes your eyes moist to think of it all, to be sure. While this bloated, mid life crisis comedy is technically well made and has some fun with the supporting characters, there’s something utterly obscene about watching these wealthy, spoilt brats bemoan their lot. Do the makers of this have no idea what’s going on outside the gates of their privileged, fortified compound? History will tell you that they never do, until the mob forces the gate and puts them to the sword.


AKA, When Great Directors Go Bad. Pedro Almodovar has found late career lustre with a string of rapturously received comedy-dramas (Talk to Her, All About My Mother and Volver chief among them) but his last two movies have died terrible, tawdry deaths. But if 2011’s The Skin I Live In was merely trashy, exploitive junk, this dismal, wannabe provocative comedy set on a doomed airliner ups the ante by adding more adjectives; insipid, boring, unfunny, tired and pretentious among them. What may have seemed fresh and lively when Almodovar was making films in the 70’s and early 80’s has long been gazzumped by a shift in taste: The Farrelly Brothers moved jokes about semen into the mainstream a decade ago and this sad attempt by the director to return to his X rated roots falls resoundingly flat. Embarrassing.


Something about this lame, unappealing zombie rom-com recalls the South Park episode where AWESOME-O pitches new Adam Sandler movie ideas to Hollywood execs… ‘Adam Sandler is trapped on a desert island and falls in love with a coconut… Adam Sandler inherits a billion dollars but first he has to become a boxer…' So, we've had low budget zombie movies and big budget zombie movies, zombie action films, zombie sci-fi films, zombie comedies, a critically acclaimed zombie TV show and films where the zombie-ization has been caused by space rays and aliens and solar flares and viruses and radio waves until… Well, how about zombies in space? Zombies at Spring Break? Hold the phone I’ve got it, zombie rom-com!! Suffice to say that this film struggles from the opening voice over but then, much like the subject matter, fails to properly die, limping on through 98 more excruciating minutes. Not something John Malkovich will highlight on his CV.


I had very much enjoyed 2012’s The Sound of My Voice, about independent journalists trying to debunk a suburban cult leader, so was eager to see this re-team of that film’s writers, director and star (Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, sharing duties). And their scenario here had potential; a young investigator (Marling) is assigned to infiltrate a secretive enviro-terrorist group and write an expose of their activities. But from the moment the established members of said group show up to breakfast wearing strait jackets and then feed each other without using their hands, this film quickly throws off any claim to credibility it may have had. Even worse, the plot devolves into a malnourished will-she won’t-she scenario, as our heroine tries to decide whether to stick by her dorky new terrorist boyfriend or stay loyal to her boo-hiss evil corporate boss. ‘Isn't there a third option?’ you want to demand on her behalf. Cliched scenarios, dialogue and characters abound, as the film plods slowly to an obvious finale. The biggest disappointment of my movie year.


This movie could serve as some kind of guide to creative casting: Zak Effron as a shy, backwards type; Nicole Kidman as a trashy southern sexpot; John Cusack as… a crazed, red neck, croc hunter!!! Woo hooo! That each of these ideas is sillier than the last (although Effron is pretty good actually) points you clearly in the direction of the mindset of this ludicrous thriller, which starts out in a middling fashion and then quickly heads downhill. As the plot unfolds in a way that is probably meant to be serpentine, but is actually just plain daft, the bizarre sights and sounds pile up like cars on a highway at the start of a Final Destination film; Nicole Kidman urinating on Effron’s leg, Matthew McConaughney revealed as a BDSM freak, baccy chewin’ Cusack coming on a like a tough old bubba while a rubber alligator hangs from a tree behind him. This last was so absurd that it gave me a good laugh, which is probably not the idea when characters lives are meant to be at stake. Still, at least it was a rare moment of levity, on a night otherwise better spent in front of HBO. 


With the plethora of Superhero and Comic Book movies that have filled multiplexes of late, here is a concept that no one had thought of yet; take a well known superhero, remove them from their normal genre and dump them in an entirely different type of movie. So, in this case, we have Wolverine taken out of his usual context battling other mutants and plonked at the heart of a Yakuza/Asian crime saga. As an idea, this feels like the random garbage that comes out of a late Wednesday afternoon spitballing session, and as a movie it works about as well as watching Superman go to the old West or Batman join an interstellar space mission (the latter, admittedly, a pretty awesome idea). That the Yakuza/Asian crime drama Hugh Jackman’s earnest hero finds himself in here is also an overwrought, dreary mess clearly doesn't help. And neither does the feeling that nothing happening on screen really means anything much, beyond the Wolverine Happy meal tie in at Maccas.


There are always questions around remakes. Why? Being the main one. With this unbearably mediocre rehash, another would be ‘How do I remove all trace of what I just watched from my brain?’ Lacuna Inc? But perhaps the makers of this version were always on a hiding to nothing. The 1976 Brian DePalma original is a favourite of many, and not just from the horror-cult fanboy community. But everything that makes the original work seems to have been sucked right out of this; it’s neither scary, nor funny, nor populated with crazy-awesome 70’s hair and clothes. And Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek are enormously large shoes to fill, even for the well credentialed replacements that have been brought in. Ultimately, this Carrie just feels amateurish and the pointlessness of its existence is enough to require French terminology to describe it. Carrie is... The worst film I saw this year.

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