Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Worst Movies of 2014

There are some obvious ones missing from this list.

I didn't watch A Winter's Tale (nor could I ever imagine doing so), and a dislike for both Nicole Kidman and Grace Kelly kept me away from Princess Grace: Weepy Pants. And I couldn't force myself to Transformers 4, even though I had a free ticket.

All of which made most of the 'Worst Of' lists I've seen.

So this is a personal selection, from the 80 or so features I did watch this year, and it comes with the usual provisos; the author is neither very educated, nor very awake (most of the time), and his long term addiction to Eclipse mints can be a film watching handicap.

With that in mind, an otherwise definitive list of the years worst films.


Having slumbered for 15 years since it's last, disastrous, reboot, the world's most famous monster seemed ready for another tilt at the big time. And, on paper, this movie seemed highly promising; a hip young director (Gareth Edwards, of Monsters fame), a big budget and a surprisingly heavyweight cast, including Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, even Walter White himself (Bryan Cranston, terrific as an earnest engineer). But, apart from an exciting set up sequence in a stricken nuclear power plant, this silly, clumsy film almost entirely failed to deliver. The big guy is fun, but there is entirely too little of him, and way too much of wooden leading man Aaron Taylor-Johnson, badly miscast and utterly woeful. Some of the action sequences have potential, but even these are hampered by a hyperactive editing style, that cuts away from the monster mayhem right as things are about to get smashed. What should have been a rollicking, popcorn munching thrill ride ended as just another overpriced session at the IMAX, followed by a looong walk home.. 


Serpentine plotting can serve a movie well, but there are some guidelines; the twists have to be carefully concealed, the ending a surprise and the scenarios along the way credible. Abandoning all three early on, this local time travel thriller tries to make up with effort what it lacks in subtlety and polish. And imported leading man Ethan Hawke does his best with the giddy material, gamely keeping a straight face while pursuing a criminal named The Fizzle Bomber. Also in the mix is 2014's most obvious woman pretending to be a man (local gal Sarah Snooke, trying hard), a high tech violin case and Noah Taylor, doing a fair impression of the Cancer Man from the X Files. There's a lot of energy and enthusiasm on display here, but only a little craft, which makes for a largely unsatisfying flick. The plot twists only get sillier, and more laughable, the longer it goes. Bold ambition in film makers is laudable but, unfortunately, even the best intentions can fall flat.


Also from the local industry, this low budget, wannabe-supernatural thriller has cut a bit of a swathe on the festival circuit, garnering great reviews and a spot on the New York Times best films of the year list. All the more surprising then, that the film is neither scary, nor suspenseful, nor can come up with a better ending than the most obvious plot device in the history of boogeyman films (Oh! It's all in the weird characters head. I mean, really?). This is writer/director (and onetime actor) Jennifer Kent's first feature and, unfortunately, it shows; the amateurish direction and editing entirely fails to create any atmosphere, not at all helped by a terrible performance from Daniell Henshall, wretched in the crucial role of 'The Troubled Child.' The mysterious book that puts the story in motion (pictured above) is creepy, which makes you wonder what Tim Burton and an animation studio could have done with this. But in these hands it is simply dull, and so very obvious.


Writer-director Ben Stiller has an excellent track record with his own films; they're mostly really good, and, occasionally, really awesome ('Cable Guy', 'Zoolander'). But this, a re-make of a Danny Kay vehicle based on the novel of the same name, is an almost total misfire. The buttoned down office drone Stiller plays at the start of the movie we've seen many times before, and his transformation into a romantic global adventurer is trite when it isn't tedious. The meaning of life, Stiller's Mitty works out, is 'Follow your heart,' a message you may have already picked up from every other film ever made. Much more offensive than this, though, is the relentless product placement that dominates large tracts of the narrative. Suffice to say that the internet dating site and pizza chain that sponsored this turkey got their money's worth. The one saving grace, and it's worth a little something, are some beautiful images from the film shoot's far flung locations, but you can get these at too, and their advertising is much less crass.


American director David Fincher has had a bit of a mid career sea change; away from the edgy material of his earlier films (Se7en, Fight Club), towards pulpier, mainstream fodder (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Very much in the latter vain is this ludicrous, overheated thriller, which Fincher has brought to the big screen straight from the discount book bin at the local airport. The story - pretty young wife goes missing, neglectful hubby looks guilty - starts off well enough, but just cannot resist tipping its hand early. The big reveal, as to the whereabouts of the wife, comes after about forty minutes and, with this, goes any reason anyone may have had in watching the rest of it. Which is not to say that the remaining two hours aren't lively; there's a new twist every ninety seconds, and each one goes soaring to new heights of craziness; corrupt lawyers, trailer trash criminals, kinky sex, an evil yuppie and a boo-hiss tabloid TV host all dive in to this mess and wriggle around. And that's without mentioning the laughably named Detective Boney, and her prissy sidekick, ineptly questioning everything in sight. The only thing more ludicrous than the way these plot strands ties together is the earnest commentary that has accompanied the film, of the 'biting satire of our media obsessed times' variety. Good satire is a rapier, and this is more like a rubbery bludgeon. 


Continuing a dismal 2014 for the local film industry (and I'm not even done yet, see below), this barely released and little seen action comedy took high concept film making to the very lowest levels. Because, on paper, the conceit behind this looks promising; cast acerbic British comedian Simon Pegg against type as a hitman, then let him make like the Man With No Name in a rural Australian town populated by dimwits. Really, I'm pretty keen to see that movie. Or I was, once. But, unfortunately, in order to flesh out this synopsis, the film makers have opted to lean on every lame, worn out stereotype in the formula movie playbook. So; the main story revolves around a bar owner who's wife is cheating on him; he wants to kill her; he is also a drunk; then there's a life insurance scam; and a corrupt cop; and... well, who cares really. You've seen it all before, done much better. The couple of laughs that Pegg does engender (and he does quite well really, considering how bad the rest of this is) only serve to highlight what could have been, in more skillful hands.


One man TV industry Seth McFarlane (Family Guy, Robot Chicken) scored a big hit two years ago with his first foray into movies; Ted, a gross out comedy with McFarlane as the voice of a foul mouthed teddy bear. For this, his excruciatingly unfunny follow up, McFarlane has returned as writer, director and producer, and also installed himself as leading man, front and center in every single shot across the endless run time (watching this it was hard not to imagine his directing style, 'How about another close up of my giant head? Yes, another one!'). Much of the comedy is meant to derive from McFarlane's mild character interacting with a parade of macho Western cliches, but his supreme awfulness, his relentless, arrogant, wankery-ness, will have you rooting for any one of the villains to pick him off. You certainly won't be laughing, unless you think someone saying 'Fuck' a lot is funny. Worst of all, McFarlane's obsession with himself means that the well credentialed supporting cast - Liam Neeson! Giovanni Ribisi! Charlize Theron! - are all relegated to the sidelines. You wouldn't imagine any of them would be back, when 'Seth McFarlane's Third Movie' is inevitably released.


2012's Spider Man reboot was a very odd duck; Sam Raimi's popular reboot trilogy was still pretty fresh, and the thought of going through a new origin story with different actors seemed bizarre. But if that first installment seemed curious, it now looks like a masterwork in comparison to this inept, utterly atrocious sequel. Every single element required for a successful multiplex flick has gone awry here; the villains are goofy (and poorly motivated), the story is convoluted and endless, the special effects look like they were knocked up on an app. Even our leads, the normally brilliant Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, look... distracted? Bored, even. Everyone involved, it seems, has cottoned on to the pointlessness of this movies existence, and reacted accordingly. 'Just get it done! And then we can move on to the next one.' A dismal example of contemporary, big studio film making, where the film is almost secondary to the product placement and toy sales. You really hope that there won't be another one of these, while, at the same time, you know there will be.


Unlike a few films on this list, Monuments Men is technically well made and has everything money can buy. It looks a treat. It also has a roll call of brilliant, hip character actors filling all of its major parts, undoubted testimony to the popularity and pull of writer/director George Clooney. So there really is no excuse, none, for the dismal fiasco that has resulted here. A potentially interesting story - art experts rescuing stolen art treasures from the Nazis - given the laziest, most half hearted treatment imaginable, rounded off by a booming chorus of 'rah-rah the Yanks saved everyone' bullshit. Jingoism! From George Freakin' Clooney! If I hadn't had my mind slowed by two hours of this dreck, I would've been totally outraged. Offensive to the sensibilities, numbing to the mind, an outright failure in every important way. Phew, that felt good.


To cap off a year of, largely, terrible Australian films, comes the very worst of the bunch; a long delayed sequel to an already forgettable Australian slasher flick from 2005. Back behind the wheel for this second installment is John Jarrett, making like the Freddy Kruger of the outback in his tattered hat and red shirt. But, as Jarrett's Mick Taylor is no longer a fresh concept second time round, the film makers have tried to add some new elements to his grimace and stab routine. So, like a crazed version of Barry McKenzie, Mick is now a nationalist, which a regularly stated hatred of anyone not from Australia (which doesn't stop him killing a local farmer and cop, of course). 'Clever take on the current state of National issues' anyone? Mick's also lost his sense of humour, as the wise cracks from the first movie have been wound back to him saying 'Yeah?' aggressively. The director, Greg McLean, also chucks in a horrendous, utterly pointless, sequence that shows Mick mowing down a group of kangaroos with a semi trailer (the absolute low point, of my film watching year). It's all in the service of being shocking and provocative, and you feel that there is nothing the team behind this wouldn't stoop to, to get these labels attached; 'Have Mick eat someone's balls! Rape a dingo! Choke someone with vegemite!' Talent-less, worthless, junk, utterly devoid of any merit.

No comments:

Post a Comment