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Monday, January 5, 2015

Depp, Diaz, Downey: 5 Disappointments & The 10 Worst Films of 2014


Once again, I must note that this list and others have also been posted on Why So Blu, but are now here on my site as well, with some minor tweaks.  With that said, this is never a post of joy, but every year does see the release of films that are not very good.  I never seek out films with the purpose of hating them and a majority of these are not without redeemable elements, but if I have at least 10 films on a list that I consider better than the rest I saw this year, then this is a list that features at least 10 films I would say are worse than everything else I saw.  I have also included the films I was most disappointed in, which are not necessarily bad movies, but not ones I would say lived up to their potential.  Final note:  this is my list, meaning I only saw so much of what was generally considered ‘terrible,’ basically meaning that I was not racing out to see Blended, Saving Christmas, or I, Frankenstein, while I was also fine with certain ‘alleged’ atrocities, such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Trans4mers, so they won’t be anywhere near this list.  And with all that said, let’s dig into the bottom of barrel.

Most Disappointing:

Again, I wouldn't say that this short (alphabetical) list is comprised of terrible films, but they are ones I thought had a lot of potential, but wound up being merely average or worse.  Here we go:


Exodus: Gods and KingsAt his best, director Ridley Scott can blend an epic sense of scale with a solid story, and a rousing sense of entertainment, populated with good characters.  Unfortunately, Exodus: Gods and Kings botched the story of Moses by basically doing nothing all that interesting with it.  Putting controversies surrounding the white-washing of the leads aside, the film is still plagued by a poor script and a lack of understanding of what would work best – going full camp or keeping things deathly serious.  These issues and more led to a film that let me down in terms of what Ridley Scott is capable of and how to make a misfire of one of my favorite biblical stories. (Movie Review)


Life of CrimeThis film should have been a home run.  I love hearing Elmore Leonard dialogue in films.  Jackie Brown is one of my all-time favorites.  Making a film about the early lives of a few of those characters, featuring actors that include John Hawkes and Tim Robbins seemed like a perfect opportunity for some fun.  Instead, Life of Crime is a crime comedy with almost no energy, save for a few good moments.  The cast is fine and have nice chemistry, but it felt like no real chances were taken to really give this film the edge it needed. (Movie Review)


The Monuments MenWhen I first heard that this potential awards contender was being moved out of a prime slot in December 2013 to the following February, I was really hoping there was a good reason.  Unfortunately, upon seeing this George Clooney-directed period film, the problem was clear: there was no interesting story to tell.  Despite a great cast and something of a hook to sell the idea of a good movie, The Monuments Men was really just a meandering experience held together by a few nice moments between the characters and a lot of narration to stitch together the history lesson better suited for a History Channel episode, which probably already exists. (Movie Review)


A Million Ways to Die in the West – To restate something from a couple years ago, I am not a big fan of Family Guy, but I really fell for Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.  That right there was reason enough for me to be really interested in his comedy that attempts to satirize the old west by way of anachronistic humor.  Unfortunately, MacFarlane got too caught up in putting together what is actually a well-made western that is just not nearly as funny as it needs to be to support attempts the film makes to resemble a classically-styled western.  Even with an all-star cast that includes Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron attempting to have fun with Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Silverman, A Million Ways to Die in the West only had moments of good laughs, instead of being non-stop hilarious. (Movie Review)


X-Men: Days of Future PastYes, there is a good movie here overall, with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continuing to provide some of the best performances we have seen in the long-running X-Men film franchise.  With that in mind, what I was hoping could be an incredible X-Men film was merely a satisfactory one.  Yes, it was nice to see Bryan Singer back in the director’s chair, but I also got a lot of what I have seen before, right down to another climax featuring Magneto lifting something really heavy to make his point.  I was pleased to see an X-Men film where Wolverine was not the only one who could save the day for a change, but at the same time, being able to boil this down to a story about two guys fighting over a girl (Jennifer Lawrence, who I am still not a big fan of as Mystique) only seems like biding time until Apocalypse comes. (Movie Review)

Not Quite Top Ten Worst, But Still Quite Bad:


Special Mention:


Winter’s Tale – This film does not deserve to be on a top ten worst list, but it does deserve to be mentioned in this post, as it is so bat-shit crazy, that the words ‘magic horse’ do not even begin to describe why the film is too off-the-wall bonkers to actually hate.  A very earnest attempt at adapting the supernatural fable of the same name, Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay may have been perfectly suited for a film of this type, but every choice writer/director Akiva Goldsman made around them was quite the wild one.  With that in mind, Russell Crowe is chewing the scenery and even some of the actors to better help his role as a demon looking to stop Farrell from succeeding, with a number of supporting characters (including one major cameo), that all look to place this film even further into its own little universe.  Winter’s Tale is far too crazy to really say it is terrible and it is most certainly entertaining in its own silly way.  Better to be turned into a future drinking game, if anything.


Now for The Top Ten Worst:


10. The JudgeGood on Robert Downey, Jr. working hard to get a personal project made, but shame on him for not being smart enough to see how he was starring in a movie that his own smartass character would happily make fun of for being a trite, cliché, and overlong piece of work.  Oh yes, it is nice to see Robert Duvall show that he can easily play old and cranky, but having him argue with Downey, Jr. in the middle of a huge storm is just one of the many moments of over-direction that have The Judge continually stumble to the finish.  And did I mention the subplot involving possible incest used as a running joke at the expense of Downey’s character?  Guilty. (Movie Review)


9. TranscendenceGiven the number of big stars and its sci-fi plot, it is impressive that Transcendence pretty much wins the award for most boring film of the year.  This was a slog of a film, with Nolan’s frequent cinematographer, Wally Pfister, making his directorial debut in the very least impressive of ways.  It was clearly a bad start by showing us the end of the film first and taking away any kind of narrative tension, but things only went down from there.  Points for making a film that did not require Johnny Depp to play dress up for a change, but chalking up his lack of screen presence to the fact that he becomes computerized does not make up for the rest of the poor characters we have to deal with.  Cyberjunk. (Movie Review)


8. Vampire AcademyI am happy for the few people, beyond the core fanbase, sticking up for this mess of a film, but it did nothing for me, aside from making my eyes roll a lot.  Vampire Academy certainly wants to be a hip variation on the YA supernatural romance novel for teens, but it stumbles badly thanks to poor attempts at being witty, snappy, and fun.  Zoey Deutch may have worked for me more, if her role did not seem to be an exact take off of what I have seen Ellen Page do plenty of times before, but despite her valiant effort, along with a truly hammy Gabriel Byrne lurking in the background, I was happy to drop out of this academy. (Movie Review)


7. AnnabelleLet’s stop for a second and reflect on the fact that Annabelle made over a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide.  That is incredibly depressing, as this abysmal horror spin-off from The Conjuring failed in so many ways.  Sure, a movie featuring a creepy doll has worked in the past, but this time around, we get nothing but cheapness, from the settings to the scares.  The film lacks the sort of craft that helps in building the sense of dread one could enjoy in a film like this and the very poor script only had this film seeming as hollow as the doll.  I’m selling Annabelle to Goodwill next chance I get. (Movie Review)


6. Need for SpeedThere is a reason many people have been enjoying the Fast & Furious film franchise – the cast.  Stunts are cool and all, but the film has an enjoyable (and diverse) cast to keep it all together.  Need for Speed, the latest video game film to wind up on a ‘worst of’ list, can pride itself all it wants on having so many practical effects and stunt driving, but it has no soul, just a bunch of jerks causing mayhem and destruction everywhere they go.  Aaron Paul does his best monotone, dull leading man impression in this ridiculous film that does not need a good story, just fun characters and car chases.  Unfortunately, this 130 minute film about racing is poorly paced and lacks the fun characters I was looking for, replacing them with annoying ones instead.  I was happy using a turbo boost to get away from this one. (Movie Review)


5. RobocopGood thing Michael Keaton is a frontrunner for Best Actor in Birdman, because the one-two punch of Need for Speed and Robocop is a little sad, despite him being among the only good things in both.  Here’s a remake that I would not have called unnecessary until I actually saw footage from it.  It was a bad-looking movie from the start and things did not change once I actually had seen it.  This Robocop features an ugly redesign of the mechanized character and a poor script that does nothing to make the original story more interesting, with a lack of the biting social commentary that turned Verhoeven’s film into a modern classic.  Instead, we get a humdrum, slick-looking, action picture that feels more like a product of companies that the original film satirized. Time for a new mission directive. (Movie Review)


4. The Face of LoveIt brings me no joy to put down a film that hardly did any business, but dammit if I cannot stick by saying how bad this Annette Bening/Ed Harris romance drama is.  Working with a zany story about a widow finding her husband’s doppelganger and deciding to pursue a relationship with him, while a pathetic Robin Williams character disapproves from a distance, The Face of Love wishes it could get by with just being a sappy little film, headlined by great actors.  The fact that it instead manages to outdo the silly conventions of works by Nicholas Sparks is almost impressive.  Face off. (Movie Review)


3. The Other WomanEven the title is wrong in this pathetic attempt at a ‘tables have been turned,’ female-driven, rom-com, as it really should be the The Other Women.  Cameron Diaz makes her first of two appearances on this list, with me not seeing Annie as possibly the only reason she will not be mentioned a third time.  Her lazy performance, accompanied by Kate Upton, who is described as “the boobs” at one point, is only matched by a manic and mostly annoying Leslie Mann, while the film bounces along in a bad story, with the use of literal poop jokes to keep things seeming fresh.  I want to go to the other theater… (Movie Review)


2. Sabotage – I read an interview with writer/director David Ayer, during his Fury press-run (he made two movies this year), where he basically explained how he was brought onto this Schwarzenegger-starring dud late in the game and was glad to be passed it.  I am glad to be passed it too, but man was this movie terrible.  It may get credit for some of the most colorful hairstyles in a modern movie this year, but it also features the most good actors who are completely wasted (next to Transcendence).  You can literally see Terrence Howard trying to drive away from this poor mystery/thriller at one point.  It’s a sad, gory, unlikable thriller, with a final five minutes so good it makes me wonder what the hell happened to the rest of the film.  My guess: sabotage. (Movie Review)



1. Sex TapeI could not even bring myself to write a full review for this awful ‘comedy.’  This closing paragraph to my worst-of list is actually the longest I will have written about Sex Tape.  Cameron Diaz and skinny Jason Segal star in a novel attempt at a comedy with no laughs.  A premise involving a missing sex tape does not do nearly enough with the potential raunchiness and the underlying themes of the film involving togetherness and what not are handled awfully, as the film has the kind of message fit for a PG film, despite also featuring a scene with Jack Black reading off the most outlandish names of porn videos possible.  Not even an overlong stay in a crazy mansion owned by Rob Lowe was enough to make this film with a very dated premise work.  This film came from director Jake Kasdan, who has done some films I love (Zero Effect, Walk Hard), but is now responsible for my least favorite film of the year. That’s a shame.  Eject.

***

Stay tuned for the Out Now Top Ten of 2014 Podcast Episide Coming Very Soon!

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