Hopefully, you’ve all had a chance to read and comment on the Weekend Warrior’s Top 25, so now it’s time for the flip-side, the worst of the worst. There were so many bad movies this year, we almost wish we were able to do a Terrible 30 or 40 or 50 even, but no, we’re going to be nice to all the filmmakers responsible for these stinkers and we’re not going to cheat like we did for our Top 25. Those who made bad movies but didn’t make this list should consider themselves lucky.
(An asterisk denotes a movie we reviewed, which can be read by clicking on the movie’s title.)
*25. Eat Pray Love (Sony) – This movie isn’t just on this list because it’s a Julia Roberts “chick flick”–the first of two that made this list in fact–because she has made good ones in the past. With this one, “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy just completely dropped the ball in terms of turning Elizabeth Gilbert’s autobiographical best-seller into anything that might be worth sitting through for two hours. Essentially, it ended up being a vehicle for Roberts to give a lazy phoned-in performance as a selfish woman who leaves her husband for an actor (James Franco), then leaves him to go find herself in India, Italy and Bali. The tone of the movie is all over the place and the only actor who comes out of it relatively unscathed is the great Richard Jenkins. Otherwise, the movie did less to convince anyone who hadn’t read the book to check it out than it did to make one think that it should be the first book on any good bookburning list.
24. Life During Wartime (IFC Films) – Sure, Todd Solondz sometimes gets a bad wrap because his movies are so deranged and even deviant at times, but this sequel to Happiness, the first of many movies that turned film buffs against the Welcome to the Dollhouse director, was really hard to get through, between a little kid continually asking his mother (Allison Janney) about his pedophile father and mopey Shirley Henderson talking to her dead boyfriends. It’s hard to believe Solondz might have made a movie that was harder to endure than Palindromes, but this one really tried my patience.
*23. George Romero’s Survival of the Dead (Magnet) – Any true zombie fan knows that Romero is the master and it’s great he’s found this niche that he’s been able to mine for the majority of his career and into the twilight of his years. Branching off his low-fi handheld-shot Diary of the Dead, Romero tried to keep the zombie love going, except that when a TV show like “The Walking Dead” has better writing and production values than your movie, you’re in trouble. Sure, some of the zombie kills in “Survival” were pretty cool, but the writing and acting across the board were completely horrendous. At a certain point, there’s even a zombie riding on a horseback who we think is one of the main characters, but we learn later… is actually her twin! That’s just the kind of ludicrous ideas that proved that Romero’s zombie well may have finally run dry. Hopefully, this movie is the death of “The Dead” series.
*22. Our Family Wedding (Fox Searchlight) – In one of the oddest career decisions, possibly ever, the now-skinny Oscar winner Forest Whitaker decided that it was time to try his hand at comedy. Unfortunately, he didn’t try to make a good comedy, instead signing onto this multi-ethnical take on “Meet the Parents” that pitted him against the even less funny Carlos Mencia as the fathers of two engaged young people in love who don’t get along. Trying to do that thing where you get audiences to see your movie by putting “wedding” in the title, the movie seemed borderline racist, but we couldn’t figure out whether African-Americans or Latinos would be more offended by it; neither bothered to see the movie, so I guess we’ll never know.
*21 I Want Your Money (Freestyle Releasing) – Whether or not you’re a supporter or an advocate against the burgeoning “Tea Party Movement,” it didn’t take a political analyst to realize that filmmaker Ray Griggs was talking out of his @$$ in this poorly-made doc that tried to add 2 and 2 and end up with… well… not quite 4, that’s for sure. The “documentary”–and I use that term loosely–mixed highly-slanted facts with animated sequences involving bad impersonations of various political figures to try to blame the country’s economic problems entirely on Barack Obama. One didn’t have to watch Inside Job to realize what a one-sided nutjob Griggs was… and it didn’t help that he inserted himself into the movie whenever possible either.
20. When in Rome (Disney) – Yes, it’s another “chick flick”, this one being a romantic comedy pairing Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel in the type of “meet cute” comedy that was handled in a much better way in other movies, including Duhamel’s other 2010 flick, Life As We Know It. I barely can remember much about the movie, thankfully, but not being able to get many laughs with funny guys like Will Arnett and Dax Shepard in it didn’t help the movie’s case much. If nothing else, maybe this will be the last we see of Jon “Napoleon Dynamite” Heder.
19. Step Up 3D (Disney) – I never saw the first two “Step Up” movies so I’m not sure why I thought this third movie might end up being the best entry into the franchise. It wasn’t. The movie involves a group of kids in a dance troupe and some conflict between a new member whose brother is in their primary competition, someone with a video camera making a movie about dancing and Adam Sevani’s Moose, possibly the most annoying movie character of the year. Add to that dance segments where you could tell when they cut from the actors to the real dancers, and 3D that hurt your brain, and really, if you weren’t a fan of the franchise, you’d have been as annoyed by sitting through it as I was. And they’re doing another one. That one I’ll make sure to skip.
*18. Bitch Slap! (Freestyle Releasing) – Released the first weekend of 2010, this crazy destined-to-be-a-Cinemax-classic by Rick Jacobson, who worked on “Baywatch” and “Xena: Warrior Princess,” involved a diamond heist by three incredibly hot and barely dressed women that tried to latch onto the “Grindhouse craze” that never really went anywhere, because let’s face it, Jacobson doesn’t have half the talent of a Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. I’m sure somewhere out there, some 12-year-old boy will discover this movie as well as a new pastime, but as a movie to enjoy with your pants on? This sucked.
*17. Gulliver’s Travels (20th Century Fox) – You can check out my recent review to see what I thought of this Jack Black family movie that essentially had Black hamming it up and failed both to entertain and to deliver laughs despite all the talent involved. It’s not surprising as much as just a shame. I have nothing more to say about this one.
*16. Lottery Ticket (Warner Bros.) – “Urban” comedies seem like easy targets, but this one conceived and produced by Ice Cube just didn’t work despite having an impressive cast led by Bow Wow and Brandon T. Jackson from Tropic Thunder. The simple premise involved Bow Wow getting a winning lottery ticket and everyone around him trying to get it from him, but the movie never figured out if it wanted to be serious or funny so it ended up being somewhere in between… but bad. Maybe my lack of enjoyment can be attributed to me not being African-American or from the South, but this really wasn’t much better than some of Tyler Perry’s worst movies. It barely made a mark when it opened over the summer, so clearly Cube’s fans from the “Friday” franchise have moved on.
15. Cop Out (Warner Bros.) – Kevin Smith tries his hand at directing a bigger budget studio action comedy with the likes of Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. There were some funny moments, mostly involving Seann William Scott basically repeating what the other two said, but Willis plays it too seriously and Morgan seems to be out of control and needing to be reined in. It really felt like Smith was out of his element, having not written the script, and had regressed by filling the movie with every single police comedy cliché in the book. Ultimately, the movie felt like one of the bad movies that Morgan’s “30 Rock” counterpart Tracy Jordan might have done.
*14. Knucklehead (Samuel Goldwyn) – This one was destined to end up on this list by trying to make a slapstick comedy based around Paul Wight aka “The Big Show” from WWE playing Walter Krunk, a dim-witted middle-aged man-mountain who goes on the road with Mark Feurstein’s con-man to earn money on the fighting circuit to help save his orphanage. Yeah, it’s a pretty lame premise to begin with, but like so many bad comedies, the movie never knew whether to go goofy or try to be taken seriously, as it bounced between low-brow bathroom humor then trying to win the audience over with feel-good sentimentality. Neither worked, and the movie ended up barely getting a theatrical release, but sadly that hasn’t put a crimp in WWE Films from trying to be taken seriously as a movie studio. They have more badly-conceived movies to come.
*13. Tooth Fairy (20th Century Fox) – I never saw Faster so I have no idea if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s return to action movies could possibly get the taste of this contentious family movie out of his fans’ mouths. The premise has the former wrestler as a hockey player who gets recruited to play a tooth fairy and he was surrounded by an amazing cast that included Billy Crystal, Julie Andrews and Steven Merchant who all did their best to elevate the awful material. In fact, it’s those supporting characters who kept the movie from ending up lower down on the list. If nothing else, Dwayne should be happy he escaped from the WWE before he was put in movies like Knucklehead.
*12. Burlesque (Screen Gems) – I actually was one of the few that thought a musical starring Christina Aguilera and Cher could be a cool idea, and boy, do I regret that optimism now. Besides stealing bits from every halfway decent movie musical from the last decade, it featured some of the most laughably bad dialogue of the year, and not even Stanley Tucci could save this one. Kristen Bell, in her second appearance in this year’s list, took the cake with the funniest line of the year, referring to Aguilera’s character as “A slut with mutant lungs.” Otherwise, the movie was completely misguided in its every intention and it’s forever going to be used as proof why producing original movie musicals isn’t a good idea.
11. The Nutcracker in 3D (Freestyle Releasing) – The one holiday movie that failed to make much of a mark over Thanksgiving weekend was this independently-produced live action take on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s popular holiday ballet. It stars Elle Fanning, who has played so many strong dramatic roles you wonder why she’d do a stupid kiddie movie like this, as well as other actors who also should have known this was destined to fail, especially John Turturro. He’s almost unrecognizable due to heavy prosthetics and a ridiculous British accent, hamming it up as the film’s bad guy, the Rat King. Even worse is that someone actually wrote lyrics (bad ones) to the original music in order to create god-awful musical numbers that did very little to help matters. I guess for every good movie based on one of Tchaikovsky’s works (like Black Swan), we should come to expect a bad one like this.
10. Valhalla Rising (IFC Films) – I’m a big fan of the Danish duo of director Nicolas Refn and actor Mads Mikkelsen, who made the terrific “Pusher” trilogy, and the thought of them doing a Viking epic thrilled me to no end. Rather than making a violent action movie as might be expected, Refn decided to make a trippy art film based around a vicious one-eyed mute killer (played by Mikkelsen). Other than a few ultra-violent scenes, the movie was just dull as hell. About half an hour into the movie, we get 15 minutes of Vikings sitting in a boat where literally nothing happens. That was pretty much the point where I walked out when I saw this at Toronto in 2009, but I went back to watch the rest and it doesn’t get much better. This may be Refn’s biggest trip-up in his career, but surely, there’s someone out there who probably will enjoy how crazy it is.
9. Mercy (IFC Films) – I honestly don’t remember a lot about this movie written and starring Scott Caan as a romance novelist who doesn’t believe in love until he meets a book critic (named Mercy) who doesn’t like his work, they have an affair and they fall in love and then she dies. Nice, huh? Caan’s character was so annoying that you spend much of the movie wanting to slap the smug expression off his face and we have to wait over an hour before Scott’s father, James Caan, joins the proceedings for essentially one scene, but otherwise, this was just a mess of a movie.
*8. How Do You Know (Sony) – The biggest tragedy behind this pseudo rom-com is that it really was no better than the worst rom-coms in recent years despite the amazing cast, including Jack Nicholson in a rare screen appearance. Worse than that is that we generally expect much better from James L. Brooks, because he’s known for making good quality films. None of his characters were even remotely likeable this time around, and the entire film lacked so much of what made his previous films so great, making it feel like the movie was hacked out to try to appeal to mainstream moviegoers. It didn’t work, and audiences thankfully weren’t having any of it, potentially making it one of the biggest money-losing bombs of the year.
7. Cairo Time (IFC Films) – I know a lot of people who like this low-budget Eat Pray Love, mainly women and mainly for the performance by Patricia Clarkson, but for all the trashing of Sex and the City 2 (probably deserved but not enough to make our list), Ruba Nadda’s humdrum travelogue of Egypt basically had Clarkson waiting around for her husband and getting involved with another man, but nothing ever happens, so the movie coasts along on the fact that it had this beautiful city as its backdrop and that’s it. Clarkson, who is usually fantastic, gives such an emotionless deadpan performance, you had to wonder whether her body was in Cairo but her mind was elsewhere, like a movie that might pay better.
*6. Killers (Lionsgate) – Whoever thought it was a good idea to put Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl into an action comedy probably watched Mr. & Mrs. Smith a few too many times and thought, “I can do that!” That’s also probably the same thinking that led to similar movies starring Tom Cruise with Cameron Diaz, and The Tourist. (I thank God every night that I missed The Bounty Hunter with Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston!) This one was directed by Robert Luketic who almost got out of rom-com hell by making the blackjack thriller 21, then after the success of The Ugly Truth, got dragged back into making another crappy movie with Katherine Heigl doing over-the-top physical humor that’s more embarrassing than funny. Even worse was producer Ashton Kutcher, the only producer stupid enough to cast him in this role, trying to pass himself off as some sort of suave James Bond secret agent which was probably the only thing that was even remotely funny about the movie. Even odder was that this wasn’t Ashton Kutcher’s worst movie of the year either. See below.
*5. Jonah Hex (Warner Bros.) – What more can be said about this abomination that probably should have ended up lower on this list but somehow managed to be saved by there being four worse movies? The idea of Josh Brolin playing the scarred Western comic book hero certainly sounded promising, and having Megan Fox playing a prostitute, well let’s just say that it didn’t require too much imagination. Originally, this was going to be an R-rated action flick directed by the guys who made Crank, but when they dropped out, somehow Jimmy Heyward, the co-director of Horton Hears a Who of all things, was brought on board; he barely finished the movie as I Am Legend‘s Francis Lawrence was brought on board for some “necessary reshoots.” The results were a disaster. Brolin was well cast but he rode around on a horse with machine guns strapped to it, Michael Shannon appeared for roughly two seconds, Michael Fassbender seemed to be channeling Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Hex even fought some sort of snakeman, which served little purpose. And sadly, Will Arnett’s first attempt at a dramatic role will probably also be his last. Jimmy Palmiotti is a really nice guy and I’m sure his co-writer on the comic Justin Gray is cool, too, but not since The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have I felt sorrier for the creators involved with a comic book that had been turned into a movie. (Seriously, the comic book is great! Honest!)
*4. Valentine’s Day (New Line) – There have been many bad romantic comedies over the years and that’s not going to end anytime soon, but somehow New Line assembled one of the most impressive casts of the years, including a couple of Oscar winners, to create a veritable Bible for all future bad romantic comedies, a big screen version of “Love Hollywood Style” that proceeded to squander all of its talent involved, including director Gary Marshall, and of course… it was a hit! A huge hit! If you were a guy, then sitting through this movie was worse than being castrated without anesthetic, as you watched the likes of Jessica Biel and Anne Hathaway and Julia Roberts and Kathy Bates and Jessica Alba and Jennifer Garner and Topher Grace and others trudge through some of the worst material of their careers. Ashton Kutcher must have felt right at home. The most embarrassing moment of the movie involves Taylor Lautner, one of the worst actors on the planet, and Taylor Swift, who shouldn’t have been allowed to try and act; that was par for a movie that essentially succeeded based on its title and release date and that’s it.
*3. Marmaduke (20th Century Fox) – Yeah, go ahead and give me a hard time for putting another kids movie on here, but seriously, how many more of these CG talking dogs movies are we supposed to endure? Trying to turn a one-panel comic strip into a movie may have been hard, but then seriously, why bother trying? Owen Wilson–this year’s three-time offender if you count “Little Fockers,” which oddly didn’t make this list–provided the voice of Marmaduke, collecting a paycheck for reading awful dialogue along with many others who should have known better. Like Gulliver’s Travels, the movie ended with a dance sequence but many parents were probably too angry to dance along as they stormed out of the theaters.
*2. My Soul to Take (Rogue Pictures) Back when I first heard about Wes Craven’s new movie “25/7” when it was teased at the 2008 Comic-Con, I had high hopes for his return to terrorizing teenagers, because the premise sounded like it could be another A Nightmare on Elm Street or at least a Shocker. The only shocker was that the movie sucked more than every other bad horror movie released this year. The problems begin with the awful screenplay, written by Craven himself, his first since adapting the Japanese horror film Pulse, but he also had an awful cast who did nothing to help the material. Then someone made the executive decision to convert the movie into 3D for no particular reason… and it was easily the worst 3D we’ve seen this year as well. Here’s hoping Scream 4 can get the bad taste of this movie out of our mouth, because this is not a good sign for Craven maintaining his status as a master of horror. (And this was in the same year as some of the worst movies from George Romero and John Carpenter, too, so how depressing is that?)
And the #1 absolutely worst move of 2010 is… (drumroll)
1. Vampires Suck (20th Century Fox) – I didn’t review this movie when it came out, and there was a reason I didn’t review this movie. It was because Fox never screened the movie for anyone, so you might be wondering, “Ed, why did you bother going to see this movie?” Well, once in a while, you feel like you have to see a movie because you just have this feeling that it’s going to be good… and in my case, I just had a feeling this was going to be awful… and I was right! And you know what? After making so many awful half-assed predictions this year, it’s nice being right for once.
So basically, Frieberg and Seltzer, the idiots responsible for awful and unwatchable spoof movies like Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans, movies that aren’t even worth a passing glance on cable, were given free reign (or rather, they took it) on “The Twilight Saga” for their latest venture. Essentially that meant that you had a movie as bad as the first two “Twilights” but with all of the duo’s terrible jokes–and let’s face it, they only have three gags in all their movies–thrown in. Maybe “Twilight” fans would get a kick out of it, maybe not, but how anyone thought anyone else would be able to sit through it like I did, well, let’s just say that we probably should have thanked Fox for not screening it and making more critics endure it.
In fact, if we had reviewed the movie, it would have been the first movie ever we would have only given a .5 out of 10… yes, it’s not even worth a single point. It’s that bad.
That’s it for 2010… Look forward to seeing everyone in 2011 for the first Weekend Warrior of the year sometime around January 4. Happy New Year!