Hopefully you’ve already read the Weekend Warrior’s Top 25 and voiced your opinion, but now we’re onto the flip side of the coin, the worst of the year, our pat pending Terrible 25 of the year as judged by the same Weekend Warrior.
Now, some might wonder whether putting together a list of the year’s worst movies is a worthwhile endeavor but after seeing as many movies as we have this year, we don’t want any studio or filmmaker thinking they got away with something by foisting crap on an unsuspecting moviegoing audience… even in the case where they willingly shelled out their money to go see some of them.
It’s a lot more difficult to explain why you don’t like or in this case HATE something, and it’s certainly not as much fun to revisit movies you hated, movies that you’d rather have simply forgotten. There are many reasons why movies might rate low in my annual viewing, whether it’s due to bad writing or bad acting, incompetent direction or just being unoriginal, predictable and trite, but all of the movies below are bonafide stinkers.
I’m sure many people might put Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or X-Men Origins: Wolverine or the like on their worst list, but compared to some of the movies below, those big budget action movies at least had decent action scenes or some cool moments, and they never were meant as more than summer popcorn flicks, delivering exactly what they advertised, but there are other movies that don’t deliver… like the comedies that aren’t funny, of which we have more than a few on our list this year.
One big problem is that most of these movies were released in the earlier part of the year, before April, so in some cases, we literally have forgotten why we hated them so much, so we’ll do our best to justify their presence on this list. (Note: The list only includes movies I HAVE SEEN… if you don’t see a movie on here that you didn’t like there is a chance that I didn’t see it… or maybe I didn’t dislike it as much as you did.)
25. 2012 (Sony) – Like with my Top 25, this is the most difficult position to fill because there are so many movies deserving of making this list including the likes of Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro, Kyle Newman’s Fanboys, Push or even Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. But no, we had to go with Roland Emmerich’s latest end-of-the-world FX epic. The first time we saw the movie (because we did see it twice), we were thinking it wasn’t so bad, because it was better than The Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 B.C., but then we remembered how awful those movies were and we realized we couldn’t give Herr Emmerich a pass just because he had a lot of crazy action and FX scenes. In fact, the movie has only five truly great minutes and that’s the extended scene that was shown on television and the trailer of John Cusack driving his limo (and then later in a plane) escaping from Los Angeles as it cascaded into the Pacific Ocean. It was a really wild and crazy sequence, which was lessened when a half hour later he was doing the same thing, this time driving a Winnebego escaping from a massive volcano. And then there was the 747 flying out of Vegas as it too was destroyed by Emmerich’s CG team. Sure, there were lots of great FX moments, just like with The Day After Tomorrow, but the character stereotypes quickly grew tiring after 90 minutes (with more than an hour left to go!) and it eventually turned into “Battlestar Galactica.” So once again, Roland Emmerich is back on this year’s list, and I can’t wait for his movie about Shakespeare. Yes, that’s sarcasm.
24. Couples Retreat and It’s Complicated (Universal) – Yeah, some people obviously like both these movies because they’ve done very well, just like 2012. Me, I thought they were a tremendous waste of talent, lowering themselves to some of the lowest-brow material imaginable in order to try and get laughs. The fact that the guys behind Swingers (and Ralphie from A Christmas Story making his directorial debut) couldn’t come up with something funnier than Couples Retreat, especially after last year’s Four Christmases (which I quite liked) was more than a little disappointing. Basically, they assembled an ensemble of talented funny guys and hot women, threw them into a tropical paradise and then hoped something might come out of it. That was almost the same general principle behind Nancy Meyers’ latest romantic comedy–put a lot of great actors together and hope for the bestbut I still have no idea who would want to watch Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin cavorting on screen like they do in It’s Complicated. But that was just the very basic premise and it led to all sorts of painfully embarrassing situations like Streep and Martin pulling a gag that involved them smoking pot and going to a party and acting foolish, followed by the ubiquitous romantic cooking scene that seems necessary in every movie ever since Julie & Julia. (And Martin was actually subdued in his role as the “other love interest” which was kind of nice.) The movie was two hours long with everything falling apart by the last ten minutes, leaving just that amount of time to try to resolve everything.
23. My Sister’s Keeper (New Line/WB) – What should have been an intense drama about a serious subject matter–a teenager dying of leukemia–was turned into a WB-level television drama with a completely inconsistent tone, trying to mix tears with laughter and romance as it touches upon every single possible “after school special” issue it could muster. But the worst thing about this movie from director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) is that they cast Cameron Diaz as the mother of three, and she proceeded to overact her way through the role without ever being remotely convincing. In fact, this was one of two movies that Diaz stunk up this year – the other was Richard Kelly’s The Box, which at least had other merits to save it from making this list. The other key role was her healthy daughter played by Abigail Breslin, who somehow managed to be less annoying than she has been in the past, but still did her usual sassiness, something that was completely unfitting to the material. Did we mention that Diaz and her husband had a second daughter (Breslin) essentially to act as an organ donor for her dying older sister? Yeah, I guess we forgot to mention that part.. as did the deceptive ads that made it sound like an innocent family drama. Folks who’ve been trashing Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones should go and rent this movie to see what a really bad adaptation of a Jodi Picoult novel looks like.
22. The Unborn (Rogue Pictures) – I really like David Goyer and all that he’s brought to the world of comics and comic-based movies, so I certainly had high hopes for him tackling a straight supernatural thriller which harked back to the likes of The Exorcist or The Omen, but this one involving Jewish spirits known as “dybbuks” (who later appeared in the intro of the Coens’ A Serious Man). There were some creepy moments but it mainly relied on cheap scares and imagery stolen from other recent movies like The Grudge, it was full of plotholes and featured some of the worst acting of the year from super-cute Odette Yustman and Meagan Good. It was one of the first movies of the year, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the worst… that was yet to come.
21. The Missing Person – The first of two movies on this list starring Michael Shannon, normally one of my favorite actors due to his wildly eccentric performances. Clearly, this one’s problems were more about the quality of the filmmaking, being Noah Buschel’s directorial debut, than with Shannon’s performance. I saw it at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and something just felt off about its attempt to be a modern-day noir with Shannon being a Chicago detective sent on a train ride to follow a man traveling with a young boy. Along the way, he meets lots of odd characters, and it eventually ends up in New York City where we learn why Shannon’s character is the way he is, but the whole premise didn’t work and the resolution wasn’t satisfying enough to sit through the rest of it. Also, in trying to create some sort of noir feel, Buschel’s cinematographer barely lit many scenes and the production values were generally poor, so the movie mostly looked like crap, which didn’t help matters.
20. The Haunting in Connecticut (Lionsgate) – This “based on a true story” horror flick was so ridiculous, it wasn’t even remotely surprising when a movie like Paranormal Activity came along and showed how you can create genuine scares at a far more moderate budget and be more successful. This “Amityville Horror” rip-off was yet another dog starring Virginia Madsen, who has really done everything possible to make the Academy regret her Oscar nomination for Sideways with the number of bad movies she’s done since then. This one joins Firewall and The Number 23 on the annual Terrible 25 list as it dealt with a family moving to a house that used to be a funeral home with their cancer-stricken son and being attacked by the spirits remaining there from the creepy séances and experiments conducted by previous owners. I don’t remember much of it, because the whole thing just got more and more ridiculous, and the acting and FX work were so shoddy that I wondered why this was the movie that Lionsgate decided to show to critics before opening compared to movies like My Bloody Valentine or Crank: High Voltage which weren’t so bad. This one seemed like a mash-up of every bad horror movie that’s happened in the last few years, which may be why it was as successful as some of them as well.
19. Adoration (Sony Pictures Classics) – Normally, I’m a big fan of Canada’s Atom Egoyan so seeing him on this list is shocking even to me, even though I honestly remember very little about this movie. From what I remember, it involves an orphaned teenager who spends a lot of time online in a chat room who writes a story about planting a bomb on a plane that gets him into all sorts of trouble, so in some ways it was topical, but it involved a lot of disparate characters and disjointed ideas, none of which really fit together in a cohesive way due to its convoluted non-linear plot (and we use that term loosely). In trying to be timely and topical and perverse, Egoyan made a cryptic film that wasn’t even remotely enjoyable or entertaining, making this one of Egoyan’s worst wankfests to date. Here’s hoping his new movie Chloe will take the bad taste of this one out of our mouth.
18. The Lodger (Samuel Goldwyn) – This nice looking but poorly-made Hitchcock remake sported a great cast that included Alfred Molina, Hope Davis and Simon Baker, as well as Donal Logue, and while I also don’t remember a lot about it, I did quickly learn why it almost didn’t get a theatrical release and only was shown in a couple of theaters before hitting the DVD shelves. We don’t have much more to say about it.
17. Fired Up! (Screen Gems) – This was the first of what was planned as a series of raunchy comedies presented by Maxim magazine, similar to National Lampoon did back in the day when putting “National Lampoon” in front of your movie’s title meant something… but only when it was a good movie like Animal House or Vacation. But no, this was an attempt at raunch in the form of a PG-13 comedy that spent most of the movie objectifying women, as we watch 31-year-old Eric Christian Olsen–a regular in the Terrible 25–playing a high school doofus who hatches a masterplan with his buddy (Nicholas D’Agosto from the excellent Rocket Science) to attend cheerleading camp in order to have sex with hot girls. Oh, right, and if the sexism isn’t enough, the movie constantly went for laughs with homophobic gags about the friends’ sexuality, something that got tiring and offensive very quickly. Who knows who this movie was meant for? The horny males that read Maxim I would imagine, although they really did a good job pushing away the potential female Bring It On audience they could have had if they had tried to be even slightly more classier.
16. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) – I actually like Kevin James, more from his movie work in Hitch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry than from “The King Of Queens” (which I’ve never seen). I was fairly optimistic about him getting his own vehicle, one he produced from his own concept, but he completely dumbed his humor way down to play a moronic character that was nothing like the everyman he’s done so well in the past. And yet, this also became one of the first big hits of the year and it continues to do huge business on DVD, so what do I know? Well, except that the movie was grueling to sit through because it always went for the easiest joke – whether it was a pratfall or watching the moronic mall cop playing Rock Band. I wasn’t as big a fan of Observe and Report which came out a few months later as others, but it was a far funnier take on mall cops which at least tried to have some semblance of intelligence… “Paul Blart” had none.
15. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit Entertainment) – And here we go, the sequel to a hugely successful movie that should have been better due to the involvement of a new director, but instead failed miserably, possibly proving that the source material i.e. Stephenie Meyer’s books were so weak no director this side of James Cameron could make a decent movie out of them. Robert Pattinson, who wasn’t very good in the first movie, was even worse here–that is, when he actually was in the movie–’cause this time, the focus shifted to Taylor Lautner’s Jacob, who was so terrible in the first movie one wondered how he convinced the producers to let him come back. Much of the movie revolved around Jacob and his wolf brethren all walking around shirtless – just in case you were wondering who the audience for this movie was intended for. As bad as Lautner was in the movie, its inevitable success guarantees Lautner, who has even less acting range than Stewart and Pattinson, if that’s possible, will be starring in lots of bad movies that should be showing up on this list for years to come. The best part of the movie was the third act appearance by Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning as a vampire Senate of sorts, but they were sorely underused. As much as I’m a fan of director David Slade’s work, especially on Hard Candy (Ellen Page’s real breakthrough film), even that might not be enough to get me back for Eclipse. Oh, who are we kidding? I’ll see it and it’ll probably end up on this list next year.
14. Dance Flick (Paramount) – Now that the reign of Friedberg and Seltzer, makers of dogs like Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans, seems to have come to an end, the Wayans family returned to their own brand of distinctive spoof comedy. While they seemed to have a lot of fodder with this dig at the ever-popular dance movie craze, they went for the same low-brow bathroom humor that permeated Friedberg and Seltzer’s worst movies. Hopefully, this ends the trend… at least until someone gets around to making Scary Movie 5, which you know is going to happen eventually.
13. Imagine That (Paramount) – The downfall of Eddie Murphy continues with this family film that had him cowtowing to the “adorable” young actress playing his daughter in this weird family comedy from the director of Over the Hedge, Karey Kirkpatrick, which tried to appeal to kids with dumb gross-out and physical humor that should have been below even the star of Norbit. The premise was terrible and there wasn’t much that could be done with it, and even a semi-funny character played by Thomas Haden Church couldn’t save this one. Oh yeah, and you know how Rock Band brought the Beatles to a new generation earlier this year? Well, this movie almost destroyed the Beatles for an even younger generation because for whatever reason, their Estate thought that this movie would be the right one to grant permission for them to rework their songs for the soundtrack. Even that didn’t help this one. This being Murphy’s second family film to bomb in a row after last year’s Meet Dave, one can only hope he’s more careful with his future choices… or maybe we’ve seen the last of him for a while.
12. Knowing (Summit Entertainment) – I was really looking forward to the first movie from Dark City and I, Robot director Alex Proyas in many years, especially due to its premise of a series of numbers that foretold all sorts of disasters. It sounded promising, in a Roland Emmerich kind of way, but we were hoping that Proyas would handle the subject matter with a little more class and intelligence. The two oft-screened action scenes involving Nicolas Cage witnessing a plane crash and then trying to stop a subway crash were exciting stuff but that was all the action in the movie and the rest of it was dull as hell with Cage giving the flattest phoned-in performance possible, which completely dragged the film right down. The movie then proceeded to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the plot, leading to seriously one of the dumbest and most ridiculous endings of any movie this year.
11. My Life in Ruins (Fox Searchlight) – If you haven’t guessed that I’m not a fan of bad romantic comedies, then the return of Nia Vardalos, trying to capitalize on the success of her breakout hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding by actually going to Greece as a tour guide, was a good enough reason to hate them. The movie featured a lot of the same sort of thing Varadalos did in “Greek Wedding,” only with even worse writing. Much of the humor involved the quirky and problematic tour group she was shlepping around, including Richard Dreyfus in possibly the most embarrassing role of his career (so far). There was also the “meet cute” romance with her bus driver played by “hot Greek guy” Alexis Georgoulis who had the unfortunate name of “Poupi” Kakas… and yes, they went for that joke, over and over. It was another notch in the minus column for director Donald Petrie whose success with movies like Miss Congeniality and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days was squandered on this sub-standard rom-com material. (I hear Vardalos’ other movie this year, I Hate Valentine’s Day, was even worse, but we think one Nia Vardalos movie on this list in any year is bad enough.)
10. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Anchor Bay) – You might think a crime thriller from Peter Hyams, director of Outland, starring Michael Douglas as a high-powered district attorney being investigated for planting evidence to get convictions, wouldn’t be bad. While I generally like courtroom dramas and crime thrillers, this was just a dog through and through, and the killer was that Douglas was barely in the movie. No, the movie is more about Jesse Metcalf and him trying to catch Douglas, so most of the movie follows him and his partner-in-crime played by Joel Moore as they try to set things up to trip up the D.A. The thing is that Metcalf was terrible and unconvincing and not even remotely charismatic enough to carry this, and the romantic subplots involving Amber Tamblyn as Douglas’ assistant added greatly to the movie’s overall tonal problems, where it was all serious one minute and then goofing around the next. Really, this was barely better than a TV movie essentially giving Douglas a chance to do his usual showboating only with writing so bad that even his big court moment was so badly foreshadowed, you could literally predict every beat ten minutes before it happened.
9. The Collector (Freestyle) – The directorial debut from the guys behind Feast and the last couple of “Saw” movies, Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, was generally a high concept horror movie involving a guy who sets elaborate traps inside a family house for anyone who enters, in this case a burglar. It was pretty obvious this was created in hopes it would do well enough to become another “Saw”-like horror franchise, but it was pretty awful, the premise being fairly vapid and the torture porn being extremely predictable with none of the twists of the “Saw” movies. It also left so many unanswered questions from the plot holes. Dunstan used a lot of the same filmmaking tricks as the “Saw” movies–lots of fast editing and ridiculously loud sound FX–but the movie was done on such a small budget that the production values were awful as even the death traps were jury-rigged together. The results were grueling and nearly unwatchable.
8. The Informers (Senator Films R.I.P.) – There’s always one movie at Sundance that people are greatly anticipating which fails to deliver, and this adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ novel in which Ellis himself was involved in writing had such a great cast that teamed vets of the ’80s like Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke (right around the time of the buzz for his performance in The Wrestler) and Winona Ryder with newcomers Lou Taylor Pucci and Amber Heard – who, God bless her, spends much of the movie topless. Ellis fans piled into the Sundance press screening to see if he can return to greatness only to realize that most of the movie was redundant compared to some of Ellis’ best-known works like “Less than Zero” and “American Psycho,” covering a lot of the same ground of the former. Gregor Jordan is usually a fairly competent director but he obviously let Ellis and his cast run rampant over the movie leaving him with very little in terms of meat to work with. The results were a boring and depressing disaster that left everyone who saw it with a bad taste in their mouth, which made it even less of a surprise when it bombed theatrically a few months later. This was the long-anticipated first release from Senator Films, and many people believe that the movie flopping killed the company, leaving a lot of movies up for grabs including Jonathan Levine’s All the Girls Love Mandy Lane, which will surely have a place on this list if it ever does get released.
7. I Love You, Beth Cooper (20th Century Fox) – I’m not quite sure which was harder to believe, that the 28-year-old lack-of-a-personality that is Paul Rust was trying to pass himself off as a teenager (something this movie shared in common with Fired Up!) or that he was being paired with real teen Hayden Panettiere in a super-creepy teen rom-com… by director Chris Columbus, the guy who originated the “Harry Potter” series. Apparently, this was meant as a comedy but laughs were few and far between and the movie just got more awkward as it went along because you realized how many funnier comedies about teen post-graduation have been released in the last three decades.
6. Motherhood (Freestyle Releasing) – I walked out of this movie’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival… something that required stepping on thirty pairs of toes as I tried to gracefully get out of the Eccles theater while fuming at what an awful movie experience I was being subjected to (while at the same time missing Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad, ironically enough). Because I’m so dedicated to you readers, I rewatched it again a few months back, and it didn’t improve as we were subjected to Uma Thurman as a New York City Mommy blogger, a character so clearly based on director Katherine Dieckmann herself, that it became obvious this was little more than a vanity piece to allow her to attain some sort of catharsis for her own mid-life motherhood crisis. Maybe there are some New York City mothers who can relate but this was mostly sub-“Sex and the City” storytelling here, just really trite and full of embarrassing moments for Thurman, particularly one involving her pogoing to punk rock with a bike messenger.
It’s amazing this movie didn’t end up lower on the list, but there were actually worse.
5. Post Grad (Fox Searchlight) – From the second Alexis Bledel opens her mouth as her character Ryden Malby in a cutesy video blog that opens this sappy rom-com (of sorts), I knew I would hate this movie. Sure enough, it delivered one of the most grueling and cliché-filled experiences this year. Basically, Bledel’s character has just graduated college and she’s forced to move back home with her eccentric family, which included the likes of Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett, one of our greatest living comic actresses, all of them being subjected to some really embarrassing moments as they earn their paycheck. Zach Gilford plays Ryden’s male best friend who has been in love with her since childhood–essentially “Ducky” to Bledel’s Andie–but the movie was just a complete mess, and we weren’t even remotely surprised when the movie tanked to boot. And yet, this wasn’t the worst movie that Fox Searchlight released this year either!
4. Blood: The Last Vampire (Samuel Goldwyn Films) – I actually own the manga comic on which this action-horror movie was based, and I couldn’t imagine for the life of me how it turned into this atrocious piece of crap except possibly due to the complete and total incompetence of filmmaker Chris Nahon (Kiss of the Dragon). One would think that Bill Kong, the fine purveyor of Asian martial arts epics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero would bring a similar quality to this melding of action and horror, but nope, it was a stinker. It stars Gianna Jun as Saya, a sword-wielding vampire hunter who actually has some demon blood of her own, and maybe she wouldn’t have been so bad if she wasn’t fumbling her way through English, while Allison Miller, who I actually quite liked on NBC’s short-lived “Kings,” was awful as her best friend. The martial arts action (choreographed by Corey Yuen!) wasn’t filmed well and the CG creatures were beyond awful, adding up to a movie that made Dr. Uwe Boll seem infinitely more talented than we’ve ever given him credit for.
3. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (Absurdia) – And here’s Michael Shannon’s second bad movie of the year and it’s also (quite literally) #2 from Werner Herzog after the far superior Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which just missed our Top 25. I also walked out of the premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, but sucker that I am, I gave it another chance before it opened in New York at the IFC Center, and it didn’t do much to save itself from being one of the three worst movies of the year. Essentially, it has Willem Dafoe and Michael Peña as detectives investigating the murder of a woman only to find the prime suspect, her son Brad (Shannon), holed up across the street with two hostages; apparently it’s based on a true story. With that in mind, one has to scratch their head when each acquaintances of the suspect shows up and tells the detectives things they should know about Brad… like the fact he went whitewater rafting in Chile… and that he appeared an experimental play… and that he got the murder weapon, a samurai sword, from the owner of an ostrich ranch. The movie just gets weirder and weirder, but when you realized it was executive produced by David Lynch, it makes sense that it’s more like one of his movies than anything Herzog had done before – gruelingly slow and making very little sense, even having a cameo by Verne Troyer as an oddly out-of-place midget. The whole thing led to one of the most idiotic twists of any movie this year, and like Lynch’s last movie Inland Empire, it was self-distributed because no one else would touch it.
2. Downloading Nancy (Strand Releasing) – It’s been almost two years since I saw this movie at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, but like The Informers (see above) this year and Hounddog two years ago, this drama from Swedish music video director Johan Renck took the honors last year in being the movie that left the worst taste in many a mouth after enduring it. This wasn’t necessarily a badly-made movie or anything, and it had decent performances from the likes of Maria Bello, who plays a masochistic housewife in an abusive relationship who connects with a man on the internet in order to fulfill their mutually perverse sexual fantasies. Renck’s association with Jonas Akerlund should have been a giveaway that this would be an ugly experience made even moreso when you realize it’s based on actual events… Similar to My Son, My Son in fact!
1. Gentlemen Broncos (Fox Searchlight) – Congratulations to Jared Hess, the co-creator of Napoleon Dynamite, for joining the likes of Richard Kelly, Terry Gilliam and the director of The Love Guru (someone whose name we hopefully will never hear again) for making what I considered the most atrocious movie of the year. One really has to go a long way to make a movie where even Sam Rockwell comes across as completely ludicrous, but that’s exactly what this movie did as it had Rockwell portraying the hero of a teenager’s science fiction story as well as the lead in a plagiarist’s own sci-fi epic. Playing the latter was Jemaine Clement from HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords,” really one of the only good things about the movie but essentially a one-joke character, and just like everything else in the movie, even that joke grew stale as you had to endure a lot of deliberately bizarre characters who grew more annoying with each appearance. Sure, there might be some saving graces in there somewhere, especially for sci-fi fans interested in the writing of it, but Hess was obviously trying way too hard to replicate what made Napoleon Dynamite work. As we saw with The Collector above, doing that rarely works and often backfires, as it clearly did here. The movie tanked in limited release and Fox Searchlight pretty much gave up on expanding it elsewhere. Believe me, there is no one more shocked as me to see them with so many movies in our Terrible 25 this year having released so many great movies in the past… and we didn’t even get a chance to see Miss March, which we hear was another winner!
That’s it for this year! Here’s hoping, as always, that 2010 is better than 2009, and we have an even harder time finding 25 bad movies! Happy New Year, Everyone!