Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Worst Films Of The Year 2014

I think that generally speaking I'm getting far more selective in what films I actually watch these days. Gone are the mad completism urges where I had to watch everything no matter how putrid and foul the word of mouth on it was. Hence, this year I managed to avoid a lot of the more celebrated cinematic stinkers - films which have been turning up on other end of year movie halls of shame like rancid stinking vagrants, shunned by society, such as I, FRANKENSTEIN / GRACE OF MONACO / RIDE ALONG / DEVIL'S DUE / SEX TAPE / HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 / A NEW YORK WINTER'S TALE / BLENDED / THE OTHER WOMAN / TAMMY or what I'm certain would be the unspeakable traumatic horror of PUDSEY THE DOG THE MOVIE or MRS feckin BROWNS BOYS. Elsewhere, there were a few universally slated films which though far from classics I didn't actively despise (NEED FOR SPEED / A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST etc). What follows are the worst of what did slip my guard (NOTE: There are a couple of films included below which are yet to open in the UK, but you can treat their inclusion as an advance warning of sorts!), and this pitiful selection are the very worst offenders, and not a single one of the films listed here was awarded more than a decidedly limp and lacklustre two stars from me on Letterboxd this year:

THE WORST FILMS OF 2014:


1) SABOTAGE
Arnold Schwarzenegger's post-politics return to the big screen has hardly recaptured his former glories and blockbuster appeal. The Expendables films are mere campy nostalgia, whilst the thoroughly enjoyable The Last Stand and Escape Plan didn't exactly break box-office records. So, this latest attempt at career redemption, saw him teaming up with David Ayer, known for his gritty, urban, hard-edged gangland thrillers, and joining a solid ensemble cast including Sam Worthington and Terrence Howard, which seemed a promising move in the right (re)direction. Unfortunately, what their collective creative endeavours churned up was an ugly, idiotic, throwback thriller devoid of tension or surprises, other than just how jaw-droppingly stupid and knuckle-dragging it all was.
The plot was ludicrous, the twists were telegraphed, the dialogue was an embarrassing mix of puerile profanity and inane banter - it's empty, overt machismo, first-person gun fetishism and extreme violence in the guise of some sort of pseudo murder mystery, masquerading behind endless shots of blockheads kicking in doors. By all accounts this was initially pitched as a sort of whodunit mystery, but was turned into a brain dead action film against Ayer's wishes, which kind of makes sense as this is devoid of any coherence or rhythm, a seriously dull, and decidedly dumb mess of a movie.


2) CRAWL OR DIE
Crawl Or Die is a micro-budget creature feature throwback, with an utterly derivative single idea plot, which basically amounts to ninety minutes of monotonous crawling about in dark confined spaces. No, seriously, once the cast go subterranean on an alien planet, that really is the entire film......endlessly tedious tunnel-vision. A ceaseless series of sequences of squeezing through increasingly tight spaces with intermittent attacks from a rubbery monster which is such a shockingly blatant rip-off of his work, I'm pretty sure H.R.Giger is rightfully spinning in his grave with justifiable indignation. There's possibly a half decent short film in here somewhere, and you have to give writer/director/producer/one man social media blitz Oklahoma Ward credit for pretty much handling every aspect of the film's production, on what are clearly very meagre resources. But I'm afraid to say the resulting feature is less of the clammy, claustrophobic nightmare promised, and more of a repetitive patience-testing exercise in utter banality and tedium. After yet another ten minute episode of incrementally edging along tunnels at snail's pace, I was starting to lose the will to live and if given the choice between Crawl Or Die, I would seriously contemplate the latter option.

3) HER

A dreary, over hyped angst-fest, Her is Electric Dreams for the iPhone age. A glacially-paced slice of shoe-gaze sci-fi with irksome indie romance trappings and wishy-washy whimsy. The basic premise of a person becoming romantically entwined with artificial intelligence technology is an age-old science-fiction conceit, already familiar from literature, film & TV, where the concept has been far better mined by the likes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Black Mirror. Hell....even The Big Bang Theory used this exact same storyline to better effect!
So not only is the core idea old hat, but the central relationship between socially awkward, emotionally brittle, wet blanket Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) and his personalised computer operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), is a clumsy mix of toe-curling, greeting card sentiment and unintentionally hilarious cyber-sex silliness. It's supposedly a comment on society's ever growing dependence on cyberspace and social media, and our withdrawal and disconnection from reality and fading day to day interaction with fellow human beings, but is in fact just a film about a bloke having a wank to his phone. Indeed at one point the screen thoughtfully goes blank for what seems like an eternity to hide this embarrassing fact.
I've enjoyed all of Spike Jonze's previous films, but this bored me rigid, whilst it looks fabulous - the subtle futuristic design and cinematography is stunning, and there are moments of typically idiosyncratic Jonze quirkiness, it just didn't connect with me at all on any kind of emotional or spiritual level. I found it a rather distant, vacuous experience, it's basically navel-gazing nerd porn, a film which mopes around with all the overwrought emo anxiety, artificial melancholy and agonised self-pity of a Twilight saga marathon. Phoenix's character in particular is frankly wetter than last winter's Somerset Levels, and far more deserving of a slap, than any audience sympathy.

4) 3 DAYS TO KILL
From the unlikely combination of McG and Luc Besson comes 3 Days To Kill, which on the surface appears to be a Taken type action adventure film with Kevin Costner off the subs’ bench for Liam Neeson. In actual fact this is a rather awkward mix of violent espionage thriller and maudlin family drama more concerned with Costner’s terminally ill CIA operative reuniting with his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). It’s tonally vague, listless and utterly misjudged, completely all over the place structurally and in terms of storytelling. At times it almost feels like a block-headed attempt at the sort of adult/child relationship amidst assassins’ bullets of Besson’s own Leon, but with added sentimentality and misplaced black humour. Costner has always been a watchable screen presence, but he’s fighting a losing battle here with the shoddy, substandard material he’s saddled with. 

5) BAD NEIGHBOURS

I laughed twice. Both these were scenes already spoiled by the trailer. I pretty much loathed every single person in this film and found spending any time with them absolute Hell. I think it's really about time I put Seth Rogen on my 'block' list and stopped watching his films, I just find him excruciatingly unfunny and annoying. 

6) MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT
Gareth Edwards' debut feature Monsters was a beautifully rendered science-fiction indie. More of a gently unfolding, utterly believable and engaging relationship drama playing out against the epic backdrop of a recent alien invasion, with moments of true wonder and genuine otherworldly magic. It was subtle, sincere and self-contained. So news of a follow-up was met with equal degrees of intrigue and concern......why make a sequel to a film which clearly didn't need one?
Those concerns alas have proved to have solid foundations, for this second entry in the Monsters universe is so far removed from the style and tone of Edwards' majestic movie, it may just as well be released under a completely different and unrelated title. In fact with its Gulf War type action movie stylings, this actually does feel like it started off as an entirely different film - a bombastic Band Of Brothers conflict drama - which somebody decided to tag lumbering alien creatures onto its utterly cliched testosterone-fuelled narrative. Not that you'd notice really, as the monsters are peripheral at best (which I suppose was true of the first film), largely forgotten about even during the ridiculously bloated two hour duration, or just glimpsed in the background during fleeting sequences of reflection or rest. When they do become briefly prominent to proceedings, their inclusion is frequently baffling - I had no idea what was supposed to be going on with their evolution, as various creatures of differing sizes and species are introduced then largely forgotten about without explanation or insight as the main thrust of the narrative returns to noisy, boring gun battles. As for a scene here clearly intended to mirror the emotional ethereal sequence at the climax of Monsters, again I was left utterly bemused by what exactly was happening, as it appeared to be two protagonists caught up in an erm, alien money shot?
Loud, long, ill-conceived, with a cast of unsympathetic characters with barely enough personality between them to stretch to the level of stereotypes, about all this has going for it is some impressive desert location work and fine cinematography worthy of a far greater project. If this has any worth at all it may well be to give you the urge to rewatch the original film instead, which trust me, should become your default setting when contemplating viewing this disappointing dud.

7) A MOST WANTED MAN
Less 'War on Terror', more snore on terror, this joined Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as one of 2014's most soporific spy movies. Talky and tedious, it's a thriller utterly devoid of thrills, but rife with wayward accents and endless episodes of nothing much happening. It moves at the pace of an aged slug on mobility allowance, and has the most half-arsed, anti-climactic non-conclusion, where the film just sort of trundles to a close as if everybody involved had lost all interest. A depressingly dull swansong for the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, who unsurprisingly is the film's only saving grace.

8) NOAH

Noah is what you get when you give a filmmaker with art-house sensibilities hundreds of millions of dollars and free reign over a studio's special effects facilities. Frankly, this is one of the most bonkers mainstream movies of recent times, a sort of transgressive, liberty-taking Biblical epic populated by an international cast with wildly wondering accents, all of whom are teetering on the brink of going full retard at any given moment.
Russell Crowe's titular ark builder is a mental mix of brawling action hero, crazed philosopher and ranting sociopath, and he doesn't even come close to being the oddest element of a film which features Tree Of Life style existential evolution episodes, gory horror-inflected nightmare sequences, epic CGI-laden Lord Of The Rings like battles, Anthony Hopkins mumbling gibberish whilst crawling around rummaging for berries, and giant lumbering rock monsters which look and interact like Transformers made out of boulders and seem to have been digitally inserted from an entirely different film (possibly Galaxy Quest?).
You really get the feeling that what Darren Aronofsky wanted to make here was another cerebral, surreal, fantasy epic like his earlier metaphysical mind-fuck The Fountain, but got bogged down with all that pesky Old Testament stuff which had to be shoe-horned in instead. An expensive, ambitious but utterly idiotic folly.

9) WILLOW CREEK
After its festival circuit buzz I was hoping Willow Creek would do something fresh and original with the stale found footage horror format. With cult comedian/filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait on writing/directing duties, expectations were high for the sort of strange, subversive approach of his previous work like God Bless America or Sleeping Dogs Lie, to really enliven what on paper appears to be a very ordinary Bigfoot movie. The strangest revelation then, is that this was in fact just a very ordinary Bigfoot movie…….utterly devoid of any originality or individuality.
This follows the Blair Witch Project template to the letter, surprisingly conventional, uneventful and irony free, this also features a single static shot inside a tent whilst spooky noises penetrate from outside, which seems to go on for about half the movie, before the inevitable shaky-cam running and screaming in the dark payoff and uninspired abrupt ending.
I really don’t get the praise for this film at all, it’s completely derivative and formulaic, utterly indistinguishable from any number of similarly themed movies – The Lost Coast Tapes and Exists for instance, and seems to have been elevated to higher status solely on the strength of goodwill towards its charismatic cult director. 

10) THE DOUBLE
One of the dullest films I saw all year, it also merits inclusion for the fact it's also one of the ugliest, drabbest looking films I've ever seen. Less a representation of a bleak dystopian future, more a budgetry-deficient, visually barren rehash of Brazil with not one morose mumbling Jesse Eisenberg, but two of the fuckers!

11) DRACULA UNTOLD
12) TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
13) JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
14) STRETCH
15)TRANSCENDENCE
16) ANNABELLE
17) ANIMAL
18) NYMPH
19) AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR
20) PROXY.

WORST ACTION FILM: SABOTAGE

WORST HORROR FILM: CRAWL OR DIE

WORST COMEDY: BAD NEIGHBOURS

WORST SCIENCE-FICTION / FANTASY: MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT

WORST SPECIAL FX: CRAWL OR DIE & ZOMBEAVERS

WORST SCREENPLAY: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

WORST DIRECTOR: McG  (3 DAYS TO KILL)

WORST ACTRESS: PAZ DE LA HUERTA (NURSE 3D)

WORST ACTOR: CHRIS PINE (STRETCH)

2014'S BIGGEST LETDOWN WHICH SHOULD’VE BEEN GREAT BUT REALLY WASN’T: GODZILLA & INTERSTELLAR.

 

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