The 8 Ball 01.07.14: The Top 16 Worst Films of 2013 (#16 - 9)
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 01.07.2014
From Grown Ups 2 and Only God Forgives to The Purge, The Counselor and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas begins his look at the top 16 worst movies of 2013 with #16 through 9!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 16 Worst Movies of 2013 (#16 - 9)
With 2013 over, it is finally time to look at the best and worst in film from the past twelve months. 2013 has been a thoroughly average year for film; we've had some outstanding films across genres and of course a lot of cinematic dead weight. We start the Movie Zone 8 Ball 2013 Film in Review run with the first set of the worst movies to hit. Try to hold your nose as you take a look at some of the worst crap to hit theaters over the last twelve months.
Caveat: I do not include non-theatrically released films in my yearly "Worst Of" lists. No one really expects great things out of a straight-to-video film, and if I did include these than the list would likely just be full of cheap rip-off movies. So the list only includes films that made it to more than 30 theaters (even straight-to-video films typically get a few theaters). The only other caveat is that while I've seen almost everything, there were a couple that could have potentially made the list based on reputation and such that I didn't catch, namely Diana, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, Safe Haven, One Direction: This is Us and Justin Bieber: Believe. Otherwise I'm confident that I saw just about every potentially bad film of the year.
Just Missing The Cut
• The Big Wedding
• The Smurfs 2
• Texas Chainsaw 3D
• Dark Skies
• The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
#16: The Purge
The Purge will ultimately go down as a great concept given terrible execution. The film's plot, which involves a future United States in which any crime (with some certain restrictions) is legal for a twenty-four hour period once per year, is the kind of thing which could have lent itself to a fantastic and even thought-provoking thriller. The film has a good cast that included Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey as the parents of the central family, but James DeMonaco's script makes almost literally every wrong choice that you can make and his direction is even worse. There are a lot of things that you could do with a set-up like this, but the dullest possible choice--generic home invasion--is what DeMonaco decided to go with. Most of the film is spent in the darkness, which is a classic move when a director isn't really sure what he wants to do visually with a film. It's easier to hide your movie's flaws if your audience can't see what's going on. The villains are not particularly threatening, all of the characters are unlikeable and make incredibly dumb choices and DeMonaco himself seems to get lost in the process of the film until things just get extraordinarily dull. Tack on an ending that is incredibly dumb and you have a go-nowhere thriller which is, of course, getting a sequel because somehow it was a success.
#15: Grown Ups 2
Grown Ups 2 starts with a deer urinating in Adam Sandler's face. And I'm sad to say that it all goes downhill from there. Dennis Dugan's sequel manages to take the problems of Grown Ups--which was basically a way for Adam Sandler and his friends to goof off and make a lot of money for Columbia Pictures in the process--and amplifies then with a script that is twice as embarrassing. At least the first film managed to avoid being actively cruel in its humor. Anyone who laughed at it was laughing with the characters, not at them. With Grown Ups 2 we are "treated" to the aforementioned bodily humor joke and several others throughout, ethnicity jokes, transgender mocking, misandry AND misogyny (a rare mix, to be sure) and many more. But some humor is supposed to not care about sensitivity, so that could all conceivably be at least mitigated if the jokes were funny. They're not at all. Sandler, Tim Herlihy and Fred Wolf all worked on the script and by all appearances they just watched other films and took notes on what to copy and paste. Everything is so lazy and uninspired that even the very slightest of chuckles which come along feel like they should be directed at the original films they ripped off. The cast seems deeply embarrassed to be here, especially Salma Hayek and Maria Bello. This is what happens when you make a sequel to a bad movie only because it made a lot of money: you get an even worse movie.
#14: Runner Runner
I am very well aware that Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck are not two of the most loved people in Hollywood when it comes their acting, but I happen to enjoy both of their work. Timberlake has displayed solid potential in films like Friends With Benefits and The Social Network while Affleck has shown as much talent with The Town and Argo in front of the camera as he has behind it. And yet they both flounder awkwardly through Runner Runner, a lifeless and derivative film in which little makes logical sense and every move is telegraphed. They aren't alone in this though; Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie, both good actors, aren't able to do anything with Brian Koppelman and David Levien's script either. Timberlake is saddled with an unnecessary and hackneyed narration, then has to follow it up with atrocious dialogue. The plot, which is essentially about the seedy world of the people behind online gambling, is very cookie-cutter and Affleck has the misfortune of having several outlandish, grandstanding speeches. Brad Furman paces the film exactly how any other director might and fails to show off the exotic locales the movie is set in, while Arterton must play one of the more poorly-written potential femme fatales of the year and Mackie is clearly half-assing his work as an unsavory FBI agent. In one hilariously bad moment, Timberlake's prodigy goes to Affleck (playing his corrupt new boss) and tells him that the FBI is investigating and threatening him. Affleck essentially says "Relax, they've done it to everyone in the company!" and Timberlake's character doesn't walk away at that point. It's a sublimely stupid character moment that spotlights what a completely dull and unenjoyable movie-watching experience the film is.
#13: Only God Forgives
As you can see (and will continue to see below), much of this first half of the list consists of films which had a lot of potential and turned out to be extreme disappointments. Few films in 2013 exemplified that more than Only God Forgives. Nicholas Winding Refn became an instant favorite of cinephiles and critics a couple of years ago with Drive, his breakout film. That film also helped launch Ryan Gosling to new heights and so when the two were revealed to be teaming together again on a revenge thriller, there was a lot of hype. Unfortunately the hype doesn't deliver. Refn's tale of a drug smuggler in Bangkok who ends up in a quest for vengeance following his brother's death is pretentious, ugly and remarkably dull considering how violent it is. Drive was by no means a wordy film, but compared to this one it might as well have been a Tarantino dialogue-fest. Refn drowns the film in oversaturated colors and largely focuses on characters walking in long shots until it is time for violence to ensue, and even those are lackluster. Gosling isn't acting so much in the role of Julian as he is pretending that he's on Xanax. Meanwhile Kristin Scott Thomas is unbelievably creepy in all the wrong ways as Julian's mother, who compares the genital sizes of her sons in front of Julian during dinner. There is no such thing as a likeable character in this film and the script is practically non-existent. The one positive you can say is that Larry Smith does a fine job with the cinematography, but a well-shot film does not a good movie make.
Thrillers did not fare well in 2013, and Robert Luketic's entry into the genre is a perfect example of why. Paranoia manages to be supremely dumb while still being remarkably unenjoyable. Part of the reason for that is the way that Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy's screenplay manages to rip off just about every "tech prodigy gets in over his head with evil white collar men" film ever made. I have not read the book that this was based on but I would not have high hopes for it. In addition to the lack of originality, characters are required to be inexplicably stupid at times such as Gary Oldman inexplicably telegraphing things to his rival, played by Harrison Ford, in some scenes. Liam Hemsworth is in the lead role of the tech prodigy caught between two rivals and he has the look for movie stardom, but he has a ways to go until he can carry a film. He isn't at the painful levels of, say, Taylor Lautner when he made Abduction but he's certainly not leading man material. Oldman and Ford look bored throughout, Amber Heard can do little with a thankless role (she needs a better agent) and everyone else is in it for the paycheck. To cut to the chase, Paranoia is quite simply a dull, dumb and ultimately forgettable mess.
#11: The Counselor
How the hell did this film go wrong? Ridley Scott's The Counselor has all the ingredients for a truly great movie. Scott is a world-class director and he has a script from the man behind the books from which The Road and No Country For Old Men were adapted. To top it off he had a phenomenal cast that includes Michael Fassbender, the aforementioned Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Rosie Perez, Natalie Dormer, Bruno Ganz and Goran Visijnic. The talented Dariusz Wolski is behind the camera as the director of photography and two-time Oscar winner Pietro Scalia edited it all together. And yet somehow, with all that talent, the film ends up being nothing more than a dull, nonsensical mess about a drug deal gone wrong and the lawyer caught in the middle. A big part of the problem is the pretentious dialogue, which tries to make this thriller existential. It fails miserably on that front. It feels like McCarthy is trying to add a healthy dose of David Lynch flavor into his usual style but the two parts just don't congeal. Amidst the clunky dialogue, which is delivered by actors who appear largely bored by the material, you have barely fleshed-out characters that sometimes lack names altogether and hilariously bizarre moments like Cameron Diaz having sex with the windshield of a car. Not on the windshield, mind you. With the windshield. There are a couple of cool moments in The Counselor but by and large it neither entertains nor means much of anything.
At one point, Bardem's character tells Fassbender's titular character, "I'd like to forget about Malkina f**king my car." He's not the only one.
#10: Battle of the Year
I love the way that Battle of the Year director Benson Lee pimps his own previous film, Planet B-Boy, as one of the greatest dance films of all time within the context of his new one. One character claims that it has "a billion views on Netflix" when Netflix doesn't even have it available. I may sound like I'm nitpicking here but it's the sentiment behind that factual inaccuracy that pervades Battle of the Year and makes it so bad. This is a film that crassly exists only to sell the concept of Battle of the Year, a real dance competition in France, as a top-class sports competition. It may seem like low-hanging fruit to pick on a dance film and make no mistake: it is. But just because all films in a genre tend to be bad doesn't mean that they are exempt from being considered for lists like this. The script is practically non-existent; it is as if they cut and paste portions of other dance films together with half-thought out inspirational sports dramas. The acting is barely above straight-to-video caliber; everyone phones it in and the only people who occasionally throw half an effort out are Josh Holloway and Josh Peck. Even they only throw something approaching real acting out in a few scenes. This film is perhaps best known for bombing at the box office and featuring singer Chris Brown in a major role. Brown isn't the worst performer in this by a long shot, but he's playing a dancer with anger issues so he's basically just being himself. Even among dance films this one is seriously flawed and an easy worst of the year qualifier.
#9: 21 & Over
21 & Over is like The Hangover meets Project X. Not the 1986 one about the test monkeys, but the terrible mockumentary from 2012 about the house party. Or it's probably more accurate to say that 21 & Over is a cheap rip-off of those two films. This film's presence on this list is probably not surprising; it had a feeling of being a terrible film when it was leading up to its release in March. The plot involves two weak-willed, supposedly "good guys" played by Justin Chon and Skylar Astin who allow themselves to be forced by their racist, misogynist friend (Miles Teller) into going out for the twenty-first birthday of Chon's character. Of course, this is also the one night in their lives that they shouldn't go out because they have big days the next day, but they do anyway so that they can get wasted and then spend the rest of the movie wandering around and making increasingly poor decisions instead of using Google Maps. I'm not kidding or being flippant about that last bit, by the way; we actually see Miles taken in a cab to Jeff's home earlier in the movie, so we know he knows the address. The acting is mediocre at the absolute best; Teller basically reprises his role from the aforementioned Project X. His name is even Miller when it was Miles in the other film. The dialogue is supremely stupid, the plot is practically non-existent and we have pretty much seen everything in this film in other films before. The only good thing I have to say about this film is that it doesn't have the bad found-footage camera work of its slightly elder sibling, but that's about it.
Disguise of the Episode
Current Series/Season:Season One (2001 - 2002) Episodes Watched: 11 Last Serial Completed:The Confession - Sydney is grateful and proud of her father after he saves her life while on a case in Havana. But her admiration is short lived when Vaughn discovers further evidence that Jack may have been responsible for the deaths of over a dozen CIA officers many years earlier. Episodes Remaining: 94
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.