The 8 Ball 01.14.14: The Top 8 Worst Films of 2013
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 01.14.2014
From 47 Ronin and Scary Movie 5 to After Earth, The Getaway and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 worst films of 2013!
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 8 Worst Films of 2013
Welcome back to the 8 Ball, fellow readers! Our 2013 year in review continues this week as we conclude our look at the worst films of the year with the top 8! Next week we've got the best of the year, so there's that to look forward to but before we hit the highs, let's look at the absolute lowest of the low.
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
The First Eight
16. The Purge
15. Grown Ups 2
14. Runner Runner
13. Only God Forgives
11. The Counselor
10. Battle of the Year
9. 21 & Over
#8: 47 Ronin
Some movies just shouldn't be made. There are some concepts where you just wonder how it possibly passed through not one, but several studio executives and got the mythical green light. 47 Ronin, sadly, is one of those films. In fact, I cannot imagine a film that stands more as a prime example of "never should have been greenlit" than this one. I honestly imagine that the pitch went something like this: "So there's this revered, true story in Japan about how forty-seven Ronin samurai commit themselves to avenging the unfair dishonoring of their lord by engaging in a mission that, even if they would succeed, would mean their deaths. It's considered the ultimate act of honor and bushido. So what we want to do is insert a bunch of supernatural crap into it so it becomes our own, Asian-flavored Lord of the Rings. I know we need a bankable star so we're writing in a new character that is half-Japanese and half-British and is basically the key to the samurai's quest. We know American audiences will want to see the White Man save the Japanese, after all. We're thinking Keanu Reeves." And then, after that pitch, the studio said "Okay, but we're going to put this in the hands of an untested director and give it a $175 million budget. If it starts to go bad, we'll throw another $25 million or so at it. Let's do this!"
And that's basically what we got in 47 Ronin. I want to be clear here: Keanu Reeves is by no means good in this role, but neither is the rest of the extremely talented supporting cast. You have some of the most well-known and skilled actors in Japan in this film and they can't get around the fact that the script is atrociously-written. Dialogue is embarrassingly bad, every plot development is deeply telegraphed and Carl Erik Rinsch, who had not directed anything more significant than stylish commercials, either doesn't have a strong direction or (if reports are to be believed) has whatever vision he had for the film compromised by studio meddling. The action scenes are lackluster and the CGI would be considered bad for a $60 million film, much less a $200 million one. This film is a legendary bomb at the box office already and for very good reason; it is one of the most ill-conceived movies in recent memory, making even Battleship seem brilliant by comparison.
#7: After Earth
Speaking of films that probably should have never been greenlit. To be fair on this one though, I can see where Sony may have gone wrong. Will Smith is certainly a bankable star and sci-fi is a big thing lately, meaning that this could have been a slam dunk. Sadly, it was far from it. Smith reportedly came up with the idea for After Earth when he was watching the television show about a father and son crashing their car in the mountains or some remote region, with the son having to go out and get rescue for his father. Smith decided it could make a good film for him and his son Jaden to star in and turned it into a science fiction project, with an eye to have M. Night Shyamalan direct it. That is correct, ladies and gentlemen: Smith actively sought out the man whose career has been in a tailspin for years and asked him to take the helm here. That, I think, is the point where things started to look bad for this film. Sony clearly agreed as they kept Shyamalan's name completely off marketing for the movie, but it didn't prevent the film from bombing at the box office and with critics.
We can't pile all the blame on Shyamalan for this one though. Certainly his direction isn't great here, but he has always had more strength as a director than a writer and so he is merely mediocre on After Earth, as opposed to terrible. Most of the fault rests on the script, which among many other ignominities saddles the Smiths with the names of Kitai and Cypher Raige. The alien storyline has been correlated to Scientology and there is certainly a comparison which can be made there, though I don't think it's propaganda by any stretch. Mostly it's just dull and lifeless, featuring equally dull and lifeless performances from the Smiths. It's vaguely pretty at times but deeply stupid and character development is weak at best. What's worse, it takes itself far too seriously to the point of being laughter-inspiring. This one holds the unfortunate title of worst would-be blockbuster of the year.
#6: A Haunted House
Comedy is always a touchy subject when you are looking at it from a critical standpoint. The reason for this is simple and incontrovertible: more than any other genre, comedy is a deeply personal one. Everyone can generally agree on what makes a drama or genre film good, but humor has a wide variance from person to person. That being said, there are times when attempts to be funny undeniably fail and parody films have been on a generally unfunny trend for quite some time. (Side note: The Starving Games would have made this list had it been released in more than ten theaters.) The Wayans brothers have been helping on and off to choke the parody genre to a slow death for quite some time and A Haunted House is no exception. Marlon Wayans' horror parody tackles a genre rife for comedic riffs in the found footage genre but fails to land any hits. The script from Wayans combines the worst of found footage movies with the biggest problems with horror spoofs, pairing an incredibly tedious first act and irritating characters who make poor decisions with poorly-conceived third-grade humor and half-assed jokes. There's almost nothing worth laughing at here; all of the satire is obvious and broad-stroked but more to the point, it just doesn't end up drawing laughs. I don't think anyone expected much from this after seeing the trailers, but even on a scale of lowered expectations A Haunted House is almost entirely a waste from start to finish.
#5: Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor
It's rare that a film manages to be preachy and morally repugnant. Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor manages that rare couplet as easy as drawing a breath. Perry has always been bad with mixed signals in his little would-be morality plays but here he really doesn't bother to mix it up; to be honest, it's all bad. There are so many moments in this melodrama that are cringe-worthy, but the most obvious point is how deeply and overtly misogynistic it is. An example: in one particularly disgusting moment the lead character of Judith (played in painfully and embarrassingly broad strokes by Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is subjected to an unasked-for sexual advance. She says no, and she even physically fights the man. The response from the male character is to say, "Stop. Now you can say you resisted." And Judith feels liberated in this moment as she gives in. The implication laid down is that despite the fact that she's been telling the man "no" for the first half of the film, it is Judith's fault because she asked her co-worker to give her a sexy makeover. And that's just one moment among many in which Perry lays out his views on morality: women who cheat are damned to hell. Meanwhile, when Judith's husband nearly cheats, it is treated as a forgivable and misguided mistake. It almost makes one wonder who Perry is having problems getting over.
But this is more than just a poorly-messaged film; it's a poorly-written, poorly-acted and poorly-directed one. Judith's journey through the film is wholly unbelievable and every character surrounding her is a half-fleshed out archetype created to either lead Judith astray or ineffectively keep her on the right path. The dialogue is embarrassingly bad, the plot twists are practically spelled out in neon lights and the performances from everyone involved is best left off of their resumes with the hopes that this fades into the ether. Perry has had some lows in his career, but this is undoubtedly the lowest he's sunk. Tyler Perry has said that he feels Temptations of a Marriage Counselor is his most important film yet. And it is rare that I say this about a filmmaker, because I feel like there's always some kind of good intentions and I look for things that someone can look back on and be proud. But Tyler Perry shouldn't consider this film important, except as a wake-up call. In truth he should be ashamed of this film. It fails in characterization, storytelling, direction and yes, human decency.
I've often been told that even if horror has nothing else to offer, it can at least give us (to steal a phrase from our own Joseph Lee) a Bloody Good Time. And this is true, to some degree. But if you have never believed that a gore-soaked film could be boring, Eli Roth's most recent offering is sure to set you straight. Much of Aftershock's marketing was focused on the presence of Selena Gomez' in the film, which is your first clue that something is wrong here when she has a cameo running about twenty seconds. (More on Ms. Gomez's 2013 filmography soon enough though!) One has to wonder if the reason is that this disaster-torture porn mess realizes it has nothing else to offer. Roth is a prominent director in the horror genre over the last several years but for my money he has produced nothing of real value. Cabin Fever was mediocre at best, Hostel was an utter mess and the Last Exorcism franchise (which he produced) is also terrible. Roth didn't direct Aftershock, but he produced and stars in it to absolutely no positive effect.
To be totally frank, this is one of those films that I get confused over when people say they enjoyed it. (I've only met one person who said that, to be fair.) The script by Roth, director Nicolàs López and Guillermo Amoedo is set in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in Chile and features unlikeable characters suffering through unenjoyable events, all adding up to an unredeemable slog of a film. Aftershock is less a movie than it is an endurance trial, testing to see if you can make it through the relatively-short eighty-nine minute running time without turning it off out of moral offense or just pure tedium. The acting is wooden from all involved when it requires anything more than screaming and production values are sketchy. This was actually a pretty good year for horror all considered, but Aftershock still provided a big nasty black mark on face of the genre for the year.
#3: The Getaway
It is common parlance among filmgoers to list people that they consider to be the worst directors in Hollywood. You'll often hear Uwe Boll's name come up, or those of Michael Bay, Dennis Dugan, Joel Schumacher, Brett Ratner or the Friedberg/Seltzer team. With all due respect to those choices, most people seem to forget the name of Courtney Solomon. And I get it; believe me, if I could forget his name I would too. Solomon, who admitted during the making of his first film that he didn't go to film school because "it's really about who you know," has directed three of the worst films in their respective genres: fantasy (Dungeons & Dragons), period horror (An American Haunting) and now car-action in The Getaway.
The Getaway is so bad that I scarcely know where to start. The script is beyond the pale bad, with every bad cliché related to Hollywood filmmaking possible. You have embarrassingly bad depictions of hacking (Hacking into high-tech cameras installed against your will or knowledge into your own super-souped up, incredibly rare car so you can record a loop of video to fool a mysterious mastermind? Apparently, there's an iPad app for that!), ludicrous and overcomplicated plotting, very basic shots and incredible miscasting. Selena Gomez is so very out of her element as a bitchy rich-girl hacker that it's painful to watch while Ethan Hawke channels his best "working for a paycheck" face. Speaking of faces, why cast a well-known actor like Jon Voight as a villain and then show just his general jaw region for the whole of the film? The action looks like a low-grade Fast & Furious spin-off, the dialogue is terrible and I defy anyone who has seen the movie to tell me that they cared about the heist plot for even half a second. There is one single inspired moment at the end where Solomon shows some visual with glorious single-take shot, but by then it's far too late to salvage this. It's not the worst film of the year, but it's certainly high (or low) on the list.
#2: Movie 43
Movie 43 was always going to be a movie that either soared or crashed and burned. We knew fairly quickly when reviews and word of mouth began coming in that this wasn't an eagle; it was a Hindenburg. And I truly, sincerely wish that I could say the negative hype--all the complaining and criticism--about this film was wrong. I deeply wanted this to be funny based on the cast and the trailer. And as much as I wish that I could say it, I'm afraid that I can't. What I can say with a level of certainty is this: Never have so many A-list stars debased themselves in such a futile effort to make people laugh. Now admittedly, there are a couple of funny moments in this film, which is basically several segments of lowbrow humor laid out in sketch comedy format without any interstitial connections. Sure, those funny moments are few and far between but they happen. Emma Stone's brief segment with Kieran Culkin as a dirty-talking couple at a supermarket has a couple chuckles. Similarly, the "Homeschooled" segment in which Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber play parents who take home-schooling their son to new levels made me laugh a few times. The rest of it is, almost without exception, offensively unfunny.
Now please, allow me to be clear here: I am not slamming this film for being crass. It is perfectly acceptable to cross into outrageous and potentially offensive territory for humor's sake. That's one of the great things about humor, is that it can puncture the boundaries of what is socially acceptable either for satirical purposes or just for a chuckle. But the offensive material has to actually inspire laughs and there is nothing in most of these segments besides crassness for crassness' sake. Chloe Moretz seems embarrassed to be in her segment about a girl who gets her first period--and I don't mean acting embarrassed as her character, but actually embarrassed to be in this film. And she should be, considering her segment is the least funny of all of them (though not by her fault; no one could make that material funny). This is not the worst comedy I've seen, or even the worst over the last couple of years. As you will see below, it isn't even the worst comedy of the year. But it certainly ranks very, very high on the list.
#1: Scary Movie 5
I took two primary thoughts away from my experience watching Scary Movie 5, and both of them were rather depressing. The first of those thoughts is the sadder one; it is that David Zucker, who was a crucial part of one of the greatest parody teams of all time, has lost any and all context of what makes a spoof film funny. The guy who helped create Frank Drebin now thinks that a Latina maid batting around a piñata is original and funny. The other takeaway I had is that Ashley Tisdale is, in both appearance and acting talent, a C-List version of Sarah Michelle Gellar. Scary Movie 5 is the second film on this list to tackle found footage horror in a parodic way and as badly as A Haunted House misses the mark, Scary Movie 5 doesn't even stay on the target range. The Scary Movie franchise started off well enough but quickly descended into pure crap territory by the time it hit the third entry. With the fifth, I am sad to say, Zucker has almost managed to surpass Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer as the worst parody-maker working today.
There is literally nothing funny here; not once did I even get a slight chuckle or smirk out of the material. Zucker and co-writer Pat Proft actually stoop to ripping off the comedy tactics of Freidberg and Seltzer by making jokes out of films that had only released trailers by the time this script was finished. See the picture above in which Sarah Hyland riffs on the Evil Dead remake, which was released two weeks before this one. The humor never succeeds, the jokes are obvious and many are already dated and none of them actually inspire laughs. At one point the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still is referenced but not to cause any laughter; rather, because the writers were too lazy to thinks up a funny riff of evil summoning spell phrases. Yeah, it's that kind of "comedy." In conclusion...run, little movie-goers. Run before you find yourself watching this one. You'll thank me, because it's not even that close: this is easily the worst film of 2013.
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.