Happy New Year! At least, I think it’s the New Year. I know I’m not the first person to point this out, but have you noticed that the end of the year happens earlier and earlier every year? Starting around Thanksgiving, every media outlet starts printing Best-of-Year lists. Movies, music albums, cars, toys, people – anything you can think of. Having been born in December, I am part of the 1/12 of the population that finds it more annoying than most because every person who authors one of those lists is essentially saying whatever happens in December doesn’t count (or matter). This used to be reserved for the last week or two of December (still annoying), but lately has just gotten ridiculous. This is especially relevant to the movie industry because December is arguably the busiest movie month of the year for big movie releases, with the added bonus of featuring many of the films that will get heavy Oscar consideration. How can any self-respecting movie critic/reviewer make a list before the year is over? I get that they’ve already seen those movies, but the people reading their lists haven’t had the opportunity to see them, and what fun is reading a list like that if a person can’t agree or disagree with the author? It’s the same feeling you get when you watch the Oscars and you’ve never heard of two thirds of the movies nominated for stuff. My list will almost assuredly be the last one you read because I have the decency to wait until the year is actually over to review said year (plus, I refuse to include movies that aren’t in wide release during the calendar year).
(One more note on creep, as Gregg Easterbrook calls it – my wife and I went to buy a new car in February of 2014 and were told that 2014 models were no longer available. Does the new car model year seriously end in February now? Do automakers think people believe that when they buy a 2015 model in 2014 they are buying a car from the future? You know what – don’t answer that question.)
It’s also the time of year when you see the annual gripes about Hollywood start to pop up. Hollywood is dying, Hollywood has no creativity, too many sequels, blah, blah, blah. My personal favorite is the one about Hollywood’s lack of creativity. It happens every year because the typical film snob can’t wait to complain about the upcoming year’s slate of releases and what better time to do that than as part of ringing in the New Year. What I find hilarious while reading them is how serious they are that Hollywood has never been worse. This year, Mark Harris of Grantland wins the award for “Movie Column with the Most Sensational Subtitle and Which Disingenuously Cries about Hollywood’s Recent Lack of Originality Stopping Some Movies from Getting Made.” Okay – so I’m still working on the title of the award, but his piece is subtitled “How Hollywood’s toxic (and worsening) addiction to franchises changed movies forever in 2014.” Read that sentence again and try not laugh at the hyperbole. You’ll notice that “toxic,” “worsening,” and “forever” are superfluous words shoved in there specifically to grab your attention and make it sound like Hollywood is the equivalent of a crack addict who just destroyed its family (forever). The problem with that statement is that it assumes Hollywood ever had a family in the first place and was addiction free sometime in the past. Nothing could be further than the truth. Hollywood has always been a business and, like every other business, has only ever been addicted to making money. Franchises have always made money, so of course Hollywood is always looking for the next one. Harris’ complaint is like claiming a person is addicted to food because pizza almost always tastes great. But people need food to survive just like Hollywood needs money to survive and people don’t want to eat things that are bland or taste bad. When was the last time you heard someone say “ew, gross” after eating pizza?
I’ll stop picking on Harris because his column is no different than every other column trying to convince us that there actually was a time when Hollywood didn’t care about money and only cared about making art. That theory is the film snob’s mantra and is used to assign negativity to movies they don’t consider to be FILM©. I picked a year at random – 1966; a year I knew absolutely nothing about and which occurred several decades ago – to see just how “creative” Hollywood was back then. Here are the top ten grossing movies from 1966 with the 2014 equivalent(s) in parenthesis:
1. The Bible: In the Beginning – Covers the first 22 chapters of the book of Genesis (Exodus: Gods and Kings, Noah).
2. Hawaii – Based on a novel of the same name (Divergent, Mockingjay, and many others).
3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Adaptation of a play (Into the Woods, Jersey Boys).
4. The Sand Pebbles – A period war film (Fury, Unbroken).
5. A Man for All Seasons – Biopic of a British guy (Sir Thomas Mor) and also an adaptation of a play (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything).
6. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – The final movie of the Dollars trilogy (The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies).
7. Lt. Robin Crusoe – Based on the novel Robinson Crusoe and released by Disney (Maleficent).
8. The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming – Based on the novel The Off-Islanders (Edge of Tomorrow, see number 2 above).
9. Grand Prix – The first of this list with an original screenplay, but an action movie with an international cast (Expendables 3 or, if you want the racing parallel, Need for Speed).
10. Blowup – A murder mystery based on a short story (Gone Girl).
If you were to keep going through the rest of the top twenty-five, you’d find two original screenplays – one of which was the first of ten films pairing Jack Lemmon and Walter Mattheau, nine movies based on novels or stories, one remake, a spy parody spoofing James Bond, a romantic film that spawned a sequel, and a biker movie that spawned three sequels (one of which spawned three more sequels as a spin-off franchise). Keep going through the entire slate of movies that year and you’ll find a Tarzan sequel, a Godzilla sequel, two Godzilla spin-offs, a Dracula sequel, a Flintstones movie, and a Munsters movie. And if that’s not enough for you, guess which pointy-eared, caped crusader debuted on the silver screen that year? That’s right folks – Batman.
(Note: I swear to you I didn’t pick 1966 because of Batman. I only happened to notice it as I was looking at the entire list of movies released that year after going through the top twenty-five. But, it sure makes one hell of an exclamation point.)
Original screenplays have always been difficult to bring to film because business executives have always been leery about risking money on an unknown venture. The reason so many movies come from books is because they already have an audience (though, a cynic would say it’s also because people are too lazy to read), which includes people who haven’t even read the book, but have heard of it. Ditto for plays. Plus, both have already been written, so the screenplay is already halfway done. Substitute sequels for book adaptations and 1966 Hollywood sounds nearly identical to 2014 Hollywood. The only real difference between then and now is better special effects. So how about we quit with the pretense that Hollywood has only recently become uncreative and risk-averse?
What really gnaws at me with these film snobs is that they are unable to watch blockbusters and franchise movies through the same lens as their darling little arthouse indie flicks. It’s like, in their minds, larger budgets and special effects immediate disqualify films from being great. Skimming through a variety of 2014 top movie lists reveals the annual parade of movies you never heard of with the occasional main stream movie thrown in. Metacritic has compiled the various top ten lists and has created a list of the most mentioned movies. I’ve heard of most of those movies (as I should), but even I throw an eyebrow at a few of them (Under the Skin, Whiplash, Ida) that don’t ring a bell. The average moviegoer won’t recognize a title until number eleven on that list (Gone Girl); maybe not even until Interstellar at number nineteen. Furthermore, on the off chance you’ve heard of those movies, you’d be hard pressed to name the month they were released in theaters (if they even were released in theaters). Metacritic also lists the different individual critic’s lists and some of them are filled with movies so obscure you’d just as easily believe that it was the lineup of horses at the fourth race at Belmont.
Reading the “best of” lists from this year, I realize that most critics are even more boring than the Oscars. I refuse to believe that even the stuffiest of film snobs didn’t enjoy the shit out of Guardians of the Galaxy and any list that doesn’t include Interstellar should be ignored. But, kudos to those critics who included at least two main stream movies on their list – you are the people worth listening to.
For me, this year was a very weird movie year. People love to ask me what the best and worst movie of the year is and, for most of the year, I didn’t have a good answer. From January through April, I hadn’t seen a truly good film or a truly bad film. Granted, this was partially due to my real life getting in the way of seeing movies, as well as my friend being out of town a lot, and I ended up not seeing some of the early year releases until much later in the year. It wasn’t too surprising that there weren’t any really good movies, but those four months usually feature a couple of mesmerizingly crappy flicks. As the end of April neared, I even wrote about it, wondering what was going on since the summer season was about to start and I really didn’t want the summer lineup to suck.
By that point, the worst movie I had seen was Pompeii and it was tolerable. At the top of my list were Robocop and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, two movies that were worth watching, but definitely not worth arguing about. Then, Brick Mansions happened, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and I suddenly had the front runners for worst movie of the year. Memorial Day brought the first great movie in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but was bookended by a mediocre Godzilla and the much less than mediocre Angelina Jolie’s Cheekbones (also known as Maleficent). The second great movie – Edge of Tomorrow – released and a lot of people missed out on how fun it was to see Emily Blunt shoot Tom Cruise in the head dozens of times.
Then, the summer took a month-and-a-half-long crap on itself. In the time between Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy, the only movie worth watching was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and even it was a disappointment compared to its predecessor (though was still pretty good). Some hay has been made of this year’s box office tally being down about half a billion dollars (US box office only) compared to last year, but it’s easy to see why. Not only was last year a record high year (so it was bound to come down), but for a month and a half of the summer, the choices were:
• Optimus Prime rides a dinosaur
• Unfunny moron takes a road trip
• Unfunny western dick jokes
• The Rock’s Greek tragedy
• Scarlett Johansson’s thumb drive
• Kevin Hart’s 79th movie of the year
• Clint Eastwood made a musical?!
• Cameron Diaz’s sex tape movie twenty years too late
• Anything else besides going to a movie
It’s a good thing Guardians of the Galaxy stayed in theaters so long because it was immediately followed by one really good movie (The Drop), more forgettable, mediocre movies, and topped with a Ninja Turtles movie that murdered your inner child. September and October went by with the only real movie talk being whether or not Ben Affleck’s penis made its screen debut (in Gone Girl). By that time, I had been asked many times what the best movie was and I still had no answer. The best I could do was a toss-up between Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men. While all three of those movies are wildly entertaining and very good movies, none of them really blew me away.
The two movies that appear on almost every “best of” list are The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood. I’ve seen the former – which was excruciatingly boring – and based on what I’ve read about the latter, it sounds like it would make The Grand Budapest Hotel seem like the X-Games. I’d rather lick a cactus than sit through Boyhood because at least I’d know I was still alive after the experience. I respect that people have different personalities, likes, and dislikes, but anyone who gets excited about those movies is probably the same person who would corner you at a party and talk about the weather for an hour.
More than that, those people are just wrong. The best movie of the year opened in early November and no other movie is even close. As good as Christopher Nolan’s portfolio is, Interstellar is his best and that’s really saying something. Interstellar is what movies are supposed to be – great story, mind-blowing sound and music, jaw-dropping visuals, memorable characters, spot-on acting, and gripping drama. In a word – moving – in every way possible for a film to move you. It’s the entire package and, like I said, any critic who doesn’t include it in their “best of” list is a film snob who has lost sight of what movies are capable of being.
At that point (and I saw Interstellar twice), the rest of the year had no chance. The only thing left for people to do was to see Mockingjay and the last Hobbit movie, skip the unnecessary sequels (Dumb and Dumber To, Horrible Bosses 2, Night at the Museum 3), and maybe watch Christian Bale and God slaughter hundreds of people in Exodus: Gods and Kings. By the end of the year, I managed to watch seventy movies and, as usual, enjoyed every minute of it – even the really bad ones.
(As usual, links provided for the movies I wrote full reviews of.)
My Top 5
This category could be called “Interstellar and four other not-as-great movies,” but I think you’ve gotten the point by now. Yes, four of these movies are sci-fi/fantasy/big-blockbuster flicks, but that’s because this year was a very forgettable year in movies otherwise.
• Interstellar – I don’t normally tell people to spend the extra money for Imax, but Interstellar is worth every penny and more. Twice. I really can’t stress enough how much better this movie was than anything else that came out this year. Yes, that includes the movies I didn’t see – I’m that sure.
• Guardians of the Galaxy – Probably the most entertaining movie of the year, as well as the most surprising. Nobody expected this movie to be so fun and will definitely be one of those movies you watch whenever it comes on TV. It also included the best joke of 2014 (the Jackson Pollock one).
• Edge of Tomorrow – As much flak as Tom Cruise takes for his personal life, the guy still does good sci-fi. It also helps that, in this film, he dies hundreds of times. Of course, the real story of this movie is how great Emily Blunt is as an action star and that she was the person ending Cruise’s life for most of the flick.
• X-Men: Days of Future Past – It only took them seven tries, but, with all due respect to X-Men 2 and First Class, we finally got the X-Men movie we wanted since the mildly disappointing first one debuted in 2000. Also, this was the only movie not named Interstellar that I saw twice in theaters this year.
• Better Living Through Chemistry – How are we still underestimating Sam Rockwell? In this dark comedy, Rockwell kills it playing a pharmacist who is trapped in a crappy marriage, having an affair with a trophy wife (Olivia Wilde), and dabbling in some pharmaceutical chemistry. Like pretty much every movie he’s in, it’s well worth your time and a movie you probably didn’t even know about.
You Almost Made It
If I had done a top ten, these would have been the other five, but none of them are as good as the first five. It was actually kind of tough coming up with these five, if only because they don’t really stand out from a lot of other movies I saw. Did I mention this was a weird movie year?
• Fury – If you like war movies featuring lofty, feel-good missions or uber-happy endings, Angelina Jolie has just the movie for you (Unbroken). If you like war movies about actual war, it doesn’t get better than Fury.
• The Drop – This was a movie I thought was really good when I saw it, but forgot about it just a couple of days later. So, how good could it have really been? That’s right – almost great.
• Into the Woods – It’s still fun asking people if they know this movie is a musical. It’s still fun being surprised by Emily Blunt (this time, she’s showing us all how well she can sing). It’s still fun escaping into silly fairy tales.
• Gone Girl – I’ve talked to a lot of people about this movie since I saw it and the consensus is that the girl is crazy, nobody can explain why she’s crazy, and that really was future-Batman’s little crime-fighter making a cameo.
• The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Honestly, I almost ended this category at four entries and put this film in the category featuring money grabs that actually try to be good movies. Make no mistake – this movie was a very naked money grab, but if it didn’t have two movies preceding it, it would stand very well on its own.
This is the first of two categories where expectations play a big part in my opinion of the film. I had low or guarded expectations going into them and was pleasantly surprised at the end. All of them were movies that I probably would have blasted if I had high expectations going in, but none of them had enough problems for me to dislike them.
• Robocop – Add this to the list of recent sci-fi remakes (Total Recall, Dredd) with one notable exception – it was much better than the original and much better than anyone expected a remake of Robocop to be.
• That Awkward Moment – Even though there was very little in this comedy that made me laugh, the actors had good banter between them that I’m guessing some people laughed at. The biggest flaw with the movie is the pact the three men make to stay single. By the end of the film, they mysteriously start referring to it as a bet and the whole idea of the pact in the first place could have been lifted from the movie without changing anything else. If I hadn’t thought the movie was going to suck, I’d have put it in “Meh.”
• 3 Days to Kill – A better Luc Besson movie than we’ve seen in the past few years (or this year – Brick Mansions – blech!), Kevin Costner still has something left in the tank. He carries the movie, making up for some very uneven writing, by providing some believable action with well-delivered comedy.
• Bad Words – Jason Bateman has been very up and down for me. Bad Words is an up. You wouldn’t think a black comedy about a 40-year old man entering the national spelling bee on a loophole would be a great source of comedy, but it works. Bateman is at his finest and you will hate him for a very large chunk of the movie while hating yourself for laughing at his hijinks.
• Open Grave – An interesting horror flick that isn’t really a horror flick. It seems like it’s going to be a cabin-in-the-woods, generic slasher movie, but it pleasantly surprises by steering well clear of that. However, just because there’s no psychotic killer doesn’t mean there isn’t blood or killing.
• Draft Day – The NFL draft is arguably the most boring thing aired on television…and they show golf, bowling, the spelling bee, and Kardashians on television. I expected Draft Day to be nothing more than a two-hour advertisement for why the draft is so awesome to actually watch. Fortunately, the film turned out to be very Sorkin-esque and gave us a look at what we all would like to believe happens behind the scenes. The only flaw with this film was that it was about the Cleveland Browns. You know what they say – God hates Cleveland.
• Neighbors – I was fully prepared to hate this movie and found myself laughing a lot more than I thought I would. It also helped that the movie breaks the typical comedy trope by not forcing an absurd reconciliation at the end.
Movies for Me
Make fun of me all you want for these films; I won’t even argue with you. In fact, I could make very strong cases against all of them, but they are films that I just like for no real reason. This is how you know I’m not a film snob.
• Need for Speed – Well, you see…I…look over there!
• The Maze Runner – Of the two Young Adult franchise starter movies (Divergent being the other), this one has the better story. In case you were wondering, I have read both series, and The Maze Runner series is a superior read as well.
• Exodus: Gods and Kings – For the love of, er, God? let it go already. So it’s not very biblically accurate and doesn’t feature black people in prominent roles. It’s a movie about a mythical story set in a place controlled by non-black people. It’s not even a very good movie; there are bigger injustices out there to worry about than a movie portraying God as an angry, vengeful child.
• The November Man – One of these days, Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson are going to star together in a movie about retired secret agents that are still extremely dangerous. Hmmmm….
• Knights of Badassdom – You have to be in the right mood to enjoy a goofy movie like this one. Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn, and Summer Glau lead a group of LARPers (Live Action Role Play) in the forest when their game is invaded by a real demon. It’s an insane comedy/slasher flick that is easily as silly as Strange Wilderness.
• Noah - I think it was better than what you heard, though you need to be two things to enjoy the movie. (1) A Darren Aronofsky fan (The Fountain, Black Swan). (2) Someone who doesn't take their religion too seriously. Aronofsky plays with the Noah story quite a bit, but not so much you don't recognize what's happening. Give it a chance if you’re at least number 2.
• Third Person – I’m not sure how good or bad this movie really was, but I liked it more than I thought I would. It’s very similar to The Words, except it didn’t suck like The Words. It also showed how smart my wife is – she guessed the twist about a quarter of the way into the film.
None of these movies were bad, though a couple of them are wildly overrated. None of them spoke to me in any way, but maybe they spoke to you.
• Non-Stop – There’s a reason Neeson’s movies keeping getting referred to as “Taken in the Sky” or “Taken in Alaska” or Taken 2 – Taken was a really good movie and the rest have been attempts to mimic it. Honestly, I’m really just waiting for The A-Team sequel to come out.
• Laggies – For a movie casting Sam Rockwell, they seemed to forget they had cast Sam Rockwell. Since you probably never heard of this movie, you have no idea what I’m talking about.
• The Equalizer – R-rated, black MacGyver; Denzel Washington rounds out this year’s trio of old action stars and making everybody slightly nervous about the clerks working at Home Depot and Lowe’s. If anything, it was more fun than last year’s slog, Flight.
• The Judge – The opposite of A Few Good Men, it’s a courtroom drama movie with virtually no courtroom. As usual, Robert Downey Jr. was very good, but Robert Duvall didn’t seem up to the challenge.
• Lone Survivor – An interesting and true story about a SEAL team on a mission in Afghanistan that loses something in the translation from the book. The last hour of the movie is nothing but shooting, chasing and falling and the title tells you how it’s going to end. It’s the kind of movie you watch on a fourteen-hour flight to Australia – like I did.
• Labor Day – If you think this is a good movie for a date night, think again. Based on a novel of the same name, the film is mostly ominous and depressing and a lot of detail and nuance seems to be missing. Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet are very good, but the premise is very hard to accept.
• The Grand Budapest Hotel – It’s a quirky little movie that I kind of liked, but will probably forget in a week. Though, it was nice watching a movie made in a manner that hasn’t been seen in at least fifty years as a counter to all the Michael Bay I’ve seen lately.
• Oculus –It's a decent enough horror flick, but I think I've realized what the problem is with horror movies. None of them ever truly develop the monster or ghost or mirror. The frustrating thing about Oculus is you don't learn anything interesting about the mirror. It just does stuff and causes people to kill each other or themselves. It's a genuine lack of commitment that makes you say "meh" and the movie renders itself moot with its ending.
• The Fault in Our Stars – I know a lot of women and teenage girls thought this movie was really good and really sad, but my wife wasn’t one of them. She had the exact same reaction I did – boredom and slight interest in the Willem Dafoe storyline that never developed into anything truly meaningful.
We’re Really Only in it for the Money
Better known as ‘popcorn flicks,’ these are the movies that are uninspired, big-budget, CGI-heavy blockbusters, or cheap, low-budget, anonymous actor, horror flicks, or Horrible Bosses 2. All of them were very short on story, incredibly redundant, and included some elements that bordered on absurd, even for them. Oh yeah, and all of them are very obviously there for the sole purpose of generating large amounts of cash with no risk attached.
• Night at the Museum 3 – Just stop it already. What’s next – National Treasure 3? Wait, forget I said that.
• Divergent – It was a boring movie and a boring book, but the studios needed something to replace Katniss with. Divergent is the obvious choice when you look at current book sales of Young Adult dystopian future series.
• Godzilla – Do you think at any point during production, the director or producer or actors or anyone involved in the making of this film noticed how much screen time Godzilla wasn’t in?
• The Purge: Anarchy – There is no hope for this franchise to deliver something resembling an intriguing story after two failed attempts that barely scratch the surface of an incredibly intriguing premise.
• Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – I’m not sure there’s anyone out there clamoring for the Jack Ryan movie franchise to continue, but here it is. And yes, he’s that Patriot Games guy.
• Maleficent – I strongly considered including this film in my new bad sequels category below, but it wasn’t nearly as crappy as the other movies there. Plus, a lot of people seemed to like the movie, even though it was poorly written and sanitized a character whose name literally means evil.
• Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – Okay, so this isn’t a big budget, CGI-heavy, popcorn flick, but it doesn’t exist solely to keep milking the franchise. Considering they’ve switched to possession as their “activity,” it’s obvious they’ve got nothing left of interest to show us.
• Hercules – While much better than The Legend of Hercules (not exactly a high bar to clear), it was still not a good flick. It probably wasn’t a great idea to surround Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) with a bunch of good actors or forgetting to write a plot that had anything to do with the actual Hercules myths. But all that can be forgiven if you enjoy watching lots of extras die non-bloody deaths.
• The Expendables 3 – Sylvester Stallone is the epitome of the phrase “he will never learn.” This film mimicked the crappy first installment of the franchise even though the second one was far better and much more fun. When you literally can’t pay Bruce Willis enough money to entice him to do four days of filming, you might want to rethink your screenplay, Sly.
We Decided We Weren’t Just in it for the Money
These movies are no less money grabs than the films you just read about, but they actually try to provide some decent entertainment for your money. Three of these won’t surprise you, but the other one might.
• Captain America: The Winter Soldier – This movie saved Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD show from slowing killing itself and suddenly made SHIELD much more interesting. The big flaw in this movie is that it treats the Winter Soldier the same way Star Wars treated Darth Maul, and that’s never a good thing.
• Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – It was a decent follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but don’t believe anyone who says it was better. Those are the same people who believe North Korea was behind the Sony hack and they’re wrong on both accounts.
• Horrible Bosses 2 – This movie could have shown up in several different categories here. It was better than I expected and did an admirable job of not mirroring the original, but it wasn’t quite good enough to elevate to surprisingly decent due to some forced inclusion of past characters. Also, it starts with a masturbation joke, effectively jerking itself off.
• The Lego Movie – All animated films these days seem to be somewhat uninspired (or straight-up sequels), but this film was pretty fun. It also contained a lot of humor aimed at adults, so it wasn’t just made for your kids.
The second category where expectations are key. This time around, I had high expectations (foolishly) and walked out of the theater (or away from my DVD player) grumbling. It’s their own damn fault though, mostly by just being plain lazy on some fronts, especially story.
• Lucy – Lucy was this year’s Prometheus – a terribly written movie that way too many people defend as being a good movie. I will admit that it was somewhat entertaining from an action standpoint, but it was an incredibly stupid movie. Even worse, it was an incredibly stupid movie about brain power.
• Transcendence – This movie was Lucy with Scarlett Johnassen’s hotness traded for Johnny “Max Headroom” Depp’s digital noggin, but not as stupid. That’s not a good trade.
• Pompeii – This one was probably my fault. I have no idea why I had any expectations; probably because I really like the actual Pompeii. Shame on me.
• The Monuments Men – For me, the most disappointing movie of the year. I have no idea how they managed to turn a treasure hunt movie, set in World War II, and with such a great cast into a boring slog, but it they did.
A Waste of Time
At least ‘The Letdowns’ contained some entertainment quality. These films were all very boring, not the least bit entertaining, and lacked any plot beyond the initial premise. They are the very definition of “two hours of your life you will never get back.”
• If I Stay – This was supposed to be the second biggest tear-jerker of the year behind The Fault in Our Stars. Instead, it jerked almost no tears from an audience brimming with estrogen.
• Dracula Untold – Should have stayed untold.
• The Legend of Hercules – This movie was obviously made for the sole purpose of insisting that 3-D is here to stay. Unfortunately, the translation to 2-D makes for some very strange looking scenes. Also unfortunate – the rest of the movie. The only connection to the actual Hercules of myth is when he kills a lion. Other than that, I was so bored by the rest of the movie that I may or may not have blacked out for parts of it.
• I, Frankenstein – Well, I’ll give them points for using the Frankenstein myth in a clever way. Then, I’ll take those points away for insisting on referring to angels as gargoyles. And, can anyone explain to me what Aaron Eckhart was doing in a film about demons fighting gargoyles over a diary? Actually, nevermind. I don’t care.
• The Bag Man – I like John Cusack movies, but what the hell was this movie? It’s supposed to be some kind of thriller, double-cross movie, but comes off as a mess with no story.
• A Million Ways to Die in the West – Considering how bad Seth MacFarlane’s last film was (Movie 43), I expected this one to be just as unbearable. I admit I was wrong this time, though not by much. While the movie did have some laughs, the title is irrelevant to the story and is barely even touched upon during the film. And, as usual, MacFarlane’s sense of humor still hasn’t matured to middle school, so his streak of juvenile comedies is still intact.
Not the Worst, But You Sure Tried Hard
These movies weren’t quite as bad as my bottom five, but they were all crap in their own ways. Top ten worst lists are much more palatable than best lists, but I stand by my ideal of sample size.
• Dumb and Dumber To – If Dumb and Dumber is an example of a movie released at the perfect time, the sequel is an example of the opposite. I understand Jim Carrey trying to force this movie – his career is on life support. Jeff Daniels, on the other hand, did not need this skidmark on his resume.
• John Wick – Oh Keanu, what happened to you? Will you ever recover from The Matrix sequels debacle? Despite the inexplicably high Rotten Tomatoes rating, John Wick was just as loathsome as last year’s 47 Ronin. Well-choreographed fight scenes do not a good movie make.
• Ride Along – It’s hard to say what was worse in this movie – Kevin Hart or Ice Cube. Or John Leguizamo. Or the comedy (all three jokes of it). Or the premise. Or the, well, you get the idea.
• Vampire Academy – Of all of the Young Adult, supernatural/dystopian future books turned into movies, this one is easily the worst. Bad acting, an incomprehensible story, and an extremely tired premise doomed any thoughts about extending the franchise past one movie.
• The Other Woman – One of these days, Hollywood is going to come to their senses and realize that Cameron Diaz has no business being in a comedy. Besides her, Leslie Mann cannot carry a movie as a co-lead and Kate Upton is exactly how you would expect a swimsuit model to perform in her first flick. Even still, those women had no chance with the terrible script they were given. It takes an hour before you even see Upton and the payback the previews promised lasts for five minutes. Women will hate this movie and men will be bored except during the single minute when Upton is in a bikini.
• Welcome to the Jungle – Nothing is worse than watching a comedy that has a ton of potential comedy crap all over itself because of lazy writing and dumb jokes. Maybe you’re a fan of jokes centered around a guy being a complete dick and his targets never doing anything about it, but I’m not. If it weren’t for a handful of laughs, including Jean-Claude Van Damme getting attacked by a tiger, this movie would have been completely worthless.
Pooping on the Silver Screen
Here are the worst five movies I saw this year, including the three sequels I have yet to mention. I can make a case on a pure entertainment stance for those three sequels, but not these five movies. These five are the inflight entertainment for prisoners on their way to Guantanamo.
• Brick Mansions – If there was an award for worst final movie for recently deceased actors (or even just retired actors), Paul Walker would win for Brick Mansions. Luc Besson has made a lot of shitty movies (hell, he made two just this year – hi Lucy), but this one is a new low. If this movie was supposed to be an advertisement for Parkour, I feel sorry for Parkour. You know what – no I don’t. Parkour is stupid too.
• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Why does Michael Bay keep trying to assassinate our childhood memories through celluloid? He was only a producer for this film, but you wouldn’t know it. It was easily as embarrassing as the fourth Transformers movie, even for a movie based on children’s toys/comic books.
• Tammy – Melissa McCarthy single-handedly murdered the Fourth of July this year. For me, she is the anti-Emily Blunt. I am well past the point at which I will refuse to pay to see a movie just because McCarthy is in it.
• 300: Rise of an Empire – What a miserable piece of crap. The first 300 was bad enough, distracting a bunch of people with stylized visuals from noticing that the story was complete garbage. Rise takes distraction to a whole new level by ripping Eva Green’s clothes off and showcasing her breasts. Admittedly, they are fantastic breasts, but…uh, what was I saying?
• Snowpiercer – This movie is proof that many main-stream movie critics don’t know what a good movie actually looks like because Snowpiercer looks like that guy’s stomach after the Alien popped out. It appeared on dozens of “best of the year” movie lists and is easily one of the worst movies since Battlefield Earth. I’m also not alone in this thinking – many people have expressed the same disgust as I did at Snowpiercer after buying into the critics' hype and watching it. Seriously, fuck this movie; it was atrocious and is, hands down, the worst movie of the year.
Pooping on the Silver Screen: The Sequel
I created a special category for movies that were made as sheer money grabs, but were also terrible movies because they needed to be separated from the other garbage released this year. They are the shitty sequels that keep getting made because you won’t stop watching them. Seriously, stop it, because if you don’t, they never will. Between the three of them, they will account for almost three billion box office dollars. How anyone who has graduated second grade could enjoy watching these movies is a mystery I will never solve.
• The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – It’s almost as if the people at Sony have a bet to see how many bad Spider-Man movies they can put out and still make at least half a billion dollars. I’m not so sure the Sony hack was entirely a bad thing.
• Transformers: Age of Extinction – How did Michael Bay trick Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci into being in a movie featuring a robot truck riding a robot tyrannosaurus? A tiny robot humping Megan Fox’s leg suddenly doesn’t sound as idiotic.
• The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – If any movie should make people cry, it’s this one. It’s just that sad.
After a mostly forgettable year in movies, my one remaining hope is that Interstellar gets the recognition it deserves and wins the Best Picture Oscar. Other than that, I’m hoping 2015 features a better slate of films, or at least a more memorable slate. There are quite a few movies to look forward to, most notably Jupiter Ascending, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yeah, I’m a nerd, but I’m your kind of nerd. Happy New Year!