It’s that time of year when I feel the Christmas spirit. No, wait, it’s actually sympathy kicking in for actual film critics, who have to watch whatever is put in front of them, rather than picking and choosing. But at least they don’t then suffer a crushing disappointment when something they were hoping would turn out to be good – or at least not unspeakably awful – turn out to be as enjoyable as getting a prostate examination from Captain Hook.
So this isn’t the list of the ten worst films of the year; even though the number one on the list I scored 1/10, my lowest possible score, there must have been ten worse films released this year, I just had the common sense to avoid them. (Although there was a period of about 20 minutes when I was considering doing a double bill of The Three Stooges and Keith Lemon: The Movie, before thankfully I came to my senses.) What this is, then, is the list of the ten most disappointing films out of those I chose to see this year, and a brief word of explanation as to what possessed me. (If there’s a hyperlink on the title, then you can click through for the full review.)
10. This Means War
Reason I watched it: more in hope than expectation.
If This Means War achieves one thing from its unfortunate existence, it does manage to prove conclusively that two wrongs don’t make a right. You cannot take a sub-standard rom-com and bolt it uncomfortably to a sub-standard action movie and hope to have anything other than one giant disappointment. I would like to say I expect more of Chris Pine, but that’s pretty much based on being Captain Kirk; I absolutely feel I’m entitled to expect more of Tom Hardy at this point in his career, but they should both have known better with McG’s name attached. The saddest thing is either that Chelsea Handler is the best thing in this, or that she’s the best thing despite acting like she’s reading all of her lines off of Reese Witherspoon’s forehead.
Reason I watched it: I have a Cineworld card and I’ve seen the first three. I know that’s more of an excuse than a reason…
The juggernaut finally runs out of steam. After a film making effectively creepy use of its single camera set-ups, then somehow repeating the trick in a sequel with multiple cameras, then growing slightly tired by the time that the third entry rolled around with only a moving camera to add to the box of tricks, the best that this unwanted fourquel can offer is some infra-red malarkey using an Xbox. Tired, scareless and witless, it’s also hamstrung by the continuing need to impose a mythology, and also the need to return somewhat to the present after travelling back in time over the course of 2 and 3. This is very much a tween entry in the film, and taking an age to get to a minimal payoff will only work so many times; which is why, of course, we’re getting Paranormal Activity 5 next year. Will someone please drag me off backwards before it gets here?
Reason I watched it: It had Liam Neeson in. Nowhere near enough, as it turns out.
It’s all very loud and full of hardware, but Battleship takes itself far too seriously for the most part with only odd flashes of the joy that flood through the best blockbusters. The set pieces are underwhelming, the best members of the cast are sidelined for long stretches and the alien ships are either covered in water or shown in EXTREME CLOSE-UP. It successfully captures the feeling of watching two other people playing the board game without remembering how dull that is if you’re not participating. Also, those expecting logic or motivation should check those expectations at the door. The occasional moment of wit or invention is blown apart by long stretches of dullness or idiocy. DID I MENTION IT’S VERY LOUD?
Reason I watched it: It was the first film I saw this year, and just wanted to have an opinion on Meryl Streep for the Oscars. My opinion? She didn’t deserve to win.
Meryl Streep is eerily hypnotic when in full flow, but it’s just one of the film’s many failings that it spends as much time with her doddering around under the effects of dementia as it does powering through cabinet meetings and raging at the weak men populating the House Of Commons. Some spectacularly misjudged casting (Anthony Head as Geoffrey Howe anyone? Thought not) and poor direction don’t help matters, and the failure to either revere or condemn its central figure leave it sitting on a dull and uninteresting fence that might teach you less than you already know.
Reason I watched it: It was part of the day I spent at FrightFest this summer. Thrillingly/ excruciatingly, members of the cast and crew were in attendance while the audience laughed themselves silly.
Well-meaning might be the best thing I can say about Tulpa, which is odd for a film looking to reinvigorate those giallo horror traditions of Italy. Unfortunately, after a reasonably creepy and sadistic opening, it then calls upon all of the worst traditions of the genre, including having all of the cast speak in English, even if it’s clearly not their first language. While this isn’t uncommon for a giallo, the relatively high production values (at least comparably) throw the other failings into much sharper focus, and the unfortunate comedy highpoint of this comes in the form of Michela Cescon’s Joanna, poorly acted and even more poorly overdubbed, so that she appears to be reacting to grave news as if she’s just seen a cute kitten video on YouTube. It’s about the worst thing I’ve seen this year in reality, but it’s heart was in the right place and it didn’t really know it was that bad, so I’ve slightly taken pity on it.
Reason I watched it: It was distributed by Picturehouse’s distribution arm, who’d distributed Cave Of Forgotten Dreams. (They also distributed Miranda July’s The Future, which I loathed so much in 2011. Hey ho.)
An insufferable road movie that goes precisely nowhere, Electrick Children assembles an eclectic cast from the likes of Rory Culkin to Billy Zane and promptly gives them nothing interesting to do. The idea sounds intriguing on paper (girl becomes pregnant listening to a tape, then goes searching for the “father”) but the execution is shocking, meandering through contrivances and searching for a rebellious streak that, when found, would make John Major look like an ultra-radical. Devoid of any interesting characters or memorable dialogue and despairingly predictable, Electrick Children lacks spark and energy and fails to deliver on pretty much any level.
Reason I watched it: Because I desperately want Tim Burton to be making good live action movies. This was just desperate…
Not only the worst Burton-Depp collaboration of the eight they’ve made, but a strong contender for Tim Burton’s worst film yet, which from a man who made the Planet Of The Apes remake is especially dispiriting. The tone veers wildly from high camp to sub-gothic horror and spectacularly fails to nail either with any level of success. The characters are to a person both contemptuous and uninteresting, and it often feels as if Burton’s striving for in-jokes he’s not prepared to let anyone else in on. The Seventies setting is hackneyed and wasted, scenes with the likes of Christopher Lee add nothing while jarring terribly and the charisma vacuum engulfing the characters kills interest stone dead by about half way through; not even a convoluted final reel that throws in unconvincing plot developments can resurrect it from the grave.
Reason I watched it: I’d actually gone to the cinema to see a double bill of The Bourne Legacy and The Expendables 2, but having been delayed en route I missed Bourne and had nothing better to do for two hours. Turns out sitting in the car would have been preferable… (Once again, the curse of the Cineworld card.)
Why do makers of supposed romantic comedies believe that the best way to show a couple getting together is to show them arguing and bitching in a totally unfunny manner? I still have nightmares about the Vince Vaughn / Jennifer Aniston “comedy” The Break-Up, and The Wedding Video plumbs similarly excruciating depths. I feel genuinely sorry for Lucy Punch, who carries on manfully (womanfully?) while the rest of the film disintegrates around her. It’s desperately lacking in laughs for a comedy – I counted one, and that’s generous – and the acting of the male stars leaves a lot to be desired, especially Rufus Hound who has an air of really bad sixth form revue about him. Also, the stupidity of the ending beggars belief, even considering what’s gone before.
Reason I watched it: It had Jennifer Lawrence in it, and at the time it had a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d been so obsessed with the Cambridge Film Festival I’d missed that this didn’t screen for critics, so that those rating were probably from the film critic for Kangaroo Weekly in Tasmania and Armond White. (Ask your mum and dad if you’re not sure who Armond White is. They’ll help you Google him.)
The acronym used in the promotional material for this film was HATES, which not only doesn’t work as an acronym but is also an unfortunate prediction for my reaction to the shameless rehash horror. Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actress, as she’s proven time and time again, but here you can see the desperation in her eyes, not driven by a psycho killer but instead the realisation of what she’s let herself in for, and by the mid-point she’s clearly dialling her performance in. There’s a total lack of scares, characters commit the worst kinds of horror movie stupidity to move the plot forward and it’s so poorly shot that any remaining interest goes out the window. Elizabeth Shue and Gil Bellows do enough supporting grunt work to just about keep this from the ignominy of being my worst film of the year, but it’s a close run thing.
Reason I watched it: Two manky hookers and a racist dwarf.
Yes, Martin “In Bruges” McDonagh, who gave us one of the comedy classics of the Noughties, has managed to produce something so far at the opposite end of the spectrum they may have to get two spectrums and staple them together to allow for the drop off in quality. Where In Bruges sparkled with crisp dialogue, bristled with emotion and even managed to squeeze out some pathos, Seven Psychopaths feels lazy, but actually then attempts to justify that lack of effort through a self-reflexive journey through the mind of a movie-maker. What results is a film which feels nothing more than an active and agressive insult to the intelligence of the viewer, as every single plot development becomes predictable and trite and the whole enterprise slowly and excruciatingly disappears up its own backside. I can only hope this is a brief aberration in a fine career rather than a sign of what’s to come, but Seven Psychopaths – it genuinely pains me to say – was my worst film of 2012.