By: Paul Zecharia | www.stonesdetroit.com
2013 wasn’t as good as 2012 for film. We had many great films, we had many terrible films, but we mostly had many films that were so-so. I feel like that’s what you get every year, but that’s how it really felt for me. I took a long hiatus from writing reviews after Monsters University, but I think for now I’ll stick to writing about film-related topics rather than actual reviews. But hey, I still have to do an end-of-the-year list, even though it’s mid-January.
So for my worst picks, please keep this in mind: there are many films from 2013 that I did not see, both good and bad. But the 20 films listed below range from really bad to just not good in any way. Take what I say for what it’s worth. If you enjoyed any of these films, that’s totally fine.
20. Man of Steel
Boy, am I gonna get some hate-mail for this one. Superman Begins, oh sorry, Man of Steel has got to be the most polarizing film in recent memory. It was my number one most-anticipated film of 2013. And it was certainly one of the biggest disappointments ever in superhero film history. I initially just disliked Man of Steel, for being a soulless attempt to darken up the Superman mythos, but now I absolutely loathe this film. Why? Because you made me. I can’t tell you how many people have actually tried to defend Man of Steel as a “great” film. Oh yes, because there’s certainly something great about a boring, lazily-written, under-performed, horribly-directed, joyless, brainless rehash about one of America’s most treasured icons. Why did we need to make Superman so filled with angst? Darkness doesn’t always equal drama, people. We don’t need any more dark and gritty reboots from Hollywood. But to all the people who loved Bland of Steel, good for you. I can do without.
19. Despicable Me 2
I was gonna be nice and leave this off the list, but I’m putting it on because of how much the very thought of the film pisses me off. In a year filled with unnecessary sequels and weak animated films, Despicable Me 2 is certainly no exception. Personally, I think it’s an improvement over its predecessor (which says a lot about what I think of that one), but clearly the film seemed to exist for one reason only: those damn minions. Apparently, they’re the real stars of a franchise that centers around a villain with a horrible Russian accent and his three adopted daughters. Unlike Despicable Me, the sequel did manage to make me laugh at least twice. But the rest is just filled with lazy humor and a plot that isn’t worth getting invested in. Because of the confusing popularity of this franchise, Despicable Me 2 became the second highest-grossing film of 2013 (behind Iron Man 3) and it’s giving the minions a spinoff film. I don’t get you, America.
18. The Lifeguard
The Lifeguard apparently competed at Sundance for Best Dramatic Film, but it just went nowhere after it got panned big time. I came across the film on Netflix one day and decided to put it on. I don’t know, something about Kristen Bell in a bathing suit caught my attention. But what couldn’t keep my attention was the actual film itself. Kristen Bell plays a 30-year-old successful journalist in New York City who decides to move back home to her small town and become a lifeguard at the local pool. Liz W. Garcia makes her screenwriting and directing debut with a somewhat-interesting premise, but not the proper execution. It almost feels like it’s trying to replicate Zach Braff’s Garden State and Jason Reitman’s Young Adult. We’re familiar with the whole adult-returns-home-after-many-years story, but The Lifeguard didn’t exactly make me intrigued inbythe protagonist, played by Bell, or the story itself. It felt empty and dull. Even though the actors do their best with what they’re given, there isn’t much to chew on and there’s really nothing to appreciate about the film. It’s just forgettable.
It really has been a forgettable year for animated films. I did give Epic some positive notices around the time it came out. It it visually interesting and has some clever ideas, but that’s honestly it. Epic is so been there, done that. Ferngully, Avatar, whatever. Actually, I would say it’s a more sophisticated version of Ferngully. The amount of celebrity voices don’t exactly help either. Since when was putting Amanda Seyfried, Steven Tyler, Aziz Ansari, and Pitbull in a film together a good idea? Also, what a waste of talent for Christoph Waltz as the villain. The filmmakers took everything that’s charismatic about Waltz as an actor and make him completely boring. Epic has one-dimensional characters and a story with some creative value but not the right stuff to make it fully work. Not exactly a good kids’ film. Besides, isn’t anybody else tired of environmental films? You know, maybe if there weren’t six damn screenwriters, Epic could have at least been a little more salvageable. Also better casting choices would have really helped. Ugh, bite me.
I didn’t understand the love for this one. Stoker was directed by one of South Korea’s most celebrated directors, Park Chan-Wook, most notable for directing Oldboy (which I finally saw and loved). Despite Park’s attempts to instill some real drama and suspense into Wentworth Miller’s thin script, there wasn’t much to enjoy about Stoker. Maybe it’s because I’m getting tired of the undeniably dull Mia Wasikowska, who plays a lonely teenage girl that loses her father to a car accident and is hit on by her creepy uncle Charlie, played by Matthew Goode. From here on, mysterious surrounding Uncle Charlie’s appearance arise and Wasikowska is tested by both him and her mother, played by Nicole Kidman. The major problems of the film were the style and execution of the plot. The editing and cinematography is way too quick and stylized for a serious story like this. It doesn’t create an engaging atmosphere for our characters and it doesn’t give the audience time to soak in what is happening. Because of the dull script, it makes the actors dull as well, especially Wasikowska. I just couldn’t take this one seriously.
15. A Good Day to Die Hard
Behold, the first bad Die Hard film. Some people may be split on the second, third, and fourth installments of the Die Hard franchise (and the first one is a masterpiece, no question about it), but believe me when I say that Number 5 is worth skipping. It’s a real disappointment too, because it’s the first Die Hard film that finally puts Officer John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, outside of the United States and onto foreign soil. Specifically Russia. So you would think that would make for some good opportunities with story, action, and wit. But nope; when you really get down to it, A Good Day to Die Hard is just another generic action flick that’s written lazily and shot horribly. And to make it even worse, we get a forced dramatic conflict between McClane and his estranged son Jack that’s filled with mindless bickering that you don’t actually care about. Another sad thing is Bruce Willis doesn’t even look like he’s having fun any more with the role. Hopefully he can make it through the upcoming sixth and final Die Hard film which is coming soon.
14. Beautiful Creatures
This was one of several films that was based on a young adult book to come out in 2013. Something about the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games is really making studios want to shell out these not-so-well-known book-to-film adaptations as quickly as possible. I’ve always described Beautiful Creatures as “Twilight on ecstasy.” There was something about the high level of energy and incredible amount of campiness in this film that I just could not get into. Not only did the film feel too long, but the story wasn’t structured properly. It tells the story of a gifted high school student in the South who meets and falls in love with an outcast girl whose family is part of a secret society of witches. This girl is also a witch, but due to some weird rule in her world, she may either become a good witch or a bad witch (cue Wizard of Oz joke). I guess I couldn’t enjoy this film because I wasn’t the right target audience for it. Not even the over-the-top performances of Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, and Emmy Rossum could completely save it. But I will say that Rossum herself is worth the price of admission for how deliciously enjoyable her character is.
13. Dead Man Down
What a boring waste of time. What’s really sad is that it’s the American directorial debut of Niels Arden Oplev, mostly known for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The film also stars the wasted talents of Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, and Terrence Howard. They seem way too stale and bored with what they are given to work with. Again, it all comes down to a simple but dull script. But this time, it’s the slow pacing of the film that brings everything down. Farrell plays an immigrant criminal who plans on getting revenge against his mob boss, played by Howard, for murdering his family years ago. Intriguing enough, but not salvageable enough. Without giving too much away in the third act (unless you wanna actually watch this stinker), there’s an awesome action piece involving a truck crashing into a house. That was the only moment in the entire film that grabbed my attention. And that’s when it hit me: Dead Man Down would have been a hundred times better if it were an action film instead of a straight drama where a couple action scenes interrupt every once in a while.
12. A Haunted House
I feel like such a hypocrite. When I saw A Haunted House, I admitted that it was an incredibly stupid comedy filled with low-brow humor that was another lame attempt to cash in on the parody film genre by making fun of found footage films, particularly Paranormal Activity. But somehow, I found myself laughing during this one. Maybe because it was so stupid and lame that it actually became enjoyable. Maybe it’s because writer/actor Marlon Wayans really gave into his performance and didn’t shy away from anything. But honestly, when you look at the bigger picture, there was no reason for A Haunted House to be made. If it wanted to be a satire of found footage films, that would have been fine. Instead we get the obvious jokes that these parody films are know for. I just don’t get it; something about the stupidity and childish humor made me laugh a few times, but I can’t act like it’s a good film or even an okay film. I could probably call it a guilty pleasure, but that would give it too much credit. Seriously, can we stop with the parody films? Please?
11. Olympus Has Fallen
It’s forced patriotism at it lamest. It’s another film that show American landmarks, monuments, and innocent people getting blown up and killed by a foreign enemy just to have one sole hero come in and save the day so audience members can shout “America, f**k yeah!” Oh, the hardship. Olympus Has Fallen is laughably dumb. It’s almost like it’s trying to recapture the spirit of those cheesy ‘80s and ‘90s action flicks; the ones that are so overblown and explosive but you can’t help but love them for how much fun they get. But there’s nothing wrong with that; I love Independence Day. The plot of Olympus Has Fallen is simple enough; Agent Gerard Butler has to save President Aaron Eckhart from a North Korean terrorist attack on the White House. Oh yeah, and it’s also a redemption story for Butler due to his not being able to save First Lady Eckhart in a car accident. Yeah, sure, throw in a dark backstory, but these characters are still too simplistic.. Also, the special effects are beyond bad. These are the kind of effects you see in video games, not a Hollywood picture.
10. The Hangover Part III
It’s about time that this franchise ended. I could rant all day about why unnecessary sequels barely work; with The Hangover Part III, it proves once again that threequels are often the black sheep in a film series. As much as I didn’t like The Hangover Part II for being a shameless rehash, at least it had some funny moments. What’s really sad about Part III is that it seemed like it wasn’t even trying to be a comedy, especially since it had a different plot from the first two films. This one felt like it was trying to be an actual action flick. When the Wolfpack is on its way to bring Alan to a mental hospital, gangster John Goodman attacks them and kidnaps Doug as ransom so Phil, Stu, and Alan can bring $21 million back to Goodman that was originally stolen by Leslie Chow. Okay, it sounds like it could be funny. But no, the entire film was bereft of any genuine laughs. There’s no wedding, there’s no bachelor party, but there is stupidity and outrageousness that eventually does lead our main characters back to Vegas. Why the hell did they need to go back to Vegas? To bring the trilogy to full circle? This should have never been a trilogy to begin with! Oh, and that painful Melissa McCarthy!
9. The Host
Another stinker from the mind of Twilight author Stephanie Meyer. Thankfully The Host was originally just one book rather than a whole series. Another Meyer franchise is something we don’t need now. The Host is not only stupid, but it’s boring, muddled, and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I guess you got these aliens called Souls that invade Earth and possesses the minds and bodies of nearly every human, calling them Hosts, and erases their memories. One captured host (Saoirse Ronan) is trying to gain access to her past memories from her Soul and eventually findings a group of human survivors that actually know the original girl. And there’s a love triangle and a villain and themes of possession and the human mind and body, blah, blah, blah. The Host is paced like a sloth, the dialogue ranges from laughably robotic to tediously forced, and the story is filled with plot holes. Not much is worth buying into when you have pretty much a sci-fi version of Twilight. Okay, maybe that’s not totally fair, but Twilight is definitely more entertaining than this dull garbage.
Why, Disney? Just…why? Planes was supposed to be a direct-to-DVD release and the quality of the proves it. What in Disney’s right mind possessed them to think that a film about talking planes would do well in theaters? Well, apparently it did, thanks to the parents who were dragged by their little kids to see it. Also, there’s a sequel coming out. Again, your fault, America. You made a Cars spinoff popular; and ironically the Cars franchise is the weakest of Pixar in terms of critical acclaim. But at least this one was not a Pixar film but instead a DisneyToon Studios production, produced somehow by John Lasseter. Dane Cook voices a crop duster plane who dreams of air racing. He eventually gets his chance by entering in the world-famous Wings Across the World race, where the race track actually is all around the world in different cities. Thank goodness this wasn’t actually a Pixar film because it makes Cars 2 look like a masterpiece by comparison. It wasn’t even entertaining due to the boring storyline and way too many predictable plot points. Planes not a good example of a family film because there is just no effort or passion behind it for the entire family to enjoy. This is for toddlers.
7. 21 & Over
Good Lord, did this one annoy me big time. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: 21 and Over is just The Hangover: The College Years. And yes, the screenwriters are, in fact, the writers of The Hangover. It’s centered around Miles Teller and Skylar Astin as college students who take out their friend Jeff Chang, played by Justin Chon, out for drinking on his 21st birthday the night before he has to take an important exam that will possibly get him into medical school. Seems harmless enough, but much like Project X, another major party film stinker from last year, 21 and Over is just a mindless, rude, and unfunny piece of trash with incredibly unlikable characters and a rather unflattering message about ditching personal responsibility. Not to mention some of the racist jokes, too. The audience doesn’t need to be reminded over and over again that Jeff Chang is Asian and we don’t need to hear these bad jokes about how his overbearing Asian father is an overbearing Asian father. I’m generally a fan of party films, but this one didn’t make me feel or laugh. It’s just downright stupid.
6. After Earth
If you thought M. Night Shyamalan’s career ended with The Last Airbender, think again. After Earth was not only a major critical failure, but a domestic box office bomb. Even if it did well internationally, there’s no denying that this film is just another classic example of something that doesn’t even try to impress. Worst of all, what happened to Will Smith? Where’s his charm and talent that made him a big star a long time ago? As for Jaden Smith, I think he still has a long way to go in his career. Nepotism won’t help this time. As for the film itself, a father and son team in the future crash-landing on an abandoned Earth struggling to survive actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea on paper. But when you have a dull and slowly-paced tone, horrible visual effects, major plot holes, and unidentifiable accents, you need to go to Shyamalan and be like “Hey, this doesn’t make sense. Try a few more rewrites? Also possibly give this to a better director?” Oh wait, the story was actually Will Smith’s idea. Did you know he turned down Django Unchained for this crap?
I had no idea that Courtney Solomon, the director of the laughably bad Dungeons and Dragons film from 2000, was still working today. His latest film Getaway, according to Rotten Tomatoes, is the worst-reviewed film of the year with a 2% approval rating, and for good reason. It centers around Ethan Hakwe playing a former race-car driver in Bulgaria whose wife has been kidnapped by a man (Jon Voight) whose motivations are not revealed until the very end of the film. Once it is revealed, you’ll find yourself burying your head in your hands due to the stupidity of this entire scenario. Hawke steals a car to pursue the kidnapper, but it actually belongs to a random kid played by Selena Gomez who joins him to find his wife. Besides the extremely stupid ending, the main reason why Getaway does not work is because the whole damn film is just one long car chase. The majority of it takes place in the car. It’s boring, it’s horribly edited, and the dialogue is just awful. Ethan Hawke can do better than this, but Selena Gomez is an even bigger disappointment. She’s not a bad actress, but she’s miscast as a rebellious tech-wizard delivering painfully forced banter against Hawke. Getaway was another major box-office bomb and for good reason. Who exactly was the target audience for this? Hawke fans? Gomez fans? Voight fans?
4. The Call
The Call makes me angry for so many different reasons. When I negatively reviewed this film months ago, I was accused of being sexist. Apparently a film centered around a 911 operator WHO HAPPENS TO BE A WOMAN trying to save a life of a kidnapped teenager WHO HAPPENS TO BE A GIRL was supposed to be about female empowerment and how they don’t need men to save the day every time. Uh, that’s not how I interpreted it. Let me make something clear: I have absolutely no problem with films about feminism and female empowerment (and if you don’t believe me, wait till you read my Top 20 Best Films of 2013), but what I am against are stupid characters who make stupid decisions in the face of danger that eventually lead to one of the stupidest third acts I’ve ever seen in a film. Characters are what I see, not their race and gender. When Oscar-winner Halle Berry has to save a kidnapped Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin from a man who once killed a teenage girl that Berry tried to save long ago over the phone, she tries to be a hero and redeem herself. It doesn’t work because of her stupid decision to leave her desk and try to save the girl herself. And she doesn’t even call her police officer boyfriend for backup. It all leads to a last-minute resolution that’s completely out of character for Berry and it just frustrates me. When it’s all said and done, The Call is just another dumb thriller that has nothing to do with girl power.
3. Safe Haven
Boy, do I love trashing Nicolas Sparks for his shallow and saccharine love stories that have manipulated so many over the years. Safe Haven is another example of why these films are bad for your health. Apparently in this film, Julianne Hough is on the run from the law and eventually ends up in a small fishing town where hide outs, works as a waitress, and falls in love with Josh Duhamel. I will give the film some credit for at least being pretty from a visual standpoint. But much like the Twilight films, the romance and logic are absent. No matter how hard Hough and Duhamel try, I’m just not buying this love story. On the surface, Safe Haven will seem harmless enough, but when you eventually learn why Hough’s character is running from the law, you’ll be dumbfounded as to why this character is so stupid and why the law is so stupid. This film also has another last-minute twist where you start questioning the psychological aspects of the main character and how and why the hell this is being included in the film. Safe Haven is just another example of manipulative Hollywood trash that’s all lovey-dovey just to be lovey-dovey.
2. Movie 43
I cannot believe I put Movie 43 on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2013. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t make a list for 2014, because you really never know what will be good, what will suck, and what will be just okay. I thought at the very least that Movie 43 would be okay because it is an interesting concept. Several big-name actors all in one film that’s structured as several different comedic vignettes. While you can have several comedic possibilities for these actors to work with, it can either be inventive or it can be disastrous garbage. I did not laugh once during this entire film. It’s just tasteless gross-out humor that’s offensive and disgusting and it makes me wonder how you can get all these talented actors, many of them being Oscar winners and nominees, and just embarrass the living daylights out of them. You’d have to be at least five years old to enjoy Movie 43. It was painful from the very first frame and to the last name seen on the credits. Richard Roeper called this film the “Citizen Kane of awful”. I would agree to some extent, but I’d say that title still goes to The Room for at least being an interesting and entertaining kind of bad. Movie 43 seemed interesting on arrival, but painful to sit through.
1. Grown Ups 2
I thought really hard about what my number-one pick for worst film of the year should be. I figured it should go to Movie 43, but at least there was some actual ambition behind it. Grown Ups 2 has absolutely no reason to exist. It once again proves why Adam Sandler needs to leave this planet for good. For some reason, my strong hate-crush (or hate man-crush) for Sandler attracted me to watch this film just so I can hate it and become even more angry at him for being the shameless scum of Hollywood. Because I guess I just love being angry at Sandler. This is the second year in a row where a Sandler film is number one on my Worst Films list. Seriously, out of all the Sandler films to have a sequel, they made Grown Ups 2? The first one had no real plot, so what made Happy Madison Productions think that this was worthy enough to be a franchise? Having a massive cast of A-list actors and Shaquille O’Neal does not help to make all your bad jokes work. It’s nice that Adam Sandler and his friends are laughing and having a good time, but can they just focus on making the audience laugh for once? Or at least an audience over the age of five? And if Sandler wants to go on vacation, he shouldn’t have a film crew follow him around all the time just so he can make whatever crap he wants. His next film is taking place in Africa of all places. What’s next? A sequel to Jack and Jill on the moon? Sandler needs to be stopped. Or least have Happy Madison Productions shut down so we can put him in better films. America, it’s your fault for giving into the stupidity of Sandler sellouts.
Those are my picks. What are yours?
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