Good lord, aren’t we done with 2012 yet? After all, it’s February now. Why wait so long to present these lists? Well, if I got to see everything when it came out, if I had the material most critics have way back in December, I wouldn’t have. However, I am like you, seeing these as they come along.
Likewise, if you don’t see a notorious stinker on this list it either means I disagreed with the general consensus or more likely that I just didn’t bother with it. Hey, for most of 2012 I was under no obligation to see every piece of crap that came out. And yet, I nevertheless came up with more than enough films to make my Worst of 2012 list.
But first, there’s the films that managed to dodge a bullet and not make the top ten. This should not be taken to mean that they are worth your time however.
DISHONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order): ACT OF VALOR, CITADEL, DARK SHADOWS, GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, LINCOLN, MIRROR MIRROR, THE WATCH
And now, onto the Top 10 Worst Films of 2012!
10. CHERNOBYL DIARIES – Do you enjoy seeing a bunch of idiots stumble around in the dark while they call out for their friends? You do? What the hell’s wrong with you? Yes, this is a trope passed down throughout the generations in horror films. However, it’s also typically done with some semblance of actual suspense. Filmmakers also wisely typically keep this activity to about five to ten minutes of screen time, rather than say the 45 minutes CHERNOBYL DIARIES stretches this out. It’s a horror film without scares, suspense of decent characters. It takes a great locale – the abandoned town of Pripyat – and does nothing with it, believing the mere presence of such a creepy place is enough to satisfy the viewer. It isn’t. It also uses a found footage style of direction which makes no sense, given that this isn’t actually a found footage film. And by the way, I hate that I can just say “found footage” and you all know exactly what I mean. Full review here.
9. CASA DE MI PADRE – I am not the world’s biggest Will Ferrell fan. His best films are the ones where he can slip into a character and still let the rest of the cast shine around him (for comedies, TALLADEGA NIGHTS is a good example). That’s why I had high hopes for this film which certainly had one of the most unusual premises of any comedy this year. The film is a parody of Mexican telenovelas and melodramatic cinema. This is stuff ripe for parody and the decision to do the film in Spanish with English subtitles was a brilliant touch. Unfortunately, all the brilliance of this film was used up before cameras rolled. No matter how good the premise, it can’t hide the fact that this is a criminally unfunny film, a real ordeal to sit through. What could have been one of Ferrell’s biggest achievements – and hey, good for him for really trying – it instead turns out to be one of his biggest letdowns.
8. PIRANHA 3DD – While I love Joe Dante’s original PIRANHA, I hated the Alexander Aja-led remake PIRANHA 3D. My big criticism with the film was that yes, it has blood and boobs and tried to deliver cheesy fun. But Aja is not a director who can really do cheesy fun. He does dark, as evidenced by his one good film (HIGH TENSION) and his other bad films (THE HILLS HAVE EYES and MIRRORS). This sequel however was being handled by John Gulager, a guy who never wanted to do cheesy horror in the first place. But with the FEAST trilogy, he proved that he could do campy horror well and even ass his own weird little touches. Unfortunately, PIRANHA 3DD is exactly like the first film, with more blood and more boobs and yet somehow half as entertaining. Dimension is a studio that releases some terrible films, but even they made the right call when they cancelled this film’s wide release and instead shoved it into less than a hundred theatres.
7. 21 JUMP STREET – I hate Jonah Hill. That’s the main thing you have to understand when you read why I hated – nay, despised – this zero-laugh piece of shit. Two unlikely friends graduate the police academy together and are soon transferred to 21 Jump Street, where they will pretend to be high school students in order to bust a drug ring. Of course, this is a Jonah Hill movie and Jonah Hill seems to be the Patron Saint of Douchebaggery. So, the two do drugs with the high school students, get involved in the same petty bullshit the high school students do and even try to hook up with the girls. It’s just the film for you if you’re missing your frontal lobe. Also, we get lots of jokes about guys sucking each other off, because that’s what makes Hill laugh. And yes, this is his doing. A reveal of the behind the scenes shows that it is Hill (and not directors-in-name-only Phil Lord and Chris Miller) who is feeding ad libs to the rest of the cast and telling them what to say and how to say it. The success of this film made me want to hurt people, so if you’re trying to be zen about life you might want to steer clear of this one.
6. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – The reasons behind the reboot of the SPIDER-MAN series could not be more cynical. Sam Raimi agreed to do another installment but said that after the studio-dictated SPIDER-MAN 3, he wanted to it his way like the first two installments. The studio refused, saying they had some good notes on where to take the property. Raimi, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst all walked. In order not to let the rights slip back into Marvel’s hands, they whipped up a reboot right away (This is also how the abysmal GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE got made).
This of course doesn’t mean that the film was doomed to failure. It might have turned out good. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures decided that since they could hold the reigns of this film (I’m still doubtful over the level of creative freedom Mark Webb is given.), they could make Peter Parker into an emo heart throb with spikey hair who plays on his iPhone and is liked well enough by the girls but gosh he’s just so shy, angry and mysterious. In other words, Peter Parker is now Edward from the TWILIGHT series, except he’s a much bigger jerk than even that character. The rest of the film is dull, dull, dull. I was stunned to see some people enjoy this film, because it just bored me to tears. And no, I don’t hold out much hope for the sequel.
5. ROCK OF AGES – You have to screw up on a colossal level in order to make me hate a musical. But lo and behold, that’s exactly what Adam Shankman did with this complete misfire. Using the most clichéd’ story elements possible, the film uses 1980s rock in order to help tell the story. But no matter how awesome or cheesy you think that era of music was, it surely deserved something better than this. An excellent cast is wasted and actually fares quite badly since they seem to have no anchor. Moreover, it seems like Shankman seems to have an active contempt for the very music he seems to be celebrating. How else to describe Diego Boneta’s bathroom-set “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Or Alec Baldwin and Russel Brand’s disgusting, off-key rendition of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll?” Or how about the big standoff with the moral organizations (a real thing in the 1980s that went all the way to Senate hearings) where the heroes sing “We Built This City,” the most non-rock rock anthem this side of Huey Lewis? Terrible performances, god-awful staging and even the singing needs a lot of work. It does everything wrong as a musical This is not the Adam Shankman who made the pretty entertaining HAIRSPRAY. This is the Adam Shankman who gave us THE PACIFIER and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 and now wants you to sing along to it.
4. THE PAPERBOY – What can I say about THE PAPERBOY that I didn’t say a couple of days ago in my lengthy skewering of the film? Well, we can mention the decidedly un-erotic golden shower scene where Nicole Kidman volunteers to piss on Zac Efron. We could talk about the plot twist in which one person turns out to be a completely different person and somehow it’s not a shock because he’s not convincing as either person. We could talk again at length about the scene in which John Cusack masturbates in front of his legal team while Kidman spreads her legs and mimes blowjob faces. We could talk about how Macy Gray narrates the film despite being unable to speak a single intelligible sentence. We could talk about all of these things and at least a dozen more, but really life is too short. The only thing worth talking about is why? Why did so many talented people sign up for this film? Why does director Lee Daniels continue to get work? And most importantly, why isn’t this on more people’s Worst of 2012 list? Full review here.
3. IRON SKY – Nazis on the moon launch an attack on a near-future Earth. How in the world do you screw up a premise that simultaneously goofy and awesome? Well, let director Timo Vuroensola whip you up a recipe for something awful. He starts by using only the most tired jokes about how the Nazis don’t understand technology. He writes his film’s African-American protagonist as a tired stereotype. Speaking of tired stereotype, he made sure that much of the film was not about the Nazis, but Sarah Palin – a running joke that I’m sure won’t age at all, no worries. He then added several helpings of unlikable characters that the audience is guaranteed to not give a damn about. And then he finishes off the concoction by making sure the film is the most belabored spoof possible, with comedy that probably wouldn’t pass muster with the latest Marlon Wayans vehicle. And voila! Instant waste of time. Full review here.
2. BATTLESHIP – This one sounded pretty awful way back in the planning stages. And yet, here is a film that started at the bottom and managed to dig. The film starts off as ARMAGEDDON where Taylor Kitsch (who is terrible) meets ultra-hot Brooklyn Taylor (who is terrible), the daughter of Liam Neeson (who is waiting for the check to clear) and joins the Navy in order to get closer to her. This puts him alongside his brother Alexander Skaarsgard (who is miscast) and Rihanna (back to terrible, and boy is she!). Years later, while the Navy is conducting a war games training exercise, they come across an alien invasion and suddenly the fleet is the only thing that stands in the way of a worldwide TRANSFORMERS rip-off. Sorry, Hollywood. Just because you spend a lot of money on a piece of shit doesn’t make it any less of a piece of shit.
And the worst film of 2012 is……
1. JOHN CARTER – Man, this one hurts. I was really looking forward to JOHN CARTER, probably much more than many of you were. I am a huge fan of pulp literature. Edgar Rice Burroughs is near-perfection when it comes to making brisk, pulpy adventures that have enough character depth, action, intrigue and imagination to hold three blockbusters. Burroughs has been brought to the screen numerous times, often with great success. But rarely have the films had the willingness or the tools at their disposal to do a truly great Edgar Rice Burroughs film. JOHN CARTER was the best chance we had for this up to this point. It was a big budget adaptation of the Barsoom series and it was being handled by some of the people behind the great Pixar films of recent years. What could go wrong?
In short, everything. The script is a mess, making little sense. Instead of adapting one book, which would have been fine, they mashed together a bunch of novels into one big hodgepodge – not the first time this has been done, but the results made JOHN CARTER borderline incomprehensible. The film has a ridiculously overcomplicated set-up in its attempts to get John Carter to Mars and hence, it takes nearly a half hour to do so. The acting, especially by lead Taylor Kitsch (Damn, him again?!?) is stilted and embarrassing. The direction by Andrew Stanton (FINDING NEMO, WALL-E) suggests that he should stick to animation. The editing was all over the map, leaving me with whiplash as they try to figure what’s going on. And to top it off, the film was ugly.
JOHN CARTER is so bad that I did something I hadn’t done since KAZAAM. I walked out of the theatre. I was even informed by the management that they had experienced numerous walk-outs and were anxiously looking to shed the film as quickly as possible. But wait! Before you get on my case for not giving the film its due, I did. I would not review a film I did not see to its completion. When it was released on Blu-ray, I watched it once again and I did so with an open mind. Maybe I was in a bad mood. Maybe I was expecting something different. Maybe I just wasn’t being fair. I wanted so much to give this film another chance. After all, it couldn’t be as terrible as I thought on that first experience. And it wasn’t. It was worse.
Okay, that should be enough work for now. At least, until we publish our Best of 2012 lists. Oy.