I try to avoid hyperbole. So, I’m reluctant to say 2013 was the worst year for movies, as others have. But it sure wasn’t any picnic either. I fully intended to merely present the 10 Worst Films of 2013 (“worst” in this case meaning the ones I would not recommend under any circumstances). But I quickly realized that limiting it to ten films didn’t really paint an accurate picture of 2013. Hence, this became a list of the 15 Worst Films of 2013.
And remember, unlike most mainstream critics, I did not see every film that came my way. I was specifically trying to discipline myself not to do that. There are certain films that have been on a lot of these lists that I chose not to subject myself to. Seriously, I don’t get paid for this and life is too short to sit through a film that I don’t expect to be less than terrible. Even omitting these titles, I still had no trouble singling out fifteen atrocious films from the previous year.
Still, don’t look for 47 RONIN, BAD GRANDPA, BATTLE OF THE YEAR, THE BIG WEDDING, GETAWAY, GROWN UPS 2, GRUDGE MATCH, A HAUNTED HOUSE, HOMEFRONT, IDENTITY THIEF (I started it, but turned it off. Hence, it doesn’t count as a film I’ve actually seen.) INAPPROPRIATE COMEDY, THE INTERNSHIP, JUSTIN BIEBER: BELIEVE, A MADEA CHRISTMAS, THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES, PARANOIA, PEEPLES, PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS, R.I.P.D., SAFE HAVEN, SCARY MOVIE 5, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, TEMPTATION, WHITE HOUSE DOWN, or any others I may have been forgetting. Wow, there’s a lot of alleged stinkers from last year.
There were a lot of great films too. But I do not feel nearly prepared to give a definitive Best of 2013 list. I missed far too much and will be spending the next month frantically catching up. So, it’s going to be a while before I can give you an accurate picture of what were my favorite films of the year.
Likewise, here are some of the other films that weren’t terrible enough to make this list, but they didn’t set my world on fire either: THE ABC’S OF DEATH, BULLET TO THE HEAD, ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY, THE FAMILY, FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, THE GREAT GATSBY, HELLBENDERS, KICK-ASS 2, THE LAST EXORCISM PART II, MACHETE KILLS, MAMA, MAN OF STEEL, ONLY GOD FORGIVES, PARKER, RIDDICK, SPRING BREAKERS (Yeah, I know it’s got its fans. I’m not one of them, bite me.), THE SMURFS 2, STORAGE 24 and THAT GUY… WHO WAS IN THAT THING.
Okay, let’s rip off this Band-Aid and look ahead to the new year. Onto the 15 Worst Films of 2013….
15. THIS IS THE END – It seems strange to open up my Worst of 2013 list with a film that is on several critics’ Best of 2013 list. It’s really nothing more than a difference of taste. Your enjoyment of THIS IS THE END depends entirely on how much you enjoy watching the actors involved, ad-libbing and dicking around. The presence of Seth Rogen and James Franco really wears on me in certain, specific situations. While I have respect for them, I don’t really like the comedies they’ve been doing. These films are becoming the stoner equivalent of Happy Madison productions. Add to that the mixture of Jonah Hill and Danny McBride, two comedians who get under my skin like few can and there wasn’t much hope I was going to enjoy this one. Still, I tried. I like Jay Baruschel. I like Emma Watson (who should have been in the film more). But I don’t like seeing millionaire stoners wiping their ass with studio money, with the assumption that the audience will give them even more. It’s all a bunch of jokes about getting stoned and ribbing friends with homophobic barbs, often under the guise of the tiresome new trend that seems to think that awkward is the new funny.
14. THE HANGOVER PART III – For this third outing, the party truly is over. Nobody seems to be having a good time here and they all seem to be reacting to it in different ways. Bradley Cooper looks as though he wants to fade into the background, only agreeing to the film as a favor for the people who kick-started his film career. Ed Helms tries to rally the troops and support the entire film by putting it on his shoulders, but even he can’t swing it. Worst of all though is Zach Galifakinakis, who reacts to the bad situation in a self-destructive manner that oddly mirrors his character on screen. In the first film, he was weird and misguided, in the second film he was immature and dangerous. But in HANGOVER PART III, Galifakinakis’ character is completely unlikable. Virtually everything that comes out of his mouth is either whiny or mean-spirited, tainting the entire film. Throw in some really lousy supporting roles from Ken Jeong and Melissa McCarthy and you’ve got a good reason why people should just leave well enough alone.
13. WORLD WAR Z – The zombie apocalypse is reimagined as Roland Emmerich-style disaster porn. Thousands of people are cut down by zombies in a bloodless, PG-13 manner that the studio can bank on in order to get more asses in seats. And at the center of the film is the pathetic old standby story about a guy who’s just trying to do what’s right by his wife and kids. More than any other film in recent memory, WORLD WAR Z’s plot plays like a video game, and is hence a good argument why you can’t compare the story structure of a video game to a film. Brad Pitt runs from location to location, with major action set-pieces in each. At the end of each stage, he talks with someone inconsequential who we never see again, gaining just enough information to go to the next stage and repeat the whole process over again. I can’t be the only one who finds this kind of thing boring, can I?
12. CARRIE – I should have known we couldn’t have a list of bad movies without a pointless remake showing up. And boy, is this film ever pointless. Though Chloë Grace Moretz (a fine actress who had a really bad year) tries in the lead role, there’s just no reason for this film to exist. Julianne Moore is so over-the-top as Carrie’s insane fundamentalist mother that it makes Faye Dunaway’s turn in MOMMIE DEAREST look subtle and nuanced. Some attempt is made to introduce an element of cyber-bullying. But this CARRIE remake is so brain dead, it can’t show the very real cruelty of teens without turning them into grinning psychopaths. 2013’s CARRIE is unnecessary and worse yet, misses the point of the original.
11. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD – The good news is that 20th Century Fox realized that the world didn’t want another PG-13 DIE HARD film. The bad news is that they failed to take any other lessons from the failure of the fourth installment, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. Instead, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD amplifies all the problems of the previous entry and does it in a lazy and amateurish manner. Forget the change of scenery, the film is once again a buddy picture that teams John MacClaine up with his son, the overall theme being MacClaine trying to reach out to his kids. Like the last film, it turns out the way to his kids’ hearts is lots of mindless violence. The film is almost humorless and what is present feels forced. Willis (not his last appearance on this list) sleepwalks through his role. If he shows a lack of interest in his most iconic character, you have to wonder if he cares about any of the films he makes anymore. The exposition scenes are dull and the action sequences are incompetent. John Moore has been Fox’s resident hack for years, making pointless by-the-numbers remakes of FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX and THE OMEN and undertaking MAX PAYNE as if it were a bigger but less interesting clone of SIN CITY. This is his worst film yet.
10. DRACULA 3D – Dario Argento continues his downward spiral with this truly awful spin on the classic Bram Stoker tale. The performances are mostly terrible. Argento shows almost no inventiveness in his shots. There is an abundance of cheap digital effects, only slightly better than what one would expect from a film on the Syfy Channel. And how can anyone defend the scene in which Dracula assumes the guise of a ridiculous giant praying mantis?
9. THE HOST – Believe it or not, the Stephanie Meyer book on which this film is based isn’t bad. There were a number of interesting avenues for filmmakers to take with the execution. Unfortunately, director Andrew Niccol chooses the most obvious, lazy and disastrous route and the film is never able to recover. There is an overwhelming feeling that Niccol and company are uncomfortable with this material, which results in it being a dumbed-down also-ran in the field of young adult movies.
8. THE LONE RANGER – Yes, it’s as bad as you’ve heard. A cynical attempt to give the classic hero the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN treatment. Arnie Hammer is a real wet blanket as the Lone Ranger. But that’s okay, because this film seems more interested in putting Tonto center stage, as a character prone to comical insanity, just like Capt. Jack Sparrow before him. The film is a mess, with a structure that reveals the number of script changes THE LONE RANGER went through while in production.
7. G.I. JOE: RETALIATION – Boy, there sure are a lot of sequels on this list, and we aren’t even done yet. This sequel tries to have it both ways, rebooting the series while continuing on from the cliffhanger of G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA. As if to directly contradict his previous gig directing STEP UP sequels, director Jon Chu decided to go in a more gritty direction (“gritty” being as big a buzzword in Hollywood as “reboot”). Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the chops to back it up, meaning G.I. JOE is full of the most idiotic plot points of the year. We still have Jonathan Pryce as both the first British President of the United States as well as his bad guy imposter. We have the characters of the first film being killed off in the first 15 minutes of the film, which leaves a bad taste. And then you have the ultimate showdown between Dwayne Johnson’s stoicism and Bruce Willis’ apathy. They even throw in a pointless scene to satiate fans of PG-13 genocide. Even writing about this film pisses me off.
6. A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III – More than ten years ago, Roman Coppola directed his first film. It was a quirky dramatic comedy called CQ, and it was pretty fantastic. Sadly, all that’s left over in this overdue follow-up is some mildly amusing production design. The most disastrous decision was to cast Charlie Sheen in the lead, which basically makes this THE CHARLIE SHEEN SHOW. Since the story deals with the romantic shortcomings of an immature womanizer trapped in his own fantasy world, it’s impossible to separate Swan from Sheen. Coppola desperately wants this to be a collision of PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM and 8 1/2. Instead, the entire film becomes an exercise in egotism.
5. AFTER EARTH – Nepotism rears its ugly head, combining with the downward trajectory of M. Night Shyamalan to make for one of the most saccharine, interminable blockbusters of the year. There’s no nice way to say this, so I just need to be blunt. Will Smith is talented. His children are not. Jaden Smith has yet to turn in a performance that shows any emotion without being self-conscious. And it’s time that he just stopped trying. This is a career worst for everyone involved. Shyamalan’s latest uses some old sci-fi survivalist tropes and squeeze out some very preachy Scientology messages about fear and anxiety being an illusion. Also an illusion is any promise that Will Smith or M. Night Shyamalan would live up to their potential.
4. OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN – There were two films this year about a lone secret service agent trying to save the world when the White House is taken over by terrorists. This was widely seen as the smarter of the two, which is shocking to me. If this is smarter, than it’s a miracle that anyone on WHITE HOUSE DOWN even knows how to run a camera (Remember, I passed on seeing Roland Emmerich’s take on the story.). It’s a moronic piece of garbage with the White House being taken over by an army of North Koreans bent on world domination – a plot no more believable than it was in 2012’s RED DAWN remake. Hard to believe that ten years ago, people were still wringing their hands about what was acceptable after the still fresh wounds of 9/11. In 2013, it became clear that anything goes. If anything, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN treats the violence of an attack on American soil in an explicit, humorless and razzle-dazzle fashion, pathetically designed to strike emotional chords in the most brain dead audience members (The American flag is riddled with bullet holes! Those godless bastards!). It’s one of those films that is as lazy as the most by-the-numbers action films, despite having the budget of a small country. I felt rotten just watching it. When it was all over, I had to plug in a copy of LESBIAN STEPSISTERS VOL. 4 just so I could see something less pornographic than OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.
3. APPROACHING MIDNIGHT – Most of the world is unaware that this film even exists. Lucky bastards. A vanity project from Sam Logan Kaleghi, who writes, produces, directs and stars. The film has been in production for a number of years. Top-billed Jana Kramer shows up in brief flashes, her footage being shot seven years prior. Which is more than we can say for the wordless, ten second cameo from Brandon T. Jackson, whose footage looked like B-roll and was actually shot in 2004. That’s nine years, folks. Not that the present-day story is much better. It’s about a returning war veteran who discovers that his ex-girlfriend is dead and her politically connected father may have been responsible. All of this is presented in a hamfisted manner that would likely see this film rejected from the Hallmark Channel. But APPROACHING MIDNIGHT did indeed get a small theatrical release where cinemas played a Blu-ray that was supplied to them.
2. TEXAS CHAINSAW (a.k.a. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D) – Okay, but this is the last sequel on this list, right? Pretty please? This direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original is one of the most cynical films of the year. There wasn’t even an attempt to make a good movie. It’s the only explanation I can find for what wound up on screen. The acting is terrible, particularly by third-rate hip hop artist Trey Songz. More lazy filmmaking, no doubt followed by studio heads scratching their heads when the horror audience wasn’t the pushovers they took them for. This is one of the worst slasher films ever made. Think about that.
And the worst film of 2013 is……
1. MOVIE 43 – How can one film be worse than everything else we’ve covered so far? Well, how about a movie that is barely a movie at all? A sketch comedy film that doesn’t seem to understand what a sketch is and has a tenuous grasp on comedy as well. Some of Hollywood’s most untalented directors (and remarkably, a couple of good ones) got together for this clueless exercise. The producer filmed Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet’s scene four years prior, kind of a favor for a friend of a friend, if the reports are accurate. Since then, he had roped various actors in by saying, “Would Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman do it if it weren’t a solid bet?” After that, it was too late. There is an actual quote from Peter Farrelly, saying “Clearly, they wanted out, but we wouldn’t let them.” Gee, remember when Farrelly didn’t have to con people into making his movies?
Hence, you have Hugh Jackman with a set of balls on his chin. Halle Berry goes overboard with breast implants. Anna Faris asks Christ Pratt to poop on her. Chloë Grace Moretz gets her first period. I’m not sure if these descriptions are making anyone out there laugh. Just know that nobody involved does anything with the subject matter beyond the initial shock value. Shocking the audience isn’t enough, however. Making a comedy means you have to make people laugh as well. This is a lesson lost on the dozens of crews involved in making what was, bar none, the worst film of 2013.
Ouch, that was rough. But onwards and upwards, right? After all, 2013 is a thing of the past. We can look ahead to 2014 with fresh eyes. After all, there couldn’t be anything so terrible headed our way this year, right?