The 8 Ball 01.08.13: The Top 16 Worst Films of 2012 (#16 – 9)
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right in to it!
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With 2012 over, it is finally time to look at the best and worst in film from the past twelve months. 2012 has actually been a very good year for film, what with superhero teams rocking the multiplex, dark knights concluding their trilogies, Seal teams killing terrorists and whatnot; I would venture to say that this is the best year we’ve had for movies in quite a few. However, that is not to say we haven’t had some bad and even terrible efforts. Even the best years of cinema have some dogs, and 2012 is no exception. We start the Movie Zone 8 Ball 2012 Film in Review run with the first set of the worst movies to hit. Try to hold your nose as you take a look at some of the worst crap to hit theaters over the last twelve months.
Caveat: I do not include non-theatrically released films in my yearly “Worst Of” lists. No one really expects great things out of a straight-to-video film, and if I did include these than the list would be full of mockbusters by the Asylum anyway. So the list only includes films that made it to more than 10 theaters (even straight-to-video films typically get one or two theaters). The only other caveat is that while I’ve seen almost everything, there were a couple that could have potentially made the list based on reputation and such that I didn’t catch, namely Sparkle, The Cold Light of Day, The Day (it hit 12 theaters so it would have qualified) and Hit & Run. Otherwise I’m confident than I saw just about every potentially bad film of the year.
House at the End of The Street
One for the Money
Step Up Revolution
First up on our list is a film that I actually had some level of hope for. The Resident Evil films have never been great cinematic achievements but the first three entries in the franchise were at least fun efforts. Paul W.S. Anderson made a tolerable effort with the first film and then others took over, expanding on what he built–sometimes in weird directions, but always in interesting directions. Unfortunately ever since Anderson took back over the franchise has done a nose-dive. Resident Evil: Afterlife was a shockingly dull effort that held none of the silly fun of Apocalypse or Extinction. For Retribution, Anderson lured fans back with the promise of fan favorites returning in Rain Ocampo and Carlos Oliviera, not to mention the promised smackdown between Alice and Jill that was alluded to at the finish of Afterlife and the introduction of Ada Wong. Sadly, none of these promises even begin to live up to what we were promised. Oliveira’s return is completely wasted to create a disposable villain, Rain gets a bit more to do but it’s all nonsense and the big battle is just as poorly shot as anything Anderson did with The Three Musketeers. Li Bingbing is decent as Ada Wong, but her storyline is completely unnecessary and does nothing more than distract from the rest of the film while Johann Urb doesn’t hold up as Leon Kennedy. The fight scenes are terribly-shot, eliminating the only other potential value that this film had; in the end, the biggest problem here is how far Anderson has fallen as a filmmaker. And considering that he wasn’t that high to begin with, it’s a rather sad statement.
Much like Resident Evil: Retribution, I had hope for Paranormal Activity 4. Don’t laugh, I actually enjoy the franchise…and clearly I am not the only one. The first two entries in the franchise by and large solved most of the problems that people have with found footage, such as the shaky camera work and the annoying characters. (Yes, Micah is irritating, but I’ll give them one on leeway especially since he’s not half as bad as some past found footage characters.) Paranormal Activity 3 had a few failings but was still an interesting way to continue the franchise by showing what had led up to the events we saw in the first two. With the fourth film, PA 3 directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman took it back to the present and showed us that there isn’t much left to do with this series of films. The plot of the fourth film is pretty much non-sensical. That doesn’t mean that you can’t follow it, just that it makes no sense. There is no rhyme or reason why demon-Katie allows the set-up of this film to occur; the big twist in the film is supposed to be shocking but instead it just makes you infuriated due to extreme gaps in logic. The acting is exactly what you expect out of this franchise, which is to say that the adults are not terrible but not particularly great either and the children are wooden at best. The climax of the film is not only lacking in tension, it is also aggravating in that it delays any sort of answers so that Paramount can extend the franchise by at least one more film (plus the promised Spanish-language spin-off). I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Kathryn Newton, a fifteen year-old girl, spends most of the film in relative underwear. That’s creepy and exploitative and the fact that this is not the worst part of the film is contemptible.
Looking at the whole of my list, I can say with confidence that 2012 was a very bad year for two genres. One was horror, which you’ve already seen some of on this list. The other was comedy. Let’s take a look at the first example of that. There was a point in time where the film remake of The Three Stooges was set to star Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio Del Toro as Larry, Curly and Moe, respectively. I cannot possibly believe that it was this particular script that they had agreed to. The Farrelly brothers were once the new names in comedy back in the late 1990s. Sadly for them, those days have passed and their last several efforts (Osmosis Jones, Shallow Hal, Stuck on You, The Heartbreak Kid, Hall Pass) have all been busts, at least in terms of quality. The Three Stooges is just the latest in a long line of proof that they have nothing left in the tank creatively. The Farrellys assemble a very talented cast that includes Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Jane Lynch, Sofía Vergara, Jennifer Hudson and Larry David and proceed to completely waste any comic potential they have. The trio of leads try their most admirable to make it all work and ape their counterparts respectfully, but it all amounts to nothing when it is combined with a plot that includes an extended and laughless plot point involving Moe being on Jersey Shore. A comedy like this doesn’t need a brilliant plot but it needs to have something approaching comedy to it; the Farrellys throw in a lot of slapstick but very little of it actually elicits laughs. A talented cast desperately prat-falling all over the place in order to try and rise above a dud script does not make for a good movie, and this is absolute proof of that fact.
In 1997 and 2001, Morgan Freeman originated James Patterson’s character of Alex Cross on film in the movies Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. While those movies did not get the warmest reactions, Freeman was generally praised for his portrayal of the brilliant detective. For some reason, Rob Cohen and Summit Entertainment thought that for their 2012 reboot of the character, Tyler Perry would be able to step into Freeman’s shoes and deliver something worth watching. Unfortunately Perry is deeply out of his depth in this film, as he is not able to wear a dress. I’m somewhat kidding on the dress part, but I will admit that as much as I am not a fan of the Madea movies they are at least something that Perry is comfortable in, perhaps because he is able to write his own dialogue and he knows how to bring it to life. As Cross, Perry is deeply and embarrassingly out of his depth and it shows every time he tries to emote (twelve-year old Yara Shahidi, who plays his daughter, cries more believably than him) or spout detective jargon. Idris Elba was originally attached to play the role, which is something I would have been very interested in seeing that but to be fair to Perry, he is not the only problem with this film. The plot is Swiss cheese with the amount of holes located within, Jean Reno is flat as billionaire Giles Mercier and poor Edward Burns seems to spend the whole film wondering how his career came to this. Then there is Matthew Fox. Fox gives the most embarrassing performance of all; his body is impressively jacked-up but for some reason he felt that his acting should follow suit. There are times were going overly hammy can work in a film like this, but in Fox’s case he is completely out of sync with the entire film and it makes things all the more jarring. Predictable and dumb, Alex Cross stands as one of the worst thrillers of the year.
Smiley is a film that stayed off most people’s radar in 2012, and probably for the better. The limited-release horror picture did not get a lot of hype and made its way into a small number of theaters in October before just as quietly making its way out of them. Directed by Michael Gallagher, the film has one thing going for it in a visually-distinctive horror villain. The perversion of such a well-known icon as the Smiley Face into something horrific was an inspired thought; that the rest of the film doesn’t have the same kind of inspiration is unfortunate in the extreme. Gallagher’s script focuses on a girl who has some kind of tragic past–seemingly only because that is required in these sorts of films–and her college friends’ obsession with a Chatroulette-stalking serial killer named Smiley who kills people based on memes from the infamous 4chan internet board and the hacktivist group Anonymous. The plot contains a lot of discussion of these concepts in order to introduce them to audiences, but every time they stop for exposition the film dies a terrible death. The problem is that outside of this insertion of internet subculture there is absolutely nothing new presented here. All of the characters are stock characters, the deaths are dull and uninspired and Keith David shows up just long enough to give the poster a name that horror fans will recognize, then ducks out with the hopes that no one realized he’s in this. One gets the impression that Michael Gallagher has an axe to grind against 4chan, which may be understandable depending on the circumstances but is not enough reason to make a horror film about it. This is stupid, generic and dull, with poor acting throughout and an infuriating ending to boot.
Gerard Butler has had a really bad few years. While he has managed to eke out a couple of good films like Coriolanus and his voice work in How to Train Your Dragon, he has mostly languished in misguided dramas (Machine Gun Preacher), laughable action thrillers (Gamer, Law Abiding Citizen) or particularly bad romantic comedies. From The Ugly Truth to Bounty Hunter, Butler has tried desperately to parlay his success into the rom-com genre and failed miserably from both a critical and financial standpoint. With Playing for Keeps, Butler inserts another failed entry into that resume. Butler plays George, a former professional soccer player who is down on his luck and only has one thing going for him: his kid. As he tries to parlay his former career into that of a sportscaster to pay the bills, he finds himself coaching his son’s soccer team and tries to win back the mother of said child (Jessica Biel) while an army of soccer moms throw themselves at him. There are so many things wrong with Playing for Keeps that I almost don’t know where to begin, but let’s start with the fact that Butler’s lead character isn’t someone who is either admirable or sympathetic. He is written as a complete loser and as admirably as Butler tries to apply his charm, the film just doesn’t let us like the character. The women are written as a series of clichés for Butler’s character to sleep his way through while trying to prove himself worthy of a reconciliation with his ex, who Biel plays in an incredibly vanilla manner. Gabriele Muccino isn’t able to make anything work in this film, which seems too unfunny to actually count as a comedy and yet doesn’t have the weight needed for a drama. It just doesn’t work at any single moment and the end result is 105 minutes of wasted time.
For a lot of people, 2012 was the year of the comic book movie. The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man dominated the box office and continued to disprove predictions from a couple of years ago that the superhero movie was dead. Sadly, not every comic book movie released in 2012 was golden. Case in point: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The first Ghost Rider, released in 2007, was a relative disappointment at the box office and while it had some fun moments wasn’t what most people would call a good adaptation of the property. Complaints were leveled that it was too safe for as dark of a character as Ghost Rider and too polished, or that it looked too much like the cheesier comic book films that had been left in the dust over the last decade or so. Fans of the character perked up when it was announced that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor had taken on the sequel thanks to their efforts like Crank and its sequel. Those people apparently forgot that Neveldine and Taylor also directed the risibly bad Gamer and more importantly, the comic-book based disaster that was Jonah Hex. In all fairness to them, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is by no means as bad as Jonah Hex. In all fairness to movies as a whole, that is the farthest thing from a compliment. Spirit of Vengeance features a much cooler look for the titular character than its predecessor, but there is nothing else worthwhile about it. Neveldine and Taylor invest the film with their standard ADHD film-making style and lousy cinematography to complement a story that makes the first film’s look epic by comparison. Idris Elba and Anthony Stewart Head show up and struggle to raise the film above its low quality without success; Ciarán Hinds replaces Peter Fonda as the demon behind the Ghost Rider to that role’s detriment. And at the center of it all is Nicolas Cage, a fine actor who plays crazy well but this time around is so out there as to inspire laughter. Add in crude humor and poorly-shot action scenes and you have almost nothing of value here whatsoever.
As I said earlier, 2012 was not a good year for horror films. We’ll get into that a bit more next week, but here we have a horror film that had every potential to be good considering the people behind it and just fall depressingly short. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is perhaps best known to audiences for writing and directing 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to Danny Boyle’s zombie-esque film. There are some complaints to be had with Weeks but on the whole it delivered a cohesive and interesting horror film that contains a few thrills. Intruders has none of those qualities, instead deciding to waste a talented cast led by Clive Owen on a plot that makes little to no sense. The story involves two separate children–one in Spain and one in England–who are haunted by a ghostly figure called Hollow Face. The two stories are connected of course, and find that connection well after you’ve figured out what said connection is. Such a predictable plot twist is a flaw, but it isn’t necessarily damning. What does damn this film are the shallow characterizations that make the adult characters fairly dumb and the weakness of Hollow Face as a monster. Hollow Face’s ultimate backstory is poorly explained and the ghostly character is simply not frightening because Fresnadillo relies on well-worn iconography for all the scares. A young girl with her mouth sealed shut isn’t scary when we saw Keanu Reeves experience the same thing in The Matrix…and in more disturbing fashion, I might add. The final act dissolves into a completely nonsensical mess and the best efforts of the cast to make something out of their poorly-written characters are wasted. Ultimately the worst thing you can say about the film is this: it’s just not frightening and inspires laughs where it should bring scares.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
Current Series/Season: Season Nine (1971)
Episodes Watched: 593
Last Serial Completed: Day of the Daleks – The Doctor and Jo are sent by UNIT to investigate reports of a ghost appearance in a house where a critical peace conference is being held that could prevent world war. Before long they are plunged ahead 200 years into a future where the Daleks reign supreme over Earth, with a small human resistance with a way to jump back to the past their (and mankind’s) only hope for aid.
Surviving Episodes Remaining: 36
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.