Conversely, 2014 was also a year where cinema managed to reach new lows. Between too little, too late sequels, absurd fantastical love stories, ambitious ideas marred by hubris, and an overall lack of personality, here are the ten movies clinging to the bottom of my barrel this year.
“Dumb and Dumber To”
Nostalgia is a hot ticket in today’s movie economy, and people are hopping all over that gravy train. The Farrelly Brothers brought us ‘Dumb and Dumber’ back in 1994, to overwhelming critical and commercial success. Over the last 20 years, the Farrelly’s lost their directorial edge and their last monster hit was the rom-com ‘There’s Something About Mary’ — that’s right — 16 years ago. ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ brings us back to where it all began with Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunn (Jeff Daniels) embarking on yet another cross-country road trip to deliver yet another mystery object to yet another pretty girl who may or may not be Harry’s long-lost daughter. The first film benefitted from the then fresh chemistry of hot-shot comedian Carrey and respected actor Daniels as the dim-witted best friends and the Farrelly’s reckless and juvenile humor being used to fantastic effect. ‘To’ devolves into so much reheated leftovers, with stale and offensive jokes and the film’s forced nature dulling whatever edge and relevance the Farrellys once had in the genre.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
Speaking of nostalgia, the Ninja Turtles also returned to the big screen this year for the first time since their 2007 animated outing, directed by Jonathan Liebsman and produced by blockbuster whipping boy du jour Michael Bay. A condescending, cynical, and lazy origin story with more holes in it than a swiss cheese pizza, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is proof positive that Hollywood doesn’t have kids’ best interests at heart. They really deserved better than this. Cowabunga…?
A fantasy love story so confused by its own existence that it seems to be fighting against itself for its entire runtime. ‘Winter’s Tale’ is a uniquely awful attempt to make the Twilight magic happen within the context of a harlequin romance novel, and its complete lack of self-awareness ensures it’ll be doomed to the ironic cult cinema circuit for its troubles.
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”
If there’s one thing that kids are excited about, it’s slow-burning espionage stories starring a wooden actor…right? This reboot of Tom Clancy’s spy saga tried to turn Jack Ryan into Jason Bourne, but didn’t have the chops to pull it off. Chris Pine continues to live up to his name as the dead-eyed golem of his generation, and director Kenneth Branagh, who surprised everyone with his directorial work in Marvel’s ‘Thor’ from three years ago, appears to have abandoned all the flair and personality he exhibited there. With Bourne making a comeback sometime next year and a middling domestic box office gross, the future of Jack Ryan on screen looks bleak.
“That Awkward Moment”
The guy-focused romantic comedy had its first entry in a while with ‘That Awkward Moment,’ a film about twenty-something Millenials that seems to know nothing about twenty-something Millenials. The considerable talents of Michael B. Jordan and Zac Efron (yes, really) are wasted here, and Miles Teller is the latest handsome white dude to be chewed up by formula Hollywood trappings (I’m aware that ‘Whiplash’ may change my opinion on Teller, but I haven’t seen it, so he’s guilty until proven innocent).
A more singularly weird horror premise hasn’t been seen in a while: A podcast host travels to Canada for the interview of a lifetime with a reclusive adventurer who turns him into a walrus. The premise was born from writer/director Kevin Smith’s own podcast and never evolved beyond a half-baked monster story too fascinated with its own existence to be scary or funny in any capacity. But hey, at least we’re getting Clerks 3 out of it.
“Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”
I was looking forward to this one, but sometimes an almost decade long wait really can kill a sequel. The neo-noir setting, green screen extravaganza, and black-and-white gender portrayal (no pun intended) of ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ reveals more seams without the narrative variety and freshness that the first film brought to the table. Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dennis Haysbert, taking over the role of Nanut that Michael Clarke Duncan originated, give it 110%, but they’re all that warrant seeing this unnecessary sequel instead of rewatching the original.
Drained of the original’s bold social commentary and gore effects, Robocop 2014 is a sterile, almost clinical action flick jogging in place for just under two hours. How could a cast featuring Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, and Samuel L. Jackson not pull this one back from the brink? Robocop has been defanged before our very eyes.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
Sony’s had a really bad year, so I’ll keep this one short. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bloated, over complicated bore that exists merely as a trailer for Sony’s cinematic universe. You can say the same for Marvel’s own movies, but Sony’s would-be franchise is lacking the main ingredient that makes all of this work: care. There’s a reason that Marvel/Disney and Sony are trying to work out a deal to have him show up in Captain America: Civil War.
“Science Is Scary: The Movie.” A bafflingly dumb anti-science screed that makes ‘Virtuosity’ look like ‘Blade Runner,’ the visual flourish of ‘Transcendence’ (the film was directed by cinematographer and frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister) is irrevocably tainted by the new gold standard in lunkheaded screenplays and a complete lack of self-awareness. Computerized Johnny Depp is the most believable thing about this slog.