You know us, dear reader, we’re on the side of the angels. Most days of the year will find us, Pollyanna-like, looking on the bright side of the movie world, championing the weak, giving succour to the neglected and finding the silver lining to every cinematic cloud. But not today. Because, screw that, we’re giving vent to the bile that has built up over twelve months of diligent moviegoing and letting it rip on those movies that just fucking suck. And while we still believe in reasoned argument and persuasive rhetoric to get our points across, forgive us if we occasionally lapse into hyperbole here, and remember that these are films that take two-odd hours of our (and your) lives and brainspace, that could be given to something much more deserving, rewarding and wondrous, and serve us mulch instead. I mean, Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata” is roughly the same length as Sandler’s “Grown Ups 2.”
Of course it’s not quite true that we only allow ourselves this orgy of recrimination once a year, in fact we did do a halfway-mark “Worst of the Year so far” feature in which we chose our personal duds of 2013 to date and gently eviscerated them. A few of those picks have made it onto this more comprehensive and general year-end list, though a notable few have not. So while elsewhere, we’ll be going on ad infinitum about what kind of a year 2013 was at the movies, and how much hope it instills for us in the future (quite a lot, actually) here we…celebrate? the other end of that spectrum and give vent to our more pessimistic instincts. I mean, who’d have thought in July that enough terrible movies would be released by December to push “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” off the list altogether? Ordered from least-most terrible to most-most terrible, ladies and gentlemen, here are the Playlist’s 20 Worst Films of 2013.
20. “Violet & Daisy“
There’s nothing worse than a crummy exploitation movie with grander pretensions. And there are fewer crummy exploitation movies that are more pretentious than “Violet & Daisy,” which is seemingly about the two chattiest teenage assassins in the history of B-movies. The directorial debut from “Precious” screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher, is slow, clumsy and stagy, with our would-be warriors (Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel) talking their intended target (James Gandolfini, in one of his more inglorious final performances) to death. This movie is a special kind of boring, one in which you can’t believe that you’re still watching it, even with a relatively brisk runtime of 88 minutes. Brief stylistic flourishes are undone by the hoary, implausible twist at the end and the character work is constantly undermining itself, with these coldblooded killers engaging in infantile games. The movie’s supposed outrageousness can’t make up for a screenplay more leaden than a whole box full of bullets.
This is the most recent movie to make the list and easily one of the most awful of the year. For some reason, it was decided that a spineless American remake of a gutsy South Korean original was a good idea. And honestly, when the decision was made to hire Spike Lee to helm the project, our interest, if not skyrocketed, at least rose, and rose again when Lee put together an interesting cast, including Josh Brolin, as a character mysteriously imprisoned for 20 years and then just-as-mysteriously released, and Elizabeth Olsen as the woman he befriends on the outside. But watching the movie, it’s apparent how wrong Lee’s approach was, despite a scene where Samuel L. Jackson almost gets his head torn off. For one thing, the imprisonment section of the movie, which lasts for about fifteen minutes in the South Korean original, is expanded to the entire first act in the remake. This not only slows things down to a sluggish pace but also causes the rest of the movie to feel hurried and unbalanced. “Oldboy” should be about a man confronting his past and discovering what, exactly, he did to provoke such hatred. Instead it’s about a guy who is in jail for a long time and when he’s out he kills a bunch of people. The violence and sexuality in the film are somehow more unbearable than the more realistic original, to the point that a woman sitting next to us at our screening almost left during one of the many, seemingly endless torture sequences. There are a lot of ways in which “Oldboy” could have been misread or poorly adapted, and Spike Lee found every single one.
18. “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”
This film is an easy punching bag, but that doesn’t excuse it from further punching at the end of the year. Tommy Wirkola’s nonsense violent fairy tale adaptation took the trend and punted it into absurdity, starting with the unrelentingly stupid script. Adapting the fairy tale of two siblings who escape the cannibalistic clutches of a terrifying witch, Wirkola drags the thing into the 21st century with the help of many f-bombs and a variety of gatling guns. Working with usually well-regarded actors Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, Wirkola’s screenplay manages to make both of them come off like they’re mildly brain damaged. Renner, in particular, seems bewildered in every scene, especially when he’s boning horny witches in forest pools. Arterton, meanwhile, spends the entire film stating everything aloud that we’ve already seen on screen, and hanging out with a giant troll named Edward. The movie also features more direct punches to female faces than any other film we’ve seen this year, and with a very specific kind of glee. Famke Janssen plays a head witch to a ridiculous level of camp, while Peter Stormare wears a ridiculous nose patch. Nothing makes sense, and Hansel and Gretel, while fierce witch hunters, are some of the dumbest characters in cinema this year, or ever. It’s really just very stupid, and maybe this is making you want to see it more which is not our intention. That’s okay, do as you will, just remember that we told you so (three times over, in fact).
17. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones“
“The Mortal Instruments” was another contender all set to be the next hot YA franchise, with an uber-successful book series of the same name penned by Cassandra Clare filled with all the right elements: a we-want-to-but-we-can’t love story to rival “Twilight“; similar fantasy-world-mixed-with-real-world elements of “Harry Potter” and some potentially scintillating fight scenes—demon fight scenes no less! Unfortunately as is often the case with these book-to-film adaptations, in an effort to stay true to the source material, it is weighed down by extraneous details and plot minutiae that may work very well in a 200-odd page novel, but not so well in a 120 min film. In fact the film shoved so much detail in there if you hadn’t read the books you probably spent most of the film trying to catch up on all the narrative ornamenting. Jamie Campbell Bower really deserves a shout out for being particularly woeful as the romantic lead Jace Wayland. The next R-Patz he is sadly not, but you must give the film props for including a homosexual corner to this particular love triangle—it’s straight from the book of course, but still. But that’s about all we can say in its defense, and also, note to the wardrobe department: there is such a thing as too much leather.
16. “Jack the Giant Slayer“
It was always getting pushed back … Or renamed … Or post-converted into muddy 3D. And Bryan Singer always had excuses, excuses, excuses. Well, when people finally got a look at the finished film, it was very clear what Singer had been up to—a $200 million adaptation of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairy tale in which everything fun and whimsical had been removed and replaced with unconvincing special effects, tonal unevenness, and a cast that seems somewhere between a Shakespearean theater troupe and a grade-Z renaissance fair (it’s actually hard to watch Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor and Ian McShane flail like this). “Jack the Giant Slayer” was probably supposed to be arch and funny and “Princess Bride“-like, but it comes across as cynical and calculated and the number of fingerprints on the finished product suggests at various stages it was a whole plethora of different things (the fact that the director of “Wedding Crashers” and the writer of “The Usual Suspects” are both credited creative principles says a lot). Unnecessarily violent and startlingly unfunny, “Jack the Giant Slayer” was a movie that seemingly no one was asking for, yet Singer and company delivered anyway, a bloated, excessive studio trifle that was too light for edgy teens and too edgy for family audiences. If only they had kept pushing it back … until it was never released at all.
15. “The Canyons”
What’s so unfortunate about “The Canyons,” the Bret Easton Ellis-scribed, Paul Schrader-helmed, Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen-starring sex drama is that even when you’re expecting a high-camp fiasco, it still manages to disappoint by being pointless. With all of the expectations for titillation and scandal (the group sex! the nudity! the Lohan!), the result is just so hideously boring that you can’t even squeal in delight at the trainwreck you’re watching—though there is one excellent moment where it looks like a UPS truck is going to barrel straight into one of Lohan’s interminable gossipy lunches that is a true delight. The one good thing about the film (other than the UPS truck) is that by putting Lohan in scenes opposite truly amateur actors such as Nolan Funk, it’s easy to see just how effortlessly she acts circles around them, even in a state of unreliability (as reported by Stephen Rodrick in the infamous New York Times Magazine piece). You understand why Schrader put up with her antics, because she’s literally the only thing going for this movie. And James Deen, as great a performer as he is (and he is!), here’s hoping he doesn’t quit his day job anytime soon, or at least until he gets some acting classes. A dull and insipid look at the lives of the rich and horny in LA, “The Canyons” tries to be profound and just falls flat on its face.
14. “Gangster Squad“
No one expected high art from “Gangster Squad,” although there was enough hype surrounding the project, between its starry leading men (among them: Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, and Sean Penn) and behind-the-scenes talent (screenwriter Will Beall was supposedly tapped by Warner Bros to pen a “Justice League” script), to assume that the project would at least be passable. All of the marketing materials suggested this was going to be a “Lil’ Untouchables,” a lightweight, handsome-young-man version of Brian De Palma‘s classic. Of course, what we got was far, far worse. In the hands of Ruben Fleischer, the director of stylized fluff like “Zombieland” and “30 Minutes or Less,” the sort-of-true story became a plastic bore, always pitched somewhere between absolute tedium and a nearly schizophrenic frenzy. In the former camp is Ryan Gosling’s sleepy performance, where he barely raises his voice above a breathy whisper and seems utterly unconcerned with everything else that is going on in the movie (including Emma Stone‘s vacant vamp), while on that opposite side of the spectrum is Sean Penn as gangster Mickey Cohen. Penn is so over the top that the top appears as a dim blip on the horizon, and he doesn’t speak his lines of dialogue as much as he launches them, violently, in each scene. If this movie was in 3D, somebody might have gotten hurt. Watch out for the flying ham!
If a film is playing in competition at not just one, but several major international festivals, you assume a certain basic level of quality. “Parkland” might have looked like some kind of “Bobby” prequel on the surface, but if it was in contention for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, surely there had to be something to it? Not so much, as it turns out: “Parkland,” the directorial debut of novelist Peter Landesman, is a dire, poorly made film that takes a look at the assassination of JFK in an amazingly non-revelatory manner. But even if it gives the impression that most of the actors were the fourth choices for their parts, the cast has some promising faces, however aside from a typically scene-stealing turn from James Badge Dale as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother, most were either wasted or miscast, with Jacki Weaver coming off especially badly in a role ill-advisedly turned into a sort of comic relief. Landesman still has a way to go as a technical filmmaker, too: despite the presence of Ken Loach/Paul Greengrass DoP Barry Ackroyd, it’s a shallow and flat film without much production value, and the editing is pretty dodgy (one scene gives the impression that Mark Duplass’ secret service agent is able to teleport—that’s certainly something we didn’t know about the assassination of JFK!–but we’re not sure that was the filmmakers’ intention). Accidentally funny moments abound (Zac Efron hammering at the late commander-in-chief’s chest, a Laurel and Hardy-esque bid to get the president’s coffin around a tight corner on Air Force One), and there’s an unpleasant feeling of cash-in around the whole enterprise — whatever the filmmakers’ protestations to the contrary, rushing your movie to DVD so you can be in shops for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death is always going to come off as exploitative. Especially if it’s as bad as this one.
12. “The Hangover Part III“
Credit is due to the filmmakers behind “The Hangover Part III,” at least, for not just rejigging the plot of the original into a different location, as was the case with the Bangkok-set ‘Part II.’ In fact, there’s something, on paper, intriguingly bold about what they’ve done here: closing off the most successful comedy trilogy of modern times by making a film that barely qualifies as a comedy. While it might have been a welcome change of pace for director Todd Phillips, writer Craig Mazin and the central stars of the franchise, however, “The Hangover Part III” was an unbearable experience for an audience. Departing from the “what happened?” conceit that made the original such a hoot, this becomes some kind of half-baked crime picture, as the Wolfpack (Bradley Cooper, fulfilling contractual obligations; Ed Helms, glad for the work; and Zach Galifianakis, descending into self-parody) are forced by a crime boss (John Goodman, barely conscious) into tracking down infuriating chaos engine Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). It’s the baffling decision to put Jeong—who wasn’t even welcome in small doses in the first film—at the center of the movie that truly derails it, but it was barely on the tracks to begin with. The sense from everyone involved is that they just want to get this over with and move on with their lives. The film looks good, at least, with Phillips using the hefty budget to experiment with his craft, and there’s a couple of striking set-pieces, which is at least rare for a comedy. But the plotting never feels like anything more than spinning its wheels, the emotional payoffs are never close to being earned, and, more even than in the earlier films, there’s a really unpleasant and insidious sense of hatred of The Other that makes it especially sour, even for a Todd Phillips film. Honestly, we think we laughed more in “12 Years a Slave” than in this.
11. “After Earth“
M. Night Shyamalan‘s cosmic travesty is the kind of movie that is so god-awfully dull, so boring and affected and unreasonable, that it makes you long for the glory days of “The Happening,” when people were getting run over by lawnmowers and Mark Wahlberg was moodily staring down the wind. Originally “After Earth” was going to be a simple drama of survival, until producer/star Will Smith got the bright idea to set it in outer space (hey, it’s worked in the past) and cast his real life son Jaden as his on-screen spawn. These were just a few of the incredibly poor choices on display in “After Earth,” along with Smith’s decision to speak his dialogue in a weirdly wooden, pseudo-British accent and to set the movie on a post-humanity earth where everything has “survived to kill people” (but why? All the people are gone!). There’s also a gooey monster that feeds on fear. Or something. God only knows. The fact that audiences and critics both rejected it hopefully led to some soul searching inside Smith … Which probably lasted about fifteen seconds, especially considering another “Bad Boys” is in the works.
10. “I Give It a Year”
The most loathsome romantic comedy in recent years, everything about writer/director Dan Mazer’s filmmaking debut is punchable. Sadly, this is a man who wrote and directed several episodes of the extremely brilliant “Da Ali G Show,” not to mention co-writing “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” and “Brüno.” Where’s the subversion and where did he lose his way? Well, the subversion is fully evinced in “I Give It a Year” which purports to be a kind of clever reverse, anti-romantic comedy, but attempting to turn insipid rom-com cliches on their head, the movie fails badly at every turn. It chronicles the dissolution of an unlikely, rushed, opposites-attract marriage to crude and banal effect in which Josh (Rafe Spall) is pensive and slow and Nat (Rose Byrne) is a tightly-wound go-getter. These two characters have no business being together, but for the sake of the movie, why not, right? With their one year anniversary approaching Josh doesn’t see that his best friend and ex-girlfriend, Chloe (Anna Faris) was really The One all along while Nat’s handsome slickster American client Guy (Simon Baker) is just dying to get her in the sack. Special mention must be made for the odious supporting character appearance of Stephen Merchant playing the one-note obnoxious, clueless friend shtick that he loves so much. It all culminates with a epic-fail, trying-to-be-cheeky scene in the rain where the aforementioned couple disavow their love and promise to leave one another immediately. Meet cute was never this detestable.
9. “Kick-Ass 2“
Sure, Matthew Vaughn‘s original “Kick-Ass” was ugly, violent and abhorrent but it was also kind of fun. Jeff Wadlow‘s sequel, “Kick-Ass 2,” which was amazingly developed despite the original film being something of a box office disappointment, replaces rudeness with outright hatred, expanding its fuck-you attitude to include all minorities (though mostly Chinese) and women (there’s even a rape joke. Haha! Rape!) Gone too is the first movie’s sense of stylized joy, replaced by utter cheapness that infects everything from the production design to the poorly choreographed action set pieces, which suffer from an abundance of cruddy green screen work and little in the way of compelling staging. Instead of having comic-book-panel pep, the violence here is just unpleasant, and it’s a shame they had to drag Jim Carrey into this mess. The actor might have cited recent events like Sandy Hook as his reason for staying off the film’s publicity tour, but it’s more likely that he saw an early cut of the movie, took stock of how repugnant it was, and chose to distance himself as much as possible. If we had anything to do with this four-color mess, we’d have stayed far, far away too. This is what happens when you try to will a franchise into existence instead of letting it bloom organically.
8. “Now You See Me“
This magic-world thriller, starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Ruffalo (amongst others), was an unexpected hit this past summer. Baffling, too, considering the movie was so utterly implausible and almost instantly forgettable. Movies about magic are usually more powerful if the magic tricks could actually be accomplished in real life. With “Now You See Me,” though, not only is every trick phony baloney but it’s accomplished using sophisticated visual effects which add an even less genuine layer of unbelievable humbug. Not that any of this matters much. With cardboard cutout characters and a narrative that doesn’t motor as much as badly limp forward, “Now You See Me” was a supposedly “fun” romp that makes so little sense that it’s very nearly impossible to care, playing largely like a humorless mishmash of “The Da Vinci Code,” “National Treasure,” and “The Prestige.” When the outrageous final twist zaps into view, it’s like it’s been beamed in from some other movie altogether—or maybe some other galaxy. The fact that the studio is already planning a sequel is a testament to what good marks the cinemagoing public are, as we clearly can’t tell when a magic trick is being pulled on us. In this case, the filmmakers, with no return, made our money vanish—like that!
Diablo Cody where did you go wrong? Try: everywhere and in every way. Following her best script to date, “Young Adult,” the scribe switched gears and took on her first directing gig (of her own material, no less), “Paradise,” off a script meant to skewer religious hypocrisy originally called, “Lamb of God.” Starring the acting-wise tone-deaf Julianne Hough as a conservative, sheltered, but somehow super-sarcastic teen from the Midwest who loses her faith after a near-death experience on a plane crash that leaves most of her body badly burned, Hough’s Lamb protagonist heads out to the paradise of Las Vegas to find her way. Or indulge in sin, she’s not really sure what she’s going to do. Along the way she befriends the “magical negro” archetype (Cody’s words, played by Octavia Spencer) and a skeevy and charming bartender played by Russell Brand. The pedestrian lessons everyone learns from her voyage into her metaphorical Oz (friendship! faith! everyone has scars! just like those burns!) would be bad enough as it is, but Cody lays it on thick with a cloying, sugary patina that’s part “Sweet Valley High” and part Disney Channel movie of the week. Cody appears to half-heartedly try something refreshingly earnest, but undercuts herself the entire time with quips, cutsey bon mots, over-clever pop culture references and signs all pointing to the fact that she just can’t let go of her affected distance in writing. It’s worked in the past, but the half measures here only exacerbate all of its syrupy, saccharine and myriad stink-eye issues. This misguided and ill-conceived afterschool special is one to miss.
6. “The Host“
A lot of young adult adaptations have attempted to fill the hole left by the “Twilight” franchise and almost all of them have failed. This isn’t much of a surprise, since they are almost all poorly paced bores that care more about their self-important “mythology” than things like well-developed characters and inventive narratives. But it was still sort of shocking to watch “The Host” crash and burn, if only because of its literary “pedigree” (it’s based on a novel that was written by “Twilight” godhead Stephanie Meyer) and the talent of writer/director Andrew Niccol (whose recent lark “In Time” is, by comparison, a masterpiece of speculative science fiction). Apparently in the future humanity has been co-opted by extraterrestrial beings (that look like glittery deep-sea squids), who live inside their human hosts. Saoirse Ronan (yes, her again) stars as a human who refuses to let the alien invader take over, which leads to a lot of back-and-forth voiceover where the two personalities bicker inside her skull. Add to that a minimally designed futureworld consisting mostly of silvery, mirrored cars, and a lengthily explored subplot involving underground wheat production, and maybe it is apparent why this wasn’t the next “Twilight.” At least in that movie the love triangle actually had, you know, bodies.
5. “The Big Wedding“
There was a time—the 1970s was probably the last point—when the concept of a film teaming Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams would have been enormously exciting. That time has long since passed, and with the older generation paired with the present-day cinematic warning labels of Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried and Ben Barnes, few films in 2013 looked as unenticing on paper as “The Big Wedding.” So in a way, it’s impressive that Justin Zackham (the writer of “The Bucket List,” here making his directorial debut) managed to make a film that was even worse than the marketing made it appear. A loose remake of the French comedy “Mon frere se marie,” it sees the cast members as a dysfunctional family reunited for the marriage of adopted son Alejandro (Barnes) to Seyfried, with De Niro and Keaton, who divorced years ago, forced to pretend they’re still married, to the disgruntlement of Sarandon, because Alejandro’s real mother is Catholic and hates divorce, or something (it’s a setup so contrived that it would be rejected in the writers’ room of even the worst sitcoms). Set in a world that even Nancy Meyers would consider unbelievably smug and over-privileged, filled with characters who are both wildly unsympathetic and who at no point resemble actual humans, and involving very, very few laughs, the only point at which the film’s even remotely bearable is early on, when you still cling to hope that this all might be a precursor to the family being massacred, “Funny Games” style. But sadly, it doesn’t come to pass, and you’re left with a 90 minute “comedy” that at no point brings anything remotely like pleasure to an audience. We’ve never been prouder of the American public as when they resolved to go and see something, anything else in theaters besides this.
People usually say that there’s nothing unintentional about movies, that there are no accidents, no mistakes. What to make of this mishap, then, which seems like a grave error in judgment at every step? Who felt the need to give $150 million to the director of “Flightplan”? Who thought this generic comic book premise wouldn’t look like a fourth-rate “Ghostbusters” cash-in? Who designed the creatures, which look like half-finished Cracked Magazine caricatures circa 1991? Who cast the oil-and-vinegar duo of Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds? Who told Bridges that this was Looney Tunes and Reynolds that this was a gritty “Lethal Weapon” reboot? Why is such an expensive movie built around the search for a MacGuffin that looks like an obviously-fake piece of gold plaster that wouldn’t pass muster in a first grade art class? Why do we keep giving Jeff Bridges a free pass when he’s a good actor who is intolerably obnoxious in big budget debacles like this and “Tron: Legacy”? What shiny things did Kevin Bacon buy with the paycheck he received to sleepwalk his way through the villain role in this? Why do they tease us with a sequel? How is it possible that this film feels scotch-taped together from a much longer cut? How could there be more “R.I.P.D.”? It doesn’t even seem that “R.I.P.D.” is bad: no, this is something different. This is an impossible movie.
3. “Grown Ups 2”
It’s too bad for Adam Sandler and company that the title “Contempt” was taken. What more is there to say about Sandler’s cottage industry of repellant, listless garbage that manages to become even more cavalier about how little it regards its core audience? “Grown Ups 2” has less onscreen action than a fucking Bujalski movie, and director Dennis Dugan and company treat this stuff like golden age sitcom material, pausing for laughs as these washed-up former comedians roll around nowheresville USA in khaki shorts and flip flops, taking care only to avoid blocking all the embarrassing product placement. “Grown Ups 2” is not a long movie (IMDb claims it’s 101 minutes too long, actually), but it spends an awfully extended amount of its runtime on bits like the one where Kevin James teaches his washed-up friends how to fart, burp and sneeze at the same time, which Sandler later celebrates by doing so on Salma Hayek. Hayek isn’t seen onscreen during this, and is instead heard in voiceover as Sandler cackles like a jackass; she likely had too much dignity to be present for the filming of such a scene. And yet, it closes the movie, the final indignity of a film starring forty-and-fiftysomethings made for the mind of a ten-year-old, and designed to exploit a nostalgic fanbase in their twenties and thirties. “Grown Ups 2” is to comedy as the gaping maw of Cthulhu is to comedy, a dreadful piece of big-screen bukkake that doesn’t even deserve to be broadcast on the side of a bus station bathroom stall. If there is a “Grown Ups 3,” there’s no spaceship properly equipped to get us off this godforsaken planet fast enough.
So who was Diana Princess Of Wales? In her all too brief 36 years, she experienced celebrity, royalty, scandal, romance, marriage and motherhood all in the very public eye, leading the kind of life few could even imagine. Hers is a story rich with intrigue, politics, charity, personal pain and public spectacle and somehow, Olivier Hirschbiegel’s turgid “Diana” manages capture none of that. Led by Naomi Watts, giving one of the most uninspired performances of her career, she mostly lets her wig do the acting as she navigates a script that reduces a post-Charles Diana into a barely-together shell of a person whose life has no meaning without a man as part of it. But more problematically, “Diana” never really makes the case why Dr. Hasnat Khan (played by Naveen Andrews aka Sayeed from “Lost,” with whom Watts shares zero chemistry) was the lifeline for the People’s Princess. In fact, the pair spend most of the film making each other miserable, and refusing to put aside any of their own priorities for the sake of the other person. And when the picture isn’t detailing a relationship with no spark, it’s veering close to the edge of camp, particularly with its hilariously manhandled attempts to use jazz music as a patch of common ground between the new lovers. This is a movie that has two separate scenes of people listening to and appreciating jazz music, man. Isn’t it like, so free, and able to improvise—if only we could live like that! Directed with all the pizzazz of a low-rent TV special, soggy and misshapen from the first frame to the last, Hirshbiegel himself probably could’ve stood to listen to some jazz music before shooting this thing. As it stands, it’s an embarrassment all around, one that will unfortunately have the name Princess Diana forever attached: an undeserved indignity.
1. “A Good Day to Die Hard“
This year marked the 25th anniversary of John McTiernan‘s original “Die Hard,” easily one of the greatest, most visually complex action movies of all time and a film that single-handedly launched its own unique subgenre. To celebrate, original star Bruce Willis decided to release “A Good Day to Die Hard,” the fifth film in the franchise and easily the absolute worst, in which everything that made the original film so compelling and unforgettable is either corrupted or simply ignored. Tough-talking New York City cop John McClane, instead of being a victim of circumstance like in the original film, now just happen to stumble into extraordinary situations at virtually every turn. In “A Good Day to Die Hard,” he’s visiting his troubled son in Russia when all manner of hell breaks loose, for no apparent reason and without much in the way of context. This leads to a bunch of leaden action set pieces, including a seemingly endless car chase that supposedly took 75 days to shoot (even though, in the final product, you can’t make out much of what’s going on) and a climax set in the ashy remains of Chernobyl. Unlike the fourth entry, this ‘Die Hard’ was actually rated R, not that you could tell. Besides being almost completely free of gore and blood (a guy falls into helicopter blades and you don’t even see a crimson splatter afterwards), there’s barely any coarse language, either. Nobody seems to be having fun in “A Good Day to Die Hard,” including Willis, with a limp, flavorless villain and a cast of supporting characters whose colorfulness rarely registers above beige. Never before has “Yippe-ki-yay, motherfucker” meant so little.
Aside from the afore-disparaged “Burt Wonderstone” which slid out the bottom twenty at some point in the last six months, but proves it has not been a good year for magician movies, special opprobrium should be heaped on “Jobs” which was on our list for a good while but no one could really even muster up the enthusiasm to hate on it. Late bids “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “Saving Mr Banks” had their vocal detractors but we weren’t sure if it was their awfulness or the recentness of their awfulness that was taking precedence, so we relegated them. Then films like “A.C.O.D.,” “Black Rock,” “Getaway” and “CBGB” had strong cases made for their excommunication, but not enough of us had been unlucky enough to see them to reach a consensus. And other films like “Runner, Runner,” “The Internship” “The Fifth Estate” and “Safe Haven” were bad, but maybe worse than bad: bland and so forgettable as to not inspire much passion. In genreville, “Elysium” was more disappointing than outright bad, while the “Evil Dead” remake was both, and dance movie “Battle of the Year” was by all accounts dire, but it did give us the chance to run this dance-off feature so we can’t stay too mad at it. And then there are the films that divide us, like “Stoker,” which is near-loathed and near-adored in almost equal measure, “The Purge,” which has one vociferous hater, one vociferous defender and a whole load of “meh” in between and “Machete Kills!” which also cleaves opinion like, well a machete. Those latter you should tune in to our individual 2013 Best and Worst lists to see represented, and in the meantime, there’s no comment section all year more primed for a bunfight, so have at it below. — Drew Taylor, Katie Walsh, Oli Lyttelton, Gabe Toro, Rodrigo Perez, Sam Chater, Kevin Jagernauth & Jessica Kiang.