Worst Films of 2013

I usually include my least favorite films of the year at the bottom of my top 10 list but seeing as I will not be able to compile my top ten list this year until after January 10th (due to not having the opportunity to screen Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County or Lone Survivor until then) I am going ahead with publishing them separately this year. I feel out of the loop slightly as most critics have already put forth their top 10 lists but these are the drawbacks of living in a small market where you don’t get Nebraska until December 20th. In clearing that up, I don’t like to seek out movies that I think will be horrible, or even bad. I try to look for redeeming qualities in each and every film I see and these are the few this year I just couldn’t really get over or found them to be more disappointing than rewarding. Many of them were downright irritating given the potential they carried whether in cast or in filmmakers/writers. I didn’t get around to seeing many of the obvious choices such as Texas Chainsaw 3D, A Haunted House or Safe Haven and have included an alternate list of five films that are more easy targets for a list such as this rather than being as horrible as they have been made out to be by critical and box office reception. I won't get ridiculous and make a list of movies that weren't everything I wanted them to be, most falling into that category were still decent films even if they didn't meet my personal expectations. Still, while I even hesitate to make a list of what I consider some of the worse films this year as many of you who bother to look at these kinds of lists know what wasn't good and it seems pointless to single them out again, thus there were a few I took issue with and thought were given more praise than they deserved while not impressing me in the least. With that in mind, here are my top ten least favorite movies I saw this year...

10. The Bling Ring

If you want to know how wrong The Bling Ring approaches its subject matter look no further than the films soundtrack. While the music is flashy and melodically engaging for the most part it is not art, but more a product that allows the performer into the elitist club the members of "the bling ring" so desire to be a part of. It is nothing that stimulates the mind or challenges the listener to find something more in what it has to say. It is tuneful, something you can bob your head along with, but it leaves you with nothing and unfortunately the movie does the same thing. That is not to say the film ultimately becomes the same kind of hollow product that has formed the current fame-obsessed culture these kids fall into, but despite offering a few interesting facets into the state of mind of real celebrities the film never seems to know exactly what to do with its interesting premise or how to convey the ideas director Sofia Coppola so clearly wants to get across. She is no doubt just as disgusted with the kind of mentality that has been picked up by this, my, generation and as it is easy to get caught up in the attention and flattery that comes along with celebrity Coppola seems to have almost done the same thing as her subjects and succumbed more to this than being able to differentiate between the "why" of the crimes committed and simply displayed the "what" of it all. Full review here.

9. The To Do List

Written and directed by Maggie Carey this feature debut is filled with amateur moments that feel extremely rough and unfinished. I don't know if this type of style is intentional, but the fact I can't tell will forced me to go ahead and attribute it to the fact this was all done as a kind of on the fly, improvised fashion that instead of emphasizing a sense of fun and randomness makes the whole project feel more lazy than anything else. Still, there is a strange sense of pride that comes with this brand of humor as it seems Carey isn't attempting to necessarily make a strong case for sophisticated women, but is instead pointing out that even the most self-respective women can be as dirty as they want to be. The story does include a cavalcade of different characters with a cast that is more than game and helps sell everything this movie is trying to throw out, and the movie is throwing out a lot. It is actually kind of endearing how far the film is willing to go and how shamelessly it trots out sex joke after vulgar sex joke. I found some of this to be entertaining, but the ongoing gags grow tiring and the audience is made more aware that the aspirations the makers of the film hold for this project are not going to be met. This is a shame really, as there is a clear frankness with which the film approaches its topic, but it isn't able to convey its sexual empowerment subtext because its buried under so much sophomoric humor. Full review here.

8. jOBS

It was a well-known fact from the time we first heard mention of battling Steve Jobs biopics that the one starring Ashton Kutcher and a creative team of newbies wasn't going to be the one that broke any new ground or would even get anyone too excited. While Kutcher's turn as the founder of Apple Inc. wasn't cause for much alarm it isn't for a lack of effort on the actors part. It is clear that Kutcher studied the mannerisms and vocal tones and inflections of Jobs with a considerable amount of obsession, but in most ways the performance feels like a tribute as Kutcher is more a fan giving the most flattering of interpretations than a man attempting to bring another mans story to light in the truest form. That said, the script is not particularly kind to Jobs as it highlights his ego and his consistent inability to get along with others unless they are strictly abiding by his ideals, but Kutcher's performance has a consistent aura that he ultimately knows what's best floating around him. The film also likes to think this way and so for two plus hours we are treated to what adds up to little more than a cliff notes version of the rise, fall and unavoidable return to the spotlight of Steve Jobs that all biopics tend to follow. This wouldn't be so bad if the film did more than barely scratch the surface, but we are given little more than the facts that are already well known to anyone who was a fan of his or knew anything about his philosophy or his products. Full review here.

7. Runner Runner

There are likely ample amounts of material these off-shore, online gambling companies and the situations they find themselves in could provide and turn into a more than gripping film, but Runner Runner is not it and more than anything fails to dig into its story or its source of conflict and instead skates by on by-the-number beats that you learn in film school. For as much as we're supposed to be led into the world by Richie (Justin Timberlake in a dramatic leading role he wasn't yet prepared for) and be wowed by the vastness and beauty of Costa Rica or frightened by Ivan (Ben Affleck in an odd choice of role to follow up his Oscar-winning turn in Argo) with his ruthlessness, his selfishness and his crocodiles we instead sense none of this as the film has little to offer besides a surface-deep look at online gaming that plays its hand way too early and delivers exactly what the audience is expecting from that point out and nothing more. There is nothing to keep us invested, no characters to sympathize with or plot twists to intrigue us further. From the moment we are introduced to Timberlake's character and presented with his dilemma and then subsequently presented with Affleck's position in the whole thing we can see where things are heading and thus, they do. Full review here.

6. The Purge

When Ethan Hawke showed up in 2012's legitimately scary Sinister I was happy to see the actor branch out slightly and give the genre picture a go. While his second trip into scary movie-land is not as intriguing or mysterious as Sinister it had an interesting enough premise to draw people towards it, but instead of diving into that potentially relevant set-up the film could have brought to the experience it instead quickly dissolves into that standard home invasion film. We see every plot twist coming and every supposed scare is as obvious as how this whole thing is going to end up. There were times the movie almost had me fooled, had me thinking it was going to go a different way, but heaven forbid it do such a thing as to dare to make the audience unhappy. This timid nature ultimately results in the most typical conclusion led up to by the least surprising and least effective set of circumstances. Worse than all of this is the fact there are no likable characters here. We don't like our supposed protagonists from the beginning because they've succumbed to this annual event that makes little sense and we don't like their kids or their new enemies because they all make dumb decisions. In the end, there is only one word that comes to mind when I reflect on what this turned out to be: pointless. Full review here.

5. Paranoia

Paranoia was no doubt supposed to be young Liam Hemsworth's breakout solo role. With Paranoia though, we get such an obvious story and minimal acting from all involved that the film ends up feeling as half-hearted as it probably is. As if it were a throwaway script from some long forgotten 90's thriller, Paranoia has been updated to try and provide a social commentary on how the state of technology has left little room for anyone to spy on us but rather that we provide all the information anyone would ever need through our phones and other devices that feed our constant social media needs and incessant photo postings with tagged locations. The film suffers from many of the same problems Hemsworth's characters personality suffers and that is despite having a solid exterior and all the seemingly necessary parts to make a solid film (or human being) there is still a level of immaturity and naivete that is striking and unfortunately stands out above any of its other shining qualities. There is also a love story subplot concerning Amber Heard which, no matter what film she pops up in, usually adds some kind of generic stench to the proceedings and there is no changing that here (go ahead and check out who shows up in number four as well). This might serve as passable entertainment for a Friday night on the couch, but it is also unacceptable trash for the level of talent involved.

4. Machete Kills

Machete Kills is Robert Rodriguez going from indulgent comedy to sloppy comedy. What I enjoyed about Grindhouse, but not so much Machete as I wasn't as thrilled with that final product as I'd hoped to be either, was the authenticity and attention to detail with which it was able to elicit the rawness and tone of the original films it was lifting from. The angles with which it was shot, the cinematography, the special effects, the soundtrack; it was all poured into a combined effort to make the movies feel as authentic as possible whereas with Machete Kills it looks like nothing more than a cheap knockoff that wasn't always intended to be cheap. When the zombie-like humanoids of Planet Terror would get shot or there was reason for blood to come exploding from within them it looked like practical effects without being top notch. There was a definitive line where it looked as real as they could make it with the resources they had while in Kills it is clearly post-production blood that looks like something you could add into a video with an app you just downloaded. There were little ticks and interesting facets like the missing reels or the amped up aesthetic per the bad voice synching and scratched film. There is none of this subtle charm to be found in Rodriguez's latest effort and what is more disappointing than anything is that it is pretty much a nearly two-hour bore. Full review here.

3. The Last Exorcism Part II

I remembered liking The Last Exorcism much more than I expected to, but not for the reasons one expects when going to see a horror flick. I was never truly scared by what I saw on screen but more I was intrigued by the originality of it. Just when I thought I'd seen every kind of incarnation in which an exorcism could be presented on screen this found footage, documentary-like movie set a new standard for the exorcism film. The heart of that film, despite Ashley Bell's wonderfully innocent performance as sheltered yet possessed farm girl Nell Sweetzer, was Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marcus. Fabian created a charismatic character that was difficult to like, but at the same time able to create a sympathetic reasoning for his actions. The first film needed no sequel, it called for no continuation of the story or left anyone with a desire to see what happened to Nell (I think we all just assumed she died giving birth to a demon child!). The Last Exorcism Part II (which may be the most misleading title in the history of cinema) feels like it goes on for days. The idea, much less the execution of making a part two completely violates the credibility and affection felt for that original film. No example could serve this better than The Last Exorcism, a truly wonderful gem of a horror flick whose legacy will forever be tarnished by this unnecessary sequel. Full review here.

2. Movie 43

I walked out of the theater after seeing Movie 43 wondering why I'd wasted an hour and a half on the film as the most enjoyable part of the experience was re-watching trailers prior to the film beginning. I didn't expect much after some of the first reviews began to come in yet I was too curious to not go and check what all the fuss was about, even if it was really bad fuss. This lazy compilation of shorts resorts to easy sexual references and vulgarity to guarantee a laugh but even the most virgin mind to this type of humor will grow tired of the act quick and yearn for something with a hint of intelligence. The film is amateur hour at a dingy comedy club. I won't even describe the final skit featuring Elizabeth Banks and Josh Duhamel, but if you want to witness the low point of human civilization you might look it up on a service where you can stream the film just so you don't have to pay to rent it but will understand how vapid this truly is. There is no need for this film, not at all, but it made the task of picking one of the worst films of 2013 very easy and nearly claimed the title fairly quickly. In January I said if there was anything worse than Movie 43 that came out this year we may indeed have to check the math on the Mayan calendar and while I'd say my number one pick is all the more idiotic it is hard to argue with anyone who would put this over anything else this year. Full review here.

1. Getaway

Both Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez have appeared in some of the best and, in my opinion, the worst film of the year (and I hope you all know I'm referring to Before Midnight and not the aforementioned The Purge). I like that Hawke is taking these odd genre pictures on the side and expanding his fan base, but if he's going to continue to do this he should definitely start taking a better look at scripts and who will be directing them before signing on. I'm sure he had a great time driving fast cars and outrunning cops that he would seemingly cause to jackknife and flip across the screen (for no apparent reason), but it isn't nearly as endearing or interesting as watching him drive a car carrying his two daughters and having a conversation with his long time lover about his son and the life they've made for themselves. When you have such a simple premise and what seems to be outlandish execution paired with the fact that actors the caliber of Hawke and the rising star of Gomez presumably seeing something in the project you hope it might prove to be a fun, if not distracting experience. And yet, there isn't even an intentionally campy vibe to the project as it, for all intents and purposes, is as serious as a heart attack and that tone does little to add fun to the predictable and lacking story that can't even sustain the brief hour and a half running time. Full review here.

Easy Targets

Those films that were severely hated on this year, even preemptively in some cases, are easy targets for these types of lists and I hate to include those here because those unanimously hated are those that open readers eager to look at these for nothing but disappointment. Of course there is no argument for Grown Ups 2 being a horrible flick and its complete absence from this article is only due to the fact I didn't watch it until a few days ago when a family member rented it for the entire family to "enjoy" on Christmas Eve. Granted, I did find it more consistently funny than the first if not completely lacking in plot or narrative drive. So, what I am really trying to say with the next five films is, that despite their obvious flaws and there are plenty in each, that they have been so aggressively attacked and degraded there is reason to go back and wonder why they garnered such negative reaction and why they weren't worth scrutinizing even more by placing them on the list above.

R.I.P.D.-This is a film about people who, once they die, might be picked to join a heavenly police force to protect the world against evil souls that still roam free. Yes, it is basically Men In Black but with dead people instead of aliens so what was everyone expecting? It wasn't produced by Steven Spielberg and had Ryan Reynolds as the young charismatic hotshot rather than Will Smith, so seriously, what were we expecting? It is still a pretty embarrassing attempt to capitalize on comic book films, but it is fine enough for what it is and can even be pretty fun at times.

After Earth- Speaking of Will Smith and all that charisma, it was nowhere to be found in this intended summer blockbuster which was more the elder Smith passing the baton on to his son than an actual Will Smith vehicle. That said, director M. Night Shyamalan has a few inspired visual choices and the scope of the film is only diminished by the cheap special effects and video game-like structure the film follows that has Jaden going from one level to the next while the ways in which the script allow him to escape his circumstances become more and more outlandish. It isn't the horror you've heard it to be, but it's pretty damn bad.

A Good Day to Die Hard-While 2012 showed there might be hope for Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom, Looper) 2013 proved to be one of his most uninspired years to date. Not only going through the motion in the sequel to G.I. Joe and Red 2, but the worst offender was clearly this fifth Die Hard film which was essentially a couple of major action set pieces strung together by a flimsy plot that took John McClaine to Russia. This is the one that's been the most unanimously hated on in regards to these easy targets and in this case it is hard to defend the film as it is truly hard to find any redeemable qualities, but a few of the major action scenes are fairly impressive if not completely impractical.

The Big Wedding-This oft-delayed romantic comedy is a complete exercise in everything we've seen before in other films with "wedding" in the title. The performance of Robert DeNiro alone helps this film rise above being a completely forgettable farce that will be better remembered by the ensemble cast and the memories it provided them rather than the audience it was supposed to provide entertainment for. Diane Keaton and Susan Sarandon are fine as well, but it wouldn't hurt their legacy (and DeNiro's as well) if they fired their agents and started being more picky.        

The Fifth Estate-Probably the best, worst movie on the list this account of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the Australian activist who began the website WikiLeaks, just couldn't get its feet off the ground. The filmmakers are stuck trying to make staring intently at a monitor and typing ferociously as intense as possible rather than backing up and dealing with the actual emotions that come with the weight of what they're typing on their laptops. It isn't so much engaging as it is facts being stated with nothing for us to be moved, shocked, or entertained by. Too bad, because there is undoubtedly an interesting film to be made of Assange's life.

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