Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Worst Movies of 2007

[SPOILER ALERT: These are all bad movies. Sometimes, I will ruin them for you. I'll let you know before I do, but if you actually want to see one of the movies I'm discussing and don't want to know how it ends, probably you're safer just skipping that section and moving on.]

I started at Mahalo last January, so unlike in previous years, I didn't have the benefit of free movie rentals in 2007. Yet I still saw more than enough horrible movies to fill a Worst of the Year list, complete with runners-up. You case you were worried...

First things first, the year's worst movies that even I was not brave enough to see. The "Doomed to Fail" list:

Reign Over Me

The log line on this movie seriously makes me want to barf:

"A man who lost his family in the September 11 attack on New York City runs into his old college roommate."

And that's even before I tell you the tragic case at the heart of Reign On Me is played by Adam fucking Sandler! And that it comes to you from the genius behind HBO's short-lived "Mind of the Married Man"! Nooooooooo!

In the Valley of Elah

In Crash, Paul Haggis bravely told you that racism is teh l4m3z0rz. Now, in In the Valley of Elah (great title there, by the way, PH), he boldly takes on the Iraq War. Hmmm, I can't help but wonder if he'll have any useless, generic bromides to share with us...

Dan in Real Life

Has the "uptight dad terrified his daughter will get laid" genre ever given us an actual good movie? When you find yourself mining the same comic territory as Tony Danza, that's when you know things have gone horribly, horribly awry.

Wild Hogs

I don't really even feel the need to elaborate on this one. At this point, I greet trailers for new Tim Allen comedies with roughly the same enthusiasm as new Osama bin Laden videos. "Oh, shit, what's he going on about this time...What an asshole..."

Kickin It Old Skool

Now I've thought long and hard about this, and I'm pretty sure Jamie Kennedy's wigger persona is the lamest schtick in which any comedian on the fucking planet is engaging at this precise moment in history. Bear in mind, this means I find it less inventive or funny than Carlos Mencia's "look at the wildly gesticulating, racist Mexican who's not even really a Mexican" routine, Larry the Cable Guy's "look at the ignorant backwoods good ol' boy who's not even really a good ol' boy" bit and Michael Richards' "walk into a room full of black people and say deeply insulting things" schtick. Seriously, it's that bad...

Delta Farce

Well, as long as we're talking Larry the Cable Guy...He did manage to get some more work this year. Presumably from people who didn't see Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.

The Bucket List

The more I find out about this movie, the more I hate it. I hate the way it totally ignores the truth about terminal illness, and pretends you could do stuff like motorcycling across the Great Wall of China while wasting away from cancer. I hate how it reveals our disturbing inability to deal with the plain truth of our own mortality in this country. I hate that it reduces the once-legendary Jack Nicholson and the great Morgan Freeman to sub-sitcom "wacky old people" cliches. But most of all, I hate the very notion of such a "list of generic activities" these two simply must engage in before they die. Most of them (at least from what I can see in the trailer) are unimaginative and predictable, and all of them require spending a lot of money. Well, isn't that just the ideal holiday fantasy? Blowing through a wad of cash on pointless shit you don't need, then dying.

License to Wed

Wins the award for the Worst Trailer of the Year:

I think I talked about this before, but I HATE comedies that rely on one of the main characters being completely insane and another character having to do everything the insane one says. That's such a pathetic, desperate way to write a movie, and because we realize immediately that the entire movie is based on needelssly forcing sane people to act insanely (because we're never provided with a GOOD REASON for such a scenario), we realize there are no stakes and essentially give up. Oh, and Robin Williams cloying, vapid blathering doesn't help matters.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Don't remake Toys, you fools! No one liked that the last time!


Okay, that's quite enough of that. Let's move on to the bad movies I actually took the time to watch:


16. Paris J'Taime

20 different directors contribute 5-minute films to this anthology about romance in Paris, and I can't honestly say a single one really comes together or demands attention. Each one of the films, in its own way, feels half-baked and tossed off, and with a few exceptions, we're only be able to identify the directors involved because they're named at the beginning of each segment. Many of them are shot well, but none of them are compelling, despite the relative freedom of the concept. (Characters in love or falling in love in different neighborhoods of the city in five minutes...that's it.) It might have been tolerable for a while, but 2 hours of this is far far far too much.

15. Bug

Perhaps Bug just works better on a stage. Tracy Letts adapted the script from her own play, and I guess, at least from the level of performance, its teeth-gnashing theatrics might work in a live setting. But William Friedkin's film version is just absolutely ludicrous. Rather than watching Agnes and Peter slowly go mad together in a crummy motel room, we see them discover a new romance, start to get along, and then suddenly FREAK OUT in a mad, overripe frenzy of schizophrenic horror. Now, of course, it's not really about a couple going insane in the midst of a bug infestation. I understand that weightier themes are involved, about desperate co-dependency, the terror of hopeless loneliness, all that...But it's impossible to take the drama seriously, what with all the funhouse lighting and open sores.

14. Mr. Brooks

In this movie, William Hurt plays the physical manifestation of a voice in Kevin Costner's head urging him to kill. Together, they match wits against blackmailer Dane Cook. Do I need to keep going?

13. Vacancy

Okay, I'm putting my foot down. No more "car fatefully breaks down during already-poignant/emotional road trip" horror movies. I can't fucking take it any more. You guys keep making them and I keep watching them and they're all pointless and lame. This movie actually asks us to tremble with fear at the thought of being attacked by a relatively unarmed Frank Whaley. ("You can't can't hide from...The Nerdy Pervert! Rated R.)

12. Smokin' Aces

Perhaps the ultimate reminder that stunt casting for its own sake is lame, and that few things are more painful than unfunny cameos. Many many members of Hollywood's semi-famous B-list ranks pop up for a scene or two in Joe Carnahan's miserable action-comedy Smokin Aces, most of them playing hitmen determined to wipe out Jeremy Piven. (Unfortunately, we're tasked with rooting against them.) None of them does anything even remotely amusing throughout the entire film; the only moment, in fact, that seems to get any kind of reaction from the audience is when several annoying characters die suddenly and mercifully disappear from the film. That earns a round of applause.

11. Factory Girl

Is this film a really sly, subversive homage to Andy Warhol? A simple-minded, superficial tribute to a brazenly and defiantly superficial mind? Maybe, but it's more likely Factory Girl is simply unable to provide any fresh insight into its already-familiar cast of characters nor any sense of the significance of these artists and their experiences. It reduces the story of Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and the New York art world of their time to the most pedestrian level possible - celebrity gossip. "Did you know that this socialite floozy fucked Bob Dylan? And he thought Andy Warhol was, like, totally using her, and Andy Warhol was all like totally jealous, and she got all messed up on drugs and needed rehab?" And of course, the movie itself was tabloid fodder because of Sienna Miller's highly revealing nude scenes, her crushed award-season hopes and her tumultuous romance with Jude Law. Ugh.

Oh, I didn't mention Hayden Christensen's so-bad-it's-hilarious take on Dylan, who didn't allow the filmmakers to use his name or music in the film because he didn't like their take on his relationship with Sedgwick, probably because it's stupid and poorly-conceived. Having Anakin to impersonate Dylan's highly idiosyncratic manner of speaking poorly throughout the entire film was just a horrible choice by director George Hickenlooper. It makes the whole film feel like a bad SNL sketch. I'll take Cate Blanchett, thanks so much.

10. Spider-Man 3

Raimi had always resisted putting Venom in the Spider-Man films, but the rabid fanboy enthusiasm won out in the end. So we got a Venom movie from a guy who clearly doesn't understand or enjoy the Venom character. (I can't say I blame him...I've never really found Venom all that compelling as a character.) Every decision made on that end just sucked, from casting Eric Forman to play the character to featuring Tobey Maguire in heavy guyliner, trudging around in alien-symbiote-inspired angst like a backup dancer fired from a Fall Out Boy video. The effects were terrific as always in this Spider-Man, but everything else felt turgid and empty.

[Read the original review here]

9. The Number 23

Wow, 2007 fucking SUCKED. I can't believe this piece of shit is actually coming in #9. I picked EIGHT MOVIES as worse than this piffle? This piffle, I should add, directed by one of my all-time least favorite directors, a guy nearly guaranteed a spot on my Worst of the Year list any time he releases a movie, Mr. Joel Schumacher. Joel can't even make it into the Top 5 this year...Damn...

Anyway, I don't want to blow the whole thing for you necessarily, but the entire mystery behind Number 23 is intensely insulting. The set-up: Jim Carrey and wife Virginia Madsen discover a weird book in a rare book shop. It seems to describe aspects of Carrey's childhood and life, details it would be difficult for someone else to know. Also, the book describes a character who grows obsessed with the number 23 and its significance in probability, the universe, etc. That's all fine, I suppose. Mysterious enough I guess, even though it's punctuated by weird, really irritatingly-shot, overexposed "dream sequences" or whatever in which a tattooed Carrey alter-ego stalks around acting generally menacing. But the ending just feels so gratuitous and rushed, like it occurred to the screenwriters five minutes before their pages were due. A movie like this lives or dies by the last five minutes. If you don't have a great final twist, why write a thriller that spends 90 minutes building up to a final twist?

8. Pirates of the Caribbean 3

This movie was awful in a really weird way. I mean, how could you possibly fuck this one up? The first movie is really good, I personally think the second is even better...and then, this aimless, ceaselessly perplexing final chapter, which seems to purposefully ignore all the charms of the first two films? Really? 20 minutes of Depp, with visible flopsweat, desperately dicking around in front of a plain white backdrop? All of the lively, interesting characters sidelined, and newcomer Chow Yun-Fat killed off near-instantly, in favor of some snooty aristocratic Englishmen in powdered wings and their various double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses? The Kraken, the coolest adversary in the entire series, killed off-screen between films? Like I said, just...weird...One of the year's great disappointments.

[Read the original review here]

7. I Know Who Killed Me

As ridiculous as I found the conclusion of The Number 23, Lindsay Lohan's foray into the serial killer genre actually earns the dubious Worst Twist of 2007 award. It's so dubious, they actually have Art Bell appear on-screen during the movie to assure us in the audience that, in fact, these claims are possible. Trust me...they are not. Twists aside, this is just an extremely dark, muddy and unattractive film about a suburban good-girl slasher victim who wakes up after her attack minus an arm and under the impression that she's a stripper. It's just as nihilistic, unpleasant and grim as it sounds, not just brutally violent but also disgusting and lurid. It's trying to shock you, which doesn't make it shocking...Just sad...

6. Southland Tales

This movie's a gigantic mess, and really my respect for Richard Kelly's ambition is the only thing keeping it out of the Top 5. It feels like the work of someone caught up entirely within a world of his own creation. He has no idea how to bring others into this creation, to help us understand the significance of these bizarre characters and random, dimly explained goings-on, to him or anyone else. These images and concepts just sit there, on screen, sometimes coalescing into something approaching satire and other times defiantly refusing to make any sense at all, and after a short time, I found it completely impossible to even pay attention to them.

[Read the original review here]

Interestingly, this is yet another 2007 film with a giant cast of unimpressive, B-level celebrities, many of them "Saturday Night Live" alumni. These kind of deep comedian rosters are like a Grand Tradition truly bad movies. Anyone remember Rat Race? Of course you don't...

5. Stardust

When whimsy fails, it EPIC FAILS. Like farce, whimsical fantasy has to be done with an extremely deft touch. Miss the right tone/tempo/attitude/style/performance even by a bit, and the whole thing's just off. Stardust misses all of the above and MANY MANY MORE. In addition to woefully amateurish special effects and an essentially inert non-romance drearily stretched out to feature-length proportions, Stardust features the least-likable cast of characters in any recent fantasy film. Just when you're thinking no protagonist could possibly be more boring than the Orlando Bloom wannabe they've cast as Tristan, here comes Claire Danes as the whiny Star Girl Yvaine. Oh boy!

The worst of all is, of course, Captain Shakespeare, the friendly mincing sky pirate who pretends to be a tough guy in front of his men even though, when left to his own devices, he's a right dandy! He's played by Robert De Niro, who's obviously in dire need of funds to pay for his grandmother's operation.

[Read the original review here]

4. Transformers

It's not that I had high expectations for Transformers, you understand. I knew it was going to be terrible. It had nothing going for it from the first, save perhaps the corporate, almost entirely non-creative input of producer Steven Spielberg. I mean, a Michael Bay adaptation of an '80s toy concept involving truck-robots scouring the Earth for energy cubes. Suddenly the Lindsay Lohan as the forgetful dismembered stripper concept doesn't sound so bad.

What I wasn't prepared for was the migraine-inducing "action" scenes, which were not entertaining at all but did manage to exactly replicate the POV of a kitten that has been placed inside a dryer along with some Hot Wheels. I wasn't prepared for the "comedy" scenes, in which Optimus Prime bumbles around Shia LaBeouf's backyard like he's starring in some kind of anime Preston Sturges homage. I wasn't prepared for the seemingly endless sub-plots that went nowhere and were suddenly dropped in the last half-hour anyway, padding an already-overlong film into a bladder-decimating 150 minute ordeal. Watch as I instantly transform into someone who doesn't pay for Michael Bay movies any more!

[Read the original review here]

3. Shoot Em Up

Yet more proof that Chuck Jones was a fucking GENIUS. This movie is obviously trying to be live action Looney Tunes, yet director Michael Davis is unable to devise a single joke or set-up that's half as memorable or inventive as any random Warner Bros. classic short. Seriously, to set your expectations this low - a movie with essentially no plot that's just a bunch of random gunfights and cheap chauvanism - and still utterly fail to hit the mark, that's when it's seriously time to consider a new career path. Why would Clive Owen do this to us?

[Read the original review here]

2. 300

Go back and read the full review to get my extensive thoughts on this horrifyingly offensive, Western-supremacist war porn abomination. The popularity of this film and the fact that so many of my countrymen have defended it and lauded it with praise this year seriously makes me feel badly about where we are as a society. This kind of self-congratulatory, bloodthirsty propaganda, disguised as history of all things, just reinforces - and not in a suble way - a great mass of negative, destructive ideas. Homophobia, the fetishization of war, the demonization of foreign's all in there, and you don't have to look particularly hard to find it.

For those of you about to write me angry messages in the comments about how 300 is based on a graphic novel from years ago about a war thousands of years ago, and thus can't possibly relate to anything in 2007, let me just say that you might want to read some books without drawings now and again.

[Read the original review here]

1. Revolver

Guy Ritchie's Revolver was produced and released in Europe years ago, but it only made it to America in 2007, because it's clearly one of the worst movies ever made. Here's what Roger Ebert said:

"Revolver" is a frothing mad film that thrashes against its very sprocket holes in an attempt to bash its brains out against the projector. It seems designed to punish the audience for buying tickets.

He's far too kind.

Word on the street is that Ritchie was inspired by his wife Madonna's Kabballah religion, and if that's the case, those people are easily as fucked up as the Scientologists.

Ritchie's movie constantly promises to lead to something, and then keeps turning you around and showing you what you've already seen. (Get it? Revolver? Ha ha, this obvious pun excuses all my film's repetitiveness!) A convict is freed from jail. There's a gangster after him for some reason. Two mysterious guys come to his aid, but keep asking him to pull crappy errands for them in exchange. Are these the same two guys he got to know through the walls of his prison cell, who had long planned how to pull off the perfect crime? I still have no idea, because the movie doesn't so much answer questions as ask them over and over and over again. Eventually, you stop caring about getting any answers and just want to get as far away from the DVD of Revolver as possible. You may even lose your will to live. Who knows? Results may vary.

[Read the original review here]


Jordan said...

i am so happy 300 was on the list. i hate that movie with a passion. also, you forgot to mention the most hilariously awful part of the number 23- the author of the books name...TOPSY KRETTS. and the worst part is, i watched it with a friend WHO DIDN'T GET IT! he couldn't understand what TOPSY KRETTS could mean. he's still my friend, too. i'm a good guy. anyways, wonderful list, and sadly i've seen almost all of them.

Dodgyc said...

You...are awesome. Almost every film you mention is also in my 'Crap Films of the Year' list.
How do you get it so right?
Just. Brilliant.

Tim said...

The last time I saw Tracy Letts, he still had a penis.

I haven't seen "Bug" yet, but I hope it's not that bad. I know a lot of people who saw the play and say it's really good. I saw his last play, "August: Osage County", at Steppenwolf and it was straight-up brilliant.