As the year winds down, and everyone talks about Oscar season, let’s take a moment to reflect on the worst films that came out this year. To start out, we’ll look at the five that narrowly managed to not enter the bottom 10. Whether or not that is an accomplishment is up to you, dear reader.
I, Frankenstein (Lions Gate)
This year, there was no “Underworld” movie in theaters. Instead, the creators of said franchise gave the world the comic adaptation “I, Frankenstein” in which Aaron Eckhart has the misfortune of playing the modern Prometheus as a cut, handsome beast who finds himself in the middle of a war between gargoyles and demons. Also, Bill Nighy shows up because it’s from the creators of “Underworld.”
On paper, “I, Frankenstein” sounds like something that at least should understand how to have fun or slight awareness of how preposterous the whole premise is. Even a hormone riddled 15 year old would at least try to inject something into the proceedings. No such luck however, as the whole thing is shot with what looks like rejected PS3 graphics, somber colors and an all around dour, serious mood that actually expects the audience to go with cliched dialogue like “This ends tonight!” and horribly shot action scenes. To be fair, the cast at least tries to work with what they are given, but that’s not enough. Even the “Underworld” franchise occasionally knows how to throw in things that are a little fun. This is just a boring trudge that feels like a joke that doesn’t realize it is one.
Rage (Image Entertainment)
Ever since “Taken” became one of the biggest sleeper hits of the past five years, several studios and directors have tried to replicate said formula. The problem with this is that “Taken” was essentially a big studio B-movie that nobody expected to be a hit, and was lightning in a bottle. It’s a relatively simple formula (man with a specific set of skills must rescue a loved one from some very bad people), but it’s also one that’s easy to fuck up, as the Nicholas Cage film “Rage” proves.
Here, Cage seems bored for the most part. He occasionally tries to bring his Nic Cage-ness into the proceedings, but it comes off as forced and tired. You know, like he expects that’s what his audience wants. The rest of the cast doesn’t fair any better, with Danny Glover appearing to be extremely uninterested with the proceedings at hand, wishing like the rest of the cast that he was somewhere-anywhere-else. Add to some horrible direction, one of the worst film scores I have heard in ages, God awful cinematography-the list goes on. In the end, the whole thing is just a sad reminder that once upon a time, Cage was a respected, Oscar winning actor. Now he can only get work in movies that barely play in theaters and get dumped to DVD a month later.
Are You Here (Millennium Entertainment)
Just…dammit. I really, really wish the directorial debut of “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner was a better movie than this. It has a fine cast (Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler round out the main cast, while Jenna Fischer and Peter Boganovich show up for supporting roles), but the whole thing is a mess.
What went wrong? How about getting Galifianakis to play another man-child role. Its inability to find a proper tone (Is it a quirky indie comedy? A somber look at mental illness and family problems? Some sort of dramedy? I had no idea throughout much of the movie.) Laura Ramsay as an annoying hippie mother. And really, the whole generic, confused nature of the film. It’s pretty much the kind of dull, indie comedy-drama that gives indie movies a bad name. It doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before and ultimately feels like a waste of time and energy, not to mention talent.
Drive Hard (Image Entertainment)
While Nicholas Cage is often brought up when it comes to actors that make you ask “Dude, what happened?” John Cusack also deserves mention. Whilst there are reasons why Cage pretty much takes whatever script he sees (bankruptcy for example), Cusack doesn’t have as much of an excuse, as these days he mostly seems to be in movies that are barely even released in theaters before that are dumped to DVD. The latest example of this is “Drive Hard”, which in no way, shape or form is related to “Drive” or “Drive Angry”, was directed by former Aussie exploitation master Brian Trenchard Smith and co-stars former “Punisher” Thomas Jane.
Jane plays a former race car driver who ends up getting abducted by a thief (Cusack) who forces him to be the driver for a crime. However, this ends up getting the attention of the mob and the police, who also must want to know what the hell is up with the hair Jane is sporting.
“Fun” ensues, and by that I mean tedium. The film desperately wants to be a fun, undemanding action/exploitation movie for people who frequent Redbox for cheap thrills. However, the whole thing is a disaster. The “witty” banter between Cusack and Jane is eye rolling, the car chases (easily the film’s raison d’etre) are horrible shot (amazing considering older Trenchard Smith movies like Stunt Rock and Dead End Drive-In had spectacular stunt work), the action scenes are incoherent, and the performances are terrible-especially Cusack, who is clearly there for a paycheck and nothing more. Even undemanding viewers deserve better than this bullshit.
Blended (Warner Brothers)
Among other things, 2014 may go down as the year audiences finally got tired of Adam Sandler and his shit. His two recent “serious” movies have been met with derision from critics, and “Blended”, which saw him and Drew Barrymore reunite (and is the first movie of his I’ve seen since 2011’s “Just Go With It”) failed to make much of a dent in the box office. It’s impossible to feel sorry for the man, as he’s made movies that show nothing but contempt for his audience for years now, and you can only get away with vacations disguised as movies for so long until even the dumbest moviegoer starts to catch on.
To be honest, “Blended” is not as bad as “Just Go With It” (and though I haven’t seen them, can’t be as bad as “Jack and Jill” or “That’s My Boy” or…), but it’s still the pits as far as comedy goes. The jokes (Fat jokes! Gay jokes! Fart jokes!) are lazy, most of the performances are bad (Only poor Barrymore seems to be putting forth any effort) the direction is pedestrian and the whole thing basically treats the audience like they are idiots. That’s expected. However, it goes one odious step farther, basically treating the populace of Africa (and in particular, Terry Crews) as an extended minstrel show that’s meant to show off how awesome Africa is as a vacation and dance and prance around. It’s the kind of racism you’d expect from a movie 60 or 70 years ago, and the fact that this is included just makes you hate the people behind it more. Fuck you Adam Sandler.
That rounds out the honorable mentions. Next time is films 10-6 in the worst of the year list.