If you listen to the wrong kind of people (cultural pessimists, that is), every year is the worst year in cinema, at least since the last one. But as we learned last year, high highs tend to come with low lows. In a year that saw the release of such instant classics as 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, and many more, there were also scads of terrible contributions to the greater world of movie-going. High highs, people, and low lows. Let’s try to make next year a little better, or at least let’s aim to populate it with satires that actually try to be funny, sequels that aren’t a disgrace to their franchise history, and nothing even remotely resembling inAPPropriate Comedy 2.
While there were certainly more than a mere thirteen bad movies that hit the big screen this year (and, yes, we’re more than eager to see your contributions in the comments), here are thirteen that stuck out to us in the most unforgettable of ways. We’ve come to bury them, and certainly not to praise them, so here are thirteen films that we’re giddily throwing in the grave.
A Good Day to Die Hard
I guess I should actually thank A Good Day to Die Hard for making it easy for my review to avoid accusations of fanboy stalwartness. You see, there hasn’t been a good Die Hard film in almost twenty years, but A Good Day to Die Hard is unsatisfied merely being an embarrassment to its franchise and instead aims for the lofty heights of basic filmmaking incompetence. A target they hit dead center with a resounding squishy plop.
Bruce Willis transforms from lovable put-upon hero-schlub into braying ugly American effortlessly; seriously, he is making no effort at all. Similarly intractable in his lack of appeal is McClane’s dick son Jack, played by Jai Courtney, presumably given dialogue solely to illustrate to the audience that he is in fact a living being and not a tower of cheese with eyes. The action sequences are excitement-proof, someone forgot to write a story, and the attention to bothersome details like removing stunt pads from frame…isn’t paid. To the franchise, one I have loved so well, I can only beseech that you not only Die Hard, but quickly and for good. -Brian Salisbury
Here’s how bad inAPPropriate Comedy is – it’s so bad, that I nearly forgot the film existed until it came time to pore over the year’s worst features to complete this list. I wanted to forget this film in the worst way possible. This ugly, nasty, racist, homophobic, sexist, and revolting attempt at shock humor fails in ever way imaginable – it doesn’t feel good and it sure as hell doesn’t look good. It’s shocking this thing was even made (truly – it went through years of edits). An interminable movie-going experience that doesn’t even work for “so bad it’s good” giggles, it is to be avoided at all costs. -Kate Erbland
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Lee Daniels’ flagrant bid for awards glory fails in all the ways his previous films have failed – it’s cheesy, it’s messy, it’s broad, and it doesn’t contain a single emotion that rings true. Star Forest Whitaker is indeed solid as Cecil Gaines, but his role is ultimately reduced to a bland play on Forrest Gump — he doesn’t make the history, he’s simply a sieve for it. Co-star Oprah Winfrey is ruthlessly over-the-top and one note (screaming and heaving) as Mrs. Gaines, and the rest of the supporting cast is rounded out by half hammy impersonations (John Cusack, that is all) and somewhat canny turns that get lost in the mire. Even the true story element of this thing couldn’t save it, as Gaines’ “real life” story was made unnervingly fake by the addition of a subplot that tried to introduce the Civil Rights Movement in a vital way, but only felt shoehorned in. -KE
A Haunted House
Congratulations, Hollywood, you’ve done it. You’ve managed to take two of the worst things that have happened to cinema in recent years – found footage and spoof movies – and cross-bred them into the hideous beast known as A Haunted House. This crass and often forced spoof of the Paranormal Activity movies was so bad, it only has one Wayans involved in it. In fact, the only thing worse than A Haunted House in 2013 were the other similar spoofs Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with The Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you’re one of those people who liked this movie, rejoice, because the sequel comes out in just a couple months. -Kevin Carr
Remember when the Farrelly Brothers were funny? (Note: children born in the 21st century will not have had this happen in their lifetime.) Bobby and Peter Farrelly followed up the lackluster The Three Stooges with this ensemble sketch comedy film about Hugh Jackman’s neck balls, Anna Faris wanting to be pooped on, and Chloë Grace Moretz getting her first period. It seems the only way to get people to watch anything from the movie was to take the fake tampon ad from the film and forward it to your friends as a fake Russian television commercial. The movie bombed at the box office, so much so that Peter Farrelly blamed critics (for whom the movie wasn’t screened) in a Twitter rant, claiming he was trying to do something new. So apparently he had never seen The Kentucky Fried Movie, The Groove Tube, or Amazon Women on the Moon. -KC
To be honest, Paranoia isn’t really the worst film made this year. There have been plenty other wholly terrible movies in 2013; just look at the film’s company on this list. However, Paranoia is something special for being such an utter misfire. After securing A-list names like Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, the movie is pinned on Liam Hemsworth (the *other* wooden actor from The Hunger Games). Using plot elements stolen from better movies from the 1990’s like Enemy of the State and The Net, Paranoia committed the worst sin of all: being completely forgettable. -KC
We weren’t exactly expecting the next The Untouchables with Ruben Fleischer’s period crime drama. But it’s not too much to expect a movie starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn to have a basic handle on tone and pacing. Gangster Squad is far too satisfied with surface-level distractions – slow-motion machinegun fire standing in for “action,” movie stars substituted for “characters,” and an impatient music video technique excusing itself as “style” – to even attempt the delivery of a cohesive movie.
Gangster Squad presents itself straight-faced, yet never believes in its own rich setting enough to realize what it wants to be, and as a result dangles awkwardly somewhere between L.A. Confidential and Dick Tracy. It’s the most cynical kind of film: expecting the audience to take it seriously, while making no visible effort to treat itself the same. -Landon Palmer
Julianne Hough can see dead people. I apologize if that’s a spoiler, but the premise of Save Haven is based on something so ridiculous it has to be revealed upfront so those considering watching this movie understand what they are in for. With any film based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, you pretty much know what you are in for – beautiful people, locations full of Southern charm, romance, and death.
However, the death element usually does not involve ghosts. Or people talking to ghosts. Or people thinking ghosts are real. Real people giving them love advice on how to become involved with their former husbands. I am sure the conceit of Safe Haven was to conjure up the romantic and reassuring idea of fate, but it played as the polar opposite of reassuring. Hough’s character, Katie, ended up coming across as an unstable, possibly delusional woman who just got out of an abusive relationship and is now linked up with a still grieving widow and his two young, impressionable children. This reveal took away all the emotion Save Haven attempted to build and made the final scene of Katie running down the beach to her new “family” feel more ominous than heartwarming. –Allison Loring
On the surface, Getaway should have been easy. A whole movie built around car stunts, chases, crashes and even some tense near misses should be fun. Somehow, director Courtney Solomon managed to screw it up, giving us a bland, boring movie that somehow felt twice as long as its meager 90-minute running time. Poor Ethan Hawke isn’t given much to work with and his main costars are an inanimate object and a Mustang. There is a single redeeming quality, however, and that’s a long single shot, stolen on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria with no permits or street control. It’s reckless gives tension to a movie that had none, but it’s not enough to save it. -Luke Mullen
Expectations were high for the most recent film starring a version of Parker, the fictional character created by Donald E. Westlake and perhaps made most famous in Payback, where Mel Gibson played a character named Porter based heavily on Parker. Sadly, the new film fell flat. It starts well enough but quickly goes down hill, spending far too much time on J.Lo’s character and not nearly enough time showing Jason Statham kick ass. The filmmakers seemed to have no idea what kind of film they were making and couldn’t even decide on one ending, instead putting in 3 different sequences that all feel like endings, dragging the film out to an interminable 118 minutes. -LM
Jack the Giant Slayer
A colossal creative and financial failure. The main issue is director Bryan Singer can’t do grand spectacle. His best action is always the most pared down, as proven by Valkryie, The Usual Suspects, and Nightcrawler in the white house. This movie has violent giants, and yet, Singer can’t find craft any sense of fun or personality. Jack the Giant Slayer is so tirelessly mediocre that it ends up being downright terrible. -Jack Giroux
A movie so far up Steve Jobs’s ass that it forgets to tell a coherent story. Director Joshua Michael Stern and screenwriter Matt Whiteley are so enamored with their subject that, when it comes to showing real drama in Jobs’s life, they buckle and use his daughter or girlfriend as throwaway scenes. They seem to matter less to Stern and Whiteley than they did for their Steve Jobs. Jobs is nothing more than a bunch of cliff notes, not an actual movie. -JG
The Big Wedding
Where to begin? There’s the sad sight of Robert De Niro further soiling his once-pristine reputation, right alongside Susan Sarandon and Diane Keaton (though Keaton is a pro at starring in sub-moronic comedies at this point). The screenplay is filled with lines such as the following, delivered by De Niro in what has to be his professional nadir (I might be slightly paraphrasing): “I haven’t seen this much tail in one room since the dog died.” Let’s not forget about the rest of the stunt-casting (Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Robin freakin’ Williams), the clichéd wedding hysterics or the ethnic stereotyping posing as comedy. -Robert Levin