Sunday, November 25, 2012

10 Worst Films for 2012


On this list, you won't find a series of intentional B movies or worse.  But our list of Worst Films For 2012 are based on films there was, at one point, actual interest in.  (Breathe easy, Madonna, no one was ever interested in W.E., so your directorial debut does not make our list.)

(1) The Raven.  How do you screw up Poe?  Edgar Allan Poe was scaring the world before film even existed so how do you screw up Poe?  You do so in part by casting John Cusak.  The 46 years have been so rough that they wear like 60.  With more bombs to his name than any other 'name' actor --   City Hall, Grosse Pointe Blank, Pushing Tin, Serendipity, Runaway Jury, Must Love Dogs, Grace Is Gone, The Martian Child and The Ice Harvest, among others -- you have to wonder who keeps making the mistake of casting Cusak in lead roles?  At the very least, you'd think they'd make him get a big boy haircut and hit the gym or at least go on a diet.  Throughout the film, the humor fails flat and the thrills produce yawns.  The only reason for this film to exist is to really make you appreciate the charm and life Jude Law and Robert Downing Jr. bring to Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films.

2)  The Words should have been a fascinating film.  Granted the script was badly put together and wanted to be overly cute with chronology, but the basic story works.  A couple go on a honeymoon, the wife buys her writer husband an old briefcase. Inside, he discovers a manuscript, an amazing one.  He types it up on his laptop just to enjoy the words.  She discovers it on the laptop and believes he wrote it and, before you know it, he's meeting a publisher and 'his' book is coming out.  But it's not his book and the real author surfaces.  How do you screw that up?  You do it by jumbling a timeline so that you take an adult tale and make it into The Princess Bride -- what we've told you is read to an audience at a book reading by Dennis Quaid's character.  Only at the end do you learn that what Quaid was reading probably happened to him and this is his second book (but only the first he's actually written himself).  You do that by casting Dennis Quaid.  The spark went out there long ago.  He's a solid B-lead.  Nothing to draw in an audience (in terms of ticket sales or holding interest).  It doesn't help that the couple in the story Quaid, Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana, have absolutely zero onscreen chemistry. If the film succeeds on any level, it's Olivia Wilde who at last does a big screen appearance to justify the hype.  It's a small role but she does everything required and does it quite well.

3) Alex Cross.  Tyler Perry is unconvincing as a woman.  He strangles his vocal chords and never manages to come off like anything other than a transvestite.  So when he dropped Medea long enough to pull on some pants, we hoped it would work.  We were big fans of Morgan Freeman in this role (he played Cross in Kiss The Girls and Along Came a Spider).  This has to be the all time worst attempt at rebooting a series.  It's flacid and poorly edited.  You keep wondering if you're missing something because surely things can't be as obvious as they seem.  But when the ending comes to this non-thriller, if you're still awake, you discover, yeah, you know the whole movie bfore the first ten minutes.

4) Haywire.  Gina Carano was as awful in the lead of this film as Tyler Perry was in Alex Cross; however, there were some outstanding supporting performances in the film including ones by Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonior Banderas and Ewan McGregeor.  This was never going to be an Academy Award winning Best Picture but with a real actress in the lead, say Rose McGowan, this could have been a superior popcorn movie.  Instead you start to see why Steven Soderbergh has decided to retire.

5) The Avengers.  A lazy film redeemed only by some small turns by Robert Downey Jr. and a great performance by Mark Ruffalo.  The film explains why Captain America was so useless in the comic book of The Avengers: Because he's boring.  It also explains what you do with the sole female lead when she's a 'superhero' without any super powers: Have her on her back firing pistols while others fight bad guys.  An awful film that was never going to be anything but awful when some idiot decided that Black Widow was to be the sole female character  -- not Scarlet Witch or any of the women with real power, but 'secret agent' Black Widow.  As Stan noted, Jessica Alba was wasted in the Fantastic Four films but, unlike Scarlett Johansson,  she still managed to come off as believable.

6) Rock of Ages.  Jukebox musicals don't really bring in the praise on Broadway.  So pulling together a bunch of hit songs from various artists and stringing together something resembling a plot around it might bring in the 'out of towners' but who thought it would result in ticket sales at the movies?  With the exception of Catherine Zeta Jones and Mary J. Blige, the film is a huge mess.  Tom Cruise is appalling and really needs to keep the shirt on.  The only thing more laughable than Cruise singing onstage shirtless is that people are supposedly turned on by it.  Then there is Alec Baldwin whose treatment of Kim Basinger during their marriage and tormenting phone calls to his only child appear to have finally come back to haunt him in karmic form.  That limited acting he's pioneered for the last 16 years may be great for commercials but they offer nothing on the big screen.  How bad was it?  The soundtrack hasn't even managed to go gold.

7)  Katy Perry: Part Of Me.  Let's stay with the musical for this bad infomercial that made it to the big screens.  Too faked to be a concert film (Katy's fans pay for something other than live singing) and too sugar-and-fluff loaded to pass for a documentary, this film clearly left even Katy Perry fans puzzled   It played out like Medusa: Dare to Be Truthful but as though Julie Brown weren't in on the joke.

(8)  Arbitrage.   AKA When Richard Gere Became Sally Kirkland.  Arbitrage is a hideous film.  Its attempts at addressing the economic crisis are too pat to be called facile.  Its attempts at suspense leave you yawning.  Time and again, the supporting actors fail (especially Susan Sarandon in what should be a career killing performance).  The direction is so mediocre that this might as well be an ABC Movie of the Week.  Yet through it all, Richard Gere delivers one of the year's finest performances.  As many did after seeing Anna, you'll probably walk out wondering how the hell one actor managed to shine surrounded by such crap?  [Anna is the hideous 1987 film that Sally Kirkland so excelled in she was nominate for an Academy Award for Best Actress and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Drama) for the film.]

(9) Snow White and the Huntsman. and (10) Mirror Mirror were two attempts at Snow White served up in 2012.    This film stars one of the great actresses of film, Charlize Theron.  It also stars Chris Hemsworth who made as strong impression recently as Thor.  We expected it to be the stronger film -- especially after seeing Mirror, Mirror.  Both films seemed not to grasp that Snow White is beautiful.  This isn't a minor thing.  The fairy tales are full of one beautiful blond woman after another.  Snow White is the exception.  Then there's the fact that the step-mother wants to kill Snow White when she comes of age because she's now the 'fairest of them all.'  Not being Twilight fans, we'd never really seen Kristen Stewart but what her portrayal of Snow White taught us was that she can't really act and the only thing more make up does is make her look more like a man -- specifically Macaulay Culkin.  You never see Kristen's Snow White as a threat, on any level, to Charlize Theron's evil queen.  And you also stop caring about Snow White.  A film about Snow in which you don't care about her?  Not a good film.

Mirror, Mirror has many, many problems.  But director Tarsem Singh has given the film a real look and created a fully functioning world within the film. Singh has clear and incredible talent.  The film is also helped by the fact that Lily Collins is very pretty.  She also delivers a winning performance as do Nathan Lane, Armie Hammer, Danny Woodburn, Martin Klebba, Sebastian Saraceno, Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo and Ronald Lee Clark.  Possibly attempting to live up to the winning tone the ensemble was producing, Julia Roberts went light?  She was way, way too light for the evil queen.  That the woman once known in the industry as Tinker Hell couldn't play a threatening scene convincingly was a surprise.  She's never menacing so, when the queen finally suffers at the end, it feels too much. It should be a minor point considering how much works for the film but when the nemesis contributes no tension at all, a film tends to fall flat.

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