Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Worst Films Of 2014

Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day".
  Paramount Pictures

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Every year too many films make this list and every year I fight to dwindle this list down to ten films.  I don't often release my official worst films list but for 2014, well, I just couldn't help myself.  Here is my list of the 12 worst films of 2014, with the very worst of the year at the bottom of this list.  Enjoy. 

"Million Dollar Arm" (Disney)
The "white man's burden" movie run amok, with Jon Hamm playing a real life agent who decides to coach a softball team of pitchers from far east India.  Mr. Hamm's character is spiteful throughout, and his would-be love interest engages in some benign racist statements and assumptions, as does he.  It never recovers from its stupor.  And grew more and more insufferable.

"I Origins" (Fox Searchlight)
A disastrous film that uses Far East Indians as props, and presents some very problematic issues about identity, race, women and "the other".  But not in a good way.

"Neighbors" (Universal)
Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron.  And a penis around a woman's neck.  In this film.  Yes.  I said it.  Now some will rush out and rent the film.  And yes, it is there in this awful film.  Good Lord.  Enough said.

"American Sniper" (Warner Brothers)
A dishonoring to the memory of Chris Kyle, the late U.S. Navy SEAL who believed in the essence of America.  Mr. Eastwood spends more time fully exploring the laziest war movie tropes and clichés, and less time on Chris Kyle and what made him who he was.  It was a wasted opportunity.  Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller are good in this hugely disappointing film.

"Better Living Through Chemistry" (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
All I will say about this film is that it is a forgettable one.  My review of it perhaps will give you a better idea than these two sentences do.  Hopefully.

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (Sony)
A very sloppy, lazy and overwrought film by Marc Webb.  Junky special effects, a poor villain named Electro, an ogre you feel sorry for -- or laugh at -- and a shift in tones.  Everything is so cheaply expensive, and even dismissive, as it is presented here.  Never has such a lot of money been so wasted on a film in 2014.

"The Other Woman" (20th Century Fox)
Cameron Diaz starred in three bad movies in 2014, as did Kevin Costner.  Mr. Costner, however, is not in "The Other Woman", a film that plays more like a cleavage show and horror movie than a comedy.  Garish, overly-harsh and mean-spirited, the film has an end-of-the-world quality that's a profound turn-off.  With Kate Upton and Leslie Mann, the latter of whom, sadly, has appeared in a lot of exasperatingly bad films like this.

"Transcendence" (Warner Brothers)
This is the one time I wished that the Johnny Depp who was so good in Willy Wonka would have shown up in this film.  Mr. Depp looks lost.  As does a film that telegraphs relentlessly, with messages we see coming from 20 minutes ago.  Morgan Freeman appears, and even he looks fed up or irritated with this film.  Cinematographer Wally Pfister's directing debut fails to have a unity or consistency in story construction or dramatic urgency.  It's a disparate effort that lacks cohesion, splintering its drama and its terror angles into the ether.

"Interstellar" (Warner Brothers)
A big-budget disaster.  A poor attempt to marry the emotions of a father-daughter story with huge visual styling and ambition.  Christopher Nolan isn't comfortable with the grand canvas outside of "The Dark Knight".   Neither atmosphere ever engages the other, and worse, each atmosphere is rushed, frenzied and discordant.  In short, "Interstellar" never achieves lift-off.

"The Homesman" (Roadside Attractions)
Tommy Lee Jones directs a film some called "feminist".  I do not quite understand why, for "The Homesman" is one of the more misogynist and pitiful 2014 films available.  Hilary Swank does well as a frontiers-type but isn't onscreen for long.  Women exist in the film but in the cloyingly convenient ways that a Western typically uses them.  The more I watched this film, the more I longed for Kelly Reichardt's film "Meek's Cutoff".  This film's tenor radically changes -- it's as if the first half, or the second, or both, was borrowed from another movie (or two) altogether.

"Labor Day" (Paramount)
For the better part of an entire calendar year, Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" was at the rock-bottom of my list of the year's worst.  It pains me to articulate just how bad it is.  Venom doesn't necessarily ever convey anything about the paucity and appalling deficiency of a film, but "Labor Day" is a poorly-adapted and poorly directed effort.  Kate Winslet is a single mother suffering from depression who is accosted by escaped convict Josh Brolin.  She gets tied up with rope.  Ooooh.  They make pie.  Aaaah.  It's so bad.  Metaphorically speaking.  And in reality.

"Unbroken" (Universal)
Unfortunately Angelina Jolie's drama pips "Labor Day" at the post for the year's worst film.  It is unbroken alright.  One torturous scene after another in the true life story of Olympian Louis Zamperini.  A valiant soul who exhibited major courage as a World War II prisoner of war is reduced to a battered body.  There's little framing or contextual balance at all in the film.  Any emotional flourishes are cursory stopgaps and transitions rather than attempts to ingratiate or indulge other dimensions of Mr. Zamperini's life.  There's such unremitting brutality that there's no connection to him.  Sadly, it appears that Ms. Jolie wanted to emulate a war survivalist film rather than direct one.  Ms. Jolie deserved better.  So did Mr. Zamperini.  A review is forthcoming.  But it won't be much longer in words than this. 

After that dose of negativity, here is my list of the ten best films of 2014.

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