Three of these are movies Bibbs reviewed highly and I neglected to pitch a second opinion. I wish I had gone into depth earlier in the year, but that’ll be a lesson to me. Always pitch the second opinion. It looks like I missed out on a lot of popular candidates for Worst of 2012: The Devil Inside, One for the Money, Contraband, Act of Valor, Silent Hill Revelations 3D, The Raven, This Means War, and Madea’s Witness Protection. I may never know if they truly earned a place on this list, but I already ran out of room for Rock of Ages, Seeking Justice, The Lucky One, Chernobyl Diaries, Gone, Trouble with the Curve and The Hobbit.
People Like Us (dir. Alex Kurtzman)
Actually, Bibbs liked this too but not as passionately as three of the below. I just found it obnoxious. Chris Pine is playing the role Ben Affleck used to play all the time ten years ago. He’s so fast-talking and has the perfect plan and why won’t everyone just listen to him so he can get everything he wants? His arc is to become less entitled, but that only happens through exposition, not any action or growth on his part. The exposition is so blatant that this movie has many scenes where characters talk about the scene that just happened. Here’s a screenwriting tip: when the audience sees a scene, you don’t have to reiterate the scene to a character who wasn’t there. You can just imply that the protagonist brought them up to speed off camera. Spoiler alert, but not really since it’s telegraphed so obviously: When that slow tracking shot reveals that, surprise-surprise, our antihero has returned to do the right thing... Whaaaaaaa? You mean he was there the whole time and we just didn’t see him until the shot opened up? Come on, were you really building that moment up to be a twist?
The Bourne Legacy (dir. Tony Gilroy)
John Carter (dir. Andrew Stanton)
I’m happy that some fans did enjoy the cinematic adaptation of the John Carter novels, including our own William Bibbiani. I usually disagree with any hype about a rumored train wreck, but this is the single case where I feel every negative report about the movie was 100% true. John Carter is plagued by a series of bad directorial decisions, in which the correction of no single one could have saved it. It is a narrative mess, a visual bore. If anything happens in the action scenes, it is the same old generic shot of a CGI army or a dude spinning a rock on a chain, nothing that rouses a spirit of adventure. It even opens with a generic battle sequence as if out of obligation to start with an action tease, but it’s neither exciting nor informative about what’s to come. There’s no sense of wonder in any of the visual or thematic elements, and that’s not because the source material is dated. Formula movies still capture our imaginations when well done. It’s just a rocky canyon and flimsy CGI aliens, a sign of hubris that Andrew Stanton thought he was making magic. John Carter is selfish and then he finds a place where he belongs and starts caring, because we’re told he does, because it seems that’s the traditionally accepted hero’s journey. It’s further complicated by a wraparound segment, which I suppose I would love if it were allowing a wonderful story to extend further, but it’s just adding more twists in lieu of depth.
Crazy Eyes (dir. Adam Sherman)
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (dirs. Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim)
I think Tim and Eric really did have a good point about the things we take for granted in comedy, the inherent flaws in our comic tropes. It just wasn’t funny. I like a gross out gag as much as the next guy, probably more than most next guys, but the supporting characters were so repulsive they were just unpleasant. Yet shrim will forever remain in my vocabulary.
The Samaritan (dir. David Weaver)
If this had been a major release it really would have been worse than Dark Shadows, but even as it is, IFC is not nothing. People flipping cable channels still need to be warned. This is a crime drama that sucks the energy out of every cliché it’s got, pulling a con man back in just when he thought he was out. There’s one juicy twist but it’s not worth the plodding, lethargic, joyless exercise in blackmail, con jobs and the criminal underworld.
Dark Shadows (dir. Tim Burton)
When I saw Dark Shadows I was convinced it would be my number one worst movie of the year. It was such a lazy mess of exposition that never paid off, and cluttered with characters who did nothing, I thought for sure I’d see nothing worse. Yet since May my anger has softened a little. I understand letting a character actor or two go to waste, perhaps a victim of the final cut, but to have Michelle Pfeiffer stand around watching Johnny Depp play around, it shows they couldn’t even think of a purpose for the leads. Helena Bonham Carter kind of does one thing, that’s immediately resolved so it doesn’t matter in the scope of the story. Chloe Moretz gets a special effect but that doesn’t count as something to do. Jonny Lee Miller, Jackie Earle Haley and Bella Heathcoat literally just stand around in ensemble shots.
Butter (dir. Jim Field Smith)
A loathsome movie all around. It wants to give Jennifer Garner an unlikeable character to play, but tries so hard to keep her likable that it’s more offensive. Butter plays the quirky small town farce with clichéd characters, all of whom ring false. They’re condescending to the audience. Look at this power woman. Won’t it be nice to see her soften up? Look at this bad girl stripper. Won’t it be nice to see her redeem herself for the sin of sexual empowerment? And the little girl, won’t it be powerful when her innocence is shattered by the harsh realities of competition? Harsh realities as in the things that the movie contrives to elicit sympathy for her. I suppose it would be all right, or at least palatable, if the comedy was funny. Not really, it would still be offensive to see all these middle class/high income white people congratulate themselves.
The Divide (dir. Xavier Gens)
For most of 2012, I was sure I was going to ignore The Divide on my year-end lists. I declared it wasn’t a real movie so would not be worth mentioning. Sure it got the obligatory Anchor Bay minimal theatrical release but was basically straight-to-video. It had a legitimate cast, but none who would command an audience unless the movie was generating attention on its own. Under those circumstances, no one was really ever going to see The Divide so my work was done for me. Yet by the end of the year, The Divide stuck around in my journalist circle’s conversation and I had to acknowledge it. Also it really bothers people when I dismissively declare something not a real movie. The Divide brings one-dimensionality to new heights. The survivors in a post-apocalyptic bunker all have their one defining characteristic, all contrived to show how people won’t get along in a crisis. The actors go to such extreme lengths to milk the one personality trait they are given that it’s even more laughable. Director Xavier Gens mistakes ugliness for commentary, by reveling in grimy sets and human degradation. I can take the message The Divide wants to address, but I see right through this one. Check out Bibbs’ review though, he loved it.
Cellmates (dir. Jesse Baget)
So if The Divide is a real movie then I have to acknowledge Cellmates. If anyone ever complains that a big studio movie is the worst film they’ve ever seen, Cellmates is the type of movie they should see for context. See, even the most incompetent Hollywood movie has some level of minimal craft. It has to just to get through the system. If a director screws up, he can be buoyed by a cinematographer, or they can at least fix it in post. Most audiences will never see a movie like Cellmates. This is an amateur filmmaker’s practice film that through circumstances of having a name star (Tom Sizemore’s comeback!) and some sort of distribution deal is available for consumption, if you were around the single theater that released it or discovered it on video. Perhaps it is important to remember that craft this sloppy or ideas this misguided exist. And existing is just about all Cellmates accomplishes. It certainly does exist.
Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.