ReelThoughts: November 27, 2014

"Ten Turkeys for 2014"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


I have long since moved away from calling my Bottom 10 a "Worst of..." list. Considering how many truly awful films I have given myself the latitude to skip, it's almost unfair to those remaining to be singled out as the biggest cinematic offenders. It may seem that I see a lot of bad films but things could be worse; I annually avoid about two-dozen movies whose releases are characterized by multiple "warning signs" (no advance screenings, poor word-of-mouth, minimal marketing, etc.). Based on comments from fellow critics who desire to be more comprehensive in their viewing habits than I do, I rarely misstep in this regard. Occasionally, circumstances demand I see something that causes me to regret making a trip to the theater. If I was more selective, I might not see anything in January or February, so sacrifices have to be made with goal of keeping the website current and providing content for various newspapers. Consider this not a list of the worst ten movies to open in 2014 but instead a list of the ten least enjoyable times I had in theaters this year.

2014 has been a strange movie year. Hollywood will label it as "terrible" and, from a pure box office perspective, that's hard to argue. However, overall quality hasn't suffered noticeably; it's just that many of the bigger budgeted, so-called "tent pole" productions have underperformed. (During December, as part of my annual "year in review," I'm planning a three-part series on the "one and done" phenomenon that has characterized 2014 results.) As for the dregs, was this year's Bottom 10 more horrific than last year's? Tough to say, although 2014's single Worst of the Worst would make my all-time Hall of Shame if I ever compiled such a roster (which is about as likely as my winning a Pulitzer.)

This year, I'm using the same format I debuted in 2013 - a ranked Bottom Five with five "dishonorable mentions." I would also like to note that, unlike some critics, I don't use the Bottom 10 to send messages. These are legitimately the ten films released in 2014 that I saw theatrically and liked the least. There are no other criteria. No grandstanding. No politics. I dislike critics who put a movie in a Top 10 or Bottom 10 because they want to "highlight" it. Likewise, I won't shy away from a "popular" choice just because it's an object of mass approbation or universal disdain. These are my opinions and it's possible some of them may be shared by a great many others. It's equally possible they may be shared by no one.

The Dishonorable Mentions (alphabetical):

3 Days to Kill: I wanted to like this. I really did. But even the February release date didn't prepare me for the sheer ineptitude evident throughout. As a comeback vehicle for Kevin Costner, it's hard to imagine a worse choice.

Brick Mansions: Paul Walker's final completed film. Not since Donald Pleasance and Halloween 6 has there been such an ignominious epitaph.

I, Frankenstein: "From the producers of Underworld." I suppose that says something, although I'm not sure what. The first mistake was to trade-in Kate Beckinsale in a skintight outfit for the square-jawed Aaron Eckhart and things just got worse from there...

Need for Speed: Just another video game-to-movie adaptation that should have been left on the consoles. If the idea was to lure gamers to theaters, it didn't work. If the idea was to make a movie anyone else would care about, that didn't work either.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: I hate the TMNT. I'm not the biggest fan of Megan Fox. This movie pushed all my negative buttons and got the expected result.

The Bottom Five:

#5: Blended: It was thought that re-pairing Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore might recapture the chemistry and box office success that resulted from their past couplings. It was thought wrong. This isn't a new low for Sandler but it comes close.

#4: Horrible Bosses 2: A poster child for why sequels should not be made just because a comedy is funny and successful. Let it rest. Move on to something else. Otherwise you'll end up with something as misbegotten as this turkey (aptly released on Thanksgiving weekend).

#3: The Other Woman: The premise sounds amusing but the execution is execrable. The level of stupidity to which this screenplay descends is so extreme that it almost has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, that would mean sitting through the movie - not an endurance test I'd wish on anyone.

#2: Transformers: Age of Extinction: Is this the worst of the Transformers movies? Who can tell? One might hope the "extinction" in the title refers to the future of the franchise but that would be wishful thinking.

#1: Left Behind: It's hard to believe that this movie was made. It offers a shocking display of across-the-board amateurishness the likes of which one almost never encounters in a multiplex. The film is so awful that it was derided by many in its limited target demographic. Sad to say, but the original version of the film, a starring vehicle for religious zealot Kirk Cameron, was actually better. We all know Nicolas Cage needs money but, even after The Wicker Man, who ever dreamed his circumstances could be this dire?


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