ReelThoughts: December 01, 2013

"2013's Turkeys: The Bottom 10"

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 that 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. New content keeps ReelViews alive, after all. So consider this not a list of the worst ten movies to open in 2013 but instead a list of the ten least enjoyable times I had in theaters this year.

Every year I toy with the format of the Bottom 10. Some years, I rank them. Other years, I provide an alphabetical list. For 2013, I'm using a "hybrid approach" - 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 2013 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):

The Book Thief: Young Adult fiction meets Nazis. It's necessary to separate the book from the movie in this case since the former is literate and intelligent and the latter is overwrought and dumb.

The Hangover Part III: I'd like to say this was the worst sequel of the year but it has competition. It was one of the summer's biggest bombs (versus expectations) and justifiably so. Thankfully, there won't be a Hangover Part IV.

The Host: Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse than Twilight...

Insidious: Chapter 2: James Wan's "can do no wrong" streak came to a crashing end with what can only be viewed as an ill-considered cash grab. Worse, the very existence of this film cheapens the first one. That's the danger with bad sequels - they poison the well. Pretending they don't exist doesn't cause them to vanish.

R.I.P.D.: It's hard to imagine that a movie with this cast and this premise could be so dead-on-arrival. The movie was hidden before it opened and buried shortly thereafter. At least I saw it in a comfortable theater with leather recliners.

The Bottom Five:

#5: Paranoia: Sometimes marketing tells you all you need to know. Harrison Ford & Gary Oldman. No press screenings. Minimal advertising. Very bad signs and the movie lives down to what one would expect.

#4: Diana: If this movie, which feels like it was ghost written by Nicholas Sparks, tells the true story of Diana's life, then there's no reason for there to have been a movie made about her. Insomnia antidote.

#3: The Purge: I'm not sure why something this insulting to the intelligence made enough money to warrant a sequel. Maybe people were intrigued by the premise although, to be honest, even that was hard to swallow. Ethan Hawke has the distinction of being in a Bottom 10 and Top 10 movie this year. At least Lena Headey has Game of Thrones to fall back on.

#2: After Earth: It seems that with each new outing, M. Night discovers a new low. In this case, he takes Will Smith along with him. Actually, the real problem here isn't Will, it's his son, who spends an inordinate amount of time proving why he should never be selected for the leading role in any future production where the studio's hope is to avoid drowning in red ink.

#1: Identity Thief: The only 2013 movie (thus far) that I hated. Not just disliked, but despised. I can't say why I reacted so negatively to it, although the unfunny humor, horrible screenplay, and painfully bad acting all contributed. I sat through the whole mess but on at least three occasions I seriously considered leaving, and I'm pretty sure I used a bathroom break to remind me that not all the shit in the theater was on the screen. For some unknown reason, I was kind to Identity Thief and awarded it a whole star.


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