Resident movie critic, Wai dissects the worst of 2013 cinema.
What a year 2013 was. Like most other years, I look back on this one with a mixture of fondness and weariness. It was a year of deep personal meaning for me, filled with life-changing events. The funny thing about big years is that time tends to fly like crazy. I watched fewer movies than I’d have liked and far later than usual. For someone who runs a film website that’s never a good thing. Still, “fewer” by a film reviewer’s standards is still a lot of movies. Unfortunately, far too many of those turned out to be mediocre and bad movies. It’s an occupational hazard.
The misery of watching a shitty movie goes beyond the experience itself, for there is a pain I feel in knowing so much time and money was spent on something so undeserving of either. Especially the time. In a year where time became such a precious commodity for me, I felt cheated and angered that the following movies utterly wasted hours and hours of my life, either by being deathly boring, creatively misguided or just downright offensive. My fellow cinemagoers, I present you the very worst 2013 had to offer:
Ryan Reynolds is one of those actors who keeps getting work despite being Box Office Poison. The sad part is, that curse is no fault of his. He is a decent enough actor with solid comic timing. It’s just that like Colin Farrell, the guy has the unhappy knack of choosing projects that bomb big time. Reynolds really should’ve seen it coming a mile away with “R.I.P.D”, a rancid adaptation of an actually decent Dark Horse comic. Just reading the script alone would’ve informed him that this was one to avoid. Almost every joke on the page landed onscreen with a dull thud, and there was little Reynolds or co-star Jeff Bridges could do to make it work. As if to overcompensate, Bridges took the over-the-top route, turning the Oscar-winning actor’s performance into a major embarrassment. Robert Schwentke’s direction was also flat and devoid of passion. And the less said about the horrendous sub-videogame CG, the better.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER
Speaking of awful CG, this one is a textbook case of a director not being on top of things. Despite the massive budget, the giants managed to look like hideous cartoons that took you out of the live-action setting every time they appeared. The saving grace was Ewan McGregor’s charming knight, but he wasn’t only battling terribly unconvincing onscreen monsters, but a weak story and a schizophrenic tone as well. Bryan Singer belongs in Director Jail for this effort alone.
10. CLOUD ATLAS
In a way, I feel bad for putting this on my Worst Of list. You can accuse the Wachowski siblings of many things, chiefly pretentiousness, hubris and biting off more than they can chew as storytellers, but it is precisely those flaws that make them an interesting and unique directorial voice. For better or worse, in 2013 there was nothing quite like “Cloud Atlas”. Sadly, its sprawling, maddeningly complex narrative comprised of over a half-dozen interweaving storylines simply could not work as a film. At least not in the way the Wachowkis presented it. The film collapsed under the sheer weight of its own ambition as a tedious, confusing mess of New Age gobbledygook. As a failed creative experiment, I can almost forgive them for it. However, what I cannot overlook is the makeup effects. Specifically, the horrible “Oriental” look attempted on cast members like Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving, complete with tiny slitty eyes and waxen yellow complexions, which to me was the modern-day equivalent of Blackface makeup. Might as well have slapped Fu Manchu mustaches on them. Seriously, what the heck were they smoking when they came up with this?
9. THE LONE RANGER
I would ask the same question of the studio executives who greenlit this. A mega-budget reimagining of the classic Western hero that turns its hero into a cowardly oaf and sidelines him in favour of a sidekick who is just as unrelatable to audiences. This movie marks the point in Johnny Depp’s career where he decided to stop doing any actual acting and just have his makeup and wardrobe department do all the work. In this case a dead bird mounted on his head. Then there’s the curious no-fun rule that director Gore Verbinski seemed hell-bent on instituting throughout the proceedings. Even the few attempts at humour felt joyless and cynical. No wonder this became one of the biggest flops of the year.
8. THE INTERNSHIP
Look, it’s “Google: The Movie”. Starring those guys from “The Wedding Crashers”, playing exactly the same roles, only more witless and way less charming. This isn’t even product placement anymore; it’s something disturbingly akin to cult worship. For two hours, we’re told over and over again how wonderful a place to work Google is, how only the mostest brilliantest minds are worthy of walking its hallowed, airy, designer-chic corridors, and how life-changing-ly revolutionary they are as an organisation. It was like watching a Scientology PR kit. With added lame generation-gap jokes and cringe-inducing Harry Potter homage. I managed to sit through this only because of the delectable Rose Byrne, who I unashamedly admit to having a big schoolboy crush on. So yeah the movie sucks, but man, are her eyes pretty. Tee hee!
7. MOVIE 43
Looks like the Farrelly Brothers are on a continued downward spiral after last year’s “The Three Stooges” fiasco. To be fair, they aren’t solely responsible for the train wreck that is “Movie 43”, since it’s an anthology featuring input by about 14 directors. Yes, it took that many people to come up with something this moronic. In the span of 90 minutes, you’ll find your senses assaulted by a barrage of crass sight gags involving every manner of bodily excretion, and an offend-all-demographics approach featuring incest, racism, sexism, dwarfism and every other “-ism” you can imagine. Fun for the whole family! If your family happens to be deeply inbred, that is.
6. WHITE HOUSE DOWN
I was torn between putting this and “Olympus Has Fallen” as the worst “Die Hard” rip-off I’ve ever seen. But the truth is, neither one is the worst “Die Hard” rip-off I’ve ever seen. That dubious honour appears further down the list. I’ll get into that in a bit. The reason “White House Down” takes the #6 spot is due to a lot of things: boring action, stupid characters saying and doing stupid things, and a bare-faced audacity to steal almost verbatim from the movie that “inspired” it. At the end of the day however, my disdain for this movie boils down to one scene that made me roll my eyes so hard I could’ve been mistaken for suffering a demonic possession. During the climax, the hero’s plucky daughter grabs an American flag and charges onto the White House lawn, and twirls the ol’ Stars & Stripes for the eyes of the world media. What’s meant to be a symbolic, uplifting moment of triumph of freedom over persecution just comes across as a vomit-worthy example of U!S!A! jingoism. At the back of my mind, I’d like to believe this was all part of some elaborate piss-take on America by German director Roland Emmerich. But he’s simply not that smart.
5. THE HANGOVER PART III
Hey, remember when “The Hangover” movies were funny? Me neither. If there is a poster child for a franchise that has completely obliterated audience goodwill, it is this one. Starting with the 2nd instalment that turned its quirky yet likable characters into assholes, this 3rd (and thankfully, final) outing hammered the last nail into the coffin. Between Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong, we were subjected to the most relentlessly grating performances of the year. It’s like director Todd Phillips did this movie solely as a middle finger to everyone who liked the first one but had issues with the sequel. “So, you didn’t think my last movie was funny? Well, screw you – I’ll make this THRICE as unfunny!” Guess what, Todd? You succeeded.
4. UPSIDE DOWN
Truth be told, I had all but forgotten about the existence of this early 2013 release. It sank without a trace at the Box Office and looking back, it’s easy to see why. This is quite possibly one of the most lifeless movies of the decade. It totally squanders what is admittedly a visually striking premise – a sci-fi reimagining of Romeo & Juliet, where the lovers are separated by upside down worlds within touching distance. The filmmakers clearly hadn’t thought things through to last the length of a feature film. The gag got old within minutes, leaving us with a painfully insipid romance and some gibberish about the haves versus the have-nots. I cannot even muster enough emotion to hate this movie and in some ways that’s even worse. Make no mistake, though; this is a rotten product all the way.
Y’know, as much as horror fans are allowed to get a kick out of onscreen violence and gore, there is and always should be a limit. Otherwise, we’re no better than a sociopath, totally indifferent to human suffering. “Maniac” not only crossed the line, it’s entire reason for being seemed to be about making you, the viewer, complicit in the acts of extreme violence. Shot from a first-person perspective, you saw everything the killer (played by Elijah Wood) saw. Now, I do think there can be some artistic license granted for an approach like this, and the film’s creepy-cool production values had some merit. If only it weren’t so obvious how hideously misogynistic the film really was. From start to finish, we were shown in exacting detail the many ways women could be brutalised and objectified to the point where they were nothing more than just creative kills. One can argue it’s the same with stuff like the torture porn sub-genre, but the difference here was all in the film’s voyeuristic attitude, as if it was inviting you to enjoy what you were witnessing. I won’t even give the filmmakers the pleasure of calling it controversial because that’s precisely the reaction they’d want. This is an ugly, nasty, mean-spirited load of tosh. Nothing more.
2. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
Yup. An official “Die Hard” movie is officially the worst “Die Hard” rip-off I’ve ever seen. There was almost nothing about this pathetic 5th instalment that even remotely resembled the original, widely referred to as one of the best action films ever made. Gone was the John McClane we once knew and loved. In his place was Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis the superhuman cartoon for the umpteenth time for a hefty (and unearned) paycheque. Director John Moore once again proved what a talentless hack he is, with horrible shaky-cam and incoherent editing standing in for any actual thrills. It troubles me that this guy keeps getting work while genuinely good filmmakers out there go unnoticed. Even the title is like a bad joke some Internet troll came up with to mock the franchise. If you’re a self-respecting fan of the action genre or of watchable movies in general, you owe it to yourself to banish all trace of this abomination from your memory banks.
1. TANDA PUTERA
Believe me when I say this, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to name a Malaysian effort the absolute worst of the worst. But this pile of garbage unquestionably earns its place at the very bottom. This wasn’t a movie, this was purely a political propaganda piece. Not only was the revisionist history plain sickening to see, it was downright mindboggling that such blatant lies could be perpetrated under the guise of a “biopic”. I have no doubt that our nation’s forefathers meant well for the people. But is this how we honour their memory and their contributions? At the expense of the truth?
Even if you put aside the politics, there was no ignoring how much of a massive fail this “film” was on practically every level: the acting made cardboard cutouts look positively animated, the sets looked cheap and garishly lit like daytime soap operas, the editing was abrupt and inconsistent, and the directing amateurish. Suhaimi Baba, you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to pass this off as anything more than an incompetent exercise in hate-mongering. At least Nazi-affiliated director Leni Riefenstahl knew what she was doing.