Finding hidden gems that might make a top 10 movies list at year's end takes dedication. But maybe not quite as much as watching enough to assemble a list of the year's 10 worst movies. Lucky for you folks, I've been here to take that proverbial bullet throughout 2013. What follows is a countdown of the absolute worst releases of the past calendar year. I've seen more than 100 and counting, and, sadly, there are plenty more where this came from, but here lie the lousiest of the lousy. Watch these stinkers at your own peril.
A textbook example of how to take a fascinating and little-known chapter from history and make it both cliche and boring, Emperor follows Matthew Fox as Gen. Bonner Fellers, the man tasked with deciding whether Japan's Emperor Hirohito should be charged with war crimes following the end of World War II. It's an interesting question with interesting historical figures involved, including Gen. Douglas MacArthur, portrayed here by Tommy Lee Jones. Sadly, this film is too concerned with a dull romance between Fellers and a Japanese exchange student he knew many years ago to worry about the stuff we might actually care about. Memo to director Peter Webber: in a post-Lincoln world, it's OK to delve headlong in to legal intrigue and leave the rest out of it.
It's actually quite an achievement (sure, a dubious one) when you have Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Josh Brolin at your disposal and you make a legitimately awful movie. So, um, congratulations, I guess, Ruben Fleischer and company? A noir crime thriller set in post-World War II Los Angeles and following in the rather large footsteps of L.A. Confidential, Gangster Squad has zero nuance and intelligence about it, which is a damn shame given all the star power on hand. We'll always have the sultry Stone in that red dress, though ...
8. Broken City
For every Pain & Gain or The Other Guys, Mark Wahlberg seems compelled to give us a Contraband or, in 2013, a Broken City. He can't seem to help himself when it comes to playing these dense and humorless roles, and so I can't seem to help myself when it comes to never fully embracing him. This is another film with a good cast (Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kyle Chandler), but little else to offer. The worst part? That Wahlberg's character, disgraced cop Billy Taggart, can't see the double cross coming his way as easily as the rest of us. No mark this easy would be able to wriggle out of trouble as nimbly as Taggart manages to.
Even bad movies have lessons to teach us. This one has two:
- Years hanging around with Wes Anderson (as Roman Coppola has), an "appreciation" for Anderson's aesthetic and Bill Murray don't make you capable of delivering a watchable film.
- Charlie Sheen can't be a sympathetic protagonist. I'm not sure he ever could, but he definitely can't be one now.
Sequels and comedy don't mix and The Hangover franchise is fast becoming the poster child for exactly why. The scary thing here is that Part III is actually a bit more tolerable than its predecessor. Both are still miles off from the first film, but that simple fact says plenty about how quickly director Todd Phillips' series has sunk. The third installment in his trilogy makes a main character out of Zack Galifianakis' Alan, which stretches this world far beyond where it was ever intended and made me wonder aloud whether Galifianakis could ever be more than a quirky second banana.
We are now hitting the depths of the 2013 cinematic universe -- a place where it might prove difficult for me to contain my rage. The terrible script and obvious soundtrack would have been enough to guarantee this film's inclusion on the list, but the one-sided hagiography pushes Jobs over the top. It pays lip service to the controversies and criticisms that followed Apple co-founder Steve Jobs throughout his adult life, only to eagerly gloss them over at the next available opportunity. Star Ashton Kutcher mastered the Jobs walk, though, so, I mean, there's that ...
4. Kick-Ass 2
Laziness meets unfulfilled promise in this unsatisfying sequel to the excellent comic book send-up that was Kick-Ass. Dare I say it, but Nicolas Cage was one of the biggest missing ingredients here. Also missing was any semblance of subtlety, intelligence or introspection. Kick-Ass 2 turned its predecessor up to 12 when it was already at 11.
For the three people out there who wanted to see Rooster Cogburn in a Men in Black knockoff, R.I.P.D. is the movie for you. For the rest of us, this is just a remarkably depressing package.
When I think of the worst that independent film has to offer, I'll heretofore think of Generation Um ... . Starring Keanu Reeves and masquerading as a thinkpiece on the aimless and growing lower middle class, this is as hollow as the art form gets.
It takes a lot to be more depressing and awful than R.I.P.D., but Stand Up Guys delivers the goods. Teaming up Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken, this film manages to embarrass all three acting legends with a crass and disjointed plot in which Pacino is picking up his old friend from prison and is tasked with killing him by their old mob boss. I'll forever wonder how Pacino, Arkin and Walken managed to all agree to be involved in such a trainwreck.